Technology has connected us
superficially. But the Holy Spirit can knit us together supernaturally.
Two weeks ago I attended a men’s
retreat in Georgia with some of my closest friends. Chris, Eddie, Rick,
Michael, Ray, Robert, Medad, Quentin and James were in the audience with 120 other
guys. We spent 2 1/2 days together—worshipping, attending teaching
sessions, praying in small groups and eating our meals together. Nobody wanted
to go home. It felt like heaven because we enjoyed being together so much.
As we mourn Trayvon Martin’s death, we should remember another black teenager killed just four years ago.
On March 2, 2008, high school senior Jamiel Shaw was gunned down in
Los Angeles. According to police, Shaw was walking home when two men he
had never met jumped out of a car and one shot him. A talented football
player, Shaw had scholarship offers from Stanford University and
Rutgers. The man who shot him was Petro Espinoza, an illegal immigrant
and member of a gang with a history of extensive violence against
African-Americans. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Espinoza had been released from jail 28 hours before the shooting, after serving time for an earlier [violent] offense.”
Why did the nation not mourn Jamiel the way we are mourning Trayvon?
Was it because the media knew immediately that Shaw’s killers were
Latino, not white?
For the past 48 years of ministry I’ve been in love with the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Some of you are familiar with the old saying, “If you have too much of the Word you will dry up. Too much of the Spirit and you will blow up, but if you have the Spirit and the Word, you will grow up.”
Though I’m sure one could pick apart that saying, it does nevertheless contain some great wisdom, insight and common sense. Some churches that major on the Spirit have become overly intoxicated and plain weird, while those majoring on the Word have a tendency to become dead, pharisaical and proud.
When questioned by His disciples as to when the end would come, Jesus warned them that first there would be wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes and pestilence, etc. He also spoke about an increase of supernatural activity by saying that there would be many false prophets that would mislead many. He went on to say; “False christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
Some years ago I was counseling a teenager who had been
raised from infancy by his grandparents. The boy’s father had been killed in an
automobile accident, and subsequently his mother disappeared. The grandparents
had been doing all they could for him at great expense to themselves. It is
difficult for anyone to raise a teenager, and people in their 60s and
70s ought not to have to go through it a second time around.
For several years he rewarded them with unfathomable
rebellion, anger and sin until he made his grandparents miserable. I told him,
“They did not have to take you in. You could have gone to an orphanage. You
could have been a ward of the court. They got up with you in the middle of the
night. They changed your diapers and fed you and clothed you. They raised you
at great sacrifice to themselves. Nobody would have blamed them if they had
said, “We just can’t handle it at our age.”
He replied bitterly, “Do you think this is the first time
I’ve ever thought of all that? I know what they’ve done. What am I supposed to
do, spend the rest of my life saying ‘thank you’?”
Today is Maundy Thursday on the liturgical calendar—the day
Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples before He went to the
Today, to commemorate Holy Week, we had a short worship
service in our office with my staff. I invited several staff, who also serve as
pastors, to take part in serving, and we took communion together. We also
prayed for the volatile situation in our community following the tragic death
of Trayvon Martin, which has created uproar in our country.
Next week, I'll write more about this situation, which has
really hit home for me. The reason: the tragic killing took place 2.9 miles
from our offices in Lake Mary, Fla., which abuts Sanford, Fla. As a result we
have decided to focus our June issue on The Church's Response to Racism.
Today I attended a meeting with black and white ministers in our city. Tomorrow
I'm attending a prayer service on Good Friday. Some very interesting things
came out, from a spiritual point of view, which I'll comment on later.
As I was preparing a sermon for Palm Sunday, I was struck to the core by John 12. Jesus made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Bible says a great multitude took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” (John 12:13).
Yet only a few verses later many no longer believed.
What happened? What shifted? What caused this multitude to go from celebrating Jesus and acknowledging Him as King of Israel to turning their back on Him and days later calling for His crucifixion? Simply put, He told them the truth—and they couldn’t handle the truth. You might say they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).
But let me ask you a serious question: Are you a lover of the truth? Are you a true follower of Christ? Really?
It’s OK to tone down certain charismatic manifestations to make church
visitors feel welcome.
I love it when the Holy Spirit moves in a church service. But I also
know there’s a fine line between charismatic and charismaniac.
Too often, those of us who love spiritual gifts get carried away—and before too
long things get strange. What is supernatural turns weird, and what is
prophetic becomes pathetic.
This is not a new problem. Two chapters of Paul’s first letter to the
Corinthians are devoted to this dilemma. Even in the first century, people
misused charismatic gifts to get attention. The abuse of speaking in tongues
created pandemonium, and the lack of order invited an apostolic rebuke.
Disturbed. That’s how I’ve felt for the past few weeks in light of the events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin.
I’ve been a resident of the Sanford, Fla., area for the past six
years, a business-man-turned pastor. This week I received a word from
the Lord about the current events in my city that was as clear as any
word I’ve received in the past 20 years. I knew that receiving such a
clear, strong and direct prophetic word was significant and I felt compelled to share it with the world.
I heard during prayer the voice of the Lord say
this: “If the church, civil and business leaders do not take
preventative spiritual action on the current events, we will be left
responding to physical violence in the streets of our cities.”
Some time ago, I had an experience at church that I will
During the Sunday morning service, the pastor asked each
member of the congregation to make a list of his sins on a sheet of paper, as
the Holy Spirit led. After a time of reflection and prayer, each person walked
up to the front of the church and nailed his folded piece of paper, which
represented his sins, onto a large wooden cross.
When it was my turn, I laid my folded “list of sins” onto
the end of the crossbar and struck the nail with the hammer that had been
provided. The sound of the hammer
connecting with the nail was deafening—not to my ears, but to my spirit. The
realization that, in effect, my own hand had driven the nails into our Savior’s
flesh was overwhelming.
In that moment I was struck with the reality that because
Jesus knew I would be in this world at this particular time and would not be
able to live a sinless life, He—the One who spoke the world into being—had
chosen to lay down His life for me so that I could have everlasting fellowship
with Him. I already knew this, of course; I have been a Christian for many
years. But the act of virtually nailing Him to the cross with my own hand made
His sacrifice more real than before.
Pastor Alex Clattenburg has been a good friend for nearly 40
years. I got an email about a great Good Friday service he is having
next week at Church in the Son in Orlando, Fla. I wish I could attend
but I’ll be out of state. We close our offices every year on Good
Friday. I always try to attend a service and it’s hard to find a
Spirit-filled church that has one. What a pity. It’s part of our
culture which comes out of the revivalist tradition of the sawdust
trail. It’s as if anything liturgical is something we should avoid.
I had a good friend in the Episcopal Church that talked about how
they had things all week long. I had to ask what Maundy Thursday was!
We didn’t celebrate it in the Assemblies of God. But it’s the
night before Good Friday. Okay, maybe we don’t need to go for the
bells and smells of some churches. But sometimes we are so casual
about special days, we go too far the other way. On Good Friday I
like to take communion and to think about the sacrifice the Lord made
on the cross. I encourage you to think about that sacrifice.
It’s easy to despise the day of small beginnings. Small beginnings often come with hard work and little help. Small beginnings usually offer tall resistance and modest encouragement. Small beginnings typically see limited budgets and abundant setbacks. Nevertheless, whatever God has called you to do, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zech. 4:10, NLT).
I remember when God planted a seed in my heart to pray for the nations. I had a large multicolored map on my wall and I was in awe of the massive opportunities for prophetic intercession. Suddenly, the Lord illuminated a tiny speck of an island on this map, one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean. This was my prayer assignment. I was somewhat disappointed. I wanted to storm the heavens of pivotal nations in the earth, but the Lord gave me a small beginning.
In the case of Trayvon Martin, we’d
be better off to keep our heads cool and our words peaceable.
I live eight miles from the gated
subdivision where Trayvon Martin died on Feb. 26. A few weeks ago that section
of Sanford, Fla., was as peaceful as the palms that sway in our humid breezes.
But since the black teenager’s unexplained death, an unsettling pall of anger
and suspicion hangs in the air.
The specter of American racism has
returned. And the world is watching us argue about it.
Supernatural means “super-natural.” As C.S. Lewis pointed out, almost
all of the miracles of Jesus were simply the speeding up of a natural
process. There was never any wine that did not start out as water and go
through a process—Jesus just sped up that process. There was never
anyone healed that God did not heal through the “natural” processes He
placed in us, but through Jesus and His workers He sped this up.
Words of knowledge, which is receiving information through
the Spirit about someone, is like touching one little cell of the mind
of Christ. When Jesus looks at something, He knows all that there is to
know about that person. When we look at someone in the Spirit, He can
give us just a tiny fraction of that information and it seems
spectacular to us. If we are given a name, birthday or other details,
we’re astounded, as the person usually is too. Even so, this is not to
wow people but to help them.
When we receive a bit of supernatural knowledge like this,
if we will not get too excited and keep inquiring of the Lord, He will
often give us more. Sometimes He’ll also give us a “word of wisdom,” so
that we know how to use this knowledge to help that person. Again, it’s
not just about getting the word of knowledge, but about helping the
person, church or other entity.
I often am asked questions by the
media on choices the government makes about our society. It is an anomaly to me to see the drift in government to control
in micro-detail certain aspects of our society, and yet determine to
be hands-off on other key issues. Recently the American public was given an
edict that affects many religious nonprofit organizations.
The debate over the new Health and Human Services regulations,
which require all employers to pay 100 percent of the cost of
contraception including abortion-inducing chemicals, has been rightly
cast as an intrusion on religious liberty. Opponents of such
regulations are no more advocating a ban on contraceptives than
vegetarian restaurants are advocating a ban on meat. They are simply
saying that companies shouldn’t have to pay for services to which
they object for moral reasons.
But black Americans in particular would be wise to pay close
attention, since the age old contraception battle has special
historical significance to them. For more than a century,
“reproductive services” have been special code words for the
constant, silent effort of the powerful to control black breeding.
And this control has often come in the form of a “helping hand.”
Every Sunday we have an early Morning Prayer meeting at
church. We pray from a Psalm for 30 minutes (without asking for anything—a time
purely for praise), then we prayer walk the sanctuary for 15 minutes, and
finally meet back together to intercede for the services and ministry of the
Since we started this intimate time in 2007, we have never
ceased to be amazed at how the Holy Spirit always meets with us. We never leave
without a feeling that we have been in the sweet presence of Jesus.
One week, however, was a bit of a challenge. The prayer room
is just off of the platform, and the praise team has practice at the same time
that we are praying. That has never been an issue. In fact, the muffled music
often adds a “worship” dimension to our time.
founder of Eagles’ Wings, did a magnificent job as guest editor for the new
issue of Ministry Today. He highlighted a very important topic: the New
Zionism. I’m happy to post the new
digital issue below in hopes that you’ll read it and benefit from the articles. You’re getting it before it is emailed to
our regular list. I hope you’ll
subscribe and be among the first people to receive it on your iPad.
The issue of
Zionism and Israel is near and dear to me. For years I’ve been a strong
supporter of Israel. So it’s an honor for me to have been invited by Robert to
be one of the “conveners” for the Jerusalem Banquet in New York City on May 17.
Even though I’ll write about it later I wanted to send this out right away
because it was announced this week that the keynote speaker will be former
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
I surrender … I found myself saying those words while talking with the Holy Spirit about my frustrations.
Whether you are in ministry, in the marketplace or tackling the all-important task of raising a family—or perhaps, like me, doing all three at the same time—you will no doubt come to a point in your walk with God that you feel like giving up. Paul wouldn’t have admonished us not to grow weary in well doing if he hadn’t witnessed people losing heart at times along the journey (Gal. 6:9).
But I’m here to tell you that the answer is not to quit and give up. The answer is to surrender. And there’s a vast difference between the two. As much as I want to sometimes, I’ll never admit defeat in the midst of doing something God has called me to do. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13). And, of course, we know that God always leads us in triumph in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14). I could rattle off a few other Scriptures to drive home the point, but you get the idea.
No, as much as I want to quit sometimes, I’ll never admit defeat in the midst of doing something God has called me to do. But I have learned that there is a time to surrender the vision. Miriam-Webster defines the word surrender as “to yield to the power, control or possession of another upon compulsion or demand,” and “to give up completely or agree to forego especially in favor of another.”
I’m dreaming of a day when U.S. immigration policy reflects the values
of the Bible.
Earlier this year when I was preaching in California, a woman came to
the church altar and asked me for prayer. She spoke with a thick Spanish
accent. Her tears had already streaked her mascara, and she was trembling. In
between her sobs she told me that her husband, who is not a U.S. citizen, had
been deported to Mexico—leaving her and their four children behind.
This woman is a U.S.
citizen, but her husband had been standing in line for 10 years to get his
papers. As is often the case with Mexicans, bureaucracy offered him no
compassion. Now a family is split up. The land of the free and the home of the
brave slammed its doors on a Christian brother.