The Prophet of God on Saturday Night
I mentioned in a post a couple of days ago about how money robs prophets of God from prophesying. I asked the question, “Where are the prophets of God? Where are the John Wesley’s? Where are the Jonathan Edwards? Where are the D.L. Moody’s? Where are the Charles Spurgeon’s or the Samuel Chadwick’s or the Leonard Ravenhill’s?” I still wonder this today. I am convinced that the clergy-laity system has robbed the Church of her true prophets who would call God’s people to holiness, passion for Jesus, prayer, hungering for the Word of God, etc. So many prophets I am sure are like this fictional prophet in this post.
It’s Saturday night. All week Caleb Payton has been burdened in prayer. It started when he was reading from the Old Testament in Exodus 15:11 when Caleb encountered the holiness of God. This led him to study out the holiness of God in Scripture. He read nearly every passage on God’s holiness from the Old Testament to the New. He became burdened by the lack of holiness he saw in his own life and in the church. He began to pray in the midnight hours for the people of God to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). He began to plead earnestly with the Lord for the Spirit to help the people of God abandon vain pursuits, to forgive others, to become a people who love the lost and long to see them saved, and he prayed that the church leaders would truly fulfill Hebrews 13:7 and be examples of holiness to the disciples of Christ.
As Caleb studied, he knew that this Sunday he was expected to continue his series “Family Ties”. The series was based on several television families and Caleb was showing how God’s pattern for families was different from that. The cutting edge drama, the videos from movies and television programs, and the popular worship band had made the series one of his most popular. In reality, he had found the series online while viewing another church that he followed. The other church was three times the size of his church and so Caleb often checked in on the church to see what the lead pastor there was doing these days in terms of public speaking. Since Caleb had become the lead pastor of this church, the church had grown nearly every month. Giving was way up to the point that they were able to give Caleb a nice raise and hire a new student pastor with fresh ideas.
Yet all this seemed distant tonight as Caleb sat at his desk at his home. The powerful sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) had cut him hard. His encounter with God’s holiness had left him feeling bankrupt before God. He had “fasted” from television this week and had even missed one of the final episodes of “Dancing with the Stars” (which was one of his favorite shows). All this week he had been praying like he hadn’t prayed in years. He was so desperate for God that he even wept when he read in the local newspaper about a young girl dying when her family was hit by a drunk driver. He had wept for the family and even prayed earnestly for the young man who hit the family. He felt the compassion of the Lord for the lost and hurting for the first time in years (Matthew 9:36). Each day he would make his way to the church offices and instead of getting on the internet to see what other seeker churches were doing these days, he would fall on his face in his office and pray for the Lord to be glorified in His Church (Ephesians 3:20-21). He had fasted lunches instead of his usual business type lunches with big givers or influential leaders. He had spent time reading his Bible for the first time in months instead of reading a popular book that was causing buzz among evangelical churches. In his car, instead of listening to the radio, he would pray and sing songs unto God (Psalm 89:1). At the local stores he had done what he had not done in many years, he actually shared the gospel with a woman.
So tonight, with his Bible open to Hebrews 12:14, Caleb Payton wept and prayed and sought God. He knew that the Lord was telling him from studying the Bible this week to preach a hard message, a prophetic message on holiness. He knew from reading passages such as 1 Peter 2:11-12 that it was time to draw a line in the sand, to stop playing games with God, to stop sinning. He knew that he needed to boldly declare that as people of God, we must abandon sin (Romans 6:1-23). He felt the Spirit urging him on to preach without compromise.
But what to do about his sermon series? He knew that in reality it didn’t take much to prepare those lessons. After all, he was copying most of it from another church. He was even a member of a sermon site for pastors of like-minded churches that allowed him to download sermons and outlines all for a fair price. Caleb had not studied his Bible like he did this week in years. He would quote a few passages from the Bible here and there because they were a “Bible-believing church” but he rarely sat and allowed the Scriptures to pour over him like he had done this week. Caleb knew that he needed to preach what the Holy Spirit had been showing him this week. And yet he knew that such preaching would not be welcomed. He knew that his leadership team was composed of good business men, cutting edge thinkers but not truly Spirit-filled men of God. He knew that they would not warm up to him abandoning his sermon series that was bringing in people and money. A sermon on holiness would not be welcomed.
And yet Caleb opened up his iPad notebook and begin to make notes from his studies. For the first time in many years, the Scriptures poured from his soul. This sermon was born from anguish. This sermon was born from intercession. This sermon was crafted with tears. Like Robert Murray M’Cheyne or Robert Chapman or John Wesley or E.M. Bounds, Caleb Payton allowed the Spirit to move through him to bring forth His heart. After a few hours of study and writing, his iPad’s screen was covered in tears from this man of God breaking over the Word and over the condition of the souls under his care (1 Peter 5:1-4).
On that fateful Sunday morning, Caleb showed up early to pray. He went into his office, got on his face before God and again, wept for souls. He knew that many people would bring visitors to the church and yet he knew that his sermon was not going to be a “happy clappy” message but one of brokenness. He knew the Spirit would be there to bring holy unction but also strong conviction (John 16:8-11). He longed for that. He knew from Acts 3:19 that God would send times of refreshing once God’s children repented of their sins. He knew that repentance was viewed in Scripture as a gift from God (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10). So many people would be there today who needed a touch from God. So many marriages needed healing from men becoming born again and loving their wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). It had struck Caleb that week that his series on families would be solved from one touch from God. As C.S. Lewis had said, “One whisper from God is louder than all the voices of men.” The church needed God. They were busy like Martha but were so far from being like Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Caleb had prayed this week about the church’s prayer ministry which was non-existent essentially. They prayed but they never really sought God (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He knew that himself nor the church had obeyed Luke 18:1. He knew that neither himself nor his church was even close to Acts 12:5.
Yet today he sensed the presence of God as he prayed in his office. He knew in a few minutes the rush of the church would begin and the show would start. But today he pleaded with God to come in power (Isaiah 64:1-12). He asked God to anoint His Word and to use it to destroy the works of Satan (whom he had not thought much about in months). He prayed for the fire of God to be set ablaze in his heart and in the church. He prayed, for the first time in years, for the area churches to have a visitation of the Spirit this day. He longed for Pentecost (Acts 2)!
[Join me next time in finding out what happens next in my story about Caleb Payton and the making of this prophet of God].