Last week one of
my best friends showed me what it really means to selflessly lay down your
Last week one of
my best friends, Chris Maxwell, organized a two-day prayer gathering for me in
north Georgia, where he serves as the pastor of a Christian college. Chris had
listened to me whine for months about how confused I was about my future. He
took it upon himself to contact a group of my friends, and they agreed to take
time off work to pray with me about some important decisions.
Chris not only
gathered nine men for this prayer retreat, but he also solicited counsel from
other friends who couldn't attend, and from my wife. When I sat down in that
living room on the first night, they put me under a microscope and proceeded to
meddle in all my business. It was 48 hours of probing questions, wise counsel,
sober warnings, gushing encouragement, brotherly affection and in-your-face
honesty. read more
We've dumbed down
the gospel for too long. Let's rediscover the Bible and become mature
I love words.
That's why I do a crossword puzzle every day—not just because it is the mental
equivalent of a three-mile bicycle ride, but also because I enjoy discovering
that a word such as "coulrophobia" means a fear of clowns, or that
"jobbernowl" means a stupid person.
especially important to us as Christians, not only because Jesus is the logos—the
word made flesh (see John 1:14)—but because our faith rests on the truth
revealed by God in the Bible. We can't really know Him apart from the
God-inspired words that describe who He is and what He has done for us. read more
Let's stop the
hypnotism, the guilt manipulation and the high-pressure gimmicks. It's time to
reclaim our lost credibility.
rather go to the dentist for a root canal than watch a telethon. But while
channel surfing a few nights ago I tuned into PBS and discovered that Aretha
Franklin, the legendary Queen of Soul, was hosting a fundraiser for the
network. Seated at a piano, she was offering a 5-CD collection of classic
rhythm and blues hits in exchange for a donation to public television.
It was simple.
There were no gimmicks, no games and no strings attached in Aretha's offer. If
you gave the suggested gift, she explained, PBS would mail you a big slice of
American pop culture—including songs by Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey
Robinson, the Four Tops, Al Green and Aretha herself, singing her classic
"Respect." read more
God is shaking His church and removing corruption. But we share the blame for giving charlatans a platform.
Al Capone once controlled all of Chicago. The notorious 1920s gangster bribed the city's mayor, bought the police and presided as king over an empire of casinos, speakeasies and smuggling operations. He dodged bullets for years and lived above the law—and earned the nickname "untouchable" because no one could bring him to justice.
Before Capone finally went to prison in 1932, he justified his crimes by saying: "All I do is satisfy a public demand." He didn't take responsibility for the pain he caused because he knew mayors, policemen, community leaders and bootleggers supported him the whole way. read more
When Mary and Martha sent news to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was about to die, Jesus didn’t respond the way his friends expected. He actually snubbed their request. The Bible says when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, “He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was” (John 11:6, NASB).
For those two anxious women, that was a very, very, very long time. Doubts tormented them. They thought: What kind of friend is Jesus, anyway? Why didn’t He rush to our aid? Mary was especially troubled by Jesus’ seemingly insensitive delay. read more
When moving from
point A to point B, we sometimes feel trapped in between. Trust God to guide
you to your destination.
A few months ago
I passed through the tiny community of Between, Ga. With a population of only
148, the place is not much to write home about. (And besides, it doesn't even
have its own zip code). The town got its name because it's halfway between
Atlanta and Athens, Ga. But as I passed the local convenience store I couldn't
help but imagine the strange reactions I'd get if I lived there.
This month a
small group of Hispanic and Anglo Christians traveled from Florida to Arizona
to pray for immigration reform.
Christians are arguing about Arizona's strict immigration law, charismatic
pastor Nebby Gomez decided to do something about it. He and his wife, Dee,
traveled from Florida to Arizona in early July with three members of their
church to address what they believe are the spiritual roots of the crisis.
They prayed on
the lawn of Arizona's capitol in Phoenix, where lawmakers passed the
controversial SB1070 bill in April of this year amid national protests. Gomez
and his friends also prayed on the site of Arizona's oldest Spanish mission
near Tucson and on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales. read more
No true message from God will flow through a person who is smug and self-confident. If you want to speak for Him, prepare to die!
I did it again. This past Sunday I stood in a pulpit, looked out over a congregation of mostly strangers, cleared the lump in my throat and preached a message that the Lord had laid on my heart from the Bible.
Thousands of men and women speak publicly like this every week. It's what preachers do. No big deal. read more
Make room for the
Holy Spirit's bulldozers. He wants to give you an extreme makeover.
during a visit to Charlotte, N.C. I stopped by the Billy Graham Library to take
a tour of the evangelist's boyhood home and to see his ministry's offices. In a
shaded grove on the same property I stumbled upon the grave of his wife, Ruth
Bell Graham. Her tombstone bore an unusual inscription: "END OF CONSTRUCTION. THANK YOU FOR YOUR
Mrs. Graham (who
died in 2007) apparently saw these words on a highway sign, and she told
friends that she wanted them on her grave marker. Apparently the message from
the road construction crew reminded her of God's patient care in preparing her
for heaven. read more
Two popular charismatic speakers stood on a stage a few years ago and tried to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit. One guy pretended to throw an imaginary “fireball” at his friend, who promptly fell on the floor as if he’d been zapped by divine power. Then, feeling equally playful, the guy on the floor stood to his feet and threw the “fireball” back at his friend—who fell down after the blob of God hit him.
Everybody had a hilarious time at this outrageous party. There was just one problem. The Holy Spirit is not a blob, a fireball or any other form of cosmic energy that can be thrown, maneuvered, controlled or manipulated.
This scenario happened in a charismatic church—a place where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presumably honored and understood. It’s sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity. We need to step back, regroup and reconsider what the Bible says about who the Holy Spirit is and how He works:
1. He is the Spirit of the Lord. He is not a force (as in Star Wars), a magical power or an “it.” The Holy Spirit is God, and we should revere Him as God.
2. He is our regenerator. Jesus told Nicodemus that we are born again by the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5). True conversion is the most supernatural thing we will ever experience. When a person puts his faith in Christ for salvation, it is the Spirit who opens the heart and imparts divine life. He then indwells us—and He gives us the confidence that we are now children of God.
3. He is our empowerer. When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit we are “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NASB). The Spirit who already indwells us fills us to the point of overflowing. Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s power would flow out of us like “rivers of living water” from our innermost being (John 7:38). This overflow releases supernatural boldness as well as the anointing for various gifts of the Spirit including prophecy, speaking in tongues and healing.
4. He is the Spirit of truth. The Spirit has access to all the wisdom and knowledge of God. When we abide in Him, He leads us continually into truth—causing us to grow and mature spiritually. He is our “teacher” (see 1 John 2:27), and those who depend on Him will walk in discernment and avoid deception and pride.
5. He is our counselor. Also translated advocate, comforter or helper, the actual Greek word, parakletos, means “one called alongside to help.” It implies that the Spirit comes to our legal defense when we are accused or troubled; it also means He is a close friend who offers encouragement, consolation and direction when we face any difficulty.
6. He is our intercessor. This is one of the greatest miracles of grace. The Spirit who lives inside us “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). Even when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit prays the perfect will of God. No matter what kind of dark difficulty we face, the Spirit travails for us until we emerge safely through the test.
7. He is our refiner. The Spirit took the form of a dove at Christ’s baptism, but He is often portrayed in Scripture as a fire. He purifies us of bad attitudes, wrong motives, unhealthy addictions and selfish agendas. If we cooperate with Him, rather than quenching or grieving Him, the Spirit will purge the dross from our lives so we can reflect the character of Jesus.
Let’s rediscover the Holy Spirit. He is so much more than we ever imagined—more than a doctrine, a concept or a glowing blob of energy. I guarantee your spiritual life will go to a whole new level if you simply pray, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and ask for more of Him.
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years. He now serves as contributing editor while devoting more time to ministry. You can find him on the Web at themordecaiproject.com. His latest book is The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale (Chosen Books). read more