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Above All Else, Get Oil: The Fire & The Gift - Preface

Updated: Jul 8

Preface: The Fire and The Gift


“The best advertising campaign that any church or any mission can put up is fire in the pulpit and a blaze in the pew.” – Duncan Campbell



I sat on the red padded pew in the dimly lit sanctuary, tears streaming down my face. How often I had sat in these seats over the years, only the Lord knew for certain. But again and again, I found myself drawn to this sanctuary, after the Sunday crowds had left and the lights were down, to commune with the Lord in solitude. The congregation we were serving in, after all, didn’t seem to understand my devotion. As the Worship Leader & Co-Youth Pastor in a traditional, rural church, I had wrestled countless nights in prayer for this people, for this region, and for my own heart to experience the sustaining power of the Spirit of God. I knew there was more for us all: more fire, more power, more holiness, more salvations.  After all, I, like David, had “seen Him in the sanctuary” for myself (Ps. 63:2); I had experienced Him both in corporate outpouring and personal encounter. Before my personal encounter, I had known what it was to have a genuine love for God that was void of the fire that sustains it, and now that I been set ablaze, I couldn’t return to that again.

I had been raised in a strong Christian faith. I believe I was 8 days old the first time I attended the Spirit-filled church in which my parents volunteered. The generation before them and the generation before that had all faithfully committed their lives to follow Christ on both sides of my family. I was 7 years old when I was baptized in water, 8 years old when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and 12 years old when I cried at an old wooden altar and felt the Lord calling me to ministry. To say I was blessed with a godly heritage, then, is an understatement. And yet, for all that faithful commitment in my family, there was something missing. My home life had fallen apart when my dad’s moral failing and Mom’s psychotic break all stored upon me when I was 12 years old. My adolescent years were spent with me treading the emotional waters of a broken home, back-slidden Father, and a mentally ill mother. Add to those waters the weight of man-made traditions that my upbringing mistook for holiness, and I was barely able to breath. I was caught in two worlds: the world of loving Jesus and the world of struggling with self-hatred; the world of the joy of salvation and the world of absolute depression. I struggled with fear. I struggled with purity. I struggled and struggled and struggled. It wasn’t until I was 18 years old in college that my heart had the courage to admit: there had to be more to following Jesus than endless struggle after endless struggle.

 So, by the grace of God alone, the Holy Spirit led me to a church that was experiencing “the more” that I was seeking. It was the mid 90s and God was pouring out His Spirit in a Pentecostal church in Pensacola, Florida. After experiencing one service where the tangible Spirit of God hovered like a thick cloud in the room, I threw away everything else to be a part of it. Night after night, year after year, that congregation held services that made room for God to be God.  Over 2.5 million people attended that revival and amid all of those people, God met me there. In all my brokenness, God met me there. In all my heartache, religion, and shame, God met me there. Depression and shame and fear and self-hatred were all being carried away by this wonderful Lord I had just encountered. Did I know God when I came there? Absolutely. Was Jesus Lord of my life before. As best as I knew how, yes. But now I knew Him in my heart way beyond what I had ever known before. Now I knew Him as a very personal Father, an intimate Groom, and an inseparable friend. It was something so fresh and yet something so familiar. And I wasn’t alone in my encounter: the worship that erupted in that place was all in response to a God who was setting drug addicts free, encountering Buddhists, delivering gang members, rescuing Pharisees, and so much more. What we were all experiencing was the freedom that comes when we truly, whole-heartedly surrender to the God who is an all-consuming fire. In fact, one of Jesus’ main missions in coming was to “baptize you with the Holy Spirit AND fire (Luke 3:16).” Jesus never expected us to follow Him apart from the Fire that He provides. The Fire of God is vital to living a sustained, vibrant life of faith. It is a mysterious, glorious gift that excites heaven and terrifies hell. And I had been set ablaze.

I entered full-time ministry with that supernatural fire on my heart and the years of service that would follow would test that flame again and again. For a decade, God led my husband and I to people that needed that fire but who were greatly offended by it. In 10 years of ministry, we had served in 3 churches, all of which were really Spirit-filled in name only. I couldn’t wrap my head around it: the same denomination that was experiencing a mighty revival in Pensacola, was rejecting any semblance of it throughout the nation. The same denomination in which my great-grandparents had experienced radical tent-revival services with angelic visitations and heavenly manifestations, was now filled with people who were uncomfortable with weeping, dancing, or bowing down in worship. I had known what these people experienced: serving God without the Fire, and so my heart broke for them. But my fire still burned. I couldn’t compromise and put it under a bushel, so my burning heart offended many around me. And so, I wept. I wept because I couldn’t convince people by preaching or teaching or singing that there is more to Jesus than the shallow waters of faith.

Oh, my heart ached: “All these years of crying out for people to catch the flame and it seems my prayers are unheard. How, oh, how do I keep this disillusionment at bay? What does a heart do with a flaming word that no one wants to receive?” I knew Jeremiah had faced a similar, but much more serious dilemma. God had set a fire in Jeremiah’s heart to preach His word, but it was so ill received by God’s people, they threatened to kill him! So, in his own disillusionment, Jeremiah cried out, “the word of the Lord has made me a reproach and a derision daily…so I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I was weary of holding it back! And I could not!” (Jer. 20:7-9) No matter how he tried to hide it, Jeremiah had to let his fire burn. No matter who he offended or how much it cost him – his love for God wouldn’t not be compromised. And yet, that didn’t stop his heart from breaking for those who didn’t understand. It didn’t stop him from feeling the weight of ministering without seeing the very thing you know God wants to bring to His people.

No matter where God sent me in ministry, it always felt the same: I was walking under Jeremiah’s burden. God had more to give to the people I was serving and yet, so often, they rejected the concept of “more of Him.” Ten years and many ministry miles later, I lay face down on the floor in another sanctuary, fists clinched, deep sobs racking my body. I was inconsolable. The mournful cries that welled-up from the depths of me echoed off the walls of the empty sanctuary making the sound even more forlorn. I reflected on the current painful season of ministry. The last couple months serving in my little parish had been trying to my heart: this congregant had openly voiced their harsh opinion without concern, this other congregant had taken their side and pitted against me, while this leader who served beside me didn't bother to help at all. And once again, my fire felt completely misunderstood. It was just another week in ministry. At least that's what my husband and I joked to one another on weeks like this. After 20 years of serving in full-time occupational ministry, we had learned that, if you are going to be in the people-building business, you had to learn to take the nasty blow, the negative opinion, and the gnarly wound without becoming offended. It was something I was usually good at doing, but even a pastor's armor gets dings now and then. There were days when I didn’t want this fire to be misunderstood. So, for what felt like the millionth time, I lay face down on the sanctuary floor, fists clinched, deep sobs racking my body as the sting of disappointment in unanswered prayer flowed from my heart. The deficiency in years of the pursuit of seeking 'the fullness' on behalf of a congregation was weighing my heart down.  

This weight had been following me since I left Bible College ablaze in Pensacola. In all the years that had followed experiencing His initial fire, I had known too many unanswered prayers in my life and ministry. I had knelt in earnest prayer in a hospital hallway after leaving the room of a thirty-four-year-old mother, who just seconds before, unexpectedly passed away. I had laid my hands on a deceased teenager at a funeral and prayed under my breath repeatedly for him to live again. I had interceded in front of my congregation for a dying child to be revived only to stand and report the next week that the child had gone to heaven. And I had interceded for my own baby that I carried to survive, despite the doctor’s report, only to miscarry her days later, leaving me childless. I could recount time after time when what I was requesting, didn't come to pass. And there laid the distress of my heart as I cried out on that sanctuary floor. And there also laid the gift: the gift of disillusionment.

Disillusionment is defined as, “A feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be; the condition of being dissatisfied or defeated in expectation or hope.”

For many who experience the bitterness of unanswered prayers, continued illness, and even premature death, the pursuit of 'seeking God for healing' or for 'the next level of faith' seems like a waste of time. Entire denominations are built upon this very principle: that God no longer does the things he did in the book of Acts because we don't see it happen in our day and age. Some wounded believers, when encountered with unmet expectations, feel they have made the discovery that God is not as good as they believed him to be and therefore live in either two camps of disillusionment. First, are the ones who start out starry-eyed and full of hope and then when life goes wrong and prayers are unanswered, they either unknowingly or purposefully blame God for the pain and become derailed in their faith. The next category is the groupthat doesn't really blame God for doing wrong, but instead, they build a theology that says God must not want them pursuing such things and they themselves were wrong to expect it. But both these groups are missing out on the beauty and the purpose of the gift of disillusionment.

But there is another group of people who embraces the gift - the purpose for why God allows disillusionment to come our way. It is known as a gift to those who have cultivated an intimate walk with the Lord, those who grapple with His will and His ways. Whenever disillusionment comes their way, they may mourn and wrestle with the pain, but ultimately, they embrace the moment as a lesson from which to learn.   They compare their circumstance with the word of God and then dig their proverbial heels deeper into the soil of His love and confess, "I know your ways, God! I know your word! You are good! You are healer! You said the sick would recover! You said the dead would rise and I will not let my circumstance stop my pursuit! I will not let my circumstance dictate my belief in who You are!" For those who have anchored themselves, not in a worked-up, 'I'm a failure if I don't see it happen' mentality, but in a "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," kind of trust in God - these ones see the moment of unanswered prayer as a gift to keep pursuing Him until it is done. Yes, the definition of disillusionment is, a "feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be," but this type of believer knows that God is justas good as they believed Him to be and more! The 'something that's “not as good as one believed it to be” isn't God - it is the very earth we are living on. It’s the disillusionment with the state of this fallen world; that it is not in right order yet, that it is not 'as it is in heaven' yet. And this is the gift given to God's people to keep them pursuing His kingdom come. For those who will embrace it, we mourn over the state of the world; we weep because God’s order is yet to be established; but then we lean into that disillusioned state and let it work a determination in us to partner with Him in seeing His will be done here as He desires.

So, that day I prostrated myself on the floor weeping, feeling heart-breaking disappointment - but it didn’t break me, for I had learned from my many years of walking in the fire, that this was an opportunity. The pain of disillusionment stirred up my fire to keep pursuing God for more. For after all my tears were cried, after all my questions were asked, I picked myself up off the floor and I danced, and I whirled, and I hollered for His goodness. I let my feet lead me into war, my arms into the battle. I lifted my voice with a shout of triumph over the enemy, for I would not be intimidated by defeat; I would instead take this moment as a gift from God. The enemy may try to distract me in my pursuit of walking exactly like Jesus walked, but I will not back down. He may enter my garden of prayer and disrupt my peace, but he will not steal what is supernaturally given by God. And although he might have meant the pain, the disappointment, and the disillusionment to defeat me and do me harm, God promises that He will turn everything around for my good. Yes, everything the enemy uses to defeat me, God promises to use for His glory and for my good. And here in lies the gift. And here in lies the oil.


Oil for your lamp.

Oil for your journey.

Oil to keep you burning until the Break of Day.


Throughout this blog journey, I will share ways the Lord has shown me on how to get oil in your lamp and keep burning. But it begins here: embrace the unanswered prayers. Embrace the disappointment. Wrestle with it. Get up close and personal with it and with the Lord at the same time. However long it takes you on your journey of confronting the pain, do not back down from pursuing understanding His ways and His heart. 1 Corinthians 9:24 says we are to keep pursuing Him, running after Him on our journey in such a way that we are set to win. No one said that the race will be easy. Most everyone knows that. But did anyone tell you that your race may look really ugly sometimes? Because it will. That’s okay. Just don’t stop. And if you don’t stop, you win. If you don’t stop, you get oil on reserve for the days ahead.

May God find in us a heart that receives the gift of fire and the gift of disillusionment because that is a heart that is learning from every lesson He presents us. Whether that lesson originated from His hand or from the enemy's, it doesn't matter. What matters is that I am ever learning the things He is teaching. In so doing, I will ever be deepening my trust in God's goodness, refusing to stop my pursuit of Him, and therefore, getting oil in my lamp every step of the way.


Jun 25

Amen. I am still trusting for more of Jesus and a future in Him for all He has for me so He can use me.


Jun 24

Lord, help me gather OIL!

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