In this new era, I hear the Lord issuing an age-old call to His Body to return to our First Love:
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:2-4)
The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we consider less honorable, we treat with greater honor.
1 Corinthians 12:23
If you are someone who loves to pray or desires deeper intimacy with the Lord, you have undoubtedly made room for Him somewhere in your heart or home, a place where you can be alone and quiet with Him, undisturbed.
I know many His Inscriptions readers who have created special places in your homes, offices, or prayer cottages where you warmly welcome the Holy Spirit to come and abide with you.
I have been blessed to visit or pray in some of these places over the years, and there is nothing on earth like them; they represent holy ground!
Some of us, though, especially during the pandemic, have found that the private spaces we once had became crowded with other people!
Twice in the past few weeks the Lord has allowed me to see from His perspective the advancing of His Kingdom during these times of trial. The first was in a dream, but last night as I listened, the Lord began to speak more specifically of what is happening today. I believe that applying these very personal strategies will help you receive your harvest!
“Never before has there been such hostility to the truth, and never again will there be such an engaging witness to the same.
“Even as the world exerts pressure on My people, so that very pressure is releasing a great cry for justice and mercy, one that would not be so passionate and heartfelt were it not for the pain the pressure is producing.
“I am extracting the precious from the vile.
Early this morning, I heard the Lord say three times: "I am restoring the fortunes of those who have invested in Me."
"There are many who have sown great riches into My Kingdom, believing that their simple sowing of seed would result in great returns. They have heard and obeyed My Spirit and a reward is coming for their faithfulness."
His Inscriptions readers are an amazing group of leaders in your local churches, families, and communities! It is you I want to encourage today with this special focus on ministry.
As I sat with the Lord in prayer this week, He gave me a picture of three doors. With the exception of our quiet times, these three doors are meant to remain open, the Presence of God accompanying us as we pass through each door into different spheres of influence.
The first door was the door to our heart, or our "innermost room." Jesus called believers to go into this innermost place and close the door so that we could commune with the Father in secret. The Passion Translation describes this place as the "resting place of His love" (Ephesians 3:17), the source and root of all that we do. Our first and primary ministry as priests will always be to the Lord.
This sacred space in our hearts is like the "Holy of Holies" - a place where there is a divine exchange of our sin for His righteousness, our unworthiness for His love, and our humanness for His supernatural Spirit. It is the only place in Scripture I know of where we are told to close the door, seal ourselves off, and be alone. We "cap our wells," so to speak, for the sake of replenishment and stillness before the Lord.
The second door opened to those closest to us: family and friends with whom we live our daily lives. The places we walk on a daily basis present us with the opportunity to love those around us as an outward expression of our inward love for Christ. This represented our secondary ministry, second only to God.
The third door opened to the world of our communities, churches, and nations; our "metron" or expanded sphere of ministry. While many believers place this sphere first, that is not the biblical pattern. (See 1 Timothy 5:8.) What exactly is our ministry? It is the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
The beautiful truth of the New Testament is that God's "door" is always open. The veil that separated us from intimacy with Him was torn at Christ's death, and we are now able to boldly approach His throne through Jesus's righteousness! Hallelujah!
Paul said he "resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2) The message of Christ is our ministry! For our message to be authentic and powerful, we must ourselves be ministered to by the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3, 4, and 5 describe a new perspective on ministry. Ministry at its best is not an "office" or a title, but a position of servanthood. Here is what one of the most qualified Jewish leaders of Bible times thought about Christian ministry once he was converted:
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.
~Isaiah 62:7, ESV
I believe that today the Lord wants to both encourage and honor His "watchmen:" those who regularly wait and watch for Him in prayer!
Most of you reading this have an interest in either prayer or the prophetic gifts, and many are called to be “watchmen:” intercessors and prophets for the Body of Christ.
Watchmen (and watchwomen!) are appointed by God to serve as protectors of the Kingdom’s flock. (See Ezekiel 33:7.) They devote hours of their time, usually unseen and often at night, listening to the Lord and praying His heart for His people. Because they make themselves available to Him, they become the first line of defense when the enemy tries to ravage the flock.
I saw this truth demonstrated dramatically during my prayer time one morning.
There are two great choices every Christian must make. The first is a choice to be free; the second is a choice to surrender that freedom.
I am eager to share a very powerful vision with you today. The vision isn’t mine, but comes from a father in the faith who ministered during the "Latter Rain" movement. Before I share it, let me remind you of a story.
In 1998 a movie entitled “The Horse Whisperer” was released. In the film, a very young Scarlett Johansson (Avengers star and now the world’s highest-paid actress) plays the role of Grace, a horse-loving 12-year-old. A traumatic winter accident injures Grace and her horse and kills her childhood girlfriend. After this, both Grace and “Pilgrim” (her horse) seem broken beyond repair.
Enter the Horse Whisperer. (Played by Robert Redford).
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 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.