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Posts Tagged ‘Spirit’

I’m sitting in the Brussels airport on my way home. This has been a hard trip. I’m not entirely sure why, but the two weeks I have spent here have felt like two months. True, the pace was intense, but it was more than that. There was an oppression in the air that weighed heavily on us that made everything harder.  I was so exhausted most of the time that I could barely manage.

But it didn’t affect the services. They were great. Each place we went to lit up like they were on fire. I would step into each meeting with a bit of apprehension because I never seemed to know what the message was going to be, and each time in less than a minute, the Holy Ghost would click on like flipping a switch, and away we would go.

Even though I was bound up in exhaustion, there was a complete freedom for the Spirit to move throughout the messages. Most of the time, I felt like I was riding a wave as the Lord shaped, molded, and turned the message in the direction He wanted it to go.

And the response was great. The pastors were rejoicing for the tangible hope for a real revival from God. They now had the blueprint for revival in their hands and they were excited. I watched as they sat on the edge of their chairs with eyes wide open, shouting their “Amen’s” every time something new was revealed to them.

It’s funny, but after having preached over a thousand messages over the last 16 years, I still feel apprehensive going into each service. It’s as if, even though God has been there every single time for me, I am still afraid that this time I will fall flat on my face.  God and I have a little running joke between us, like a little dance that we do. He will remind me as I am sitting there, that the deal we have with each other is, “You lead, and I’ll follow.”

“Yes, Lord. I know. I’m just a little scared that I’m not enough in the Spirit.

“Have I ever failed you?”

“No. I’m just afraid I’m not good enough.”

“You aren’t; I am.  I’ll lead; you follow.”

And every time, He does. He goes right around me and deals personally with the hearts of His people.

I really believe this is the way it is supposed to be done. Let God do the work. He does a much better job than we can. My job, oppression or not, is to show up

… and then get out of the way.

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It feels like I’ve been in a whirlwind here in Liberia. After a quick introduction on Sunday, I was launched into a fierce set of meetings, morning and night, for three days.

I am not a calm and casual preacher. I pour my heart and soul into the message the entire time I am on my feet. Actually, it is more a matter of allowing the Holy Spirit to pour like a river through me. When I am done an hour later, I am completely drained, soaked in sweat, and barely able to stand. This is how it always is for me.

After the morning service, my driver takes me back to the hotel where I collapse for a couple hours, shower, and head back for the evening session. Then back to the hotel when we are done and repeat. I’m okay, but I’m getting a little fuzzy.

But the response is great! The Spirit of the Lord connects with everyone immediately. It’s as if they are already prepped and ready with open hearts to receive everything God has for them, and He rejoices in giving to them. I rarely know what I am going to say before I get up, but as soon as I do, I can feel the Lord turn me into His message for the service. Then it is a matter of just hanging on and following the flow of the river that He pours out. For the next hour, I am in that flow and am barely aware of anything else. And then when it is done, it is done.

I am told that this is the way preachers in America used to preach back a generation or so ago. It was never a matter of preparing your message, but more a matter of preparing yourself to yield unto the leading of the Holy Ghost. Open your mouth and He will fill it. But now, Bible colleges teach our young all the methods of outline and organization to fully prepare your speech or lecture to the congregation. And if you feel lost, that’s okay because you can simply purchase your message off the internet for a small sum, complete with video, outline and bulleted points. How convenient! Maybe they also have the canned applause.

But stale bread and sour wine will never inspire hungry souls.

There’s no faking it here. The Spirit of God is moving too strongly with these people. I am continually told that they don’t like American preachers because we do not preach the same message we did 50 years ago. I have literally heard that hundreds of times. They like our money and will come to the great mega crusades because we pay their pastors to bring their churches, but the next day after they are gone, everything goes back to the way it was.

Is it a small wonder that we are seeing so many miracles here and so few in America? Yesterday, just to make a point, I had one person who was in pain stand up and another person come over to pray over her. Healed! Then I did it again. And again. Each time the healing was immediate. I can do this all across Africa, from Kenya to Liberia any day of the week.

Why is that? Maybe they just expect a miracle. Maybe they just need God more than we do. Maybe a lot of things. I honestly don’t know. I will leave it to the smart theologians to write a book on how to do healings – they’ve never done it themselves, but I’m sure they can tell us all about how its supposed to be done.

What is my point? Theology and modern religion has lost it’s heart. We’ve become institutional and programmed to the point that we have lost the art of surrender. We know too much. The Bread we bring forth is no longer fresh from the oven of the Altar. It’s stale, hard, dry and tasteless. Our wine has gone sour and is more like vinegar than the wine of the Holy Spirit. We need revival so bad that it hurts.

But we are the last to realize it.

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“ Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (Psalms 105:15)

I think it is no secret that Satan would try anything to destroy the Church. To keep the flock from straying under Satan’s influence, the Lord has placed the church under the authority of the pastor. Deacons and elders play a subordinate role in most churches, and we are supposed to be subject one to another, but the truth is, most often the pastor is fully in charge and the flock is supposed to submit unto him.

But who does the pastor answer to?

I have heard Benny Hinn say that we should not reprove the pastors because we are not to “touch His anointed”, using David and Saul as the example. Let me remind you that while David would not come against Saul, Samuel had no such inhibition, nor did Nathan, Micaiah, Amos or any other prophet of God.  The king may be in charge, but by God, he’d better listen to the prophet!

That scripture, however, has nothing to do with reproof of a pastor. It is about protection from the enemy. David is speaking in Psalms 105 about how God protected Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from those who would come against them. He was not talking about reproving pastors and holding them accountable.

So who holds our pastors in check or guides them when they stray? That is the job of a prophet.

A true prophet has a solitary walk. In order to be able to reprove kings, his message cannot be influenced by anyone. He must remain separate, consecrated unto God alone. His job is to stand in the gaps (Eze. 13:5) and call the church, and most especially the leadership, back to a place of repentance. He is not called to be popular or make friends. Jesus said that no prophet is honored in his own country and among his own people. Why? Because he doesn’t tell them what they want to hear. When you do see a prophet that is honored in his own country, it is most likely because he is a prophet of “peace and prosperity”.

Modern prophets of peace and prosperity in this generation like to lean heavily on the scripture in 1st Corinthians 14:3 in their effort to “speak unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10), but they never call us to repentance.  According to Jeremiah, however, that call to bring the church to a place of repentance is the litmus test of a true prophet of God (Jer. 23:22), a test that many of today’s blessing prophets fail.

Prophets are called, as the priest in chapter 14 of Leviticus to scour and cut out the leprosy in the house. If the leprosy is cured, then the house can remain. If it is not, then the entire house and everything left in it are to be burned outside the camp. When the leadership of any church is not able to be reproved, leprosy will grow unabated in that house. Satan is ecstatic because he can continue to lead the pastor away without the terrible interference from God’s prophet. It is now only a matter of time before that church falls.

The real losers in this are the unsaved. Sinners will not flock to altars that have lost their anointing.

And that was Satan’s goal all along.

“And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”  (1Kings 19:10)

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[This is a re-post from 2015]

Touch the Cross

Jesus on the Cross“If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous. Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.”  
– Bildad the Shuhite, (Job 8:6).

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” 
– Paul, (Philippians 1:29)

There has been a shift in our view of the personality of God.  I noticed it taking hold of the evangelical church world about 30 years ago, and it has established itself more firmly ever since.

The old fashioned view of a God of judgment has been mollified to one of a kinder, gentler God who was more attuned to a loving relationship with His children.  The old brush arbor revivalists are considered too hard in their outlook, mocked in Hollywood films, and are brushed aside as narrow-minded zealots who did not understand the mercy of God.  We have assumed that we have a better understanding of God because we are somehow more enlightened.

We have shifted our focus to the blessings, the love and mercy, and the goodness of God.  Yes, judgment is still there, but has been relegated more to the shadows off-stage than out in the spotlight.  The Fear of God, although undeniably written throughout the Word of God, has been analytically digested and presented as being more by the precept of men (Isaiah 29:13) than the emotionally charged issue of actual dread and fear (Isaiah 8:13).  God is now our Daddy.

Because there has been no momentous outpouring of the Holy Spirit in recent memory, we, like the Israelites of Sinai, feel that Moses had taken too long to come down from the mountain, so we’ve fashioned our own gods that have supposedly delivered us out of Egypt.

Seems to work pretty well.  It certainly feels much better, and is much more palatable than walking around under the cloud of intense holiness like our forefathers did.  It makes much more sense to the carnal mind.  After all, if you get saved, God will love you and pour out His unconditional Love all over you, right?.  No more dark valleys to walk through, no more refining fire to strip away your flesh, and no more sufferings of the Cross to bear.

It made sense to Bildad the Shuhite.

But not to Paul.

We are inundated with an easy Gospel that promises a wonderful time in Jesus.  We proclaim that there will be a great revival soon, and we sing and dance to the rhythm of the message, but we have not considered the price.  Our pastors who have taken over the pulpits in the last 20-some-odd years have regurgitated the message they heard in Bible College and are not even aware that something is missing.  But hey, it sure feels good, doesn’t it?

So we continue to sing and dance and line up for someone can touch us so we can fall down on the floor in euphoria, but we never notice our lack of depth and brokenness, nor do we consider that old crucified walk that our fathers trod to establish the Church.

We want to touch the Cross; but not bear it.

 

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When I think of the two gospels that I see in America, I sometimes think of that Robert Frost poem, “two paths diverged in a yellow wood …”. One gospel is so well accepted that not many people today even know that there is another one. Sure, they’ve heard of it, but often with criticism and distain. They are much more enamored with a kinder, gentler gospel that has been tailored for this generation. It is almost universally accepted today as a much more enlightened view of the love of God than those old fashioned folks that used to preach about fear and hell. They don’t even remember anyone who has preached that old gospel.

I must be older than I thought. I’ll be 70 in a few weeks, so I guess I am. I still remember that old-time gospel. It was what I got saved with. And it was the message that we saw thousands of others get saved with. Our altars were full every single night and twice on Sundays. People were repenting on their knees in the church, on the phone, on the streets, and over the radio. In the course of ten years, we saw close to 100,000 souls get saved, and it was with that old fashioned gospel of hell, fire, brimstone, and the fear of God.

It sure seemed like it was working to me, but then, hey, what do I know? Nowadays, these kids have titles and degrees and fancy diplomas to hang on the wall that certify that they know stuff. All kinds of stuff.  And lots of it too.  I guess eating off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil can really fill you up because the Bible says that “knowledge puffeth up”.

Leonard Ravenhill once said that we used to have preachers with no degrees but lots of heat, but now we have preachers with lots of degrees and no heat. I wonder if there is a connection.

Those who pursue ecclesiastical paths rarely see their divergence from the message that their forefathers preached, and when they do, they dismiss that old fashioned gospel as old, caustic, and unnecessarily hard. And yet, you would think that the vast difference in results would give them a clue. The altars of those old-timers were hot and on fire. They won thousands of souls on a continual, daily basis, whereas the altars of this generation are bare and cold with mere handfuls of repentant souls. When we need it the most, we have the least response.

Perhaps our ears are so full of “church” that we can’t hear.

“… and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”. (Revelations 3:17)

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Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” (John 12:3)

Praise contradicts pride. If you are praising God, He becomes your focus, not yourself. The fragrance fills the room and the presence of this world and its hold on you is squeezed out. Pride melts away along with your attention on self. You – your position, your title, your benefit and welfare, your prosperity and blessings, even your place in God – dissolves in the cloud of unfettered praise carried in the beauty of holiness.

Pride is really nothing more than putting yourself above everyone else, including God. It has a ravenous appetite and will take over every place it enters. Just as the flesh wars against the Spirit, so pride is the antithesis of praise., and just as sin separates us from God, so also is grace unable to function in the presence of pride.

If you do not let go of your pride, your praises to God will ring hollow, and it will not be long before you are bored with repeating the meaningless phrases of “praise you Jesus, thank you Jesus”. The flesh takes precedent over lifeless words and renders your praises impotent. Your connection to the Holy Spirit is then broken and your feet remain planted in this world.

How then do we anchor our praises in the Spirit, break the stranglehold of the flesh, and release true praise and worship? The answer, as always, is to immerse yourself in the Word. All power comes from the Word of God. The Word of God created the universe. It cleanses you, gives you light and understanding, and because it is the source of faith, it gives you the power to pray. And prayer is the key that opens the door to praise.

There is one more step, however, in releasing the full power of praise. You have to break your heart. Mary broke the alabaster box that held the ointment. In so doing, you break open the bars that hold praise captive, and liberate it to fill the room.

The power of praise is one of the secrets to answered prayer. You “enter His courts with praise” (Psalms 100:4). Praise opens the door to the Throne Room of God. When you are totally immersed in praise and worship, the Holy Spirit will cover you and carry you into the presence of God. Once you are standing before Him in all His glory, nothing else matters.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen H. Lemel)

 

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Introduction

In the 1970s, God swept across California with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit like had not been seen for years. Many of the older generation who had experienced the revivals of the 40s and 50s rejoiced to see the Spirit of God moving again. Their pulpits had grown cold over the years, their altars had been abandoned, and the Church world had settled into the same religious environment that they themselves had revolted from in their generation. The excitement was gone, and church had gone back to its normal sedate self.

But here, finally, was a brand new move of God.  It didn’t come the way they expected, nor to whom they expected – God came to the Hippies, the disaffected youth who were searching for Truth in any way they could find it. But the fire of God was undeniably burning, souls were getting saved again and God was on the move.

I got saved during those early days of the Jesus Movement.  We were so full of the Spirit that nothing else mattered to us. Every night, the lost would pack the church to hear a message of the power of God unto Salvation. The Holy Spirit would descend in such an overwhelming presence that there were times that the air literally shimmered from the glory of God. Lives were immeasurably changed as souls flocked to the altar to give their lives to Jesus Christ.

Night after night, week after week, year after year, we immersed ourselves in the flow of the Holy Ghost. We fully expected that the Lord’s return was surely imminent and we would ride this great wave of revival until He came to catch us up into Heaven for Eternity.

But as things always go, the revival dissipated after about 10 years, even sooner in other places, and we were left wondering what happened. People went back to their different paths of Life, pursued forgotten careers, raised families, and settled once again for a normal, sedate Christian life.

Many of us, however, never let go of the dream that had been kindled in our hearts during those heady days of revival. We never forgot what it was like to feel that power flowing through us during services, and we never let go of the great calling that we knew had been placed on our lives.

Winding the clock ahead 30 years, I’ve watched the Church in America slide into an plastic rendition of what we once had, trying to imitate the excitement of those days with upbeat modern music, Hollywood-like presentations on stage, and “feel good” messages designed to comfort rather than convict.

I now know how those old-timers felt as they watched the holiness and glory drain out of the movement that had been ignited by the old Brush Arbor revivals. I can now understand how they must have cried out to God on worn-out knees to send another outpouring of His Holy Spirit. The glory had departed and they were left with only a slim ray of hope that it would return.

For years, I had been preaching a message of revival on radio and in newspaper columns, but in 2004, I felt the Lord lift the burden and begin to turn my attention overseas. Even though I had little to show for all those years of preaching, it was hard to abandon what I had been doing for so long. I felt as if I had been dropped off in a desert with no direction. But all the while that I was wondering if I had simply been dismissed, God was making other plans.  He sent me to Africa.

I am not an accomplished evangelist, a learned theological scholar, nor a well-trained missionary. In fact, when I first headed to Africa, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no plans, no organization supporting me, and no expectations. I just showed up, believing that the God who had sent me would also show up.

What the Kenya Diaries relates is the beginning of an incredible journey. What started as a step of blind faith has led to a resurgence of hope in the power of God. The excitement that I have felt must have been just like what those old-timers experienced back in 1970 when they saw the Jesus Movement rise up. God had turned to a new people that the established Church had never expected, so that He could bring life in the Gospel back to the Church.  He is doing the same today. America brought the Gospel to Africa, but I believe that Africa will be bringing it back to America.

As you read the Kenya Diaries, I hope you get a sense of the same excitement that I had as I followed the leading of the Spirit in a journey that led into a growing move of God. I have no doubt that this new move of God will result in a blaze of revival that will be so hot that it will be felt around the world.

The Kenya Diaries is the start of that journey.

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