Joy to the World: Why It's More than a Cliche

We all have some amazing things in our lives that we take for granted. It might be the comfort of a home we call our own. Maybe it's family. Maybe it's friends. Maybe it's living in a country where we have freedoms that are not seen in other nations. We know that if we think about it with any degree of depth there would probably be a host of things that we overlook every single day that are really quite amazing. 

This is even more true when it comes to our relationship with God. As we enter into the Christmas season we don't need a preacher to tell us that we often got distracted from the true meaning of the Incarnation -- this miracle of miracles when eternal God forever took on flesh and became human.  Christmas carols can easily become so familiar that we forget the profound meaning behind the familiar words. 

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

These are more than words though, they speak of a reality that is beyond comprehension. 

3 Key Areas of Faithfulness at the End of the Age (Matthew 25)

We know that we are called to be faithful as followers of God -- the real question, though, is this: What does faithfulness actually look like? I remember being in a period of intense spiritual hunger where I was desperately longing for more of the Lord. The more I listened to different preachers talking about what God was looking for from me, the more overwhelmed I felt. One preacher would emphasize one thing, another one another, and I soon began to realize that if I did all of the things these different preachers were telling me to, I would probably need to quit my job and move to 30 hour days. It just wasn't possible.

So what is God looking for? 

Near the end of the book of Matthew we see Jesus giving a series of teachings to prepare His disciples for what is to come. Starting in Matthew 23 and then moving into Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus gives a series of key teachings regarding His return and the end of this age. 

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells three different end-time parables, and I believe there is great significance that these are the last parables that Matthew records before Jesus' crucifixion. We find in them that Jesus highlights three key areas of faithfulness that He will be looking for when He returns. They are intimacy with Him, good stewardship, and mercy/generosity.

It’s Time to Blow the Trumpet

A few weeks ago I was part of a team doing prophetic ministry at a conference for youth workers. After we had prayed for two university campus workers, they offered to pray for us. The presence of the Lord was quickly tangible in the room, and as they prayed over me I heard the Lord speak a phrase to my heart, completely apart from what they themselves were praying. 

"It's time to take the trumpet out." 

I immediately knew what He meant. In a story I've recounted on this blog many times in the past, the Lord spoke Joel 2 to me over a decade ago, and called me to it in a particularly focused way.
"Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; surely it is near." Joel 2:1 (NASB)
Joel 2 is a message of urgency -- it is a call to awaken a slumbering people to the reality of Christ's return and our need to not only get right with Him personally, but to also wholeheartedly seek Him for revival as well.

We're asleep.

Let's just be bluntly, brutally honest.

We're asleep and we barely know it.

Coming Revival and The Significance of the Tabernacle of David

"Worship is warfare."

I've heard statements like this before. We see hints at the power of worship in passages like 2 Chronicles 20 where God releases ambushes against the enemy armies as worshippers began to sing and praise. Or in a jail in Philippi when the Lord opens all of the prison doors and breaks the chains off of the prisoners as Paul and Silas worship and pray in Acts 16:16ff.

We also see very tangible evidence of this personally, where worship in the midst of difficult circumstances can help change our own hearts and release greater freedom for us.

Back in July I had a chance to hear Wesley Campbell teaching on the "tabernacle of David" in a camp just outside of Yorkon, Saskatchewan. The tabernacle of David refers to the tent set up for the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Chronicles 16. The ark was put in the middle of the tent and David placed singers and musicians around it to praise God night and day.

What set the tabernacle of David apart from the tabernacle of Moses or the Temple was the fact that there was no "Holy of Holies" in David's tent -- or more precisely, the entire tent was the Holy of Holies. And instead of being separated from the ark, in the tabernacle of David the musicians were directly before it, ministering to God's heart in the Holy of Holies.

None of these things were a surprise to me, I had heard them many times before. In Amos 9:11 the Lord proclaims that at the end of the age He is going to restore David's fallen tent with a resulting promise of coming blessings. I believe because of the language used in this passage that God is not merely talking about David's household or lineage -- He is talking about the model of worship that was seen in David's tent -- night and day worship aimed not at pleasing people or ministering to their needs, but solely to bless and praise the Lord.

But I was surprised when Wesley Campbell began to teach out of Amos 9:11 as it is quoted in the book of Acts:
"After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages." Acts 15:16-18 (NIV)
In this "Holy Spirit commentary" on Amos 9, we see a direct link between the rebuilding of David's tent and a move of God where Gentiles (non-Jewish people) will turn to God.

In 2 Chronicles 7, when Solomon's temple had been established as a place of night and day worship, God sent fire from heaven upon their sacrifices and His glory so filled the temple that the priests couldn't enter it to minister. God's presence was too intense for them to stand in -- I wish we had that problem more often in our churches today!

His presence ultimately left the temple in Ezekiel 10, but the promise of its return was given in Ezekiel 43 as an end-time promise of God's glory returning. The context of Ezekiel makes it clear that this is the eternal temple that will stand eternally in Israel.

But before this happens there is the promise of David's tent (tabernacle) being rebuilt. I believe that this prophecy has a literal fulfillment that will take place in the nation of Israel, but I also believe that it has a figurative fulfillment that is beginning to be seen in the nations of the earth already. The Lord is raising up a global movement of worship and prayer all across the nations that is unlike anything that has ever been seen in the history of Christianity. Night and day prayer rooms encompass the globe, and I believe that an unprecedented movement of worship and prayer is going to result in an unprecedented outpouring of the power and glory of God (2 Chronicles 7:14, Joel 2).

Worship and prayer is a powerful force in the heavenly realms. On a recent trip to a northern community that has been plagued with demonic attacks, we were spending time in prayer and one member of our group saw a picture of the power of worship to break through the darkness over their community. The next day in prayer I felt the Lord speak the phrase "Worship is warfare" and knew that part of His strategy for seeing revival come was for there to be a heart of worship released in their community. Instead of spending time trying to rebuke every demonic stronghold and battle the darkness, the Lord was asking us instead to worship -- to release His light and glory as we lifted up His name. I've heard it said before that the best way to get rid of darkness in a room is to turn on the light, and this very much felt like the strategy the Lord was giving us as well.

In a story that is way too long for a Facebook post, the Lord has put it on my heart that this strategy of Davidic worship -- worship aimed straight at the heart of God and focused on pleasing Him alone -- is one of the keys that He will be releasing for a coming move of the Spirit across North America. He is going to raise up anointed messengers again and send them out to boldly proclaim the gospel, and at the centre of this move will be Spirit-filled worshippers who are exalting His name.

I believe (for some very strong reasons) that the Lord is about to raise up a movement of anointed worship and proclamation across North America, and is going to be sending out teams of people as "circuit riders" -- travelling from town to town, region to region, proclaiming the simple gospel with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power. I know some of you are going to read this and wonder "What on earth is this guy talking about?" I'm okay with that. There's a much broader prophetic story that the Lord has been writing in my life that I'd gladly sit down with you and chat about. And I'm not even sure that I understand the whole thing right now. I just know that this move of the Spirit is coming. And I know that there are some worship leaders who are going to read this who are going to find themselves travelling from place to place even in the next few years as part of this movement. I don't know what it all looks like. I don't know what the timing is on all of it. I just know that it is coming, and it's coming soon.

Breaking Free from an Orphan Mindset

All of us were born with a problem. Ever since Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden, we have been born dead in our sins, separated from God.

We were born as spiritual orphans.

It doesn't matter how good (or not good) our earthly parents were at raising us up, we were born separated from God. The moment we bow the knee to Jesus and give Him our lives as our Lord and Saviour all of that changes. We are adopted into His family, and instantly enter into relationship with Him. Paul explains what happens when we become believers and receive the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  - Romans 8:15-17 (NIV)
The implications of what Paul writes are so staggering it's difficult to believe that Paul actually meant what He said. The moment we give our lives to God we are adopted into His family, we become His sons and daughters, and we become His heirs -- and co-heirs with Christ. In other words -- we be come into a position of incredible importance, we become members of His family.

The God Who Really, Really Likes You

John 15:9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." 
What does God think when He thinks about you?

Have you ever stopped to answer that question? I remember my pastor asking that question over a decade ago and maybe my answer wasn't that much different than some of your answers would be. At the time I was wrestling with a variety of different things in my own life on the verge of burnout as a youth pastor. My answer said a lot about the season I felt like I was in, it was the simple word "Failure." I could sense almost none of God's deep love for me -- all I knew was that I felt like I had failed Him in so many different ways.

Have you ever felt that way? Mike Bickle has pointed out that many of us tend to see God has either mad, sad, or disappointed with us most of the time. We picture Him as frustrated with our constant shortcomings, sitting on His throne and wondering when we are going to get our act together.

This view is completely inconsistent with Scripture, however. Let me suggest the following:

God is way kinder than you think He is.

God is way more patient than you think He is.

God is way more loving than you think He is.

The Coming Wave of Missions in Canada

The Lord has had me in an interesting season the last couple of years. It may have begun well before that, ten years ago when I first became a part of a community that prays regularly for revival. Most of our prayers are limited to the city of Winnipeg or at most the province of Manitoba, and yet in the last couple of years I've felt increasingly like He's been speaking to me about His heart for the nation.

A couple of years ago the Lord started speaking to me through Matthew 9 and Matthew 10. It was related to the reality that Jesus told us to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out labourers in Matthew 9. Then in Matthew 10 we see a demonstration of what happens when He sends them out -- He sends them out with Holy Spirit power to preach the gospel with the power of signs and wonders to back them up. We see this happening in Acts 2, 4-5, 10, and 19. When the Holy Spirit comes in power the result is many hearts turning to God (and inevitably persecution as well). 

I believe we are about to enter into a season in Canada where we start to see the answer to the Matthew 9 prayers that are being offered up in our country. I believe we are at the beginning of an unprecedented missions movement that is coming to our nation. It's going to result in an increase of missionaries being sent to the nations of the earth, I think it has to, and yet the piece that is gripping me is God's heart for an increase of missionaries in our own nation.