John and Carol Arnott are the Founding Pastors and Presidents of Catch the Fire (formerly known as the Toronto...
Looking into the future with expectation and wonder is indeed a marvelous exercise, but whoever would have guessed in 1994 that we would be holding a “Catch the Fire Ten Years On Conference”? Certainly not me.
Yes, this October is “Catch the Fire” number ten. I almost can’t believe that Carol and I have traveled to the nations of the world for over a decade now spreading God’s love, the fire of revival. The Church is in a much different place today than it was in 1994. I believe that many believers now expect God’s presence and power to be present when they come to church and that miracles should routinely happen in their lives.
Yet I find myself still not satisfied on a couple of significant points. First, I believe that many have missed the Holy Spirit’s main emphasis. In this revival He wants us rooted and grounded in the love of God. This means understanding the foundational truth that God really loves him or her, not for what they can do but simply for who they are, and it also means experiencing this truth. I am, more than ever, convinced that this knowledge comes not to the head but to the heart by revelation of the Holy Spirit as we encounter the nearness and dearness of God through being touched with His Presence. If this matter is never settled, if we don’t keep experiencing this love ourselves, then we quickly set about doing good works for God, expecting to “earn” His favor. But salvation is not accomplished by our own works of righteousness but according to His mercy. In other words, you and I are not human doings; we’re human beings.
God wants us to be caught up in our “Heavenly Daddy’s” love.
This revelation is all-pervasive. It changes everything including the attitudes of heart. Defensive arguments begin to fall away. Our motives for serving God change, and we begin to embrace the Kingdom value of loving and serving others rather than having a self-serving mentality. It’s no longer about “me and my ministry.” Instead, we begin building His Kingdom His way rather than building our own castles and thrones.
This leads me to the second point. When experiencing His presence brings you to a revelation of the love of God, then you will begin serving the Body of Christ and the world around you with a Kingdom mentality. It is then easier to sow your life into others, helping them to discover the freedom that comes only from a revelation of the Father’s love.
This is how I began to walk in God’s love and to give it away. The Holy Spirit convicted me of sin and brought me to Jesus the Saviour. Then Jesus, by the Spirit, gradually brought me into a revelation of the Father’s love for me. In 1994 that revelation began to explode when His loving Presence invaded our meetings in Toronto. In the beginning, I was so blown away by this that I needed to experience it several times before it started to sink into my heart. But once I learned to repeatedly experience God’s love deeply and to walk in it, I felt safe enough to drop my defenses.
Now I’ve seen thousands who have experienced the peace and joy of knowing God’s love like this and to have subsequently let God deal with issues in their hearts, too, such as anger, fear, rejection and shame. This experiential process has many terms: sanctification, holiness, Christ-likeness. I like to call it “freedom.” And there is a reason for this process.
The Father, by the Spirit, wants to present us as a lovely bride to His Son. Now that we love Him, we are ready to serve Him with our whole hearts. So many Christians have so quickly moved onto the Great Commission, which translates as “working for God,” before they learn to continually experience the Great Commandment, which is loving God wholeheartedly. This leads to striving which is really a religion of good works. Unfortunately this “religion” is admired by many, but this does not build the New Testament Kingdom of God nor fulfill the mandate of Jesus Christ. There is only one motivation to serve God and others that counts – that which flows out of a pure and loving heart – to God first and then to others.
So many have tried to see this revival as a power that can be exploited to help grow their churches or ministries and make them successful, yet the fruitfulness that we all desire will only proceed from a heart that has learned intimacy with God. In other words, the Holy Spirit places His primary emphasis on the heart – your heart.
I have been both blessed and deeply impressed by Chuck Swindoll’s recent little book entitled, INTIMACY WITH THE ALMIGHTY. I highly recommend it to you. He unmasks the bankruptcy of working hard for Christ when intimacy needs are unfulfilled. He recommends four disciplines of the heart. Be simple; be still; be serene and be surrendered. Only then, through intimacy with God, do we see religious striving go away and peace return. It took him two years of taking “down” time being intimate with God to reach these conclusions.
Having read his book, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that in February of this year God gave us a vision and a strategy to help see His Kingdom come and to see a grass roots revival sweep across North America and Europe. He told us to begin Soaking Prayer Centers in homes wherever willing hearts would say ‘yes’.
It is a scary thing to begin to partner with people that you do not yet know, yet that is exactly what He has asked us to do. We are to form relationships with ordinary people who are hungry for God, to equip and train them to ‘soak’ in the intimate Presence of God and experience the life changing effects of it all.
We are inviting any of you who are eager to join with us to spread the fire of intimacy with God, to start a soaking center in your home. We want you to learn “on the job” while we help you in every way we can, not only through TV but through personal contact by phone and through e-mail. For those who want even more, we are hosting soaking schools here in Toronto. During the first four months since we received this word of direction, over 1300 people have said “yes,” and Catch the Fire Soaking Prayer Centers are popping up in homes and churches all over Canada, the USA, Britain, Russia and even the Middle East. It has left us amazed, yet the “kiss of God” is upon it. Why?
We are simply a part of what the Holy Spirit is doing in our day.
The Holy Spirit is first of all drawing whosoever will into a profound and wonderfully intimate relationship with God through the process of soaking. Soaking is quieting yourself before God and opening your heart not only to hear from God, but to feeling His love for you and imbibing His Presence into your spirit. It is what I believe Jesus meant by “abiding” in the love of God. There is an ever-increasing group of people who, with all their hearts, want to be full of the oil of the Spirit’s love and are ready to meet the Bridegroom. They are like the five wise virgins in Jesus’ parable about the end times in Matthew 25. They want to be on fire for Him when He comes.
Today, ten years later, the Holy Spirit is still very busy calling us into His Presence and into new dimensions of power and love. Hundreds of thousands of lives are being touched. Carol and I and many others who are being deeply moved by the Spirit’s touch have gone on into ministry that has exceeded our wildest hopes and dreams. But without the revelation of His love, it would all be for nothing. At least that is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13. “If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing...”
Mary the sister of Martha understood this, too, when Jesus and His disciples dropped in to visit. Perhaps she has something to teach us about how to respond to Jesus’ Presence when He comes unexpectedly as He has in this outpouring of the Spirit. At the risk of angering her sister, Martha, who felt compelled to serve in the kitchen, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to learn from Him and to “soak in His Presence” rather than serving Him food. What did her actions speak? “Forget the meal; Jesus is here, and experiencing His Presence is the most important thing of all.”
What about you? Have you spent time just soaking in His Presence today? If you did, it was probably the very best use of your time. Then your labor for the Lord, which for sure will follow, will not be in vain.
This archived article was written by John Arnott for release in Sep, 2003. Circumstances and situations may have changed regarding the author, locations and ministries. This content may therefore be outdated or misinformed.
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