What does it mean to you to serve God?
For most Christians, serving God is a joyful expression of our translation from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. We exchange bad habits for good ones, spend time in Bible studies instead of bars, and invest our talents into churches, ministries, and good causes throughout the world. We hope that our investments will yield eternal rewards. Some time later, though, we may wonder, is this all there is to Christianity? Just meeting the needs of my church?
Early this morning, the Lord woke me and began releasing words of encouragement for the WOMEN in His Kingdom. These are not just "Esthers" and "Deborahs," as we have heard previously, but also "Annas," those welcoming new things of the Spirit for this new season. I heard Him saying:
“There is a Spirit of GRACE upon My women today which will carry them through the next season. There is grace in the Spirit on them the way strength of the flesh rested upon Samson. These women will do mighty exploits in My Name, because they have believed.
I am calling forth the “Annas:”* prophetic intercessors whose eyes have been opened to see the new season that is upon them. (As Anna welcomed the arrival of the age of Christ.) They will prophesy of the new miracles just birthed, identifying them to a deaf and blind people who cannot see My promises in their midst.
These are the nurturers of the promise, women who cherish deeply the things of God. They will not only see these promises manifesting and identify them to others, but they will also take the promises in hand themselves and bless Me for them.”
Today, on Israel's Independence Day (Yom Ha'Atzma'ut), I feel the Lord longing for the freedom of His people. There is a tendency to settle in to "comfortable Christianity" and not to press in for ALL of the goodness of God to be manifest in our lives. I feel His longing for us to change that. I hear Him saying, "Arise, Church! Take up your pallet and walk! Don't yield to the paralysis of an invalid when I have made you free! For your destiny lies ahead of you, not in the past, and you must press forward to meet it."
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I had spent most of the week in what you might call "Mary" mode, and was really enjoying the time I'd set aside for intensive prayer. So far, things were going very well. The house was quiet and I managed to spend several hours each morning in focused prayer. Although intercession is not my primary calling, it is, for me, a powerful passion. But as the end of the week neared, all hell broke loose.
I had a dream this morning in which the Lord revealed two strategies of the enemy that keep His people from entering a place of intimacy with Him. At the same time, God released two prophetic revelations for breaking these strategies: scriptural keys that to help overturn demonic plans.
In the dream, I saw people being drawn down into the depths of a medieval fortress. Everything in the dream resembled the dark ages. I saw a damp cobblestone street that led into a dreary, medieval town. On either side of the street was a walled fortress, like a long, low palace that seemed to extend forever. The scene reminded me of a rainy day in medieval England: dismal, dreary, and dark.
The fortress, or castle, bore no resemblance to the kind of fairy-tale castles our children dream of. It had only low spires and was made of cold, grey stone. It did not have the height of a picturesque castle, either, being only one or maybe two stories high, and extending lengthwise through the town instead of vertically to the sky. Inside the fortress were dozens of rooms, each laid out next to the other. The rooms were unfurnished, no more than cold stone “compartments” in which to hold people. The entire city was sunken into a valley and seemed to descend lower and lower as I walked along the street.
In the beginning, I saw women dressed in neutral-colored medieval gowns, all with long, thick hair. Their hair was the only glorious thing about them, and I noticed the different colors and textures of each woman’s hair, which they all wore long. The women would come from a slight elevation to the right of the town, and descend into the street by the fortress.
But when they reached the town, I saw from behind them that their hair had been chopped short, and they were sick – so sick as to be vomiting in the street. I was told by a voice in the dream that if they did not keep moving, they would become deathly sick. And so the rooms of the fortress were filled with those who could not move forward any longer, who were sick and dying in that cold, damp place.
The enemy lives in an evil realm full of captives. He wants to cause us to exchange our glory for a lie, to live in the “dark ages” of a past from which we have been set free. One of the ways he holds us captive is through sickness and disease. The women I saw were bent over in pain and weakness, vomiting out their insides. There seemed to be no cause for this; it was simply the atmosphere into which they had entered, the defining characteristic of this evil place.
Thankfully, there was a second segment to my dream! An unknown but beautiful woman in the deepest part of the town chose to say that she wanted to leave the dark place. Having made her decision, she was instantly granted her wish. I was amazed: the enemy did not contest her decision, but rather, allowed it.
Instantly, from the air above and to my right, an invisible angel – a supernatural being – brought her a table and three chairs, all gleaming a transparent white, and set them on the side of a hill in front of me, just above the street. The hill, amazingly, was a patch of vibrant green grass, and the woman, now dressed in a pure-white gown, sat in one of the chairs to the left.
Facing her, I saw that even as her wish had been granted and she now had the ability to enter purer heavenly realms, the voice of the enemy was still speaking to her. She was told by the voice that she could leave, as long as she promised to “stay busy” in the Kingdom of light which she was entering. I knew that although she would enter into a better place with God, she would now be driven to distraction by the agreement she would make with the enemy to “stay busy.”
The dream ended here, but the Holy Spirit woke me with revelation. In medieval imagery, the Lord highlighted the difference between two kingdoms: the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light.
The First Strategy and its Corresponding Revelation
It is the enemy’s desire to keep us in the dark ages, and one of the primary ways he does this is by keeping us sick. In fact, as the dream shows, sickness of soul or body is one of the enemy’s signature strategies. Its only end is death, and it is one way he robs us of the glory God gave us in the beginning. Sickness transforms us into captives, and will eventually lock us, cold, shivering, and alone, into the very cell-walls of his fortress. I saw many people trapped here because they had not continued to move past the demonic doctrine of sickness into the heavenly doctrine of healing.
Yet there was one who had escaped: the woman who with her words chose to say she wanted “out.” Joshua 24:15 is the heavenly key that unlocks demonic fortresses and releases us into supernatural realms: “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
God has given us free will, or the ability to choose whom we serve. The first revelation we need is this: just as God honors our free will, so the enemy cannot remove our ability to choose.
The moment we choose life, angels are released to assist us. The table I saw represented a place of rest and covenant in the Trinity (three chairs). The Lord sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies, and causes us to rest in green pastures. (Psalm 23). And although this place of peace should be the happy end of our dreams, it is not.
The Second Strategy and its Revelation
The second strategy of the enemy is deception. For the enemy can still speak to us, even as we sit at table with the Lord. Until He comes, we will always be “in the presence of our enemies” (Psalm 23:5).
The second revelation is that we must choose NOT to enter into demonic agreements while we are seated at the Lord’s table.
While I rejoiced that the woman had sat down, clothed in white, with her long hair restored and her hope renewed, I saw also that her eyes were still turned toward the dark city. Her right hand was extended towards the voice. She was still listening to the voice, believing the lie that she must serve endlessly, tirelessly, in this new Kingdom she entered. In fact, she believed that the only way she would escape the darkness is if she made this covenant to work for her salvation. God’s intention is to bless, but the devil’s goal is to stress and oppress.
Historically, we see that the church has progressed along this same path. We left the dark ages through Luther’s Reformation and entered into a glorious new understanding of the accessibility of the Kingdom of Light. But we also maintained covenants with the enemy to “keep moving,” to earn our salvation, to stay busy and distracted, so that we would be prevented from enjoying the intimacy of the table God has prepared for us. Like Martha, instead of eating the meal, we are serving it.
I believe the deception of a “works” mentality is still affecting the Body of Christ, keeping His Bride from entering into the relationship of intimacy she should. True service flows out of a place of rest and fellowship with God. It is not the way into intimacy, but rather, an outgrowth of it.
An Appeal for Change
If you have made a covenant with the enemy to serve stressfully or endlessly in the Kingdom of God, I urge you to renounce that agreement today. Service is not your ticket to heaven, nor is a works mentality your guarantee of good standing with God. You are called to be the Bride of Christ, not His slave.
Your decision to choose Christ, to serve Him, is a marriage vow. As it was for the woman in my dream, the moment you choose God, all of heaven is released to usher you out of the demonic realm and into the Kingdom of Light. Your transference is immediate. The enemy does not have the power to stop you from choosing your deliverance. But he will continue to tempt you and try to enslave you with your own words of agreement to a lifetime of hard labor in a Kingdom that is known for freedom and rest, not slavery.
I urge you to renounce the slavery of a works mentality today, and to sit down at the table He has prepared for you. Spend all the time you need in fellowship with Him. Eat as much as will satiate your hunger for spiritual things. We need far more nourishment at His table than we allow. Enjoy the feast He has invited you to! It is a feast of intimacy and knowledge of Him! (See John 6:35)
Then, when you are full, you will have all the energy and stamina you need to get up and go out again. At His request, you will invite others to come to the table with you. You will serve joyfully, not under compulsion, so that others can enjoy Him, too.
Your seat is reserved for you. There is a placecard with your name on it, waiting. You have only to choose. Are you coming to the feast?
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions.
In the eyes of God, a leader is a servant. We know that Jesus places a high value on servanthood and teaches His disciples to do the same: "Whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28, NKJV).
A servant, by definition, is one who waits on his master. Attentiveness to the master's commands produces an effective, treasured servant who is entrusted with more responsibility and becomes a leader in his own right. It is primarily our listening, not our busyness, that makes us good servants. When we have first understood what our master needs, we will do a better job meeting that need.
Society honors leaders who "step up" to the proverbial plate and take authority. We admire, respect, and follow such people. Our busyness becomes a badge of identity and self-importance.
Yet God demands that His leaders "step down," often into a place of obscurity, where the tasks are menial and the recognition is scarce. I know several mature leaders who began their "ministry" cleaning toilets! They graduated to helping people get "cleaned up" later. God's model of servanthood is designed to help us avoid the idolatry of leadership: the allure of titles as well as the worship of leaders themselves. It is servanthood cradled in humility.
Why does God do this? Doesn't He need good, strong leaders today, who will take charge of things and champion the Kingdom cause in a world filled with corruption?
Yes, He does. He longs for mature leaders - servants - to go and impact the world for Christ, just as your pastor probably longs for someone to lead a small group or set up the chairs on Sundays. God longs for those He can trust with greater things: those who have been faithful over little things and graduated to weightier matters. The catch is that He also longs for us to recognize one simple truth that many of us miss: HE is the leader!
Are You a Slave to Man or a Servant to God?
After years of "service" in the Christian church, God had to adjust my understanding of whom I was actually serving. It's easy to be caught up in the needs and demands of a growing church body: lead a small group, serve coffee and donuts on a Sunday, join the parking team, or minister to people at the altar. The needs never end; they only increase as a church grows. And this is a good thing, because it provides opportunity for believers to exercise their faith and grow in the grace of servanthood.
But somewhere along the line, God calls us to examine our hearts. Have we become a slave to man or a servant to God?
Here's what the Lord spoke to me concerning leadership:
"A leader, in My eyes, is a servant. Yet the focus of servanthood is different (from the world's). Would you rather be a slave to man or a servant to Me? If you serve Me, I will lead you to help others. But if you serve man, you will only burn out - and quickly! I will offend your sense of what should be done in order to show you that what you do is to be done for Me alone. All other types of "servanthood" are nothing more than idolatry - the idolatry of self or others."
In other words, a good leader leads by listening.
Leadership that magnifies itself or its own mission overmuch causes people to stumble. If we are truly serving Christ in the way He intended, we will place His requests above those of man - even those that may come from our leaders. We will recognize Jesus as our Lord, and see that leaders, too, should be working in subjection to Christ's authority, direction, and mission. Christ is the head, not man. Every man - even the pastor - is part of a Body, receiving orders from the Head.
Lest it sound like I am against Christian service, I am not. Yet there is a distinction between doing something because it "needs" to be done and doing something because the Lord has asked you to do it. Many of us blindly accept requests to serve without checking first to see if that is what the Lord wants us to do, and as a result, we have a growing body of Christian workers, missionaries, and pastors who are burnt out and exhausted. They have focused their eyes on something or someone other than Christ.
We must be willing to trust that the Head knows what the Body needs to do, in what order, and by whom. We must also be willing to let things go undone when He does not call us to do them. Either He will raise up someone else to do the task, or the task is not a priority to Him at this point.
The only way to know what we should be doing is to listen to our Master, and sadly, many leaders are not listening. Studies of Christian leaders in the US have found that 80% of pastors spend fewer than 15 minutes a day in prayer.* A true servant is one who waits on his Master first, not as an afterthought.
The God Who Sees
Besides the idolatry of leadership and the constant needs presented by the church, there is another reason why we are so quick to jump onto the "service" bandwagon: pride. Jesus cautions us in Matthew 6: "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1, NKJV).
Joining the prayer group seems like a good thing until it becomes evident that someone is hoping to be "heard for their many words." (Matthew 6:7; notice Christ's emphasis on "being heard" as opposed to "seeking" or "listening"). Serving with the goal of being recognized by man is never a good idea.
In fact, the entire chapter of Matthew 6 addresses the issue of being seen by men, a form of pride. If men are the ones we are pleasing, we have missed the essence of Jesus' lesson on service. Service should flow out of our quiet times with God, with a clear sense of purpose and mission, and a balance to how much we are taking on - balance that can be provided only by God Himself.
If I had my way, I would serve relentlessly. I thrive on service, and I love to accomplish things - especially when I know those things benefit God's Kingdom. Many of us are wired this way. We get excited about "doing" things for God instead of finding out what God needs to be done! It is all the more important, then, for us to be sure that we stay in contact with the Head of our Body, who will keep us from doing too much and burning out.
In God's eyes, tasks are never as important as people. He sees whether we are responding to our pride, to man's expectations, or to Him alone. When our priorities are not in order, He will hold us back from the task in order to preserve His people. No matter how pressing the need, our reward only comes from serving His way. A secure leader can serve without need of recognition because he knows that God sees what is done for Him, even in secret.
Leading by listening is the most effective way we can become a servant. Serving man will cause us to burn out quickly. We need to stay in the flow of the Holy Spirit. When we listen first, we allow God to place us exactly where He wants us, doing what He wants done. This is not an easy lesson, since it requires that ministers and laymen alike make listening to God a priority. But leaders who listen will have the greatest impact on their generation.
c. Deborah Perkins/HisInscriptions.com. *Source: US National Prayer Council.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting people with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, or contact her directly here.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.