THE REASON SOME PEOPLE DON’T EXPERIENCE MORE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Once upon a time a struggling missionary was having lunch with a wealthy Christian businessman. The businessman was caught up in all the deals he was doing and money he was making. The missionary was in dire straits financially, but never mentioned his needs, choosing instead to boast in the Lord and what He was doing in his life and ministry overseas. The businessman was insensitive to the needs of the missionary.

A group of successful pastors from large churches were fellowshipping together at a prayer retreat. One very discouraged and troubled pastor in their midst was contemplating quitting the ministry. Nothing seemed to be going right for him. His marriage, family, and finances had gone sour. Hope deferred makes the heart sick so he refrained from all the fun and festivities that the others were engaged in at this function. No one noticed him or paid attention to him. He went home and later quit the ministry and left his wife and family. The pastors were insensitive.

Jesus told a parable of the Good Samaritan, which sums up how insensitivity can be such a part of religion.

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him,and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion” (Lk. 10:30-33).

Professional religionists, exemplified by the priest and the Levite were insensitive to this wounded man’s needs while the despised Samaritan was commended for his sensitivity and compassion shown to the man. This is a reminder of what we often witness in our social media and superficial world today. Believers theorize over doctrinal issues, vigorously defend their political position, entangle themselves in strife over such trivial matters while skipping over the weightier matters of the law, or should I say, the heart, such as justice, mercy, and true faith. We quibble over definitions and theories, but sometimes fall so short of genuine love and active faith – not that any of us do this intentionally or with malice but that is the state of an insensitive heart.  Isn’t it interesting in this parable how insensitivity is often connected to professional religion? Religion can harden the human spirit if it does not stay connected to the hidden and intimate places of the heart.

It reminds me of a time when I was caught in the web of it myself. Knowledge had puffed me up and the profession of ministry had made me insensitive. Sermonizing, ministry work, and theoretical discussions had trumped practical demonstrations of love. Thank God He woke me up and shook me from that damnable disease of hypocrisy. During an extended time of prayer and fasting I received this word from the Lord that changed my life.

“I do a work in you of pure religion. I do a work in you to place you among My captains. I do a work of love in you. I do a work of sensitivity to My heart in you.

Behold My heart as I was moved with compassion for the widow at Nain whose son had just died. Behold My heart as I picked up the little children and blessed them. Behold My heart as I called and healed the blind beggars.

I do a work in you to increase the fruit of your compassion. I do a work in you to increase true ministry. I do a work in you to make you more skillful in My anointing. As you’ve heard My servant say, ‘Truth and compassion equal skill in My anointing.’ I speak the truth, but I am moved with compassion.

Truth does not move Me.  Compassion moves Me. I am working both on your speaking and on your compassion, so that your life and your works would be found pure in Him who moves.”

That living word changed my heart and my life forever as I meditated on its message.

Some indicators of insensitivity are selfishness, murmuring and complaining, lack of appreciation and unthankfulness, subtle arrogance, a sense of entitlement, lack of courtesy, kindness, hospitality and empathy. Cultivating sensitivity begins by getting in touch with your own heart and the Spirit of God who has shed abroad God’s love there.

Sensitivity is putting yourself in the place of another, and doing unto others what you would have them do to you. This often requires sacrifice and being inconvenienced, but love feeds you and fuels you so that it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice. The true love of God really knows no sacrifice.

Whenever I walk in love I am fueled. Acts of kindness and compassion come back to me. I am watered and showered with the love of the Father. Even sinners who do not have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:5) will often say, “it felt so good to help that person.” They are just basing their feelings on a natural love that all human beings have. How much more is this true for us who have the love of God in our hearts!

“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16).

Abiding in love is abiding in God. Get that! If you want more of God’s presence in your life be more sensitive to His love. Believers can easily be misled into thinking that God’s presence is only manifested in Christian meetings, conferences, concerts, or worship services. I love and enjoy those corporate gatherings, too, but don’t be event oriented, and miss out on a daily walk with God that can be very fulfilling when you learn to love as He loves. This kind of walk begins with developing a sensitivity.

The reason some believers experience and enjoy the presence of God on a regular basis more than others is mainly due to their sensitivity. Sensitivity usually leads to receptivity. The more sensitive you are the more receptive you are to the Spirit of God and His love.

On the other hand, insensitivity is a product of selfishness or self-centeredness.

Selah.

SCHOOL OF THE SPIRIT: FOLLOWING THE ANOINTING IN PRAYER

Four years ago Carolyn and I started praying together on a more regular basis. A “seer” anointing full of wisdom and revelation began to manifest through her. I started recording our prayer sessions. Today I have compiled 400 pages of prayer notes from those sessions. We call these notes PRAYER JOTTINGS, or THE PRAYER JOTTER. Another book or two in the making for some day.

These prayer sessions are often teaching sessions when the Holy Spirit steps in as the great Teacher and illustrates a point He wants to make, often using personal examples and stories from our own lives and that of others to do it. He brings us to remembrance. That is one of His functions.

These times of prayer can also occasionally take on a more conversational tone as we will ask the Lord questions and He will take us to a place in the Spirit where answers and explanations come by revelation. You cannot work this up in the flesh or the mind, but you do your best to follow the anointing in prayer. You heart must be free of sin and pure before God, and you should endeavor to make ministering to the Lord and praying much in other tongues a major part of your prayer life. This will greatly aid in learning the anointing in prayer, but it takes time to cultivate this in your personal life. So be patient…

It’s difficult to explain spiritual things, but here is the way it works with us. Often in prayer an inspired thought will rise up from within our spirits and the Lord will intercept our thoughts with His higher thoughts. As we continue to follow that anointing He will bring forth wisdom and revelation concerning the subject at hand or what we are praying about. We do not control where we go in prayer; He does. Perhaps the best way to explain this is to give you an example.

Following is a rather lengthy example of this operation in a prayer session where the Spirit of God taught us and admonished us concerning our love walk, and the spiritual laws He has set in motion. The blanks are names of people and places that the Holy Spirit brought to our remembrance.  We left them are for privacy and protection.

There are so many spiritual laws that people violate. ________ closed the door to_________ with his bitterness of how he was treated, but __________ received a blessing financially and in other ways that came into the church because they kept their hearts right. And so it is with us here. 

We have not closed that door but we’ve kept it open and changed it a little bit. And because of it, it will open doors, and the moving of the Holy Spirit always causes a blessing.

God just showed us how offenses can block, but wait to see what opens up when He, the Holy Spirit of truth, is allowed to move and you follow Him in truth. So it never will bring a defeat or a failure when you follow Me.

And that’s why Carolyn’s spirit was lifted up on the phone talking about it – because it started in the Spirit and birthed in prayer. And so it shall produce.

 That’s why they must understand that the moving of the Spirit is not just for a blessing at hand, for a moment’s time, but it is a key to moving in a destiny and a divine way.

And so as you spoke this morning of the woman at the well, how the gifts of the Spirit opened up that whole realm into a city being touched, how is it not affected in the opposite way, if she got offended and shut that off – and how it would’ve kept her in sin and defeat and would’ve stopped a city from being touched.

So show this side, too – never close the door to a move of the Spirit and how your offense can stop a whole city from coming under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Remembering now (Bert) as a new convert, Ms. Doody, your first boss, and how difficult she was to deal with, and how your temper would flare up with her, and how You would tell me to hug her, forgive her, and be  a blessing to her, and how hard that was on my flesh. But I did it, and it broke something, and I’ve never had problems with that kind of offense. I’ve never carried that because it was broken off of me early through simple obedience.

This has to do with liquid love and the move of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord deals with the heart all the time. If ________ would’ve let it go and said, “so what?” it may have saved him even from this adultery. But now his whole life is an embarrassment and a reproach, and it affected a whole church and a ministry.

It’s about setting them free to move with Him; it’s about understanding the laws of the Spirit – the grieving, the moving, and the flow, and how it is all out of the heart.

Guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life (Pr. 4:23).

Satan came into Judas’ heart because he had been stealing from that treasury all that time, and he opened up a door for Satan to come and put that thing in his heart to betray his Master. He gave place to that spirit. It’s almost like when you yield to one, seven others come in.

Carolyn’s testing point was being offended in _______ long ago when_______ asked someone else to sing. 

Acts of obedience break the power of offense and unforgiveness. The example of Lester Sumrall and that deacon who wanted to shut his meeting down, and the Lord told him to go kiss him. Three times it happened before the deacon broke and all was reconciled.

Love is the language of the kingdom. It keeps the door open and the Holy Spirit moving in hearts, and it causes entire cities to be affected instead of being stuck in a rut of sin. 

What ____________ did affected a whole city, ministries, and had a worldwide negative affect – and many young men were disillusioned by it. He opened the door and then shut the door. And someone actually saw the arrow that was shot in his mouth as he received that offense and that lie that ________ was out to raise up his own ministry in making the________ independent, when the truth was that _______ had a great call already, and it would’ve just been a blessing to the whole body.

What arrows are you swallowing? What lies are you accepting?

How you choose to receive that lie, offense, and temptation – the way that you handle it by rejecting it and moving in love is how you continue to move in the Spirit.

And God also set you free, Bert in  __________ when you got offended there, too.

But it all was made right, and we came back here and had to make things right here, too.  

We’ve done that now and kept our hearts open and clean and we’ve moved with You, Lord. It’s never wrong to move with You.

We know we’re not perfect, Lord and we make mistakes, but we’ve always tried to follow you and walk in love. We never carry offenses even going out of our way to love people who’ve offended us.

Love builds bridges and always wins.

Even though it was uncomfortable to reach out in love to one who offended you, when it was over it felt good.

Thank you for love, thank you for love, thank you, Lord!

Hallelujah! It is always encouraging to hear from the Spirit of the Lord like this. You, too can cultivate this kind of prayer life and walk with the Lord. We meditate on these Spirit-inspired words for they cause our faith and love to be strengthened. This is what Jesus meant when He said: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). It is the Spirit-inspired or rhema word from the Lord that really feeds us. It is what you receive personally from the Lord that fuels you with faith and fire.

Some find it difficult to believe in these higher dimensions of the communications of the Holy Spirit. He is not only the Comforter who leads us and guides us into all truth, but He also shows us things to come and gives us tremendous wisdom and revelation to walk it out. God has chosen my wife’s vessel to move in a prolific operation of this. Not everyone will move in exactly the same way, but everyone can be anointed to pray. One of  her God given assignments in life is to draw forth in prayer, provision of the wisdom of God, not only for our own lives and ministry, but for the body of Christ as well.

We have begun to produce short videos (Face To Face) to help train people to move in the Spirit in some of these things, hear from the Lord better, and enjoy a greater presence of God in their lives. This link shared is our third session. The first two are archived on our YouTube channel, Holy Fire Ministries. Feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming training sessions. The Lord told us that the right training would lead to greater power in the lives of His true disciples – thus the reason for these videos.

Please take time to view these, and of course, this blog. It is one way we can give back to those who love us, follow us, support us, and pray for us.

Abundant grace to each of you. May our glorious Bridegroom totally and completely satisfy you.

NOTE: If you feel like this article is valuable, please use the social media buttons below to share it. Also, this ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those who believe in the mandate and message of revival that this ministry carries. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help?

Thank you, and may God’s richest and best be yours.

THE ORGANIC NATURE OF THE CHURCH – Part 2

In our last blog we stated that in Acts 2:47 the Lord added to the church daily because the early Church was truly functioning as a living organism, drawing its life from within, whereas the Church today tends to draw from without. Then we put forth a powerful truth that organic principles utilize a minimum amount of energy and yet produce maximum results (fruit).

“All by itself the soil produces grain…” (Mk 4:28). All by itself … I repeat… all by itself … a living organism produces fruit from the soil, which in this case represents the heart of man.

As another example of a living organism producing fruit from within itself, take our physical bodies. Our physical bodies do not struggle to grow. As long as it has breath, rest, exercise, food, and drink it thrives. The same could be said of trees, crops, and plants. As long as the soil in which they’re planted receives sufficient nutrients from the sun and the rain these living organisms will thrive. It’s the same way with the born again spirit of man. As long as it gets fed with the proper nutrients of the Word and the Spirit, and has the privilege of fellowship with God and other believers it will grow (Acts 2:42).

My younger brother whom I referred to earlier led a local Catholic man to the Lord a few years ago and also in being filled with the Holy Ghost. I’ve spoken to this brother many times, and he is on fire for God. With little provoking and prodding from us he is testifying to his family and friends of what Jesus has done in his life. All who knew him before know that he is a changed man. He is devouring the Word of God regularly and prays continually. Because he works the night shift he is not able to attend a church yet. The only real fellowship and encouragement he has right now is mainly from a few older believers like me. Yet this convert is growing spiritually by leaps and bounds and continues to testify of the good news of Jesus without shame and timidity. All his growth has come from within the soil of his heart. That is organic!

No church or person is telling this brother that he has to read the Word, pray, and witness to others. It is the desire and joy of his life. He has received a new nature. And he is nurturing that new nature and being renewed daily through fellowship with God. It is the miracle of what new life produces.

Old Testament thinking makes you produce apart from that new life and nature. Old Testament thinking is based on the law which was given to spiritually dead people to govern their flesh, and it works from the outside in, but New Testament thinking moves from the outside, the flesh, to the heart and the new nature within that we receive by grace. The law hardens the human spirit because it does not deal with the hidden places of the heart, but grace is an inward transformation that softens our heart. 

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

All fruit is a result of fellowship. That’s where true life flows from. If we tend to the Vine (Jesus) then the branch takes care of itself and produces fruit automatically.

The reason for our attempts in seeking to produce a quality of life in the Church from the outside in is simply due to the absence of the Spirit of God in our lives and our inability to receive from Him, negligence in feeding the new nature within us, and a general insensitivity in us to follow His leading. Again, stemming from an Old Testament temple mentality, we separate our corporate gatherings, church services, functions, and programs from our daily spiritual life. Our daily lives is where the reality of a walk with God is tested and cultivated.

Cultivating an awareness of His presence and the reality that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that He is always with you will increase your spiritual sensitivity and receptivity and cause you to enjoy His life more on a regular, daily basis. In other words, learning to cultivate the ability to live from within, following your heart, following where the life of God is leading you is the key to maintaining freshness and fruit in your walk with God. That is how the organic nature of the kingdom of God works.

THE CHURCH TOO OCCUPIED WITH NUMBERS INSTEAD OF NATURE

The nature of the kingdom of God is that it grows from within, from the inside out and not from the outside in. It grows from the new nature that we receive when we’re born again by the Spirit of God. The Old Testament temple mentality was set up to control you externally through rules and regulations in contrast to being ruled from within through love and the Spirit of truth in the New Testament. Many of Jesus’ parables expounded on the nature and operations of the kingdom of God emphasizing its organic nature.

For example, He taught in the parable of the sower, noting that without understanding that parable, you cannot understand other parables (Mk 4:13). In other words, within that parable lay the key to understanding other parables. The key to this parable is not only in the incorruptible seed of the Word of God being sown, but it is in the soil’s ability to receive that seed. The soil represents the heart of man. The true spiritual condition of any local church body, or ministry depends on the health of the hearts of the people.

From 1987-1996 my wife and I were part of a team of missionaries that established interdenominational Bible training centers in West Africa. Since then, as the ministry has passed through different hands in that region, there has been a diminishing of the spiritual life and fire that were strong birthmarks of its early beginnings. The real spiritual barometer that gauges the life of the work is in the hearts of the leaders and what they are imparting to the students. Currently there are efforts being put forth to restore the ministry there to its former glory. Our caution, though, must be to avoid the temptation of financing outward structures whether they are buildings, better office space, vehicles, and equipment without taking care of the diminishing spiritual life that caused the decline in the first place.

Again, there is a mentality out there in ministry and church life that thinks if we make the outward more attractive then the inward will take care of itself. If we have a nicer building, more money, better equipment, etc. then God will send the fruit of revival. But the New Testament and the history of revivals have usually started with humble beginnings, and from people whose hearts were simply hungry and thirsty for more of God. God is not pleased when we glory in the flesh and in external things and putting our dependency on those things to produce fruit.

Think of how Jesus began His earthly ministry. He chose 12 men and called them to spend time with Him. Look what happened! Revival spread everywhere. Without buildings, without equipment, without fancy promotional techniques or gimmicks, without devising new programs and methods to reach people, without a lot of structure, and rules and regulations to govern them externally, they experienced constant revival. “But that was Jesus!” you say. But aren’t we called to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6), and do the works and greater works than He did (John 14:12)? Isn’t He the pattern? Isn’t that what the early Church did after Jesus left the earth? Isn’t that why the Holy Spirit was sent to us?

The Lord wants us to understand that the nature of the Church and of the kingdom of God is organic. The new nature and the life of God in the spirit of man is what make the Church a living organism and not so much an organization. You cannot manufacture an organism or breathe life into it, whether it is a tree, a plant, or the human body. Fruit cannot be manufactured. It is a by-product of being alive. Life begins on the inside, and continues to grow from the inside, not the outside. That’s why we must constantly watch over our hearts and feed and nurture the new nature in us, and follow the flow of the life-giving Spirit, and not a dead program.

In Acts 2:47 the Lord added to the church daily because the early Church was truly functioning as a living organism, drawing its life from within. It seems to me that the work grew and multiplied almost effortlessly without the strength of the arm of flesh or the wisdom of man. Here is a powerful truth:

Organic principles utilize a minimum amount of energy and yet produce maximum results (fruit).

“All by itself the soil produces grain…” (Mk 4:28). All by itself … I repeat… all by itself, a living organism produces fruit from the soil, which in this case represents the heart of man.

How different this is from so much of church life today! How many times have you heard pastors and church leaders try to get people to pray, witness, read their Bible, get involved in some church program, or outreach, yet to no avail. Or, a new program is started and there is spiritual life and fire in it for awhile, but soon it becomes burdened with layers of rules and regulations and top heavy structure until the life that was in it dies, or moves on.

Jesus did not go out among sinners because of some structured program, policy, or law that told Him He had to do it. He did not spend time with sinners to earn wages from the Father. He did not pray so He could please the Father and make it to heaven. He did all these things because it was His nature. The spiritual life within Him produced these actions and the fruit of them. Let’s return to the simplicity of living our Christianity from the inside out.

NOTE: If you feel like this article is valuable, please use the social media buttons below to share it. Also, this ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those who believe in the mandate and message of revival that this ministry carries. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help?

Thank you, and may God’s richest and best be yours.

FROM MY HEART: OFF TO A FLYING START

It is good to receive encouragement. Yesterday while we were filming programs for our Arabic Broadcast the sister of my translator told Carolyn that she could not leave the studio. She said “your husband has all my attention, and I understand everything he says. It is difficult to leave.”

What an answer to our prayers! I asked everyone to pray for an anointing that arrests people and calls them to attention, and that is exactly what she was testifying to. Praise God! Our prayers are being answered. God loves the Arabic people. Ishmael is not forgotten, for the Lord said He would bless them.

God has put such a love in my heart for the Arabic speaking people. Having met my translator and then working with him, then meeting his sister, has put flesh on the bones of this love. This broadcast is not only reaching Muslims and former Muslims who are now young converts, but also many with Egyptian Coptic and Roman Catholic backgrounds. They don’t have access to very good Scriptural and anointed teaching as much of it is still filled with denominational distinctives and traditions. I believe that is the reason my translator’s sister was glued to the set the entire time I was preaching/teaching. The anointed Word was captivating her. This gave me a good barometer for the millions of people that are viewing the broadcast and listening to the living Word.

Today we are filming another six – 30 minute programs, and then tomorrow we will try to finish with 4-6 more. This will allow them to edit three months worth of programming for a once per week showing. This is so exciting!

As I stated, using both my translator and his sister as a barometer, there is a real feeding that will happen through our program. Young lambs will be nurtured, sheep will be fed, and sinners will come to a real revelation of Jesus Christ. This is very fulfilling to my heart. They will be enlightened, taste of the heavenly gift of Jesus, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, taste the good word of God and the powers of the age to come (Heb. 6:4-5). I was so thrilled yesterday after completing four sets that it was difficult to unwind once it was over. “He who waters is watered also.” I can imagine what the next two days will be like.

People have asked me if they can watch the programs. Most cannot unless they have access to this Arabic satellite network (Al Fady TV). This station has 4 satellites that reaches into the Arabic speaking people who live in England, Europe, Middle East, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. on the Roku boxes. Unless you have a Roku box you will not be able to view it. However, we will be posting all the programs on our YouTube channel, so be sure to subscribe to it, and you will be able to view all the broadcasts.

A great big thank you again to everyone who has supported us in this grand endeavor of preaching the gospel and teaching the living Word to millions of people. Thank you for your love, prayers, and financial support. Although enough funds came in to start filming, the goal is to be on several times a week instead of just once a week, so we definitely need more partners and one time gifts. We appreciate every investment and seed sown toward this amazing opportunity. God bless each of you.

TIME TO GIVE BIRTH TO A NEW KIND OF PREACHER

“Your young men shall see visions…” (Acts 2:17).

“But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul (Acts 7:55-58).

Stephen was a young man of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, faith, and wisdom (Acts 6:3). Most of us would be thrilled to be noted for just one or two of these godly qualities. As we will soon discover, Stephen possessed not only these, but would be given more.

Stephen was a holy vessel, of a wholly new order, effecting disorder, among the self-righteous crowd. He was fit for the Master’s use, but unfit for the religious system of his day. God raised him up in a blaze of great persecution. Stephen answered the call and sealed his fiery message with his own blood.

Will there be end time persecution in America as great as that which was in Jerusalem long ago? And will there again be Stephens among us who have grand visions of heaven and of the glory of God? And will some be killed for telling the truth?

We have reason to believe that Stephen’s forgiveness of his accusers and murderers was instrumental in bringing forth new birth in another young man named Saul. As Stephen’s life and earthly destiny ended with visions of heaven, Saul’s new life would soon begin with the same. And as Stephen suffered this great persecution so Saul would suffer much more.

I wonder if Saul was rehearsing what he witnessed at Stephen’s martyrdom when shortly after his own conversion the Jews tried to kill him, too.

“Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him” (Acts 9:23).

I believe something was imparted to Saul at Stephen’s stoning and death. The Holy Spirit, who was now in Saul, brought him into remembrance of it, and of what Jesus had spoken to Ananias. It also opened up an understanding later in Saul of what Jesus suffered.

“For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My Name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).

Saul became Paul because Stephen cried out/prayed for his forgiveness. The witnesses at his death laid down their clothes at Saul’s feet, but it was Stephen’s loud praying that would later lay down new paths for those same feet.

In a way, Stephen passed the baton of his life and sacrifice to Saul. Isn’t it interesting that suffering and sacrifice marked Saul’s life (2 Cor. 11:23-28). Later in his life and ministry he recalled again, his earliest persecutions at Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32-33).

Never underestimate what God can do even with one who is standing by as Saul did at Stephen’s stoning. That same spirit of boldness and sacrifice was released and imparted to him. This was the multi-faceted wisdom of God being displayed before principalities and powers. Saul, a murderer of Christians, a persecutor of the Church, now chosen by God, to help perfect the Church and bring salvation to the nations. Oh, what our mighty God can do! Hallelujah!

Stephen’s violent departure led to Saul’s violent entry into the kingdom of God. Will this kind of violence be more frequent and mark these last days? Where are the voices of the spiritually violent witnesses, prayer-s, and preachers that are producing violent conversions?

God is setting  a precedent in this hour for those who are moving with His Spirit in life, in prayer, and in ministry. The Spirit of the Lord does multiple things at once when we move with Him and obey Him. There is often a chain reaction and a domino effect, if you will, to those who are flowing with Him. Those called and chosen of Him come under His workings and divine activity. Stephen was obedient. He was filled with the Spirit even in his hour of death; he saw into the Spirit, and spoke by the Spirit.

So put your faith in the wisdom of God, and all the more in your trials (Jam. 1:2-5), so that you can continue to work with the Lord in the moving of His Spirit. There you will find the grace, provision, and the full supply of what you need. This is how God’s economy works. So let the record show that there is confidence and fruit in moving with God in the anointing.

Stephen was a young man who was martyred. Saul was a young man who observed it all. Saul received something of an impartation and an understanding at Stephen’s martyrdom that came later. There was an intensity of the anointing in Stephen’s final hour that marked Saul. In the light of the spirit of antichrist, God’s called out and chosen ones must carry this spirit of martyrdom into the earth. A new breed of preacher must be born.

Young men want to run with zeal, but there’s a process. Jesus was led into the wilderness before coming out in power.

Besides the blameless character of this young man Stephen, there are three more radical qualities which distinguish him from most modern day preachers. I believe these qualities to be the stamp of a true warrior and a new breed of revivalist that will prepare the way for the Lord’s soon return. Here they are:

1. His message was irresistible.

“And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake” (Acts 6:10).

2. His miracles were great and done “among” the people.

“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:8).

3. His martyrdom was the embodiment of the love of our Savior and came with visions of heaven.

“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

Can there be any greater heaven demanding and hell busting qualities than these? They convey both alarm and assault to Satan and his demons. They cause quaking and trembling in his darkest regions, and glory and rejoicing in the highest of heavens.

Ministry gifts must be unwrapped through prayer. Birth must be given to their ministries  on the earth in this final hour.

I believe that the coming apostolic ministries of our day will be carriers of true revival. Like Stephen of old, they will be full of faith and power and do great wonders and signs among the people, while speaking with an irresistible wisdom and Spirit. They will not count their lives dear to themselves, but instead will be utterly abandoned to God’s eternal purposes.

The combination of the deeply convicting repentance preaching of one like Charles Finney and the daring, miracle-working faith of one like Smith Wigglesworth will bring forth a mighty apostolic anointing and authority that has been lacking in recent times. It will ignite the common man to carry that witness into the marketplace.

Passing On The Move Of God To The Next Generation is our latest book born out of this burden. One preacher called it the “acceleration factor” for the season the Church is in now.  The last portion of the book outlines the type of young generation preacher that will be needed today in the model of Stephen the martyr. If I was departing the earth for heaven tomorrow, this book would be my last words to the Church. 

THE WORSHIP OF THE GODDESS OF NUMBERS

“…It may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).

Here’s  a truth that will minister peace to many. Effective leadership does not mean numbers.

Although numbers represent people, and it is worthy to reach as many as we can, I am no longer impressed by mere numbers. Numbers represent success only if a person is obeying God. Otherwise, they can actually be a cover-up and a facade for failure in real fruit, character, and ethics.

The question that is often asked at many minister’s conferences when interfacing with other pastors is, “How big is your church?” or “How many are you running?” as if the numbers determine how successful the pastor is. Both the question and response are extremely shallow and a superficial measuring gauge of health in a church. It’s like asking me, “how many children do you have?” to determine how successful of a father I am. I only have one son, so I guess I’m not very successful, while other men who have more children are considered successful. Strange way of measuring success, isn’t it?

A big church is not necessarily a healthy church any more than a big family is a sign of a healthy family, and it may not be a sign of effective leadership any more than a big family is a sign of effective parenting.

Our personal and ministerial leadership is determined by disciples we are making – mature and responsible people who adhere to the commands of Jesus and are being conformed into His image, and who themselves are reproducing other disciples in the community.

Whether or not our leadership is effective is determined more by what happens in our daily lives outside the church building than by what happens inside the building one or two or even three days a week.

Numbers should not be a goal, lest they become a god, but the goal should be lasting fruit of transformed lives.

HERE’S WHAT REAL GROWTH LOOKS LIKE

The most effective churches that I know are those who are transforming their community person by person and family by family. The most effective disciples I know are those who have learned to leave the 99 who are doing well and love the one who is not. You don’t need big numbers and big money to do that. You need kingdom values, and the heart of God. You need a willingness to focus on the person in front to you, and to be inconvenienced, when necessary, for other’s sake.

Do you know why so many churches are failing in truly transforming their communities? Here is the Scriptural answer:

“For the others all seek [to advance] their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (the Messiah)” (Phil. 2:21 – Amp).

There it is! When I was a young missionary I wrote a book called, Soulish Leadership, from a burden I received that came from all the pastoral “turf” wars I witnessed in every city and nation we were in. The envy, jealousy, strife, and personal kingdom building was nauseating. I realized over time that men are primarily interested in advancing their own cause and agenda, but not the kingdom’s. It takes a man full of the mind and heart of God to endorse another. I have a dear friend who pastors a very healthy church and buys newspaper ads for new pastors that come into the area to start another church. That is what you call kingdom values. Would to God that all pastors followed this example!

What would happen in your community if it didn’t matter who received the credit for advancing the kingdom in your area?  What is required from disciples of Jesus is not numerical growth of any particular group or church, but rather, growth of Christ’s kingdom, free of personal agendas, financial gain, and personal ownership issues?

Until we stop caring about numerical “results” of our churches, or of people and individuals we’re reaching out to personally, but leave the fruit to God’s workings and care, we are really not in a position to be the judge of what true growth is. What if kingdom growth meant the end of everything you are involved in? Could you let go of what is dear to you so that another might succeed? Would you be willing to be nothing for the greater good? Would you give away your time, talents, and treasury for no other reason than the good it causes others? That is what will transform a community.

These are called the true values of the kingdom of God. When our values are aligned with God’s great heart, and His meek and lowly nature, true kingdom growth will take care of itself. It is a rarity today, but there are some numerically small churches that are growing in numbers and in fruit who are not even trying to grow. They are growing this way because there’s been a transformation in their thinking – not in their methodology or philosophy of ministry, but in their values. When our actions spawn forth from transformed Christ-like thinking and kingdom values, there is fruitfulness, but not always how we expect it in significant numerical growth.

DO NUMBERS MEAN AS MUCH TO GOD AS THEY MEAN TO US?

Please hear my heart. In this post I am not suggesting that numbers are bad or wrong, but they are not to be the primary driving force. I’ve been given the opportunity recently to be on Arabic satellite television, which has a potential viewership of 400 million people. Although that is a very large number of potential viewers to be excited about, my interest going in to this endeavor is to see real fruit of conversions and changed lives through the call ins and testimonies that may come in. 

Our Lord Jesus fed thousands of people, but focused His primary efforts in raising up 12 men. One of His hard teachings on eating His flesh and drinking His Blood scared away those thousands and even a few of His own, but He did not chase them (Jn. 6). Yet He was the example of the good Shepherd that left the 99 to go after the one who strayed, and He taught us to do the same.

And let’s not forget our Old Testament examples of how the Lord cut down Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300 able men (Jud. 7); or of the battle Jehoshaphat won when his armies were outnumbered 3-1 (2 Chr. 20); or of Elijah’s victory over the 400 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18); or of the time the Lord’s anger was stirred against David for counting his army (2 Sam. 24).

Numbers can be very deceptive and misleading. Thank God that large numbers of people are being reached, hopefully for the good, but don’t make the mistake of evaluating a man’s success and spiritual credibility by those large numbers. Those numbers may only be a sign of a man’s popularity. God rewards faithfulness, not ability. If God has called you to pastor only a few families, love them and nurture them faithfully, and you will receive the same recompense as any mega pastor who did the same. 

Here’s a grand piece by A.W. Tozer that stirs me deeply:

FAILURE AND SUCCESS: THE GREAT GODDESS OF NUMBERS

“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:12-13).  

The emphasis today in Christian circles appears to be on quantity, with a corresponding lack of emphasis on quality. Numbers, size and amount seem to be very nearly all that matters even among evangelicals; size of the crowd, the number of converts, the size of the budget, and the amount of the weekly collections. If these look good the church is prospering and the pastor is thought to be a success. The church that can show an impressive quantitative growth is frankly envied and imitated by other ambitious churches.

This is the age of the Laodiceans. The great goddess Numbers is worshiped with fervent devotion and all things religious are brought before her for examination. Her Old Testament is the financial report and her New Testament is the membership roll. To these she appeals as arbiters of all questions, the test of spiritual growth and the proof of success or failure in every Christian endeavor.

A little acquaintance with the Bible should show this up for the heresy it is. To judge anything spiritual by statistics is to judge by another than scriptural judgment. It is to admit the validity of externalism and to deny the value our Lord places upon the soul as over against the body. It is to mistake the old creation for the new and to confuse things eternal with things temporal. Yet it is being done every day by ministers, church boards and denominational leaders. And hardly anyoine notices the deep and dangerous error. (Tozer, The Set of the Sail, 153).

“Oh Lord, convict us! Forgive us! Deliver us from the goddess of Numbers! Amen.”