After spending some time last week with Bob Hartman, founder of Petra, my hat is off to a true musical pioneer.
Last week while I
was preaching at Cumberland Worship Center, a charismatic congregation in
Crossville, Tenn., the pastor invited a musician to the stage to play during
the offering. I didn't think anything about this performance at first, until a
friend reminded me that the unassuming guy with the gray beard was Bob Hartman,
founder of the Christian rock group Petra.
At the Empowered 21 Conference last week in Tulsa,
thousands of people celebrated the renewal of a movement.
a time when many Christian conferences are suffering from sluggish attendance,
at least 10,000 people jammed into the Mabee Center on the Oral Roberts
University (ORU) campus last week to honor the pioneers of the Pentecostal
movement and to pass the torch of Holy Spirit renewal on to the younger
Empowered 21 event, nicknamed E21, was a bold attempt to bring every stream of
the charismatic and Pentecostal movements together under one huge roof. When I
arrived on Wednesday night for a welcome dinner, I met leaders from the Assemblies
of God, Church of God in Christ, Foursquare Church, Pentecostal Holiness,
Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) and even the United
Pentecostal Church International—plus directors of such varied ministries as
Teen Mania, Every Home for Christ, International House of Prayer and Convoy of
Hope. We even had Matteo Calisi, an Italian man who gives leadership to
thousands of charismatic Catholics. read more
Last week 91 guys gathered for a three-day retreat.
It reminded me that real Christianity has nothing to do with superficial
at least three years I've wanted to gather a group of friends for a time of
encouragement and personal ministry. I couldn't afford to host a fancy event,
and I didn't think these guys wanted a big hoopla with expensive hotels and
we went with a simple format that involved a donated church facility (thank
you, Pastor Donna), a totally informal dress code (jeans and T-shirts),
home-cooked meals (we met in North Carolina, the barbeque capital of the South)
and cheap rooms, courtesy of the local Hampton Inn. What surprised me was that
91 guys from 20 states and four foreign countries showed up for three days of
worship, small group interaction and inspiring messages from 32 of the guys
(everyone kept their comments brief to allow time for fellowship). read more
Sin began in a garden. Thousands of years later, Jesus Christ stood in another garden and announced His ultimate victory.
The Easter story has many amazing scenes: Jesus' last Passover meal with His disciples, His arrest and brutal scourging, His crucifixion between two criminals, and the dramatic darkness that fell on Jerusalem at the moment of His death. But my favorite part of the story is when Mary Magdalene peered inside Jesus' tomb on that resurrection morning. John 20:11-12 describes it this way:
"But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying" (NASB). read more
We are about to experience a new move of His Spirit. As we welcome it, let's protect the church from abuse and misuse of His gifts.
During the past few months I have prayed for many people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It has reminded me of the mid-1970s, when Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists were discovering the power of the Spirit in small prayer groups, renegade Bible studies and gatherings in hotel ballrooms.
Back then people seemed especially hungry for a deeper experience with God. Hollywood actor Pat Boone wrote a book called A New Song to testify how he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett led thousands into the experience after he was dismissed from his staid, traditional church in California because he admitted speaking in tongues. And Presbyterian novelist Catherine Marshall wrote Something More to describe her encounter with the Baptizer. read more
We can't reach
the younger generation with yesterday's stale religion. It's time to unclog our
week I spoke to a group of ministry leaders associated with a particular
Pentecostal denomination in South Carolina. Many of these men and women are
hungry for a fresh move of God, but they are also aware that they aren't
effectively reaching people for Christ. Most of their small congregations are
getting grayer by the day.
told these folks they have only two options: Change or die. read more
Too often the American church has tried to put the Third Person of the Trinity in a box.
Hundreds of years before the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church on the day of Pentecost, the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, newly anointed as a priest, got a free preview of how God would send the Holy Spirit to empower His people. The preview came in the form of a Technicolor vision that included a stormy wind, a cloud that glowed with fire, flashes of lightning and strange, four-faced cherubim that were empowered by God's divine energy.
Ezekiel wrote of these heavenly creatures: "In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning" (Ezekiel 1:13-14, NASB). read more
shocked last week after learning that Benny and Suzanne Hinn are divorcing. Do
ministers owe us an explanation for their failures?
Judging by the calls and e-mails I received last week, charismatic
Christians were confused and dismayed when the Los Angeles Times broke
the news that healing evangelist Benny Hinn and his wife, Suzanne, are getting
divorced. The comments I heard were mostly sympathetic: "I am so grieved."
"This is a wake-up call." "This is heartbreaking." "I'm praying for the Hinns."
And a few people were angry: "What is happening?" "Here we go
again." "This is why the secular world looks at us and laughs!" read more
If you find
yourself in an anxious season of difficult transition, take comfort from the
life of Isaac.
If you had told
me seven years ago that I would resign my comfortable magazine job in 2010 and
make a shift toward public ministry, I would have asked if you were smoking an
illegal plant. I liked my paycheck and my benefits. And in 2004 I was trying to
figure out how I would put four kids through college when I had no extra money
in the bank.
Fast forward to
2010, to the middle of the Great Recession. They say the economy is showing
signs of improvement, but I don't see this in Florida, where the foreclosure
rate is still one of the nation's highest. Yet right in the middle of these
uncertain economic times, while the unemployment rate is hovering around 10
percent, I sensed God telling me to make a career change. read more