Charisma Magazine | Informing Christians from Spirit-filled Perspective. Wed, 02 Sep 2015 02:02:42 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 4 Signs That You're Living by Faith or Fear

Fear can paralyze us if we let it. Take a lesson from the movie, Dumb and Dumber, so that you are living in the place of faith!

"So you're telling me there's a chance." — Lloyd, Dumb and Dumber

Do you remember the scene in Dumb and Dumber when Lloyd (Jim Carrey) stands before Mary, asking her what the chances are of a guy like him getting together with a girl like her? She replies, "Like one in a million." Lloyd pauses for a moment and then out comes the line we have quoted and laughed over again and again, "So you're telling me there's a chance!"

Talk about FAITH! OK, maybe a little naïve, or just plain stupidity in this case, but wouldn't you love to have this kind of knee-jerk reaction faith? To have a faith that is constant and not shaken by the storms of situations. God wants to pour out this kind of faith in the hearts of His dreamers: those who will believe in the impossible because they know their God.

The enemy wants you discouraged and defeated before you even begin. He wants you thinking there's a one in a million chance of success, with no hope of victory. He wants to strike you out before you even step up to the plate.

Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese military strategist, whose tactics are revealed in the book, The Art of War, is known for saying, "Every battle is won before it's ever fought."

As Christians, this is the reality we face. Just look at David and Joseph: both went through trials they had to overcome in order for God to release them to their true place of authority. Preparation is part of the battle and requires discipline and endurance to get us to the next level.

As saints who prepare, we must take our place as Ephesians 6 warriors, but we must also remember that ultimately it's God who is fighting WITH us and FOR us. Not only that but He has seated us in the heavenly places next to the Father, and He is always reminding us that with Him ALL things are possible. He's the God of one in million, and He wants to search your heart today and fill up every inch with faith and hope!

Allow God to search your heart and ask yourself,

  1.     What are those emotions alongside of my dreams? It is faith or fear?
  2.     What do you believe as you dream about the future?
  3.     Do you have feelings of hope and faith or fear?
  4.     As you look ahead, is Jesus standing next you, and is your Father five steps ahead of you preparing the way? Or do you approach the future with trepidation, feeling alone and confused?

Mikaela Kate is passionate to see YOU reach your full God-given potential! Her heart is to inspire the next generation to discover who they are and what they are made to do. There is a unique VOICE locked within you, and Mikaela Kate is authorized to RELEASE it! A speaker, writer, and coach, Mikaela Kate has invested seven years developing college-age men and women into leaders. Conducting Bible studies, women's groups, and young adult teams, she encourages others to go further and higher—taking their gifts, passions, and skills to the next level! A graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in marketing, she discovered her love for strategic thinking, big picture ideas, and meeting people where they are. These skills and passions later equipped her to plant a church with five other staff members (Veritas Church, Iowa City, IA). From there she moved to Sheffield, England and worked as the Young Adults Leader at St. Thomas Philadelphia. While in England her passion for America grew and her desire to see her native land transformed for Jesus ignited. She sees people living out their God-given purpose as a key to the transformation of this nation. Mikaela currently lives in South Carolina and is an active member of The Father's House Church.

]]> (Mikaela Kate) Featured Women Life Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Why Revelation Is the Bible's Greatest Book of Hope

The book of Revelation is the Bible's greatest book of hope. It's a sneak preview. In the end, God wins. That's the great hope of our faith. And it's certainly encouraging to know that God is working through all the chaos in today's world to ultimately bring about what Revelation 21:1-2 describes as the new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem.

In a recent sermon, Central Christian Church Pastor Jud Wilhite said God is "working a bigger plan that we don't understand. He is large and in charge. He's working and He's moving, and all of history is marching toward the culmination of what God ultimately has prepared."

As you'll discover in this issue of Charisma, dozens of faith leaders and prophecy experts believe end-time signs are converging. In an interview, evangelist Billy Graham said signs of the end of the age are "converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions."

Amid the last of the four blood moons and the biblical Shemitah, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, author of The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah, and others believe an event of prophetic significance could occur between now and September 2016—the end of the "Super Shemitah," which is the Year of Jubilee that comes at the end of seven cycles of the seven-year Shemitah.  

While both the blood moons and the Shemitah prophecies have generated controversy, dozens of prophecy experts told Charisma they believe the world is in the run-up to the end-time events predicted in the Bible. Whether an event of prophetic significance—economic calamity, war in the Middle East or the fulfillment of prophecies related to Israel—occurs soon is something only God knows. Mark 13:32 says God alone knows the "day or hour" when these things will occur. As we await Christ's return, our primary mission is to spread the gospel. What greater motivation could we have to share our faith than what many believe are the gathering signs of Jesus' return?

People are inherently fascinated with what the Bible has to say about the future. Often, the first book many unbelievers read is one about Bible prophecy. Many are inspired to not only turn to God, but also to tell others what they've learned. Yet, even as the world becomes increasingly interested in Bible prophecy as demonstrated by widespread media coverage of the blood moons phenomenon, the church is oddly quiet. In a sermon he gave in the late 1980s, Graham said: "The most neglected teaching in the church today is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ."

This is one of the great paradoxes of our age. At a time when Graham, Cahn, Dr. Tim LaHaye, Joel Rosenberg and dozens of other faith leaders say end-time signs are converging, the pulpits are largely silent. Polls reveal 4 in 10 Americans—and 77 percent of evangelical Christians—believe the "world is now living in the biblical end times," yet experts estimate less than 10 percent of ministers are teaching their congregations about Bible prophecy.

This is troubling given that more than a quarter of the Bible is prophetic in nature and the apostle Paul admonished ministers in Acts 20:27 to preach the "whole counsel of God" to their congregations. God embedded thousands of prophecies in the Bible to reveal that Scripture is accurate and to give us hope.

In a recent "Daily Hope" newsletter, Pastor Rick Warren wrote: "One of the reasons I can know that the Bible is true and trustworthy is that it has thousands and thousands of prophecies that have come true and will come true in history."

In The End, Bible prophecy scholar Dr.  Mark Hitchcock wrote there are more than 1,800 references to the Second Coming in the Bible and for every prophecy about Christ's first coming there are eight regarding His Second Coming. People are exhorted more than 50 times to be ready for Christ's return. In light of present world conditions, we need to not only prepare for Jesus' return, but to tell others about it too. Their eternal destinies are at stake.

Based on the pattern of economic shocks and Israel-related events that have occurred at the end of past Shemitah   cycles, Cahn believes something significant could happen again, but he cautions "you cannot put God in a box."

"Brothers and sisters, we are witnessing things that are unprecedented not just in American history, but human history," Cahn says. "These are the days of apostasy. All these things are coming together."

We could very well be on the verge of a mighty last days' revival and the greatest "harvest" of souls the world has ever seen.

Let's not miss the final, triumphant act in the great biblical drama and our chance to help fulfill the Great Commission by taking the Good News to the ends of the earth.

Troy Anderson is the executive editor of Charisma, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and co-author of The Babylon Code. Follow him on Twitter (TroyMAnderson), Facebook (troyandersonwriter) or online at

]]> (Troy Anderson) Featured For Such a Time as This Blogs Tue, 01 Sep 2015 17:00:00 -0400
Are Women to Blame for Men's Porn Problems?

The question in the headline is worth asking. Some men may blame women because of the way they dress and the lust it inspires in their hearts. Some women may not understand how men are hardwired.

Shaunti Feldhahn and Craig Gross, the founder of, have researched these issues in years and have some candid answers to the question. In their new book, Through a Man's Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men, the duo cuts straight to the heart of the matter.

Charisma News caught up with them to get some insights. You can still read parts one and two of this interview: What Women Don't Understand About Men Who Struggle With Pornography and Should You Tell Your Wife About Your Porn Problem?

Charisma News: What about women being aware of how they dress? How does that fuel the pornography problem?

Feldhahn: We can't leave that subject out, can we? It always gets me in trouble with a few women readers—ironically because they don't "get" what goes through a man's eyes when he sees the great body in the tight jeans, or the cleavage.

Here's the key thing: a man is 100 percent responsible for the choice he makes in what he looks at and how he thinks, but women have a responsibility too. This is a difficult culture for men who want to keep their thought lives pure. And if we women want to help a man honor women, then we cannot be adding to his difficulty by how we dress. 

I can't tell you how many times, before a pastor and I go onstage to do a pastoral interview on understanding men, that the pastor will ask me, "Can we make sure to cover men's visual nature, and what that means for how women dress in the church? I know women don't always understand it and my hands are tied. They need to hear this from a woman."

Gross: Shaunti has convinced me that most women don't recognize that how they dress actually affects us in the way it does. We spend much of our time at telling men they must step up and take full responsibility for how they think and what they look at. But let's be honest about the fact that if women understood this struggle, I think many women would not want to make that struggle more difficult. 

Charisma News: What would it look like if every woman in the church understood the visual nature of men?

Gross: Our hope is that women would recognize that the way God wired men's brains is no accident, and embrace the fact that despite the challenges men face today, this is still intended to be a good thing! After all, this visual nature is one of the key things that bonds a man to his wife. We love this visual nature when we are alone with our wives.

Feldhahn: If a woman understands this—truly understands—we think it could transform our ministry to all these men who currently are wrestling alone. Imagine hundreds of thousands of women who suddenly know how to be—and want to be—empathetic to their men, without endorsing any poor choices they might have made. 

Imagine millions of women approaching this topic with both compassion and strength, and the ability to be a safe listening ear for a husband or son. Imagine what would happen if men and boys suddenly felt able to talk about this stuff they may have never talked about before. 

Yes, I'm sure there will continue to be many men who make the wrong choices. We are imperfect people. There will continue to be marriages that are hurting. But as millions of women step up to this type of compassion and strength for their men, as people are finally able to talk about this safely in their relationships, we believe millions of men will be released from bondage and not only able but willing to step up to the high calling that God has for them.

]]> (Jennifer LeClaire) Featured Men Life Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:00:00 -0400
Have You Surrendered Your Eating Habits to the Lord?

We all know that we need to eat healthy to prevent heart disease and live a long, productive lifestyle.

I think we all have good intentions, but we get distracted by life; and there are many places that are just waiting to fill our cravings and stop the growl coming from our stomach. What we don't realize with this pattern established in our life is that we are becoming "addicted" to food.   

As a Christian there is another level of this—our lifestyle has now become a tool for Satan to use against us. After indulging, he heaps loads of guilt and condemnation on us.  It is a continuous cycle. We promise to do better, to take care of our bodies, but then our stomach growls, sending a signal that demands immediate satisfaction.

When our body controls us by its demands, it is a sign of heart disease—not our physical heart, but the hidden man of the heart. Our lack of care for the physical heart stems from our lack of care of our spiritual heart.

In the physical,  when our heart is not healthy, there are symptoms that appear: obesity, lack of sleep, stress in our life that shows us that something is not right. When your spirit, the hidden man of your heart, is not healthy, there are symptoms that appear: anxiety, fears, depression, guilt and condemnation that many times lead us into addictions to food, alcohol, tobacco, or overspending. We are always trying to hide the sin with something new.

Job 23:12 tells us, "I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." We all know about the misery that Job endured. But God was faithful to Job. James 5:11 tells us, "Indeed we count them happy who endure. You have heard of the patience of Job and have seen the purpose of the Lord, that the Lord is very gracious and merciful." The end intended by the Lord!

How did Job endure to the end? He treasured the Word of God! The Word of God was in His mouth.

When we are habitually heart heavy, hanging our head, wandering around in circles trying to figure out life, it is a symptom of an unhealthy heart in the spirit and in the natural!

God is waiting on you to pursue Him. He has promised to give you the desires of your heart! Psalm 37:4  states, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

David said,  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my concerns," (Psalm 139:23). Proverbs 4:23 tells us, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." If the issues of life flow from the heart, then we must examine our hearts.

We must get honest, ask the Holy Spirit—your Teacher, Helper, and Comforter—for help. Ask for revelation knowledge that will bring life to your heart and strength to your body. God has an intended end for your life. Make sure you are on the right course. He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and that nothing will separate you from the love of God! (Romans 8:38-39).

The Word of God is alive and powerful and will bring life and order out of chaos! Eating heart healthy will bring peace and joy to your life as you walk the runway of life towards the end intended by the Lord! There is "no diet" in the world that can bring health to your body and give you the strength to endure each day!

After surrendering my eating habits to the Lord, He gave me a battle plan that worked from the inside out and took 88 pounds from my body!

Joyce Tilney is the Founder of Women of God Ministries, teaching women today from women of yesterday. She is an author and Bible teacher. Visit www.wogministries for more informationHer new book and workbook, Why Diets Don't Work—Food Is Not the Problem, share her testimony of how the Lord helped her lose 88 pounds. There is nothing impossible with Him. Visit the website: for information.

]]> (Joyce Tilney ) Featured Health Life Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:00:00 -0400
'War Room': 'Raise 'Em Up, Lord!'

When an opportunity presents itself, leaders take action.

Last Friday, I was privileged to join Pastor Shaddy Solomon and about 100 members of Lake Mary Church to see the movie, War Room.

The movie shocked Hollywood with opening weekend sales of $11 million and it only played on about one-third of the screens as other weekend favorites. This Kendrick brothers' hit had a budget of $3 million and is on pace to surpass sales of two of their other movies, Courageous and Fireproof, both of which had sales of over $33 million.

Secular reviews of the film are predictably negative but the impact on the kingdom of God will be highly positive. The movie tells a common story of a marriage on the rocks. The couple is caught in the trap of chasing careers and money, and finds a very uncommonly applied solution to their troubles.

Prayer changes lives.

But today's leadership thought comes from what I was thrilled to witness at the end of the movie. First, the crowd cheered and clapped. It was the ending prayer of Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie) that brought a powerful response from the crowd as she cries out "Raise 'em up Lord."

Then, as the movie credits began to roll, Pastor Shaddy jumped from his seat, kicked over my popcorn bag (I had thoughts of a midnight snack) and rushed, arms flailing ...

"Wait, Wait everyone, let's take a moment now and pray for America!"

I didn't see anyone move. People began to pray with lifted arms for our country. I've never seen such a benediction to a movie. Yet, it was powerful, meaningful and instructive. Pastor Shaddy yelled over the closing music for healing to come to America and people yelled back, "Yes! Heal our country!"

The leadership of Pastor Shaddy was further exemplified by his actions outside of the theater. I watched as he bought tickets for people to see War Room. Many of the people he bought tickets for had intended to see one of those escape movies from Hollywood.

War Room is not an escape movie. It is an entrance movie to a new way of living. Pastor Shaddy and I spoke in the car about how many people would go home and begin to build their own war room. He thought Home Depot would be packed!

Of course, it's not the room, it's the prayers.

Leaders see opportunity and take action.

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

]]> (Dr. Steve Greene) Featured Prayer Spirit Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:50:00 -0400
For Jamie Buckingham, Life in the Spirit Was Risky Living

Yesterday we wrapped up our month-long celebration of Charisma's 40th anniversary. It was a lot of fun to dig back into our archives and to be reminded of great material we previously published that can be introduced to a new generation of readers.

Some of the best material is from my longtime friend and mentor, Jamie Buckingham. It's right that I pay tribute to this great man, leader and author who played such a pivotal role in my life and in shaping not only Charisma magazine, but the media company that has grown out of it.

During his lifetime, Jamie played a monumental role in the charismatic movement. Many considered him the "conscience" of the movement in that he constantly challenged, exhorted and taught. His books sold more than 40 million copies during his lifetime, yet he was probably best remembered for his columns first in Logos Journal and later in Charisma. He wrote for us for 13 years before his untimely death at 59 in 1992.

In going through past issues, I came across a marvelous feature by Robert Paul Lamb about Jamie that we ran in October 1978 titled "The Last Word on Jamie." In 1992, we published a special tribute to him when he passed away.  

We recently reprinted a couple of them titled, Jamie Buckingham: Healing Life's Hurts, Jamie Buckingham: Real Power Runs Deep, and Remembering Jamie Buckingham for a new generation that did not know his wit and wisdom, or his humor. An example of his humor is a favorite quotation that became the title of one of his books: The Truth Will Set You Free, but First It Will Make You Miserable. He sometimes wrote humorous columns. One that stuck out in my mind was how he was sure his washing machine had a "sock-gobbling demon" because no pair of socks came out of the wash complete. (Of course, he made fun of those charismatics who saw a demon under every bush or, in this case, in every washing machine.)

You can find all of Jamie's Charisma columns at

I have many memories of Jamie. Before I ever met him, I got to know him through his books. Risky Living probably had the greatest impact on me personally. The first time I visited his home in Melbourne, Florida, in 1978, he offered me the editorship of the leading charismatic magazine of the day, Logos Journal, which ceased to publish in 1981. I told him I had a vision of my own and couldn't accept his offer. He said he was hoping I would say that, but that he had been directed to offer me the job. Then he asked how he could help me make Charisma succeed.

Over the years, he became my mentor and friend. His column in Charisma gave us credibility in our early years, and it may have made the difference between our success and failure. He also helped us navigate a lot of changes, including becoming an independent publishing house in 1981, separating from the church where we started.  

After his death, we missed him so much that, rather than remove his column from the magazine, we reprinted what I considered to be the best columns—one from each of the 13 years he wrote for us.  

When Jamie died, we named the large meeting room in our headquarters building—which we use for staff meetings and business functions—"Buckingham Hall" in his honor. On weekends, it has served as a "church incubator" every Sunday since the building was erected. Today it is used by Lake Mary Church, which holds three services that total 600 in attendance.  

Jamie would be proud of a church that is thriving in a place named after him because he was, first and foremost, a pastor. In the late 1960s, His Tabernacle Baptist Church in Melbourne exploded after he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Of course, the Baptists gave him "the left foot of fellowship" (as he used to say) and the name Baptist was dropped.

People from miles around drove to hear Jamie speak. He was very good. He also took compassion on many leaders in need (usually that meant they had committed adultery and were thrown out of their church), ones that showed up on his doorstep with few choices. This great man helped to restore them.

Jamie also had two other "lives"—he was a leader in the body of Christ not only as an author but also as a popular conference speaker.  He began taking me with him to leadership meetings where an older generation discussed the problems of the day. It was a great learning experience for me, a man barely out of college.

And of course he had his literary world, which included friends like John and Elizabeth Sherrill and Len LeSourd (and his wife, author Catherine Marshall), whom he got to know through Guideposts magazine. I was also a part of that world. (Jamie's biographies included writings for Kathryn Kuhlman, Corrie ten Boom and Pat Robertson, to name a few)

His legacy lives on through his family. I've never seen such a close-knit family. Several of his five children actually have homes on the nearly 20 acres he owned in Palm Bay. They call it the Buckingham compound. His grandson T.J. (that stands for Timothy Jamie) is building a new house there—23 years after Jamie's death.

His oldest son, Bruce, is carrying on Jamie's legacy now that he's retired as the "voice of NASA," at Kennedy Space Center, located north of Palm Bay. (He's the one who would say on TV, 10-nine-eight-seven-six ... before each space shuttle launch.) Bruce has launched Risky Living Ministries Inc. (named after Jamie's book that meant so much to me).  

"We are dedicated to preserving and promoting the written and recorded teachings of Jamie Buckingham," Bruce told me in an email. "The ministry has gotten an amazingly favorable reception from the folks who knew him and many who didn't (until now).

"The biggest chore is converting and editing his sermons. I have compiled a collection of about 850 cassette recordings of his teachings. Some I already had. But most—by far—were sent to me by people from all over the world who had been holding on to them for some reason. Now we know why. So far, I have converted nearly 100 of Jamie's audio teachings and they are now available on line. I urge you to check out this resource at

T.J. Buckingham is the family member I've kept up with in recent years. He looks just like Jamie. I remember when he was born. He's older now than I was back then! Today he is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Melbourne in Viera, Florida.

"I have been using a lot of his works as seed thoughts for my new role in ministry. I just took over as their new pastor this past March," T.J. told me in an email. "I am actually getting ready to start a teaching series on Bible People Like Me (One of Jamie's books and video devotional series filmed in Israel).

"Risky Living Ministries is making Jamie Buckingham's ministry materials available at no cost," Bruce said. "The only exception is when a paperback book or an e-book is ordered, and then the price is set as low as possible. It is our pleasure to make Jamie's materials available to the world again."

Life moves on. But I still miss my friend and felt that I should focus on him and his writing, as well as to show some videos of his teaching, hoping that they would relate to people as much today as they did when he was alive. I hope someday someone will pay tribute to me saying I impacted them by a tiny fraction of how much Jamie Buckingham impacted my life.

Final note: If you have a memory of Jamie or were impacted by his writings, please leave a comment. If you know someone who appreciated Jamie, send them this newsletter. Or if you know someone who you think would like being introduced to his wit and wisdom through this website, please forward this to them.  

Steve Strang is the founder of Charisma and CEO of Charisma Media. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook stephenestrang.

]]> (Steve Strang ) Featured The Strang Report Blogs Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:00:00 -0400
The Secret to Christ's Powerful Prayer Life

"In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death. He was heard because of His godly fear" (Heb. 5:7).

We don't often hear the specifics of Jesus' prayer life when He went off by Himself to quiet, secluded places to seek the face of the Father. We see multiple occasions in Scripture that allude to how He connected to God, and we know from Jesus' own admission that He never did anything apart from the Father: "Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does'' (John 5:19). He was intimately linked to the heart of God. Yet, the author of Hebrews gives us a profound insight into the powerfully intimate nature of our Savior's prayer life. 

Let's break down this verse and examine it for insights into how we can follow the example of prayer that Jesus clearly intended us to step into as His followers:

"In the days of His flesh ..."—Jesus clearly sought the face of God throughout each day of His life. He didn't have a quiet time silo within which he dealt with all of the things upon His heart. Instead, this conversation was characterized by continual connectivity. Jesus certainly prayed without ceasing. I can imagine that in His humanness, he felt inadequate and uncertain without being closely aligned with the purposes of God within each and every encounter He made with the people God had sent Him to redeem.

"... Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears ..."—A very clear picture of such praying in Scripture is when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane: "And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). We don't see much of this kind of praying these days in our nation; however, in other nations around the world, especially in places of extreme poverty and persecution, God's people cry out passionately to Him. Perhaps we are not hungry enough for more of God in our lives and not desperate enough to cry out as Jesus did! What must we do to cultivate such a depth of passion within our own prayer lives before the circumstances of our dire situation closes in on us and forces us to fall upon our faces before our Holy God?

"... to Him who was able to save Him from death."—The One who saves all of His children from spiritual death did not save His Son from the cross, because to do so would have negated His ultimate purposes. Jesus, in His humanness, desired to be rescued from the painfully gruesome death He was facing. However, in His divinity, He willingly laid down His life for the glorious plan of the Father—the Resurrection that redeemed all believers for all time. Are we, His children, willing to surrender what we want or what is comfortable for the kingdom purposes of God as Jesus so obediently did—even if it could mean physical death?

"He was heard because of His godly fear."—How often do we desire to do things our own way, or feel entitled to say whatever we want? How unlike Jesus that is, and perhaps this is the very reason so little prayer is answered with the approving stamp of God upon our requests and intercessions. We are not reverently submitted to our Father. Jesus sought His Father's face with humility and reverence, fully yielded, completely surrendered and obedient.

I long to approach the throne of grace with Christlikeness. So, as I continue to ponder and wrestle with the practice of prayer, I am going to imagine myself holding the hand of the One I love most as we walk into the throne room together.

Lord Jesus, teach me to offer up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who has saved me from spiritual death. Show me what it means to submit myself reverently before the Father so that I may be heard. It's in Your Name I ask this! Amen! 

Kim Butts is the co-founder of Harvest Prayer Ministries and the author of The Praying Family. © 2015 Harvest Prayer Ministries.

]]> (Kim Butts) Featured Women Life Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:00:00 -0400
You Are Not a Victim

I never intended to be a victim.

Shortly after my dad was murdered, my family and I were referred to the victim services department at the courthouse. It was the first time we were called victims, but I honestly didn't consider myself to be the victim at the time. My dad was the victim, not my family and me.

But somehow, I think the victim thing crept in, and my dad's death became a defining moment of my life. I didn't want to be defined by this tragedy, but I was. I became the girl whose dad was murdered. I hated being this person. I hated being a murder victim's daughter, but as far as I saw it, it's who I was. I couldn't escape it.

"I guess I am a victim," I finally concluded.

At this time in my life, I was very much in the world. I didn't know God, and I certainly wasn't following Jesus yet. But after living with this identity for close to 10 years, I met Jesus, and when I did, He completely rocked my world. It was then that I began to cry out to Him for an alternative. I needed a new identity. I was tired of being the murder victim's daughter. I wanted to be someone new. I wanted a new story—one that didn't end with death and tragedy, but ended with life, hope, joy and peace.

I cried out to God, begging Him to allow me to see as He saw, asking Him to reveal who I am in His eyes and pleading with Him to take away the reproach that came along with being a victim.

And this was how my journey began.

It wasn't long after that Jesus called me to forgive Anthony, the man who murdered my dad, and I was given the grace needed to abandon my victim identity in exchange for my new, true gospel identity. The truth that I learned throughout that journey profoundly altered my perception of who I am. The truth is that:

I am not a victim.

I am a child of God.

I am redeemed.

I am chosen, precious in my Father's sight, and loved beyond measure.

I am healed from my past.

I am forgiven. I am freed to forgive others.

And my past sins, as well as the sins committed against me, bear no penalty upon my present or my future.

Quite honestly, I was a victim far too long, but it doesn't have to be that way for the rest of you. We are victims only as long as we say we are. And so what we need is a mind-shift. Maintaining a victim mentality only harms us further, allowing the clouds of yesterday to cast their shadow over our joy today. (This analogy is not my own, but I don't have a source to attribute it to. I just love this word picture, though, and so I had to use it!) Forgiveness, however, frees us from all this destruction. For the moment we forgive—leaving the offender to the judgement of God—we are set free. We are free to live out of our real identity. The one established by God.

"We are victims only as long as we say we are."

You see, you are not a victim. Or at least, "victim is not your identity."

The same is true of you as I said of myself, if you are a follower of Christ.

In Christ, you are a child of God.

You are redeemed.

You are chosen, precious in your Father's sight and loved beyond measure.

You are forgiven. And now, you are free to forgive.

Truly, your past sins—and the sins committed against you—have no claim on your present or your future.

This is your true identity.

Allow yourself to believe this. Go there. Believe. And I can assure you that your life will never be the same.

Do you struggled with being a victim? Do you still need to forgive? How has recognizing your true identity in Christ changed you?

Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father's Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham's film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan's NIV Bible for Women and writes at,, and Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters. To connect with Laurie, please visit or find her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

]]> (Laurie Coombs) Featured Women Life Tue, 01 Sep 2015 11:00:00 -0400
A Prophetic Vision of Two Rivers and a Strong Warning

In July I received a vision from the Lord concerning polluted waters and bad fruit. Before I share that vision, I would like to say that I love the church! I'm passionate about the church, and I'm more convinced than ever that the church is God's answer for the world.

Having said that, it is also important to recognize that we aren't where we should be, and the Lord is answering with a pure move of His Spirit in our day.

I will attempt to share this vision just as I received it and not add any of my own opinions to it.

The Lord and I were together in a great valley that stretched several miles in each direction from where we were standing. The Lord led me to the banks of this river and it was a relatively wide river with rapidly moving water. As we approached the banks, I began to notice a horrible smell coming from the water. Once we reached the edge of the bank, the smell was overpowering me and it wreaked like severely stagnant water and when I looked down into it, there was no life in this water other than tadpoles and leeches, but no vegetation or fish.

What I was seeing didn't make sense to me because this was an active, rapidly moving river and should have been full of life. I asked the Lord how this water could be stagnant but yet moving so rapidly. The Lord spoke to me and said that this water wasn't stagnant; it was polluted.

He then took me up the river to the mouth of it. The river was flowing out of the side of a mountain. Located at the corner of the valley and the mountain there was a very large factory. It was surrounded by a very high fence with razor wire across the top. The large door had a sign written across the top of the door that read "The Modern Church."

At all four corners were high watch towers with armed guards on each of them. The Lord spoke to me and said that these watchmen were looking for an enemy, but I thought it wasn't the enemy. I asked the Lord who they considered their enemy and He said that they were watching for any man or woman that would dare challenge the practices of the modern church.

He then told me that they were highly trained character assassins and they would stop at nothing to silence the voices of those that would speak out and challenge carnal practices of the modern church system.

We went behind the factory where the river ran beside it and there was a concrete ramp leading down into the water. There were people dumping barrels of substances into this water. Each barrel was labeled. I saw labels like: humanism, universalism, carnality, lust, sexual immorality, compromise, greed, fear of man.

He then led me down the river and we came upon a large fruit field. We crossed a bridge and approached the trees. These trees were some of the greenest trees I've ever seen, but when I approached them they were either void of any fruit, or the fruit was molded, rotten and infested by insects. The Lord told me that these trees were meant to bear good fruit, but the roots were tapped into contaminated and polluted water.

We then moved further down the river to a village. There were people walking around this village. The people were very trendy and modern in their style and dress. I walked up to a man with his back to me and touched his shoulder. He turned around and I stepped back because his eyes were whited out and he was zombified. Death was in his face. I began to declare to him that he was dead, but that I could lead him to life. He began to defend his position with all sorts of philosophies and nothing I said was impacting him. I asked the Lord why the man wouldn't hear me and He said because "he wouldn't endure sound doctrine." The Lord then told me that this man was the product of people eating rotten fruit and drinking from polluted waters.

The part that stood out the most about this encounter with this man was the fact that he was utterly convinced he was alive. He couldn't be convinced of his condition.

From here, the Lord then took me into the mountain where the river began. He took me past the factory and into a cave where the water was coming out. He took me up into the mountain and the water flowing through this mountain was the clearest, most beautiful water I've ever seen. This water was living and vibrant. The Lord spoke to me that this river was the pure movement of His Spirit. He told me that this river was where His power and anointing was found. He said that many people are looking for Him in the "valley of man," but He wasn't found there. He was found in the hill of the Lord.

He told me that He was issuing an invitation to His people to come and flow in this river. He said that even though the invitation was to all of His ministers, many wouldn't tap into it because of what was going to be required to flow there.

He then gave me the following requirements to stay in the pure river:

  • Only say what He says with no fear of man
  • Honor Him and love Him more than the praise of man
  • Abstain from sexual immorality
  • Never prostitute the gift He has given me for money
  • Stay humble
  • Always be a good husband to my wife and a good father to my children

He said if I would maintain these things in my life and ministry, He would allow me to flow in His pure river. He then said if I violate any of these things then I would no longer be able to stay in the mountain of God.

He then quoted Psalm 24:3-5, which says: "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He will receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

He said that many ministers begin their ministries in the clean river, but after time, find themselves in the valley. He warned me strongly that once you go down to the valley, though it's possible to make your way back to the mountain, it is almost impossible because many times it will require public repentance and public humility. Many have trouble dealing with their pride to do that.

My prayer in this hour is that the true church of Jesus Christ would rise up with clean hands and pure hearts. There are two rivers flowing. Let's decide to flow where He is flowing.

Josh Fontaine is the founder of Christ In You Ministries based out of Tampa, Florida. Josh, his wife, Mimi, and their two children travel full-time, speaking in churches, conferences and prophetic presbyteries. Josh walks in the office of a five-fold ministry prophet and carries a fire for revival and the restoration of the prophetic office to be body of Christ. You can follow Joshua on Periscope under @Joshua_Fontaine or contact him at

]]> (Josh Fontaine) Featured Prophetic Insight Blogs Tue, 01 Sep 2015 09:50:00 -0400
False Converts and Fashionable Christians

If you are walking in willful disobedience to God's Word, if the consistent pattern of your life is the practice of sin and the deeds of the sinful nature that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21 and Ephesians 5:3-7, then you must question your salvation.

Any teaching that opens the door to false assurance and loose living is not from God.

A wave of watered-down and milquetoast "Churchianity" has flooded the church world. A nonconfrontational gospel has failed miserably to deal with sin and repentance. We have forgotten that the central message of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21), not in our sins. He didn't just come to forgive us of our sins, but to free us from our sins. This is one of the most tragic fundamental errors we have made in our contemporary gospel, and it largely explains the degradation in our society today. A weak church has opened the way for the devil's onslaught.

Not only has our gospel been watered down, but the themes of holiness and sanctification in the church are hardly ever mentioned. As a matter of fact, there's been a diabolical silence on it as the "I'm OK, you're OK—once saved, always saved" mantra gains popularity. And all at the expense of the many urgent appeals of New Testament writers to warn the early saints of the dangers of deception (1 Cor. 6:9), falling back (2 Pet. 3:17), drifting (Heb. 2:1), stumbling (1 Pet. 1:10), changing the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 4), and giving heed to seducing doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1).  The church world is fast adrift into an "easy believism" salvation void of His Lordship that Christ would not recognize today.

Men who profess Christ are not meeting God's own conditions for true conversion. "Christian" is almost a meaningless word to the masses today, because so many believe they are Christians, when in fact, they are not. And sadly, there are very few voices today strong enough to change that and stir the church and shake the world.

It has been estimated that over half a million were converted to God as a direct result of Charles G. Finney's ministry in the 1800s, and that by a conservative estimate over 80 percent remained true to Christ to the day of their death, without backsliding or falling by the wayside. Figures are nowhere near that today.

"Examine yourselves, seeing whether you are in the faith; test yourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5).

Only the dishonest fear the truth. If your faith is real, it will stand any thorough examination. If it is false, God knows it, and you shall know it too. Please do something about it before you go out into eternity.

Christian, God's question to you is not "What are you doing?" but "Why are you doing it?" It is possible to look exactly like a true Christian in every outward detail, but for a fundamentally different reason. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Other professing Christians judge you by the ways and means you live out your life, but God looks at the reason and purpose for which you are living (see Matt. 6). Almost any means of Christian service can be counterfeited by a deceived person, but unless there has been a change of heart, or ultimate purpose, nothing you do is really true.

So a person may believe that Christ came to save sinners, and on that ground may submit to be saved for his own safety, without submitting to His Lordship. His submission is only on the selfish condition that he will be happier. It is never with that unreserved trust in God's character and love for the complete will of God. And in large part, this is what we have come to today: Christianity is a religion of happiness and prosperity. But that is not the gospel, dear ones.

The false convert obeys God, not because he loves Him, but only because he hopes to get something good out of it for himself. The true child of God delights in doing God's will. When love for Christ and the gospel is central, there is no weariness or struggle in serving the Lord. It is your delight! His commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3; Matt. 11:30; 23:4; Luke 11:46).

Do you enjoy Christianity or do you serve God  only for what He can do for you?

A true convert loves the Word of the Lord. He loves hard truth. He loves to hear about being holy, fearing the Lord, denying himself and taking up his cross and following Jesus. He is not the least bit offended by these themes.

The false convert never enjoys hearing these types of messages.

Christ's words commanding supreme love of His followers over all other earthly loves have no meaning to the false convert. They do not supremely love Him. They love themselves, and everything connected with their own happiness (Matt. 6:33, 22:36-40, 10:37-39; Luke 14:25-26).

We have a radically defective Christianity today. It is not an exaggeration nor unloving to say that these aforementioned descriptions of false conversion seem to fit a very large majority in the church.

Now, let me ask you another question. Is Christ the center of your life, or are you trying to fit Him in for your own happiness?

The problem has been that it has become quite fashionable today to take Jesus as your Savior, but not as your Lord as if He is somehow divided. However, if you do a study on the word "Lord," you will find it listed more than 400 times in the New Testament as opposed to Savior, which only appears 15 times. The New Testament calls Him our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His Lordship always has preeminence. To our own detriment, preachers today have subtly excused His Lordship by saying things such as, "Sinners just need to take Jesus as their Savior," as if His Lordship is optional or something you do later on when you become a stronger Christian.

The common thought has been that this nominal "Christian" may partly serve God while at the same time partly living in sin. His ticket to heaven is guaranteed; his discipleship is optional. It appears by this that a man can be saved, but not surrendered to Christ; following Him, but still serving himself.

Once again, friends, that is not the gospel! This line of thinking is at the root of all the church's problems today.

Maybe it is time to face the hard truth. The real answer is that the person who displays these characteristics is a false convert. Our churches our full of them.

They are "fashionable Christians!" Their style of religion is fashionable and popular and they generally follow the spirit of this age in their thinking, behavior, fashion, dress and custom. No matter what God requires, they are carefully determined not to offend His enemies. If they are ever faced with a choice between pleasing man or pleasing God, they will offend God. They will do more to gain the approval of men than the approval of God. This must change in the church today if we are to see nationwide revival.

Will you surrender now and trust in God's empowering grace to live no longer for yourself, but to live for God and His glory? Will you, preacher and pastor, begin to proclaim the real gospel and the real salvation?

Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, is the author of several books, including The Real Spirit of Revival and the newly released My Son, My Son—a beautiful father-son memoir co-written with his son Daniel for the purpose of training up a holy generation. He ministers interdenominationally and cross-culturally in nations, churches, conferences, on the streets, and in homes. He and his wife also host The Holy Ghost Forum—a school of the Spirit. Follow him at Bert Farias and Holy Fire Ministries on Facebook or @Bertfarias1 on Twitter.

]]> (Bert Farias) Featured Culture Life Tue, 01 Sep 2015 09:00:00 -0400
10 Things That Are Going to Happen Within 15 Days of the End of the Shemitah

Note: The opinions of this writer do not necessarily reflect those of Charisma Media.

Is a great shaking coming to America? An amazing convergence of events is going to take place during the latter part of September 2015.

Many are suggesting that this could indicate that something really big is about to happen. In fact, some vendors of emergency food are reporting shortages because so many people are stocking up on food and supplies in anticipation of what is coming.

And of course the list I am about to share with you is not necessarily exhaustive. There are events that are currently unknown or unanticipated that could also fall during this time frame. But without a doubt, the incredible confluence of events that we already know will happen appears to be unlike anything that we have ever experienced before.

It all starts with the end of the Shemitah year on Sept. 13. During the last two cycles, we witnessed historic stock market crashes on the very last day of the Shemitah year (Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar). For example, if you go back to Sept. 17, 2001 (which was Elul 29 on the biblical calendar), we witnessed the greatest one-day stock market crash in all of U.S. history up until that time. The Dow plunged 684 points, and it was a record that held for exactly seven years until the end of the next Shemitah cycle.

On Sept. 29, 2008 (which was also Elul 29 on the biblical calendar), the Dow plummeted 777 points, which still today remains the greatest one-day stock market crash of all time in the United States.

Now we are in another Shemitah year. It began in the fall 2014, and it ends on Sept. 13, 2015.

So will we see a stock market crash in the United States on Sept. 13, 2015?

No we will not, because that day is a Sunday. So I can guarantee there will not be a stock market crash in the U.S. on that day. But as author Jonathan Cahn has pointed out in his book on the Shemitah, we have witnessed major stock market crashes happen just before the end of the Shemitah year and we have also witnessed major stock market crashes happen within just a few weeks after the end of the Shemitah year. So we are not necessarily looking at one particular date.

And this time around, a whole bunch of critical events just happen to fall in the period of time immediately following the end of the Shemitah year.

The following are 10 things that are going to happen within 15 days of the end of the Shemitah:

Sept. 14: Rosh Hashanah

Sept. 15: The Jade Helm military exercises are scheduled to end.

Sept. 15: The 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly begins on this date. It has been widely reported that France plans to introduce a resolution that will give formal U.N. Security Council recognition to a Palestinian state shortly after the new session begins. Up until now, the U.S. has always been the one blocking such a resolution, but Barack Obama has already indicated that things may be different this time around. If alarm bells are going off in your head as you read this, then you probably already understand how significant this event could potentially be.

Sept. 20 to Sept. 26: The "World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel" sponsored by the World Council of Churches.

Sept. 21: The U.N. International Day Of Peace. Could this be the day when the U.N. Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state is actually adopted?

Sept. 23: Yom Kippur

Sept. 23: Pope Francis arrives at the White House to meet with Barack Obama. Some have suggested that the timing of this event is highly unusual.

Francis is the 266th pope, and he will be meeting with President Obama on the 266th day of the year, leading one Internet preacher to wonder if "something is being birthed" on that day, since 266 days is the typical human gestation period from conception to birth.

Sept. 24: The Pope addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Sept. 25 to Sept. 27: The United Nations is going to launch a brand-new sustainable development agenda called "The 2030 Agenda." The following is an excerpt from an article that I just wrote about this insidious new plan:

"If you didn't like 'Agenda 21,' then you really are not going to like 'The 2030 Agenda.'

"Next month, the United Nations is going to launch 'The 2030 Agenda' at a major conference that will be held from Sept. 25 to Sept. 27 in New York City. The pope is actually traveling to New York to deliver an address that will kick off this conference.

"Unlike Agenda 21, which primarily focused on the environment, the 2030 Agenda is truly a template for governing the entire planet. In addition to addressing climate change, it also sets ambitious goals for areas such as economics, health, energy, education, agriculture, gender equality and a whole host of other issues. As you will see below, this global initiative is being billed as a 'new universal Agenda' for humanity. If you are anything like me, alarm bells are going off in your head right about now."

Sept. 28: This is the date when the Feast of Tabernacles begins. It is also the date for the last of the four blood moons that fall on biblical festival dates during 2014 and 2015. This blood moon falls on the very first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, it will be a "supermoon," and it will be clearly visible from the city of Jerusalem. There are many that dismiss the blood moon phenomenon, but we have seen similar patterns before. For example, a similar pattern of eclipses happened just before and just after the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans in A.D. 70.

Many have also suggested that the Large Hadron Collider "is scheduled to perform a controversial experiment in September," but so far I have been unable to find any solid confirmation of this.

Just recently, author Jonathan Cahn released a new video in which he expressed his belief that a "great shaking is coming to America and the world." He points to the biblical pattern of desecration preceding judgment, and he is convinced that we recently witnessed a historic act of desecration here in the United States.

Many have asked Cahn whether America is headed for revival or shaking. He is convinced that revival can come out of shaking.

Personally, I believe that we will not have revival unless there is shaking.

As a nation, we have unapologetically embraced evil. We are extremely proud, arrogant, greedy and cold-hearted. I do not believe that there is any hope for our nation unless we are shaken to our core.

I am fully convinced that the months ahead are going to dramatically change life in America, but whether it happens right now or not, I am 100-percent convinced that a great shaking is coming to this nation at some point.

Michael T. Snyder is the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog and author of The Beginning of the End.

]]> (Michael Synder) Featured Prophecy Spirit Tue, 01 Sep 2015 08:00:00 -0400
Help, God! It Hurts!

Note: This article originally appeared in the February 1996 issue of Charisma magazine.

Pain happens. In fact, it is likely that most of the folks reading this magazine are aware of pain in their own lives—either physical or emotional—at this very moment. Some are experiencing minor discomfort. Others feel devastated.

Pain is as mysterious as it is common. It knows no borders. It does not dis­criminate. It occurs in all classes and at all levels of society. It tends to increase with age. It is tolerated by most and understood by few.

The problem of physical pain costs America about $55 billion in lost pro­ductivity in the marketplace annually. Moreover, literally tons of medications are ingested every day as well to relieve the hurts of our bodies.

Headaches, some almost totally debilitating, are expe­rienced by 73 percent of our nation's population. More than 97 million of us will endure backaches to varying degrees in any given year.

Many people will attempt suicide because of their pain. Some will succeed.

Yet as great as the pain among us throbs at the physical level, it cannot be compared with the emo­tional pain being endured on the planet because of violence, war, divorce, grief, abuse, poverty, hope­lessness and a plethora of other conditions. There is no instrument to measure the deep pain of unex­plained depression that grips millions among us.

Books on the subject are everywhere. Some are written from the philo­sophical and religious view, such as C.S. Lewis' brief masterpiece, The Problem of Pain. Others have been written from the medical and religious bent, as in the classic Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. (During a time of intense, pro­longed pain, I found this volume more helpful than any book I had ever read except the Bible.)

Then there's Barbara Johnson, who writes about pain with godly humor. Her first book, Pain Is Inevitable, Misery Is Optional, So Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy, packs a powerful wallop of hope in the midst of misery. She demon­strates that laughter really is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles.

As much as we'd like to avoid it, pain is a part of the human experience. It's universal—and absolutely necessary.

Pain, My Roommate

I don't want this to be another 'Did I tell you about my operation?' story. But if I am to share the lessons I've learned about pain, we have to go through the operating room.

A few years ago I was ambushed by an unex­pected illness while on a ministry trip. Believing myself to be in the peak of health, and active and ener­getic at age 55, I was astounded to find myself suddenly under the knife in open-heart surgery.

The first days following the operation were unevent­ful. My recovery seemed quite good, and a few days of rest were rec­ommended by the doctors before the trip back home.

But then, just a couple of days into the recuperation period, I was stricken with unbearable, unrelenting pain. Re-admis­sion into the hospital revealed the pres­ence of a deadly staph infection located near my heart and vital organs. Another, more serious surgery was called for, and then another as the infection spread, threatening my life.

The third surgery left a gaping wound that required dressing three times a day—an enormously painful procedure. The muscles in my chest were trauma­tized. There was no position in which I could find complete comfort or relief from pain.

The antibiotics had peculiar side effects, and the wound was a source of endless torture. Only powerful medica­tions brought moments of relief. A month seemed to drag on for years.

Added to my physical pain was another torment: My wife had experi­enced an emotional breakdown and was admitted to the same hospital three floors below me. And there was a further complication: Trouble was rapidly brewing in the church my son and I pastored back home. Feelings of helpless­ness only deepened the pain my body was experiencing.

As my mind became clear enough to reason, I thought, If I am going to be rooming with pain, I might as well learn all I can about this strange companion. So for the next month, while a battle was being waged for my life, I studied pain from my own vantage point.

A View From the Front

Six observations about pain struck me in the midst of that battle.

First, a part of the hurt of my pain was its unfathomable mystery. "Why is this happening to me?" "What is the meaning of this?" "Has God forgotten about me?" These questions are not answered in the midst of pain.

If we seek our relief from pain through understanding it, then we likely will be hurting for a long time. Nice formulas, time-worn clichés and well-ordered expo­sitions offer little help in this arena.

Why ask why? Our pain is sometimes complicated by our feverish attempts to comprehend something that is classified information with God. Frankly put, why is none of our business—and more than likely, we would not be helped if we understood.

Second, the discovery that I was not alone in my pain was an indispensable compensation. Pain is powerful in its isolating potential. The sufferer seems, at least to himself or herself, to be all alone. This overpowering loneliness, even in the presence of visitors, serves to complicate and deepen the thrusts of pain's torment.

Third—and this goes hand-in-hand with the second observation—I noticed that those who helped me most were those who had suffered the most. Fellow trav­elers on the journey of pain spoke with a ring of integrity when they shared words of comfort. I was not interested in long messages of solace and support, but in countenances that seemed to say without words, "I know how you feel, and I care!"

Fourth, I never quit or lost for long the exercise of praise. I had written about it and preached about it; now the time had come for me to prove beyond any doubt the validity of the power of praise in the midst of trouble. If it could not work here, I knew it simply would not work.

Fifth, I learned the art of living one moment at a time. I never stopped praying for healing, but I did not make the prospect of its absence the basis for more misery.

As I faced the possibility that any moment might be my last, I savored every one of them. I could do nothing about the past and knew nothing about the future. Each moment was all the time I really had.

Sixth, I never lost my God-given sense of humor. When a pastor walked in one day, I greeted him with the declaration: "Well, here I am dying; my wife is downstairs going to pieces; my church is falling apart. What a time to praise the Lord!" We laughed together and prayed.

The Biblical Record

The Bible is not silent about pain. It traces the history of pain from Genesis to Revelation—literally from beginning to end.

From the place of my own pain, I noted what God said to Eve in Genesis 3:16: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow [pains in the NIV] and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children" (NKJV). The history of man from that point forward has been a veritable catalog of pain, grief and sorrow.

I read about the pains of Job with fresh interest. I winced as God flung a plethora of unanswerable questions at Job, and I rejoiced with him as he acknowledged his own ignorance and immaturity to rise above the triumph.

I was encouraged to see that the final chapter of his life was greater than the first. Despite the fact that God had unstrung Job's bow (Job 30:11), all was well in the end.

I traced the hand of God in David's life as he moved from gloom to glory and from pain to praise. The psalmist was anchored by the knowledge that God "has not despised nor abhorred the afflictions of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face" (Ps.22:24).

Then, of course, there was the pain Jesus endured physically, emotionally and spiritually for our sal­vation. As a result, He now meets us in our suffering with a care known only to sufferers. It would take volumes to explore His pain alone.

Through the course of Bible history, then, pain plows its tortuous furrow until these words mark its demise: "There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4). So, in the Scripture, we see the beginning and the end of pain.

The Purpose of Pain

While pain will one day be a thing of the past, the Bible and human experi­ence make clear some of the purposes it serves for us today:

1. Pain protects. In the body, thousands of pain sen­sors sound the alarm in times of danger. Were it not for these guardians of our health, we would soon expire. As much as we loathe the hurt of pain, surely none of us would choose to end it as long as we are in these bodies.

Paul himself was riveted to a painful "thorn in the flesh" from which he apparently never gained relief. He stated that it was given to him for his own good, lest he should be "exalted above measure" (2 Cor. 12:7).

2. Pain detects. It is through pain that we are able to locate the problem. The first question a doctor is apt to ask is, "Where does it hurt?" The pain we feel will either tell us exactly where the trouble is or put us on the trail that will lead us there.

3. Pain corrects. The leper may walk incorrectly on a diseased foot until it is worn to the bone. Without the warn­ings of pain, no adapta­tions are called for, and thus the destruction is inevitable.

As the psalmist declared, speaking of the spiritual realm, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word" (Ps. 119:67). Pain adequately communicated and properly responded to tends to bring on initiatives that result in healing. Pain denied, resisted or dis­regarded may lock the organism into a head-on collision with death.

4.  Pain punishes. This may be the most questionable of pain's designs, but it deserves men­tion. Much of our pain is our body get­ting back at us for denying it proper care and nourishment. But it should be remembered that the purpose of pain never stops at the punitive stage. It is always a call for change, for attention, for healing.

5.  Pain instructs. Through pain we can be taught how to walk, behave, think and live our lives. It is our "menacing instructor" whose margins are very narrow. One of the most magnificently mysterious things ever said about Jesus was, "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:8, italics added). If our Lord, though per­fect, learned through sufferings, so may we expect to be properly instructed through pain.

6.  Pain perfects. Pain in the human body serves in its protective and detective ministry to bring health. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Scripture informs us that the cap­tain of our salvation, innocent and complete in Himself, was yet made perfect through sufferings (Heb. 2:10). So we are enjoined by Peter to suffer as Christ suffered, with the same attitude, because "he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin" (1 Pet. 4:1).

Again, we are reminded in Hebrews 12:11 that no discipline seems joyful, but painful; nevertheless, it yields the peace­able fruit of righteousness. The fact is that pain, whether physical or emotional, may have a maturing effect on the sufferer.

7.  Pain unifies. Any area of the body without pain sensors is incredibly isolated. The body soon loses touch with what it cannot feel and expends no effort to protect it. Lepers are known to perceive their dis­eased limbs as detestable dead weights.

On the other hand, pain reminds the body that it is one—every part cooper­ating with others and appreciated by them. Nothing so brings the entire body into unified action like the intrusion of pain. The mind, the nerves, the blood form a united front to fend off the enemy identified by pain's alarm.

The lessons for the body of Christ here are obvious. The slightest pain in any part of the church body should mar­shal all available resources for defense and healing.

The hurt in one member ought to arouse sympathy and action on the part of all other members. The health of one impacts the health of all.

In the scheme of human existence, each one of us experiences pain. And in the face of that pain—our beloved enemy, our magnificent menace—we laugh, we cry, we reason, we ask questions.

As much as we may want to, we dare not escape it entirely. Like a pulpit in the wilderness, pain is a place where we learn and grow.

]]> (Jack Taylor ) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
Jamie Buckingham: Real Power Runs Deep

Note: This column by the late Jamie Buckingham first appeared in Charisma magazine in the 1980s. Charisma is featuring Jamie on this final day of its 40th anniversary celebration.

Several years ago my family and I spent some time with friends in Washington state. One afternoon they took me through one of those big dams on the Columbia River where so much of the electric power for the Northwest is produced.

I had heard of such things as turbines, power plants and generators. But for some reason I had always thought the power from those big dams was provided by the water that rolled over the spillway. It never occurred to me—a flatlander from Florida—that the real power came not from the froth that splattered over the top of the dam but from machines hidden far below the surface.

We took an elevator deep into the innards of the dam and found ourselves in the middle of more power than I had ever dreamed possible. It wasn't noisy or spectacular. The power seemed to be contained in a deep hum that vibrated into the marrow of my bones.

Deep in the floor of the dam were the mighty turbines. That afternoon only five of the nine were in operation. But that was enough to provide power for half the state of Washington and part of Oregon.

Hundreds of feet above us, the huge lake pushed against the propellers of the machines. The pressure of that water turned the turbines to generate hundreds of thousands of kilowatt hours of electricity.

We took the elevator back to the top of the dam and watched the water from the spillway splash in a spectacular waterfall. It, too, was part of the process. When the pressure on the dam became too great, caused by high water in the lake, the spillways would be opened. If the water in the lake was low, there was no waterfall over the dam.

But it was those silent, hidden turbines that produced the power—even though there was no outer display of their might.

It is so easy to get enchanted by the spectacular—the outer manifestations. I thank God for continued Pentecost: tongues, prophecies, healings and miracles. These were normal in the New Testament church; they should be present in the church of today. But I am convinced we must never confuse spillway Christianity with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The water over the dam plays a vital purpose. It is something of a release for the rising tide of spirituality. In fact, if the lake is low, there will be no outward signs. If the lake is high, you can expect an overflow whenever the body gets together.

I pray our lakes will remain high. But I hope we will never equate the power of the Holy Spirit with outward signs. Regardless of whether a church displays the spectacular, the Holy Spirit is still turning the turbines. Unless, that is, the lake has gone dry.

However, it is possible for a church—or an individual Christian—never to have any display of the spectacular and still be used by God to accomplish great things.

In other words, it is possible to have your water level far below the spillway crest and yet have your turbines still turn. Some of my finest sermons were preached when my lake was at its lowest level. In fact, there have been times when I have felt completely drained, only to find when I laid my hand on some sick person he was instantly healed.

The absence of outward signs does not mean God is not generating power through your life. It simply means your lake is probably low. The power that runs the kingdom is not limited to the overflow. Indeed, most of that is not power at all but merely evidence of a high level of enthusiasm.

It is possible to have a huge spillway display and produce no power whatsoever—because your turbines are clogged with debris. The power that runs the kingdom is found in the dynamos of men's hearts as they love, serve, give to and pray for one another.

Granted, God loves our praise. He loves our enthusiasm. He loves it when we clap our hands and shout for joy. He goes so far as to say He abides in the praises of His people.

But God judges us on character, not charisma.

I thank God for spillway Christians—those who make a big splash. But those who provide the real power are often hidden, seldom noticed. On such does the kingdom of God depend.

Jamie Buckingham (1932-1992), a pastor and author, wrote a column for Charisma that was published from March 1979 to August 1993. As we approach the 10th anniversary of his death this February, we are reprinting some of his best works.

]]> (Jamie Buckingham) Featured The Last Word Columns J15 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Jamie Buckingham: Healing Life's Scars

Note: This column from the late Jamie Buckingham first appeared in Charisma magazine in the 1980s. Charisma is featuring Jamie on this final day of its 40th anniversary celebration.

Scars are not evidence of imperfection; they are evidence of healing. Your scars glorify God.

In his book A Few Things I've Learned Since I Knew It All, Jerry Cook tells the story of his open-heart surgery. When he had his heart attack, Jerry was pastor of a large church in Oregon that believed in and practiced healing. During his recovery, a woman in his church asked him, "Were you embarrassed to have a heart attack?"

Jerry replied that he was not embarrassed. But the woman was. She was unable to handle the totality of life's experiences--including the fact that pain and suffering are real.

Later, after he recovered, Jerry had a visit from a man who was fearfully facing the prospect of his own bypass surgery. "I want to see your scars," the man said shyly.

Jerry took off his shirt. The man gently traced with his finger the violet scar that ran vertically down Jerry's chest.

The man went on, "The doctor says the most painful part of the operation will be the surgery on my legs. They're going to take out veins from my calf to use in the heart bypass. Looking up at Jerry, he asked, "Can I see your legs?"

Jerry rolled up his pants. The man got on his knees. Without shame, he put his hands on Jerry's legs, touching the scars with his finger. When he rose to his feet there were tears in his eyes.

"Thank you. Now I have hope." Seeing and touching the scars gave him hope for survival.

Easter night Jesus appeared to His disciples. They were frightened and thought He was a ghost.

"Look at my hands and my feet," He said. "Touch Me and see" (Luke 24:39, NIV).

Thomas was not in the room that night. Later he wanted to see His scars. Again Jesus obliged: "Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe" (John 20:27).

Jesus understands our need to see and to touch the scars. When we do, we know we can survive.

Sometimes our lives get scarred. And sometimes we're embarrassed because of the scars. We think they are ugly—evidence of imperfection.

Scars, though, are not evidence of imperfection; they are evidence of healing. Scars glorify God, who has brought us through.

I remember the afternoon I stood in our kitchen listening to our pregnant and discouraged daughter talking to her mother. It was Sandy's first baby, and she was afraid. In high school she had been president of her class, homecoming queen, the belle of all the balls. Now she was married, and although still beautiful, her stomach was expanding far beyond what she thought was possible.

"I'm afraid I'll just explode," she told her mother tearfully—reaching out to hold her huge, awkward tummy.

"No," Jackie said, "you won't explode. Your skin just stretches."

"Then I'll go through life with baggy skin," she wailed.

Jackie chuckled: "Everything, including your skin, returns to normal. But there may be scars."

I stood to one side listening to this remarkable conversation. Marveling in the miracle of pregnancy and birth. Marveling even more in Jackie's ability to put her baby daughter's fears to rest.

Then Jackie did something absolutely wonderful. She reached down and pulled up her blouse--all the way to her chest. She then pulled down her slacks, exposing her abdomen. After five children, she's scarred.

"Stretch marks," she smiled, running her fingers along the little ridges. "I call them love marks."

Reaching out her hand toward Sandy, she said tenderly, "Touch them."

Hesitatingly, Sandy reached out her hand. Gently she let her fingers trace the scars.

"They look funny," Jackie said. "But every time I see them I think of you—and Bonnie and Tim and Robin and Bruce.

"Pregnancy has left me scarred. But my love for you makes it all worthwhile."

Most Christians are scarred. We're not proud of the scars, but we're not ashamed either. When you're hurt, I pray God will send someone who will take your finger and let you trace their scars. Then after your scars are healed—and praise God they will heal—do the same for someone else. Scars are not ugly—Jesus understands our need to see and to touch the scars. Jesus understands our need to see and to touch the scars. They are evidence of God's healing.

Jamie Buckingham (1932-1992) wrote a column for Charisma from 1979 until his death.

]]> (Jamie Buckingham) Featured SpiritLed Living Charisma Channels J15 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
Cindy Jacobs: What's Wrong With Harry Potter?

Note: This article ran in the December 2001 issue of Charisma magazine. There are now seven books in the Harry Potter series and they have sold more than 450 million copies. Have things gotten worse in this area in the the last 14 years?

One day I opened the pages of USA Today and noted two children's books on one of the New York Times Best-Seller lists. Both books, from the Harry Potter series, had occult-sounding titles. I later noticed one of them, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, in a prominent place in a local chain bookstore. Curious, I picked up a copy.

The seduction of the Harry Potter series, written by an English woman named J.K. Rowling, is potent because the story pulls on one's heartstrings. Its hero, Harry, is a 10-year-old orphan who is actually a powerful wizard.

He lives a miserable existence with his cruel uncle and spoiled cousin. His life changes on his 11th birthday, when he finds out who he is and is accepted into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for aspiring wizards.

Harry's classes include creating potions, casting spells and performing other occult practices, as well as lessons in riding a magical broomstick. The occult influence is wrapped in a clever plot meant to captivate and thrill.

Innocent? If we do not know what Scripture teaches about magic, it might seem to be. It is hard to criticize poor, downtrodden Harry, who suddenly finds out that he is "a somebody."

Harry discovers that he can use his magical powers to do good or evil. The idea of personal power lies behind much of the appeal of the Harry Potter story, but it is a personal power apart from God. This is a serious deception, one that 1 Timothy 4:1 warns us about.

We are to avoid all seducing, deceiving spirits. Their appeal to us is the same as that made to Eve by the serpent in the garden. Satan told her she could have knowledge of everything—and thus power. He fooled her into believing such power is attainable apart from God. It is man's desire for power that lures him to magic.

As I have traveled around the country, many people have asked me, "Aren't the Harry Potter fantasies just like the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis?"

The answer is no. The Potter series is clearly demonic in nature. It presents occult practices as being normative and good. By contrast, the Narnia series has clear boundaries between good and evil, and the ultimate point of the stories is redemption.

Some Christians argue that reading the Potter books gives them an opportunity to point out to their children what is wrong with witches and sorcery. Although some parents may be able to successfully use them as a learning tool, to me this is a bit like going to an X-rated movie to teach someone about the depravity of pornography.

Warner Bros. new Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie, which opened in theaters November 16, is introducing even more children to Rowling's craft. But her books are not our only concern. Recently I walked through the adolescent section of a bookstore and estimated that about 70 percent of the reading material displayed there was occultic.

We need to make this situation a matter of prayer in the body of Christ. One thing we can intercede for is that good Christian writers will rise up and top anything the occult world produces. We need biblically based books that are readable and will capture the interest of adolescents.

Why are books of the Harry Potter type so dangerous? To begin with, they are changing the basis of what we consider normative in our culture.

There was a day when those who read occult material were considered deviant, but this is no longer true. The Harry Potter books and others like them are entry-level occult tools that introduce readers to witchcraft, sorcery, spells and spiritual power apart from God. What begins as fantasy leads to real spells and potions. They are open doors for a person to become a practitioner of magic.

In his book Pokemon & Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction (Hearthstone Publishing), Phil Anns has strong words for what is happening to our children through the Potter series: "Harry Potter is much more aggressive in its seductive appeal to get children involved in witchcraft and the occult. This wildly popular series is the most mind-boggling illustration of the psycho-spiritual assault which children are now experiencing."

I know that a lot of well-meaning people, including some respected Christian leaders, scoff at the idea of the Harry Potter books increasing interest in witchcraft. But I have found that they do.

A 13-year-old Southern California girl is just one example. After reading the series, she sought out books about how to become a witch because she was "curious." Fortunately, the girl has a praying grandmother and did not become a Wiccan, but many do.

Ten-year-old fan Gioia Bishop of Napa, California, told the San Francisco Chronicle: "I was eager to get to Hogwarts first because I like what they learned there, and I want to be a witch."

In England, the Pagan Federation has been barraged with so many inquiries about Wicca, mostly from teen-age girls, that the group has appointed a youth officer whose primary responsibility will be to respond to Harry Potter fans who want to know how to become witches.

"[Increased interest in witchcraft] is quite probably linked to things like Harry Potter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Pagan Federation media officer Andy Norfolk told This Is London, a British news Web site.

Wiccans and other pagans consider Harry a good example for would-be witches, even though they point out that his sorcery does not follow all tenets of true witchcraft.

"Perhaps it's silly to take a fictional boy wizard as a role model," writes Dana Gerhardt, a self-described pagan and columnist for the Mountain Astrologer magazine.

"But in the realm of the invisible, where imagination is queen, the inspirations of fiction may be the most relevant," she adds. "Peer deep into pagan roots and you'll find plenty of poets of impossible things. Why not take summoning spells more seriously?"

Part of the seduction of books such as the Harry Potter series is the promotion of "good magic" as protection from "evil magic." This is nothing but a neopagan worldview.

The pagan worldview sees the world as internally connected to a multitude of unseen forces or spirits. Some of these entities reside over natural habitats such as mountains, streams and meadows.

Some are mischievous; others are malevolent. A few are spirits of the dead.

In this scheme, there is no strict boundary between good and evil; rather, there is a constant tension between what we perceive as good and what we perceive as evil. In essence, this allows each person to define good for himself.

Such a worldview is totally at odds with the biblical worldview, which focuses on God, the wise and good Creator, who allows demonic evil in order that the greater good of voluntary worship may occur.

In the pagan world, good and evil are presented as equals. There is no such balance in the Bible. God's good eventually will triumph over all evil.

God's power is limitless and far above the power of any other principality or dominion. However, even Christians can be affected by the pagan worldview. And the Bible very clearly states God's opinion of those who teach paganism (and by logical extension, neopaganism): "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Is. 5:20, NKJV).

What Can Parents Do?

As you know, we cannot rely on society to police our children and keep them away from Harry Potter's world and other occult influences. We have to keep a watchful eye on how and where they spend their free time.

Having raised two children myself, I am aware that things get sticky when children become teenagers. But I contend that no matter what age your children are, you have the right to know what they do in their rooms.

Teenagers who have nothing to hide do not lock their rooms and act secretive. As long as you are paying the bills, and they live in your home, you have every right to question their activities.

Here are some warning signs:

  • Exhibiting belligerent behavior
  • Making an extreme change in dress (I am not talking about baggy pants and T-shirts. That is kids being kids. I am referring to the wearing of black clothes, fingernail polish and lipstick. Yes, some guys wear black lipstick, too.)
  • Reading occult literature
  • Displaying violent posters or flyers
  • Listening to occult rock groups such as Marilyn Manson and Metallica.

If you witness any of these in your teen, you may need to employ "tough love" techniques—in other words, take drastic measures to intervene. It won't be easy, but it will make a difference.

Cassie Bernall was a young Christian who died a martyr's death at Columbine High School. At one time Cassie had become involved in witchcraft and the occult. Her parents applied tough love and made her tear down the posters in her room, throw away offensive CDs and dispose of videos that encouraged violence. They also made her go to church. As a result, she turned her life over to the Lord and is in heaven today.

I am aware that not all stories turn out as well as Cassie's, but I encourage you to intervene, nevertheless.

First, clean up your children's rooms, and get rid of negative influences. Take down violent posters. Dispose of books, CDs, video games and other games that have ungodly or occult overtones.

Do the cleanup with your children present, if they will participate. If they throw a fit and are over 18, give them the option of removing these things or moving out and paying all their own bills.

Second, teach your children to resist deception. Here is the advice Christian author Berit Kjos gives in an article titled "Bewitched by Harry Potter":

  • Help them to know the true God. When children know God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, they will recognize seductive counterfeits.
  • Train them to shun other gods. It's tempting to believe the beckoning voices that display enticing counterfeits of all God's wonderful promises. The power is within yourself, they say. Do not listen to the lies.

Instead take this sober warning to heart: "'When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you ... one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord (Deut.18:9-12).

All "these things" are demonstrated in the Harry Potter books. The stories are every bit as spiritual as Christian literature, but the spiritual power they promote comes from other gods.

Third, refuse to be intimidated by the modem-day culture of tolerance. Being intolerant of evil is a good thing, not a bad thing. Also, do not be afraid of a little persecution. We need to learn to be salt and light in the middle of a decaying world. Salt sometimes burns when it is applied to a wound, but it brings healing.

Finally, if you are in a church with other parents of young children, consider forming a prayer group to intercede for one another's families. In 1993, my husband, Mike, and I started a covenant fast with mission leaders Luis and Doris Bush.

We agreed to fast and pray for one another's children every Wednesday. Years later we got together to rejoice over all of the answers to prayer that we have seen for our children because each one has chosen to walk with the Lord. The fast continues to this day.

The most important thing you can do besides pray is be informed and aware of what your children are reading. Guide them to books that provide wholesome entertainment and promote godly principles. If you resist the devil's attempt to plant in them the first seeds of magic superstition and witchcraft, you will thwart his plan to ultimately destroy their lives through involvement in the occult.

]]> (CIndy Jacobs) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Mon, 31 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0400
Tammy Bakker: The Other Side of the PTL Story

Note: This article originally appeared in the March 1991 issue of Charisma magazine and does not reflect the current life of Jim Bakker. Jim and his former wife, Tammy, divorced in 1992. Tammy died in 2007 at age 65.

The banner headline across the cover of Newsweek mag­azine read: "Holy Wars: Money, Sex and Power." A photo of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker accom­panied the August 6, 1987 story. It ap­peared at the height of the struggle over the PTL ministry and Heritage USA prop­erty in Fort Mill, North Carolina.

Several subse­quent attempts to revive PTL failed, with the bankruptcy court finally putting the place up for sale and closing it down. Meanwhile, Jim Bakker was charged with mail and wire fraud for having oversold the partnerships at Heritage USA and having a salary that was too high. For this, he received a 45-year prison sentence, which he is now serving at a federal facility in Minnesota.

Before Jim Bakker was sent to prison, he and Tammy Faye had moved to Orlando, Florida. She continues a new ministry they started and pastors New Covenant Church in Orlando. But much of Tammy Faye Bakker's effort has been focused on preparing an appeal for Jim.

In late October 1990, Bakker's lawyers went before a federal ap­peals court in Richmond, Virginia. They argued that Jim Bakker should be retried on the original charges. The outcome of this appeal was not known at press time. Lawyers said it could be dragged out for months.

Wanting to tell her side of the story, Tammy Faye Bakker answered ques­tions posed by Charisma founding editor Stephen Strang several weeks before the appeal. Also inter­viewed were former PTL contractor Roe Messner and former executive assistant to Jim Bakker, Shirley Fulbright, in her first media interview since Bakker resigned from PTL.

Strang quizzed the trio, which was video­taped to be aired in early 1991 on the Trin­ity Broadcasting Network (TBN) as a journalistic "special" called "The Other Side of the Story." Here we include the edited highlights of that television interview:

Strang: Were you treated fairly or unfairly by the media?

Bakker: I feel in my heart that we were treated very unfairly. I feel like they [reporters and edi­tors] wanted [to report the] neg­ative rather than the positive. And the negative made a much more exciting story than the positive did. So, they would take a tiny little bit of truth and then build their own story around it.

Strang: How is the Jim Bakker that you know different from the stereotypical Jim Bakker that we've come to know in the media?

Bakker: Jim is the kindest, nicest, sweetest man you'll ever meet. He's a very gentle man. He's a very private man. He's a very bashful man, really. He's a man who loves the Lord with all of his heart and loves people with all of his heart. He is not a man who screams and yells. I've never known Jim ever to raise his voice. He's a very soft-spoken man. And he's a very giving man.

That is the Jim Bakker I've lived with for 29 years. How they could make the kind of Jim out of him that they made, I will never know. It was an image created in the media.

Strang: Even before all this happened, on SCTV, they were doing skits about you.

Bakker: That doesn't bother me. I just thank God that they [on SCTV] were focusing on my eyelashes instead of my hips. I can do something about these.

Strang: But you were also cast as a greedy spendthrift who didn't really have a grip on real­ity. Even in the made-for-televi­sion movie in which Bernadette Peters played your part, that's the sort of role that you have.

Bakker: I didn't watch the movie, but greedy is one thing I'm certainly not. I'm probably one of the most giving persons around. I'd give you anything you'd ask for; it's yours. You know, I'm just giving and giv­ing and giving. But that doesn't make a difference; they still portray you as what they want you to be.

Strang: How did the Bakkers and Jerry Falwell get hooked up?

Bakker: It started with Jimmy Swaggart. Jim [Bakker] had taken Swaggart off our satellite network because he was talking against the Catholic church and others. Jim [Bakker] felt it was wrong for anyone to talk against someone and use their name on our network. It made Brother Swaggart angry. When Swaggart found out about Jessica Hahn, he told Falwell that he had some information that would destroy Jim Bakker and PTL and that he was going to use it against us.

Rev. [Richard] Dortch [then PTL vice president] called us at our home in Palm Springs [Cali­fornia], where we were staying. He said that Falwell had called him with the news of what Swaggart was going to do. He said that Falwell wanted to come to California with some of his men and offer his help. Dortch said that he trusted Fal­well and that he felt that we should accept Falwell's help. So Falwell [and his associates] flew to California to meet with Jim and me.

They were all very kind to us. Jerry put his arms around Jim and me and told us that Swaggart had found out about the Hahn affair. Falwell told us that his sins were a lot bigger than that, so he wanted to help us. He said that if he didn't stop Swaggart, he and his ministry would be the next ones to be hurt by Swaggart. He said that he would get hold of Billy Graham and that together they would go to Jimmy Swaggart and try to persuade him to stop what he was going to do. Falwell said that he loved us and our ministry and would never hurt us.

I left the hotel. They had a meeting after I left. In that meeting, they threat­ened Jim [Bakker] with the news media. They scared him. They said if Jim didn't resign the ministry and let Falwell help him, in the next day's newspaper there were going to be head­lines.

In a couple of hours, I received a call that [Falwell's lawyer, Roy] Grutman and Jim [Bakker] were coming to the house to talk to me. They got there. Grutman said he would be our lawyer and protect our rights. He said he watched us on TV and thought a lot of us. He said if we didn't [resign], that Swaggart had contacted the Charlotte Observer and that they were going to run a story the next day about Jim's affair with Hahn. He said the headline would read: "Jim Bakker Rapes Church Secretary." He said if Jim would resign PTL for a few weeks, that the headlines would read instead: "Jim Bakker resigns PTL."

We later found out that Grutman was lying to us and that there were no headlines the next day or any other day. They just wanted to scare Jim enough to cooperate with their takeover plans.

At that time I began to realize that something was terribly wrong. But Jim was so frightened that I could not con­vince him of that. All he could think about was stopping those headlines the next day.

Jim said he would go ahead with the plan of Falwell helping us if they would keep Rev. Dorsch on as the president of the corporation and hire a board of directors of his choosing. They said the board would take the ministry for six weeks. And that in six weeks we would have our ministry back and that we would have the resignations of the new board so that at any point in time we could put back in our own board of directors.

Jim said, "Okay, if that's the way it is, I will for six weeks step back and let this thing work out." Falwell and his men immediately went back to PTL. They hired their own board of directors, never even contacted the people that we had asked them to contact. Falwell called the news conference, said he had never heard of a Jimmy Swaggart plan to take over our ministry and immedi­ately began to put Jim down. He called him everything you could imagine. He said Jim had stolen millions of dollars, called him a homosexual, and for hours he stood on television and said what horrible people Jim and Tammy were. We were watching it on TV at home, and all of a sudden we realized that Jerry Falwell had taken Jimmy Swaggart's plan and done it himself.

Strang: Much of what you've shared has come out in various forms before. And, of course, as this played out in the media over a period of time and as it later went to a grand jury and went to trial, it wasn't Jimmy Swaggart, and it wasn't Jerry Falwell that created the legal problem—it was the partnerships. So much has been said about the part­nerships that I'm not sure I know what a partnership really was.

Bakker: I'm not sure I know anymore.

Strang: Was it a time-share?

Bakker: No, it was not a time-share. If a person donated $1,000 to the ministry to be used in any way that we saw fit, they would receive four days and three nights [a year] at the Heritage Grand Hotel for the rest of their life, or any of the other facilities. There were hun­dreds and hundreds of rooms at PTL that they could take advantage of. If they wanted to camp, it was 10 days and 10 nights a year. But there was no contract with the partners at all. They gave us a gift, and we gave them a gift. It was as simple as that.

Strang: If the partnerships were a gift, then how did you oversell them?

Bakker: They said we gave out more than we had room for. But it was first come, first served. There was no promise that you could have a week every year.

The partners were very happy, and they got everything that we promised them. Everything. If they couldn't get in and were unhappy, Jim sent their money back to them. We sent probably well over a million dollars back to our partners who were unhappy because they couldn't get in at Christmas, or they couldn't get in at Easter, or they couldn't get in at the Fourth of July. How can that be dishonest?

Strang: You were able to raise millions of dollars and build huge facilities. Why did PTL go bankrupt?

Bakker: It was not bankrupt.

Messner: [In] the fiscal year [1986­-1987], they had raised about $150 mil­lion. On the calendar year, that last year Jim was there, they raised $170 million. Their debts were probably, at that time, around $25 million. The income vs. debt ratio was very good.

Strang: Then how was it thrown into bankruptcy?

Messner: I think that was a plan to take it over. You can file chapter 11 on a re­organization to try to re-establish a business.

Bakker: We kept probably the best records of any company around. Jim always said, "If there's any question at all on taxes or anything, pay them."

Strang: This has been a very difficult thing for you to go through. Where do you feel God was in this?

Bakker: Sometimes I felt He was off on vacation, but I'm sure He was there.

Strang: Did you question your Chris­tianity?

Bakker: I questioned my Christianity. I questioned whether there even was a God. I questioned a lot. But I found out one thing: God is who He says He is. He will never leave you, He will never forsake you; and when you need Him, He really is there.

Strang: Roe Messner, you were the contractor at Heritage USA. Did Jim Bakker build everything he said he'd build?

Messner: Yes, he did. My company worked down there for Jim for about six years. We designed and built most all the buildings at PTL—probably about $90 million worth of buildings during that period of time. We started off with the Heritage Grand Hotel, which is a 504-room hotel. Then we built the Tower Hotel, which is a 513-room hotel.

Strang: The Tower Hotel is not fin­ished yet, is it?

Messner: No, it's not. We were about 60 days from opening the hotel when we quit. It's carpeted up through the 10th floor; it's wallpapered up through the 13th floor. There's not that much to do to complete the hotel. But we were working on other projects all over the property. I think altogether we were building over 3,300 different types of rooms and campsites.

Strang: When Jim Bakker left, you were owed a great deal of money, weren't you?

Messner: When Jim left, I was owed $8 million. When Dr. Falwell left, I was owed $15 million.  

Strang: $15 million?

Messner: I did $7 million worth of work while Dr. Falwell was at PTL—while he was doing his May emergency [appeal] and raising all of these millions and millions of dollars. He was raising the money under the pretense of paying me as the contractor, and the television stations, but I never received a penny.

Strang: You have invested a great deal in Heritage USA, and you're still owed a great deal of money. But if I were owed that kind of money, I'm not sure I'd be here to talk about someone like Jim Bakker. So you obviously must still be a friend of his.

Messner: I've spent 37 years designing and building churches. I've had the pleasure of building over 1,200 churches. I've gotten to know a lot about the ministry, and I can truthfully say I never worked for a better man than Jim Bakker. He was honest and fair with me in everything that he did. Regardless of what the press said, or whatever you've heard from the media or any other source, Jim Bakker always treated me fair.

Strang: Is it true the salaries of PTL executives were as big as was reported? Did Jim Bakker really make $3 million?

Bakker: Over a period of five years, yes. Jim and I together made $3 mil­lion. So, when they keep saying we've stolen money, that is what they're talk­ing about. The government felt that we were not worth that, even though it was paid to us over a five-year period and included our bonuses and any other things like our home. Yes, Jim did receive that.

Jim and I never asked for one penny. When we were on the evangelis­tic field, in every church we went to, we never asked for a penny; we took what­ever they gave us. And many times we left with $50 a week. It was the same way at PTL. Not one time did we ever ask anyone at PTL for any amount of salary. Our board of directors loved us. They respected what Jim was doing, and they set our salaries. Jim was not in the room when they set the salaries.

Fulbright: I was present at those board meetings. The board members set his salary and also his bonuses.

Bakker: I have the board minutes to one meeting. It says, "The board was asked to consider bonuses for Christmas for Mr. Bakker and Mrs. Bakker. Mr. Bakker asked the board not to consider a bonus for him. As discus­sion progressed, Mr. Bakker asked to be excused from the meeting, discussion ensued, and a motion was made and seconded and passed unanimously." And many times when they were pass­ing out bonuses, Jim would say, "Please do not give me a bonus." But our board cared about us. They loved us, and they did what they felt was right.

Messner: Let me put it [the salaries and bonuses] in perspective. Jim and Tammy never received royalties on their books and records over this period of five or six years. An audit was made of the books to see what their royalties would have amounted to, and they would have amounted to $8 million. A $3.5 million salary over five years is an enormous salary. But this puts it in perspective.

Bakker: Everybody asked, "Why didn't you take your royalties, Jim and Tammy?" Because we felt it was dis­honest. We felt that if we were pushing our books and records on the air, then it was not right for us to take the royalties. So, we felt we were doing the honest thing by not taking our royalties. But when the board looked at our royalties and realized that if we took them we would be making millions and millions of dollars, I'm sure that's what they based our salary on.

Strang: You are saying that Jim Bakker never asked for a huge salary and allowed millions of dollars of royalties to go back into the ministry. Then how has the opposite perception become what people believe?

Bakker: Because it's easier for people to believe the negative than the posi­tive. You don't have to have any proof for the negative.

Strang: Do you feel that Jim Bakker got a fair trial?

Bakker: I don't think anybody feels that Jim Bakker got a fair trial. You could not be a Christian and be on the jury. You could not have watched any Christian television and be on the jury. I feel that Judge [Robert] Potter went into the trial prejudiced. He said, "I am sick and tired of these television evangelists out there raising money, and I'm going to stop them."

When our ministry tape came on [as evidence during the trial], Judge Potter sat in the courtroom and covered his ears with his hands so he could not hear the "ministry."

Then, we were not allowed to enter evidence that would have freed Jim. They would not open up the building plans that Roe [Messner] had there. They would not let Jim present his chart that said we were not bankrupt and that we had not overbooked the hotel. They would not let him present anything. The judge's favorite words were, "Take it up on appeal."

There was a circus that was going on outside the courthouse. They let peo­ple put couches outside the courthouse on the lawn. They had people crawl under those couches and mimic Jim when he was so terribly sick during the trial. Radio stations gave away records if the people would lay under the couches. Judge Potter allowed this to happen while the trial was going on.

Strang: What really happened with Jim during that trial?

Bakker: Jim had what was called an anxiety attack. It's when you can't breathe, you can't think—you just feel like you're going crazy.

They would have put any other sick person in a hospital and helped him. But they took Jim to a mental ward in chains. He didn't have bathroom tissue. He had no pillow. He was on a cot out in the middle of a bare room.

They would come and take blood out of him at four and five o'clock in the morning. They kept him awake all night long.

Fulbright: He had two psychiatrists that were attending him at the time. They were pleading that he not be taken there.

Bakker: They were pleading that they not send him to that prison. And they did not even tell me and my family where Jim was. The lawyers called and told me that Jim was very ill. The next thing I knew, out in front of our yard [in Orlando] were hundreds of cameras. I called 911 because I was afraid. I said, "Somebody come and help me, there's hundreds of cameras out in my front yard. What has happened?" They [the 911 operator] were the ones who told me that they were sending Jim to a prison.

Messner: I was there [at the trial] and a witness for one day. I think the American public will agree that the trial wasn't the fairest trial that's ever come along. Let's say he was guilty of every­thing. Let's say he did get too much salary. Let's say he did overbook the hotel, and all these things. Let's talk about the sentence. You can murder somebody and maybe get eight years, or you can be a drug dealer and get two or three years. Jim got 45 years!

Strang: The court examined the legal matters. Let's talk about a spiritual mat­ter. Did Jim Bakker, did Tammy Bakker, do anything wrong?

Bakker: I'm sure we did lots of things wrong. Everybody does. If you're going to run a business, no matter what you do, you're going to make some mis­takes. I'm sure that we made mistakes; I'm sure we did. But we certainly didn't make intentional criminal mistakes.

Messner: That's the big point. I don't believe Jim ever had any criminal intent to take a nickel from a PTL partner.

Bakker: Never. He wouldn't let our kids take a 25-cent candy bar from the store. We could have walked in any store [at Heritage USA], and our kids could have taken potato chips and candy bars and stuff. Jim always made sure every month that every single time those kids went to the store, it was put on a bill. At the end of every month, he paid it.

Fulbright: One of the things with Jim Bakker was that if you refused a glass of water to a partner, you were automatically considered terminated. He loved those partners. He had a deep burden. I've seen him cry just reading a simple little letter. So I know the man's heart. He was building it [Heritage USA) for the people. It would have been foolish for him to try to deceive them in any way. He couldn't have, even if he'd tried. They [the partners] were his first priority always.

]]> (Steve Strang ) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sun, 30 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
Benny Hinn: Knowing the Holy Spirit Person to Person

Note: This article originally appeared in the September 1991 issue of Charisma magazine.

It was three days before Christmas 1973. The sun was still rising on that cold, misty Toronto morning.

Suddenly, He was there. The Holy Spirit entered my room. He was as real to me that morning as the magazine you are holding in your hand is to you.

For the next eight hours, I had an incredi­ble experience with the Holy Spirit. It changed the course of my life. Tears of wonder and joy coursed down my cheeks as I opened the Scriptures and He gave me the answers to my questions.

It seemed that my room had been lifted into the hemisphere of heaven. I wanted to stay there forever. I had just turned 21, and this visitation was the best birthday or Christmas present I had ever received.

In my room, it was pure joy. Yes, it was unspeakable. Yes, it was full of glory! From that very moment, the Holy Spirit became alive in my life. He was no longer a distant "third person" of the Trinity. He was real.

And now I want to share Him with you.

The Spirit Is Waiting

Let's start with the basics. The Holy Spirit was with me from the moment I asked Christ to come into my heart and become born again.

Then came the time when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was "filled" with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. So many Christians receive that same experience and stop right there.

But I want you to know this: Beyond sal­vation, beyond being baptized in water, be­yond the in-filling of the Spirit, the third per­son of the Trinity is waiting for you to meet Him personally.

You learn volumes about people when you meet them in per­son. When the Holy Spirit and I met, I dis­covered things about His personality that changed me as a Christian.

As I came to know the Holy Spirit, I became sensitive to Him and learned what grieves Him—and what pleases Him. What He.likes and what He doesn't like. What gets Him angry and what makes Him happy.

The Lord used a Kathryn Kuhlman meeting to prepare me for what happened that unforgettable day in December 1973. But never once did Miss Kuhlman sit with me and tell me about the Holy Spirit. Everything I learned was from Him.

When I returned home from that meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I fell to my knees. I was honest and transparent when I said, "Holy Spirit, Kathryn Kuhlman says You are her friend. Precious Holy Spirit, I want to know You."

I will never forget how nervous I was. But from that day I have grown to know Him like a brother.

Who He Is

What makes someone a person? Is it the physical body? I think not. I'm sure you have been to a funeral and have seen a body lying in a casket. Are you looking at a person? No! You are look­ing at a dead body.

What makes a person is not the body. Instead, the person is what comes out of the body. Emotions. Will. Intellect. Feel­ings. These are just a few of the charac­teristics that give you a personality.

The Holy Spirit is a person. And just like you, He can feel, perceive and re­spond. He gets hurt. He has the ability to love and the ability to hate. He speaks, and He has His own will.

But exactly who is He? The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of God the Son. He is the power of the Godhead—the power of the Trinity.

What is His job? The task of the Spirit is to bring into being the com­mandment of the Father and the perfor­mance of the Son.

To understand the job of the Holy Spirit, we need to understand the work of the Father and the Son. God the Father is the one who gives the com­mand. He has always been the one who says, "Let there be."

On the other hand, God the Son per­forms the commands of the Father. When God the Father said, "Let there be light," God the Son came and per­formed it. Then, God the Holy Spirit brought the light.

Let me illustrate it this way. If I asked you, "Please turn on the light," three forces would be involved. First, I would be the one who gave the command. Sec­ond, you would be the one who walks to the switch and flips it—you are the per­former of the command. But finally, who brings on the light? It is not me, and it is not you. It is the power—the electricity—that produces light.

The Holy Spirit is the power of the Father and of the Son. He is the one who brings into action the performance of the Son. Yet He is a person. He has emotions that are expressed in a way unique among the Trinity.

I've been asked, "Benny, aren't you forgetting the importance of Christ in all of this?" Never! How could I forget the one who loved me and died for me?

I cannot forget the Father nor the Son. But I cannot be in touch with the Father and the Son without the Holy Spirit (see Eph. 2:18).

The Fellowship Meeting

During one of my first encounters with the Holy Spirit, I asked Him, "Would You please tell me what You are like?"

Here's the answer the Holy Spirit gave: "I am the one who fellowships with you." And like the snap of a fin­ger, that verse flashed before me: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).

That's what the Holy Spirit longs for—your fellowship! And there are no selfish requests in fellowship—just friendship, love and communion. That's how it was with me. My entire approach to prayer changed. I began to wait for the Holy Spirit before I prayed. I would say, "Precious Holy Spirit, would You now come and help me to pray?"

The Bible says: "The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes in­tercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26).

When we don't know what to say, He comes to our aid.

And here is another principle I learned: The Holy Spirit is the only teacher of the Bible. For so long, I struggled to understand the Bible. Then came the day that I said, "Wonderful Holy Spirit, would You please tell me what You mean by this?" And He spoke. He revealed the Word to me.

I came to understand that the Bible itself was written by the Holy Spirit. He used men from all walks of life, but every one of them was led by the Spirit. "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God" (1 Cor. 2:12).

Accompanied by the Spirit

From my first encounter with the Holy Spirit, I began to know that He was the great teacher. But I still wanted to know who He is. So I said, "I'd like to know what You are like."

What He revealed to me was a mighty person and a childlike person at the same time. He said to me, "When you hurt a child, he will stay away from you; when you love a child, he will be very close to you."

That is how I began to approach Him. I felt that He was gentle, yet mighty and powerful. Like a child, however, He wants to stay ever so close to those who love Him.

Have you ever seen a little boy or a little girl tugging at mother's skirt or fa­ther's trousers? Wherever the parents go, the kids hang on and follow them. It's a sure sign that the kids are loved and cared for. That's the way it is with the Holy Spirit. He stays close to those who love Him.

How was it possible that the great evangelist Charles Finney could preach the gospel and people would be "slain under the power," confessing their sins? What was the power that fell when John Wesley opened his mouth to preach? It was the person of the Holy Spirit that accompanied their ministry.

In New York City, Kathryn Kuhlman had just finished preaching at a Full Gospel Business Men's convention. She was taken through the kitchen to an ele­vator to avoid the crowd. The cooks didn't even know she was walking by—but the next thing you know, they were flat on the floor. Why? Kathryn didn't pray for them; she just walked by. What happened? When she left the meeting, it seemed as though the power of His presence attended her.

Supper Can Wait!

The presence of the Holy Spirit be­came most evident to me when I began praying in my room—all alone. Day after day, hour after hour, I lifted my hands and said, "Precious Holy Spirit, would You come now and just talk to me?"

There were times when He came in like a wind, like a fresh breeze on a summer day. The joy of the Lord would fill me until I could contain no more. As we talked I would say, "Holy Spirit, I love You, and I long for Your fellow­ship." And I found out it was mutual. He longed for my fellowship, too.

Once, in England, I was staying in the home of a Christian family. My room was at the very top of the house. One evening, I was lost in the Spirit, having the greatest time in the world talking to Him. The woman of the house called up, "Benny, supper is ready."

But I was bubbling over and didn't want to leave. She called again, "Sup­per is ready." And as I was about to leave, I felt someone take my hand and say, "Just five more minutes." The Holy Spirit longed for my fellowship.

Do You Recognize That Voice?

When Jesus was on the earth and the disciples had a problem, to whom did they turn? They went to the Son, and He instructed them.

But when Christ returned to the Father, they were not left alone. Jesus said to them: "The Holy Spirit will comfort you. He will counsel you and will remind you of things I have told you. He will tell you about Me."

After Pentecost, the disciples were in such fellowship with the Spirit that He became a part of every action of their life. They were in total friendship—working together for the Son.

When Peter had his vision on the rooftop in Joppa, "the Spirit said to him, 'Three men are looking for you. So rise and go down, and go with them, doubting nothing. For I have sent them'" (Acts 10:19-20).

Peter recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit. And that was the beginning of the gospel being preached to the Gentiles.

How was the Ethiopian eunuch con­verted? "The Spirit said to Philip, `Go near this chariot and stay with it'" (Acts 8:29). Philip recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit. It wasn't God the Father that spoke to him—nor God the Son. It was God the Holy Spirit.

Grieving the Spirit

I believe the greatest sin against the Holy Spirit is grieving Him, which amounts to denying His power and presence. Nowhere in Scripture can you find the words, "Grieve not God the Father" or "Grieve not God the Son." But throughout the Bible you find, "Grieve not the Spirit."

God the Father said to the children of Israel in the wilderness, "You have grieved My Holy Spirit" (see Is. 63:10). He didn't say, "You have grieved Me." God the Son looked at the Pharisees and said, "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven" (Luke 12:10).

The Holy Spirit is tender. He is sen­sitive. He is a gentleman. He doesn't enter your room until you invite Him. And He doesn't speak to you until you speak to Him.

My friend, you will never know His power and presence until you go to Him and say, "Wonderful Holy Spirit, tell me all about Jesus."

Glorifying Jesus

Here is one of the most important lessons I have learned: A person who knows the presence of the Holy Spirit will always glorify and magnify Jesus. When you really know the Spirit, you will glorify Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit within you will glorify God the Son. It's automatic. Only Jesus is glori­fied in a life that's filled with the Spirit.

Every action of your life reflects what you fill your life with. If you fill your life with newspapers, you will speak news. If you watch soap operas, you will speak soap operas. But if you are filled with the Spirit and absorb yourself in His presence, you will seek Jesus and glorify no one but Jesus.

Christ said, "But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me" (John 15:26). So if I want to know about Jesus, I must go to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said it. And He knew what He was talking about.

In the Old Testament, Moses could go to the Father. In the New Testament, the disciples could talk to the Son. But when you and I have a need, where should we tum? To the Holy Spirit. He is a person, and He is waiting right now for you to welcome Him into your life.

It's Time to Begin

You ask, "How do I begin?" It's re­ally very simple. You might start by saying, "Holy Spirit, help me pray now." That's exactly what He wants you to do. And when you begin, you'll have a prayer partner who will lead you straight to the throne of God.

The Holy Spirit is such a lovely per­son. He wants to be your dearest friend, and He is waiting to bring you closer to Jesus. Christ said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). Then He said the Holy Spirit "will guide you into all truth" and will "glorify Me, for He will receive from Me and will declare it to you" (John 16:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is waiting. He wants to begin a new relationship with you—person to person.

]]> (Benny Hinn ) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sun, 30 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400
Culture Shift Brings Huge Opportunities For Christ Followers

Recently I had the strangest experience while driving my parents to their 56th anniversary dinner. In full-time ministry since 1962, my mom's question from the backseat created a flashback to when the roles were reversed and I asked, "What's happening in our world? What's going on?"

For the most part, those who called themselves Christians believed in the entire Bethlehem narrative, a virgin birth, the sinless life of Jesus and His literal resurrection, ascension and return. But having attended three different seminaries, I can tell you that even the body of Christ now struggles to agree with one another on these foundational truths.

In the same way, a major shift has occurred in our culture. There is a shift of confidence, courage and humility taking place in the people of God. It's a sense of not being shaken and a growing boldness to love like Jesus and trust in God's sovereign plan.

We are being reminded that God has always had a contrasting spiritual community.

The contrasting power of God's Spirit at work in the world cannot be tempered by a desire to look less extreme.

This might help you like it helped my mom. Think about what it is that makes followers of Jesus stand out. What is it about your worldview that is so different?

Here are just a few that stand out:

Your perception of God and His personal love and broken heart for arrogant humanity is vastly different (in other words, the words of Jesus who forgave the adulterous woman and called the audience to examine their own lives in light of His forgiveness and command to sin no more).

Your belief that God is continually sending messages to His people through the events around them for renewal, identity and direction in times like these.

Your deep belief that Jesus is just as relevant today as ever.

Remember when Moses heard the people's questions in Numbers 20:5, when they said: "Why have you brought us up from Egypt, to bring us into this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates. Nor is there any water to drink."

What Moses and Aaron did is leave the presence of the people and head into the tent of meeting to get into the presence of God.  It says plainly that they fell on their faces and the glory of the Lord appeared.

No matter where you are on the spectrum of faith, you are being led into times of trouble and difficulty and discomfort. I believe the mindsets of American Christians are changing in that they no longer see their leaders as responsible to lead them into comfortable places.

Comfort, as we could see in the story of Moses, always led to arrogance and entitlement. But just like Moses learned in the wilderness, God uses the environment around His people to expose false beliefs and wrong assumptions.

The Israelites in the story were expecting things to feel differently than they did. But difficulty always reveals what or whom you are depending upon. Like with Moses, sometimes the longest and most lonely walk is the one where you leave the presence of people and head toward the presence of God. Collectively, the U.S. church is now being forced out of the presence of mainstream America and I believe headed back to fall on their faces in the presence of a loving and intentional God. This is the time to get your heart renewed. Reconnect with the God of the Bible in a personal way.

There's no greater mistake that you can make than to think you're fully awake in this world and be dead to God.

The balconies of heaven are now filling up with the last few generations of God's servants as one after another age out of this life and take their seats around the throne. It seems that, like God did in Exodus 20, He is using the circumstances as a way to posture the community of faith toward an absolute dependence upon Him.

What's happening right now is that the people of God are being pulled into a deepening intimacy with the love of God that will not only transform our families but also model the unconditional love and mercy God has extended toward us all.

God doesn't belong in the back seat.

Mike Rakes serves as lead pastor of Winston-Salem First in North Carolina with his wife, Darla. His most recent book, Slings and Stones, teaches how to deal with negative thoughts and to instead be filled with God's courage.

]]> ( Mike Rakes) Featured Charisma Magazine 40 Year Anniversary 40 Year Anniversary Sun, 30 Aug 2015 11:00:00 -0400
24 Reasons to Believe Hell Is a Reality

Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Charisma magazine.

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army and a man who dedicated his life to lifting the poor out of sin and poverty, reportedly made this state­ment: "Most Christian organizations would like to send their workers to Bible college for five years. I would like to send our workers to hell for five min­utes. That would prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry."

Booth never suggested that the des­perate people he served were "already in hell." He believed in a real, eternal hell, and it drove him to rescue people from both their current plight and future perdition.

Shortly before his death in 1912, Booth warned prophetically that he saw coming to the church, "forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration ... a heaven without a hell."

In today's theological fog, his ominous caveat is unfolding. Even some who claim to believe the Bible are having second thoughts about eternal judgment, and others have rejected the notion of judgment altogether. The name usually given this teaching is Universalism.

Universalism basically is the belief that all people will be saved. Jesus' death and resurrection will automatically, or at least eventually, save the whole human race. Personal repentance and faith in Christ are not necessary for going to heaven. The Christian mission is reduced to announcing to people the "good news" that they are already saved.

But does Scripture teach that everyone will be saved? There is overwhelming biblical evidence to the contrary.

I'd like to offer 24 reasons to reject Universalism. You may be able to add a few of your own.

1. Jesus made both repentance and faith prerequisites for forgiveness. "But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

2. The "water of life" is offered to all, but not all receive it or even desire it. "Let him who is thirsty come. Let him who desires take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).

3. Scripture teaches that there will be a judgment after death. "As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this comes the judgment" (Heb. 9:27).

4. Those who have not had a true conversion will experience a judgment for sin that the Bible describes as "the second death." "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars shall have their portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. This is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).

5. Contrary to Universalist beliefs, Jesus' teaching indicates that most of humanity is on a broad path that leads to destruction. "Strive to enter through the narrow gate. For many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. Once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' He will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know you, or where you come from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity"  (Luke 13:24-27).

6. Jesus spoke often of a terrible place of judgment for those outside His kingdom rule. "The Son of Man shall send out His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who do evil, 42 and will throw them into a fiery furnace. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:41-42).

7. The Bible teaches both the love of God and His sure judgment of sin. Trusting in Christ's payment for our sins saves us from this coming judgment. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from wrath through Him" (Rom. 5:8-9).

8. In one of the most loving verses in the Bible, Jesus issues eternal options. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

9. Scripture teaches that there is unending, eternal judgment for those who do not know God and who do not respond in faith to the gospel. "... And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They shall be punished with eternal destruction, isolated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

10. Jesus emphatically taught that a spiritual birth is essential to entering the kingdom of heaven. "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

11. In answer to a very clear question about what is necessary for sal­vation, Paul gave a very clear answer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your household will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

12.  Jesus gave no indication that many roads lead to God. He forcefully stated that He was the only way. "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6).

13. The early preachers of the church clearly preached that Jesus is the only way to salvation. "There is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12; see also 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).

14. According to Scripture, only those who receive Jesus Christ and believe in Him are children of God. "Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name" (John 1:12).

15. The gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16; see also 10:9).

16. Rather than teaching that those without faith in Christ are already saved, the Bible teaches that they are already under judgment. Faith in Christ brings us out of condemnation and into right relationship with God. "He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).

17. Only those whose names are in the Lamb's Book of Life are granted access into the eternal city of God. "Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15; see also 21:27).

18. People are not automatically righteous. Only when we declare faith in Jesus Christ does God declare us righteous in His sight. "But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).

19. Eternal life comes only through a relationship with God. We cannot know the Father unless we know the Son. "This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent" (John 17:3).

20. The cross of Christ is where payment for our sins was made. Only when we believe this are we saved. "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on a cross], that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15).

21. Only those who have the Son of God have eternal life. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life, and whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12).

In addition to these verses, the story of Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11 provides hard evidence against Uni­versalism. Cornelius was devout, prayed often, gave generously to the poor and even received an angelic vis­itation. Yet God went to great lengths to get the gospel to him so he could come to know Jesus and be saved.

22. Added to the avalanche of scriptural evidence, there are also practical reasons for rejecting Uni­versalism. History teaches that acceding to Universalism sets the church on a slippery slide toward theological liber­alism. Soon all confidence in Scripture is lost and the uniqueness of the Chris­tian gospel evaporates.

23. If we embrace Universalism, there is no urgency to evange­lize or imperative to do missions. In fact, evangelism and missions would have to be redefined. We need look no further than most of the mainline denomina­tions to see what happens to evangelism when Universalism is prevalent.

24. If Universalism is finally proved right, nothing will have been lost by our continued urgency in winning people to faith in Christ. But if it is false and we embrace it, then everything will be forever lost—including people who do not know Christ.

Unbroken Hearts

It needs to be said clearly that God's character is not on trial. The judge of all the earth will do what is right (see Gen. 18:25). Our faith is on trial. Our hearts are on trial. But God is not on trial. Whatever judgment He makes regarding those who have not responded to the gospel will be executed according to His standards of equally perfect righteousness and love.

When we ponder God's mercy, this whole issue is inverted. Because God is perfectly holy, the wonder is not that some will be lost. The greater wonder is that anyone from rebellious humanity will be saved! Only Christ's work on the cross could reconcile us to God.

God has put down the most massive roadblock possible to stop humanity's mad rush toward hell. He sent His Son. God intervened personally through Christ. His sacrifice on the cross paid the penalty for our sins. This is the good news for all who will believe and receive Him.

Espousing Universalism is sad. But rejecting it with no impact on our hearts or change in our priorities is sinister. If we believe that people are lost outside of Christ (and they are), and that faith in Christ is the only way of salvation (and it is), what could possibly be a higher priority than getting the gospel as far as we can as fast as we can?

To pronounce people "saved" who are obviously enslaved by darkness, deception and the devil is surely the cru­elest of jokes. We are sent to a lost world with a gospel of power. Our message gives the spiritually blind their sight and liberates those who are chained by Satan. We do not preach that people are forgiven but that they can be forgiven.

I would not want to stand before Jesus Christ as a Universalist. But neither would I want to stand before the Lord as an evangelical who was not evangelistic. What a serious accounting must await us if we believe in eternal torment for those without faith in Christ—and yet do nothing! A recovery of biblical truth and compassionate evangelism are the twin screaming needs of the American church.

The apostle Paul said he would be willing to give up his place in Christ if by such a sacrifice others would be saved (see Rom. 9:2-3). He believed all people outside Christ were lost, and it left him with a broken heart.

More than encroaching Univer­salism, it is our unbroken hearts that often impede evangelism. Many Chris­tians today have never even heard of "a burden for the lost." The harvest is huge and ready to be reaped by those who are willing to sow first in tears (see Ps. 126:5-6).

Right theology will only indict us if we do not recapture the evangelistic imperative. We must believe the truth, and we must act on what we believe. Let's not just reject faulty theology; let's embrace those who need Jesus.

]]> (David Shibley) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sun, 30 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
This Man Sees God in the Stars

Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Charisma magazine.

When Hugh Ross looks for an opportunity to share his faith on an airplane, he tells the person in the next seat that he is an astronomer. When he wants to be left alone, he introduces himself as an evangelist.

"Chances are they will get up and find somewhere else to sit," he observes of the usual reaction to his preacher profile. "It's a sad commentary, but it works."

His scientific side, on the other hand, invariably leads to discus­sions about the universe and the meaning of life. "When they find out I'm an astronomer they start asking questions—it's such an easy avenue for witnessing," he says.

"An astronomer is asking the same fundamental questions that the theolo­gians ask: What is out there? Why is it there? What is our purpose here?"

Mild mannered, with a boffin's shiny dome and slightly bookish air, Ross is spanning the chasm between science and faith. He effectively rests his telescope on a Bible tripod.

He believes the record of creation is like the 67th book of the Bible. A former researcher at the California Institute of Technology, Ross, 57, uses science to reach a segment of society that has dis­missed the notion of God. Though sec­ular scientists have largely rejected Christians, they give Ross a measure of respect for his efforts to marry the labo­ratory and the seminary.

He is "the only Christian being lis­tened to" by many scientists on main­stream university campuses, says Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant professor of astrophysics at Iowa State University. "Those who take time to find out about him are impressed by him very much," Gonzalez adds.

At the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which supports evolution, director Eugenie Scott concedes that Ross "does reflect a lot of mainstream science in his views." Although some think "some of his science is pretty zany ... others feel he is making a contribution in helping conservative Christians embrace more science," she says.

In addition, his supporters say, Ross inspires and equips many believers who have felt intimidated by the scientific community's rejection of the Bible.

Mixing Science and Faith

"Most Christians don't know how to deal with the atheist because they don't know enough about science to have an honest answer to deal with it," said computer programmer Ken Bell after hearing Ross speak at Ward Evangel­ical Presbyterian Church in Northville, Michigan, in January. "People like Hugh Ross fill that gap."

Some 800 people braced subzero weather on a Wednesday night to hear Ross lecture for an hour and then Ross spent two more hours answering questions from the floor on everything from the big-bang theory to the Flood, quoting both the Bible and some of the latest brainiac discoveries.

Ross is not afraid to offer a blended Bible-and-science opinion on just about anything, from how Adam and Eve's descendants managed to populate the earth so quickly to why the story of the Flood can be considered true.

Ross' effort to integrate science and faith "allows people to come to church and not feel they have to check their brains at the door," says retired surgeon Stan Lennard of Seattle, who helped found a local chapter of Ross' ministry, Reasons to Believe.

At their ministry headquarters in Glendora, California, near Los Angeles, Ross and his staff spend hours each week poring over the latest scientific papers across the spectrum, from astronomy to zoology, looking for evi­dence they say points to God and the reliability of the Bible. They also talk with non-Christian researchers to find out more about their latest work.

"Science is something that people who have had no Christian background can respond to," Ross says. "You can't point them to believers because they don't know any, or those they do know they don't respect their views [on silence]."

He has taken his message to more than 200 campuses across the United States and overseas, and sold more than a quarter-million books. Rattling off quotes, theorems, facts and statistics like a one-man encyclopedia, Ross uses num­bers with lots of zeroes after them to illustrate the huge improbability that the universe evolved by chance.

Through his speaking, radio and TV broadcasts, writings and his Reasons to Believe web site, Ross piles up the facts to underscore that life as we know it could not exist without the incredible "fine-tuning" of the universe, the char­acteristics of deep space and the hidden intricacies of the human body.

Having shown that the likelihood of our being here by accident is infinitesi­mally small, he goes on to observe that "the Creator cares for the human species to such a high degree that He did not consider it too expensive to create 30 billion trillion stars so we could have a nice place to live."

Then he adds: "If He did all that for me, He must care for me a great deal."

Ross helps his nonscientist audiences absorb information by leavening it with a little oh-my-gosh astonishment. He notes, for example, that one teaspoon of a certain binary neutron star is so dense it weighs 5 billion tons. He also points out that because of the expanding nature of the universe, your waistline is growing at the rate of about a trillionth of an inch each year.

He also uses dry humor to make his point. Once a staff member dressed up as an alien to promote Ross' book, Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men, which addresses UFOs and the possibility of life on other planets. (Ross says evidence doesn't point to life elsewhere.)

For the most part, even when vigor­ously challenged, Ross speaks with the matter-of-fact manner of someone relying on the data, not the delivery, to win the day.

Bob Smithson, a former research scientist and Silicon Valley entrepre­neur who invited Ross to speak at a forum at his church with an ardent six-day creationist and avowed evolu­tionist, observed that the two other speakers had larger followings in the audience, but Ross "changed more minds ... He had something new that they had to think about."

"I'm so impressed with his ability to blend science and Scripture," says Mike Gatliff, a pastor who organized Ross' recent visit to Michigan, "and how he can explain it to someone like me who is not a scientist, but a Christian who needs to be able to give answers to seekers."

Challenging Scientific Pride

It's clear to Ross that mankind did not appear on this planet by accident. Interestingly, many in the scientific community who don't believe in God are asking hard questions about cre­ation. An increasing number of non-Christian scientists, in fact, embrace the concept of "intelligent design"—the idea that there is some unexplained reason behind human life.

At the same time, some of these aca­demicians are turning to the theory of panspermia—that life on earth came from a faraway galaxy. Ross sees such exotic theories as symptoms of one of the hidden battles he faces in engaging the secular science world—its personal pride, which "puts an enormous barrier in their coming to Christ."

He recalls seeing Caltech colleagues' marriages breaking up. "How do you explain these people who are incredibly brilliant, and yet are so irrational when it comes to their life decisions? Why would people who are so well educated make such terrible decisions? I think it is pride," he says.

When Ross was growing up, reading textbooks was his idea of fun. He fell in love with the stars at age 7. When a teenager, he came to realize that he did not have the ultimate answers to life.

His studies convinced him that there must be a creator. He examined and investigated most of the other major religious writings, dismissing them, before turning his attention to the Bible. After studying the Scriptures daily for almost two years, looking for the inconsistencies he expected to find, he was persuaded that here was the ultimate truth.

But it was more than an intellectual assent. Although he had "high moral standards," he realized that he was not able to live up to the measure set by the Bible—that despite his sharp thinking, he was still a sinner in need of the Savior.

His evangelistic zeal emerged when he left his native Canada for Caltech. At Sierra Madre Congregational Church—which he describes as charismatic—he began equipping others to share their faith, and became evangelism pastor.

Reasons to Believe was born in 1986. The ministry's home is an 11,000-square-foot former strip mall where 30 staff members research, write, record broadcasts and mail out materials.

There are several local chapters (Seattle's boasts about 350 members) that arrange events in their area as well as four overseas branches. The ministry also has a roster of volunteers—from NASA scientists to homemakers who have completed Reasons' apologetics training course—who staff a hotline every day for two hours.

Callers include students working on projects, pastors preparing sermons, people wanting a Christian perspective on the latest science news and atheists who like to argue. More than one unbe­liever has been led to Christ after being offered a Bible-centered answer to their questions.

Such encounters are "the heart and soul of our organization," Ross says. "Our primary goal is evangelism."

Not only is Reasons' scientific approach effective, it connects with a segment of society often missed by other evangelistic efforts, Ross asserts. "So many church leaders have this percep­tion that the way you do evangelism is wait until somebody gets into moral dif­ficulties, then approach them with the gospel," he says. "Wouldn't it be better to get to those people before they have a divorce or their kids get on drugs'"

Ross maintains this is pragmatism, not elitism, citing the software industry as his most fruitful mission field in the country.

"You have these young men and women working 70, 80 hours a week; they don't have the time to be drinking and getting into trouble with the oppo­site sex. They can come to the Christian faith without a lot of the baggage other people might have, not because they are any more moral but simply because they haven't had the time or the oppor­tunities," he says.

Although Ross contends for the faith in a dimension that can typically be mea­sured or seen with a telescope or micro­scope, he is aware that he is engaged in an invisible struggle, too.

"This is spiritual warfare," he says. "Ever since we birthed the ministry we have set up quarterly days of prayer and fasting, and we feel that this is largely the measure of the success we have had. We do it in recognition that our ministry is an offense to the evil one and therefore we can expect some spiritual attack."

At the same time, he fears that some Christians are too quick to blame things on the devil or his demons. "He's not omnipresent. ... He can't create. We need to be careful not to blame Satan for things that are simply the result of our own failure and our own sin. ... If things are not making rational sense, then I will look for the demonic."

One time Ross was praying before speaking at an atheists' meeting at which he suspected someone would try to "ambush" him during the question time. He felt God leading him to a recent research paper, and he prepared some visuals of the information that he was subsequently able to use to rebut someone who tried to use the same document to stump Ross.

The challenger, a university professor, then asked which church Ross attended because, he said, he'd like to go there.

Although the scientific community is widely held to be hostile to religion, Ross says that in actuality a surprising number of those in the labs are not that different from the average person on the street when it comes to beliefs about God.

"There are a lot of Christians out there in the scientific community. They are typically introverted and are not too willing to make public their faith," Ross "Anti-Christians on the campus tend to be very aggressive. The extroverts tend to be the unbe­lievers, so the public gets an unbal­anced perception of what really goes on campus-wise."

The Genesis Debate

Ross certainly has his critics in the mainstream scientific community. But surprisingly, some of the harshest eval­uations of him come from within the church.

Creationists who believe God formed the world in six 24-hour days fume at Ross' idea that each day mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis was a longer period of time. This "day-age theory," his critics argue, is either evolution in disguise or a dangerous effort to make modern-day science acceptable at the expense of truth.

One critic describes Ross as "heretical at best and neo-orthodox at worst," while another refers to NavPress, which pub­lishes Ross' books, as "once-biblical" for giving him a platform. A third has accused Ross of being a cult leader.

The idea that the planet is only 6,000 or 12,000 years old, a view held by many evangelical Christians, is "the No. 1 barrier ... in coming to faith," for many intellectuals, Ross contends. "They say, 'If this is what Christians believe, then there is no way that I can give my life to Christ."

He believes many Christians who hold to this "young earth" view do so because it's the only one they have been offered to counter evolution, and they breathe a sigh of relief when pre­sented with an alter­native. "They are zealous for their faith," Ross says. "We have no problem motivating them to do so. Give them the right tools, and they get even more excited."

Mark Clark, professor of political science at California State University in San Bernardino, says Ross' ministry "saved my faith." He had embraced young earth creationism because "it seemed to make sense." But he found himself developing "Christian schizo­phrenia" because he could not bring his weekend and workday worlds, and their conflicting realities, together.

Clark took a Reasons' study course intending to prove Ross wrong, "but by a week-and-a-half I realized what I thought I knew was not true. I saw that your faith and your life could be inte­grated; there was no reason to fear those two things."

Ross has advocated a second Jerusalem Council on creation, following the model in The Acts of the Apostles, where the early Church leaders held a summit to hammer out an agreement on the contentious issue of whether or not Gentile converts should be required to follow Jewish custom and law. He believes the creation controversy is the biggest issue facing the church, more significant than the ques­tion of women's roles, "because of the impact it is having on evangelism."

He tries to avoid public debates with young earth creationists, preferring less confrontational forums where different views can be put forward. "I don't like to fight. I find it counterproductive," he says. "When you run into it you deal with it, but you don't go looking for it. We have better things to do."

Those things focus on leading people to the Creator through the won­ders of creation. After all, this is a man who hosts "star parties" in his home, casual evangelistic gatherings where he introduces people to the wonders of the universe.

"Most secular humanists aren't pre­pared to listen to the traditional, histor­ical reasons for belief in God," Ross says. Rather than argue about religion, he would rather tell people about what sci­entists discovered yesterday. Give him a telescope, or a scientific journal, and he will use it to lead you to Jesus.

]]> (Andy Butcher ) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
Do All Muslims Want to Kill Us?

Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Charisma magazine. Obviously, situations have radically changed in the world with the recent emergence of ISIS, but the question still arises.

People in the West are very curious about the differences among Muslims. They see that some Muslims join radical groups and attack innocent people but others live quiet lives as business owners in the West. They find it hard to imagine that their nice Muslim neighbors or co-workers believe all the teachings of the Quran and support Muhammad's practice of jihad.

There are between 6 million and 8 million Muslims living in the United States. Most of these are immigrants from Middle Eastern countries. The next largest Muslim group is black American converts. The smallest group is white American converts.

Outside the United States, there are 1.2 billion more Muslims. From my observations and experience—both in the United States and other countries—Muslims can be divided into three main groups.

Ordinary Muslims. Ordinary Muslims practice some of the teachings of Islam, but they don't want to do anything difficult, such as participate in jihad. They are more interested in having nice lives, pro­viding for their children and running their businesses. They are Muslims because of their culture and tradition rather than because of strong religious beliefs.

Most of the Muslims in the United States are ordinary Muslims. Some even send their children to Christian schools. Even in the Middle East there are more ordinary Muslims than committed Muslims. It would take time and motivation to turn ordi­nary Muslims into committed Muslims.

From the point of view of a committed Muslim, this group should be referred to as secular Muslims because they are not submitting wholly to Islam.

Committed Muslims. Committed Mus­lims are those who make great efforts to live according to Islam. They pray five times a day, give alms and fast during Ramadan. A committed Muslim may not be in a radical group such as Hamas, but he could choose to cross that line anytime he thinks his religion or people are being threatened.

Orthodox Muslims. A subset of committed Muslims, orthodox Muslims want to follow the requirements of Islam in the same way Muhammad did in the seventh century. They spend much time reading the Quran and Islamic books. Following the Quran and Hadith, they may put severe restrictions on women. In Islamic countries, orthodox Muslims may choose to grow out their beards, but in the West they may not look different from other Muslims.

Sufites. This is the first sect in Islam that tried to change the meaning of jihad from "spreading Islam with the sword" to "a spiritual struggle to fight evil within oneself." Sufism started six centuries after Muhammad's death. Only 2 percent to 3 percent of Muslims worldwide are Sufites. Orthodox Muslims and fanatic Muslims reject them and do not consider them to be true Muslims.

Fanatic Muslims. Fanatic Muslims are committed Muslims who put their words into action. They are the types of people who join groups such as Hamas or work with al-Qaida. They are ready to practice jihad (to kill or be killed in the name of Islam).

How do you know who's who? After the September 11 attacks, you could identify the different types of Muslims according to their reactions. The ordinary Muslims were pretty quiet. In the United States, they were even hanging American flags on their houses and showing support for the United States.

The committed Muslims in the Middle East were demonstrating in the streets in support of al-Qaida.

The fanatic Muslims were thrilled with the victory and were initiating new attacks, such as the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl and other attacks that are still continuing.

Another way to differentiate one group from another is to discern their attitudes toward the state of Israel and the Jewish people. The ordinary Muslim has negative feelings toward Jews because of both his culture and his religion. He would never receive a Jewish person in his house, trust a Jew in business or think of being friends with a Jewish person. Ordinary Muslims truly believe that Jews are evil people who should be avoided.

This was demonstrated by a Gallup poll taken in nine Muslim countries during December 2001 and January 2002. Almost 10,000 personal inter­views were conducted. One question was about the identities of the hijackers.

Although U.S. officials say all 19 of the September 11 hijackers were Arab men, only 18 percent of those polled in six Islamic countries say they believe Arabs carried out the attacks; 61 percent say Arabs were not responsible; and 21 percent say they don't know.

If these people do not think Arabs were responsible, then who do they think did it? One persistent rumor is that Jews were somehow behind it all. The rumor said that 4,000 Jewish workers at the World Trade Center called in sick on September 11 because they had been warned in advance of the attack.

A committed Muslim holds all these same prejudices against Jews. He also understands his religious beliefs in a deeper way and therefore knows the teachings in the Quran against the Jews.

The fanatic Muslim justifies many of his actions based on the fact that the Jewish state exists. He blames his ter­rorist activity on the Jews. He makes Jews his target. In the videotaped murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, his killers forced him to begin with a brief, factually correct description of his roots: "My father's Jewish. My mother's Jewish. I'm Jewish."

Clearly, not all Muslims have the same level of knowledge and commit­ment. Some ordinary Muslims may not even know the reason for the antago­nism between Muslims and Jews. They have a general idea that Jews perse­cuted Muhammad and wanted to destroy his revelation, but they don't know the details. Committed and fanatic Muslims, on the other hand, know these stories and use them to shape their beliefs.

Knowing something about the different groups will stand you in good stead when your friends, neighbors, co-­workers and acquaintances who are Muslims express their opinions or discuss the teachings of Islam with you. On first consideration, some of these teachings seem more like Christianity than Islam, and Westerners who hear or read erroneous explanations of them may tend to unwittingly propagate the misconceptions.

But the two faiths couldn't be more opposite. Remembering that truth will help you to avoid any confusion that might develop when the subject of Islam comes up.

]]> (Mark A. Gabriel) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sat, 29 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400
Does Your Walk Match Your Talk?

Note: This article originally ran in the September 2004 issue of Charisma magazine.

Ever wonder why some people don't want to do business with Christians? It's because they have become gun-shy: Either they themselves have been victimized by a deal gone sour or they have heard about shaky deals that have affected others.

Christians have earned a reputation in the world for being undependable and lacking in character. We have all heard horror stories of people who hired a Christian contractor to do repairs or remodeling in their homes and who were left in the lurch when the contractor disappeared, down payment in hand, without completing the work.

And what about the tales of Christians who break their promises, don't pay their bills and cheat on their taxes? Some believers have become so disillusioned while doing business with Christians that they left their churches or worse still, their faith.

Thankfully, I've never reached that point. But I have been tempted to become embittered when other Christians I was in relationship with failed to "walk their talk." One situation I remember concerned a pastor who approached me to build a church in an African nation. His congregation desired to sow into a foreign mission field, and he asked me to help facilitate their vision.

The pastor agreed to supply funding for the materials, the labor costs and the land if I would use my extensive experience in the nation to make sure his church's donation was used appropriately. He instructed me to go ahead with the project, assuring me that he would be able to raise the funds for the written budget I had sent him.

I was excited because I had worked closely with the African congregation they chose to support and was aware that they had outgrown the wood and iron shanty in which they were meeting. This rapidly growing congregation had already gone from just 25 to more than 250 members, and I knew it wouldn't be long before the almost 1,000 seats in the new building would be filled.

The first agreed-upon payment from the pastor arrived, and he and I were in regular contract about the progress. My calls were returned promptly and all was going well.

Then I discovered that the second payment he claimed had been transferred into my account was never deposited. Suddenly, all communication ceased. Through a friend I was told that the pastor was too busy to take my calls, though he oversees a church of only 60 people. The real problem was the he was struggling to raise the money, but rather than being honest and dealing with the issue, he simply avoided it.

Under other circumstances, I would have done what I could to bail him out of trouble, but at the point I had taken financial responsibility for numerous other programs that were already underway. This project was his vision, his idea, and he had initiated it. He had approached me to assist him, but instead of accepting full responsibility he tried to put it all on me.

When I finally reached him by phone, he simply abandoned the project and chose to ignore the outstanding balance owed in Africa. He just walked away, knowing that as a Christian I would continue what he had started and that I could do nothing to hold him accountable. There was no apology, no remorse and no attempt to work through the issue; he just moved on.

This man's lack of character cost me about $20,000. But worse than the financial loss was the struggle not to become bitter. I eventually came away from the experience better, not bitter—but also much more cautious about engaging in business transactions with Christians!

This is a sad commentary on the condition of our souls. As Christ's representatives on Earth, we must begin to live what we learn in His Word. All the gifts and anointing in the world won't make up for a lack of character.

What is character? It is perhaps best described as the sum of moral qualities associated with a person, and suggests ethical strength and excellence. Character is about doing what is right, regardless of what is convenient or popular. It comprises the core principles and values of who you really are, both inwardly and outwardly, in your behavior and relationships.

Qualities such as faithfulness, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty, honor, dependability and even good old-fashioned manners are basic to good character. But because so few Christians exhibit these traits, there is a huge credibility gap between society and the church today. Many unbelievers consider us a bunch of hypocrites, and the sad truth is that in many instances, they are right!

We want to win the lost for the Lord, but they won't listen to us because they see the glaring inconsistency between our message and our lifestyle. Some Christians don't get along even with other believers.

The time for change has come. Our walk must begin to match our talk.

Character vs. Anointing

A dear friend once asked me "Leon, if you could choose just one, which would you take: character or anointing?" I asked him what he was getting at. He went on to share some examples of anointed people who lacked credibility because of their lack of character.

I told my friend that as believers we should not desire one over the other; anointing and character must exist together as two equal forces in our lives.

To be a Christian means to be like the Anointed One, and that means to be truly Spirit-filled. Ephesians 5:18 instructs us to be filled with the Spirit, for this is the way of true Christian living.

But being filled with the Spirit does not excuse us from the necessity of developing character traits that confirm the reality of Christ in us. To be filled with the Spirit requires us to be Christ-like, meaning that our attitudes, motives, words and deeds must be pure.

If we do not conduct our lives in a way that corresponds to the description of the Spirit-filled life in the Bible, we are a contradiction. If we have character but no spiritual passion, we are merely good, moral citizens. And though a good, moral life is commendable, it is not enough.

A person of character, virtue and dignity must also be a God-possessed person overflowing with spiritual zeal; these two aspects go hand-in-hand and are absolutely inseparable. Barnabas exemplified this balanced kind of life: He was a man of character who was also zealous for God.

As a result, he won many people to Christ. The Bible tells us: "For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And many people were added to the Lord" (Acts 11:24).

True spirituality is not evidenced by our ability to quote from the Bible, pray eloquently, lay hands on the sick or cast out demons. Rather, it is evidenced by the way we treat one another.

As I left the sanctuary one night after a powerful revival meeting, I noticed a small group standing around one of the ushers. From their scowls and animated gestures, I gathered they were not engaged in passionate prayer.

When I began walking toward them to find out what was going on, I was told that a disgruntled couple was reprimanding the usher because he had asked their teenage daughters to stop talking while I had been preaching. In fact, I had seen him go over to the girls to quietly ask them to stop disrupting the meeting.

Just a short while earlier, these parents had been lost in worship, standing with uplifted hands and tightly shut, tear-filled eyes. The anointing and presence of God had filled the house, yet not five minutes later we had a boxing match in the making.

What happened? Where was the anointing?

The anointing does not remove personality, emotions or free will, nor does it guarantee that we will do or say the right thing in the right way. Remember Peter, who, moments after being commended for recognizing Jesus as the Christ, was rebuked for not being mindful of the things of God.

Jesus said to him: "'Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things that are of God, but those that are of men'" (Matt. 16:23). As powerful as it is; the anointing will not inexorably lead us to always do or say the right thing; neither will it replace the need for character.

D.L. Moody used to say that "character is what you are in the dark" when there is no one looking, no one listening. It is the thought, the desire, the intention that counts in the sight of God. We should not present a different personality in public than we do in private; there should be consistency between who we are and who we appear to be.

Character is the measure of our Christ-likeness.

There is no denying that we need more of the anointing in our lives, but we also need character. Some who desire a deep walk with God in the realms of the anointing will invest much time and effort in reading books. I believe they would do well to invest equal time in the development of their character.

As the many examples of gifted Christians around us make clear, being anointed does not guarantee maturity or character. We can have power without the traits listed above—but in the end this one-sidedness will lead to our demise.

On the other hand, it's important to remember that we all have growing up to do; none of us has arrived or is fully developed and conformed, to the image of Jesus. We are Christians under construction—and making a mistake or acting immaturely in a particular instance does not mean we lack character.

We also have to keep in mind that character does not develop overnight but is a lifelong process of becoming more and more like Jesus. It is developed in the crumble of life, formed through trial and conflict and through Spirit-led introspection. As we honestly evaluate ourselves, recognizing our flaws and taking the necessary steps to overcome them, we are certain to more closely walk the talk. 

]]> (Leon Van Rooyen) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sat, 29 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
Trying to Build Bridges in the Body of Christ

Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Charisma magazine.

When I moved from the Midwest to the segregated South as a child, I remember feeling horrified at the injustices I saw. Later, when the schools integrated, I did what I could to get to know the black students and include them in school activities. I even wrote editorials on racial harmony for the high school newspaper.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Charisma this year it's appropriate to review the part Charisma has had in being a bridge between groups in the body of Christ.

The Pentecostal movement we know today came out of the African-American worship experience by way of the Azusa Street revival of 1906-09.The leader was William J. Seymour, a black man. When word got out about the revival people came from everywhere to see what was happening. In that setting blacks and whites worshipped together despite Jim Crow laws. As Frank Bartleman, a journalist and Pentecostal pastor, famously wrote: "The 'color line' was washed away in the blood."

The intensity and fervor of the Azusa Street meetings, the loud praying, raised hands and shouting became part of the Pentecostal experience. As people went home as fiery evangelists for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, they took with them this new way of worship, largely unaware of its roots in the African-American community. Sadly, the interracial nature of Azusa Street did not continue long, especially as the Pentecostal experience took root in the South.

Growing up I was only vaguely aware of the history, but I began to wonder why black and white Pentecostals were so separated. Then the charismatic movement that began in the 1950s saw people coming from "dead" formal churches receive the Spirit and a new liberty of worship and prayer. The movement spread from denomination to denomination. But it largely missed the black community. It's like one of my black preacher friends told me: "We already had the Holy Ghost and we didn't need someone to give us permission to praise and shout."

Yet when Charisma began chronicling the move of the Spirit in our day I realized as a young journalist that there was an untold story of God at work in the black community. I realized they were a part of the body of Christ and that there was much in common between the two communities. Even so, you couldn't tell that by reading most Christian periodicals.

In our early years we began writing about blacks and putting their stories in Charisma. The first black on the cover was Rosie Grier, the former football player turned preacher in 1983. Then we covered Fred Price and how his teaching on faith had helped build an incredible church in Los Angeles. In the early 1990s, we wrote about the "new black charismatic movement" and how independent black churches were springing up everywhere around the country.

"What Charisma did was give the black church a voice," Valerie Lowe, of LeSea Broadcasting and a former Charisma editor, told me recently. "Charisma said, 'You're a part of the body of Christ. Maybe we don't look alike, but you are my brother.'"

Valerie's right, we've always tried to cover the stories of ministries and people who were making a difference, regardless of color. Because a huge percentage of the Pentecostal/charismatic community is black, many of our stories are about blacks.

As editor I tried to set the tone: Many times we were color blind—the person's ethnicity had nothing to do with the story. Other times we celebrated the difference—such as when we have written about black gospel music. We've always seen bridge-building as one of the mandates we have from the Lord.

Other times in Charisma we've covered stories to show that we share the pain, such as when we've written articles about lynching in the South and what was being done to heal those wounds.

In mid-January, Bishop T.D. Jakes, television host James Robison and Bishop Harry Jackson convened 100 black and white leaders at the Reconciled Church Summit in Dallas, Texas. I had the privilege to attend. There was a spirit of agreement that the problems of distrust between the races wouldn't be solved alone by the government. The problems at their roots are spiritual ones.

When A. Larry Ross wrote about the summit on, I thought he summed it up well: "Despite our different life experiences, the church has a common mission and language. Like Jesus, we can see beyond physical characteristics and crises to focus with compassion on the hearts of individuals in need, and develop practical solutions to make a difference in their lives."

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter @sstrang or Facebook (stephenestrang).

]]> (Steve Strang) Featured Perspective 40 Year Anniversary Sat, 29 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
WATCH: SID ROTH Explains 10 Keys to Receiving Miracles and Healing

"God works in so many different ways. Why should we limit God?"

The host of It's Supernatural says indeed it is possible to receive miracles, including physical and emotional healing. But, he says, it can't happen without these things.

Watch the entire video here: 

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Fri, 28 Aug 2015 16:00:00 -0400
WATCH: SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ Says 'Jesus Does Wonderful Things With Broken Pieces'

"If you are broken right now, you are not disqualified. It's not about what we do for Him, it's about what He did for us." 

Samuel Rodriguez calls it the "It's the anesthesia before the operation." Jesus allows us to be broken so we can be repaired to serve Him in a much greater capacity.

See the entire video here: 

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
SID ROTH: Is Jesus Coming Back Sooner Than You Think?

Note: This article originally appeared on in June 2015.

God says in the last days He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh and the old men will dream dreams (see Joel 2:28).

That was talking about me. It seems like only yesterday I was a young Jewish man of 30. I had just experienced the worst year of my life in which I had a horrifying encounter with Satan. Then I had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. I have never looked back, and now I burn with a passion and compassion for the lost.

I have had dreams from God that have made an impact on the world. In 1995, God instructed me in a dream to write a book of Jewish testimonies. He said more Jewish people would come to know Him through this book than anything I had ever done. He was right. We have distributed more than 2.6 million of these books primarily to Jewish families in the United States, the former Soviet Union and Israel. The testimonies of Jewish people coming to faith through this book are off the charts! To God be all the glory!

The Dream that Rocked Sid's World

In 2013, I had another dream that rocked my world. Before the dream, if you had asked me if Jesus was coming in my lifetime I would have said yes, but deep in my heart I would not have been sure.

Now all that has changed. I was not even thinking of the Lord's return when I had a vivid dream. God spoke to me three times and said, "I am coming back soon! I am coming back soon! I am coming back soon!"

Why would God tell me this? And, what does "soon" mean? In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, soon means: "in a short time after something happens." In this age of proliferation of nuclear arms, the world is on the verge of "something happening."

Jesus said about His return, "But know this, that if the owner of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for in an hour when you least expect, the Son of Man is coming" (Matt. 24:43-44).

How does Jesus warn us to be ready? He tells us to "watch." According to Vine's Expository Dictionary, the Greek word means to watch with vigilance and expectancy. I believe this prophetic guide will help you watch with vigilance and expectancy.

Are Believers Missing the Signs of Jesus' Return?

At the first coming of Jesus, my Jewish people studied the Scriptures in the original biblical language. And the amount of time the rabbis studied would put most Christians to shame in comparison. But still the majority missed the Messiah's first coming. What makes believers today so sure they will not miss the signs of His second coming? This is why I have written this article.

In 1 Corinthians 13:9, Paul wrote, "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part." In other words, we only see part of the picture through prophecy. Each one has part of the puzzle. But when we put the parts of the puzzle together, the picture comes into focus.

Everything started in the tiny nation of Israel at the first coming of the Messiah. And everything will finish in Israel at His return. We know we are in the final generation when the fig tree (which represents Israel) blossoms (see Matt. 24:32). In the New King James Version, Psalm 102, verses 16 and 18 read, "For the Lord shall build up Zion [Israel was re-established in 1948]; [Then] He shall appear in His glory. This will be written for the generation to come." In Hebrew, the term means the final generation to come.

Many have different views concerning when the return of Messiah will occur. Though prophecy scholars differ on when He will return, they all believe He is coming soon.

The three most dominant views on the Rapture are the pre-Tribulation view, which teaches that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation; the mid-Tribulation view, which claims the Rapture will take place in the middle of the Tribulation; and the post-Tribulation view, which says the Rapture will take place after the Tribulation.

How could different experts who love God and have studied the Bible on this subject come up with three different scenarios? Could it be that God has chosen not to fully reveal His end-time plan until the final generation? Could it be that we need all three end-time views to see the picture clearly? Daniel 12:4 is about to come forth: "... Shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end. [Then] many shall run to and fro [search frantically through the Book], and knowledge [of God's purposes as revealed by His prophets] shall increase."  

The Enoch Generation

This is the Enoch generation! What were the two traits that Enoch demonstrated before he was raptured? He pleased God (obedience) and he walked in faith: "By faith Enoch was taken to heaven so that he would not see death ... ." (Heb. 11:5-6). My heart's desire for myself and for you is to so hunger for God that we become irresistible to Him.

In order for Jesus to say, "Well done" to us after we are caught up to be with Him forever, we must live a repentant life, love God and our neighbor and walk by faith in His Word. I believe by understanding all three revelations of the Rapture taught in this book and walking a holy, biblically obedient life, we will be like "the sons of Issachar, those having understanding of times and what Israel should do" (1 Chr. 12:32).

I have told you these things so you will understand the times and not abandon your faith when any portion of these three scenarios does not come to pass the way you expect." (Matt. 24:12).

My position has always been that I want to be raptured! Instead of being concerned with the timing of the Rapture, I concentrate on the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25. A virgin represents a believer. Five were wise and had enough oil to handle the darkness, and five were foolish and ran out of oil and missed the wedding.

Oil represents the Holy Spirit. I believe the only way we go up in the Rapture is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is achieved through intimacy with God. Jesus said it this way in John 17:3, "This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." The Greek word for "know" is a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and woman. In other words, the purpose of eternal life is to have deep intimacy with God.

From within this intimacy, we can hear God and fulfill His purpose for our lives. The purpose of my life is to win souls. As the great German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke says, "I want to plunder hell to populate heaven."  

Get Ready for the End-Time Revival

My issue has never been the timing of the Rapture or of the return of the Lord. I just want to be raptured, spend eternity with Him and hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." But my dream has given me insight into the timing of His return. He is coming back soon—sooner than you think!

In the meantime, until He returns, we are called to occupy. As things on earth appear to be getting darker and darker, God desires to flood you with His light. He wants you to be ready for the great end-time revival!

Sid Roth is the host of  Sid Roth's It's Supernatural! Roth has a passion for people to experience the power of God. His television program documents miracles and is viewed internationally. 

Sid Roth interviews a former Muslim on It's Supernatural about her vision of Jesus and heaven on

If you liked the article, you'll love the book:

TV show host and author Sid Roth shares his passion for reaching the lost in his latest book, Sooner Than You Think (Destiny Image). He shares the implications of a dream he had of Jesus saying three times, "I am coming back soon!" You can find this book wherever Christian books are sold or at or

]]> (Sid Roth) Featured Prophecy Spirit Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400
SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ: How the Presence of God Is Exploding Among Latinos

Note: This article originally appeared on in December 2012.

What do you get when you combine spiritual empowerment, Holy Ghost signs and miracles, and speaking in tongues with a passionate ethnicity committed to faith, family and celebration?

The answer may be nothing less than the hope for U.S. Christianity: Hispanic Spirit-empowered believers, who stand poised today to become the narrators of this century's American faith experience.

America's religious landscape is undergoing an unprecedented transformation as a result of the booming ethnic demographic of the Hispanic-American community. While it's no secret among church researchers that a Pentecostal explosion south of the equator is transforming Latin American nations, many American Christians remain unaware that the same wind of the Spirit is blowing within U.S. borders, brought here or already embraced by Hispanic believers.

The measurable impact of this already exists in three of the most prominent, historic Pentecostal denominations—the Church of God, the Assemblies of God and The Foursquare Church—where Hispanics represent not just a growing constituency but, in many respects, the only measurable growth metric.

"We began as an outreach, a department and ministry of major denominations. Today we represent the very vitality of these churches," says Carlos Moran, director of Hispanic Ministries for the Church of God. "While these denominations represent very successful models of Hispanic engagement, that carries the long-term potential of addressing issues of both short-term viability and long-term sustainability."

And as the number of white non-Hispanic Pentecostals in the U.S. continues to decline, Hispanic growth is compensating with new church plants every year. 

Jesse Miranda, executive presbyter for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, believes this demographic stands as the bridge between the explosion of Latin American Pentecostalism and the decline of American Christianity.

"The Hispanic contribution lies embedded in the fact that we live in the Anglo and Hispanic worlds, Third World and Western world," says Miranda, whose denomination has the largest Hispanic constituency in both numbers of adherents and churches. "We can identify with the Pentecostal explosion in Latin America, yet we live among the declining spirituality of the Western church that is suffering from spiritual fatigue."

Consequently, without the presence of Hispanic churches, America's leading Pentecostal/charismatic denominations would be in serious decline. In fact, one could argue that the future of American evangelicalism as a whole lies with the Hispanic Spirit-empowered church.

An Emerging Movement
The growing Hispanic demographic already makes up 17 percent of the nation's population, or approximately 50 million people, according to the 2010 U.S. census. A look at their faith from a Pew Research study released in 2007 reveals that while 68 percent adhere to the Catholic faith, 15 percent of all Latinos identify themselves as evangelicals. 

Yet a most compelling fact emerges out of these details.

Looking more closely at the 15 percent Hispanic evangelical segment, we learn that the majority self-identify as Pentecostal/charismatics. Simply stated, most Hispanic Bible-believing Christians embrace a Spirit-empowered experience.

Further extrapolation substantiates an undeniable and conclusive affinity between Hispanics and the Spirit of God. While the majority of America's Hispanics attend Catholic parishes, 54 percent identify themselves as Catholic charismatics. In other words, out of the 50-million-strong community, the majority of both Protestant and Catholics subscribe to an ethos of Spirit-empowered living.

And herein lies the community's unique influence on the changing American religious landscape: In addition to carrying the moniker as America's largest ethnic minority, Hispanics are the only group in which the majority identify themselves as Spirit-filled believers. Simply put, the data shows Hispanics are "people of the Spirit."

"Our surveys find that Pentecostalism and related charismatic movements have a very significant presence in the U.S. Hispanic community," says Luis E. Lugo, director of the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. "We find, for example, that a majority of Latino Protestants identifies with this movement, and that is also true of about half of Latino Catholics.

"Given the impressive growth of the Latino population in this country, including in both evangelical and Catholic churches, this almost certainly guarantees a greater influence of Pentecostal and charismatic movements within American Christianity more broadly," Lugo explains. 

"In short, one consequence of the growing Latinization of American society is the increasing Pentecostalization of American Christianity."

Gastón Espinosa, a leading scholar on Hispanic Pentecostal/charismatics, adds further context to the distinctiveness of the community by pointing out its unmoved commitment to the Bible. Hispanic believers revere it as the infallible and inerrant Word of God. "The Bible is the gold standard in the Latino Pentecostal community," he says. "While some groups have wavered, Latino Pentecostals have held fast to their convictions."

Espinosa believes this primary commitment has given birth to the community's second and third commitments to personal holiness and evangelistic/social ministry. These distinguish Hispanic Spirit-empowered believers from some other American evangelicals.

Espinosa says: "Going all the way back to Susie Villa Valdez at Azusa Street and the powerful healing crusades of Francisco Olazabal in the 1920s and 1930s, Hispanic people of the Spirit have always mixed evangelism and social work to reach out to youth, immigrants, troubled adults and social outcasts. In essence, Hispanics see Spirit-empowered living as a platform for societal transformation."

 Trends and Challenges
Historically, Hispanic Pentecostal/charismatics entered America's religious landscape primarily because of pioneers: men such as Juan Lugo, Olazabal and Henry C. Ball, who preached, led revival campaigns, planted churches and established a number of Pentecostal works. The subsequent generation of leaders, through the ministries of Ricardo Tañon, Demetrio Bazan, Roberto Fierro, Yiye Ávila, Manuel Perez Sanchez and others, established the framework of church planting and incorporated both a missional and incarnational thread in ministry.

Today's Hispanic Spirit-empowered community is best defined not just by its passionate Pentecostal worship and camp-meeting-style preaching, but also by the vision of its leadership. This generation of leaders is emerging with their own unique traits. They are bicultural, independent, megachurch-influenced and multifaceted in the spiritual tangibles they deliver. The Joshuas and Calebs of the movement reflect a bicultural/bilingual reality for which collaboration and cooperation serve as the quintessential modus operandi. By contrast, previous generations were at times focused on cultural self-preservation.

Today's leadership desires to reconcile technology, contemporary worship, educational enrichment, community outreach and social networking with biblical truth, Spirit-empowered living, and a commitment to an authentic encounter with the presence and power of God.

"Twenty-first century Hispanic Spirit-empowered leaders stand poised to reconcile the best of both cultures without diluting our commitment to the free flow of God's Spirit," explains Eliezer Bonilla, senior pastor of Abundant Life Church of God in San Antonio. "We can be technologically perceptive and spiritually sensitive, prophetic and practical, relevant and renewal [-focused]. As Hispanic-American people of the Spirit, we capture the best of both worlds."

Moreover, denominations no longer own exclusive rights to the Hispanic Pentecostal/charismatic community. Independent networks have arisen, some self-identified as apostolic/prophetic in the spirit of Ephesians 4:11.

In addition, the independent church plants taking place speak to a decentralization of the movement in the 21st century. Leaders such as Guillermo Maldonado, Alberto Delgado, Chris Richards, 
Jeremiah Torres, Jaime Loya, Sergio De La Mora, Obed Martinez, Ruddy Gracia, Juan Ramos and others are leading the way in facilitating a platform of ministries that are not denominationally affiliated. The truth is, independent works now far outnumber the efforts of denominational church plants.

The community's previous generational leadership structures were defined primarily by the presence of nationally recognized evangelists and denominational overseers. By contrast, today's leadership mantle lies on the shoulders of Hispanic Spirit-empowered megachurch pastors.

"[They] have emerged as the most influential leaders and de facto gatekeepers of the movement," says Gilbert Velez, president of the Hispanic Mega Church Association. "Twenty years ago the number of Hispanic megachurches or churches with 2,000 or more Sunday attendees represented approximately a handful of ministries. Today, we have identified dozens and we're still counting.

"We have our own Rick Warrens and Joel Osteens," he adds. "The names include Jim Tolle, Danny DeLeon, Eliezer Bonilla, Luis Rodriguez, Ruben Guajardo, Wilfredo De Jesus and many others."

The emerging leadership also occupies not just pulpits and platforms, but also seats on university boards and—in the case of Carlos Campo, president of Regent University—the hallowed corridors of academia.

"Next-generation Hispanic Spirit-empowered leaders will emerge out of both pulpits and pews to lead in the ecclesiastical and public spheres," Campo affirms. "From boardrooms to classrooms, and from Wall Street to Main Street, we will see the most influential voices arise in all sectors of our society." 

As this community continues growing, it is confronting great challenges—from cultural nearsightedness to resource allocation and multigenerational-connectivity issues. Hispanic Pentecostal/charismatics struggle with the same primary foundational queries as historic Christian segments of our populous. 

They are asking the same questions: How do we secure long-term viability and sustainability? How do we successfully pass the baton to the next generation?

Chris Richards, senior pastor of Vino Nuevo in El Paso, Texas—a 4,000-member Hispanic megachurch—believes that answering the next-generation challenge will define the movement for years to come.

"Our greatest challenge is to present Christ to an emerging generation in a nonreligious and relevant manner," Richards explains. "We have to be liberal and flexible with our church culture, being open to change and transformation while remaining doctrinally conservative and true to the Word of God. We need to be new wineskins, flexible and malleable for the new wine to be poured into us."

Within that context, the critical challenge for the movement requires providing corrective lenses for cultural nearsightedness. 

Daniel Prieto, Hispanic coordinator for The Foursquare Church, believes the Hispanic Christian community must push back against ethnocentric and one-sided outreach.

"We must incorporate in the DNA of our emerging leaders a commitment to a kingdom-culture perspective where Latinos reach all people, races and creeds and do not focus exclusively on our own," Prieto says.

Miranda believes the challenge is more an issue of connectivity and resource allocation.

"The biggest challenge we face is, first, the disconnect between the center of resources [U.S.] and the center of spiritual vitality [Latin America]," he says. "Second, it is building bridges between these two centers in order for the Christian/Pentecostal church to make sense of the next generation, [which] is connected to the world through vision and technology."

To that end, Hispanic Spirit-empowered leaders understand that addressing the challenges will require prophetic (truth-telling) leadership, capacity-building institutions, multifaceted delivery mechanisms, authentic relational networks and an unbridled commitment to God-ordained change.

 A Vision of the Future
Finally, as this Latino explosion continues to permeate the collective American Christian experience, what might we expect to see? What does the future look like? What are the vision and the measurable tasks of the movement?

Emilio Reyes, vice president of Multilanguage Ministries for the American Bible Society, says that as the gospel is shared increasingly with the Hispanic community and more come to faith in Jesus, the need will be to establish the gospel's principles in the people in order to take them beyond emotional faith only and into rational faith as well.

"We must educate our people to have balance," he stresses, "to take care of their body, mind, soul and social realms. We must teach our people to embrace the USA as their country. This is where God brought us to live.

"We need to teach them to permeate culture in as many ways as possible," he explains. "We must educate them that it is OK to be part of the political process. All of this will have a favorable impact on the community's values, priorities and vision."

Moreover, ascertaining the values, vision and passion of the movement enables us to conclude that Hispanic Pentecostalism stands as both a historic and catalytic force with the potential of redeeming the corporate American Spirit-filled church from the proverbial spiritual wilderness.

This community provides the oxygen to the fire of Pentecost in America; a fire that—without the oxygen—will inevitably be extinguished by the showers of moral relativism, spiritual apathy, cultural decadence and ecclesiastical lukewarmness.

America's Spirit-empowered church stands poised to reconcile the vision of redemption with the work of reconciliation. This community—full of purpose, passion and promise—carries the anointing to preserve biblical orthodoxy, ignite a righteousness-and-justice movement, strengthen the firewall of holiness and humility, and project a kingdom-culture, multiethnic demonstration of the gospel.

How far will American Christianity go in the 21st century? As far as the Hispanic Spirit-empowered community takes it.

A leading voice among Hispanic believers in America, Samuel Rodriguez is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, the co-pastor of a multiethnic, Spirit-filled church in Sacramento, Calif., and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. The Wall Street Journal has named him as one of the seven most influential Hispanic leaders in the U.S. today.

 Two to Know

A pair of U.S. leaders—neither Hispanic—are bringing vision and a true heart for immigrants to God's Latino explosion

Who pastors what is arguably America's largest Hispanic congregation? Not an individual with the last name of Rivera, Sanchez or Miranda. He's a tall, light-haired, blue-eyed Vietnam veteran with a heart for the immigrant. His name is Jim Tolle.

Tolle is senior pastor of El Camino Church in Van Nuys, Calif. Known as "Pastor Jaime," he was a small-business owner and an Army serviceman in Vietnam prior to his ministerial training. He has been in ministry since 1979, when he graduated from The Foursquare Church's Life Pacific College.

In the ensuing years he served in Colombia and Argentina, establishing churches and training leaders. He has been the head of an international missions agency and the senior pastor of The Church on The Way, also in Van Nuys. In that role, his compassionate outreach to the immigrant evolved from a ministry to the very heart of his calling in Christ. His love and sensibility have resulted in unprecedented growth in the Hispanic outreach, causing Tolle to dedicate himself fully to immigrant outreach in Southern California.

"I see the need in the community, and it drives me to reach out with the love of Christ," Tolle says. "If it requires us providing wedding dresses in order to align families in biblical order, or providing the basic necessities, all I can tell you is that I married the community. When you exhibit the compassionate heart of Christ, lives will be changed."

Today, Pastor Jaime stands as a leading advocate and spokesperson for the immigrant community, before both ecclesiastical bodies and governmental agencies. He is an example, as is Chris Richards, senior pastor of Vino Nuevo—a 4,000-member Hispanic megachurch in El Paso, Texas—to other non-Hispanic and nonethnic pastors. 

Together, they demonstrate to the church that to achieve unparalleled effectiveness and success in compassion outreach to immigrant communities, one must communicate not only via the language of the culture, but also (and more importantly) through the language of the heart.

]]> (Samuel Rodriguez) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400

Already recognized as one of the nation's most influential Hispanic leaders, Samuel Rodriguez's profile increased last year via a merger of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Fraternity of Latino Evangelical Churches (NHCLC-CONEL).

As president and chief executive officer, Rodriguez provides oversight to an international organization of 500,000 churches with estimated membership of more than 125 million. NHCLC-CONEL supports such major directives as evangelism and strengthening families, and recently launched initiatives opposing sex trafficking and persecution of Christians.

Despite his busy travel schedule, most Sundays Rodriguez occupies the pulpit at New Season Christian Worship Center. The Sacramento, California, Assemblies of God church has more than 1,500 members.

A father of three who recently celebrated the arrival of his first grandchild, Rodriguez credits the Holy Spirit with fueling his ministry and helping him withstand the continuing political stalemate over immigration reform.

While the latter is a source of frustration, Rodriguez is grateful for the support among evangelicals that has developed in recent years. Instead of getting "shut down" like he did in the past, today most evangelical leaders and two-thirds of members support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

He also expresses strong support for such "politically incorrect" policies as traditional marriage and pro-life causes, comparing society's societal hostility to the ridicule Peter faced on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-15).

"We were not filled with the Holy Spirit to be complacent," Rodriguez declares. "Today's complacency is tomorrow's captivity. Pentecostals are loud. If we are to be light, it behooves us to stand up and raise our voice."—Ken Walker

]]> (Ken Walker) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
SID ROTH: Discovering the 'Real' Jesus

For 40 years Sid Roth has encountered the Holy Spirit in dramatic ways, but even he was astonished by what happened on two recent trips to Jerusalem.

Last October, 550 Jews attended his "Lectures on the Supernatural," and 525 of them made professions of faith in Yeshua as their Messiah. In April, 650 Jews attended and 98 percent made professions. "I've been in ministry for 40 years and have never seen anything like it," Roth says.

Roth grew up in a traditional Jewish home. "Like most American Jews, I found organized religion irrelevant to my life," he says. "I was proud of being Jewish, but bored with religion." His search for answers led him to Eastern meditation, the New Age movement and the occult.

Finally in 1972 he hit rock bottom. A Christian businessman challenged him, saying that Roth's Jewish Bible condemned his occult practices and told him that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah whom his Orthodox Jewish upbringing had carefully hidden from him. Roth was stunned. He searched the Scriptures for himself, had a supernatural encounter with Jesus and was set free from demonic oppression caused by his explorations into the occult.

"In place of fear and desperation," he says, "I had a tangible peace and feeling of love that I had never experienced before. And I knew that Jesus was real."

Immediately he began to boldly proclaim that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah—and hasn't stopped. In 1977, he started a ministry and national radio program called Messianic Vision. Two years later, he launched It's Supernatural!, a TV program featuring guests who have experienced healings, miracles and personal encounters with God. Today the program is broadcast all over the U.S. 28 times a week in Israel as well as in Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. More than 900 past episodes are also available on a free app, It's Supernatural! Network.

"Sid's passion for the Lord and his passion for Israel are unmatched," says Jorge Parrott, director of missions for MorningStar.

Roth says he focuses on supernatural signs and wonders because Jesus did.

"Would thousands have come to Jesus to hear a great teacher?" he asks. "No, but they came to see miracles happening. When He captured their attention because of miracles, the scales came off. They still do." Roth says it's critical to understand the "mystery law of evangelism"—reaching "the Jew first" according to Romans 1:16, not as an end in itself but to evangelize the whole world.

"When God wanted to reach the whole world, he went to the Jew first—to Abraham," he explains.—Diana Scimone

]]> (Diana Scimone) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Fri, 28 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0400
WATCH: JONATHAN CAHN Says 'Let This Produce Greatness in Your Life'

While these indeed are very trying times, it's also a time of hope. Jonathan Cahn says, "this is the time that not only produces the greatest evil, but also produces the greatest good. These are the days that produce greatness." How great will you be?

Watch the entire video here:

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:00:00 -0400
WATCH: HEIDI BAKER Shares Her Incredible Testimony

"The Pentecostal Holiness people got hold of me and said, 'you need the Holy Ghost!' The power of God just hit me I fell down on the floor and went rolling up and down the aisle. I was a holy roller."

Supernatural revivalist Heidi Baker shares how she got saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost in a little church in Mississippi.

Watch the entire video here: 

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Thu, 27 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
HEIDI BAKER: Say Yes to God's Promises

Note: This article originally appeared on in December 2006.

Have you ever had a prophetic word from God that was beyond what you could ask, think or imagine? God loves to blow up our little boxes. What price did you pay before the word came to pass?

The reason I ask is because many Christians eagerly desire the prophetic without having a clue what it will cost them. We want to receive a prophetic word. We don't realize the price.

How much will it cost to follow Jesus? Everything.

Just ask Mary.

Luke 1:26 tells us, "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

"And the angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you'" (NIV).

What would you do if an angel showed up on your doorstep, proclaiming, "Greetings, you are highly favored"? Would you jump up and down saying: "Hooray! God is here"?

I don't think so. Perhaps you would fall on your face. You would tremble before the Lord. You would be wrecked, completely undone, ruined forever. With one look of His eyes, there is no turning back.

That was Mary's response. When the angel appeared, she wasn't overjoyed. She was terrified.

Luke 1:29-30 says, "Mary was greatly troubled at [the angel's] words and wondered what kind of a greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you've found favor with God.'"

I can identify with Mary. You see, when I was 16 years old, I had a radical visitation from God.

The Cost of an Encounter
I had been a Christian only five months when God spoke audibly to me. He told me that I would be a missionary and minister. He told me to go to Africa, Asia and England.

I was forever transformed. I alternated between sobbing and laughing. Then I began running after that prophetic vision with all my heart. Thirty years later, I'm still chasing after my God dreams.

I love running into the darkest of the darkness to see His glorious light shine forth. I have never looked to the right or to the left, or glanced back. I could not imagine doing anything but laying down my life for love's sake.

Why? Because He ruined me with His love. I promised Jesus, "I will do whatever you ask no matter the cost."

After that experience, I followed the word and began to preach the gospel. As a 16-year-old girl, I first preached to Alzheimer's patients, drug addicts—anyone who would listen. Eventually I preached in Asia and England and all over the world. Today I live and minister in Mozambique, Africa.

When God visited me and promised me something so much beyond myself, I had a choice. At the time, I had never even heard of women preachers. But I chose not to doubt and look to the natural. I believed His word. He told me to preach, so I preached. That word has cost me everything. But it is my greatest joy and privilege. There is nothing He could ever ask of me that I would not gladly give.

Over the years I have watched God do countless miracles. As I have laid my little life down, I am now watching a nation run to Him.

I have been shot at, thrown in jail, slandered, stabbed, diagnosed then healed of many terminal illnesses and experienced trials too great to tell.

My family has been without food, water or support. We have been beaten, threatened and had all manner of evil spoken against us. But this is nothing compared to the all-surpassing joy of knowing Him.

Jesus is my model and hero. He spared nothing and gave up the riches of heaven as the ultimate missionary. He came down to Earth just for us. Jesus was love incarnate. Every day, He poured forth limitless, unceasing love to each and every person in front of Him no matter the pain of it all.

Now our job on Earth is to follow His example, and love no matter the cost. No matter how impossible a prophetic word seems, we must follow the Lamb who was slain, to give Him the just reward for His sufferings. God challenges me every day to remain in love no matter the trials and tribulations.

Spiritual Abortion
The Lord spoke to me recently about the church and said, "No more abortions." No more aborting His promises or prophetic words.

No more aborting what God has placed inside us.

He told me to ask the church: "'Who will carry that which I've placed within them to full term? Who will allow Me to stretch them and break them and mold them and cause them to be inconvenienced? Who will allow Me to utterly transform their lives by the shape of the promise within them?'"

I hope and pray you will. I believe carrying a prophetic word is like being pregnant with a baby: The way you walk, talk, move, everything is totally transformed. That has been my experience. It was Mary's experience too.

The angel told Mary that she was "highly favored." What did that mean? It meant that her life was about to get seriously hijacked by God.

The angel said: "Don't be afraid. Everything is going to be OK."

I can imagine Mary's response: "Sure, that's easy for you to say. You're an angel. I'm a virgin teenage girl.

"How am I going to explain this to my parents? How am I going to explain it to my fiance? I can't just tell them, 'An angel came, and now I'm pregnant. Rejoice with me!'"

Could she have said no to God's plan? The answer depends on your theology. But let's assume that she had that option.

She could have said: "That's all very nice. You're an awesome-looking angel. You're terrifyingly beautiful.

"But I'm a virgin, and I don't like your good news. Please find another girl, and go tell your news to her."

That's how many of us respond when God shows up in our lives: "Find somebody else, please." Or we say, "Yes!" in the excitement of worship on Sunday. But then Monday comes. What happens when we find ourselves "pregnant" on Monday?

Will you nurture what God has placed within you? Will you pay the price? Will you give everything you have to bring God's vision to full term?

Waiting is the hardest part. Sometimes you get so uncomfortable, so inconvenienced, that you want to say, "Please, God! Get rid of it. I can't do this anymore.

"I can't walk this walk. It's too heavy, too hard. Give it to somebody else."

Do you know how God responds? He says: "You asked Me in worship to overshadow you. You went in to that intimate place, and you said, 'Come,' and I came.

"Now don't you want what I gave to you? Don't you want what I put inside you? Won't you carry this promise for love's sake?"

There's a prophetic connection between abortion in the church and abortion in the world. You see, the world is aborting babies because women don't want to be inconvenienced with that which causes them pain, financial responsibility or reproach. They don't want to pay the price of carrying the child to term.

Many of us do the same thing with the promises and prophetic words of God. We say, "Yes!" in the excitement and intimacy of worship and then go out and abort what God has asked us to carry.

God doesn't like abortion. It breaks His heart. He wants to see His dreams and visions come to pass in our lives—not only because they bless us, but also because they bring His glory to a lost world.

'Be It Unto Me'
Mary was an obedient lover. What set her apart? Was she stunning, capable, gorgeous? Probably not. But she was obedient. And that obedience was greater than any sacrifice.

She was just a teenage girl who was worshiping and loving God. When God's eyes searched the whole earth looking for a heart that was His, He stopped one day with Mary.She was obedient to the Master.

God said: "I can use her. I can overshadow this little girl. I can use her to carry My Son."

And she said, "Be it unto me according to Thy word" (Luke 1:38, KJV).

Do you know that God can use anyone? He's just looking for someone who will say, like Mary, "Be it unto me."

All I am is an obedient lover. There is no more "no" in me. My heart's cry, like Mary's, is "Be it unto me." That's what I still say to God every day.

We often complicate the Christian faith. My prayer is simple: "Be it unto me.

"Possess me, Holy Spirit. Let me carry what You have placed within me this day. I love You, Holy Spirit. I worship You. Be it unto me."

God is looking for people who will be utterly possessed by His presence. He is looking for people He can overshadow with His intimate love, into whom He can place His seed and breathe His life.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us, it is an act of intimacy. And what is the result of that intimacy? Fruitfulness. All fruitfulness flows from intimacy. God has predestined each of us to bear much fruit (see John 15:16).

In Mary's case, because she said, "Be it unto me," she bore the Son of the most high God. She became the mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That was her fruit. If you allow God's Holy Spirit to overshadow you and place His seed—His vision, His prophetic word—within you, then you will bear much fruit too.

But the only way to bear that fruit is through yielded love. You can't make fruit happen. It's naturally impossible.

You can't make a prophetic word come to pass. It doesn't matter how long you intercede. It doesn't matter how hard you bang a pulpit. It doesn't matter how many days and nights you fast.

No, fruitfulness comes only through intimacy. You allow yourself to be overshadowed by God's love, and then you carry the promise. You carry the seed to full term. You nurture that which God has placed within you.

Do you think Mary took credit for carrying Jesus? Do you think she said: "Look what I have done. I have produced the Son of God"?

Of course not. She didn't produce the Son of God. She simply said, "Be it unto me."

Carrying the Promise
Let's say you allow God to overshadow you, and He says: "I am planting a ministry in you. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the crippled will walk, the dead will be raised, and the poor will hear the good news."

You respond, "Yes, Lord!" And you become pregnant with the promise.

So you go out and pray for the blind, but nobody sees. You pray for the deaf, but nobody hears. You go out and love people, but there are no miracles.

Time passes and nothing happens. You feel so pregnant; you think you're going to pop.

Will you keep carrying the promise until it's born? Or will you say to the Lord, "Enough"?

I was 16 when God told me I would preach in Africa. I was 35 when I finally stepped foot in Mozambique.

Perhaps you are five, 10 or even 20 years pregnant. You don't think that your prophetic word is ever going to be fulfilled. Let me encourage you: If you will keep carrying what God placed in you—if you will nurture it and continue to live in intimacy with Jesus—it will come to pass.

Perhaps you feel that you are "barren." You think that your time has come and gone—that prophetic visions and new ministries are for the younger generation.

Remember Elizabeth? She was Mary's older cousin. She was barren for decades.

But just a few months before Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, God allowed Elizabeth to conceive a son in her old age. His name was John the Baptist.

The truth is, you're never too old. God can use anyone to minister His love to others. Age isn't the determining factor; willingness is.

Perhaps you received a word from God at some point, but then you aborted the promise. Don't despair. For you, there is mercy and grace.

God loves you. If you choose to live in His love, He will overshadow you again.

God is looking for yielded vessels. He is looking for people who will say: "Yes, Lord. Here I am. I don't care what it costs. Be it unto me."

Is there a "yes" in you for God? Is there a "yes" in you for the promise that He wants to place inside you?

Mary's life was never the same after her visitation from God. It cost her everything, beginning with her reputation and ending with the sight of her beloved Son dying on a cross.

Yet listen at her response: "'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed'" (Luke 1:46-48, NKJV). Like Mary, we, too, can rejoice in our great God. He is our portion and our exceedingly great reward. He loves us, and He wants to birth His great promises within us.

All we need to do is say, "Yes, Lord!"

He will overshadow us. He will plant His prophetic vision within us.

Yes, it will cost us everything. But in His timing, God will make His vision come to pass.

Heidi Baker and her husband, Rolland, founded Iris Ministries more than 30 years ago.

]]> (Heidi Baker) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400
JONATHAN CAHN: A National Wake-Up Call

Note: This article originally appeared on in March 2013.

What could an ancient mystery more than 2,500 years old mean to the future of your ministry? To understand its relevance for today, let me set the stage and go back to the last days of ancient Israel.

Before Israel's destruction as a nation, nine harbingers appeared—nine warnings of destruction in a biblical template of national judgment. These same nine harbingers of judgment are now reappearing in modern America in specific detail. Some have appeared in New York City, some in Washington D.C., some have involved the highest leaders of the land, even the president of the United States. The manifestations of the harbingers involve such things as the Stone of Judgment, the Sign of the Sycamore, the Tower, the Utterance, the Prophecy and more.

The pattern begins with a national wake-up call: The nation's hedge of protection is breached in some way. Years before the judgment, an enemy is allowed to strike the land. In the case of ancient Israel, that assault took place in 732 B.C. with the Assyrian invasion. In America, it happened on Sept. 11, 2001. After Assyria's attack, Israel did not repent or turn back to the Lord. Neither has America. In fact, both nations descended deeper into apostasy. And in both cases, the first strike led to further shakings. In America, we saw the second strike as the U.S. economy collapsed. Behind this modern-day collapse was a stream of ancient mysteries, some of which actually identified and ordained the very dates, days and hours of the greatest economic crashes in American history. 

A Nation at War
To understand what these harbingers mean for your ministry, we have to understand the biblical context. The backdrop is that of an ancient nation, founded on the Word of God and dedicated to His purposes. Yet over time Israel begins to drift away, departing from His ways more and more rapidly. It becomes a civilization at war against its own foundations, a culture turned in against itself, a nation in spiritual schizophrenia. Even in the wake of God's warnings and shakings, Israel hardens itself against Him, a defiance that ultimately leads to its destruction.

We're witnessing the same scenario happening to America. This nation, too, was founded upon and dedicated for God's purposes. But like Israel, America has departed and is departing from God and His ways. It has become a nation at war against its own foundations, a culture turned in against itself, a civilization in spiritual schizophrenia. What this means is that as God's ministers, we now find ourselves in the same position as the righteous who lived in the days of Israel's apostasy. We are living and ministering in a culture increasingly set against our witness and ministry. As I write this article, America's departure from God and His Word continues unabated and ever more rapidly.

When I began to write The Harbinger, the words flowed out like a stream, as if the book had already been written before I wrote it. The book released in the very first days of 2012. I believe there was a reason for that. In The Harbinger I wanted to voice a prophetic warning, sound an alarm, offer a wake-up call.

National Tipping Points
Last year (2012) was critical in America's trajectory away from God. He warns before judgment. The year marked the first time in U.S. history when a sitting president publicly spoke against the biblical definition of marriage. It was the year that America re-elected the first president to take such a stand, not to mention a radically activist stand on abortion.

Many believers sensed that these political moves represented a tipping point. They did. The year wasn't just about the presidency, as 2012 marked the first time that three states voted to end the biblical definition of marriage by popular vote. In each of these elections, the number of people seeking to protect the biblical definition of marriage was just under 50 percent, while the number seeking to end it was just over 50 percent—a tipping point. Among those voters aged 18 to 35, the percentage opposed to the biblical definition of marriage is now a stunning 70 percent. By the next presidential election, these statistics will represent virtually everyone up to 40 years old.

Moreover, these statistics parallel another sobering finding: Of those Americans under age 30, one-third of them do not consider themselves Christians—not even nominal ones. Other polls have revealed this to be more like 40 percent. Last year America witnessed an event that shocked many who witnessed it: At the 2012 Democratic Convention, a good half of the delegates vehemently booed when God and Jerusalem were mentioned. And this was the convention that won the presidential election.

Tipping points are, by nature, critical. Whether they happen in the physical or spiritual realm, a tipping point represents the moment of critical mass—when momentum dramatically increases and motion dramatically accelerates. It also represents the moment when movement and direction become dramatically clear and manifest. So it was that shortly after the election, the issue of redefining marriage reached the Supreme Court.

This past year was also a milestone of a different kind. Though the media strangely avoided the story altogether, 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the year that America made a critical decision, its first dramatic step in removing God from its national life—the removal of prayer and then of the Bible from schools. That, too, was a landmark. It resulted in the transformation of American civilization. 

This transformation has been so radical and complete that the America where virtually every major TV/radio station once closed its broadcasting day with Bible-based sermons now seems light years away. Can you imagine if someone from 1962—expecting to find TV shows such as Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best—turned on the television in 2013? How would today's popular culture strike him? As nothing short of apocalyptic—much the same as the apostasy of ancient Israel would have struck the righteous of that day. 

This is exactly what has happened. And if we are not as shocked as a viewer from 1962, it is only because we have become desensitized, step by step, by a civilization's moral decay.

Yet all these things, as critical as they are, are merely symptoms, consequences of a larger phenomenon. It was the same in ancient times. Israel had also removed God from its public life, redefined morality and killed its own children. These were all visible symptoms of an ancient nation descending away from God and His truth, and rejecting the faith of its foundation. 

The Nation You Once Knew
Imagine you were living in ancient Israel in the time of apostasy, harbingers and judgment, and had a ministry there. What would you do? The first thing you'd have to do is face the truth that the Israel you once knew—the Israel that once knew Godno longer existed. You are now living in a post-biblical nation in opposition to God and His ways. In the same way, we must now realize what we are facing. The America we once knew is gone. Our ministries now exist in the context of a nation in deep apostasy and a mainstream culture increasingly and ever more brazenly at war with the ways of God. 

Imagine that as you sought to minister in ancient Israel you were told that if you wanted to reach youth, you needed to tone down your preaching of the Word of God, avoid the hard passages, be more culturally friendly, lighten it up, just encourage your hearers, and tell your country how to succeed and how to unleash the divine champion that resides within all of them. And while you were at it, since many of the youth were increasingly turning to the idol Baal, if you could just add some elements of Baal worship, you'd really win them over. 

What Would Your Answer Be?
Here's the bottom line: You are a minister, and ministers must minister what is needed. The need of a nation in apostasy is to hear the truth and to hear it loud and clear. Woe to us if we should compromise or remain silent. Woe to us if we should put the success of our ministries ahead of God's will. Woe to us if we should put self-interest or the acceptance of man over what is right. Woe to us if we should tone down or compromise our preaching and teaching of the Word because of the pressure of the current times. And woe to us if we should fail to stand strong and faithful in an hour that requires nothing less.

Imagine you lived in such a time. The reality is that you don't have to imagine it because you already do. In such a time, it is crucial that we not become weaker or softer in our witness, but bolder and stronger. We must now speak with a prophetic voice. We must take up the mantle of the watchman. And for the watchman to fulfill his charge, he must stay separate from the city. Thus, we must all the more be separate from the sins of our nation. We must all the more live all out and holy to fulfill God's calling. Only those willing to be different can make a difference. The watchman must attend his post in his watchtower and dwell more deeply in the presence of God. Finally, we must lift up our trumpets, set them to our mouths and blow with all our might that the city might be saved.

We are called to be the light of the world. Had we truly been that light, America could never have gotten as dark as it now is. We are called to be the salt of the earth. Had we truly been that salt, the culture surrounding us could never have decayed so much. If this is true for God's people, it is all the more true of God's ministers. We have been given a charge. And to whom much is given, much is required.

Is There Hope?

I believe there is. These harbingers are warnings. If there were no hope, there would be no harbingers. I'm often asked what the future holds for America: judgment or revival? My answer is that there can be both. One of the key dynamics of the end times is polarization. As the dark gets darker, the light must get brighter. As the bad and corrupt gets worse, the good and the upright must become great. As the grays disappear from the darkness, they must equally disappear from the light. The light must become more pure, more radically light.

I wrote The Harbinger as a book of hope—a call to salvation, repentance and revival. And that hope is linked to another dynamic of the last days—the dynamic of return. In other words, the age comes full circle. What was in the beginning must return in the end. The fact that this article is being written by a Jewish believer in Messiah is part of that dynamic. The first believers ministered to an un-Christian, anti-Christian, pagan civilization. And so now we do, as well. 

But those first believers didn't let the darkness weaken their witness—just the opposite. They became even stronger. They made their choice, they drew their line in the sand, and they ministered all out, uncompromisingly, on fire, unstoppable for God. 

The result was the book of Acts, where the disciples put into action all they've learned about and Jesus over the last three years walking and serving with Him. And God anointed it. We must do the same. And I fervently believe God will anoint it.

Time to Stand
No matter what happens in America or in the world, we must never minister on the defense or live in reaction to the darkness. We must, instead, still advance and act upon it. In the end there is only one winning side, and it belongs to those who walk in the will and purposes of God. Evil cannot stop those purposes. Last year was filled with key tipping points in the American apostasy. But it was also the year in which the The Harbinger's warning and call to repentance began to spread across the nation. That message continues to spread through pulpits, church classrooms, Bible studies and word-of-mouth, with reports of repentance, salvation and revival. 

In recent days, reports have come back that The Harbinger is now reaching Capitol Hill. Members of Congress are reading the book and taking it to heart. One leader called us to come to Washington to pray. There, inside the U.S. Capitol building, we were taken to a room in which a number of senators and representatives gather to pray. We were told they are praying for you—the pastor, the church leader—that you would proclaim and spread the Word of God uncompromisingly. More critical in the course of history than governments, emperors and kings is the ministry of God's people. How much more must we take it to heart as His ministers. We are called to prepare our people.

The time is late. If there was ever a time to fulfill your calling, it's now. It's time to put away anything that would hinder you in any way from fulfilling your calling—any sin, any fear, any distraction, any entanglement. It's time to take up the mantle of greatness and to become all that God is calling you to become. It's time to take your stand. Time to rise. Time to shine. For God has appointed you for such a time as this.

]]> (Jonathan Cahn) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:40:00 -0400
HEIDI BAKER: Supernatural Revivalist

Who chooses a mission field by picking the country officially listed as the poorest in the world? Heidi Baker did.

"God told me once, 'I want you to come up to the lowest place,' explains Baker, who co-founded Iris Global with her husband, Rolland, in 1980. The country they chose was Mozambique. They purposely put themselves in the most challenging situation they could find, believing that the most likely place to see revival was among the most unlikely.

God didn't disappoint. Within days of the Bakers' arrival in Mozambique, God gave them an orphanage that no one else wanted. It was neglected, dilapidated and filled with 80 orphans and untold numbers of demons. Within months, the children were saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and out on the streets leading other children to the same power-packed new life. Some had visions of heaven where they danced around the throne of God on the shoulders of angels.

That was just the beginning. When devastating floods ravaged the country, revival broke out and the Bakers planted literally thousands of churches and held remote "bush conferences" at dirt airstrips all over the country. Today Iris has networks of churches and church-based orphan care in all 10 provinces of Mozambique, and the work has expanded all over the world. In spite of exponential growth, Baker says her focus is still on "the one."

"It is this combination of a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit," says Ross Paterson, founder of Chinese Church Support Ministries, "and a taking of that to the lost and the least that so conforms to Acts 1:8 and is such a challenge to our generation."

]]> (Diana Scimone) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
JONATHAN CAHN: Grabbing the World's Attention Through Words

He gave the keynote address at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast in 2013. He was recently invited to speak at the United Nations on behalf of persecuted Christians. Now more than 7 million people have viewed his latest speech on Capitol Hill.

Born of the Tribe of Levi, the line of Aaron, the priests in the Bible, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn rose from relative obscurity in recent years as his books The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah became New York Times best-sellers with more than 2 million copies sold. Both reveal an ancient pattern of judgment that is now rapidly unfolding in America and the world.

"I believe I've been called to sound the alarm, to bring forth a message of warning," says Cahn, the senior rabbi at the Beth Israel Jerusalem Center in Wayne, New Jersey. "That's what I'm called to do for this hour. Beyond that, I'm called to call my ancient people back to Messiah and the church back to its biblical roots and destiny."

Hubie Synn, a New Jersey accountant known for his prophetic gifting who encountered Cahn at an airport and played an instrumental role in the publication of The Harbinger, says, "It's really amazing the platform that God has given him in such a very quick way."

"When God has a word for somebody or a people He always finds a way to get it out there, and he may not do it in the traditional ways," Synn says. "In The Harbinger, He had a message for America. It went out very quickly on a grand scale, which I don't think anybody ever expected. You can see God's hand at work through The Harbinger. Even a lot of government officials have read the book."

Born into a reformed Jewish home, Cahn's mother's parents escaped persecution in Russia and his father escaped Hitler in Germany. They met in America while pursuing doctorates in chemistry, married and had three children.

Raised in a synagogue, Cahn listened to the accounts of the great people of the Bible—questioning why God had spoken so clearly to the Jewish people in ancient times "but was silent for 2,000 years." In seventh grade, he became friends with a boy who spoke of Jesus, but argued with him and he became known as "the atheist." After a search that took him through the occult, UFOs and Nostradamus, Cahn discovered Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth, the best-selling book of the 1970s about end-time prophecies.

While he continued living as before, leading a rock band, he began to tell everyone about the prophecies. Eventually, he made a deal with God that if He would grant him a long life he would accept the Lord before he died. Not long afterward, he nearly died twice, including an incident in which a train demolished his car but he somehow survived without a scratch.

At age 20, he went up a mountain, kneeled on a stone slab and dedicated his life to following God. Later, he learned the stone slab was an altar to the devil—a discovery that "appeared prophetic, as (Cahn) would later be called to the nations, and several times to ascend mountains dedicated to the enemy to help bring spiritual breakthrough."

Following several prophetic encounters, Cahn was led to work with the needy, in outreaches to the homeless, and full-time with disabled children. He also founded Beth Israel. Soon, the congregation doubled and tripled in size and is now the largest Messianic congregation in America.

Today, his books have been read by members of Congress, leaders on Wall Street, handed out on Capitol Hill and referred to and endorsed by presidential candidates.

Rosemary Schindler Garlow, the wife of Skyline Church Pastor Jim Garlow and a relative of Oskar Schindler, the German businessman whose story of saving thousands of Jews from the Holocaust was depicted in the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List, says Cahn is a "modern-day prophet to America and the world."

Through his ministry and books, Cahn has "helped to lead tens of thousands and millions in dedicating their lives to Messiah, from India, to South America, to Africa and beyond."

"It amazes me as much as it does anyone," Cahn says. "It's written that God chooses the unlikely things, the weak to confound the strong, the foolish things to confound the wise—a Jewish man who once denied God and any religion to call a nation to return to God."—Troy Anderson

]]> (Troy Anderson) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Thu, 27 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0400
WATCH: GEORGE O. WOOD Asks, 'Do You Have the Compassion of Jesus?'

"If you were one of the disciples and had been there, what would your response have been for Jesus' concern?"

When we, His people, act with compassion as did our Lord, then those who do not know Christ will realize that we're not interested in them as growth or statistics for our church, but because we, too, love as did our Lord. When we care about people who are hungry or tired, sooner or later the word gets out—Jesus is in the house."

Watch the entire teaching video here: 

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:00:00 -0400
WATCH: JACK HAYFORD on 'Penetrating the Darkness'

"When Jesus said to pray, 'Your kingdom come, Your will be done,' it is not a dreamy-eyed, somewhere, somehow. Your kingdom come is not talking about the second coming of Christ or the millennium. It is talking about the rule of God as it exists right now and can intervene in anything in this world if it is invited. Penetrating the darkness is anybody who invites the light into the darkness."

Pastor Jack Hayford talks about how we can overcome Satan on any given regular day. Watch the video here: 

]]> (Charisma Staff) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
GEORGE O. WOOD: Taking the Road of Servanthood

Note: This article originally appeared on in July 2013.

Self-conscious about a chipped front tooth, my unruly red hair and the spray of freckles across my nose and cheeks, I was shy and withdrawn throughout high school. But by the time I had been in college for a semester, I'd developed, of all things, a desire to be a leader.

How do you admit you want to be a leader without being egotistical? Scripture says those who desire the office of overseer want a good thing (1 Tim. 3:1).

To fulfill my inclinations to lead, I ran for college class president and served three years in a row. Then I attempted a step up by running for vice president of the whole student body but had my ego trimmed by failing to get elected. The next year I failed to get elected as student body president. But the desire for leadership opportunities remained with me.

I haven't done a scientific poll, but I suspect most people who are in key places of leadership have very much wanted to be there—not because they needed a position to bolster their personality but because they wanted to see things accomplished. Any group—from school club to church to entire nation—needs the service of leaders to give direction. By offering leadership, a person provides a badly needed service.

When I was elected general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, I had not sought the office. In fact, I was surprised to be elected.

(In our movement, a person can't campaign for an office—and I trust we will never get to that place. The system is designed to allow God to put people in place through the will of the body and the Holy Spirit. It worries me to hear about people making speeches before they're elected to a church office. I realize the Assemblies of God system isn't perfect, but it has produced some good and godly people. I hope we never become politicized.).

God seems to have shaped my desire to lead. He has molded my leadership dreams through the realities of being a servant to others. I had pastored 17 years in Costa Mesa and was sitting on the platform at District Council during the 1988 balloting for assistant district superintendent. Ray Rachels had just been elected superintendent, and suddenly it became apparent that I was the front-runner for the assistant superintendent's position.

Not looking to leave my pastorate, I sat there trying to decide what to do. Do I go up and take my name out?

Prompting what seemed like a split-second decision, I felt the Lord speak to me that although I had been a good leader for 17 years, I wasn't very good at being a servant. If elected, I sensed I should accept the decision and "shine Ray Rachels' shoes for a while."

Those thoughts came out of the blue and caused me to scrutinize my motives. For the next five years, I did my best to serve Ray and to serve the district. Then I was elected general secretary of the fellowship. My good friend Wayne Tesch once introduced me to a crowd in a way that reflects the nature of growing in servant leadership:

When I worked with George as a pastor, he was number one. Then he went to the district, and he became number two. Then he went to the General Council and became number three. Ever since I've known him, he's been going downhill.

For 19 years, I gave up the number one position—five years as assistant superintendent and 14 years as general secretary. I was not in the lead. But I supported the people who were in the lead.

I had no idea what a defining moment that split-second decision was. I simply trusted the voice of the Holy Spirit. In looking back, I see that serving with Ray Rachels as assistant superintendent prepared me for the 14 years that followed serving with General Superintendent Thomas Trask as general secretary for the fellowship.

The truth about leadership, as with anything in serving God, is that when you commit to God's will, your steps are truly ordered by the Lord. He knows what is coming next and uses each ministry assignment for what you contribute to the kingdom at that time as well as preparation for what He wants you to do next.

My experiences as assistant district superintendent and general secretary have taught me what a huge part servanthood plays in the life of the believer. My responsibilities in these roles were to support the leadership and to be the best possible member of the team. My own agenda was secondary. To lead well, you must serve well.

Aspiring to lead is a legitimate part of a call to lead. In order to start on your own leadership road trip, you've likely felt a yearning to lead. Your experience can help you sense when others in your care feel the same tug toward leading. Keep an eye out for those in your flock God may be raising up to lead His church.

George O. Wood is the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. 

]]> (George O. Wood ) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400
JACK HAYFORD Explains What Holiness Really Is

Note: This article originally appeared on in May 2013.

As often as the word holy is used by Christians, you'd think that we could all agree on a uniform understanding of its meaning. We read our "Holy" Bibles. We receive "Holy" Communion. We sing the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" and acknowledge the "Holy" Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. We understand the word generally to mean "divine" or "of God."

But when Christians start to discuss holiness, they discover that the implications of the word vary widely. It seems that holiness can mean anything from a name for the pope to teetotalism and not wearing makeup.

What do you think it means? What does the word holy (or the closely related words sanctify or sanctification) suggest to you? The word in some form—holyholinessholiestallowhallowed—occurs nearly 700 times in the English Bible. Certainly, it's an important word. The average believer seems to feel threatened by the idea of holiness. He tends to see it as something unapproachable, a demanding standard of life that seems to be well beyond him. Believers tend to define it by "feel" more than by fact, and the feeling seems to be, "Boy, that's way beyond me (although I sure want to try my best!)."

The Holy Spirit desires to bring each of us to complete personhood. This practical pursuit—our partnering with Him as He comes to help—is geared to make us whole or holy. That's what "holiness" is really about—wholeness. What the Holy Spirit is up to is bringing the whole life of Jesus Christ into the whole of our personalities so that the whole love of God can be relayed to the whole world.

The word holy is derived from the medieval English hal, an 11th century word that is the root to such contemporary words as health, hale, whole and holy. Obviously, holiness is more than an esoteric spiritual attribute, and it relates to more than merely the invisible. Holiness involves the completion in all parts of the human being. As the Holy Spirit rebuilds you to the depths of your being ...

*Your spirit can be revived to life in God (made holy).
*Your soul can be restored in mind and emotions (made whole).
*Your physical body, habits and conditions can become disciplined, recovering to well-being (kept healthy).

Now, doesn't holiness look like a far more desirable goal, even a practical, attainable reality? God wants to make us holy—just as He is.

Because both terms—holiness and sanctification—have become smothered in religious verbiage, we must uncover the truth about holiness if holiness is God's goal for us. If full sanctification is something each of us should truly desire, and if you and I are not likely to hunger or thirst for something that we don't understand or feel intimidated by or have a distorted idea about, then we need to explore the real meaning of holy some more.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul prays for the believers in Thessalonica: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (NKJV). His words reveal three aspects of sanctification or holiness, which is the same as full recovery of the three-part nature of man (spirit, soul and body).  

1. Holiness/sanctification is for now.

2. Holiness/sanctification is something God Himself will do in you.

3. Holiness/sanctification involves your peace, completeness and wholeness.

In short, God is ready to do everything He can to put you fully together, starting today! Paul's prayer holds a tremendous promise: "May the God of peace ... sanctify you." The essential idea of the word eirene (peace) is unity, of fragments or separated parts being brought together. This is a wonderful promise, relevant to our own broken hearts. 

Holy as He Is Holy
The phrase "be holy as He is holy," far from being a prohibitive summons or unattainable goal, actually gives us a glimpse into the Father's heart and desire for us. The phrase is used first in Leviticus: "For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate [sanctify] yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44). It's used again, in essence, in Jesus' words, recorded in Matthew's Gospel: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (5:48). Here are both an Old Testament and a New Testament summons calling you and me to be perfect. How can this be? How can we possibly measure up?

A divine call that was intended to beget hope instead produces fear and condemnation. We will never really gain ground until our sense of being "failures before we start" gets broken. If the walls of our personalities are going to be rebuilt, we must come to a place of comfort and confidence about both the goal and the process.

Nothing hinders the pursuit of holiness more than a sense of condemnation, which always includes guilt, unworthiness and the sense of impossibility about ever being able to truly measure up to God's standards. We must fully "own" the truth that our holiness has been secured before God by virtue of our position in Jesus Christ. Jesus' sinless record was credited to your account. The epistle to the Romans often uses the word  justified, a word indicating that God has made a positive legal judgment about you. 

By the standards of the highest court in the universe, He regards you as holy when you put your trust in Jesus Christ. 

f-Hayford-Wholly-Holy-2God's Word also gets specific about holiness in practice. God wants us to get on with lives that are lived "holily," lives in which we practice holiness in thought and conduct. This implies growth. It's as if we grow up into the holiness that Jesus has provided for us. Once we grasp this, we are on the way to understanding "be holy as He is holy" in a new way.

What is the Lord Jesus really saying here, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect"? I used to think this was solely a commandment, but I have come to see it as more of a promise. Here's what it really means: "Because your Father is holy, you are assured already that you are en route to holiness."

We come to understand two important points: (1) holiness in God's changeless nature, and (2) His promise about our new nature. These understandings bring us to a settled confidence about our future.

Holiness is that attribute of God by which He preserves the integrity of His own being. This means God never needs to be reminded to be good, loving, wise or wonderful. He doesn't labor to accomplish what most of us define as "being holy." Instead, because God's very nature is holy, He will never be less than what He is already. His holiness guarantees the changeless integrity of His own being.

What does that mean for you? It means He'll never be without love for you. He'll never be less than merciful. He'll never be anything other than just. And He'll remake you so you can reflect His integrity of being in your own personality and actions.

I don't need to tell you that the human personality falls far short of God's integrity of character. Our integrity has been shattered, smashed and damaged, reduced to far less than it was made to be. The good news is that we don't have to remain that way. Here comes our Savior! He comes not only to forgive us but also to restore us. His plan is to give birth to each of us all over again and, through this new birth, to place in us a new seed. It's like a new genetic principle: We are to be "born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Pet. 1:23).

First John 3:6, 9 says: "Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he [is] born of God."

I used to read those verses and want to give up. I would say: "Well, I think I'm born of God, but this says that if you are, you don't sin. But sometimes I still do. I don't want to, but I do. I love the Lord, and I'm trying to become more holy, but I sin."

Then the words of verse 8 would haunt me: "He who sins is of the devil." Doubt and futility would grip me: "Since I'm not sinless yet, am I really saved? So in reality, I must be 'of the devil'?" Years went by, and no one ever told me differently. Like many people, repeated trips to the altar and the prayer room seemed to be the only way I knew to assure God's acceptance. But one day I learned that the same verses that had confused me held a mighty truth.

My misunderstanding was overcome simply by discovering the tense of the Greek verb. In this verse, the original language actually says, "Whoever is born of God does not keep on sinning." In fact, the chapter immediately preceding already establishes the idea that it's only by the help of the Spirit of Jesus that we can grow in our ability to resist sin: "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).

So what the Bible is really saying is this: "Whoever is born of God does not keep on sinning." Those of us who have been reborn just don't make good sinners anymore. The more we grow, the harder it gets to keep at it the same way we did before. The message is also this: The seed of His new life in me assures me that my destiny is to conquer sinning. 

How often, before you knew Christ, did you sin and feel justified in doing so? Remember feeling free to retaliate, to let your temper flare or to serve yourself selfishly? Have you noticed since your rebirth that an inner sense of wanting to please God has begun to predominate? Are you more sensitive toward doing His will? 

Here's why: What is born of God doesn't want to keep on sinning because He has planted His seed in you. God's seed is in you! He says, "I birthed you into My life, and therefore, the attributes of My personality will be forthcoming in you."

As any photograph of me reveals, I have a receded hairline. I didn't plan to be balding. In my early 20s I didn't make a decision: "I think I'll start losing hair." But I did begin losing it, and anyone could've predicted that it would happen. Both of my grandfathers and my dad had precisely the same hairline, and the same genetic principle that caused them to be balding was transmitted to me. My brother and I have patterns of baldness similar to our forebears. The biological genetic "seed" transmitted to us.

This rather silly illustration points out how God is saying to you and me: "My seed is in you, and since I am holy, increasingly you are going to be holy too." We shall be holy for He is holy. We shall become perfected just as He is perfect.

Holiness—His holy nature—is progressively going to fill my broken, weak and damaged parts. The character and constancy of my Father will grow in me. 

Why the Holy Spirit Won't Rest
The Holy Spirit is after that growth and rebuilding in each of us, no matter how long it takes. We see this exemplified early in the story of Nehemiah, who oversaw the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls. 

Nehemiah was the cupbearer (i.e., a respected adviser) for King Artaxerxes, who ruled the 127 provinces of the massive Persian Empire. When the king asked about Nehemiah's sad countenance, the Israelite explained his desire to complete reconstruction of the city walls and gates. 

The king replied, "How long will your journey be?"

"And I set him a time." Nehemiah registered his request (Neh. 2:5-6). How long a time did he ask for? As we learn later in the account, Nehemiah asked the king for 12 years! I can imagine a man asking, "May I have a two-month leave of absence?" or "Well, King, Sire, I would like the opportunity to be there. Could I possibly have a year?" But 12 years?

Amazingly, the king agreed to Nehemiah's request. From his reaction at the time he first received Hanani's report of the dire condition of the Jews in Jerusalem, through his willingness to risk his life asking for the king's permission to leave his position, and now to his request for an incredibly long leave of absence—more than a decade—Nehemiah exemplifies the character and heart of the Spirit of God. Nehemiah could not be content until his people were taken care of.

In this way, the Holy Spirit will not rest until you and I are taken care of. He comes to work in us and with us to rebuild the walls of our God-ordained personalities, and He will not be deterred by the probable length of the task. As the king agreed, so it is today: "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever" (Ps. 138:8).

Whatever time it takes, He is committed to your completion, and that completed work will be a work of holiness unto the Lord—worked in you by the Holy Spirit of God. He will complete the job of restoring your personality. He will "reprogram" you.

The Gospel of Matthew reports that as many as touched Jesus were made whole—thoroughly whole (14:36). John indicates that a well of the water of new life will bubble up inside you (John 4:14). By the direct action of the Holy Spirit, God will cause that well to burst open so that rivers of the Spirit will flow out of your inner being. That flowing is designed to work a full restoration of the real you.

Jack Hayford is the founding pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, Calif. A prolific writer, he has authored almost four-dozen books and composed more than 600 hymns, songs and choruses, most noted of which is the classic "Majesty," written in 1978. Hayford is also founder and president of The King's University, an accredited, Spirit-filled interdenominational institution in Los Angeles.

]]> (Jack Hayford) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Wed, 26 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
GEORGE O. WOOD: An 'Unlikely' Bridge Between Generations

The leader of the world's largest Pentecostal denomination, George Wood serves as an unlikely bridge between the generations, styles and ministry models that make up the Assemblies of God (AG).

With more than 3 million members, the AG is one of the few groups reporting growth during an overall decline in the U.S. church. Worldwide, the AG has more than 67 million members.

The active leader shows no signs of slowing down, recently releasing his newest book, a devotional on the gospel of Mark. With his term as general superintendent extending through 2017, the former pastor has no plans to retire soon. "In this age and era, age is not a critical factor," says Wood, the son of a pastor and missionary who spent three childhood years in China. "When I was elected at the end of my 65th year, I asked God for strength and wisdom. I still feel I have strength and I probably still have wisdom. If the general council wants me to serve (again), that is an option."

Since his appearance on the cover of Charisma two years ago, Wood presided over the denomination's centennial anniversary. Held in conjunction with the triennial World AG Fellowship Conference, the event attracted 8,000 people from 120 countries.

"That was a powerful spiritual event," Wood says.

During his tenure the denomination has planted nearly 2,300 churches, boosting its overall U.S. total to more than 12,800. It hopes to average one start daily during 2015. While those are encouraging statistics, the one that makes him smile is that a third of its U.S. members are under 25. "If you don't have young people you don't have a future," Wood says. "If the early church could prosper in the midst of Roman persecution, I have every hope the church today can shine."—Ken Walker

]]> (Ken Walker) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Wed, 26 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
JACK HAYFORD: Bridge Builder and Spiritual Mentor

Jack Hayford is the founding pastor of Southern California's The Church on The Way, served a term as president of the Foursquare Church, and is known as a bridge builder and spiritual mentor to numerous leaders.

The author of more than 50 books, he is working on the next edition of The Spirit-Filled Life Bible, which will release next year. In June, Charisma House issued an updated version of his 1993 classic, The Key to Everything.

"Pastor Jack" has more than 600 hymns and choruses to his credit, including "Majesty." A popular conference speaker and familiar to thousands of men who attended Promise Keepers rallies in the 1990s, in 1995 he and 1,500 men recorded Men in Worship for Hosanna! Music.

While returning home from a PK rally, Hayford sensed God leading him to start King's College and Seminary. Opened in 1997, for years it was the only accredited Pentecostal/charismatic seminary on the West Coast. He still serves as chancellor of the school, since renamed King's University.

One of his most meaningful ministry experiences is connected to King's: the school of pastoral nurture he started during his transition out from the pastorate, which culminated in 1999.

Those sessions included intensive three-day seminars attended by an average of three dozen pastors. Some 2,600 from more than two dozen nations came to the classes over a 14-year span.

About 15 percent were evangelicals. Many showed an openness to Hayford's lessons on Holy Spirit baptism, part of his instruction on cultivating and discipling congregations.

"I would tell them at the beginning, 'You know where I'm coming from,' " he reflects. " 'I want to honor you and respect where you're at.' Easily a third of evangelicals were open to the Holy Spirit without an appeal being made."

The sessions included a meal at the Hayfords' residence. Invariably, at the end of the lunch break, someone would remark they had always been impressed with Jack, but now that they met his wife, Anna, they recognized his secret.

(The Hayford flock includes four children, 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. The number of 47 in the extended family is bound to grow, with another family wedding coming in November.)

"Anna and Jesus are the story of my life—in reverse order," Hayford says. "My heart is with the local church. It's everything I understand myself to be called to. My goal is to genuinely walk with Jesus every day, and keep tuned in to the Holy Spirit."

Although six years have passed since he presided over the denomination, current President Glenn Burris Jr. says Hayford's focus on aligning the practical and spiritual planted the early seeds for the Reimagine Foursquare emphasis.

A direction affirmed by delegates at its 2014 annual convention, the Reimagine journey is Foursquare's blueprint for transforming itself into a "global church on mission." "The fingerprints of Pastor Jack Hayford's life and ministry are also seen in the body of Christ," Burris says. "That is evidenced by the way some worship, talk about a Spirit-filled life, seek a balance of the sacred and the secular, and in advancing the kingdom of God. He is a spiritual father to multitudes."—Ken Walker

]]> (Ken Walker) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Wed, 26 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0400
WATCH: CRAIG GROESCHEL Explains 'The Christian Atheist'

"While seven out of 10 people proclaim to believe in God, so many live as if God doesn't exist at all."

Craig Groeschel, lead pastor and founder of, explains what he means by the term, "Christian Atheist." Watch the teaching video here:

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Tue, 25 Aug 2015 16:00:00 -0400
WATCH: RICK WARREN Says This is the Most Important Aspect of Your Relationship With God

"Your relationship to God has many aspects. God is your father; He is your creator; He is your maker; He is your judge; He is your master; He is your Lord; He is your redeemer; He is Your Savior."

"What kind of relationship does God really want with you?" You may be surprised at the answer in this video sermon by Rick Warren:

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Tue, 25 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
CRAIG GROESCHEL: Christians, Here's Why We're Losing Our Religion

Note: This article originally appeared on in April 2013.

Recent research indicates that the number of people who do not consider themselves a part of an organized religion is steadily on the rise.

Interestingly enough, though the number of those religiously unaffiliated is increasing, there is little to no trend in the number of those who express atheist or agnostic beliefs. People aren't saying they don't believe in God. They're saying they don't believe in religion. They are not rejecting Christ. They are rejecting the church.

This begs the question, "Why are we losing our religion?"

Some may be losing their religion, but I challenge the notion that faith in general is waning.

I believe, instead, the trend of people who don't identify as part of an organized religion speaks to an increasing wariness of labels in our culture. Those labels carry baggage for many who might have been hurt by the church or let down by religion.

You see, religion alone can only take a person so far. Religion can make us nice, but only Christ can make us new. Religion focuses on outward behavior. Relationship is an inward transformation. Religion focuses on what I do, while relationship centers on what Jesus did. Religion is about me. Relationship is about Jesus.

In order to become a new person, we need Christ. Only through an active ongoing relationship with Jesus can we become transformed and overcome the labels that bind us.

In fact, I've struggled with what people think of my label: pastor. For many, this label carries emotional baggage. 

When I meet someone new, I get to talk to him or her like a regular person. We joke around, talk about our families, and then the inevitable happens. "What do you do for a living?" When I answer this question, I typically get one of two responses. I either get an onslaught of Christianese phrases—"Oh, praise the Lord! What a blessing, brother Craig!" or I get stonewalled, and the conversation dies as quickly as it started. 

One time when this happened, the person I was talking with politely shared that he didn't like religious people. I chimed in that I didn't like religious people either. His mouth nearly dropped to the floor. I explained that religion is about rules, but being a Christian is about relationship.

Now I'm not saying is that religious organizations are useless. Obviously, I'm a part of one. I am the pastor of a church and truly believe what Bill Hybels asserts: "The local church is the hope of the world." But in order to reach the current generation and generations to come, we must change the way we do things. That's why we like to say, "To reach people no one is reaching, we have to do things no one is doing."

As churches, we don't have the liberty to change the message, but we must change the way the message is presented. We have to discover our "altar ego"—and become who God says we are instead of who others say we are.

Peeling off the labels that cling to our reputation brings great freedom for us as individuals and as the global body of believers known as the church. Only when we push past those artificial constraints can we truly become who God created us to be.

For example, many people think churches are "all about money." They think that churches just want people to give to them but that they rarely give back. 

Besides investing in our communities and helping the poor, our church moved beyond the labels and status quo to embrace generosity in a way that some have called crazy. We've created and given away millions of YouVersion Bible Apps every month—more than 85 million to date. We give away our weekend teachings to hundreds of churches every week, for free. Rather than selling products our church creates, we give away as much as we can. More than 100,000 pastors and leaders downloaded more than three million resources last year.

Despite the lack of religious affiliation the research shows, the interest in these spiritual resources has never been greater. As a church, we don't see these research trends as a threat, but as an opportunity for us to do more.

Craig Groeschel is the pastor of the nation's second largest church, in Edmond, Okla., and the author of several books. His latest is Altar Ego: Becoming Who God Says You Are, which released in February.

]]> (Craig Groeschel) Featured Culture Life Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400
RICK WARREN: 7 Ways God Will Evaluate Your Faithfulness

Note: This article originally appeared on in September 2013.

I'm going to give you a sneak peek at your final exam. You're going to stand before God one day, and He's going to evaluate your faithfulness. He's going to look at seven different aspects of your life to judge your faithfulness, and you should be highly interested in developing these areas of your life and leadership.

1. Do you possess the right values? A faithful person knows what's important in life and what isn't important in life. A faithful person knows how to invest his or her life. A faithful person makes their life count. A faithful person knows the significant apart from the trivial.

Proverbs 28:20 says, "A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished" (NIV). This verse contrasts faithfulness with a desire to get rich quick. He's not talking about making money. He's saying that what we have to realize is there is more to life than just the accumulation of things. The Bible says we're to live like fish swimming upstream in a very materialistic world. Faithfulness is proven by our refusal to buy into the system that says the almighty buck is the No. 1 thing in life. Faithfulness is often proven by choosing a simplified lifestyle to allow more time for ministry.

2. Do you care for the interests of others? The second way God is going to judge our faithfulness is our relationship to other people. Did we care about the relationships of others and not just our own relationships?

Faithfulness swims against the stream of contemporary culture, which says, "What's in it for me? What are my needs, my ambitions, my desires, my goals, my hurts, my values, my profit, my benefit?" But God says faithfulness is proven by our others-directedness and by giving our lives away, by looking at others rather than concentrating on ourselves.

3. Do you live with integrity before an unbelieving world? In other words, a mark of faithfulness is the kind of testimony you have with unbelievers. The Bible teaches that a pastor is to be above reproach in the community and to have a good reputation, not with believers but with unbelievers. When God evaluates your faithfulness, He won't be looking at your communication skills, but He will be examining the way in which you walked before those who are outside the faith.

4. Do you keep your promises? When God evaluates your faithfulness, He's going to look at all the promises you made. Proverbs 20:25 says, "It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one's vows." It's easier to get into debt than to get out of debt—that's making a promise to pay. It's easier to get into a relationship than out of a relationship. It's easier to fill up your schedule than it is to fulfill your schedule. The Bible is saying that faithfulness is a matter of "If you say it, you need to do it." You keep your promises. The No. 1 cause of resentment is unfulfilled promises.

5. Do you develop your God-given gifts? There's a tremendous emphasis in the Bible on using the gifts and the talents God has given you. God has made an investment in your life, and He expects a return on it. First Peter 4:10 says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." Notice it says that if you don't use your spiritual gift, people are getting cheated. Faithfulness is based on what we do with what we have.

6. Do you obey God's commands? In 1 Samuel 2:35, God says, "I will raise up a faithful priest who will serve me and do whatever I tell him to do" (LB). Circle "do whatever I tell him to do." God defines faithfulness as "obedience to the commands of Christ." We can be skilled leaders and communicators, but disobedience disqualifies us from being seen as faithful as God defines it. This is basic, but it's essential.

7. Do you pass on what you learn? The Bible talks a lot about the transferring process of multiplication. You're to give what you learn to faithful men, and those faithful men are to give it to others, and so on. None of us would be here today if there hadn't been faithful men and women in the last 2,000 years of the church. We're leading today because some faithful men and women took time to write down the Scriptures, and others preserved the Scriptures, and others translated the Scriptures. We're here because of the testimony of faithful people.

If God teaches you a spiritual truth and you're learning a spiritual truth, it's your duty to pass it on to others.

How do I become faithful? Galatians 5:22-23 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness." It's one of the nine fruits. When the Holy Spirit lives in my life, I will demonstrate faithfulness. How do you know when you're filled with the Spirit? What is the test—some kind of emotional experience? 

Not necessarily. You can have an emotional experience and not be filled with the Spirit. What is the test? The fruit is the test. How do I demonstrate that I'm filled with the Spirit? I demonstrate it when I'm faithful to the responsibilities that God has given me.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

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]]> (Rick Warren) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Tue, 25 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
RICK WARREN: 'An Incredible Impact on Our Generation'

He's the author of The Purpose Driven Life, a book that simultaneously hit No. 1 on the four major best-seller lists when it was released in 2002 and went on to sell more than 32 million copies. It's listed in "100 Books That Changed the 20th Century." In 2005, TIME listed him among "The 100 Most Influential People in the World."

Over the last decade, the pastor, best-selling author and innovator has worked to create "1 billion foot soldiers for the kingdom of God" who will permanently change the face of international missions through the PEACE Plan, a movement to mobilize the church to copy Jesus' model of ministry by tackling the five "global giants" of spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, poverty, disease, and lack of education and illiteracy. Throughout 35 years of ministry, one of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren's greatest strengths has been an ability to make the gospel message relevant to postmodern audiences.

"I will never deny what I believe," Warren says, "but I need to share it in a way that makes sense to people outside the church by creating new terms that bring conversations about God and faith into the public square."

In 1980, Warren and his wife, Kay, co-founded Saddleback Church in Southern California, which today averages 27,000 weekly attendees. Over the years, Warren also built the Purpose Driven Network, a global alliance of more than 400,000 pastors representing 162 countries.

"Rick Warren is an amazing man of God who has such profound wisdom, practical application and a childlike heart. It is because of these qualities that he has been able to have such an incredible impact on our generation," says Pastor Matthew Barnett, co-founder of the Dream Center and senior pastor of the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles.

"God's hand is clearly on his life, and I know that he has many great things still to accomplish in his life."

Like Billy Graham, Warren seeks to not merely impact culture, but transform it throughout crossover influence in his generation, says A. Larry Ross, president of A. Larry Ross Communications, which represents Warren and other prominent faith leaders.

"While Billy Graham faithfully preached a timeless message, Dr. Warren regularly proclaims a 'timely' message in a cultural context, applying biblical truth to societal issues, such as addressing HIV/AIDS (and) mental illness," Ross says. "His long-term ministry objective is to facilitate a second Reformation—beyond belief, to behavior—by restoring responsibility in people, credibility in churches and civility in culture."—Troy Anderson

]]> (Troy Anderson) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Tue, 25 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
CRAIG GROESCHEL: Bringing the Gospel With Innovative Strategies

Founder and Senior Pastor of Craig Groeschel is a pioneer in bringing the gospel message into the 21st century with innovative strategies and practical application.

A year after serving as a United Methodist pastor in Oklahoma City during the 1995 bombing that rocked the community and the nation, Groeschel founded Life Covenant Church in a two-car garage. Using a nontraditional style gleaned from market research he did into why non-churchgoers avoided church, he saw the congregation of Life Covenant begin to grow.

One major innovation came when, forced to miss Sunday service because of the birth of one of his children, Groeschel videotaped a sermon for his congregation instead. Videos, he soon found, were tremendously popular, and, along with technological innovations of streaming content over the Internet, soon exploded his messages' popularity and reach.

The now-rebranded has more than 24 campuses, drawing tens of thousands of attendees each week. His bold vision for streaming broadcasts and other online offerings have also helped elevate Groeschel's impact. One of the largest churches in the country, has been named America's Most Innovative Church multiple times, an award that reflects the creative genius of its founder along with innovation leader Bobby Gruenewald.

Perhaps one of the greatest and most far-reaching of Groeschel's innovations is the YouVersion app. Embracing the digital age as an unprecedented vehicle for spreading the Word of God, the Bible app brings myriad translations of Scripture to users' tablets and smartphones, all for free.

Already downloaded more than 182 million times, the app offers more than 1,000 versions of Scripture and 780 languages, as well as helpful search tools to facilitate both Bible study and quick reference. YouVersion, like, stands as a testament to Groeschel's vision to harness technology to reach the world for Christ, and the results more than speak for themselves.

]]> (Jeremy Burns) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Tue, 25 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0400
WATCH: PERRY STONE Says This Could Be the Mark of the Beast

The prophetic minister prophesies about the possible government plan of implanting of microchips into our bodies for identification reasons, akin to the mark of the beast spoken of in Revelation. Stone says by 2017-2018, it will be mandatory for Americans to have this chip implanted.

See the full video here:

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:00:00 -0400
WATCH: MYLES MUNROE Says 'God Never Intended to Have a Religion'

WATCH: MYLES MUNROE Says 'God Never Intended to Have a Religion'

"When God created the heavens and the earth, and then God created mankind, he never had religion in His mind. He created you to have dominion over the earth."—Myles Munroe

If you've been conditioned to think like a slave all of your life—even when the door is open—you stay in prison." —Myles Munroe

In this video, Myles Munroe examines a few passages in Matthew regarding the kingdom of God. Jesus often spoke of the kingdom and here is a great message that articulates that Jesus is a LITERAL King, who rules a kingdom of which we are citizens.

]]> (Charisma Staff ) Featured Charisma Videos 40 Year Anniversary Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
MYLES MUNROE: 10 Ways to Unbind Your Potential

Note: This article appeared in the October 1991 issue of Charisma magazine.

The wealthiest spot on this planet is not the oil fields of Saudi Arabia or the gold mines of South Africa. The richest deposits on our planet lie not many blocks from your house—in your local cemetery. Buried beneath the soil of those sacred grounds are songs that never were sung, books that never were written, paintings that never filled a canvas, ideas that never became reality. Tragically, our grave­yards are filled with potential that never was fulfilled.

As I walk the streets of our cities, my heart grieves over the wasted, bro­ken, disoriented lives I encounter. Dur­ing their youth, they had dreams, desires, plans and aspirations. But to­day they are lost in a maze of substance abuse, alcoholism and purposelessness.

Only a small percentage of the 5 billion people on this planet will achieve a significant portion of their true potential. Their potential remains untapped because they do not under­stand the nature of the potential princi­ple: Potential is not what you have done, but what you can do. Not what is, but what could be.

What is potential? Dormant ability. Untapped strength. Unused success. Hidden talents. Capped capability.

There's a wealth of potential within you. But you must decide if you will deprive the world or bless it with the valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you. Most men and women never realize their full potential because they do not understand the keys to a fulfilled, effective life.

Every manufacturer establishes the specifications, environment, conditions and operational standards for attaining the maximum performance level of his or her product. God our Creator and Manufacturer has also established a plan for the maximum performance and release of your potential. Violation of these requirements will result in the malfunction, distortion, misuse and abuse of your precious potential.

After careful study of the Bible—the Manufacturer's Handbook—I have identified 10 major keys to releasing your full potential:

1. You must know (be related to) your Source. It is essential that you understand the nature, composition and consistency of your Source, for this is the key to understanding the potency of your potential. If you had a wooden table in your house, for example, you would be aware that the table is made of wood from a tree. The strength, durability and nature of the table can only be as strong and durable as the tree. If the tree is weak, the table will be the same. Therefore, the potential of the table is determined by the potential of the source from which it came.

The same is true for you. To under­stand how much potential you possess, you must understand the Source from which you came. You and I possess the qualities and nature of our Source and are capable of manifesting these quali­ties. We also possess an eternal spirit just like our Source. We will live forever—not because He allows us to, but because it's our nature.

A manufacturer's product must re­main related to its source in order to be maintained and supplied with genuine parts and authorized service. Manufac­turing companies call this relationship the warranty/guarantee agreement.

This agreement requires that the owner of the product be subjected to the conditions, specifications and oper­ational standards if the manufacturer is to take responsibility for the maximum performance, maintenance and servic­ing of the product. Violation of the manufacturer's conditions and stan­dards cancels the warranty/guarantee relationship and places the product at the mercy of unauthorized dealers.

The same relationship exists between God and humanity. God guarantees the maximum performance of our potential if we remain related to Him and submit to the conditions, specifications and standards set by Him. A personal relationship with our Creator is a key to the releasing of our full potential.

2. You must understand how the product was designed to function. Every manufacturer designs, de­velops and produces his or her product to function in a specific manner. Auto­mobile manufacturers, for instance, design their products to function with gasoline, spark plugs, batteries, pistons, oil, water and so forth. No matter what you do, if you do not supply the ele­ments required for the operational function of the product, it will not per­form and maximize its potential.

God designed human beings to function as He does. You and I were created to function by faith and love. These are the fuels on which we run.

The just live—operate—by faith (Rom. 1:17). Without faith, it is impos­sible to please God (Heb. 11:6). And faith works through love (Gal. 5:6) be­cause God is love, and those who oper­ate in love abide in God and God abides in them (1 John 4:16).

Our potential cannot be released without faith and love. Fear and hatred short-circuit our potential.

3. You must know your purpose. Every product exists for a specific purpose. That reason is the original in­tent of its existence—the purpose for which the manufacturer made it. Knowing the manufacturer's intent is essential because the purpose for which something was made determines its de­sign, nature and potential.

God created you and gave you life for a purpose. Whatever that purpose is, you possess the potential to fulfill it. No matter how big the dream God gave you, your potential is equal to the as­signment. Purpose gives birth to re­sponsibility, and responsibility makes demands on potential.

4. You must understand your resources. All manufacturers pro­vide access to the necessary resources for the proper maintenance, sustenance and operation of their products. Re­sources and provisions are to help sustain the product while its potential is being maximized.

God, in His great wisdom, provided human beings with tremendous material and physical resources to sustain and maintain us as we proceed in realizing, developing and maximizing our poten­tial. We are never to worship the re­sources, nor are we to become controlled by them. Idolatry and sub­stance abuse are violations of the Man­ufacturer's specifications and will lead to the destruction of potential.

5. You must have the right envi­ronment. Environment consists of the conditions that have a direct or indirect effect on the performance, function and development of a thing. Every manufacturer specifies the proper conditions under which he or she guarantees the maximum perfor­mance of the product. In the manual, the manufacturer will caution against violation of that specified environment for maximum performance. The right environment is the ideal conditions needed to maximize the true potential.

God created everything to flourish within a specific environment. Plants and animals all need a specific environ­ment in order to live. When the proper environment is violated, the potential for life is disrupted and possibly de­stroyed. This is also true of humans.

God designed humans to function in the garden of His presence, in relation­ship with Him, free from sin and in daily communion with His Spirit. Hu­man potential needs this positive envi­ronment of fellowship, relationship, love and challenge in order to be maxi­mized. You can never be all you could be in any other environment.

Humanity's fall contaminated our environment and poisoned the atmo­sphere of our potential. It produced ab­normal behavior and the malfunction of the human factor. The key to releasing your true potential is the restoration of God's original environment. Jesus came to restore us to the Father. He sent the Holy Spirit to restore our inter­nal environment.

6. You must work out your poten­tial. Potential is dormant ability. But ability is useless until it is given re­sponsibility. When God created Adam, He planted in him the potential to sub­due, rule over and care for the earth and everything in it. His potential was pre­determined by this purpose. Adam had inside of him all the potential necessary to fulfill the assignment. But he was not aware of his potential, even as you may not be aware of what you can do.

So the first thing God gave Adam was not a wife, but work (Gen. 2:15). He made demands on the potential of Adam's mind by commanding him to name the animals and stimulated the potential of his body by commanding him to cultivate the garden. The Lord gave Adam insight into the potential of his spirit by commanding him to domi­nate the whole earth for God's glory.

Work is a major key to releasing your potential. Claiming a promise does not make it happen. You must ap­ply the principle of work. The land was promised to the children of Israel, but they had to walk it out to possess it (Deut. 11:24). Good ideas do not bring success. Good hard work does. To re­lease your true potential, you must be willing to work.

7. You must cultivate your poten­tial. Potential is like a seed. It is a hidden ability that needs to be culti­vated. You must feed your potential the fertilizer of positive company, give it the environment of encourage­ment, drench it with the water of God's Word and bathe it in the sun­shine of personal prayer. Read materi­als that stimulate your faith and nourish your dream.

8. You must guard your potential. It's tragic when a tree dies in a seed or a person dies in childhood. It's sad when what could have been be­comes what should have been. With all the wealth of your potential, you must be careful to guard and protect it.

The Bible calls your potential a treasure in an earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7). You must guard your visions and dreams from sin, discouragement, pro­crastination, failures, opinions, distrac­tions, traditions and compromise. Satan is after your potential. Be on guard.

9. You must share your potential. God created the heavens and the earth to operate on this principle: Poten­tial can only be fulfilled when it is shared. Nature abounds with this truth. The sun does not exist for itself. Plants release oxygen for us, and we provide carbon dioxide for the plants. The bee re­ceives nectar as it pollinates the flowers.

No potential exists for itself. This is also true of human potential. The true measure of fulfilled potential is not what is accomplished, but who receives benefit from the accomplishment. Your deposit was given to enrich and inspire the lives of others. Remember, the great law is love.

10. You must know and under­stand the laws of limitation. Freedom and power are two of the most important elements in our lives. Potential is the essence of both. Potential is power. But freedom needs law to be enjoyed, and power needs re­sponsibility to be effective. One with­out the other produces self-destruction.

Every manufacturer establishes laws of limitations. These laws are not given to restrict, but to protect—not to hin­der, but to assist and guarantee the maximum performance of potential.

God has set laws and standards to protect our potential and to secure our success. Violating these laws limits the release of your potential. Obedience ensures protection and maximization.

Commit yourself to obeying the Manufacturer. Then watch your life un­fold as you discover the hidden ability that was always within you. 

]]> (Myles Munroe ) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Mon, 24 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400
PERRY STONE Makes a Case for the Rapture

Note: This story originally appeared on in 2011.

Among Christians worldwide, there is controversy concerning teaching about the rapture, an end-times event described by the apostle Paul in several Scripture passages (see 1 Thess. 4:16-17; Eph. 1:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:51-55, for example). The English word "rapture" is derived from a Latin translation by St. Jerome of the phrase "caught up" in the New Testament (see 1 Thess. 4:17, NKJV).

More accurate biblical phrases are "the gathering together" (see Eph. 1:10; 2 Thess. 2:1), the "catching away" (1 Thess. 4:17), and the "general assembly" (Heb.12:23). The term "rapture" refers to Christ's return for the living saints and the resurrection of the dead in Christ, a predicted event whose timing is not revealed in the New Testament.

A type of the rapture appears in Exodus 19. Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Word of God. A "cloud" descended, and the "sound of the trumpet was very loud" as the "Lord descended" on the mount (Ex. 19:16-18). The "Lord came down" and "Moses went up" (v. 20).

This Old Testament event foreshadows a future happening described by Paul. He wrote that the "Lord Himself will descend from heaven ... with the trumpet of God. ... Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together ... in the clouds" (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

The trumpet is identified by Jews as the Tekiah Ha Godolah, which is the longest and loudest last trumpet blast played during the Feast of Trumpets, known to Jews as Rosh Hashanah—the civil New Year on the Hebrew calendar. The day and hour of this fifth Jewish feast was not known (see Matt. 24:36) but was recognized when two witnesses identified the silver sliver of the moon.

Critics claim that the rapture is a contemporary doctrine, started in the 1830s when a woman gave a prophetic word. Yet the concept of a pre-tribulation coming of Christ was taught by Dr. John Gill in 1748 and by Peter Jerihu in 1687. It was alluded to by Ephraim the Syrian in his writings in A.D. 373 and by the Shepherd of Hermes about 10 years after the Apocalypse was written about by John.

Though some suggest the rapture is simply an escape teaching, they forget the principle of separation found throughout the Bible. Noah escaped death during the flood (see Heb. 11:7), Lot escaped the destruction of Sodom (see Gen. 19:29), the Hebrews escaped the destroying angel (see Ex. 12:23), Rahab was spared when Jericho's walls fell (see Heb.11:31), and in the coming tribulation a Jewish remnant will escape the Antichrist (see Dan. 11:41; Rev. 7:3).

The patterns of the fall feasts also reveal a pattern for the rapture. Christ was crucified near Passover, in the tomb during Unleavened Bread and seen alive during First Fruits. The church was born at Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-4), and the three fall feasts all have a future fulfillment. The rapture is a pattern of the feast of Trumpets, the Tribulation is parallel to events on the Day of Atonement (when the nation of Israel was judged) and Tabernacles represents the future kingdom of the Messiah ruling on earth.

Even the ancient Jewish wedding is a picture of the marriage of the Messiah. When the groom came to receive his bride, the wedding celebration continued for seven days. Some suggest this is why the church will be in heaven for the entire seven years of the tribulation.

Whatever a person believes, we are to remain faithful till the end. We should plan as though we will be here a long time but live as though each day could be our last day. In this manner we are always prepared to meet the Lord.

Perry Stone is the director of Voice of Evangelism ( in Cleveland, Tenn. He is also the host of Manna-Fest, a weekly television program, and the author of The Meal That Heals and Breaking the Jewish Code (both Charisma House).

]]> (Perry Stone) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Mon, 24 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
MYLES MUNROE: Born to 'Transform Followers Into Leaders'

Who can forget that smile? It lit up a room and TV screen. When Myles Munroe was tragically killed in a plane accident last November along with his wife, Ruth, and six others, his church family in the Bahamas and around the world were not the only ones devastated. Many in the secular world experienced Munroe's influence and were equally shocked at the loss.

Munroe grew up in an inner-city community in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, where his church, Bahamas Faith Ministries (BFM), and his global ministry, Myles Munroe International, were based.

If you asked him what his purpose was, he was ready with an answer: "I was born to transform followers into leaders, and leaders into agents of change." He was an unofficial ambassador for the Bahamas and was invited to more than 80 countries to address government bodies, business leaders, universities and religious organizations.

In 1998, Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Order of the British Empire for his spiritual and social contributions to the national development of the Bahamas. He was also founder and chairman of International Third World Leaders Association, an all-professional global network of leaders focusing on formal leadership development and training primarily in developing nations.

Munroe's lifelong message was that each person has a purpose and potential, and in fact, that was the subject of his last sermon at BFM the day he was killed.

He often said the first thing a leader must do is identify a successor. After his death, his children, Myles Jr. and Charisa, said that their father had prepared them to live without him should he die. And today they are carrying on their father's ministry.—Diana Scimone

]]> (Diana Scimone) Featured Evangelism & Missions Spirit Mon, 24 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
PERRY STONE: Discerning the Voice of God

When Perry Stone was 18 years old, God told him he'd have a ministry someday. He even gave him the name: Voice of Evangelism. Later the Lord added more hints about Stone's future: a magazine, radio and TV broadcasts, crusades, camp meetings and world-missions outreaches.

When Stone told his fellow teens about his upcoming Voice of Evangelism worldwide ministry, they thought it was a joke because at the time, he wasn't the voice of anything. Years later, all that and more has come to pass. Stone has a weekly television program, Manna-Fest, that is seen around the world, a magazine, regular crusades and camp meetings and, yes, a ministry called Voice of Evangelism.

"Compared to his peers he had a big vision," remembers Marcus Lamb, who founded Daystar Television Network and has known Stone since they were both teen preachers in the Church of God. "He also believed in the power of the Holy Spirit with signs and wonders."

A fourth-generation Pentecostal preacher, Stone is perhaps best known as a teacher of end-times Bible prophecy.

Voice of Evangelism is based in Cleveland, Tennessee, home to Church of God, Church of Prophecy and several smaller denominations, but Stone's audience crosses denominational lines and includes Baptists and Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and charismatics, and Messianic Jews.

Sid Roth, a Jewish believer, once told Stone, "You provoke me to jealousy, exactly what the Bible says you're supposed to do because Romans says that the job of the Gentile is to provoke the Jew to jealousy. You're just performing what the Bible says."—Diana Scimone

]]> (Diana Scimone) Featured 40 Who Changed Our World 40 Year Anniversary Mon, 24 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0400
Why Does God Take So Long?

Are you tired of waiting on God? Have you been saying, "I've waited long enough?" Waiting on God to act can truly be one of the worst things we have ever done. One of the most exasperating aspects of God is His slowness to step in on our behalf. But the more we get to know Him, the more we see that His slowness is not such a bad thing after all; it is for our good.

What if you could ask for anything you honestly want?

Have you ever fantasized that God might come to you as He did to Moses and ask you what you want Him to do for you? What if He did come to you and invited you to ask for anything you like? What do you suppose you would ask for? And what if there were no conditions—that is, you need not ask for what is noble, altruistic or even God-honoring—that it could even be a selfish request? You simply have an opportunity to ask for one thing and it will be answered. What would you request?

God had let Moses know He was pleased with him: "You have found favor with me," the Lord said to him. Moses seized the moment and replied to God, "If I have found favor in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You" (Ex. 33:13, emphasis added).

One of the things Moses learned about God's ways is His slowness to act.

Moses was arguably the greatest leader of men in human history. He might have asked for any number of things—vengeance on His enemies, for example. But the truth of his heart surfaced: Moses wanted to know God's ways. This convicts me. I ask: Would I want to know God's ways above any other request?

I will admit to you that Moses's request puts me to shame. I cannot remember asking that of God. I certainly asked for a lot of other things.

I want to finish well. I would have thought that the safest guarantee that one will finish well is to make Moses's request—to know God's waysyour true desire.

The apostle Paul's supreme wish was the same—"to know Him," that is, Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:10). You may want to ask, "Paul, are you saying you don't know the Lord?" Of course Paul knew the Lord. But his deepest longing was to know Christ better. That is what he meant by the words, "To know Him."

I have learned this. The better you get to know God, the more you want to know Him. The more you know Him, the more you are in awe of Him. The more you know Him, the more you want to spend time with Him. The more you spend time with Him, the more you feel you need him. The best way to get to know anybody is to spend time with them. So too when it comes to knowing God.

Moses frequented what was called the tent of meeting. It was there that the Lord spoke to Moses, "Face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend" (Ex. 33:11). It was in the tent of meeting that Moses put his request to the Lord—that he might know God's ways.

God lamented that ancient Israel did not know His ways (Heb. 3:10). God wants us to know His ways. But we must be prepared for this: His ways are different from our ways (Is. 55:8-9). What if we don't like God's ways?

One of God's ways is His slowness, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (2 Pet. 3:8). Time is His domain. He is in no hurry. But we are. God can—to us—seem so slow.

Yet God can act so quickly when He chooses. Once Jesus was born, suddenly, a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel (Luke 2:13-14), and after waiting hundreds of years for Joel's prophecy to be fulfilled, suddenly a sound of a violent wind came from heaven (Acts 2:1-2).

So why is God slow in making things happen? He tells us why. We may or may not like the reason: that He might gain greater glory. The God of the Bible is a God of glory (Acts 7:1-2). Whatever He does, it is for His glory. The longer He waits, the greater the glory. But it also means greater the reward and greater the joy for us.

RT-KendallAdapted from It Ain't Over Till It's Over by R. T. Kendall, copyright 2015, published by Charisma House. If you've ever gotten tired of waiting for God's answers, this book is for you. It will encourage you to persevere, not give up, keep keeping on, run the race, and finish well.  To order your copy, click here.

Prayer Power for the Week of August 24, 2015

This week, dare to ask God to show you His ways, and not just His works. Honor Him for who He is, and not just for what He does. Ask Him to draw you into greater intimacy in your relationship and tell Him you trust Him to fulfill every promise He has made no matter how long it takes. Continue to pray for worldwide revival, laborers for His harvest field, our government and spiritual leaders, Israel and the church (Ex. 33:13; Heb. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:1-5).

]]> (R.T. Kendall ) Featured Power Up! Blogs Sun, 23 Aug 2015 22:00:00 -0400
Messianic Jews: 'Brothers in Faith'

Recently I had the privilege of visiting the largest Messianic congregation in America—Beth Israel Jerusalem Center led by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn in Wayne, New Jersey.  I thoroughly enjoyed the service and, as a Gentile, was completely with the music and the message. I enjoyed the Hebrew style melodies and some of the Hebrew blessings that were interspersed.  

Over the years it's been exciting to report the growth of the Messianic movement, which basically began only a few years before Charisma started in 1975. In fact, Charisma may have contributed to its growth because we've given it so much coverage.  

Only a few months after Charisma first published, I attended a service in Orlando led by an early Messianic named Manny Brotman. I was so moved by his message and what I learned about the Messianic movement that it resulted in a cover story for our seventh issue.

The headline read, "Is It Kosher To Believe In Jesus," and we featured Sandra Sheskin, a talented singer who was one of the first to popularize Messianic-Hebrew type of worship music.  Interestingly, she and Manny married a couple of years later.

We've run other stories, like "Believing in Messiah Yeshua" in the September-October 1976 issue, and "Have You Hugged a (Messianic) Jew Lately?" from the April 1997 issue.

Several times I have spoken to Messianic leaders who have expressed sincere appreciation for the coverage Charisma has given the movement. I was unaware that we were giving that much coverage. From our view, we were only covering what God was doing. I also had a heart for the Jewish people and for Israel, and the stories seemed to come naturally.

Over time I began to observe and to appreciate the hostility that the Messianics encounter—not only from the Jewish community but also from many Christians who believe in replacement theology. There are some that don't have theological reasons not to support the Messianic movement—they just are uncomfortable with it and tend to ignore it. This has been true of most Christian media. Our coverage is legitimate and its growth has, leaders have told me, contributed to its recognition in the mainstream and spirit-empowered community.  

Charisma has also been a strong supporter of Israel. In fact, the Israeli tourism office actually gave us an award in the late 1980s because, they said, we were the most pro-Israel Christian magazine in the country. Over the years, we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various causes both on our own as well as through Christians United For Israel.

I had a small part in helping to start CUFI in 2006, mainly by hosting a "Night to Honor Israel" in Orlando that prompted John Hagee to believe that these events could be held around the country. I also helped him organize the meeting in which Christians United For Israel was kicked off in San Antonio, Texas on February 6, 2006.  

At the first Christians United For Israel event, we made friends with the Jewish community in Central Florida—friendships that continue this day. One of the rabbis was concerned that this was going to be a proselytizing event (it wasn't). It was a sincere show of support by Gentile Christians for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. But my rabbi friend wanted me to exclude Messianics from participating in the pro-Israel event.

I knew this was a touchy issue. I didn't want to offend my new rabbi friend nor did I want to be disloyal to my Messianic brothers. The rabbi wanted me to publicly distance myself from the Messianics. I told him I could not do that because I consider them "brothers in faith."

I remember that it shot through my mind to say brothers in Christ (which is how we refer to other believers), but the Holy Spirit must have given me the phrase "brothers in faith" because the rabbi seemed to accept that. In fact, he said to me "we consider them that too," and we never discussed it again.

I can only assume that the rabbi meant that he considered them former Jews who had become Christians. But, I believe that Messianic Judaism is actually the fulfillment of Judaism in that they accept Jesus as Messiah, and all the early church fathers were Messianic Jews. The Book of Acts said that they turned the world upside.

Charisma is proud of its association with the Messianics. We praise God for what we see happening both with the Gentile church understanding their Jewish roots and also thousands of Jews recognizing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook stephenestrang.

]]> (Steve Strang) Featured The Strang Report Blogs Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:00:00 -0400
God's Unqualified Army: Anyone Can Join

We're living in a day of what I call the "get by" mentality. What does that mean? It means we are all just trying to get by! We're not really living because we've made up our minds that surviving is enough.

We have become much like Gideon's army in Judges 8:4, where they were fainting yet pursuing. The constant demands of the day can be exhausting, and so often we show up for church but are nowhere near ready to engage a powerful and awesome God.

I have often said that God does not demand perfection but pursuit! If the devil cannot make you sin, then he will just make you too busy to have a true relationship with God.

This mentality has caused the ones chosen by God to be used in His kingdom to simply ignore His voice or take an easy path. It's true, though, that it's much easier to just get by than to decide to rise up and lead. Couple that with the fact that most Christians believe there's no way God could use them to do His great work and you have an anemic church.

Are You Available?

Usually, the most qualified are the ones who most often feel least qualified. Every person who has ever accepted the challenge to be used of God has at one time or another thought, "Why on earth, God, have You chosen me?" In fact, we really have no right to question whether or not God can use us. Many years ago while spending time in prayer, I heard God say to me, "Pat, every time you doubt whether or not I can use you, it breaks My heart."

You're a Survivor

All of Scripture proves that God uses the ones who most likely would not have been picked by man to be on His team of generals. God is calling out to you. He refuses to leave you alone. Your scars are your testimony. The depth of God's love is most often revealed in the people least likely to be chosen in man's eyes. If you have been through lots of pain, then you're a great candidate to bring freedom to others.

Lay Down Your Plans

God is calling each of us to lay down our own plans and agendas for the higher calling. It is through obedience that God is able to transform the nobodies. That means it's time to draw a line in the sand and walk away from the things that are holding you back. We are called to be empty vessels into which God can place His glory, and we better make sure we allow God to clean up these vessels that we are!

I will conclude with one of my favorite series of quotes that I have seen for years floating around the blogosphere. I have, in fact, shared this at gatherings where I have spoken. I call it "No More Excuses!"

There are excuses why God can't use you. The next time you think God can't use you, just look to the Bible to see what he had to work with:

Noah was a drunk (Gen. 9:21).
Isaac was a daydreamer.
Jacob was a liar (Gen. 27).
Moses had a stuttering problem (Ex. 4:10).
Gideon was afraid (Judg. 6).
Rahab was a harlot (Josh. 2:1).
David had an affair and was a murderer (2 Sam. 11:2-4, 14-17).
Elijah was suicidal (1 Kin. 19:4).
Jonah ran from God (Jon. 1:3).
Job went bankrupt (Job 1:21).
Peter denied Christ (Mark 14:71).
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once (John 4:17-18).
Lazarus was dead (John 11)!

As you can see, all of us have our issues. But God can use the unqualified to do great exploits. Remember, no more excuses!

Pat Schatzline is a leading international evangelist and author. He and his wife, Karen, co-founded Remnant Ministries International. Known for his unique ability to communicate God's Word with passion, Pat desires to see God's last day remnant make a stand for truth.

If you liked the article, you'll love the book.

Evangelist and author Pat Schatzline shows how you can be used by God no matter what your weaknesses through his most recent book, Unqualified: Where You Can Begin to Be Great (Charisma House). You can find his book wherever Christian books are sold or at or

]]> (Pat Schatzline) Featured Charisma Magazine 40 Year Anniversary 40 Year Anniversary Sun, 23 Aug 2015 11:00:00 -0400
Have You Hugged a (Messianic) Jew Lately?

Note: This article originally appeared in the April 1997 issue of Charisma magazine.

The rabbi sat across from me in his overstuffed leather armchair, his library of Jewish learning surrounding him like an ancient fortress. "You are meshumed—one who is spiritually destroyed as a Jew!" he declared. "Just as Adolph Hitler sought to destroy our people physically, you, by your conversion to Christianity, are helping to destroy our people spiritually."

I had come to the rabbi's office at my parents' request. You see, I had done the unthinkable: I had received Jesus as my Messiah. In my naivete, I had thought my parents would be happy to hear I had turned away from drugs, Eastern mysticism and the occult. They weren't—because I had turned to Jesus.

Many Jewish believers have had similar experiences. They suffer rejection and ostracism from family, friends and the mainstream Jewish community. Some Jews who accept Jesus are disinherited; others are treated as outcasts. In extreme cases, Orthodox Jewish families actually hold funeral services to declare the spiritual death of their heretic child. Occasionally, Jewish "anti-missionaries" are dispatched by desperate parents to "rescue" their children from the "cult" of Christianity.

Such treatment is nothing new. The apostle Paul faced hostility and even persecution from his Jewish brothers (see 2 Cor. 11:22-26). Today, we Messianic Jews have come to accept this kind of rejection for our faith in Jesus.

What is more difficult for us to accept, however, is the lack of understanding and affirmation we sometimes receive from our Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ.

It's important for Christians to understand the pressures Jewish believers face as we make the choice to follow our Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus' Hebrew name), and try to navigate our way forward in our newfound faith. Often, we experience an identity crisis as we try to integrate our new beliefs into the context of our Jewish heritage.

Jewish people are raised with what I call an "us and them" mentality. Growing up, I was taught that we Jews—"us"—had our God, our Judaism, our synagogues, our rabbis, our traditions and holidays (Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur), our patriarchs, our Torah. Anyone who wasn't a Jew was a "them"—a Christian or a Gentile (we made no distinction between the two). "They" had their God (Jesus Christ), their Christianity, their churches, their priests, their holidays (Easter, Christmas, Lent) and their New Testament.

We were taught that Christians blamed us for killing their Savior, Jesus Christ. And it was Christians, we were told, who had persecuted Jews through the centuries. The Crusades, the pogroms of Russia, the Spanish Inquisition and ultimately the Holocaust all were done in the name of Christ and Christianity.

We understood that we were born Jews and that we should die as Jews. And Jews did not believe in Jesus!

In fact, I had no idea that Jesus was Jewish. I thought that Jesus Christ was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. I thought he was born in Rome and grew up in the Vatican. I didn't know that the apostles were Jews who were born and raised in Israel or that Paul had been a Jewish rabbi. I was shocked to learn that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and the other great patriarchs of Jewish history were mentioned in the New Testament. I had no idea how Jewish the New Testament was.

I was taught that to believe in Jesus a Jew had to convert to another religion and abandon his people. In reality, this is not the case. When Jews believe in Jesus, they are not converting to another religion. Rather, they are returning to the God of Israel and the promised Messiah of the Jewish people.

"A tenet of messianic Judaism," writes Paul Liberman in The Fig Tree Blossoms, "asserts that when a Jew accepts a Jewish Messiah, born in a Jewish land, who was foretold by Jewish prophets in the Jewish Scriptures, such a Jew does not become a Gentile. In fact he becomes a messianic Jew—a Jew who believes Jesus is the Messiah."

Unfortunately, messianic Jews have more to deal with than misunderstanding from other Jews. They also face unnecessary pressure from some Christian leaders who teach that a Jew who has found his Messiah must forsake his God-given identity as a Jewish person, since he has now become a Christian.

This view springs from a misunderstanding of the relationship between law and grace. When Paul addresses this issue in Galatians, he makes it clear that no one can obtain salvation through the works of the law (see Gal. 2:16). He is not condemning all Jewish observance and practice, only criticizing a "righteousness based on works" mentality—a pattern of thinking that is a potential danger for anyone, not just messianic Jews. Any believer can begin to trust more in his own religious behavior than in God's forgiveness through faith in Jesus.

Some Christian leaders maintain further that Jewish believers, by holding on to their Jewish heritage after embracing Jesus as Messiah, are rebuilding the "middle wall of partition" removed through the atoning work of Christ (see Eph. 2:14). Others believe that in order to truly express the "one new man" of Ephesians 2:15, all Jewish people must fit into local churches like theirs.

I can't deny that some Jewish believers have isolated themselves from other parts of the body of Messiah and inadequately identified themselves as members of the "universal church." At the same time, I am thankful to note that new bridges of cooperation and unity are being built daily between messianic and Gentile believers.

Unity does not necessarily require assimilation. When local messianic Jewish congregations are relating well to other local congregations in their cities, then we can experience true unity within the universal body of Christ.

Another major obstacle Jewish believers face is the reemergence of "replacement theology," or the doctrine of "Spiritual Israel." This doctrine teaches that God has rejected the Jewish people and replaced them with the church. Thus all the curses of the Old Testament remain in force against the Jews, while all the blessings and promises are now spiritualized and given exclusively to the church.

This theology is actually nothing new. Paul had to contend with it in his day (see Rom. 11:1-2). Yet the Scriptures are abundantly clear that God will remain faithful to the Jews until He fulfills all He has ordained for them.

So what—or who—is Israel? Good question.

In the early 1980s, a tour group I was leading drove through the Golan Heights, near the northern border between Israel and Lebanon. As our guide explained the history of the state of Israel, someone blurted out, "Why do they call it the state of Israel and not the nation of Israel?"

To this day, I have never forgotten his reply: "Because the nation of Israel is scattered throughout the whole world. Only when they return to the land of Israel will the state of Israel be called the nation of Israel once again."

It is essential for Christians to understand the distinction between the people Israel and the land Israel. Most of the occurrences of the word "Israel" in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, refer to the people of Israel—the physical descendants of Jacob known today as the Jews. Although there is nothing wrong with being excited about and supportive of the land called Israel, we should not stop there. We must be dedicated to the people of Israel also.

Many Christians who are fervent supporters of the state of Israel (sometimes called Christian Zionists) have dedicated themselves to Jewish causes, aiding and assisting in particular with the massive aliyah (immigration) of Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel. I applaud their efforts and commitment; they are demonstrating Christian love for Israel in deed rather than just in word.

It is critical, however, that we don't neglect God's full plan of restoration for His ancient people. The Torah asserts a dual promise: physical restoration to the land of their forefathers and spiritual restoration to the God of their forefathers (see Deut. 30:1-5).

Only when the Jewish people return to the Lord with all their hearts through recognition and acceptance of their Messiah will their physical restoration as a nation be fully realized. If we are truly to love Israel and be a blessing to her, we need to aid Jews not only in their physical return to the land but also in their spiritual return to the Lord.

Here are some practical things you can do:

1. Pray for Jewish friends, family members and co-workers. I believe everyone who has been born again had someone praying for him before his conversion. Most Jewish people have no family members or friends who are committed believers, dedicated to intercede on their behalf.

Why not stand in the gap and pray for the ultimate "peace of Jerusalem" (Ps. 122:6), which can come only through the dwelling of the Prince of Peace in our hearts? Ask God for specific Jewish people to pray for.

2. Take time to appreciate the Jewish roots of your faith. The Jewish holidays are rich with meaning not only for messianic Jews but also for Christians because they lay a foundation for understanding the life, teaching and atoning work of Yeshua. Take time to learn about and participate in the Jewish holidays. For example, why not hold a Passover Seder in your church? I guarantee it will enrich your spiritual understanding.

3.  Understand and support God's prophetic calling and plan for Israel and the Jewish people. The Scriptures promise a great revival of the Jewish people preceding the return of Jesus to this earth. There is an ordained time in history, Paul says, before the Messiah comes back, when the Jewish people will experience the removal of the blindness that has plagued them spiritually for more than 2,000 years (see Rom. 11:25-27).

Some teach that God blinded the Jewish people because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, but I think it is more accurate to say that many among the nation of Israel did not recognize Him as Messiah because they were already blind.

As long ago as the prophet Isaiah, it was revealed that the children of Israel "had ears but could not hear and eyes but could not see" (see Is. 6:9-10). The blindness however, will continue only until a period in history called "the fullness of the Gentiles" is concluded.

In Luke 21:24 we see this period in history mentioned in connection to Jerusalem: "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (KJV). I believe that time has come.

In 1967, after almost 2,000 years, the ancient city of Jerusalem once again was restored into Jewish hands through the supernatural victory of the Israeli Army in the Six-Day War. This marked a transitional time in history, a shift that signaled the end of the times of the Gentiles.

Notice again the dual theme between the people of Israel and the land of Israel, the spiritual restoration of Israel and the physical restoration of Israel. Before 1967 Jewish believers were as rare as unicorns, and there were only a handful of messianic Jewish congregations in the United States. Today there are more than 200 congregations in the United States alone and hundreds more in Israel, Canada, Mexico, Europe, South Africa, Central and South America, and even Russia.

And though estimates vary, it is certain that more Jewish people have come to the Lord in the last 19 years than in the last 1,900 years of history combined. In the three short years between 1993 and 1996, I personally had the privilege of watching some 45,000 Jewish people in the former Soviet Union respond to altar calls at our Messianic Jewish Outreach Festivals.

Countless thousands of others have watched these festivals on television, with hundreds writing to us to tell of their newfound faith in Yeshua. Is this all a coincidence, or is God's timetable for the Jewish people upon us?

4. Share your faith with Jews. Many Christians sincerely believe it is better not to share the gospel with Jewish people. There are even some well-meaning, born-again, Spirit-filled Christian leaders who have embraced, and now teach, a "dual covenant theology." This false doctrine, popularized in an atmosphere of post-Holocaust guilt within mainstream, institutional Christianity, espouses the idea that the Jews do not need personal salvation because God has a separate plan for them through the Mosaic Covenant.

Though I'm sure these leaders are sincere and inspired by a love and dedication to the Jewish people, the doctrine is nevertheless a deception. Both the Old Testament and the New are absolutely clear that there is only one gospel (Gal. 1:6-8), one Messiah for all people (I Tim. 2:5), one name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Not only is this gospel for the Jewish people, but the apostle Paul declares that it is "to the Jew first" (Rom. 1:16).

Paul's burning concern for the Jewish people was for their salvation: "For my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" (Rom. 10:1). True love for the Jews must include sharing the gospel with them.

5. Publicly stand with messianic Jewish believers and ministries, and support them financially. One of the most painful things we experience as messianic Jews is the criticism and condemnation of evangelical Christian leaders who have befriended an unbelieving rabbi or Jewish leader. These unsaved Jews often have a hostile attitude toward messianic Jews and Jewish evangelism that influences the Christians. I urge Christian leaders not to abandon their messianic brethren in order to appease and accommodate an ongoing relationship with a rabbi.

Furthermore, be aware: Some well-intentioned Christian churches, in an effort to express their love for Israel, have sent large sums of money to support hospitals, educational institutions, and even secular and government organizations such as the Sachnoot (the Jewish Agency in Israel). Yet the Jewish Agency often works together with Jewish anti-missionary organizations to keep messianic Jews out of Israel because of their belief in Yeshua as Messiah. Giving money to the Jewish Agency and some other mainstream Jewish organizations means that Christians are actually supporting groups that oppose messianic Jews and deny their rights in Israel.

Many Christians need to rethink what it means to be a true blessing to Israel and the Jewish people. Pray for their salvation and return to the land of Israel. Share the good news with them in word and deed. Stand with your Jewish brethren.

Ask God to give you a greater love and appreciation for the Jewish roots of your faith. Let's work hand in hand to build further bridges of reconciliation and mutual understanding between us.

May we all be provoked and inspired by the words of the psalmist, who wrote in Hebrew: "Hiney ma tov uma nayem shevet acheim gam yachad"—"How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133:1).  

]]> (Jonathan Bernis) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sun, 23 Aug 2015 09:50:00 -0400
Messianic Movement: Yeshua Kosher Style

Note: This article originally appeared in the September-October 1976 issue of Charisma magazine.

It's Friday at Beth Messiah Synagogue, the beginning of the Sabbath. A candle is lit. The Torah is read. A rabbi chants.

Members of the congregation, clad in their yarmulkes and veils, break into a song of praise to Messiah Yeshua.

Did they say Yeshua, Jesus, at a Jewish synagogue?

More and more Jews are discovering today what a remnant has always known that is kosher to believe in Yeshua (the Hebrew spelling of Jesus) as their promised Messiah.

Through a tremendous move of His Holy Spirit, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is renewing his ancient covenant with the Jews and fulfilling His promise to "pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication."

The movement recognizes no boundaries of age, class, education or background. Whether they are part of the young, evangelical Jews for Jesus, the "mainstream of Judaism" that is a target of the Messianic Jewish Movement International, or a dozen other Messianic Jewish organizations, they share a love of Jesus as the promised Messiah and a zeal to introduce Him to their Jewish brothers many Gentile Christians would envy.

Messianic Judaism has become so widespread it is now being given serious consideration as a fourth branch of Judaism, beside the three traditional branches—Orthodox, Reformed and Conservative. Members prefer to refer to it as "a movement within Judaism," however, insisting they have no desire to separate themselves in any way from the traditions of the Jewish faith.

Messianic Jews also refer to themselves as "completed" or "fulfilled" Jews, citing Matthew 5:17 where Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I did not come to abolish but to fulfill."

Messianic Jews are nothing new, of course. A movement bumper sticker proclaims that "Jesus was born in a kosher home." The New Testament church was founded by Jews and the early Christian worship certainly had a Jewish flavor.

The present day roots of the movement can be traced back to the mid- and late 1960s. It was then that Jews for Jesus, a large evangelical group, was born out of the Jesus movement in Southern California.

The Messianic Jewish Movement International was also gaining strength as was Jewish Voice Broadcast and numerous other organizations.

It was also in the late 1960s that the national news media begin taking notice of the "completed" Jews, giving them greater publicity and at least a tacit legitimacy.

What is new about these Messianic Jews, besides their numbers, is their fervor to share their newfound faith with other Jewish people. In an effort to echo that fervor, the American Board of Missions to the Jews, has, in the past, run ads crowing about the number of Jews wearing "that smile" nowadays.

Among these new completed Jews there is a greater appreciation of the traditions of the faith.  They celebrate the traditional holidays, study Hebrew and attend the synagogue.

The "Jewish holidays are teeming with the Gospel," says Joseph Finklestein, a Messianic Jew in Philadelphia. "Jesus fulfills them."

The observances are a matter of cultural identity for many young Jews raised out of touch with their past and in spiritual void, yet not wanting to be assimilated by the Gentile culture associated with the average church.

Youths usually study the Bible in Hebrew and in the synagogue prayer books are used.  Since Jewish bibles are difficult to obtain, many Jewish homes do not have one.  Many Jewish young people are completely ignorant of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament prophets who spoke of the coming of the Messiah.

Elliot Klayman, a Messianic Jewish attorney whose story is told by Jewish Voice Broadcasts, is fairly typical.

Klayman grew up in a traditional Jewish home, received a Hebrew school education and Bar Mitzvah at the traditional age of 13. The rituals of his faith were simply that to him—rituals.

Seeking recognition and security he turned to weightlifting, karate, gymnastics, education, sex and drugs. Nothing worked, however, so after graduating from Harvard University with his Master's degree in law, he got on a plane for Europe, alone, seeking truth. In Finland, spiritually and physically lost, he cried out to God who answered with a revelation of Jesus as the Messiah.

For Klayman, raised in a strict Jewish home, it was difficult to accept Jesus as the Messiah, but his vivid personal experience with Him destroyed doubt and steadied him in the face of opposition from friends and family.

Opposition from Jewish friends and family is a common problem for Messianic Jews. One Jewish youth who was a former drug addict and dope dealer joyously related his newfound faith to his parents. They replied they would rather have him back on drugs than be a believer in Christ.

A 1974 report in A.D. magazine raised another personal problem among young completed Jews.

Many of them are at a marriageable age and foresee getting married and raising a family. They tend to seek mates who are also Messianic Jews, but many of them are scattered throughout the country in areas where no other fulfilled Jews can be found.

The problem may be lessening some through the efforts of young Messianic Jewish Alliance. Reports of romances blooming at its conventions and regional meetings are growing.

Messianic Jews often face more serious opposition from organized Judaism. In 1972, the Massachusetts Rabbinical Court, ruling on three cases of Christian conversion, ruled that a Jew who joins the "so-called Hebrew-Christian movement" has betrayed his people and has no right to a Jewish marriage or burial.

However, the court also ruled that a person may not "at any time be exempt from responsibilities which membership in the Jewish faith imposes on him ..."

The court has therefore taken the position that Messianic Jews have all the responsibilities but none of the rights of Jews.

The National Courier newspaper recently reported on James Yaacov Hutchens, who took the same question—can a Jew believe in Jesus and still be a Jew?—to the High Court of Justice in Israel when he sought to immigrate to Israel after converting to Judaism. He was refused.

His conversion was rescinded by the Chicago Rabbinical Court, which charged he had been dishonest in his statement of belief concerning Jesus at the time of his conversion.

Many Messianic Jews in Israel supported Hutchens' cause, and one fulfilled Jew who attended the trial said that Messianic Jews in Israel are fighting for the same freedoms as Soviet Jews.

But Rabbi Meir Kahane of the Jewish Defense League has called Jewish believers in Christ anything from "obscene" to "ignoramuses."

Organizing a group in Israel he sarcastically calls "Christians for Moses," Kahane and his helpers are trying to have Israel ban all missionary work in that country.

Not all opposition, however, is that destructive. Some members of the Jewish community are genuinely concerned with the spiritual cries among Jewish youth and are trying to meet the need.

A 1974 Jews for Jesus publication reported on Esther Jungreis, a Jewish community leader who initiated a "Hineni" campaign. Hineni is Hebrew for "Here am I." Mrs. Jungreis hoped to counteract Messianic Judaism and call Jews back to Judaism and urged them to study the Scriptures to gain an appreciation of their Jewishness.

Much to her chagrin, Jews for Jesus supported the campaign and wrote Hineni posters, songs, and slogans such as "What's a nice four letter word you can say to God's face? Hineni. Here am I." (Hineni in Hebrew has only four letters.)

But in the face of such opposition, Messianic Jews have responded with love and continued insistence that accepting Jesus as the Messiah has actually made them more Jewish.

Most Messianic Jews continue serving worthwhile Jewish causes such as securing freedom for Soviet Jews and supporting Israel.

The majority of Messianic organizations encourage their members to continue worshipping at a synagogue. To meet the unique needs of completed Jews, Messianic synagogues are springing up wherever there is a sizable population of Messianic Jews.

A group of twelve messianic synagogue leaders recently met to organize a Union of Messianic Jewish Synagogues.

David Chernoff, campus director for Messianic Ministries, which sponsors Beth Yeshua Synagogue in Philadelphia, believes it is virtually impossible to have a strong Messianic Jewish ministry without the support of a Messianic synagogue.

"You must have a place where Jews can come to hear the message of Jesus in a Jewish framework, and where they can worship as Jews," he says, "A congregations should be the center of Messianic Judaism."

Services in Messianic synagogue are basically the same as in a non-Messianic synagogue, with readings from the Torah, lighting of candles, singing, and even a sermon delivered by a rabbi. The main difference is in the content of the message and the music presented. "The Messianic synagogue tries to retain its Jewishness, but in the Scripture readings, songs and message, Yeshua is lifted up and there is edification," Steve Solomon, a Messianic Jew in Orlando, Florida, said.  "In most synagogues there is little teaching."

Tradition is very important but little attention is given to the Scriptures.  A Messianic synagogue gives one hundred percent backing to the Word, both the Old and New Testaments.

Solomon thinks the church needs to become more Jewish.

"The early church was very Jewish," he said, "Its worship had a definite Hebrew flavor. The Gentiles were grafted on to the Jewish tree, but most churches today are very Gentile, and this is what often turns off a Jewish person."

The problem of semantics is a major one.

The average Jew equates "Christian" with "Gentile." His ancestors were persecuted by Christians bearing the cross. The Hebrew concept of the Messiah is not linked in the Jewish mind with the Christian Christ. For centuries Jews have been taunted as "Christ killers" but never "Messiah killers."

"God has shown me the most beautiful symbol I can wear to identify with my Messiah is the Star of David," says Sandra Sheskin of the Messianic Jewish Movement International. "He gave me a beautiful Scripture for this, Rev. 22:16, I am the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star."

An enlightening report entitled: "What Evangelical Christians Should Know About Jews for Jesus" outlined some of the problems which have existed in sharing with Jews.

"The existing means of witnessing to Jews tended to Gentilize the new Jewish believer so that his friends and family could no longer recognize him as a Jew. Hence the value of his testimony to other Jews was greatly diminished.

"For the most part," the report continues, "missionaries to the Jews and those engaged in Jewish evangelism had been trained in Bible college and seminaries."

"Hebrew Christians were taught the techniques of communication that were effective within the (Gentile) church, that fell short in the world outside the church, and that completely missed the mark in the Jewish community."

The search for new, more effective techniques for sharing with Jews has produced a large network of literature, music, drama, and communication techniques with a distinctly Jewish flavor.

Because, as one Messianic Jewish publication put it, "Christians often get caught up in their own jargon and, in essence, are talking to themselves, not the unsaved," Messianic Jewish organizations have developed a number of sharing techniques designed to minister specifically to Jews.

"Broadsides," an evangelistic device used by Jews for Jesus, were first created with this in mind.

The broadsides use contemporary language, humorous illustrations, and eye-catching titles such as "Christmas Is A Jewish Holiday," "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Jesus But Were Afraid to Ask Your Rabbi," and "Jesus Made Me Kosher." Beneath the humor there is always a serious discussion of Jesus as the Messiah.

Jews for Jesus uses broadsides in sharing with people in shopping centers, malls, college campuses, and street corners.

The Messianic Jewish Movement International (MJMI) has also developed a comprehensive program with a complete set of literature for sharing with Jews.

One of the most popular tools, and one of the simplest, is a tract entitled: "The Five Jewish Laws," which is very similar to the "Four Spiritual Laws," the Campus Crusade for Christ tract that has been so effective in ministering to Gentiles.

"The Five Jewish Laws" was developed by MJMI President Manny Brotman while he was a student at Moody Bible College. "I realized if I had tools simple enough, even Gentiles could get out and share with Jews," he says.

From that simple beginning, MJMI, which is now headquartered in Washington, D.C., has developed a whole catalogue, of sharing aids, including a cassette course on how to share the Messiah, a training brochure, taped testimonies of Messianic Jews, studies in prophecy, the Jewish Bible (which consists of the Old Testament only and has been officially approved), record albums, and bumper stickers such as "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem."

In addition, Brotman, Sid Roth, Sandra Sheskin, and other MJMI members travel on weekends giving seminars and holding "Jewish Emphasis Weekends" teaching how to share the Messiah.

The first night of a typical Jewish Emphasis Weekend, Sandra performs a mini-concert of Jewish music and a Passover Seder is celebrated.

The Seder is fascinating not only because of the insight it provides into Jewish culture and traditions, but because the parallel between the Jewish use of the sacrificial lamb for atonement and the atonement provided by Jesus as the Lamb of God are so exact as to stun even Christians familiar with the basic idea.

As the meal progresses, team members are careful to explain the significance of each ceremonial act.

The second day, packets are provided which contain the training brochure and a brochure on the "Jewish Bible approach." In the day-long session, Brotman and Roth go through the training brochure with the audience, providing personal examples and insights into how to make the suggestions provided in the brochure actually work.

A concentrated attempt is made to raise the "Jewish consciousness" of Christians, and much emphasis is placed on terminology.

Christians are told to refer to Jesus not as Christ but as Messiah Yeshua. Emphasis is also placed on using the Jewish Bible. Brotman feels using the Jewish Bible eliminates the greatest fear of many Jews of becoming "goy" or Gentile.

The concluding address is delivered by Brotman who appeals to Christians to support Jews financially, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to share with their Jewish neighbors.

The shorter, day-long MJMI seminars usually eliminate the Seder, and pack a mini-concert by Sandra and the seminar on sharing the Messiah into a one-day program.

Jewish Voice Broadcasts is another Messianic Jewish organization with a worldwide outreach.

Starting in 1966 with one radio station in Phoenix, Arizona, the broadcast is now carried on nearly 70 stations including three broadcasts in Spanish to South America. Broadcasts in French for Canada and Yiddish for Russia are being prepared.

Broadcasts are 15 minutes long and include messages on Biblical prophecy and Israel and testimonies of Jewish housewives, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, drug addicts and college students.

The organization publishes The Jewish Voice Magazine monthly which contains news of Israel and the Middle East, Jewish testimonies, and devotional articles.

Jewish Voice also sends young Jewish and Christian believers on short-term Bible School and Witnessing trips to Israel.

The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America is one of the oldest Messianic Jewish organizations. It has been trying to bring together all factions of Messianic Judaism since its founding in 1915.

To promote its aims, it conducts national and regional conferences, provides scholarships for needy Messianic Jewish students, publishes a monthly newsletter which keeps Jews abreast of the latest news about Messianic Jewish people and events and national and international events which involve Jews, and sponsors a vibrant youth movement, the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance.

Messianic Ministries, Inc., another organization with a wide outreach to both Christians and Jews, was officially founded in 1974 by Martin M. Chernoff and his wife Yohanna Naomi, two of the earliest leaders in the Messianic Jewish movement.

In 1970, the Chernoffs founded Beth Messiah synagogue, one of the first independent Messianic Jewish synagogues, in Cincinnati.

They later moved the headquarters of Messianic Ministries to Philadelphia, where it is now, and opened Beth Yeshua synagogue there.

The Chernoffs feel Philadelphia is the ideal place for their ministry since it has one of the largest Jewish populations of any city in the world. Nearly 400,000 Jewish people live in the greater Philadelphia area.

M.M.I. operates a successful and growing campus ministry under the name Messianic Jewish Movement. Last year it ministered on six campuses and plans to expand this fall.

M.M.I. has a complete catalogue of sharing aids available, including tapes, books, broadsides, t-shirts, pins, etc. They also conduct training seminars on how to share the Messiah.

Messianic Jewish music has also developed as a powerful tool for ministering to Jews.

The need for music that's distinctly Jewish was well expressed by a Jews for Jesus tract.

"Many Christian hymns and songs ... grate on Jewish sensitivities. For example, when a Jew hears the words, 'The Old Rugged Cross,' his initial response is, 'That cross has meant persecution of my people throughout history.' He does not see its beauty, only its misuse."

Messianic Jewish music is gaining popularity in churches everywhere. But more importantly, unsaved Jews are hearing, through music, about a Messiah that is not alien to their culture.

Among the many musicians and groups God is raising up to minister to Jews are Sandra Sheskin, the Liberated Wailing Wall, and Lamb.

Sandra Sheskin, sometimes called the "sweet singer of Israel" is the secretary of the Messianic Jewish Movement International. She has sung in Jerusalem, on the Today Show, before the Congressional Wives Prayer Group in the Capitol and has been a frequent guest on the 700 Club and PTL network. She has also recorded an album.

The Liberated Wailing Wall is an arm of the Jews for Jesus. It is a touring group and has produced several albums, but it is more than just a singing group. It is a team of six evangelists. When they arrive in a city, they function as an arm of the local church to the Jewish community. They conduct rallies on local university campuses, hand out literature, and lecture at Bible colleges and evangelical seminaries.  

Two young Messianic Jews, Joel Chernoff and Rick "Levi" Coghill, make up the group known as Lamb.

They took the name from the scriptural references to the Lamb of God who was to bring perfect sacrifice and atonement for man.

They met at Beth Messiah Synagogue in Cincinnati, and recorded their first album together, Lamb, in 1972. That was followed by Lamb II and Lamb III.  

Joel's composing and singing are complemented by Rick's musical ability and talent as a producer. They have performed in a variety of atmospheres from the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to campuses such as the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University. Many churches and synagogues are also on their itinerary.

Drama is another tool being used effectively to share with Jewish people, who have always used drama to portray spiritual truths.

The Passover Seder is a dramatization of the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. Likewise, the Book of Esther is dramatized in the Purim celebrations.

The New Jerusalem Players, also sponsored by Jews for Jesus, uses choral speaking, pantomime and playlets to communicate the gospel in a Jewish way.

Like the Liberated Wailing Wall, they seek to serve as an arm of the local church.

Among Messianic Jews, there is widespread belief that events occurring in the Middle East today are fulfilling Biblical prophecies of the last days.

Zealous supporters of Israel, they are concerned with the capitulation of many Western nations to Arab pressures during the 1974 oil boycott, and recent action of the U.N. branding Zionism as racism.

In speaking to Christian groups, Manny Brotman often reminds them that Israel is the apple of God's eye and that He has promised to bless those that bless the Jews and to curse those that curse them.

The concern for Israel has spawned a rash of posters "We need Israel," "God will supply the oil," and "Jesus Loves Israel."

But the real impact of world events is to increase the urgency that Messianic Jews feel for reaching their unsaved brothers, to convince them that the hope of Israel is the intervention of God through the promised coming of the Messiah.

"And I will pour out my Spirit upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication and they shall look on me whom they have pierced ..." (Zech 12:10, KJV).

That outpouring has begun.

Although the number of Jewish believers in Israel is still quite small, the Spirit of God is moving among His chosen people, preparing them for their day of national salvation when they shall say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:38, 39).

And for that, Messianic Jews the world over are saying, "Baruch Ha' Shem Adonai."

Praised be the name of the Lord!

]]> (Sherry Andrews) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sun, 23 Aug 2015 09:00:00 -0400
JOHN ECKHARDT: Can a Christian Have a Demon?

Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Charisma magazine.

There was a time when we taught in our church that Christians could not have demons. I preached long sermons stating that Christians could be oppressed, regressed, digressed, obsessed and suppressed, but never pos­sessed. We believed that a demon could be outside a Christian oppressing him but that it could not be inside him. The reasoning I used to defend this position was that Jesus and the Holy Spirit could not live inside the same body in which demons reside.

The problem was, our experience did not match our theology. When we min­istered deliverance, we frequently prayed for people we knew were born-again, Spirit-filled believers—and they mani­fested demons! We had to face the fact that either our experience was wrong or our doctrine was wrong.

We couldn't question our experience because we knew what we were seeing. So we began to question our theology.

In our search for truth, we realized that in the Bible, Jesus tells us to cast devils out, not to cast devils off. Obviously, for some­thing to come out, it must be in. We finally came to the conclusion that our interpre­tation of the Bible had been wrong.

Now I am convinced not only that a Christian can have demons but also that there are demons that operate in the realm of theology, encouraging us to argue and debate endlessly over doctrine rather than meeting the needs of people who are hurting. Demons actually help promote the teaching that a Christian cannot have a demon, because they gain strength from staying hidden. They can operate in their destructive ways without being challenged!

Some may argue that a believer cannot be possessed. But the dismaying fact remains that born-again Christians, including leaders, are experiencing dif­ficulties that can find no solution in nat­ural infirmities or the endless conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.

It's time to acknowledge that we are dealing with real people who have real problems and that God did not save and commission us so we could argue over doctrine. He called us into ministry so we can help people who are hurting, wounded and bruised.

When you come into contact with someone who is controlled by demons, the answer is to cast the devils out, not to argue about whether or not the person is a Christian. The answer is to bring help to that person.

Possessed or Not Possessed?

I realize I'm not the only believer who has ever had an erroneous idea about Christians being possessed. And the sensationalized picture Hollywood has painted of demon possession has not helped. It has led us to believe that if we say a Christian can be possessed, we are saying he can be fully owned and con­trolled by the devil and will manifest, Hollywood-style, with head spinning and eyes popping out.

The word "possessed" is an unfortu­nate translation because it connotes ownership, and we know that the devil cannot own a Christian—that is, have complete control of him. But in the Bible, there is no real distinction between being possessed and being oppressed, digressed, suppressed, obsessed and so forth. All these terms mean that a person is, to some degree, under the influence of a demon.

Personally, I do not have as much of a problem with the word "possessed" as other Christians do. In fact, to me the word "demonized" sounds worse.

When I looked up "possess" in the dictionary, I discovered that one defin­ition of the word is "to occupy." My con­tention is that if a demon occupies your big toe, he possesses that part of you. It doesn't mean he possesses your spirit, soul and body. But if he occupies even a small portion, such as a physical organ in your body—as a spirit of infir­mity does—then there is possession to some degree.

I often ask those who are skeptical of demon possession whether or not cancer is demonic. Most will agree that sickness is of the devil.

So then, I continue, is cancer inside the body, or is there something on the outside that's the problem? If it isn't on the inside, doctors probably wouldn't cut people open trying to remove it. Evidently, as a Christian, you can have something in you that is possessing a certain organ of your body and is not of God.

Knowing that a Christian can be pos­sessed (or demonized) in some part of his being raises the question: Is any part off-limits to demons? Here is where we can reconcile the issue of Jesus and the Holy Spirit residing simultaneously within someone who needs deliverance.

One thing that has helped us in our understanding is the realization that every person is made up of three parts: spirit, soul and body. When Jesus comes into a believer's life, He comes into that person's spirit. John 3:6 tells us clearly, "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (NKJV). A demon cannot dwell in a Christian's spirit because that is where Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwell.

It is the other components that make up a human being—the soul (mind, will and emotions) and the body—that are the targets of demonic attack. Demons can dwell in those areas of a Christian's life. So when we say that a Christian is demonized or possessed, we are not saying he has a demon in his spirit but in some part of his soul or body.

To illustrate this truth, the Lord reminded us of the biblical account of Jesus' going into the temple and cleansing it of thieves and money­changers. The Greek word used for "drove out" in this account is ekballo, which means "to expel or drive out." It is the same word that is used in Mark 16:17: "In My [Jesus] name they will cast out demons."

We know that according to the Bible God's children are the temple of the Spirit of God (see 1 Cor. 3:16). In the Old Testament the temple had three parts: the holy of holies, the holy place and the outer court. This picture is a type or representation of who we are as His temple today.

The shekinah glory of God, or God's "presence," was in the holy of holies. This part of the temple represents our spirits.

But when Jesus went into the temple to drive out the thieves and moneychangers, He did not go into the holy of holies. He went into the outer court, where these evil­doers were carrying on their busi­ness transactions.

The whole account is a picture of deliverance—of what Jesus wants to do in our temples. There may be demonic thieves in our lives that are operating in our outer courts (bodies or souls). Even though they cannot enter the holy of holies (our spirits), Jesus wants them expelled because the temple of God was never intended to be a place for thieves to operate. It is meant to be a place of worship and a place of prayer.

A Covenant Right

Those who believe that the ministry of deliverance is not for believers need to reconsider their position. The truth is, rather, that deliverance is not for the unbeliever.

What good would it do to cast demons out of an unbeliever, unless he is plan­ning to get saved? Unbelievers cannot maintain their deliverance. In fact, according to Luke 11:24-26, after under­going deliverance, the unsaved person is subject to receiving seven times as many demons as he had before.

The ministry of deliverance is the covenant right of believers. Like every other blessing from God—healing, pros­perity, miracles and so on—it is promised only to His covenant people, those who believe in Jesus and come to God through Christ's blood. God, in His mercy, will bless people outside the covenant because He is merciful. But primarily, His bless­ings are based on covenant.

The story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:25-30 makes this clear. The woman sought out Jesus so He would deliver her daughter from an unclean spirit. But Jesus told her, "'Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs'" (v. 27).

In this verse, the phrase "the children's bread" refers specifically to deliverance, and Jesus is saying it belongs to His covenant people. Those outside the covenant may receive a miracle based on God's mercy, but deliverance is meant for those who have a covenant with God. Luke 1:71-73 says Jesus came "that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to per­form the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham." He brought salva­tion from our enemies—devils and demons—based on a promise, of which we are heirs (see Gal. 3:29), that He made to Abraham.

The purpose of this salvation is stated in subsequent verses of Luke 1: "To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteous­ness before Him, all the days of our life" (vv. 74-75). God provides the benefit so that we may serve Him without fear, in holiness and in righteousness all the days of our lives. It is very difficult to live this way without being delivered. In fact, it is practically impossible.

One of the reasons it is so difficult is that demons are not always a result of sin in a person's life. There are many dif­ferent kinds of evil spirits, and not all of them are what I refer to as "spirits of sin."

That is not to say that sin is not a huge entry point for demonic influence. For every sin in the Bible there is a corre­sponding demon. I maintain that if a Christian is living in sin or living in the flesh, there's no way he can escape demons.

However, it is also possible for a Chris­tian to be demonized as a result of someone else's sin. For instance, a spirit of rejection or trauma can come upon a person because he is abused. Or demons may be inherited from a previous gener­ation through a person's bloodline.

We have come a long way in our church since the early days when we believed Christians could not have demons. Now whenever a person gets saved, we automatically assume he needs some level of deliverance, and we lead him through the process. We don't question if the new believer has a demon, only how many he has.

That may sound hard. But remember, demonization is not always the person's own fault. Generational issues are a major entry point.

If we can be subjected to the conse­quences of sin to the fourth generation, as Exodus 20:5 says, and a biblical gen­eration is 40 years, then we are subject to the demonic influence of what people in our family lines were doing 160 years before us. This means that, taking the year 2000 as a starting point, we are affected by what those in our bloodlines were doing as far back as the year 1840.

Think about it. Even if a person has a great genealogy, he can't know everything his ancestors were doing in secret that long ago. And if, in addition to genera­tional sin, he has committed personal sin or has been traumatized or victimized in anyway, by the time he comes to the Lord, he is going to need deliverance on some level. There is just too much defilement and contamination on Earth to escape it.

We must accept the reality that we have been commissioned to minister to God's covenant people, and part of our responsibility is to provide them with their covenant right of deliverance. If we deprive them of it based on some erro­neous theological doctrine, then we are denying them what is rightfully theirs, and we cannot call ourselves able min­isters of the New Covenant. Let's do as Jesus did, and serve the children's bread to those who need it! 

]]> (John Eckhardt) Featured Pages from Our Past 40 Year Anniversary Sat, 22 Aug 2015 15:00:00 -0400
The Holy Spirit Remains Alive in Catholics Worldwide

The Charismatic Renewal began less than 10 years before Charisma first published in 1975. In fact, we get the name Charismatic Renewal from the Catholics who, when they received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and later at Notre Dame in South Bend, were called "neo-Pentecostals."

Apparently someone didn't like that term and, so, they referred to the movement as "renewal" of the charismata, which, in Greek, means gifts in the plural. So, Charismatic comes from the word charismata rather than the word charisma (which is the singular form).

The name stuck, and now most Pentecostals use it interchangeably with the word Pentecostal.  

The Catholics who experienced God's power believe that it was an outgrowth of when Pope John XXIII invited "a new Pentecost" at Vatican II in 1962. Few things have changed the Catholic Church as much in our lifetime as the Charismatic Renewal. By 2013, according to Catholic World Report, some 160 million worldwide had received the experience called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which almost always accompanied a renewed love for Christ and fervency about serving God and serving the church.  

In the early days of Charisma, we covered the charismatic movement a great deal. On our site, we are republishing some of those early articles about the move of the Spirit, not only among Catholics but other groups too. You can read a couple of those articles titled, "A Classic Pentecostal Encounters Charismatic Catholics," and "Charismatic Renewal: The Conference 'Heard Around the World.'"

The Catholics always saw their movement as "ecumenical," and they interacted with the Protestant charismatics and Pentecostals on the basis that the Pope had encouraged ecumenical dialogue.

In fact, I have had some people tell me that while top denominational leaders engage in ecumenical talks with other leaders, the only real grass-roots ecumenical movement in the world is the charismatic renewal.

As time passed, it seemed that Catholic charismatics became more Catholic and less charismatic. I could be wrong, but I have had some friends who have expressed that opinion to me, and that has been my observation. The huge conferences Catholic charismatics held back in that era are no more and the smaller conferences that are still held have a relatively low profile. No real large parachurch-type ministries have emerged like in the Protestant charismatic movement. For example, there are no large parachurch television ministries and so forth.  

This is not to say that the Spirit is not at work or that the Catholic charismatic movement has dwindled or died. In a way, that notion somewhat parallels Full Gospel Businessmen, which has declined a great deal in the United States but taken off worldwide. The same thing holds true for the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church.  

Bert Ghezzi, a graduate student who came from the Pittsburgh area but was studying at Notre Dame, worked as one of my editors for a number of years. During this era, he may have been the link between Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Much of what I know about the charismatic movement I know from Bert and my interaction with him. He did a great job as an editor and is one of the most ecumenical people I've ever known. He retired a number of years ago and I still miss him. 

Bert recently made these observations to me in an email about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal: 

"The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has slowed in the U.S., but continues to grow in Latin America. It slowed when bishops tended to make prayer groups into parish organizations (instead of the freewheeling groups of the early days). ...  Observe that many Catholic Charismatics have followed the leadings of the Spirit into a wide variety of services: caring for the poor, religious education of the young and adults, evangelization and so on. Although EWTN is not a charismatic network, it began with Mother Angelica, a charismatic nun, and is now a worldwide media conglomerate."

You can check out Bert's blog titled,  "Praying in the Spirit" at

I would be interested in feedback from Catholic charismatics who read this to see if you agree with my observations. Also, please check out the links to the articles that we're publishing. I believe you will enjoy reading them and reminiscing. I also think they are still interesting and pertinent after all these years.

Steve Strang is the founder and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter @sstrang or Facebook (stephenestrang).

]]> (Steve Strang) Featured The Strang Report Blogs Sat, 22 Aug 2015 13:00:00 -0400