We Don't Need A Production, We Need An Encounter!

It's becoming very obvious that many church services are more of a production than an encounter with Jesus. This trend is driven by the belief that the church is less relevant to people than she used to be. The truth, relevance is not the issue. It's the absence of the One who is relevant to All people and every situation - the Holy Spirit. We must remember, a production is man-made. An encounter with Jesus is Holy Spirit-breathed. So what's the answer? We make a place for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and in our gatherings.

Sometimes I find it difficult to offer pure praise from the congregation as I am distracted by the show taking place on the stage. Bright flashing lights, search lights, and smoke make it look more like worldly entertainment. It might even be impressive at times, but it doesn't make us more relevant to people. It glorifies people. Trying to look like the world doesn't draw folks to Jesus. The Holy Spirit does. No one is more relevant than He! If we want to be relevant to people, we cannot do it without Him in our midst.

M
uch of what we call praise and worship today has no anointing upon it. It contains no fire. It's polished and professional, but it's powerless. It's a great production, but it lacks the supernatural touch of the Holy Spirit. His touch is what distinguishes His spiritual from the world's natural. Jesus said of Him, "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:14) Oh how we need His involvement in our services! We must seek God for Him to inhabit our praises as we prepare a place in our hearts, and in our midst for Him!

Our stage production style of doing church is not evil. It's just not anointed. In a negative sense, it instills in many folks the "You up there, me out here" mentality. It produces the mindset that church is for entertainment. So we find ourselves saying things like "The worship was really good (or not so good) today." Or, "I didn't like the choice of songs this week." This puts pressure on the folks up front to perform to please man...not God. The question should be asked by everyone, "Was MY worship pleasing and acceptable to Jesus today?" "Did I glorify Him?" When individual hearts are determined to glorify Him, He comes. When He comes, no one in their right mind can deny He is there! That's preparing a place for Him!

What I am about to say comes from my own personal experience in worshiping our incredible God through the years. I am convinced this is the crucial key to powerfully anointed praise and worship; praise and worship that is saturated with the fire of the Holy Spirit. What is this key? It is personal worship. Our personal praise and worship is developed during our personal times with God, as we make the effort to worship Him. Corporate worship should be composed of people who are developing their worship during their own personal times of worship. Guess what happens when people on fire, participate in corporate worship: The fire of the Holy Spirit falls. Frankly, it won't matter whether there is smoke, flashing lights, spotlights, or search lights in the building.

Let me insert something here concerning praise and worship teams. If you don't worship during practice, your are missing much of the anointing God has available for you and your congregation. It's obviously very import to rehearse to be comfortable with the music and the vocals. But it should be equally important that you set aside time to worship as a team. That's where the corporate anointing lies! To rehearse the mechanics only is to prepare for a production, not an encounter!

Never forget, church is first about Jesus, and what you bring to Him. He deserves the purest, and highest praise and worship...first. That is why after Jesus ascended back to the Father, He sent forth the Holy Spirit. He inhabits this praise (See Psalm 22:3). He responds by moving in our midst. He anoints and confirms the preaching of the Word of God with signs, wonders, and miracles!

We are created to worship Him. We exist to bring Him glory, honor, worship, and praise. Jesus has given us His Spirit to help us. He energizes us. He transforms what we sincerely offer up to Jesus into the world-changing glory of Himself! This is how we become more relevant to humans. We worship Him in spirit and truth. He comes and supernaturally connects us to the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the awesome Prince of Peace. When the Holy Spirit comes, Jesus is exalted by Him. When Jesus is exalted, people are drawn to Him. It's in the encounter, not the production.

Turn Your Sitting Into Serving!

How long How have you been a follower of Jesus Christ? How long have you been part of a local church? How much of that time have you sat in the congregation listening and learning? I have attended church for many years now, because I have been a follower of Christ for many years. It is very important to sit, listen, and learn. But lately as I observe church (including my own involvement), I wonder how the number of hours that we've sat in church would compare with the number of hours we've served in the church; or how the number of hours we've sat in church would compare with the number of hours we've served outside of the church.

Can you imagine the impact the church would have on our local communities if everyone who sat in church served either in the church, or outside the church, (or both)? What about world impact? Imagine the greater impact we would have world-wide if we served more that we sat!

Church is not only about sitting. It is also about serving. Yes, we must sit. But we must take what we get from sitting and apply it to serving. Sitting is the receiving part. Serving is the giving part. Jesus said, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8) We eagerly focus on the things we can freely receive, instead of the costly things we should  give away. However it is the serving/giving that makes the greatest impact on others!

People should want to serve more than sit. This is how churches grow. This is how new ministries are birthed. This is how new vision becomes a reality. When the ratio of serving to sitting begins to increase, churches not only grow, they also become healthier. Folks who follow after Christ grow in their relationship with Him. Don't forget, the heart of Jesus is not only in the sitting, but more so in the serving.

It will always be very important that we go to church to sit. But it is equally (and probably more) important that we don't just sit, but we serve. Add to that the extreme significance of serving when we exit the doors of our church.

Your church is always offering areas of service to those who will volunteer to serve. If not, you can find areas in which you can serve outside of the church. Do something special for your neighbors. Go on a short-term missions trip. That will change your life. Take a leap of faith into something beyond your personal capabilities and watch Jesus do the miraculous for (and more importantly) through you. Do stuff that changes the lives of others who are less fortunate than you. Jesus says if you do it to the seemingly insignificant, the seemingly unimportant, you have done it to Him! "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40)


The Presence And The Power Of The Holy Spirit (Part 2)

Part 2

Most folks don't realize there is a third account of the Great Commission. I'm sure you're familiar with Matthew's and Mark's account issued by Jesus just before He ascended back to the Father. But there is a third, less popular account given by Luke. Actually he included something that Matthew and Mark didn't. 

(Luke 24:46), "...and He (Jesus) said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." This is pretty much what Matthew and Mark said, but with a few less words. But listen to what Jesus says next. "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)

So Jesus gives the command to "go". But...He tells His disciples NOT to leave the city of Jerusalem until they are "clothed with power from on High." Jesus had worked with them for three and a half years. He was about to return to His Father, and they would be launched out into the world to preach the Gospel to all nations. But not before He sent what God had promised, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew and Mark didn't include this in their accounts; however, they certainly did stay in the city, and were clothed with power for on high! From there they, and all the disciples, were compelled by the Holy Spirit to go out of the city and to the remotest parts of the earth.

Luke also wrote the book of Acts. He opened with a continuation of the subject with which he closed the Gospel of Luke. "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1: 4-5) They could not leave Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high, the power of the Holy Spirit! Jesus told them, "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Just like Jesus, they needed not only the presence of the Holy Spirit, but the power of the Holy Spirit.

A few days after Jesus had risen He appeared to His followers in a room that was closed up tightly. "So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you. And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."  And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (John 20: 19-23) What happened when Jesus breathed on them? They were born again by the Spirit of God. Jesus had completed the work of the cross. They now had the presence of God in their lives. They received the presence of the Holy Spirit so that soon afterward they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Here's another way to put it. They were born again by the Spirit of God (like you and me), so that they would later be clothed in the power the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." Remember, in order for Jesus to be sent, He had to empty Himself and be born of the Virgin Mary. His conception was of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, being born of the Holy Spirit, had the presence of the Holy Spirit. (See Philippians 2 and Luke 1) However Jesus didn't begin His ministry until He was anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit. He needed the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. (See Luke 3) Jesus clearly is our example. Then we see the example followed as Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to the disciples in that private room. And according to Luke's account, Jesus told them not to leave the city of Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on High. They were born again, by the Spirit of God, and now, before they depart to preach the Gospel to the whole world, they needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus was sacrificed. (Acts 2: 1- 4), "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance."

This was no small event. The Spirit upon these folks compelled them to leave that upper room where they privately had been praying, waiting, and seeking God for what He had promised. They were different after that. They were bold. They were on fire for Jesus. They were single-minded about Jesus. Miracles took place at their hands. The same works Jesus performed when He was here on the earth, they were also performing, just like He said. (See John 14: 12)

We need the presence of the Holy Spirit to cause us to be born of God. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to cause others to be born of God through us. When Jesus breathed on the disciples, they became born again. When the Holy Spirit fell on them in that upper room, others began to be born again. He is in you for your sake. And He is on you for other's sake. Seek Him for His promised power, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Subsequent to your salvation (just like the disciples) is the enduement of power from on Him. If you are tired of the "status quo" in your walk with Him, and if you desire to see the world shaken for the glory of God (you as His vessel) then by faith, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We desperately need Him for today.


The Presence And The Power Of The Holy Spirit


The burden of my heart lately is that God's people be filled with the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. With all that is going on in these current times, we truly need His presence and His power operating in and through us. Jesus doesn't have us here just to occupy space, and tread water. You and I are here to make an impact on our world! Oh, how we need His presence and His power to do so!

Many Christians believe that once a person is saved, that's all the Holy Spirit they get. But there is more. Certainly, salvation is the greatest event that could take place in any person's life. Salvation assures our righteousness in Jesus, and our place in heaven forever. But what about the rest of our lives here on the earth? You and I have come to know Jesus, not only for our sakes, but for the sake of those God wants to impact through us! I recently heard someone say of the Holy Spirit, "He is in me for my sake. He is upon me for your sake." Our destiny is to impact the world we live in with the love of Jesus in order to bring them to Him. This requires the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives....24 X 7. 

Jesus is the greatest example of how the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit (in Him and upon Him) impacted the whole world. As Savior of the world, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit had to be a part of His very essence. In the same way, we will see how the same applies to you and me. We need both the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit as we follow Jesus, and His example for us.

Let's look at Jesus from the very beginning of His life on earth. The angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary (Luke 1) and announced to her, "...You will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus." Can you imagine how this young teenager felt when it was said to her that she would give birth to the Messiah, Savior of the world? I respect her response. "How can this be since I am a virgin?" Gabriel responded, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God." Clearly we see the presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' life, even from conception. Later when He was born of the Virgin Mary, He was literally born of the Spirit, and born of a woman. In the same way, when we are "born again", we too are born of the Spirit of God, even though we were born also of the flesh. Just like Jesus, from the day the Holy Spirit begins to deal with our hearts, His presence is a part of our lives.

Jesus' life from birth demonstrated the presence of the Holy Spirit. But there was more. How wonderful it was that Jesus was literally born of the Spirit of God. Still, there was more. Jesus didn't come only to demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit. He also came to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit! When He was 30 years old something happened that launched Him into 3 1/2 years of ministry that changed the world! What happened? He was baptized in the Holy Spirit, which means He was anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit.

"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17)

When Jesus was baptized in water, the heavens opened, down came the Holy Spirit upon Him, and as God expressed His approval, He called Jesus "My Beloved Son". There is so much happening here. But I want to key on one thing: The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus. He was already born of the Spirit. But even Jesus, born of God, needed not only the presence, but the power of the Holy Spirit. I know I am born again by the same Spirit that conceived Jesus in Mary's womb. I am as "born of the Spirit" now as Jesus when He walked the earth. But if Jesus needed to be empowered by the Spirit, so must I. Listen to the very next verse in Matthew 4:1. "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Even though Jesus was born of the Spirit, the Bible doesn't say He was "led" by the Spirit until after the heavens opened and the Spirit came down upon Him! 

Why did He need the baptism in the Holy Spirit if He was born of God? Why did He need the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit? You must understand what Jesus gave up even before He came to the earth. (Philippians 2:5-7), "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." Jesus being equal with God, existed in the form of God. Yet He emptied Himself to come to earth as God's bond servant. He could not come as God, the Son (2nd Person of the Trinity), so He came as the Son of God, who was conceived of by the Holy Spirit, born of God, and born of a woman. Think about this. After Jesus, was baptized in water, when the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, God said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." The confirmation here is that God wants to powerfully anoint those (who are born of Him) with the power of the Spirit!

And one more thing about Jesus. He said, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me." (John 8:42) Any and everything Jesus did was directed by the Holy Spirit, who was now upon Him. He was so empty of Himself, He desperately needed the Holy Spirit to empower and lead Him every minute of every day. He is our example.

Just like Jesus, we must empty ourselves to become His servants. Upon simply asking, we become born again by the same Holy Spirit that conceived Jesus in Mary's womb, and later endued Him with power from on High! We must be so empty of ourselves, and the world, that we desperately depend upon Him for our every move. Some say, "The baptism in the Holy Spirit may be for you, but not for me." Yes He is for you. You just need to believe that He is for you. Simply ask Him to empower you as a servant of Jesus Christ. He will! Just believe it!

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." (Acts 2: 1-4) This is the infilling that will change your life, and your world! It will move your relationship with Jesus from mediocrity to a raging wonderful spiritual fire! This is the power the church must have in these current times. Ask Him for it, believe, and receive the precious baptism of the Holy Spirit! He is eagerly waiting for you!

(The Presence and The Power of the Holy Spirit (Part 2) coming soon.)