Transcribed and edited from video:
It’s a great joy to speak with you today. I’ve been here at Church of the Highlands the last day or two with [Pastor Chris] and Dino having a great time. After talking to them and praying with them about the season we’re in, they felt, and I felt, I should share a few minutes with you on the season we find ourselves in. So let me pray.
Lord, I thank you for the ARC. I know many of the great men and women that serve there, and they’re dear to me. I thank you, Lord, for how you’re using them in all their various locations. How the greatest days of church planting in this new season are ahead. Amen.
I want to talk to you about the season we find ourselves in and some of the challenges particular to that season. Many believe that we’re coming into a season of revival. I mean by that one of those seasons where the spirit of God moves in unusual ways to revive the church and save lost people.
I believe that to be the case. I don’t believe this will be regional or short. I believe it will end up lasting a number of years and affecting many parts of the world.
Why would I believe that? And why is it important?
When you look at American history, and I know you all know this, but throughout the history of America, at every critical juncture, there’s been an outpouring of the spirit—the first one, the 1730s, before the Revolutionary War. Then in the 1800s, before the Civil War, the second Grade Awakening. Some call it the third Grade Awakening with Jeremiah Lanphier and the massive prayer revival in the 1850s leading up to the Civil War. That revival is still going throughout the Civil War-going through the South. Thousands and thousands of Confederate soldiers were saved at the end of the war. God’s never failed us.
Before the first two World Wars, we have the Pentecostal Revival with the Azusa Street and William Seymour, the amazing African-American apostle of the Pentecostal Revival. That revival, at least in its immediate sense, lasted three and a half years. Three services a day. The rest is history.
There are 600 million people that practice the gifts of the spirit today. Probably the last great revival in American history started in 1859 in an Episcopalian church in Van Nuys, California, where the pastor announced to his congregation he spoke with tongues. Time Magazine and others picked it up and became national news.
That charismatic renewal, which my parents were taught, and were touched by God in, lasted for sure into the end of the 1980s, early nineties. Of course, the Jesus Revolution that started in Haight Ashbury, Summer of Love in 1967, a group of kind of young hippie radicals touched by God. It spread into what’s now the Calvary Chapel movement.
I was down the street from it in San Diego and swept my high school. I’ll never forget when the spirit of God went over from my high school, and hundreds of kids were just being saved, no one preaching.
Why would I believe we’re coming into another season like that? This first wave we had at Asbury is only the beginning. Here’s why I believe that.
Let me be prophetic for a moment. My first glimpse of revival would have been probably Dec. 31, 2018. I attend a multi-site, multi-ethnic church. I’m on the board that is in Brentwood, Tennessee, Nashville area. That night before I preached, the Lord visited me. I saw our nation shaken, the economy crushed, people leaving the West Coast, New York battered down, and it kind of scared me. I have kids in New York City, kids in Silicon Valley.
I heard the Lord keep saying, “17 months, 17 months.” I stood to preach, and I wouldn’t have done it on a Sunday morning but on a Sunday evening with a lot of our core people. So I prophesied. I told them in 17 months, America was going to come to a major ethnic turning point. There would be lots of pain.
Of course, 17 months from then, Mr. Floyd was terribly killed in Minneapolis. You all know the story there. I prophesied that many would think that we were in anarchy and that it was going to all end. We would be halfway done with something by then, but no, America would not end in anarchy. It would end in revival. Seventeen months after that, we were going from pandemic to endemic.
Where are we now? Let me fast forward to 2022. It was Jun. 9. I was in my office, crying out over America. To make a long story short, as many of you know, I saw Jesus walking across America, praying. He began to pray and began to cry out for revival, “One more time, Father. One more time, Father. One more time.” I heard the Father say, “Yes.” I saw this massive raindrop come down from heaven and begin to create new ecosystems. The Lord told me the first drops are falling. It’s not business as usual. That began to encourage my heart as I heard signs of the spirit of God moving.
On Aug. 22, I was in Amarillo with the great church there, Trinity Church. I was praying, and that night the Holy Spirit whispered to me and said, “Clouds of my presence are going to begin to come. The churches across America, will they see the clouds? Their response to my presence will determine the depth of what they feel.”
Two days later, on Aug. 24, I was here in Birmingham to have dinner with [Pastor Chris] and hang out. Before dinner, I laid down, just burdened for the whole world, for revival. I said, Lord, I feel something’s eminent in America. Lord, what about the rest of the world?
The next thing I knew, I had a vision of the U.K. No one even knew the queen was sick. The whole U.K. was in mourning—flag at half-mast. I thought, man, [who] has died? Just mourning. I saw Jesus grab the flag’s lanyard and jerk it. The flag went screaming to the top of the mast. Lightning crashed. Jesus says, “I’ll restore my glory to the U.K.” He said, “I’ve not forgotten my promises.” A week later, He said, “When the Queen of England dies, you’ll know revival’s eminent.” So that bolstered my heart.
In February of this year, Feb. 3, I was sitting in front of my map of the world praying, and the next thing I knew, the Lord said, “I want to give you a storm warning. Thunderstorms of revival are coming to your country. There will be first drops, but deluges will begin.”
The next week is when the Asbury revival began. We have a church right next to it. You know the story. Thousands of people came. The presence of God hung over that place for 17 days. It spread to other colleges and campuses. The majority of you have felt increased hunger.
January was unusual. What does that mean?
I want to talk for a moment about living in the realities, both good and bad, of a time when God is moving. You can look at Acts 19 later. I’m not going to take the time now, but that’s the Ephesus revival. Probably the greatest revival in Paul’s ministry.
I was recently in Ephesus touring, studying, wondering what it must have been like when the spirit of God was poured out there. When thousands of people were coming out of witchcraft, destroying their occult objects where without social media in two years, the spirit of God moved so amazingly.
There was a church of thousands. Imagine the glory and spirit of God moving so powerfully that you’re in meetings every night. The whole province of Asia affected. So much miracle power that when Paul would be working, making tents during the day, people would run in to grab a piece of leather he had touched, or maybe a part of his apron, just believing to be healed.
Those are the externals of revival. Everybody wants one. Oh man, we want revival. Revival is coming to our nation. I believe, yes, we’ve, we’ve had a touch. I believe there is more to come.
What are some of the internal realities of revival? What I really want to talk about is when God visits your church, and there are more deluges, and more people are coming; what are some of the realities?
When we look at 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, which is really the passage in my heart, Paul opens up his heart and says, you’ve heard about Asia thousands of people saved. The seven churches in the Book of Revelation came out of that revival. Then Paul says, but this is what it was really like for my team and I. This is what we were experiencing. This is what we were feeling in a time when God’s spirit was being poured out.
He said, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
How could Paul be in the greatest revival of his life and be burdened beyond strength? What happened that he was despairing of life? Was it something as simple as being persecuted? No. Paul had already been stoned and left for dead by this time. Was it something as simple as a hostile crowd? No. Paul had his persecution. We can be stoned terribly on social media, but like Paul, what the enemy means for evil, God means for good. It wasn’t the normal afflictions.
Let me talk about what happens when the spirit of God begins to move in your church. Number one, revival brings its blessings, and revival brings its challenges. I’m not gonna talk today about conserving a revival. How to respond to it as a pastor. What do you do? That’s a different matter. I’m going to talk about the spiritual thing.
What was wearing down Paul? How would you feel if you were working a full-time job outside of ministry and preaching every night without a break for two years? What happens when the spirit of God begins to move? What happens when more and more people come? What happens when you’re wondering, do we need a few nights of blessing? Do we need more prayer nights? When the spirit of God begins to move, it stresses your team. It stresses your life – the pure work involved, the more people to take care of. What do we do? How much do we pray? What about services? It’s stressful, it’s burdensome, but there’s also a spiritual reality to pastoring and leading in a season like this you can’t forget.
There’s an interesting verse in 1 Corinthians 15:32, where Paul reflects back on his time in Asia. He says this, if I wrestled with wild beasts in Asia and there’s no resurrection, what was it worth? What does this wrestling with wild beasts in Asia mean? The best we can tell, there was no arena in Ephesus. They weren’t having wild beast games feeding people to animals. It’s also highly unlikely that would’ve ever happened with a Roman citizen without a trial. What is this wild beast thing?
When you begin to study Ephesus, and many of you know, Ephesus was the capital in the ancient world for curses in magic. If you wanted to curse someone, you’d go to Ephesus and get a curse. Maybe you wanted someone’s business. You’d get a curse that you could read calling on these different gods and demonic realities to curse them. Maybe you’re getting married, and you are worried someone wanted to steal your spouse. You would hire a warlock or a witch to come to the wedding and give incantations and charms to protect you. The center of magic and cursing.
Some of your scholars allude to the fact that there was a form of magic called beast magic. If you wanted someone destroyed, you would go to these workers of the dark arts. In their own minds, they would conjure up the spirit of a wolf or a bear or a wild animal to send against their enemy. We know it was demonic, but Paul’s preaching was so successful the idol trade was drying up. Paul’s preaching was so successful, so much anointing and revival, that people were burning their curse scrolls, burning their amulets. Paul was under great spiritual assault.
As much as I’m happy to have the move of the spirit here, the devil hates it. The devil fears it. You can be sure you are in a time of heightened, spiritual warfare right now. He’ll press you on every side. You may find more sickness in your family. Crisis with your kids. Some of it’s natural, but the enemy comes in moments like this to attack you. How do you handle that? How do you walk through that?
I was in prayer some weeks ago, and I said, Lord, revival’s here. He says, “Yes, it is, and so is something else.” I said, what’s that? He said, “It’s the enemy. He’s furious and afraid.”
How do you recognize when you’re under the attack of the enemy? That’s a long subject. I’ll say this very quickly. Then move on to what to do. I begin to evaluate where I am under some key things. I examine the intensity. I examine density. I examine immensity and propensity.
By intensity, I find myself saying, we’re never this sick this much. Our marriage is never like this. We’ve never had so much staff problem. When you begin to use words like this, never happens. It’s never been this bad. That could be the first warning sign to you. Okay, man is the enemy heightening this? Is he attacking with division? We know he is a whisper. He separates people. Is this infirmity that antibiotics have stopped working for not just natural, maybe the enemy’s heightening.
Then it’s density. Do you ever feel like you’re walking in mud, and it doesn’t make sense? Do you ever feel like you’re hitting a wall and you can’t get through it? It just won’t move, pastor. I just can’t get any movement in this. Sometimes it’s natural. Sometimes, it’s a sign of the enemy’s real intention.
Then there’s immensity. When you come under spiritual warfare long enough, what happens is your master, Jesus, is minimized, and the monster you’re facing is maximized. Spiritual warfare, when you get in it long enough, your problems seem impossible. On one hand, God’s moving. On the other hand, a staff member is being shaken.
Fourthly, propensity. The enemy’s favorite thing to do is to make an attack on you, your family, or your staff in an era where they already have a weakness. You’re type A, and you’re just getting angry all the time. Or maybe someone on your staff is real melancholy, and they’re depressed. The enemy loves to slip in. So what do you do?
It’s interesting in Mark, when Jesus, in the big revival in Capernaum, and they were going sailing across and that terrible storm came. Disciples going crazy, we’re going to die. They woke Jesus up. He stood and rebuked the storm. When you look in the Greek, the very words he’s rebuking, the winds in the waves, were some of the same words he rebuked demons with. Jesus realized, this storm is not all natural. That same Jesus puts the word of God in your mouth to stop the storm to cease.
Some of the pressure you’re facing, some of the pressure in your life. It’s not just natural. It’s not just mechanical. It’s not just structural. Now, when we’re under the attack of the enemy, yes, we confess the word. Yes, we battle. But it’s very, very interesting what Paul says here, Paul, in the middle of this crisis, in the middle of this pain, says this, “You also must help us by prayer that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
One thing that I’ve had the privilege of doing for great leaders in the country is setting up a prayer shield for them. I’ve done that here at the Church of the Highlands. It’s so critical for you, pastor, you, your family, that you have what we’re going to call a prayer shield. Have you identified those that pray for you? Some pastors are really afraid of being prayed for. They’ve worked with intercessors who’ve been disloyal, but I want to encourage you to let God build a prayer shield for you.
I’m here with Pastor Chris, with a tremendous prayer shield around his life. They’re a group of core people in this church. They have his whole schedule. They know where he is going. They know what he’s doing. Then there’s an inner core of intercessors who he can really open up with. Now, I’ve prepared two videos on this subject. You can get them through ARC. Find a group of people that you trust to pray for you. I talk about it here, and you can use these videos to train them.
We’ve all longed for revival. We’re one of those moments where God’s spirit is freshly moving across the country. You’ll notice a lingering presence in your churches. I’ll talk at a later time on how do you respond to that as a pastor. What do you do with that? How do you conserve this scarce resource without destroying the structures that are so critical in your church? Talk about that.
God’s presence is going to come more intensely, but it scares the enemy. He comes to attack. I know many of you felt that. Unusual pressures in your staff. You came out of Covid tired and beat down, many of us. Now God’s answering prayers. Many of us felt a real shift in December into January. Churches growing unusually hungry for God. It’s true.
Those of you in the Northeast and the Northwest, don’t give up. God’s going to turn those spiritual wildernesses. They’re going to blossom. I’m going to stop and pray for you now, but I want to tell you God sees where you are. As much as we want revival, it brings internal pressures. Opportunities can make us very weary. More people, more decisions. And then there’s the subtle but growing attack of the enemy. Many of you have been in a spiritual attack. You don’t even really recognize it yet. It’s important that you ask God for more discernment.
I have a great prayer team. I have a hundred people from around the world who pray for me, to cover me. I’ve got a core of them that I’m very close to, that I can text. I say with Paul, you must help me by your prayers. In another passage in scripture, Paul said, join me in my struggle by praying.
Let me pray for you. Lord, I thank you for my ARC family. Many of these great men and women I know, that I’ve had the privilege of ministering to them. God, and they all come, many of them tribes within tribes. You’ve used them mightily. And Lord, now you’re beginning to rain in our dry country. I thank you for their spouses, their children, and their great staffs. You know the warfare that’s hit them, the battles they’ve had. I cry it now, your touch on the ARC family. I cry it now that you’d minister to them. You’d help them, Lord, that they would allow you to help them build a prayer team. It’s just a life changer. I bless them. I thank you for them. Amen.