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Fire in My Bones, by J. Lee Grady

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Page 15 of 24

The Attack of the Porn Monster

If you or someone you know is battling sexual temptation, take these five steps toward GRACE.

This week my wife and I ministered to a group of 115 Russian teenagers at a youth camp in Virginia. Part of our job was to separate the guys and the girls and facilitate honest (and sometimes awkward) discussions about sex, dating and guy/girl relationships. They put their anonymous questions in a black box (“How do I know if she’s the one for me?” or “Is it OK to use condoms?”), and we answered while the kids giggled nervously.

I spoke to the guys on the first night about what I call the Porn Monster, using the description of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 7 as my text. In this passage the writer recounts the sad story of a vulnerable young man who wanders into the wrong part of town where a harlot seduces him. The story concludes with these haunting words: “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways … for many are the victims she has cast down” (Prov. 7:25-26). read more

Justice, Judgmentalism and the Casey Anthony Verdict

Her “not guilty” verdict made a lot of people mad. But before we vent any more anger we may need an attitude check.

Where were you on July 5 when the Casey Anthony verdict was released? Just before the 2:15 p.m. announcement, I was in a restaurant in Orlando with my family—and our waitress was so anxious to hear the outcome of the trial that she brought up the topic after we ordered our lunch. Not since the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial have Americans invested so much emotional energy in a courtroom drama.

Because I live near Orlando where the trial was held, I’ve grown weary of the never-ending local news coverage, which included stories on how much Casey was allowed to spend on toiletries every week at the Orange County jail and how long out-of-town visitors waited in line to get tickets to the trial. I remember when 2-year-old Caylee Anthony went missing in 2008. I remember when her decomposed remains were found six months later in some woods near her home. I listened to the blur of reports about duct tape, the suspicious odor in the trunk of the car, the chloroform, and her mother’s partying habits. read more

Why Bishop Eddie Long Should Be Transparent

The church has had enough spin, denial and closed-door settlements. Leaders must demonstrate humility and repentance.

A few years ago a minister in my city went through a divorce, and the messy details of the settlement between the pastor and his wife were reported in our newspaper. But when the divorce was finalized there was no public statement. The man’s wife disappeared from the stage, her photo vanished from the church website and nothing further was said. Zip. Nada. No comment.

The message: It’s none of your business what happened between the pastor and his wife. He’s the anointed messenger of God. Just follow him. read more

Keep On Praying—a Breakthrough Is Near

Don’t lose hope. God has promised to answer when we persevere.

So you pray for something for years and then you wake up one day, breathe a big sigh and say to yourself: This is crazy. Nothing is happening. God must not be listening.

Congratulations. If this has been your experience you are not alone. You’ve been enrolled in the School of Persevering Prayer, and it’s not a one-semester class. It’s a lifelong journey designed to stretch your faith, develop your character, purify your motives, test your patience and increase your capacity to know and experience God’s amazing love. read more

Releasing Liberty in Romania’s Traditional Churches

In a nation known for communist oppression, intimidation and religious legalism, the Holy Spirit is sending a fresh wind of freedom.

Pentecost is a national holiday in Romania, and I celebrated it last Monday with members of Bucharest Christian Center, a growing congregation in the Romanian capital. The church was founded by my friend Ioan Ceuta, 54, a brave Christian leader who has served as president of the Assemblies of God since 1996. Like so many Romanian pastors who lived through the communist era, Ceuta has walked through fire and emerged stronger in his faith.

Ministry was not easy for Ceuta and his wife, Emilia, during the dark days of Nicolae Ceau?escu, the Romanian dictator who ruled with an iron fist and built one of the world’s largest buildings (second only to the Pentagon). Covert government informants strictly monitored all pastors during Ceau?escu’s era. The construction of church buildings was forbidden, frequency of meetings was limited, and Bibles were blacklisted as “mystical literature.” read more

A Growing Spiritual Hunger in Hungary

The passion for revival I saw in eastern Europe this week rivaled what I have seen in Africa or Asia.

Europe is often described as post-Christian, and some people have already given up on the continent. We’ve heard discouraging statistics about mosques replacing churches in England. We know about dismal numbers of churchgoers in Germany and France. Some people assume that the region that gave us the Protestant Reformation is now a spiritual wasteland.

But that’s not what I found in Hungary this past week. On Sunday I preached to a congregation that meets in what used to be a communist hall in the Budapest suburb of Szigetszentmiklos. The Free Christian Church, a lively Pentecostal group pastored by Josef and Lila Gere, was celebrating its 20th anniversary—and the mayor of the town showed up for the service along with the local minister of religious affairs. read more

God and Gender: It’s Really Not Confusing

A Canadian couple’s decision to raise a “genderless” child has perplexed me.

I was scratching my head last week after hearing about the couple from Toronto, Canada, who announced they were going to raise a “genderless” child. Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, parents of two boys named Jazz and Kio, had a third child named Storm on New Year’s Day. Witterick announced to her family last month that she intends to keep the child’s gender a secret and let him/her figure it out on his own.

So far mom and dad have not granted interviews, but the mother said in a letter to the Edmonton Journal, published May 30, that letting Storm determine his/her gender was “a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation.” read more

Has the Baton Been Passed to the Asian Church?

Last week in Singapore I saw the future of Christianity—and it has a definite Chinese flavor.

Last week during a trip to Singapore I enjoyed all the tastes and smells of China—chili crab, salted milk crab, prawns, ban mian (flat noodles), bak chang (rice dumplings), lychee fruits, chicken feet (not my favorite!) and several varieties of fish. But the flavor I savored most was found in the worship times at Cornerstone Community Church. read more

Is There Anything Wrong With Rob Bell’s Gospel?

The popular author’s controversial book Love Wins celebrates God's love but drifts dangerously into Universalism.

I'm usually quick to speak my mind. But in the case of Rob Bell's controversial book Love Wins, I've withheld comment until now because (1) I don't think Christians should judge books before reading them; (2) the theological issues addressed require careful analysis; and (3) I have many young friends who are fans of Bell's books, and they may write me off if I don't treat him fairly.

So I'll begin with a compliment. Bell is a masterful writer whose prose is poetic. As pastor of the 7,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, Bell has gained a following because of his casual style, his ultra-cool Nooma videos and the previous books he's released with Christian publisher Zondervan (especially Velvet Elvis). read more

Why I Don't Buy the May 21 Prophecy

Here are three reasons why Harold Camping's end-times prediction should be ignored.

I spent the past week in Guyana, a South American nation where the people are friendly, the food is spicy and churches are growing at a healthy pace. But Christians there face a serious challenge because of the sad legacy of Jim Jones, the American cult leader who ordered his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid at their compound in Jonestown in 1978. The mass suicide, which killed 909 people (including Jones), went down in history as the world's worst example of religion gone wrong.

"Even today, the Jim Jones tragedy poses a problem of credibility for us," one pastor in the city of Corriverton told me last week. read more

Did Osama bin Laden Go to Hell?

Some people cheered when the world’s most hated terrorist was killed. But I don’t think God was happy about his death.

Like many other Americans who stayed up late to hear the news about Osama bin Laden on Sunday night, I had one eye on my television and the other on my laptop. I was waiting for President Obama to make his statement about the demise of the world’s most infamous terrorist, but the White House was moving as slow as Vermont syrup in December. When Obama finally stood in front of his teleprompter, many of us had already finished the story—by tweeting, texting and posting entries on Facebook.

These days we don’t just sit and watch TV. We are involved in the story, and sometimes we know the news before Wolf Blitzer does. Empowered by our lightning-fast digital media, we are the commentators now. Yet as I read some of the verbal shots fired into the Twitterverse by this new army of armchair journalists (“May Osama rot in hell!” for example, or “I’m glad he’s fish food now”), I had to ask myself: Is it right for Christians to rejoice over the death of a criminal—even one who masterminded a plot so evil as the 9/11 attacks? read more

'Koinonia'—A Missing Ingredient in Today’s Church

A small congregation in Puerto Rico reminded me that we can’t build the New Testament church without supernatural love.

Last week I preached for several days at Casa del Padre, a small but growing church near San Juan, Puerto Rico. The congregation meets in a rented facility with tile floors and folding chairs. They don’t have a worship leader yet, so a CD player provides accompaniment for the singing. The pastor, a gentle guy named Luis, keeps a second job to pay his family’s bills. Up until a few weeks ago, the church’s office was in his garage.

Casa del Padre is not a fancy place. But the church’s lack of sophistication is overshadowed by an amazing level of love. When I ministered on Sunday morning, the meeting began at 10:30 a.m. yet I didn’t leave the building until 5 p.m.—not because I preached too long but because nobody wanted to go home. read more

Jesus Can Redeem Your Denials

Peter’s three denials could have marked the end of his ministry. But the power of Christ’s forgiveness led to three great victories.

The Easter story is full of gloom. Agonizing prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Hostile mobs demanding execution. Betrayal and beatings. A crown of thorns and a bloody cross.

But one of the saddest parts of the story, to me, is what happened to Peter the night Jesus was arrested. Peter was tired, stressed to the breaking point and fearful of the crowd. When the high priest’s servant girl accused him of being a disciple of Jesus, he denied it. When she repeated her accusation to some bystanders, he denied it again. When others questioned him, the Bible says Peter “began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about!’” (Mark 14:71, NASB) read more

Getting the Weirdness Out of the Prophetic Movement

Let’s reclaim the simple, profound purpose of prophecy—and reject all sensational substitutes.

When I was a college student, a visiting minister regularly came to preach at our campus meetings. At the end of his messages he would often point at someone in the room, smile and say something like, “You in the blue shirt, I believe the Lord has a word of encouragement for you.” Then he would prophesy.

This freaked me out! How could this man know what God was saying to someone else? What if he was wrong? I loved the gift of prophecy because I had benefitted from it myself. But I remember telling the Lord back in those days that I would never, ever stand in front of a group and prophesy to an individual like that. Way too scary! read more

A Sweet Surprise Is Hidden Inside Your Worst Trial

Before you whine, complain or throw a pity party, remember that God can bring something good out of something bad.

I’m usually adventurous when it comes to foreign food. But I was leery when I learned about a tropical fruit called durian during a trip to Indonesia. Three things made me highly suspicious of this strange delicacy, which is sold in large quantities on the streets of Jakarta.

First of all, durian looks absolutely deadly. Each of the large, round fruits is covered with massive thorns that stick out four inches or more. I’m sure if you threw one of these things at somebody from a second-story window the victim would die instantly. read more

Where Is the Roar of the Real Men of God?

God is looking for spiritual lions who will exhibit boldness, compassion and true holiness.

While millions of men were watching last weekend’s NCAA basketball contest (congratulations to Virginia Commonwealth), I was in a three-day conference in Concord, N.C., with 180 men from eight nations. We called it Bold Venture, and it was an opportunity for American guys to be exposed to the courageous faith of men from the developing world.

We ate together (North Carolina barbeque!), worshiped God passionately (thanks to three worship teams, including a group of guys from a Christian college in Georgia) and had our rear ends kicked by some humble, battle-scarred ministers from Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia and India. read more

It Takes a Brave Guy to Plant a Church in Utah

Matt Roberts, a young preacher I met last week, has built a congregation of 950 in the middle of Mormon country.

U.S. News & World Report recently released its list of “Top Careers,” an outline of professions that are expected to be popular in 2011. I was not surprised to find all kinds of medical jobs on the list—from registered nurse to athletic trainer to massage therapist—but I didn’t expect to see “clergy.” U.S. News revealed that the Labor Department expects the number of religious leaders to climb by 13 percent over the next decade.

One reason that number will grow is that brave men (and some women) are stepping out in faith to plant churches in an increasingly unchurched America. I met one of these courageous souls last week. His name is Matt Roberts; he’s only 32; and he moved to Ogden, Utah, six years ago to start an evangelical church in the heart of Mormon territory. read more

Don’t Be a Glass-Half-Empty Christian

 I refuse to be a Christian pessimist. Here are three reasons why I can face the future with hope.

 

Terrorist bombings. Middle East turmoil. $3.95 gas. Killer floods. Moral breakdown. Fragile economies.

No wonder Charlie Sheen is going crazy!

Seriously, there’s a lot of bad news out there. Negative headlines make people fearful, agitated, addicted or even sick. But from what I’ve read in my Bible, Christians should not freak out every time a gloomy cloud settles over us. We, of all people on earth, should be full of hope.

A few days ago a friend asked me what I thought about a prophecy from a well-known Christian leader. This man has predicted a financial collapse in the United States by sometime next year. Other Christians have foreseen terrorist attacks, assassinations, bread lines and even the total breakdown of society. My friend asked me: “What are you hearing from the Lord about the future?” read more

The Day I Said Goodbye to Oscar Logan

When someone dies right after you shake his hand, you realize how close we all are to eternity.

Last Saturday, in between two sessions at a ministers conference in Virginia, I noticed an older black man sitting near me. Everyone else in the hotel lobby was chatting and drinking coffee, but this man was sitting alone—and he seemed troubled. It was time to go to the next workshop, so I walked over to the guy, said hello, shook his hand and added, “God bless you, sir.”

No big deal—just a casual gesture. Or so I thought.

A minute later there was a commotion in the lobby, and I heard someone say that a man had collapsed. Paramedics arrived within minutes. People were praying. My friend Dayton, the host of the conference, asked everyone to clear the area so the emergency workers could do their job. read more

God Has Big Surprises Planned for the Middle East

What the Holy Spirit did in the former Soviet Union in 1989 will happen again in Islamic nations.

I’m old enough to remember when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Freedom protesters danced in the streets in Eastern Europe and Communist regimes fell like dominoes. A huge door of evangelistic opportunity opened in a region where Christians had suffered unimaginable persecution.

The fall of the Soviet empire caught most Christians by surprise. Even though many believers on both sides of the Iron Curtain had been praying for a spiritual breakthrough, few expected the entire region to open so suddenly. Many American Christians remained suspicious—especially those who had warned that Yury Andropov was the Antichrist. (Oops! Wrong again. He died after being in office for only 15 months.) read more

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