John and Carol Arnott are the Founding Pastors and Presidents of Catch the Fire (formerly known as the Toronto...
It has been an absolute honour to minister to persecuted Christians in various nations in the Middle East over the past year. To see them willingly and happily comply with the biblical mandate to forgive, when their families have been brutally tortured and even killed, is very humbling and honouring to witness. It births such immeasurable freedom for them and brings a new light to the principle of loving your enemy. It has unsettled me and undone me to see God pour out his grace to help people forgive, despite great suffering and persecution.
My definite highlight was on an International Leaders School of Ministry in India with persecuted Christians. We met a young woman who was married off to a rich paedophile at just 3 years old, then divorced by age 12. Growing up, what would she have known about love? Incredibly, after a few days on the school, she really met Jesus and was filled with the Spirit, laughing for over an hour. She really got it; “God loves me!” she kept saying. Honestly, I would have gone and done that entire trip just for her.
Carol and I have been so deeply impacted by the depth of the commitment to Christ in the people that we’ve met. Although we went to minister to them, they were actually also ministering back to us. For these Christians it is such an honour to know the Lord, whereas we westerners can be much more shallow and worldly. Our relationship with God tends to be based on what we want, whereas they have a much deeper level of commitment, even until death, and it’s very challenging and refreshing to see such faithfulness in action.
“The Father’s love is absolutely critical.”
These christians are heavily oppressed, so trust, open-heartedness and vulnerability are a challenge, especially when they are new to the idea of the Holy Spirit overpowering them. Often, the message of love has been so distorted by life’s experiences that it is not something people are particularly familiar or comfortable with. It’s so important for them to know love, but people have to first understand the general concept of love before they can understand God’s love.
Trying to understand that we have a loving heavenly Father can be a very alien concept to persecuted Christians since many of them struggle to even imagine what it’s like to live in safety. Even so, we need to get the message of God’s love to the whole world. At times, even the church can lack revelation of what love is. But the Father’s love is absolutely critical. It’s all about relationship with him, not merely a business contract to get a job done. He longs to be close to us, he wants us to spend time with him because each one of us has a special place in his heart that nobody else can fill. So we need to take time to be in his presence, to let him come close, let him love us and let us love him.
Carol and I are thankful to the Lord and feel very honored to be involved with the persecuted church, and for being able to see the world be changed one person at a time. Over the years, we have seen countless things that in the natural people cannot do. We are absolutely in awe of what the Holy Spirit is doing all around the world and have learned through experience that not all of the supernatural needs to include healing miracles. Christ lived supernaturally, and although the main focus of his ministry was healing, Jesus did many other incredible things like walking on water, multiplying food and calming the storm. Living in the supernatural can become our reality too. We are so deeply thankful to the Holy Spirit for all that he has done, for the millions that have been touched, and we’ve really only just begun. We are passionate that as people seek God, they continue to get involved in what he is doing.
“I believe the best days of the church are just ahead.”
We’ve learned that it’s good to give people permission to just stay in God’s presence and to receive from him. We can soak in God for everything – whether to receive emotional healing, experience breakthrough or just to be with him. Carol loves to soak because it welcomes his presence. Simply through people seeking the Lord by soaking in his presence, we have seen many be miraculously healed and set free. Crooked ribs have been aligned, pain from debilitating arthritis disappeared, epilepsy was healed. Even more recently, we have noticed God moving in incredible ways through people worshipping every 10 minutes with a timer. The Holy Spirit is alive and moving, and I believe the best days of the church are just ahead.
“Now is the time to be serious about getting close to God.”
So this is the message of the hour: to seek after the Lord. Go after God first. There is absolutely no time to be lukewarm. Maybe ten years ago it was different, but now anything can happen at any time. We have to get our thinking realigned on the reality of heaven, because this life on Earth is a time where the Lord is preparing us for that which is to come. He is looking for his faithful ones. We need to reach the point of no longer being satisfied with barely making it to heaven, but to diligently seek him, making him our prize and purpose.
There is such truth in the scripture, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV). Now is the time to be serious about getting close to God because the reality of God’s presence is the very thing that makes a difference and changes hearts and lives.