Eric Johnson – Renaissance Conference Session 1

Beauty is intrinsic to the very nature of God. Whether you’re in church leadership, the arts, business or politics, God wants to partner with you to release the kingdom in a fresh way. This was the heart behind Renaissance Conference, 2018. Watch session 1 of the Renaissance Conference, with Eric Johnson from Bethel Church, Redding.

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Eric: It’s great to be back. I was just here last month. I was in Joburg with some friends doing a conference there, and I had a wonderful time and I thought you know, why don’t we just do two trips to South Africa in a condensed amount of time. I should get a medal just for… it’s just a long ways to get here from where I’m from. It’s about a 40-hour trip, and so 2 days of sitting and waiting and watching every movie on the plane. No, but seriously, it’s an honor to be back and I’m falling more in love with this part of the world, and just excited for what the Lord is doing here. And honestly, I don’t just say that, I sincerely mean that.

And some of our greatest people in our environment are from South Africa. They don’t need an introduction but I’m gonna do it anyway. Richard and Levy Gordon are here. Can you stand up and say hi? They’re fellow Durbanites, and they’re such as a beautiful part of our team back home, and really, we’re so grateful that they’re with us. And tomorrow, Haley Braun will be flying in some of you that know her. She’s from Port Elizabeth, and she’s there. One of our staff as well but she’s spending a chunk of her summer with her husband and two kids with her family. And she texted me a few weeks ago said, “I think I’m gonna fly up to Durban.” I said, “You have to. If I come to your country, you have to meet me there.”

So anyway, we really have…some of our amazing team is from South Africa. And what the Lord is doing here is really phenomenal, and what’s fun about Bethel, what’s fun for us, is we really get the ability to touch a lot of people and to see and feel what the Lord is doing. And you know, for, you know, 20-ish years now, we’re able to see hotspots where, oh man, the Lord’s really doing something significant in that city, or that country, and whatnot.

And I can just recount the various cities, the nations over the last 20 years where it felt like they were just a highlight on that country. And I really feel like South Africa is in the middle of that right now, just the Lord is highlighting this nation, what he’s wanting to do here, what he’s already done, what he’s been doing. And so, again, it’s just fun to be here to be with you guys. But to properly get to know me a little bit, you need to see the rest of my family. So I have a photo. Now, I like to introduce my family. If we could put that up there. That’s not it but it’ll come.

There’s my family and they are not here obviously, but I’m surrounded by ladies. I have a lot of ladies in my life. And when they have friends over, it just multiplies the female gender in my life. And so, I have to make sure my testosterone is at the correct levels. There’s actually scientific studies that they say, if you’re around women a lot and a husband or father have lots of daughters, they notice changes. And so, I have accountability partners in my life that make sure things are good, so I thought I just bring that up right now.

But the woman on the far left, that’s my wife. We just celebrated our… actually not just, we’re about to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. And her name is Candace. She’s the love of my life. She’s my best friend. And we just had a 20-year anniversary last fall, and we just went to Italy last month for two weeks. And we had to see that on the Sistine Chapel and that was just phenomenal. It was such a wonderful trip, but we’ve been married for almost 21 years.

And the one next to her, that’s my oldest daughter Kennedy. She just graduated high school earlier this month. And she is working for a dentist in town, and she’s enrolling to… at the moment, enrolled to do dental hygiene. So she wants to be a dental hygienist, and so my dental bills are about to become nothing at some point in my life, praise God. But she is one of the kindest, sweetest, people you’ll ever meet. She just loves people. It brings her life. And when you put people around her and kids around her, she is just the kindest sweetest person in the world, and it’s really fun to see what the Lord is doing in her life right now.

And the one next to her that is Saila [SP]. She is the tallest of all the women in the house, and she like to make that point. And she’s actually… this is a couple years old, she’s actually of my height right now, and she is so excited about passing me up. And I said it won’t happen. The Lord told me it wouldn’t happen. No, I don’t know. She’s my 16-year-old, and she’ll be graduating high school next year. She actually just landed. She’s been texting me like crazy. She just landed in Brazil. She is there for two weeks with Randy Clark, with one of his mission trips.

And we’re so excited for her because I remember I went with Randy Clark to Brazil in 1998, and my wife will tell you the story, but I came back a different person. And so, we’re just praying for Saila that she would just get absolutely rocked by God. But I have to tell you a story about Saila. Saila is a lot…when I met my wife and we got married, it was always in mind that I wish I knew my wife as a little girl. I’d always tell Candace, “I wish I knew you when you were a little. You were probably the funniest…you know, just I wanna see you when you were little.”

And so, God gave us Saila. So Saila is my youngest, and she is a replica of my wife. When she was five years old, she was sitting on the couch one day and she is ranting and raving and she’s upset. She’s five, and she’s mad about something, and she wasn’t making a whole lot of sense. So she’s just upset. She had her toys around her and she’s just kind of upset. We finally sat down and said, “What’s going on?” And she was really mad that all of her toys were made in China.

She was upset. She kept grabbing all the toys and showing the tags and it said, “Made in China or made in Tay-land,” she called it…instead of Thailand, she would say Tay-land. And she was just really irate about the fact that none of her toys were made in Redding, our city. And she was upset about that and I remember pulling my camera out or my phone, I can’t remember what I had at the time, and was recording…she found it the other day, it’s so cute. Her being mad at five actually was so cute. It was actually fun to watch her. And she came up with this plan all on her own. She said, “I wanna put Redding on the map,” and she’s, “I’m gonna make things, and then I’m gonna find famous people to wear them.”

And at that time, the most famous person in her life was my mom, her grandma, Benny. So she said, “And Grandma Benny is gonna wear it, and then everybody is gonna look at her and wanna buy it.” And I’m like man, she got the creative going. She got the business and the marketing. I looked to my wife and I said there’s our retirement plan right there. And honestly, that’s her. She wants to make unapologetically and we fully support it, she wants to make a lot of money in her life. I’m like, “You go, girl. You do it. You go make all that money and don’t forget who fed you all those years.”

So that’s my family, and they say hello. My wife, I’ve yet to bring my wife to South Africa. She wants to come, but we have some stuff in the schedule that just couldn’t allow her to be freed up. And so, my wife and I run the church together, so she’s very much…we actually…I tell people if she’s the pastor’s wife, then I’m the pastor’s husband, and that really is our approach. And people always comment on just the health of the church right now as far just the level of community doing life together. And we have a large church, so trying to build community and life in the context of a large church is a lot of work.

And you know, larger families have to work harder at getting together, it’s just the way it is. But I do credit a lot of that to my wife. She just had to get an anointing on her life to crack that code. And it’s been so fun to run with her especially the last seven years of when we stepped in to take over the church. And so, anyway, she’s home taking care of the home front. Well, I’m excited to be with you for the next few days, and to be here with the Hazletts is such a treat. We love having them come to our church and they’re such a blessing to our house.

I have specific things I wanna cover tonight, but I do need to make sure you guys are ready to do a little bit of heavy lifting. Can we do some heavy lifting on the first night? Okay, apparently not. Can we do some heavy lifting on the first…Some of you are like, “No, I don’t know if I wanna work too hard tonight.” Well, you’re going to. I have the mic. No, but I have three sessions with you guys and a kind of a pretty clear picture of what I wanna do with each one. And tonight, I would like to try to create a framework in line with the conference, in line with the theme of this event, I definitely wanna stay in that line.

And I wanna create some frameworks around this idea of Renaissance. You know, we were just in Italy for two weeks, and one of the fascinating things about seeing…and we didn’t bring our kids, you know, which was obviously fun for us. But the reason I say that is we’re able to do museums and the see stuff without teenagers complaining about being in the museums. It was wonderful. And so, we went to Paris with them and that was an interesting experience, and they did okay, but we definitely killed them with museum. They hate museum, they despise them. They don’t look at them anymore.

So anyway, we were there for a couple of weeks in Italy, and it was so fun to see a lot of the stuff during the Renaissance, and what it did. One of the things I observed that was really fascinating is that they used in that context of art and creativity to tell the narrative, to tell the story of God. It was fascinating. You can look at one painting and it would tell you the story from the beginning to the end. It was so intriguing that one of the biggest things about the Renaissance was to tell the story of the gospel, to tell the story of our Father.

And so, when we talk about renaissance in today’s age, I feel like one of our mandates is not a new one, it’s one that’s being brought back up. One of our responsibility as believers is to tell the narrative of a good God, is to demonstrate it, is to live it, to experience it. I don’t care what field you’re in. I don’t care what we do with our lives. One of your primary privileges in life is to reveal him, it just is. And I wanna hit that from several different angles tonight.

Tonight’s message is actually called Church and Culture. And I wanna unpack five things that I’m gonna just call fundamentals. The reason why I call them fundamental is, is there more than these five things? I’m sure of there are. It’s been a definitive absolute theologically led. But these are five things that we have found that are crucial and instrumental to actually engaging with culture, and seeing things transform.

This morning, we’re with a bunch of great men and women at a breakfast this morning, and we were talking about revival has to look like something. It needs to move not just a… again, revival can mean something different to every person in this room. In America in a Western concept especially in America, revival typically means a tent in the middle of a field, and you have day and night meetings for weeks on end. And that’s typically what most Americans think of revival, but revival to me is when something that was dead is now made alive again.

And so, we talk about revival being revived, how many in this room have had a revived experience at some point in your life? Where you were not doing well, God encountered you and you came brand new all over again. Some of you, it was your salvation experience. Some of you, it was your second salvation experience, and just a revival. And then when God hits a corporate body of people, and people are being revived, it has to go somewhere. The natural progression of revival is to move into transformation and reformation. It’s not one or the other, it should be all three.

And that’s the danger of the church, is our terminology had actually hindered us from moving on a natural progression of once God touches you. One of the great stories in Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah is he…there’s a story where he eats the scroll, the word of the Lord. He actually eats the scroll and ingested it. And then, the next question, God said, “Who’s gonna go to the nation?” And guess who was the first person to raise their hand, Isaiah. So when Isaiah was impacted by God, he was the first one to say I’m going.

And so, there has to be an outflow, an expression of when the Lord touches, you there’s nothing wrong with soaking, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with God. In fact, you should do it more than you ever have. At the same time, there should be an outward expression of when you are touched by the Lord. It is a normal Christian response, a disciple of Jesus Christ to say what am I gonna do with this that I have now been given?

And it concerns me when the church or Christians, they have these amazing encounters with the Lord, and there isn’t an inclination at all to do something with it. All we wanna do is it keep it to ourselves. That deeply concerns me because it eventually would turn into a swamp. It would turn into a bog. And when water comes in and doesn’t flow out, it’s a really bad situation. It’s not healthy. It’s not natural and it’s essentially not normal for the believer.

Now, I wanna challenge you. If you’ve been touched by the Lord, it’s normal to go, “What do I do with this? How do I let this thing out? What do I do with myself?” That is normal. So we should be expecting even more that when people get touched by the Lord in our church, in our home, in our lives, that they might leave and go do something. That should be a normal thing, and so for our environment, we have a…it’s not a negative thing of a highly transient environment.

What I mean by that is people come in for a season and they’re going, and it’s a process because you get deep, deep connection with people. But at the same time, it’s normal. Why? Because they’ve been touched by the Lord and they’ve got to do something with it. And so, my challenge today or tonight is to create somewhat of a framework that help you and I and essentially help the church of this country to engage with culture like maybe they’ve never had before.

And so, I wanna give you some fundamentals, and fundamentals are important because if you can build on these fundamentals…My wife was really into gymnastics growing up. I actually didn’t think it was a legitimate sport. I really didn’t. I thought…who cares about when they do all that stuff. And the Olympics came on, like big, yep, you know. There’s no skill set involved. That was my very naive myopic… I’m just being honest with you. Very naive and myopic until I met my wife and I realized I am so naive on this.

And I realized that gymnastics is really one of the most important foundational sport for pretty much anything. So it shows you how naive I was. So nonetheless, my wife put our kids in gymnastic which at that time, I wasn’t convinced yet. And as she took a few years…and I’ll tell you why because I’m paying this guy money to teach my kids how to do somersaults. They do it at home with no coach, but yet I’m paying this guy 100 bucks a month, to teach my kids to do what they already do a home.

And I remember for months and even a couple of years went by and I’m like, “What is going on?” I didn’t tell my wife this. I’m smarter than that. But inside, I thought this is a waste of money. They’re doing nothing. They’re just doing their little motion. I wanna see the back handspring. I pay a lot of money to see back handsprings and all the vaults and stuff. That’s what I wanna see when they’re five years old. And so, that’s honestly my thought process. So little by little, what are they doing, they’re building these little fundamentals, and then one day they begin to put all the fundamentals together, and they’re able to do back handsprings in their sleep.

So there’s something about fundamentals, that when you take them separate and you divide them out, they look boring. They’re not fun, but when you put them together, you get a motion that’s very effective and impactful. So I wanna give you five fundamentals that I think will be helpful. The first one is you must have God’s narrative on humanity. I heard this recently. We live in a Genesis 3 world, with the Genesis 1 blueprint with the trajectory to Revelation 21. It’s a beautiful description of where we’re at.

So let me say it again, we live in a Genesis 3 world, with a Genesis 1 blueprint, with a trajectory to a Revelation 21 future. It’s a beautiful image, but I want to talk about the narrative of God. God’s narrative on humanity is crucial. We have to ask the question, do we have a generation one narrative on humanity or do you have a generation… am saying generation, Genesis 1 narrative or Genesis 3 narrative? Genesis 1 the image of God, the creation, Genesis 3 is the fall of man and the introduction of sin to mankind.

And I think all of us say Genesis 1, but then we don’t realize oftentimes we actually view a lot of humanity through Genesis 3. And we have to actually go back and get a Genesis 1 narrative on humanity. Years ago, the senior leadership team, we had this retreat and we were in San Francisco and we were about to do a Segway tour. Do you guys know what Segways are? Is that what you call them here? Segway those little two-wheel things you stand on? And Banning and my wife…my wife and I Banning and CJ, we wanted to take…so my dad and mom Kris and Kathy, Danny and Sherry, Paul and Sue, I mean the whole senior team, one of our activities on this retreat was to do a Segway tour.

And you put on this really dorky neon vest and helmets. You feel like a total dork, but once you’re on those things, it is so much fun. So we’re waiting for our tour, and right next to the place where we get our Segway, there’s an art gallery. And I love design. I love art. I love getting into all that. I’m not a connoisseur by any means to art, but I do appreciate a lot of art. And so, let’s go into this art gallery real quick. We walked into this art gallery and honestly it was one of the worst art galleries I had ever been to.

It was horrible. I don’t know why people would even buy anything in this art gallery. And the room was about this size and so, on the walls, white walls, white floor. There was really nice lighting. And there’s all these paintings on the wall, and I remember looking at every painting and the price tags were just like…they did not make sense at all. And I remember thinking to myself this is horrible painting, I didn’t like any of them. And in the middle of the outer gallery, they had this platform, and they had a big chunk of metal sitting on top of it.

And it looked like someone went to like a junkyard, a metal yard and grabbed a bunch of old metal, rusty metal, and welded it together and put it on top of the pedestal. And all these lights are on it. That was their masterpiece. That was like their main piece. I remember thinking this is…I didn’t enjoy it one bit. And soon thereafter, we ended up going home, and in Sunday night worship, if you’ve never been to Bethel, on this side of the stage, most services we have painters that are doing prophetic art during worship.

And so, one Sunday night there was a couple people up front, and there was one gal who was painting this painting. And again, it was a really…in Eric’s opinion, was not a great piece of art. It felt like it got worse and worse. You know, a lot of art starts in the beginning like, I don’t know what’s going on here, and then it kind of turns into something beautiful. Not this one, it was reverse. It was better with the white canvas, that was…and it just got worse, and worse, and worse, and worse. And I remember in worship, I’m like, “I can’t even look at it, it’s bad.”

I couldn’t even lift my head…no, I’m just kidding, like it wasn’t that bad. But I remember critiquing and not liking this painting at all during the whole worship. And so, worship was over. I forget who spoke that night. The service is over and I thought, I wanna go get a closer look at this painting. So I walked over and our stage is about this tall and I’m standing on the ground and I’m looking up at this painting. And I’m having an inner dialogue about this painting, about how much I don’t like this painting. And then, this person came and stood next to me, guess who stood next to me?

The gal that was painting the painting I didn’t like, and I’m like I’m so glad I said nothing out loud. And so, I sat there I’m looking…she’s standing there and I’m looking at it and I said, “Can you tell me what you were thinking when you painted that?” But I said it in the right tone, I wasn’t sarcastic. “What were you thinking?” No, I didn’t do that. I said tell me what was going on, like explain this painting to me? And she began to tell me what would…I don’t remember what it was but I noticed the transformation in seconds that I went through.

I went from not liking this painting at all to critiquing it like, this is horrible. And in a moment as she was telling me her story, what she felt like God was showing her, in a moment I went to, “Wow, that is a really beautiful painting,” like in moment. What happened? I got the artist narrative on the painting, I didn’t leave it up to my narrative.

And oftentimes, when we engage with humanity, we have our own narrative of humanity. We don’t have God’s narrative of humanity. I tell our people I say, please, don’t engage with our city if you don’t have a Genesis 1 perspective. If you have a Genesis 3 perspective, your impact will only be this much, but it won’t be this much. Because you’ll actually abuse people. You will walk in as the superior mindset. Christianity was never designed to make you superior. It was never designed to make you better. It was actually designed to have eternity with him, those are all given, but it is designed to actually serve humanity more than you ever were allowed to.

The transition from law to grace was not…it wasn’t the law. Most of the time we think about the law as what you can’t do, don’t do this, don’t do this. There’s also a whole another set of laws that have to do with you can only do this much. You only go one mile. Don’t go another mile. And that’s why Jesus said, “Oh, go the extra mile,” like go farther than what the law tells you your limits are. So what grace does, grace enables you to serve humanity where the law would never allow you to. So we have to have a kingdom perspective of the entire conversation. And so, I tell our people listen, if you’re gonna go in with a Genesis 3 mentality, you’ll have one ambition, but if you go in with a Genesis 1 mentality you’re bringing the kingdom. And so, God’s narrative on humanity is crucial.

The second thing I wanna talk about, there’s two that I really wanna focus on but maybe kind of go through the second one. The second one is Jesus is not a set of beliefs, he is a person, he’s a relationship. And when humanity gets the conversation that Jesus is just a set of beliefs, this is why the conversation of, well, what’s the different with that belief system, to that belief system, to that belief system? We have to learn to introduce Jesus as a person. We have to learn to introduce…we have to make sure we have a relationship with Jesus as a person not just a belief system.

And oftentimes we start out with a relationship with the Jesus and it gets reduced down to a belief system. Now, to say there isn’t a belief system is not accurate as well. There is a belief system attached to this because our belief system is shaped by the person of Jesus. But we don’t ever leave that to end up with a belief system. We must stay in a relational context. I understand I’m preaching to the choir. I get that. But at the same time, the world, all they hear is a belief system. They don’t get the person of Jesus. So we have to really rethink how we tell people and reveal the nature of God.

The third area that I wanna spend a little bit time on and the last one, we’ll get there in just a few minutes. The third area is…it has to do with the phrase of Bob Jones. I heard the story from Bobby Conners. Anybody know Bobby Conners? If you don’t know who Bobby Conners is he’s a world known prophet, good friend of the house. He kind of largely came out of a morning star movement and I believe he’s living in Texas right now. I don’t know if there’s a Bob. If your name is Bob, you’re like a prophet. Just God said all Bob’s prophet, Bob Jones, Bobby Conners, Bob Hartley, Bob Hadlet [SP]. I mean there’s just a lot of Bob’s going around. So name your kid Bob. If you have another kid, just name him Bob. I don’t know what the next generation to prophet names are but Bob seems to be working.

Bob Jones passed away just a few years ago on Valentines Day, and he is another well-known, respected prophet. And Bob was obviously older and Bobby is younger than Bob, and this was in I think 1970… somewhere in the 1970s. They were doing an event together and Bob Jones was staying in one room, and the younger Bobby Conners was staying in another room. And Bobby Conners wanted to check on Bob just to make sure he was doing okay. This has been the ’70s. And so, Bobby Conners walked down the hall, knocked on the door to Bob Jones to find out how he was doing and no one answered the door.

So he got a little concerned. So he opens the door and he looks across the room and he sees Bob Jones in front of a window looking outside in the middle of a trance, an encounter. He’s frozen. And so, Bobby Conners was like, “Oh, shoot, I just interrupted this encounter.” So he went to shut the door. In that moment, Bob Jones turned around and looked at Bobby, and said, “I just met the strangest man I have ever met in my life, and no church culture would ever accept him.” And the person that Bob Jones meant was Jesus Christ.

And he begin to share with Bobby what he saw. He saw a man integrate and interface with every level of society from top to bottom and left to right, seamlessly. One moment, he is hanging out with prostitutes, the next moment he’s in the temple teaching scholars, as an uneducated man teaching scholars about the law and about the books, and about the Word of God. And then, the next moment, he’s multiplying food for 5,000, 15,000 people, and then the next moment he’s doing something else. And here, you have this man that is able to interfaith with society. He was not underneath any religious spirit or any political spirit. He actually arose above it, and hence comes the phrase “He’s the strangest man I’ve ever met, and no church culture would ever accept him.”

You see, in the kingdom, you’re not guilty by association. You’re not guilty by association in the kingdom. In the world, you are, who you’re associated with that’s the religious and the political spirit. They look to see who you associate with and you’re infinitely locked up with the group, and you’re associated with them, and you begin to create this divide. And that’s what the religious spirit, the religious spirit is based a lot on what you know, and so what are your beliefs? So this is why denominations fight. This is why camp and ships [SP] fight, about what do you believe? What do we believe? What’s the difference?

The political spirit is driven by an entirely different…same principle, but entirely different animal, who you’re associated with, and what can I do to elevate my status and stature in your eyes. And so, for you to be recognized as a drunk and a wine bimber [SP] and you hang out with prostitutes with some nasty association. And Jesus was constantly associated with drunks and prostitutes, and people of that status. Obviously, Jesus could care less. He was able to interface and seamlessly interact with all different levels of society, top to bottom, left to right. And no church culture would accept him. And TD Jakes said this recently, he said, “We would have to teach Jesus how to do church.” If Jesus was alive today, we’d have to teach him how to do church because he wouldn’t fit.

So if you really wanna understand how to impact culture, you have to study the life of Jesus. You have to actually get into the depths of it. Beyond just those miracles and the things that happened, you have to get into what was the operating system of this man? We call it Kingdom and that’s essentially what it was, but what was that operating system? Why did he not care about those things? Why did he just kind of oblivious…seemingly oblivious to the political pressure and the religious pressure? It’s easier said than done, if I might add.

So here, you have this man that’s able to navigate…and he didn’t just…We often think Jesus stepped into a time in history that was an easy time in history. It was one of most complex religious times in religious history was that moment Jesus stepped in. And he was able to navigate it. He was able to not be affected by at least to a majority of the degree. And here, you have this man that’s able to not be driven by political pressure or religious spirit, and he was able to rise above it, why? Because he knew that he was not associated with that, that in the kingdom you’re not guilty by association.

This a challenge for the church today. We have people in our churches that are doing things that are outside of the box, and a lot of leaders and pastors are scared of what are people going to think. And we’ve got a culture that’s based around fear. We’ve got a culture that’s based around…we don’t wanna say it. We don’t wanna admit it, but there’s a religious spirit and a political spirit at the underlying of that thought process. What are people gonna think if I cross the street and go do that thing? Is anybody watching me right now?

We’ve got this awareness, and essentially at the end of the day, it is the fear of man at the end of the day. And Jesus was able to not be fazed by, he just kinda went about life in a normal kingdom way. So I wanna challenge you. We have to understand the operating system that Jesus operated by. It’s vastly different than what we are being taught in church today. And not to be negative or critical, we are just not taught that, and my passion is to see people actually break the barrier to break the mold, crack the code of what it looked like to engage with culture.

Now, there are legitimate fears. There are legitimate… what happens if they get too deep in culture and they no longer are an influence, but they are now being influenced? That’s a very legitimate conversation, especially as a leader of a church, I got people in our house, they’re like, “I wanna go do this.” And I’m thinking through, “Okay, do they have the character that’s strong enough to withstand the pressure of that particular setting or environment?” It doesn’t mean we don’t talk about that anymore. It doesn’t mean we ignore that reality. It doesn’t mean, oh yeah, just go for it. Hope it turns out good for you.

It does not mean that, but it does mean we have to have a different way of thinking especially for leadership, and that we do life with each other to allow here, what do we do to prepare people for that culture? And we’re trying to get everybody to fit into a church context and that’s not going to be the case. I said this this morning, I’m repeating myself, but our goal isn’t to gather everyone under one roof. Our goal is to gather everyone under one Father. That’s our goal. Our goal is to reveal the nature of God everywhere we go, so Jesus was able to do that.

All right. You guys still with me? I’m gonna fly through these. The fourth one and then we’re gonna spend a little bit of time on the fifth one. The fourth one, it has to matter. In Nehemiah Chapter 1:4, it says this, “Nehemiah wept.” I think it’s one of the powerful verses in the book of Nehemiah. This is just my opinion. I don’t know if the book of Nehemiah would exist if Nehemiah Chapter 1:4 ever happened.

Now, the first three verses is very simple, basically, Nehemiah’s home city had been destroyed, word got back to Nehemiah. And who was Nehemiah? He was a servant to the king. He was one of the highest level of servants. He was the guy that tasted the wine, which is a pretty good job, by the way, to taste the best wine in the world, especially at that time. But at the same time, it’s very precarious and dangerous because if someone spiked the wine or poisoned it, Nehemiah would die because he would taste it first to make sure the King never got…you get the point.

So Nehemiah had a very unique position. So Nehemiah hears news that his hometown had been destroyed. And then verse four comes, “And Nehemiah wept.” This is just my paraphrase, I think all of heaven stopped and God said, “Michael, Gabriel look at this. This man wept for his home city. I wanna use him to rebuild that city.” Now, do I think you have to weep for your city? Maybe not necessarily, but I do believe there has to be an emotional response to when your city is not doing well, it has to matter to you. And we have a lot of the church that is in an old paradigm of us and them.

Our mission statement say it. Our actions say it. Our private conversations say it. It’s very us and them, and we have to get out of that and get into a we conversation, not a us and them conversation. And so, Nehemiah, it actually mattered to him and then God said, “There’s my man,” and sent him and the rest is history. Took I think less than three months or two months to rebuild a city that took decades nobody could even figure out how to rebuild a city in decades. And it took one man that mattered to him and the resources of heaven and I think they rebuilt it in like 60 days or 70 days, I forget the exact number. I got numbers in my head.

So what’s the point? It has to matter to you. If your city does not matter to you, I don’t wanna be crass but maybe that’s one reason why you’re not helping your city. If your nation doesn’t matter to you, if it doesn’t bother you that something’s not right, then I don’t know if God wants… maybe he would. I don’t wanna be too crass and hard, but I just wanna make it simple point. It has to actually matter to you. When you read the newspaper about your city, your country, does it affect you or is it, “Yeah, those people”?

What’s the inner dialogue that you have? What’s the dialogue that you have with your staff and your teams? Is your church the hiding place from the rest of the world? Or is it a place to raise up people to change cities? What is it? We have to make these decisions on how we do our structures, our budget, our leadership style. We have to change the way we do things. We talk a lot about affecting cities, but we change nothing in the process. So we have to look at things very differently if we want to actually engage in culture, vastly differently than what we’ve known.

And this is the kind of season that we live in. I’m a sixth generation pastor on my dad’s side, and I’m fourth generation Christian on my mom’s side. I have five options growing up, apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, evangelist, those are my options. That last part was a complete joke but it’s always fun saying it. I was surrounded by the church. I grew up in church. I was not born on a pew but literally was. I’ve just been in the church my entire life and I can tell you today, as a 42-year-old man, what I’m seeing happen in the church today, in the context of we’re not running from the world now, we’re actually going into it.

And that’s happening in the last 5, 6, maybe 10 years for some, but the last five years there’s been a drastic shift in the church’s approach to their cities and nations. And so, I wanna just say this. It has to actually matter to you. Are you falling more in love with humanity? Are you falling more in love with your city as you get older? Or is your heart getting harder and calloused as you get older? If it’s the latter then you might need to have an encounter with the Lord to change that.

The fact that Jesus would give his life at the end of a horrific three years of ministry, phenomenal three years of ministry from a bizarre signs and wonders, no man has ever seen happened in those three years. But it was also one of the most challenging, religiously, politically, the amount of pressure that Jesus endured for three years. And at the end of all of that, he still said I’m gonna give my life for everyone. What did that reveal? That he actually… I don’t know if this is theologically accurate, so give me some slack when I say it. But I often wondered did Jesus fall more in love with humanity by the end of his three years than how he started. I don’t know if that’s theologically accurate but my point is that he didn’t lose any love.

Actually, his heart got bigger, and I wanna challenge you as you get older in the Lord, and in your city, are you falling more love with your city? Or are you getting more hardhearted toward your city? Are you falling more in love with humanity? Or are you getting more hardhearted towards humanity? Are you guys still with me?

Together: Yeah.

Eric: Okay. The last one that I wanna cover tonight. I told you we’re gonna cover a lot of stuff. This one we need to open the Bible, so let’s go to Daniel Chapter 1. We’re gonna spend a little bit of time in Daniel Chapter 1, and I wanna unpack really… oops, I almost walked right off the stage there. The carpet is the same color I didn’t…

Daniel Chapter 1, we’re gonna read a very well-known story especially for those of you that have been in the church for any length of time. If you are new to scripture and new to the story, this chapter is one of the greatest chapters. Thia book is phenomenal, the man Daniel is a personal hero of mine. Is he anybody else’s hero? Two of you, okay, that’s awesome. Well, I hope by the end of this night, he becomes one of your heroes.

Daniel, what he did, and I want to try to just capture a little bit of what he did in his lifetime, but I think is a blueprint of what the Lord is doing in modern day church. He is actually raising up Daniel. I don’t know if everyone called to be a Daniel, but there are ones that are called to be Daniels. And I wanna challenge you as we read this story. So let’s start in verse 1, Daniel chapter 1.

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.” Let’s stop right there. The word besieged, it’s an interesting word, but what it basically means a country came in and took over another country. I don’t think that was a, “Hey, you can have our country now” moment. This was a takeover of a country so this is potentially very violent, potentially very demanding. They took over their way of life. I wanna give you context. This was not a voluntary choice for another nation to come.

So sometimes we read scripture we don’t understand what’s actually happening in there, so they were besieged. It was taken over. So here, we have God’s people being taken over by the Babylonians which was a very demonic, anti-God culture and structure and belief system. Anti God in the most anti-God way especially in that day. In fact, when you say Babylon today, it’s like evil, that’s the dark side. This is what happened when Babylon came in and took over the nation of God, so this is not a pretty picture.

Verse 2, “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God. Which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god, and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.”

An absolute violation of their belief, I mean talk about disgrace, a violation of your belief system, basically going into your place of worship and pooping on everything. I’m trying to find a word to get you to realize the situation at hand. I mean they absolutely violated their places of worship, by bringing their artifacts of worship, and bringing it into their place to worship. Talk about… imagine that happening right now. This is an absolute violation involuntary in every way, then verse three gets even worse.

“Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of the eunuch to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the King’s descendant and some of the nobles.” Let’s stop right here. They went after the kids. Imagine an evil empire coming and taking your kids away from you, and putting them in what we would call their ministry school. And a Babylonian Empire teaching them the ways, and the culture, and the language of the Chaldean’s and the Babylonians. Every parent in this room would probably pass out, some of you might not even make it out alive.

We’re talking about an absolute ripping apart of society as we know it. This is the dynamic. This isn’t some cute Daniel story. This is absolute horrific situation here. Let’s keep reading. Verse 4, “Young men with no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, and quick to understand, who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace. And whom they might teach the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.”

Stop right there. So they’re very strategic, this king that comes in is very… Nebuchadnezzar is very strategic. He understood something of how to take over, and to re-culturize. He started with the young man in that culture, the children and he was going to raise them up. It was a three-year process of teaching and training that they would actually become the eventual governors and the leaders of the land, of teaching the Babylonian culture, not the culture of heaven.

This is not a school that you want to go to. This wasn’t like Daniel’s like, “Yay, I am excited.” No, this was a nasty situation. Are you guys still with me? Verse 5, “And the king appointed to them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank. And three years of training for them so that at the end of that time, they might serve before the king. Now, from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them, the chief of the eunuch gave names and he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah, Shadrach, to Mishael, Meshach, and to Azariah, Abednego.”

This is where we get the great story of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego. We get this amazing group. But Verse 8, is the verse that I wanna challenge you on tonight. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacy nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore, he requested of the chief of the eunuch that he might not defile himself.”

So here, we have an involuntarily horrific situation and Daniel and his three friends are now posed with the question to eat the king’s food. Now, it’s hard for us to understand how food is associated with the belief system, it’s so foreign especially to an American. It might be a little bit more understandable in this context, but for me, to have what you ate connected to your belief system is not a concept that we associate with today. But in this context, it was definitely built into your actual belief system.

So they were being asked to compromise on one of their main beliefs and that not to eat this kind of food. So Daniel had purposed in his heart to not defile himself. Now, what we’re really great at in the church, is making it clear what we’re not okay with. We are brilliant at like, “I won’t compromise there, I won’t compromise there, I won’t compromise there,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. The challenge that I wanna challenge with you tonight is this, is that Daniel stayed in the game. Most of the churches removes themselves from the game. Let’s read a little bit more and I’ll unpack that a little bit more.

Okay. I’m getting ahead of myself just here. Verse 9, “Now, God brought Daniel into the favor.” You notice it said, “Now, God brought him into favor”? When did he bring him into favor? After he recognized Daniel would not compromise. When he recognized Daniel’s not gonna compromise, okay, now I’m gonna give him a level of favor with his master. So sometimes we want God to give us favor before we engage and God’s looking for your heart. What’s your heart gonna do in those moments, and Daniel said I will not defile myself, I just refuse to do it. And God said I’m gonna give him my favor. So now, Daniel has the favor of the Lord with the master, so let’s keep reading.

“Favor and good will of the chief of the eunuch, and the chief of the eunuch said to Daniel, ‘I fear my lord the king who had appointed your food and drink but why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are of your age. Then you would endanger my head before the King.'” Now, we’ve got a problem, Daniel has favor. He has a no compromising attitude, and he tells the master of the eunuch this. And the master of the eunuch said, “Listen, if you don’t eat the food, then it’s off of my head. This isn’t gonna work.”

And I love this moment. I would love to be in the room and this conversation the fly on the wall. And this is the key moment for Daniel. Daniel comes up with a creative idea how to stay in the game, and this is his idea. “So Daniel…” and he’s a guy, so guys are gonna understand this, competition. All guys need is competition. We need a contest of some sort like, “I don’t wanna do this. Oh, it’s a contest? Oh, I’m in. I’m so in.” That’s just how guys… at least that’s how I operate.

“So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of eunuch has set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Please test your servant for 10 days, and let them give vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies, and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.'”

So Daniel comes with this idea. He refuses to cross the line but he creates an opportunity to stay in the game. So he said, “Listen, let’s do this. I won’t eat your food. My three buddies and I, we will not eat your food. Let’s do this for 10 days and at the end, you can make a judge or you can judge who looked better than the other.” Now, this is a fascinating story in so many levels but I never understood how you can eat vegetables and get fatter. It’s one of the mysteries of scripture I’m still trying to understand. And from my only conclusion is that vegetables today were not the same as they were then. Anybody know what I’m talking about?

Somehow he looked better about, that I would understand, but fatter, that doesn’t make any sense to me. “But nonetheless, at the end of 10 days,” in verse 15, “Their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the King’s delicacies. Thus, the steward took away their portion of the delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”

Before we move on, I really wanna implore with you. I want to get you to think we are so good at drawing the line at what we will not do. We are brilliant at it. We pride ourselves on it. We throw it up on the wall. We wear t-shirts about it. We have bumper stickers. We just project that we will not compromise, we refuse, and guess what? We are no longer in the game.

And what Daniel does, he breaks the code because he realized God had assigned him for a purpose in the midst of this horrific situation. And he realized God has called me here, so how am I going to stay involved in this game without compromising. And he comes up with a brilliant idea, so I wanna challenge you. Some of you are in positions right now that your environment is asking you to compromise, and we’re like, “I gotta leave. I gotta quit. I gotta move on.” No, you don’t. You actually don’t, maybe God has called you to be a Daniel in that environment.

I have a guy right now, a really close friend of mine. He is a CEO of a fashion company, a global fashion company that some of you would bother you to know that he’s the CEO of it. Most of the church doesn’t know what to do with Daniel. One Daniel leave and go to a context and serve an evil context. We in the church are like, “We gotta cut off. We can’t have this.” So we fail to raise up Daniel’s… actually, let me back up. We raised up Daniel and then we cut them off and leave them for good. Because they’re doing practices and operations that don’t fit your paradigm. And I understand a lot of you have five questions, well, what about this, what about this? I get all the question and I don’t have time to answer all of them because I don’t know all the answers to it.

But I do know this that God looks for Daniel. Why would God… think about it God raises a man up to serve a man that hates him. That is mind blowing to you. It’s mind blowing that God would raise up a man to serve a man that hates God, like he’s setting up an entire culture and society that’s anti-God in every way, and God is like, “I want you to serve that guy because he hates me.” It is so mind blowing. We can’t do that today. We’re like, “No, no, they’re a part of that denomination, or they’re a part of that company, we can’t do that. That guy is like the devil, no way we will serve him.”

And God didn’t seem to have a problem with it. He’s like, “No, that’s what I want you to do. That’s your assignment. Go do that. I want you to serve Nebuchadnezzar, make him look like a genius,” and we’re like, “God, we can’t do that. We can’t make Nebuchadnezzar look like a genius.” Then how do you explain that and Joseph and the millions of other stories? So we’ve got to get a new operating system of what this looks like. We have to take a step in the realm of the unknown in the church.

We’re like out of this world. I don’t know but we’re gonna figure out if we just keep moving forward. And one thing I noticed in this story, every time Daniel took a step, God gave him more favor. Now, you won’t compromise, okay, I trust you. He gives him favor, and in this moment, when they win the contest look what happened next.

In verse 17, “And the four young men God gave them knowledge, skill, and all literature and wisdom and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” They didn’t have that before that moment and God was like, okay, so every step they took, God gave them the skill set necessary to thrive in the next season. And we’re like we can’t go until we know. No, sometimes you have to take a step. Oh, now, I have what’s necessary to do it. And a lot in the leaders in the church are like, “I don’t know if we can do this.” You have to because someone else is occupying that space. And if we don’t actually invade that space, someone else will, and they will shape culture that you live in.

And because of our desire to leave this planet, because of our passion to escape this place, someone else took up the seats of influence and occupied these places in culture. And the church is waking up like what have we been doing for 50 years? We’ve been trying to escape this place and God is actually talking about to go into this place. So that’s why it’s exciting for this day and age people of the church to begin to wake up, wait a minute here, we’ve been escaping, and God has not told us to escape. He told us that I should go into the world. The escape part, we just gotta say, that’s gonna happen sometime, someday, and we should all be excited about it, and I am very excited.

But in the meantime, that’s not my assignment, my assignment is how do I get into places in culture. You can tell you’re a lot like Jesus when you’re invited to the parties, you can. This is fascinating that Jesus talked about don’t sin, repent, you’re sinning stop. He was preaching amazing no sin messages. And the people he was preaching to wanted to be with Jesus, that’s not very normal. It’s not normal for the guy that’s preaching against your lifestyle and you’re, “Hey, can you come over? I like you. I wanna hang out with you.” That doesn’t happen today very often, so I think one of the signs of what we’re going to see, and I’m speaking metaphorically for the most part, that you’re going to be invited into their space, why? Because you benefit them.

That’s what Daniel did, Nebuchadnezzar goes, “I like this guy.” I don’t know what it is about him, whether it is the favor of the Lord, and his ability to interpret all visions and dreams that he got in this moment. And Nebuchadnezzar is like, “I like this guy. He benefits me. Whatever he touches, it benefits me.” So he brought Daniel closer and closer and closer. It’s interesting that we don’t wanna benefit people that don’t know God. Why would we make them look like a genius? That’s not the Bible. No, it is the Bible, almost a chunk of the Old Testament emphasizes that.

I’m getting a little bit passionate, and I might get a little bit more. Let’s keep reading, the story just gets better. Verse 18, “Now, at the end of the days when the king had said they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs…” Sorry, verse 18. “The chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all, none was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore, they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, about which the king examined them, he found them 10 times better.”

That’s pretty significant, not twice better, but 10 times better than everyone else. Verse 21, “Thus, Daniel continued until the first king of Cyrus.”

Now, in Daniel Chapter 3, what’s in Daniel Chapter 3? Two chapters later is Daniel in the lion’s den. How many know that story? One of the most well-known Bible stories in the Bible. That happened about 16 to 17 years after Daniel Chapter 1. Why is that important? Because Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego 17 years later of living in a demonic driven culture, an anti-God culture. Just about every fabric of that society was repelling to God, and they lived in it for 16, 17 years, and a crazy day showed up.

Nebuchadnezzar woke up one day and think, you know what I wanna do? I wanna build a huge statue that resembles me and force everyone to worship that statue. Talk about an egocentric individual, talk about a guy that has some issues. He needed a few Sozos, he needed a few…he needed help. And in the midst of that moment, Daniel and his three friends refused to bow down. What does that tell me? That you can actually live in an anti-God culture and not compromise even 17 years later.

And we’re still, “I don’t know if I can do it.” No, we can. We just have to take steps. It doesn’t mean we jump 20 steps, we take one step and let’s see what the Lord gives us to equip us for that situation. Okay. That’s Daniel Chapter 3. Daniel Chapter 6 is what? Daniel and the lion den, the other crazy story. You guys know that story? This is I think the second or third king later, so now we’ve got regimes. This isn’t one guy. This is multiple regimes that are spiralling out of control of being anti-God. This is 67 to 70 years after Daniel Chapter 1.

How many are 70 in this room? It’s as long as you’ve been alive Daniel been living in the Babylonian Empire. And this law comes out because some men recognized that Daniel still worshiped the true God. And they said, “We’ve gotta get this guy. He’s been around here too long. He’s lasting through all the administration of the Babylonian Empire.” And somebody said, “We’ve gotta get rid of this guy. He’s a problem.” And so, they tricked the king at that time to get a law into place, and the law was this, anybody that worships you in this span of time… sorry, anybody that doesn’t worship the king in this span of time, we’re gonna throw them in jail.

And the king’s like, “That’s a brilliant idea. I like that one.” So he signs the law, and Daniel hears and about it. Daniel goes up to his apartment, opens his windows and has a prayer meeting, worship meeting where everyone can see him. Think about that for a moment, 70 years in an evil empire and he still will not compromise. He still won’t violate his value. In fact, he got more overt about his values like, okay, I get that this is it for me. And he throws his hands up and worship, and the guy that forced the king to write the law tricked him. They see Daniel. They grab and they go to the king to say, “King, you know, that law thing that you signed the other day about the worship things?” He’s like, “Yeah, I love that law. How’s that going? Is with everybody worshiping me right now?” I’m trying to think of that conversation. It’s a fascinating conversation. And they said, “Yes, it’s going really well except we caught one guy. He wasn’t worshiping you. He was worshiping the God with a capital G.” And he’s like, “Really? Who’s that?

And they told the King it was Daniel, and the King’s heart broke, which tells you the relationship between this king who was evil, he was not a good guy. His affection and his love for Daniel, it broke his heart, that he could not pull out of the law because that would show him as a weak ruler. He had to follow through on the decree but it broke his heart. He didn’t just…Daniel didn’t just serve the King. They had an affectionate appreciation for each other that they would do whatever it takes to make sure the other one’s doing great. They would die for each other. And this king realized, oh no, that law I signed is throwing a good friend into prison.

And so, Daniel gets thrown in the lion’s den, and the rules are basically throw him in, and nobody makes it out of the lion’s den. That’s a pretty clear idea. The king is up all night. The next morning, the King shows up, and he yelled down to the lion’s den. He said, “Daniel?” and the reply, the resounding reply from the lion’s den was, “Long live the king.” Talk about the relationship, the affection. He served and loved an evil king. That is very challenging to do. That’s very challenging not to, just observe an evil king, but to be in his to governmental system and still love the guy when he’s making horrible decisions that are so anti-God in every way, but Daniel loved the man and the King loved him.

And so, the king was so excited to hear Daniel wasn’t eaten. So he pulled Daniel out of the lion’s den and they went and found the guy that wrote the law, the lawmakers, and they threw them into the lion’s den. And then the verse said this, “The bodies never touched the ground,” the lion just ate them, shred them to pieces.

I wanna implore with you, we live in a season right now learning how to engage with culture is going to be uncomfortable for a lot of you. And I know there’s legitimate questions, well, what about this, or what about that, believe me, I have those questions, and we are wrestling with them. There are things that we are doing back home with our family, with our church. What we’re doing in our city, we probably would have never done it 10 years ago because it was so far beyond what we understood. But as we’re getting more and more into a better understanding of what a kingdom looks like, we’re beginning to realize, oh, there’s no other option. We have to be engaged. We have to cross this line if you will. And the keys are not to compromise and to make sure you know who your daddy is.

It’s really simple but yet it’s more challenging, more easier said than done. So we live in a Genesis 3 world with the Genesis 1 blueprint, with the trajectory to a Revelation 21 future. All right. Make sure I’ve got everything out that I wanna get out. I wanna pray for you, and then I wanna pray for another group of people. If this resonates with you, if this… I know this was a fully loaded five-point which kind of violates all preaching classes they teach you, but I don’t care. I wanted to cover these five areas tonight.

And what I wanna do, this resonates with you. This is something that you’re like, “Yeah, that’s me,” and I wanna step into this in a greater way. I want you to stand because I wanna pray for you. If you’re in a position tonight where you actually want to engage with culture in a way that Daniel did, that Joseph did, even Nehemiah, even Jesus. Jesus interacted with culture that very much against what we call normal. I wanna pray for you all, and there’s a lot of you are standing.

So, Father… if you put your hand out in front of you like you’re receiving, I’m expecting an impartation. I’m expecting a download to take place. Some of you are getting rewired tonight. Some of you are mad at me right now because it violates…like, “What, what, what?” Good, I’m glad you’re mad because that’s my goal. I leave Saturday and your leadership can clean up the mess. And some of you are still in conflict like, “What about this? What about that?” I get all the dynamics. But I wanna pray for you that the peace of heaven would so radically touch you in such a way that you would realize this is your mandate. This is our mandate to actually engage and touch culture like we’ve never touched before.

And it’s going to require a different approach to how we do life in church. Is church a destination, or is church a launching pad? So, Father, I pray for everyone in this room tonight, that wherever they’re at in this journey, if they are fully embracing it, or if they’re not sure about it, or if they’re somewhere in between, I pray that the peace of heaven would rest on them tonight. We pray for the blueprint of Genesis 1 to get us to a Revelation 21 future, in the midst of living in a Genesis 3 world.

So I pray for every person in this room, there will be an actual impartation and a download of what it looks like to be a Daniel, to be the Joseph, to be the Nehemiah, to be like Jesus, where they’re seamlessly integrating with culture and society, and yet remaining true to who they were as a son and a daughter of the King. So I pray for every person in this room no matter how young, or how old, and what realm of influence they have right now. And I pray even tonight just in the next few days that they would find their mind shifting, their paradigms shifting. And we pray for an operating system like no other will be released tonight.

If you can put your hand on your neighbor real quick, and Father, I pray that you would nest them up really good. You would radically touch them, radically touch their life tonight. And we just pray that they would give more than what they came for in the next few days, give more than what they came for. And teach us how to thrive in darkness, teach us how to thrive in a culture that is anti-God, teach us how to thrive in the “Babylonian context.” Teach us how to thrive like Daniel where 70 years later we still refuse to compromise. That’s the generation of people that we want to see raised up in this hour. We pray for that to be released from the person on the right and our left. And everybody said. Amen

Together: Amen.

Eric: If you can grab a seat just for a moment. I wanna end with a testimony, and then I wanna pray for people that this resonates with, and I’ll make this really quick. I got a letter. This was earlier this year. And I got this letter and it was actually in a season of a chain of testimonies and we’ve been going after it increasingly this year specifically. And so, my wife and I did a conference in Norway the previous or last summer of 2017, and I got this letter in February.

“Dear, Eric. I’m not sure if you remember me. My name is Janina. Last year, when you visited Norway, you prayed for me at the Bible School, and since that day my life had become much better. I no longer have Aspergers. I have become more positive and responsible. I now have the ability to forgive people who have done me wrong through my life. I now work with the children in our church. I have reached new heights, etc., etc. In less than three months, I have lost around 33 pounds all of this would not have been possible, etc., etc.”

I prayed for this gal and I didn’t remember until she attached a picture to this letter. And the lady that gave me this letter, they said she was on a severe spectrum of Aspergers, and she would pretty much could not interact with any normal setting, and she was extremely separated. She was very shut down. She was a trapped hurt girl. And we prayed for her she’s been completely set free, and the woman that handed me this letter said, “You don’t understand. She is completely healed across the spectrum of Aspergers,” phenomenal

So that was in February. In March, the next month, we had one of our young men 14-year-old, his name is Simon. His family is from Canada. He was on this severe autistic spectrum. He could not be in a room like this. Anything with lights or heavy sound, or lots of people, he will shut down and hide until they had him in a special classroom and schooling. And it was so intent that the family was so desperate that they moved from Canada down to Redding simply to see if their son would get healed.

And so, he stood on our platform in March a month after I got this letter, on our platform in March, and gave a testimony. He’s 14 years old. His name is Simon and he began to tell a story of how he was addicted to pornography. His inner dialogue was around pornography, and this was his normal phrase, “I hate myself, and I hate everybody.” That was hidden inner dialogue, that was his world that he lived in. To make a very long story short, little by little over a period of time, I don’t remember the period of time, he is completely healed.

Gone to the doctor, the doctor said, “You’re no longer… there’s nothing autistic about you.” But that passion, that explosive nature, he still has that. And he stood up in front of our church and shared a testimony. And then he challenged anybody that had this stand to your feet right now, don’t be ashamed of it. And a ton of people stood up and we’ve been seeing increasing miracles of autism take place recently.

And then, this was last month, a gal was visiting from Atlanta Georgia and she said, “I gotta tell you a story, in 2015 your dad…” So my dad gave a word of knowledge about autism. I don’t remember the specifics and she’s visiting from Atlanta Georgia 2015. “And your dad gave his word,” and she said, “My son was severely autistic, was not in school. We did not have a normal life but any means and your dad gave a word of knowledge. We prayed over our son. He got completely healed.” That was 2015 and she was with us last month. She said, “My son is graduating from Georgia Tech University with honors.”

So we’re seeing dramatic miracles in the realm of Asperger, autism, and head trauma. So if that makes sense to any of you, if you wanna stand for someone else, I want you to stand for your family member or friend that fits any of the Asperger’s or autism, anything in that arena. I want you to stand to your feet, I wanna pray for you, and then I’m gonna hand the mic back over. We’ve seen the word breakthrough. It’s been so fun to see the level and the amount of breakthrough that we’re seeing in this specific area. If you’re sitting by someone that’s standing, just put your hand on them.

And my guess is that a lot of you are standing because of a family member or a friend, and if you’re standing because it’s for you then take this miracle for yourself or this prayer for yourself. So let’s pray together real quick. Father, based on these three testimonies, and the multiple other ones that we’ve been hearing about in the last several years of autism and Aspergers, we declare in the name of Jesus that you bring healing to every person standing or represented in this room right now. We declare whatever it is that needs to be healed, that needs to be fixed, that needs to be brought back into order. We declare life and healing over you in the name of Jesus. So we release the power and the blood of Jesus, the healing power will be released over you right now, and everybody said?

Together: Amen.

Eric: Amen

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Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson is the co-senior pastor of Bethel Church, in Redding, California, alongside his wife, Candace.

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