Fire Or A Funeral
I believe today, for the church in America, that it is either fire or a funeral. Hebrews 12:29 says, "Our God is a consuming fire." Throughout the Bible, fire is mentioned 500 times. Fire is a symbol of God's presence. When the fire of God shows up, God's people know that God's presence is in the place. It's evident. Do you know that fire does not need advertisement? When there is fire in the church, you don't need advertisement. People will come from far and near to see a church that is on fire for Jesus, and I'm not talking about emotions. I'm not talking about wildfire. I'm talking about pure and holy fire from God.
Fire is consuming. He calls Himself a God that is a consuming fire. He wants to consume His church with His holiness. He wants to consume the pride, the bickering, and the offense out of His church. We get so offended in the church. We get offended over nothing. It's a bait of Satan. If you love God's law, nothing shall offend you. AMEN?
In Exodus 3:2, Moses came upon the fire of God. It was the flame of God in a bush. Moses saw a bush that was not consumed, was not being burned up. He knew there was fire in there, and out of the fire God spoke and told him to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground.
We come to church today dressed any way we want to dress. I believe when you come to worship God, you ought to come dressed in the best you have. If the best you have is bibbed overalls, then press them and wear them. I believe we're living in an age where the church must realize that, when we get into God's presence, He expects holiness.
God told Moses, "Take off your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy ground." He could have come back to that very spot the next day, and it would not have been holy ground. It was holy ground, because the fire of God was being manifested in that place.
When God's children left Egypt, after the Death Angel had passed over, every firstborn, not only of the male children in the home but the firstborn animals in all those houses, died if the blood was not applied to the door post. God's children obeyed what God said, and that was to kill a lamb, and the lamb represented Jesus. You have to be covered by the blood of Jesus. Church membership will not cover you. Baptismal waters will not cover you. You have to be covered by the blood of Jesus. You have to realize you're lost, a sinner, hell bound, and cry out to God to cover you.
As the children of Israel were escaping, I do not know why God led them to a body of water. Sometimes God leads us to places we don't understand, but He led them to a body of water; and all of a sudden, at that very hour, God stirs Pharaoh to start coming after 600,000 Jews. They're trapped. The Red Sea is in front of them, Pharaoh is at their, and out of Heaven God drops a pillar of fire. It comes down and separates where God's people are and where Pharaoh is, and it protects God's people from the onslaught of Pharaoh's army.
They didn't cross in 5 minutes. It may have taken days to cross that body of water. I can just imagine getting this group out of here, marching over to the Kanawha River, you seeing it split, and me saying, "Come on." There is no difference. Six hundred thousand Jews who have been in Egypt for 400 years are used to the Egyptian ways. They were used to looking like an Egyptian, talking like an Egyptian, smelling like an Egyptian, and that's not a nationality. I'm talking about what it is in the Bible. It's a symbol of sin.
That pillar of fire held Pharaoh's army back until God's children got across the Red Sea. If I had been Pharaoh, I would have fled from that place, because when the pillar of fire goes away, they go in, and everybody is wiped out. That pillar of fire goes with Israel throughout their journey in the wilderness for 40 years. It gave light during the night hour. It gave protection from wild beasts. Nothing will come around the fire of God. One of the reasons we're in the onslaught of the enemy is because we don't have the fire of God.
It says in 2 Chronicles 7:1 that Solomon built a temple to God and when he finished praying a dedication prayer, the fire of God fell; and when the fire of God fell, it was followed with the glory of God. We don't have any idea what the glory of God is like. We're just getting mercy drops here today. The glory of God filled the temple, and the priests who went about the ministry in the temple couldn't stand. They were on their faces. When was the last time the glory of God was so powerful in a place that you couldn't stand, that you had to get on your face? Some of you have never been on your face before God.
America is in danger, but we're not in danger from terrorists. We're in danger of a dead church. People were lined up and camping out in front of Wal-Mart and Books-a-Million. Parents were with their small children with camping gear lined up in front of Wal-Mart and Books-a-Million waiting, dressed in witch outfits, to buy Harry Potter's last book about witches and warlocks. Our country thinks that's OK because it is getting children to read. Excuse me? I've got a Book for you to read.
We're in danger, and let me tell you why. I'll guarantee you that across America preachers, deacons, and teachers had their children in those lines. We're in danger. We need the fire.
In 1 Kings 18, a man called Elijah challenged all the false prophets, 450 of them, to go up on Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel overlooks the Valley of Armageddon. You can see Nazareth. It's a marvel to be on Mount Carmel. Elijah got up there and said, "Build an altar, pray, and call on your gods. Then I will build an altar and pray." Then he said in Verse 24, "and the God who answers by fire, He is God."
I wonder what would happen today if witches and warlocks came into the churches of America and challenged us and said, "Let's have a prayer meeting here. We'll get ours over here, you get yours over there, and the God that answers by fire." You say, but God doesn't do that anymore. You had better read your Bible. We're advertising, but there is going to come a day that we're going to get sued for false advertising, because the fire of God is real. It's not an emotion, but it does produce some feelings.
If you got hit by a Mack truck going 65 miles an hour, I predict that your family and friends wouldn't recognize you the next day. I believe if you were able to walk and talk that you would be walking and talking differently. I believe you would have a different walk and a different talk, and I believe you would even look different. Can you tell me that if the power of God hit you that you could act the same? Let me tell you something. The power of God is more powerful than a Mack truck going 65 miles an hour!
When Jesus was preaching on this planet, He said in Luke 12:49, "I have come to send fire on the earth." You say that's judgment. Judgment is in that, but He said, "I would that it was already kindled," and you know He didn't want judgment to come until He had already gone to the cross. He's talking about another fire. He said you are either going to be consumed with the fire of God or you're going to be filled with the fire of God, and He said, "I've come to this planet to send fire."
John the Baptist launched his ministry, and he is baptizing people. That's why they called him John the Baptist. He is baptizing people that have repented. He's a way-maker. He's a preparer, but he's not the Christ. They kept asking him, "Are you the Christ?" and finally he broke loose in revelation. I don't know of any Old Testament scripture he had to base it on, but he says in Matthew 3:11, "I'm baptizing you with water unto repentance, but He who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I'm not worthy to carry," and then he makes a power statement. "He that comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
People today talk like they have the Holy Ghost like He is a toy, but John the Baptist didn't stop there. He didn't say, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" and stop there. He said, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
What are you passionate about? What stirs you? Fire attracts people. When a fire is nearby, people take off. When I was growing up in a small little town called Bancroft, one night the sky lit up and people were scared. They thought it was the end of the world. There had been an explosion at Carbide, and I remember we got in the car and drove up Route 60 and looked across the river, and you could see the tanks on fire. It had lit up the entire sky.
My wife lived in Nitro, and her daddy was a preacher, and people on the street were coming to his house wanting to get saved. They thought it was the end of the world, but all it was was a fire. Shout FIRE! We drove from Bancroft all the way to Saint Albans just to see the fire. If there is a fire within walking distance of where you are, you know you'll walk to where you can see it.
People don't get on the news and talk about a fire. They're going to show you the fire, and all it is doing is burning. You see the flames and there may be some explosions, but yet you will watch that on TV on every station. There is something inside of us that draws us to a fire. When I was little I was told not to touch fire because I would get burned. How many of you were taught that but did it anyway? My daddy told me not to play with matches, and one time I was playing with matches and caught our house on fire. I paid for it.
We have been conditioned as church people not to get around fire. You will get burned. I know why churches don't want fire. They're afraid it will get out of hand. In the Old Testament when they put a false fire on the altar, they died. It's a serious thing to get in the flesh.
On the Day of Pentecost, the first thing that filled the room was the sound of wind. These raging forest fires we have going on in America are telling us something in the spirit realm. What is going on there, God wants to have happen in the spirit realm. These forest fires are kindled by dryness, and the church is about as dry as it is going to get. Sometimes these fires are man-made, sometimes they are started on purpose, but sometimes the woods are so dry and something comes from Heaven and hits it and a fire starts; and the firemen are saying, if we can just get this wind to die down, we can get this under control.
What came first on the Day of Pentecost? The sound of a mighty rushing wind, and God is giving us a clue here about fire. Acts 2:3 says,"Then the cloven tongues of fire came and sat." That's what it says. When the cloven tongues of fire sat on them, it set them on fire; and don't forget that wind, because fire is contagious. Divine combustion is contagious. I'm warning you. You had better watch out. I can see that some of you aren't paying attention, but let me warn you that divine combustion is contagious. Once the wind of God begins to blow and one gets on fire, you had better be careful who you sit with because fire can transform.
If you get an ice cube around fire, that ice cube is going to change. The consistency of that ice cube is going to be transformed, and if it stays there long enough, it will change again.
I can't get through to people that we need the penetrating fire of God. We need the penetrating, purifying fire of God. The fire of God will clean you up. We need the penetrating, purifying, powerful fire of God.
Some of you are scared of the fire of God. We need fire in the pulpit, because the pews are a mirror of the pulpit. The pews are a product of the pulpit. When you have no fire in the pulpit, you will have very little fire in the pews. That's just the way it is. The churches in America are in desperate need of the fire of God.
Fifty percent of church members in America do not believe there is a devil. Over 50% of church members in America do not believe in the Holy Spirit. Nine percent of all Christians in America give 10% or more of their income to the church, only 9%. Seventy-five percent of church members in America give less than 1% of their income to their local church. Fifty percent of the 75% in America give nothing. Do you not think we need the fire?
I want every woman to get her purse out and hold it up in the air. Every man get out your wallet and hold it up in the air. Let me tell you where we need the fire of God. Right there [in our purses and wallets], because when you tell me you love Jesus and you're not supporting His church, you're as dry as last year's bird's nest. You're as empty as last year's bird's nest. When you're blessed like we have been blessed and you don't give to God what belongs to Him, you need the fire of God.
It's amazing how many so-called born-again Christians believe that abortion is OK. It's amazing how many Christians in the Kanawha Valley are going to vote "yes" on a vice that will destroy homes and bring corruption into our communities. They are going to vote "yes," because it affects those things you just held up, because greed is your motivation.
Let me give you the answer to the job problem we have in the Kanawha Valley. The answer is for the churches in the Kanawha Valley to get on fire, get stirred up. Let me give you another answer. Break the welfare mentality in our state and begin to bless businesses. I don't know if you know this or not, but businesses are not your enemy. If you take out the businesses, you have no jobs. I grew up in Nitro, and when I was growing up, from one end of Nitro to the other was chemical plants. If you drive over that bridge now, there is nothing but barren land.
I'm here to tell you that if we don't have the fire of God, we're going to have funerals for churches, because 3,500 churches close up shop every year in America. That's about an average of 50-75 a week. You say praise God for Maranatha. Maranatha could be extinct in one generation. I've had 100 people walk out on me in one week. We had 7 of our top 10 givers leave in one week. If only 9% are tithing and you lose 7 of your top 10 givers in one week, that can make a preacher sit down, but I never saw the offering drop.
When you and I get on fire, people are going to know. Some will like it and some won't. The fire of God will stir you like you have never been stirred before. The fire of God is unexplainable. I can't explain the fire of God. The fire of God is unpredictable. You don't know what the Holy Spirit will do. You have to have wisdom, and you have to have discernment.
I grew up under a great man of God that told me time and time again that you have to have wisdom and discernment, and the devil will try and get you from the real to the false quickly. A lot of people don't know the real from the false. You have to have wisdom. When the fire of God falls on your individual life, it will be unexplainable, it will be unpredictable, and I'm not talking about a denomination. I believe the fire of God is getting ready to jump over, like the forest fires do, from state to state. I believe the fire of God is getting ready to jump over denominational lines, fundamentalist lines. I believe liberal churches are the driest you can find, and I believe they are getting ready to get on fire.
I'm not concerned about what God is going to do over there. I'm concerned about what God is going to do here at the Maranatha Fellowship. The most needy Preacher in this town is the one that preaches from this pulpit, and it's me, oh Lord, standing. If you're not hungry, you won't get anything. If you're not thirsty, don't worry. You won't get anything. You may get a passing emotion or a passing tingling, but it will soon go away; but if you're hungry and if you're thirsty.
If the church is on fire, we will be filled with God's love, and it will get on you. I love honey, and every time I eat it, it gets on me. If you get around the fire and the love of God, it will get on you. I want to be on fire for Jesus.