Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Harvest HOP is on the move

Friday, June 18th, 2010

After two years in our current location on Douglas, our lease has come up and some doors have opened, presenting us with some new options for how to pursue the vision the Lord has given us. After a lot of prayer and listening, we are letting our lease go in order to pursue the priorities and opportunities that God is setting before us in this season. We believe this transition away from having our own building will allow us to focus in on two separate things the Lord has put before us.
First, we are pursuing prayer-based community and what it looks like to live and minister as the people of God out of the place of ministering to Him in prayerful worship and encountering His heart. The Harvest HOP community will be moving into a home where we will continue to seek after the Lord’s heart in weekly times of intercession and worship, and of fellowship, bible study and ministry.
Second, it’s our desire to serve the body of Christ in Wichita (and beyond) with what the Lord has put on our hearts. We will continue to host conferences aimed at equipping and encouraging believers in the areas of prayer, worship, intercession and intimacy with God. Our heart is to see every believer and every community of believers connect with God’s heart for them and for the world around them through the place of prayer, and to that end it’s our goal to serve the church of Wichita with nothing to call anyone to, other than the heart of God. Faith Community Church has graciously opened up their doors to us to host events, and we are working with them now on a conference and series of classes for late this summer. A number of other doors are opening as well and we want to position ourselves to be ready to serve as opportunities come.
Thank you all for your support and encouragement these last two years (it’s hard to believe it’s been that long). HHOP started with a simple vision “A people connected with God’s heart…” This, in my mind, is what’s burning in Jesus’ heart as He proclaims “My house shall be called a house of prayer” and I believe it’s burning in His heart now as He leads this global stirring of prayer and worship. What does it look like when a people come face-to-face with God… who He is, what’s on His heart, and where we fit in? What if we went there? What if we lived there? What does Christian community look like when centered around an ongoing encounter with a living God? That is our portion in Christ, and that’s what’s burning in my heart as we enter into this next season – reaching to respond to that invitation together with believers all across this city and the nations of the earth.
God bless!

P.S. Some practical notes:
Our last weekly service at the Douglas location will be Thursday, June 17th.
We will be starting up a new email list specifically for the weekly Harvest HOP community gatherings, so let us know if you’re interested in attending those times and we will get you on the list. (Of course you’re always more than welcome to contact us if you just want to drop in one week and we’ll let you know the plans for that week.)
The website will continue to be our central location for news, upcoming events and resources. You can check for updates or subscribe to the news feed and the teachings podcast from our home page. We will also send out email reminders for upcoming events.

Email us if you’d like more info or would like to be on the mailing list for either the weekly activities or conferences.

40-Day Focus Week 6: Response

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

As we head into the final days of this 40-day focus I want to recap what we’ve looked at over the last weeks, and also deal with a very important question: “How then shall we live?” Given what we’ve seen that God is doing and desiring to do, what’s our response?

God is not resting

God has something burning in His heart for His church. Something glorious far beyond what we currently understand to be normal Christianity. Something that is simultaneously the greatest glory we could ever be invited into, and an invitation that requires the making of a costly choice. God is calling forth a Bride.

The glory of that reality is that God intends to win the heart of His church. God intends to awaken us to the place where our hearts are alive and we see the beauty of who He is and what He’s done and we’re fully undone in love before Him. He intends to awaken us to the glory of who we are that we would live as a kingdom of priests before Him. That we would live as those in whom He delights, those He created for His presence, those whom He created to minister to Him. That we would live the glory of the reality that we were created to touch God. The glory of what’s coming is that God wants to invite us in to the fullness of partnership with Him. He wants to invite us into oneness with Him even as Jesus prayed in John 17 – for our hearts to be fully one with His even as He is fully one with the Father’s.

This glorious bride, burning in love, walking in full bridal partnership, heart connected with His heartbeat, soul pierced by the beauty of who He is and what He’s done, life lived in the power of Christ and of His indwelling spirit… she is the work of Christ, who gave Himself for her to present her to Himself pure and spotless, and she is the work of the Bride, who makes herself ready in love. For the sake of love, God gives us a part to play. For the sake of love He’s waiting for our hearts to respond, to say yes to what He’s invited us into. He’s waiting for the friends of the bridegroom to rise up and to call the bride to make ready. “The bridegroom is coming. Go out to meet him.” (Matthew 25:6)

Accepting God’s Proposal

There’s a condition to this invitation. God does not believe in cohabitation. We will not experience intimacy with God until we embrace being His bride. The condition of the invitation is complete abandonment – giving ourselves fully to the First Commandment, giving ourselves fully to loving the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all are mind and all our strength. The condition is withholding nothing from the God who has withheld nothing from us. When we understand that God is calling forth a bride, gratitude from a distance is no longer an appropriate response. When we see what God is inviting us to there’s only one way to respond to the invitation. We forget our people and leave behind our father’s house, for the King desires our beauty (Psalm 45:9-10).

Agreeing with God’s Agenda

In Isaiah 62, God reveals the jealous jealousy that’s burning in his heart, His vision for the end for which He will not rest – that He would take his people and cause their righteousness to shine like the dawn, and cause their salvation to go forth as a burning lamp. That He would rewrite our identity until we are called His delight, and His Bride.

He also reveals what the required response is in the human heart. What’s our part in this drama? He says in verse 6, “I have set watchmen on your walls O Jerusalem. All day and all night they shall never be silent. You who call upon the Lord, take no rest and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.” The first response that God calls us to is to set ourselves in place upon the wall. To get where we can see what God is doing, what’s burning in His heart, and then we lay hold of that same cry (and it lays hold of us) and we give ourselves no rest and give Him no rest until it has come to pass. The first requirement is that we agree with Him in intercession – that we get ahold of the agenda of God and we begin consistently calling upon Him to bring it to pass.

Proverbs 29:18 reminds us that “without vision the people cast off restraint.” Without prophetic revelation of what God is doing we live as though God is doing nothing. He calls us to stand upon the wall to agree with what’s in His heart so that it will ever be before us that this is where we’re going and this is where God desires to take us. It’s His agenda and He won’t rest until He brings it about, but He requires that we take ownership of it – that His agenda become our agenda. He wants us standing and crying out for the things that he’s crying out for.

Entering His Courts

In verse 10, He gives a second charge: “Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a banner for the peoples.” He gives us the charge to press in through the wilderness to the courts of the Lord. To enter into His sanctuary, to set ourselves in His presence. We are to make ourselves a people of one thing, who insist upon meeting with the Lord not only on occasion, but as an ongoing reality. Like David to make our one aim to “dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of [our lives], To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) There is a response on our part to the invitation of intimacy and of partnership – of oneness with God. There is a point where we must say yes in our hearts and match our desire with God’s, not only a yes that allows for it to happen, but a yes that makes it the very vision of our lives and the guiding principle of how we live – “One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek.” The yes in our hearts becomes a yes in our actions, our hunger translates into a change in lifestyle, and we set apart ourselves for the purpose of entering into our glorious calling to encounter God.

Building the Highway

And it’s not an individual invitation only. The call is to “prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a banner for the peoples.” This is a specific assignment for a specific group of people who are called to prepare the way of the Lord, but it’s also a general call to the people of God. God is zealous for His Church – not that a few would taste of what He has prepared for us, but that every saint, from the weakest to the strongest, would enter into the depths of what’s in His heart.

This is what I call “the No Child Left Behind” move of God. Things that only a few have entered into in generations past, depths of God’s heart that only a few saints have laid hold of, God is now inviting His entire bride to step into. And more than inviting, He is urgently beckoning. The time has come for the Bride to begin to make herself ready, and He wants no one to stay camped out in their current location and miss what He’s giving. As individuals we take that charge to press into the courts of the Lord. As a community, as the church of Christ, we must lay hold of that charge to prepare the way for the people, to build up a highway, to lift up a banner – to call and encourage and lead and exhort and strengthen each other in our pursuit of our Bridegroom.

Setting Our Sights on the Destination, Taking the First Steps

I don’t fully know what it will look like as we begin to walk in this reality, and I don’t know of anyone that does. Will our Christian walk change? Absolutely. Will our church gatherings change? Absolutely. Picture a people walking in the things that we’ve been talking about – hearts alive in love and encountering Jesus, hearts that know who they’re created to be and that know what’s in the heart of God – just try to make that people sit quietly in the pews for what we call church today; just try to make them live Americanized Christianity. It’s going to change. When and how we don’t fully know, but we do know the first steps. We make ourselves a people of one thing: we put Jesus at the center and we really give ourselves to an ongoing lifestyle of gazing on Him and interacting with His heart. As we do, it will produce a people with burning hearts, and those burning hearts will drive us through the changes.

We may not be able to see the whole journey, but we can see the first steps and we can see that He is zealous to bring us to the end. If we will say yes to the end destination, He will do the rest. If we will set our hearts on becoming the Bride made ready – fully given in love and fully experiencing His love – then He will meet us and take us there. We have only to say yes and to take the first steps – giving ourselves to the place of encountering Him. If we will make our lives about living before Him and living in Him, He will shape us and change us to make us ready.

40-Day Focus Week 5: Bridal Identity – Partnership

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Last week we began looking at how God is breathing on the Church’s identity as the Bride of Christ. More than just shifting our activities, this move of God is reshaping our identity. As God begins to reveal what it means to be the Bride of Christ, it is reshaping our view of God and of ourselves, of what we’re here for and of where it’s all going. The more our minds are renewed according to God’s vision, the more we begin to actually be transformed into who we were made to be (Romans 12:2). This is how Jesus makes ready His Bride – by washing us with the water of His Word (Ephesians 5:26-27). We seek a greater revelation of the invitation because it’s as God reveals more fully who He made us to be that we are able to say yes and allow Him to complete the work in us.

One of the most fascinating things about the passage in Revelation 19:7 that we’ve been looking at is that at the end of the day, the Bride makes herself ready. God gets the praise because it’s only by His omnipotent power, but human beings in voluntary partnership with God will play a significant role in seeing it come to pass.

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:6-8

That concept of voluntary working alongside God’s purpose highlights the second major theme of Bridal identity – partnership. Partnership and intimacy are at the heart of the Bridal identity, of the marriage relationship, and of the prayer and worship movement. While it is simple enough and clear enough to say that it’s all about love, intimacy and partnership flesh out what exactly that love looks like. While ‘love’ can take on any number of expressions, as God reveals more and more of what it means to be the Bride of Christ the depth, width, length and height of that love begin taking on definition. God’s desire for intimacy tells us that Jesus, beyond just having a general, warm, compassionate love for us, actually desires us and enjoys us. God’s desire for partnership adds yet another significant dimension.

One with God
The reality of who we are in Christ because of His love is truly exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond what we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). It would be more than enough that Jesus should desire that we be with Him (John 17:24), but Jesus doesn’t stop there. The fullness of His desire is that we would be one with Him.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:20-23

This is an almost unthinkable reality – that we should be one with Jesus as He is one with the Father. The mystery of the Trinity – three Persons, but one God, perfectly united – is the type of relationship into which we are invited. In Christ we are joined to that perfect fellowship. It’s how God defines marriage from the beginning – setting the imagery in place that He would later apply to Himself and His church.

““For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32

There is something powerfully unique about the marriage relationship that if we lay hold of its application to our relationship with God totally shifts how we view life in Christ. Marriage is a voluntary joining of two individuals to form one new whole – the implications of which (at least in the ideal) are staggering. In all things and in all ways, the two become one. There are no separate possessions, no secrets, no personal agendas, there are no boundaries on the marriage relationship – each fully belongs to the other. Unlike any other relationship, it is not a relationship bounded by a common interest or particular gathering place. We are not joined in certain shared activities or ideas, or at certain places or certain times, we are joined in all things at all times.

The idea that in Christ we have such a relationship with God is incredible, but Biblically very clear – not only that all that we are is to be opened to God, but that God has opened all that He is to us. He has withheld nothing from us but “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). He hides nothing of His heart from us but “has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) He does nothing independently, but rather longs for us to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9) and “does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) God’s desire for us is not that we love Him from a distance as we go about our lives and He goes about His, but that He would be deeply and intimately involved in our story and we would be deeply and intimately involved in His.

Friendship with God
The most awesome reality about Christianity is that we do not have to guess as to how God desires to relate to men. Besides the whole history of Scripture pointing us to God’s willingness and His desire to work with men in accomplishing the work of redemption, we particularly have the testimony of Jesus’ time on the earth to show us exactly how God desires to interact with His followers. We know that Moses spoke with God face-to-face as a friend (Exodus 33:11), but when God appeared in the flesh in Christ, He made clear that was not an honor reserved for the highest of saints but His intention for any who would listen. Jesus calls out 12 ordinary men – uneducated fishermen and hated tax collectors – and proceeds to walk with them for three years. To them and to as many as would draw near, Jesus shared the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Mark 4:10-12) and revealed things yet to come. He rejoiced with His followers (Luke 10:17-21), cried with them (John 11:32-35), and prayed with them (Luke 9:27, Matthew 26:37-38). Not only did Jesus get intimately involved in their lives, but they became intimately involved in His – laboring alongside Him during His time on earth and alongside His Spirit to establish His church after His ascension. Jesus describes them as His friends.

“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” John 15:15-16

That friendship with His followers has never ended, in fact it is even more real now by His Spirit than when He was with us in the flesh (John 16:7). Jesus still beckons His people to be His friends and partners in the work that He is doing. It is no mistake that the Great Commission is ended with “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) It is not an assignment to fulfill for Him, it is His great vision that we are to complete with Him. The disciples with Jesus right there in their midst knew their chief assignment – to hear what He was up to and to partner with it. How much more us with His Spirit now dwelling inside us!

The Spirit of Prophecy
At the heart of the friendship Jesus desires with us is knowing what our Master is doing. It is no mistake that the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost that begins the New Covenant is specifically referred to as an outpouring of prophecy – and it is this promise that will come to fullness in the last days as the spirit of prophecy rests upon all of God’s servants.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:17-19

The spirit of prophecy is not just the “thus sayeth the Lord” predictions of the future, but rather that knowledge Jesus is talking about in John 15 where we hear God’s Word in such a way that we are in tune with what God is doing – what His agenda is for the earth and for men, and where and how He is acting towards that end. More and more we are seeing that spirit manifest in pockets of the church – men and women catching hold of the grand vision of what God is doing and surrendering themselves and their personal agendas to be a part of the greater kingdom move of God. The Holy Spirit is reemphasizing the role of prayer in the church because the place of prayer is where we hear that word and how we align ourselves with God’s agenda which is going to become crucial. As God begins bringing His agenda to completion it is our glory to be working alongside Him, and it is dangerous to not be.

The Spirit of Intercession
The spirit of prophecy is closely connected with the spirit of intercession. All of the Old Testament prophets functioned in both. They heard what was on the Lord’s heart and both declared it to the people and cried out for their nation in intercession to see judgment withheld and mercy released. As we take our place in intercession, the Spirit reveals to our hearts God’s glorious agenda that we might otherwise miss (Romans 8:26-30). This is the core of our partnership with God – hearing what is on His heart and agreeing with it. While we’re tempted to use prayer primarily as a means to get God involved in what we’re doing, God is stirring prayer that is aimed to get us involved in what God is doing – intercession.
(Rob spoke in detail on how we partner with God in intercession this weekend – see his teachings and notes from Friday and Saturday)

There is a great picture of this in Matthew. Jesus feels compassion for the multitudes and longs to see them cared for. He shares that longing with His followers and instructs them to pray – to cry out to God that He would do just what God had just told them He wanted to do. Then the power is released and the disciples are sent out with an anointing from on high, a commission and a message.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” Matthew 9:36-10:1

Intercession is where we enter into a depth of relationship with God that is not bounded by our particular circumstances but searches out all that is in His heart. As we stand in the place of prayer seeking the Lord’s heart as it relates to real time and space, we encounter a glorious part of God’s heart that both causes us to love Him more and changes our hearts to align more with His. As we line our hearts up with His will, God releases kingdom power – whether through us or someone else or an act of God – and the kingdom advances. As we enter into our role in partnering with what God is doing in the earth through intercession, our story becomes bound up in His as it was meant to. Partnership in intercession opens the boundaries that restrict our interaction with God to certain narrow spheres and sets over our time here on earth a shared purpose in forwarding the kingdom with God.

Training for Reigning
God is stirring His Bride to make herself ready, not only for her wedding day, but for her marriage – for an eternity with Him. He is preparing us for an eternity of ministering to Him in intimacy, and He’s preparing us for an eternity of reigning with Him in partnership – He’s teaching us how to pray. Reigning with God was part of our created purpose from the beginning (Genesis 1:26), and it will be restored in the end (Revelation 22:1-3). It’s a part of the revelation of who we are that is about to lay hold of the saints and awaken a new song at the wonders of what God has done in Christ.

“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”” Revelation 5:8-10

Scriptures for meditation: Ephesians 5:25-32, John 15:1-17, John 16:12-15, Acts 2:17-21, Revelation 5:8-10

40-Day Focus Week 4: Bridal Identity – Intimacy

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

“…the Bride has made herself ready…” Revelation 19:7

A couple weeks ago I mentioned the two major things that I see God doing as He begins to move the Church towards that reality: 1. Revealing the beauty of Himself as the Bridegroom God to make us long for that day. 2. Revealing who we are as the Bride of Christ that we would understand where we’re going. Last week we covered the first – how God is revealing Himself as the author and finisher of the great drama of redemption and capturing our affections and our passions in a great worship and prayer movement. This week I want to begin looking at the second: God is pouring out a revelation of who are we in Christ, and specifically, who are we as the Bride of Christ.

Scripture is remarkably clear, not only about God’s desire for relationship, but about what specifically that relationship looks like. Using images that we would all be familiar with, we’re called His children, His body, His house, His friends, His temple, His garden, His servants, His army… One image in particular, though, is the Spirit’s image of choice at the end of the story. It’s not the Spirit and the friends that cry come, or the Spirit and the army… it’s the Spirit and the bride. Why is that? Perhaps because more than any other image, the image of bride and Bridegroom captures the fullness of what God wants to accomplish in His church. The image of the bride captures the two themes contained in all the other images – intimacy and partnership – and wraps them in the language of love, passion and desire – the central message behind the story of redemption.

Made to touch God

This week I want to fix our thoughts on the first of those two central elements of our identity – we were made for intimacy with God. At its simplest intimacy simply means nearness – we were made to be with God where He is (John 17:24). God did not create and then step back to observe, He created the world, set man in it, and then set Himself it – walking in the garden with Adam in the cool of the day. God’s end objective is a return to that nearness (and even more so) by the work of redemption as God again dwells with man (Revelation 21:3). The fundamental reason we were created was to be with God. More specifically, though, not to just be with Him in physical proximity, but to be aware of His nearness and joyously so, and for Him to be joyously aware of our nearness. We were made for fellowship with God – interaction with God in a way that touches our hearts and touches His.

God has been working from beginning to end to have for Himself a kingdom of priests – a people created to minister to Him in the presence of His glory. There are awesome parallels in the Old Covenant that begin to give us a picture of what New Covenant Christianity is all about. The very first thing God does after saving Israel from the hands of their oppressors is to offer them a covenant, and at the center of that covenant He asks them to build the tabernacle – the place of meeting.“And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” Exodus 29:43-46 In the New Covenant, we are the priests (1 Peter 2:9) – God is jealously reclaiming His house as a place of meeting and His people as a priesthood set apart to minister to Him. God Himself desires to dwell among us and the revelation is coming that it was for that very reason that He delivered us.

I sometimes try to imagine what it would have been like to “go to church” in the days of Moses. I suspect it would have been slightly easier to remember why you’re there – it would be awfully difficult to have gone to the tabernacle and had your attention mostly on the priest, or the Levites playing their instruments, or the crowd of fellow worshipers… the giant glory cloud coming out from the Holy of Holies would likely have prevented that. The truth is our modern form of corporate gatherings allows very little time for what the central purpose of the tabernacle was – meeting with God. It’s something we need to be aware of, and consciously working to shift – to get in the mode of coming together to meet with God – very much aware of the presence of the Guest of Honor. Jesus is zealous about our remembering that His house is meant to be a place of meeting for God and man, and not treated otherwise – “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Matthew 21:12-13

Made to host God

Besides being the priesthood, the glory of the New Covenant is that we are also the temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). We were made to host the presence of God. I believe there’s coming a shift to presence-based ministry – where our focus is first inviting the presence of God and creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to Him and then doing the works of ministry. In Jeremiah 2, the prophet describes a terrifying reality – the glory of the Lord has departed the temple and the people aren’t even asking “where is the Lord?” Instead, they go on about doing the stuff… without God. God is stirring up an urgent insistence in the hearts of His people that we must first acquire the presence of God, and then move. A cry is arising like that of Moses (Exodus 33:15-16) that God’s presence is all that we have that distinguishes us from the world and we refuse to be without it.

With that cry comes a great shift in the way that we operate – with an intentional focus on welcoming God’s presence and creating an atmosphere suitable for God. From the beginning, it has been our chief assignment. Adam was assigned to tend the garden (Genesis 2:15) – the place where God met with man. The Israelites received regulation after regulation on how to maintain the tabernacle – why? Because it is no common thing for the presence of God to be among us and we are to honor His presence by intentionally laboring towards hosting Him. There is a new wave of holiness coming – not out of regulation, but out of reverence over the awesome invitation to host God’s presence. God is calling His people to step into the role of priesthood – ministering to Him and maintaining the fires of sacrifice that invite His presence.

The fruit of intimacy

Biblically and practically, intimacy promises us three great benefits: fruitfulness, joy and unity. Intimacy with God is the cure for powerless Christianity, it’s the cure for boredom and anxiety, and it’s the cure for division and compromise.

Our power comes only from connecting with God. It is His power in us that releases power to heal and conviction in preaching. ““Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 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 15:4-5 As we prioritize intimacy in our lives and ministries, we will see more and more of the activity of God.

Our joy comes from our hearts connecting with God’s in the way they were made to. Nothing can ever satisfy the human heart apart from connecting with the heart of God. God is just plain too jealous to let it. He created us for Himself and He will fully satisfy every desire of our heart, but nothing else ever will. As we enter more and more into who we are as a kingdom of priests, there is a great wave of joy coming – “in Your presence there is fullness of joy and at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Our unity with God, and then with each other comes from our being joined to Him (John 17:20-23). If we look more like the world or our particular group’s ideals than like God, it is the inevitable result of being in closer contact with others than with God. There are only two ways out of that – get farther from the world (move to the desert) or get closer to God. As we awaken to the glory of who we are as the temple of the living God, not only near Him but in Him and Him in us, our closest fellowship will become with Him, and He will become our greatest influence.

Highest praises

Part of the vision God has given me for my life is awakening the song of Revelation 5. I believe we’re beginning to hear whispers of it, but I can see in my heart the day that it fully lays hold of us and becomes a glorious roar of praise. God is awakening an awareness of the glory of who we are in Christ Jesus – more than delivered, more than forgiven, more than saved – redeemed unto God as a holy priesthood. Before this thing is done, that’s the reality that is going to fill our hearts with highest praises for the Lamb of God.

“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”” Revelation 5:8-10

Scriptures for meditation: Psalm 65:1-4, Psalm 132, John 15:1-17, Revelation 5:8-10, Revelation 21:1-4

40-Day Focus Week 3: God First

Monday, March 15th, 2010

One of the best descriptions I’ve heard for what’s beginning to take place in the Western church is ‘a Copernican revolution’ – the center of our universe is about to change. Copernicus was the scientist who made the audacious claim that it was not the sun that revolved around the earth but the earth around the sun. Similarly, one of the single biggest heart shifts implied in “My house will be called a house of prayer” is in God taking His place at the center. As much as we understand the importance of God – how His light lets us see, His nearness comforts us and His continual presence allows life to continue – we are still prone in our human pride (and particularly our Western culture) to place God in a revolving role in our world rather than our world revolving around Him. God wants to change that… and there is no more glorious change. Nothing so drastically impacts our corporate and personal relationship with Christ as when He takes center stage.

In the beginning, God…
It begins with a simple revelation – God is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story. “For of Him, to Him and through Him are all things.” Romans 11:36 His desire is the initiative, His grace the vehicle and His pleasure the end of it all. It’s a crucial revelation – to the way we understand the gospel, to the way we function as a church, and to the way we relate with God. Our culture would put a humanistic slant even on religion – making it begin and end with us: we do our best in this life, God responds and we are either blessed or cursed accordingly. It’s a model that fits perfectly well with the religions men have created, but it’s totally contradictory to what God has done in Christ. God is the divine initiator – He moves and we respond.

It’s what makes the gospel message what it is – a divine invitation that must either be accepted or rejected. The emergent watered-down gospel that teaches there are many ways to God makes the very wrong assumption that it is God who responds to us – we behave in a particular way, and God doles out salvation in some formulaic manner. From that framework it’s hard to see why God would respond more positively to a good atheist than a bad Christian. The truth of the Biblical gospel is that God, who had no requirement to interact with man at all, by His own initiative reached out to humanity and extended an invitation – an offer of covenant. Like every covenant, the New Covenant was not a negotiated contract between two parties but a one-way offer from God to join us to Him and His eternal life through His extravagant offer of love on the cross. Because God extended the invitation we are left with only two choices – accept His open arms or scorn them.

It’s not just our gospel that errors without this understanding, though, it is the very way in which we live out Christianity. The silence of our prayer rooms makes a terrifying contrast with the busyness of our church programs. We suffer from a profound over-abundance of services, programs, teachers and ministries, and a profound lack of the voice and activity of God. We will never regain the activity of God in our midst so long as we maintain a system where we’re so busy doing what we’re doing we can give only a small portion of our attention to seeking what God is wanting to do. We won’t regain the voice of God in our midst so long as our pastors are so busy managing all of the programs needed to keep everyone happy that they’re not spending long hours in prayer receiving the word of the Lord. There’s coming a return to God as the divine initiator of every good thing – a shift from a programs-based culture to a prayer-based culture. Every program, no matter how good, will eventually fail to satisfy, because Christianity was intended to be an ongoing interaction with a living God, and God is too jealous to let anything else work for long.

Perhaps most critically, though, I’ve found this revelation to be the single greatest factor in my relationship with God. The more real this truth is in my heart, the more I find myself able to cease from striving and connect with God. Without it we are open targets for the chains of empty religion. Ours is the God of the first move. It is no mistake that He is pictured as the Bridegroom and we are the Bride. The whole of redemption’s story testifies to it – He has set His affections on us and is courting us. It is Him knocking on our door, not us knocking on His. He created us by His own initiative, revealed Himself by His own initiative, redeemed us by His own initiative and joined Himself to us by His own initiative. The trap of religion is sprung loose at that revelation – “we love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 We love Him not to earn His affections, but because we already have them. It makes all the difference in the world when we come to God not because we need to (though we do), but first because He wants us to. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.” John 17:24

Regaining our fascination
The tragedy of getting things in the wrong order is not just that we spend far too much effort trying to win God’s affections when we already have them, it’s also that we pay far too little attention to allowing God to win our affections when that’s what He most desires to do. Jesus says it clearly – “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” Matthew 22:37,38 It’s not a command to work ourselves up to acts of extravagant devotion out of our own strength – God wants to fill our hearts and minds with a genuine passion for Him that overflows into a life of devotion. Right now much of the body of Christ in America is bored with God and so we find ourselves powerless to overcome the struggles of our hearts and minds. We get our entertainment and our passion from the same place the world does, and then we wonder why it’s so hard to live as a child of God rather than of this world. It is only in feeding our hearts and our minds upon the glory of God and the wonders of His love that we will truly find power from the inside out to be the set-apart people we are called to be.

Much of what has been introduced in the Western church in recent years for the sake of ‘relevancy’ is a thinly disguised effort to make church more entertaining – a tacit admission that we don’t really know what it means to be fascinated with the superior pleasures of knowing God. God wants to take us there, but we won’t force it on us. He’s doing the courting, but we have to say yes when He knocks on the door, give Him the face-to-face time He wants and pore again and again over the letters He has written us that tell us what He is like. Jesus knows exactly what it takes to produce love in us, and He is committed to do it – “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 It was what He came to do as God-incarnate on the earth and continues to do by His Spirit in us: proclaiming the glory of who He is. There’s a fresh wave of that coming… God is stirring hearts to the high calling of beholding Him and adoring Him. He’s raising up messengers whose central message is proclaiming Him – His beauty, His power, His love. He’s raising up singers, musicians and songwriters who will declare the goodness and greatness of God in a way that stirs the hearts of men. God is releasing a worship movement.

Regaining our passion
When God takes center stage, our passion will be rekindled – not only for God, but for the things God is passionate for. Confronted with an expression of Christianity that is lacking in passion for the many good things that God has called us to – loving our neighbors, acts of justice, giving to the poor… – the response of the emergent church has been to deemphasize the message of God and emphasize the message of passion for godly activity. This may bear some fruit in the shortterm and certainly has popular appeal with a generation that has been called the most socially conscious generation in history, but longterm it’s a disaster and a totally unnecessary one. When we divorce the things of God from God Himself they not only lose their effectiveness, but we begin to rely on human passion and not on God’s passion.

God is raising up His own move of passion for the things of God, but His move stems from passion for the heart of God. From the furnaces of the prayer movement, God is releasing a justice movement, a missions movement, a compassion movement, a signs and wonders movement… No one is more passionate for the things of God than God Himself. If we find that our expression of Christianity is largely devoid of passion and purpose, the answer is to stare into the heart of Christ and find His passion and purpose. No one is more committed to the lost, the poor, the oppressed and the hurting than Jesus. As God’s holy, jealous desire gains entrance into our hearts, we find a sense of purpose in our journey – both inward and outward. It was Christ’s relentless, passionate love for the world that stirred men like Paul to not only reach out to the lost and hurting, but to pursue them relentlessly even when rejected, scorned and persecuted. There’s a fresh wave of that coming… God is stirring hearts to the high calling of inquiring of His heart and becoming friends of God. He’s raising up messengers who make known His heart – His passion, His plans, His purpose. He’s raising up intercessors, evangelists, justice workers and missionaries who will be gripped by the heart of God and labor to see that heart manifest in the earth. God is releasing a prayer movement.

Responding to God’s initiative
What would it look like if God were exalted to the center in this way? What if we could actually offer each other and the world something that was initiated not by men but by God? What if we lived in the place where our hearts were fascinated by God and His story? What if we found our identity and our purpose by diving deep into the heart of God? What would it look like if the people of God came face to face with God… who He is, what’s on His heart, and our place in it all? What would it look like if we lived there in a Christianity that was not about activities but an ongoing encounter with a living God?

What will it look like when… God is zealous for it. He’s committed to it. He will not rest until He has it, and the Divine Initiator has already set things in play to bring it about. The only question now is how will we respond? Will we be early-adopters that press in to the new thing God is doing and lead the way? Or will we wait until the old really falls apart and the new becomes urgent? ‘Jesus, come and take Your place in the center of it all.’

One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.

Psalm 27:4

Scriptures for meditation: Ps 27:4, Col 1:14-16, Ps 16, Mt 22:36-38, Phil 3:7-12, Eph 4:11-16

40-Day Focus Week 2: A Bride Made Ready

Monday, March 8th, 2010

As we begin looking at the broader picture of what God is doing and where it’s all going, we are zooming out from what is taking place immediately in this nation and the nations of the earth. There is a broader move of God present in the earth that is global in its scale and decades in its duration. As I mentioned in introducing this topic, the better way to define this move of God is not by what people are doing, but by what God is saying. Hearing what the Spirit is saying is our means to get our hearts ignited for what God is doing, then the activity will surely follow. On the other hand, we can push ourselves to fast and pray, to worship, to evangelize, to do works of justice and every other activity that God is emphasizing right now, and still miss getting touched by what God is actually doing.

The Heart of the Matter
One of the most common stated or unstated missions among church communities these days is to recover what the Acts church looked like, which is certainly not the worst of aspirations. Our tendency, unfortunately, is to go about that by attempting to copy what the Acts church was doing (i.e. their method of ‘doing church’). When in reality it wasn’t the methodology of the Acts church that made it so dynamic. What defined and empowered the apostolic church in Acts was how they understood and lived their relationship with God, and the power of His presence in their midst. The apostles carried a deep-seated revelation from years of being with Jesus as to who He was and what His purpose was, and therefore who they were and what their purpose was. They oversaw a church born in the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and continually lived in a consistent pattern of being filled with the Spirit day by day. These were the realities that made possible both its inward success as a community and body, and its outward success in winning souls.

The point being to attempt to imitate the activity of a move of God without giving ourselves fully to the heart of it effectively separates the move of God from God Himself. In doing so, the purpose and the power behind it are lost. We lose the relational aspects of what God is doing – what He’s revealing about Himself and about us – and we lose the priority of His presence. Hence our focus in these 40 days is on the heart of what God is doing and on the presence of God Himself. As we watch the “prayer movement” begin to sweep the earth, it’s easy to say this move is about prayer, but it’s so much more than that. This is not simply an increase in the quantity of prayer going on around the globe. God is revealing something about Himself and about His purposes that is motivating believers to pray like never before, and God is calling His church into a new revelation of who we were created to be that in turn is causing us to find our corporate and individual identity in the place of prayer. When Isaiah prophesied about God’s house being called a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7) it was more than just a promise that God’s people would pray. It was looking to a day when the church would find it’s identity as a house of prayer – when connecting with God would become the center of who we are and what we do. And it was looking to a day when God would make us joyful in His house of prayer – when we would so connect with what prayer is really about that we would find fullness of joy in that time in His presence and that connection with His heart.

It’s About the Bride
When I look at what God is doing I am convinced this move of God has Revelation 19:7 squarely in its sights – “the marriage of the Lamb has come and the Bride has made herself ready.” It’s a promise echoed frequently throughout Scripture that is the final climactic conclusion to the story of redemption. All of human history marches towards that day, creation longs and groans for it, and Jesus Himself awaits it with great expectation. There is a real day coming in which Christ will return to claim for Himself an inheritance from the people of the earth – a pure and spotless Bride fully given to Him in love. As Revelation 19 makes clear, though, His return does not happen in a vacuum. The marriage of the Lamb is waiting for something… the Bride is going to make herself ready. As we look around the world, we see much that indicates we are drawing near to the end of the story, but this one sign seems noticeably lacking. At least in the Western world it would be hard to point with any confidence to a pure and spotless Bride appearing on the scene. More than that, though, we seem to have lost our motivation – rarely can you find anyone who is even consciously working towards that goal. Before that day can come something has to happen – God has to stir His people to begin making themselves ready as a Bride for her Bridegroom.

What would such a move look like? What would stir the Bride to begin making herself ready? Two simple revelations: the Church beginning to see herself as a beloved Bride, and seeing the beauty of her Bridegroom and longing to be with Him. All across the earth and in all different streams, a common theme is beginning to be heard. It sounds different when spoken by different voices, but its heart cry is the same: God delights in and is jealous over humanity, He made us for Himself and is drawing us to Himself, and nothing will satisfy as much as being with our glorious Creator – it is our purpose and identity now, and our destiny at the end of the story. And increasingly alongside that cry you hear another: the wedding day is coming soon and it’s time to make ourselves ready.

This is what’s at the heart of what God is doing on the earth right now: the Church catching a revelation of God as a jealous Bridegroom, and the Church stepping into her identity corporately and individually as the Bride of Christ. It’s not that either of these revelations are new, but that He is preparing us to begin understanding them and walking in them at a new level as we come nearer to the day when the Bride welcomes her Bridegroom as He returns. It’s not the language of the Bridal relationship that’s important but rather the reality behind it. It is a description of God that reveals Him as passionate and purposeful: He loves, delights in and is jealous over those willing to be called His, and He is relentlessly in pursuit of love – drawing hearts into it, bringing hearts to fullness in it and preparing for the day when God and man will be fully joined in it. It is an identity for the Church that reveals who we are now and forever as the one creature made to be joined with God: in intimacy as we delight in Him and He in us, and in partnership sharing in the secrets of His heart and the labors of His soul.

Catching the Vision
We want to set ourselves before all of those revelations over these next weeks, but for this week I want to ask God to seal us with a vision:

That He would mark us with a vision for what He longs to do in the earth. That our spiritual eyes would be opened to see a glorious Bride made ready, a great harvest from every tongue and tribe and nation, and a people prepared for the Lord. Let our hearts be stirred for God to move in a way that touches all flesh – not one stream or movement, not a remnant but from weakest to strongest every believer swept up into knowing His love and walking in the kind of relationship with Him that He created us for, and from one end of the earth to the other every heart hearing the invitation “come to the wedding!”

And may He mark each of us deeply with a personal vision to lay hold of the invitation that God is extending in our day. That our hearts might yearn to go deep in the reality of His love and enter into a relationship with Him that brings us the heights of joy and the heights of fulfillment. May we enter in to living as a Bride being made ready for Jesus – allowing Him to draw us in His love and wash us with the water of His Word. May our vision and ambition in life be no lower than His vision for us – going on a journey of love that leads us into the depths of relationship with Him.

Some Scriptures to meditate on: Eph 1:17-19, 3:14-21, 5:25-32; Rev 19:6-7; Isa 62:1-5; Jn 17:21-26

40-Day Focus: Week 1 – The Hour

Monday, March 1st, 2010

While most of this 40 days is going to be spent focused on the heartbeat of the broader move of God, I want to take this first week to lay hold of the significance of this current window of time. There is real reason to enter this 40 days with tremendous urgency… and with tremendous expectation. This is a critical hour for our nation – the signs of spiritual crisis abound, but so do the signs of a Holy Spirit answer.

Our hour of need
Opening our eyes to recognize our hour of need is not our favorite part of revival, but its a critical one. When God wants to give birth by the Spirit, He searches for the barren. It is the poor in spirit who receive the kingdom of heaven. When we are desperate for something that we have no means of obtaining except by the grace of Another, we are in the right place for God to show Himself strong. We may be in favor of revival, but are we desperate for it?

Kenneth Copeland prophesied on July 4th, 2009 that a ‘Great Awakening’ is hanging heavy over America, but it will come to the praying churches first. “And they’ll say, ‘My, revival broke out over there.’ ‘No, answered prayer broke out over there.'” This current outpouring in Kansas City can be traced back to 10 years of night and day prayer in a community that, even while ministering faithfully in the day of small beginnings, refused to quiet the cry that there must be more and instead diligently pressed in with a cry for more of God. More specifically, it came on the tailwinds of a spontaneous movement of prayer and fasting among the IHOPU students that started following a blunt analysis of America’s spiritual crisis and desperate need for revival by Daniel Lim (read a summary article here or the full transcript here). Staring in the face of our hour of need is often just the incentive we need to drop our crutches, our good ideas and our stable attendance and admit that we need God.

There is no doubt that our nation is in a moral crisis: rampant consumerism, abortion, sexual immorality, humanism and relativism have not only been fighting to define our culture, they’ve become our primary export. The most terrifying signs, though, are not the direction of the culture, but the direction of the church. As darkness in the world around increases and a generation desperately needs the light of Christ, they have not found it. The statistics on church engagement reveal a terrifying reality – church engagement is steadily and rapidly declining. Generation after generation is failing to find answers inside the church and is turning to other sources.

  • Builders generation (1924-1944) – 65% church engagement
  • Boomers generation (1945-1965) – 35% church engagement
  • Buster generation (1966-1983) – 15% church engagement
  • Bridger generation (born after 1984) – 4% church engagement

Every generation faces its giants, but for this generation staring into the face of a culture that bombards it with false ideologies on every side the real crisis is not that they are faced with problems… it’s that they have not been able to find answers in the church.

God’s provision
I am completely confident that God has the answer to the cry of this generation. More than that, I am confident that God is the answer to the cry of this generation. God wants to give this generation something more than the answers that have been offered – a smoother presentation, a friendlier theology, a more comfortable structure. God wants to give a generation the supreme answer – Himself. The power and presence of Christ is the only real answer to this generation’s problems as God is powerfully demonstrating in Kansas City. Since November 11th, the Spirit has been moving in a powerful way there particularly among the students and interns. God is delivering a generation: from low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, from addictions, sin and condemnation, from physical and spiritual bondage, a generation is experiencing the love of God and finding the freedom that comes in walking in that love.

Already, this move has touched places all across this nation and the globe through the webstream. Several college campuses have experienced the love of God, healings and boldness for evangelism as they join in. Now, after a series of prophetic leadings, IHOPU leadership is sending out the third and fourth-year students for a ministry trip among New England colleges. Over these forty days as many across the nation join in prayer and fasting for an awakening to hit America’s campuses, they will be leading prayer meetings and awakening services, and witnessing on the campuses of the Ivy League schools (more info). It is a strategic assignment from the Lord: to redeem the Ivy League schools many of which have Christian roots from the strongholds of intellectualism that have been prevailing there. What if the next generation of lawyers, doctors, politicians, teachers and leaders of all spheres walks away from their time in college having encountered God rather than high-minded humanistic philosophy? What if they take their place in society filled with the Holy Spirit rather than the empty philosophies of men?

Standing in the gap
Rarely do we get to see our options for the future so clearly – the direction this nation is headed absent a move of God, and what it would look like if a generation experiences the touch of God. It’s gaps like these that are our natural home as a kingdom of priests – to stand between a nation in desperate need of God and a God desperately longing to reach out to a nation, and to cry out for a move of God in our day – with urgency, and with expectancy.

Understanding that another Great Awakening hangs over this nation both as its desperate need and God’s chosen answer, it is not a time to sit and wait but to set our face in prayer and fasting as Daniel did (Dan 9:2-3). First because the promise is real but not yet realized, and we stand in a transitional time for this nation where we could see the great shift we need, so we press in for all of what God would give. Second because it is a transitional time for us as well – it is a time to position ourselves to be touched and to be used as the Lord moves in our day.

Lets start this fast allowing God to grip us with two realities: that we are in desperate need of nothing short of a great move of God, and that God desperately wants to give us nothing less than Himself.

These are not new, but lets focus for a week on the God who longs to answer: Joel 2:12-17,28-32; 2 Chr 7:14; Luke 11:9-13; Heb 4:1

40-Day Focus: This Present Move of God

Monday, March 1st, 2010

As we enter this 40 days of fasting, one of my primary objectives is a heart awakened more fully to what God is doing in our day. One of the great prayers of my life is that my heart and the hearts of everyone I know would be caught up in the story of all that God has done, is doing and is going to do in the earth – the grand drama of redemption. The human spirit was created to be a part of something bigger than our own self-preservation, we long for a sense of purpose and significance that’s meant to be found in the plans and purposes of God. It’s in setting ourselves in that story that we’re prepared to see it unfold with no offense and no confusion, just a heart in awe of what God is doing and a life lived in partnership to see it done with Him.

Though we’re prone to live without giving it a moment’s thought, we are living in one of the most significant hours of history. The Greatest Story Ever Told is unfolding before our eyes its final climactic chapter… and almost nobody is paying attention… yet. What’s beginning to unfold will demand the attention of all in time, but for now it is an open invitation for any who are willing to stop what they’re doing and ask the Lord what He’s doing. Now is an opportune moment for us to step back and take in what God is doing in the earth and to not let it pass us by unnoticed. It is a glorious time to be alive and in Christ, and we are robbing ourselves if we carry on business as usual and miss what God wants to give to this generation.

When I’m speaking of this present move of God, I’m talking about something bigger than the outpouring that began in Kansas City and is now touching different places across the nation. I’m talking about something bigger, even, than what we have seen to this point of the global prayer and worship movement. There is a move of God stirring in the earth right now that promises to be one of the most significant the earth has ever seen, filling the body of Christ and the ends of the earth before it has run its course. It’s been called a prayer movement – and it is… it’s been called a worship movement – and it is… it’s been called a missions movement, a justice movement, a prophetic movement, a signs and wonders movement – and it’s all those things… but it’s bigger than that. What really defines this present movement is not what the body of Christ is doing, but what the Spirit is saying that is stirring us to do all of those things. Proverbs tells us “for lack of vision the people cast off restraint,” but let us catch sight of a little of God’s vision and you will find laborers rising up in all spheres longing to serve God’s purpose in their generation. The lifestyle of prayer and worship, and the outworkings of evangelism, prophecy, healing, missions and acts of justice are all symptoms of a particular heart condition that is beginning to spread throughout the body of Christ.

Without a doubt, it is spreading – at an “only God” rate. In 10 years time with no human oversight or planting program we have seen the emergence of hundreds if not thousands of houses of prayer where previously the concept was virtually unheard of. In 10 years more time the major missions organizations are telling us that over half a million houses of prayer will be planted throughout the earth. As we watch night and day prayer begin to cover the earth we naturally make the connection to verses like Isaiah 62:6-7 that promise the coming of watchmen who “give the Lord no rest day or night.” What’s happening behind the scenes, though, is hearts getting struck with the revelation contained in Isaiah 62:1-5 – the God who “will not rest until,” burning with a glorious agenda for the earth and its inhabitants; and the Bridegroom God who rejoices over His people, delighting in them and longing for them to be with Him in His zeal and in His rest. It’s that revelation that produces in us a burning heart, and it’s that burning heart that thrusts us into the heart of God in intimacy and into the activity of God in partnership.

This move of God is about “until.” It’s about a Bride made ready, a harvest from every tongue and tribe and nation, and a people prepared for the Lord. Its heartbeat is a fiery core of revelation: of the Bridegroom God who is zealous for His people, of the Church’s identity as the Bride of Christ, and of where it’s all going as the King prepares a wedding for His Son. It’s that Spirit-breathed revelation, identity and purpose that is sparking what is taking shape in various streams all across the earth… and it’s that same heart that has the power to touch and shape not just a minority movement of intercessors and worshipers, but the entire body of Christ and the whole of church life… and it’s that heart burning within the church that then equips us to begin lighting fires of change in our communities and our nation. For these 40 days we are setting ourselves before those fires of revelation and asking the Spirit to breathe upon them that our hearts might burn still more and more.

40 Days of Focus and Fasting

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

On March 1st, IHOP, the churches of New England and college campuses all across the nation will begin a 40-day fast – crying out to God for a great awakening on the campuses of America. As the IHOPU Student Awakening continues, God has stirred the IHOPU leadership to send out the third and fourth-year students for a forty-day ministry trip among the Ivy League schools. Between March 1st and April 9th, IHOPU students will be leading prayer meetings, meeting with campus groups, witnessing and hosting awakening meetings on the campuses of the Ivy League schools and other New England area colleges. At the same time, thousands all across the nation will be uplifting the nation’s colleges in prayer and fasting – believing God to release His presence and power on the campuses of America as He has in Kansas City in a way that shatters the strongholds of intellectualism in America’s universities and dramatically impacts a future generation of leaders.

We want to invite and encourage the HHOP community to join in these 40 days and give ourselves to a period of focused awareness of and engagement with the Spirit and what He’s doing. Whether it’s a Daniel fast (i.e. no meats and no sweets) as suggested or some other fast, or just joining us for the meetings or praying on your own, let’s lay hold of this moment and press in for what God wants to do in the days ahead. In addition to the focus of this divine moment, we want to take this time to come before the Lord with hearts tenderized by fasting and ask Him to write on us afresh the bigger picture of what He’s saying and doing.

As significant as the outpouring in Kansas City is, and as this outreach in the Ivy League schools promises to be, it is still the beginning of the beginning. Back in October, we looked at the crisis in our nation and came to the undeniable conclusion that to rightly understand our times is to recognize that the need of the hour is not a momentary breakthrough, but a permanent shifting. Even as we celebrate what has begun, the cry is still in our spirits for a great awakening that would shift the face of a nation and change the understanding and expression of Christianity in our generation. That is what we are rejoicing to see begin, and that is what we are pressing into – praise God for “only going forward, never going backward!”

The word that has been in my spirit since late September is “birthing season.” This is a time of beginnings and significant transitions as the Lord begins to set things in place for a great move of God in our day. It is a critical time for us to step back, see with clarity what the Lord is doing and sign up again to go there with Him. Our aim for the 40 days is to position ourselves in agreement with the “now” of God that we are entering into as a nation and as the body of Christ worldwide. Responding to what God is doing is at the heart of who we are, but for 40 days we want to respond in an especially intentional way – setting aside our comfort and our routine to seek God’s face. We have years and decades of pressing in ahead of us, but for these 40 days we are gathering in the presence of the Lord to recognize and celebrate what He is doing, to press in for the next breakthrough, and to ask Him to write on our hearts the revelations that will keep us engaged for the longhaul.

For the next six weeks we are altering our services to better facilitate this time of focus. March 1st through April 9th as we engage in this period of fasting and focus we will be gathering together at HHOP every Tuesday and Thursday night at 7pm (no Sunday afternoon meetings during the 40 days) for a time together in His presence. Rather than our usual services, these times will be a mixture of prayer, worship, sharing and ministry time with a deliberate focus on the presence of God and the present move of God. As we move through the 40 days we will be focusing on different themes that the Spirit is highlighting in the broader move of God that is beginning to touch the body of Christ across the nations. We will be sharing, meditating on and praying into these themes as we ask God to realize them in us, through us and around us.

On New Year’s Eve, a word was spoken that “everything changes from tonight.” While it’s just getting started and may seem slow at times something has shifted. I know in my own life and my little circle of awareness I’m seeing a fresh hunger for God and an unusual willingness to change whatever needs to be changed so long as we gain Him. Hunger is the agent of change in the kingdom, and soft hearts let God write a story far beyond our imagination. With tender, hungry hearts let’s come before the Lord and ask Him to write His word on our hearts – who He is, who we are and where this is all going. Let’s say yes again to all that God would do.

Signing up again,

(Follow the website for weekly focus updates)

HarvestHOP Site Updates

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

As you can see, the HarvestHOP website is undergoing a slight revamp. The main reason is to begin regular updates of what we’re doing, what we’re thinking and what we’re praying – particularly as we go into this 40-day fast. The latest posts will show up on the home page, or follow the blog link to browse/search all posts.

In addition, the resources section is being redone: the messages are now available by podcast, and are categorized, tagged and searchable, as well as archived by date to make them easier to navigate.

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