The Purpose of This Renewal
What is the central purpose God intended for this renewal movement? What long-term fruit does He expect from the outpouring? There are several important answers. The obvious hallmark of the renewal movement has always been encountering the Father’s heart in a way that heals and energizes the human spirit.
The renewal emphasizes experiencing the reality of God as a tender Father because experiencing intimacy with God is the best way to receive healing and strength.
During the October 1996 Catch the Fire Conference in Toronto, Frank Damazio prophesied about another dimension of God’s purpose for this move of the Spirit, and highlighted the fact that the Lord wanted to add one essential dimension to what we were all experiencing in the renewal. As I recall, he said that we all understood that the Lord had originally sent the wine of the Spirit to heal and renew hearts through intimacy with God. However, one reason was to prepare the church to receive new oil to flow in the anointing of intercession. He continued by saying that the whole church must function as a house of prayer for the great harvest to be released. In other words, the blessing of the Spirit was released to establish people in deeper intimacy with God, which would prepare them to pray for the harvest. The fruit of answered prayer would be massive evangelism.
He further emphasized that the blessing of God’s wine must result in the Church functioning as a house of prayer in order to have Divine fire burning in our prayer lamps. He indicated that if this did not happen, then the blessing of the wine would become just a fond memory of the good old days without bearing the fruit that God had ordained for it.
RESPONDING TO THE PROPHETIC WORD
I was personally struck by that word during that conference. I knew he had spoken the true word of the Lord. In the days and months that followed, I wrestled with the implications of it for my ministry in Kansas City. Prayerfully I considered how I would respond to this word. Three years later we started the 24-hour-a-day International House of Prayer beginning in Kansas City. Now we are getting reports from all over the world of people who are receiving the same mandate and inspiration to start a House of Prayer in their city. While each House of Prayer will look differently with varying models and expressions, the common factor among them all will be passionate love for Jesus. We must cry out night and day until Jesus visits us with unprecedented revival in our city.
In Luke 18:8, Jesus declared that the great need for the earth was the manifestation of divine justice, and that would only be released by night and day prayer. He was the first “social reformer” to link the release of justice in society with night and day prayer. Your city needs the release of divine justice. God’s justice is not just the punishing of the rebellious. God’s justice is making wrong things right. We often refer to it as revival. For example, when God releases justice in the area of sickness, it is called healing. When justice triumphs over unbelief, it results in a harvest of new believers. When justice comes to an area of sin, then holiness is the result.
REVIVING THE WATCHMEN ON THE WALL
In Isaiah 62:6, the Lord promised to set watchmen of the wall of intercession night and day. The renewal helped prepare the way for this quality of night and day fiery intercession, and through it the Lord is placing this generation of watchmen on the wall.
I need to address a chronic problem within the prayer movement that has developed in the last 20 years. That problem is “burn out.” Many of the fiery intercessors from the 1980’s and the 1990’s have lost the freshness of the oil of intercession. I believe that God has poured out this renewal so that in experiencing the tenderness of the Father’s love, our oil of joy and passion for Jesus would be replenished and fuel our desire to pray.
Since 1994, the benchmark message of what some have called The Toronto Blessing has been experiencing the tenderness of the Father’s love. With respect to the revelation of the Father’s love, both men and women are called sons of God. This implies not only the affection of God but also means that God has invited us to be His heirs, to share His throne, His power and His authority.
The Holy Spirit is also emphasizing another dimension of the renewal: the revelation of Jesus as a passionate Bridegroom. Knowing Jesus as Bridegroom is essential for the Church to truly be a house of prayer. As He unveils this revelation to us, the Lord is healing the burn out by energizing His beloved Church to interact intimately with Jesus the Bridegroom.
In July 1988, the Lord gave me what amounted to a divine ambush, a mandate to focus on the message of the Bride of Christ, yet I felt like I was the most unlikely person to receive and teach this message. I am a man. My father was a world-champion boxer, and I was a college football player. I was never into the idea of being a “bride” even though I knew I was part of the Bride of Christ. I was more into the life of David or the book of Revelation. I said, “Lord, I do not think I am the man for this.” Nevertheless, I began to really go after this understanding. I began to pour myself into it. I began to teach it, and 15 years later I will say that it has radically changed my life.
WHAT IS THE BRIDE OF CHRIST MESSAGE?
I summarize the Bride of Christ message as an invitation to intimacy with God. While the angels come near God and encounter His majesty, they are never invited to draw near to God’s heart. They are never invited past the place of being awestruck into the place of having their hearts warmed with intimacy. But to the believers He says, “Come all the way to My heart. I want you to be my eternal companion.” It is almost unbelievable to think that God would invite weak and broken people, both men and women, into such a depth of intimacy.
Just as women are sons of God, so also men are the Bride of Christ.
It transcends gender. Being the Bride describes a position of privilege. It is the invitation to come near to His heart. The Holy Spirit is now beckoning the Bride of Christ to draw near in intimacy to Jesus who burns with affection for us. Men, this does not in any way minimize our masculinity. Rather it establishes our masculinity to be what God created us to be, radical lovers of God.
Some of the great men in the Scripture emphasized intimacy with God. For example, King David, the great warrior king of Israel, became the most radical, lovesick worshipper in the Old Testament.
Jesus called the Apostle John a “son of thunder” because he had such fiery natural passion. Once he wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume a Samaritan city for not coming to Jesus’ meetings. Later, John was known as the “one that laid his head on the Lord’s breast.” Now he is known as the apostle of love. How did the son of thunder become known as the apostle of love? By becoming a man of intimacy.
My point is that encountering God’s burning desire or His affection for him did not make John any less a man. Rather, experiencing the revelation of the Bride of Christ transformed him as it has many other men in scripture.
The book of Revelation describes an angel who showed John something significant about the Church in the generation when the Lord returns. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’” (Rev. 22:17) John sees the Church in the generation of the Lord return, to be in a posture of prayer and worship crying out, “Come.” Notice that the end-time Church will be characterized by intense worship and intercession. I believe these are the marks of passion that flow from a heart that knows its identity as the bride because she sees Jesus in a new way as a passionate Bridegroom. Yes, Jesus is even more than our Savior, our Healer and our Captain. He is our passionate, lovesick Bridegroom.
According to what the angel showed John, it is inevitable that the Church worldwide will be consumed with this reality. It is inevitable that this message will dynamically impact over a billion believers worldwide. The devil cannot stop it. The Father has decreed from the foundations of the earth that He would give His son an eternal companion as His inheritance.
When we see the Lord this way, it changes the way we see ourselves. Notice that the angel did not describe the praying end-time Church as a family or an army that says, “Come.” Yes, we will always be part of God’s family and His army, but in the end we will be a bride in worship and intercession calling out to Jesus. This speaks of a whole new way of viewing ourselves. We are living in the time where the body of Christ around the world will begin to see Him as our Bridegroom, and God and ourselves as His cherished bride.
This resonates deeply in our hearts because we all have a place in our hearts where we are dissatisfied and want to be drawn closer to God. How many times have you heard people say, “I know there has to be more...?” And there is much more.
He wants to draw you into this intimate relationship.
People are looking for something because there is a longing deep within their hearts for closeness. They are looking for it in sex, drugs and alcohol, counterfeit forms of intimacy, and yet that longing is for God.
The Holy Spirit is saying that God is both the tender Father and the passionate Bridegroom. I believe that the sequence is critical. We do not go right to the Bridegroom revelation, but rather we start with the revelation of God as a tender Father. The renewal has carried that message for at least 10 years. The sequence is biblical, prophetic and important. It is first the tender Father because the Church that cannot relate to the tenderness of the Father will not be able to accept the revelation of the passionate affections of the Bridegroom. When you find out that you are loved, accepted and forgiven, then you can give it away. You cannot give it away until you have received it. We cannot encounter this revelation without having our spiritual and emotional chemistry radically changed. When we experience it, we become it.
CHANGING YOUR VIEW OF GOD
What keeps people back? Religious traditions give us completely wrong ideas of God. For example, we have the idea that God is very distant, kind of like the well-meaning coach who only disciplines us for our own good, so that we win the game at the end. And He does not mind sacrificing us in the cause because He knows we are going to win eventually. But God is not a well-meaning coach. He is a tender Father, and His son is a passionate Bridegroom.
Lord, I ask that You would go to Your children and draw them into such a passionate love affair with Jesus Christ, that they would say, “Yes, Lord. It is You that I am looking for. It is that kind of love that I have been longing to have in my heart.”
Father, put a seed of hope in each heart today that says, “Yes, Jesus, will You come into my heart? Will You come into my life? Lord, I turn to You and away from sin, and I invite You to be my Lord and Savior and fill that place in my heart that was meant only for You.”