Fire in My Bones, by J. Lee Grady

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Page 16 of 24

My New Year’s Resolution

Back in November when autumn leaves were their brightest orange, I met with a group of young men on the campus of a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire. While these students were eating bagels and drinking coffee I began our Bible study by asking each guy to share his name, his major and how long he’d been a Christian.

When it was time for a young man named Cody to share, he said innocently: “I haven’t given my life to Christ yet, but I’d like to.” So before our meeting was finished we led Cody in a sinner’s prayer, gave him a Bible and got him started on the road to discipleship by asking him to read the Gospel of Mark. read more

The Year in Review: Top Spiritual Trends of 2010

God is working all around us today. Don’t let negative headlines distract you from the real story.

2010 was a year of shaking. It began with a magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti, followed by an 8.8 quake in Chile, followed by the eruption of the Iceland volcano that sent tons of ash into the skies over Europe and shut down air travel faster than you could say Eyjafjallajokull. While the ground shook, economies in Europe teetered. As floods displaced 13 million people in Pakistan, Americans worried that we might drown in federal debt.

 There were plenty of negative headlines—which explains why one of the biggest movies of the year (Inception) was about a guy who escaped reality by dreaming. We had the BP oil spill, the WikiLeaks scandal, double-digit unemployment, and angry debates about Obamacare, illegal immigrants and full-body scanners. There were a few bright spots, especially in October when 33 Chilean miners climbed out of a dark shaft and donned T-shirts that read, “GRACIAS, SENOR!” read more

Seven Special Gifts to Unwrap This Christmas

Please don’t let the holidays get so cluttered that you miss the point of the celebration.

Christmas is usually cluttered. We’re overbooked with parties, concerts, football games and shopping trips while our houses are jammed with decorations, out-of-town guests and way too much food. Then on Christmas morning, after the presents have been opened, we sweep up the crumpled giftwrap, tinsel, ribbons, bows, pine needles and boxes that are scattered everywhere. As much as I love the joy of this season (eggnog is my weakness), I struggle to make sure I don’t lose the profound simplicity of Christmas amid the sensory overload.

This year I decided to pay closer attention to the names of Jesus used in the Christmas story. These names are like wrapped gifts—you have to open them carefully to savor their meaning. You might want to share these names with your loved ones at your Christmas dinner, or take a break from the stress of the holidays to look up these Scriptures and ponder them carefully. Remember: Jesus is God’s present to us. Have you fully unwrapped this amazing gift? read more

Please Stop Fighting About Christmas

It’s bad enough that rabid secularists hate Christmas. It’s downright tragic that some Christian purists judge others for celebrating the holiday.

Two weeks ago when I wrote about how God worked in the lives of people in the biblical Christmas story, several readers jumped in to remind me that the modern celebration of Christmas is a pagan holiday that is luring unsuspecting, gift-giving revelers into hell itself. One person who identified himself as “Albert” wrote in our online forum that he “isn’t comfortable celebrating Christmas” because of its demonic origins.

You probably know there are many Christians who boycott Christmas for various reasons—some factual and some quite debatable. These people insist:

* The holiday has become too commercialized and promotes greed. (I would agree.) read more

Don’t Quit—The Fruit Will Appear!

During my sixth visit to Guatemala this week the Lord reminded me that He promises to bring results when we minister His Word.

Last Sunday I enjoyed lunch in an open courtyard at a modest home in El Rosario, Guatemala, a town I have visited six times since 2002. My friend Adolfo had invited me to eat with his family after the morning service at Iglesia de Nueva Vision, a Pentecostal congregation. Nothing thrills me more during my missionary trips to El Rosario than spending time with members of this church in their homes.

As we were eating a meal of chicken, rice and Coca-Cola, I noticed some green, volleyball-sized fruit hanging from a nearby tree. I had never seen such large fruit before, so I asked my friend Luis (in my broken Spanish) what they were. His father-in-law, Minor, immediately hopped up from the table, walked over to the tree and snapped one of the gigantic fruits from a branch. read more

Don’t Leave the Holy Spirit Out of Christmas

There would be no Christmas story without the Holy Spirit’s power.

We Christians are notorious for limiting the Holy Spirit. Many churches put Him in the back seat, confine Him in a box of tradition or ignore Him altogether. Some Christians treat the Third Person of the Trinity as if he magically materialized in the Book of Acts, like a genie out of a bottle, and then vanished after the early church was established.

But God is God, not a genie, and the same Holy Spirit who brooded over the waters at Creation, inspired the Old Testament prophets and empowered the first disciples at Pentecost is still doing miracles today. It is also important to recognize that the Holy Spirit was involved in every step of the Christmas story. This holiday, I’m paying closer attention to the Spirit’s work in the miracle of the Incarnation. read more

A Promise Takes Time

This Christmas, I’m thinking more about Simeon and Anna—not because I’ve reached their age bracket yet, but because I have more appreciation for people who wait patiently for God’s promises. read more

Battling Snakes and Demons in Australia’s Outback

Aussie missionaries Les and Sally Freeman have given their lives to reach the neglected Aborigines.

Most Americans fondly remember Steve Irwin, the Australian wildlife lover and gregarious host of Crocodile Hunter who wrestled reptiles on camera and then died in 2006 after an attack by a sting ray. He was the epitome of Aussie spunk. Yet I’ve learned there are Aussie Christians with the spiritual equivalent of Irwin’s daredevil courage.

A prime example: Les Freeman, a 31-year-old Pentecostal preacher who has been planting churches in Aboriginal areas of northern Australia for nine years. He doesn’t wrestle crocs, but this tough guy and his brave wife, Sally, have battled snakes, demonic curses and environmental hardships to take Christ’s love to a neglected mission field. read more

We Need Another Jesus Movement

In today’s hip, sophisticated churches, we often forget to preach about Jesus. Let’s get back to basics.

I became a serious Christian at the tail end of the Jesus movement. I was too young to remember the hippie beads, tie-dyed shirts and “Jesus Is Groovy” slogans, but the songs were still popular when I was in college (from musicians such as Andrae Crouch, Love Song and Barry McGuire), as were the movies (especially The Cross and the Switchblade.)

The Jesus movement was like a spiritual tsunami that washed over hundreds of thousands of young people in the late 1960s and early ‘70s and brought them into a personal relationship with Christ. Some of these kids had been drug addicts and social misfits; most were just average Joes and Janes who discovered that Jesus is a lot more exciting than traditional churches had led them to believe. read more

The Real Hero of the Jersey Shore

Evangelist Scott Hinkle and his wife, Nancy, have sold everything to reach one of the most unchurched regions of the United States.

I’m not a fan of Jersey Shore, the MTV reality show that features Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and a band of 20-somethings who share a house near Seaside Heights, N.J. The program glamorizes casual sex, celebrates alcohol abuse and degrades an entire ethnic community by using the racial epithets “Guido” and “Guidette” to describe Italian-American guys and girls.

But one thing is for sure: Jersey Shore accurately portrays the gritty urban region south of New York City. It is one of the most unchurched areas of the country, and it’s also known as the heroin capital of the United States. read more

Is it OK to be Gay and Christian?

Charismatic pastor Jim Swilley’s announcement that he is gay opened the door wider for a subtle delusion. Don’t believe it.

Many people were shell-shocked last week when Atlanta pastor Jim Swilley stood in front of his congregation, Church in the Now in Conyers, Ga., and announced that he is gay. The 52-year-old minister was abruptly removed from his position in the International Communion of Charismatic Churches—a network in which he served as an overseer. Some of Swilley’s members left his church, others stayed, and countless others are now scratching their heads.

We Americans are lost in a moral fog. Two major Protestant denominations (the Episcopal Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) have voted to ordain gay clergy. Meanwhile, gayness is celebrated in our media, and anyone who refuses to bow to this idol is painted as intolerant and homophobic. read more

How a Spiritual Father Is Reaching the Next Generation

Paul Anderson, a 66-year-old charismatic Lutheran, has started a discipleship revolution in Minneapolis.

Paul Anderson doesn’t act his age. I hope he never does.

A father of the charismatic renewal movement among Lutherans, the 66-year-old minister could be settling down to retire. Instead, he’s pioneering a new outreach to young adults in Minneapolis—and reaching hundreds of 20-somethings who are bored with traditional church.

“I am proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Anderson told me last weekend when I interviewed him in his home in north Minneapolis. read more

How We Short-Circuit the Power of God

We can't have New Testament power if we don't walk in New Testament love

The New Testament church was characterized by exciting miracles and supernatural anointing, but it was not immune to division. The earliest churches suffered splits—not only because of doctrine but also because of bitter personal disputes.

Even the apostle Paul, who modeled Christian affection and implored his followers to preserve the bond of love, had an unfortunate disagreement with his close colleague, Barnabas, early in their ministry partnership.

The exact nature of their argument is a mystery. We only know that Paul did not want to take John Mark, Barnabas' cousin, on his second missionary journey because the young disciple had deserted the team in Pamphylia. Acts 15:39 says: "And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus. (NASB)" read more

Praise Is God's ‘Reset' Button

Are you trapped in a prison of despair, doubt or anxiety? Learn to release the power of praise.

The apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians is one of the Bible's most unique books. Some scholars call it "the epistle of joy" because the word "joy" or "rejoice" appear in it 16 times. Yet what is amazing is that this letter about Christian joy was written from a prison cell!

While Paul was under the watchful eye of Roman guards, bound in chains, he wrote some of the most uplifting spiritual words ever penned. In the letter's four short chapters the author continually exhorts us to praise God no matter how dark our circumstances are. He writes: "I will rejoice" (1:18, NASB), "I rejoice and share my joy with you all" (2:17), "I urge you, rejoice in the same way" (2:18), "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord" (3:1) and "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (4:4). read more

Reclaiming the Forgotten Timothy Principle

Most ministry today focuses on crowds. Yet the most effective way to make disciples is up close and personal.

Last week I went to the nation of Colombia to preach in a conference sponsored by two churches in the city of Barranquilla. I could have gone alone, but I asked Jason, a young pastor from South Carolina, to accompany me on the seven-day trip.

When we boarded our first flight to Panama I said to Jason: "You are going to grow two feet during this adventure." He told me yesterday when we were preparing to come home: "I think I grew two-and-a-half feet." read more

The Fire of Holiness vs. the Spirit of Perversion

Moral failure in our ranks has become an epidemic—and the only solution is a heaven-sent spiritual housecleaning.

I'm sure you felt as heartsick as I did when you heard about the nightmarish charges leveled against Atlanta preacher Eddie Long of New Birth Full Gospel Baptist Church. While I passed through two airports last Thursday, CNN was airing the sordid details of the lawsuits filed by two young men who are accusing Long of coercing them into sex. Two more men have since come forward with similar lawsuits.

Whether the charges are true or not (please pray for Long and his church during this ordeal), it was awkward to hear newscasters suggesting that a married Pentecostal bishop had abused his power and carried on secret gay affairs. What's really sad is that in our sexually desensitized culture people don't even blush when they hear such talk about a minister. read more

Monkey Soup, Frog Smoothies and the Missionary Spirit

The strange foods I've eaten on the mission field remind me that Jesus crosses all cultural barriers.

Would you drink a frog smoothie? Would you eat a piping hot bowl of monkey stew with a side of fried ants? I didn't try these popular delicacies when I was in Peru last week. I stuck with the grilled cuy, better known as guinea pig. It is actually quite tasty, as long as you don't think about the fact that you are eating a rodent.

Ever since God showed the Apostle Peter it was OK to eat unclean meats (see Acts 10:9-16), Christian missionaries have faced amazing gastronomical challenges when venturing into new cultures. After a Peruvian friend promised to fix me some sopa de mono (monkey soup) when I return to the jungle city of Tarapoto, I asked friends on Facebook to list the strangest foods they'd eaten on the mission field. Here are some of the dishes mentioned, and where they are served: read more

How Apostolic Courage Is Transforming the Peruvian Jungle

A humble missionary couple in Peru, Jaime and Telma Gomez, showed me this week what it means to be passionate for Christ.

Peruvian schoolteacher Jaime Gomez and his wife, Telma, gave their hearts to Jesus in 1969 through the influence of Baptist missionaries who came from the United States to the Amazon town of Yurimaguas. After Jaime's conversion, he felt a strong call to ministry, yet he knew he did not have the power to be a witness. Without any exposure to Pentecostals, he felt God showed him he would be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

A few days later, after seeing a vision of God touching his mouth, Jaime was overcome by heavenly power. "He spoke in tongues for six straight days," his wife told me this week in an interview in Tarapoto, a city in north Peru where the Gomezes began their church planting ministry. read more

Just Say No to Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who plans to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11, does not speak for charismatic Christians.

Most of us reacted with a collective groan when we learned that the pastor of a small charismatic church in Gainesville, Fla., said he plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11. I was especially disappointed because I lived in Gainesville in my 20s. This man's irresponsible plot has put a bustling college town in the crosshairs of a possible terrorist attack—and has made evangelical Christians look like intolerant goons.

I'd like to go on the record to say this: Rev. Terry Jones does not speak for charismatic Christians, and his brand of fire-breathing judgmentalism doesn't even remotely resemble the message of Jesus Christ. I am praying that he will repent and renounce his outrageous intentions before the time arrives to strike the first match. read more

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