You can give God the time He deserves—and here’s how
Are you faithful to God or are you having an affair?
James 4:4 (AMP) says, “You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy?”
This is basically saying that when we care about anyone or anything more than God, or when we trust in and lean on anyone or anything more than Him, He is not first place in our lives. In other words, we are unfaithful.
Some will remember him for his books, like The Cross and the Switchblade, which became a best-selling phenomenon with more than 15 million copies sold in over 30 languages. Others will remember him for launching Teen Challenge, a nationwide ministry to reach out to people with life controlling habits. Still others will remember Wilkerson for his sometimes controversial prophetic words.
I will remember Wilkerson for all of that and more, but there is one particular message this general of the faith preached more than a decade ago that I believe needs to be shouted from the rooftops in these last days. (Indeed, many of Wilkerson’s uncompromising messages need to be trumpeted in this hour, but a particular sermon he preached in Moscow in 2000 has weighed heavy on my heart since I first saw it a few years ago.) As was often the case with Wilkerson’s sermons, it was relevant when he preached it but it grew even more relevant as time went on.
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.
Our institutions are rusting out. Let me say from the beginning that I am an optimist for the human race and for creation in general. God will have His way with creation, and people are amazingly resilient and adaptable. But I am a pessimist about the ability of our major institutions to survive this century. The rust has gone beyond cosmetic. The core of our institutions are rusting. The church, government, educational system, military and economy are in terminal trouble. It's not that some form of them all won’t survive. All of these functions are going to survive; but the institutions that carry these functions now may not.
Once, when I was preparing to speak at a women’s conference, I embarked on one of the most intense seasons of spiritual warfare in my Christian walk. Though the topic was one I had a genuine passion for, I experienced a tremendous struggle whenever I sat down to study and craft the messages.
“Mommy, can I take my Bible to school today?” Nine words that brought both delight and concern to my heart. Delight that my then 10-year-old darling would love Jesus enough to take Him to school with her in leather-bound form. Concern because I knew that love would breed persecution I wasn’t sure she was yet ready to fully understand.
So I did what any good parent would do. I said, “Of course you can take your Bible to school. Remember, Jesus’ words are in red.” Then I prayed for the prophetic youngster and sent her off to the public school system with a homemade lunch in one hand and the Word of God in the other. Knowing I wouldn’t be there to protect her—and not knowing what devil she might face when she opened the good book during the after school care program—I committed her to the Lord’s covering and believed the best.
Do you know what happened? (This is the cool part.) Within 15 minutes of the school bell ringing she had assembled a small youth group that was quite intent on hearing her declare what Jesus had to say about attitudes, money and other issues they deal with on an every day basis. One little boy, she later told me, was even taking notes. It was a bona fide Bible study—and then it happened. One of the teenaged counselors barged in on the peaceful gathering, shrieking, “Put that book away! You might offend somebody!”
Note from Steve Strang: Attending this meeting of leaders was a great honor. Please read my commentary on what I learned. I took the opportunity to bring home "flip camera" interviews with about half of the participants representing churches and ministries around the world. Each one is only 2-3 minutes but gives you more information about that ministry. If you view several or all of them, you'll begin to get a feel for what is happening around the world—and that is my goal.
What a global network of megachurch pastors can teach us
For more than three decades I’ve been reporting on the move of the Holy Spirit around the world. Much of what’s going on is wonderful. The church is growing, people and churches are being revived, miracles are happening. These are what motivated me as a young journalist to start Charisma.
However, much of what is happening isn’t wonderful. In the American church there’s more scandal and divorce, while a few so-called leaders seem more interested in enjoying a Hollywood lifestyle than in having godly character. There’s persecution around the world and culture wars at home. There’s a growing threat of humanism and militant Islam around the globe.Yet when I’m tempted to get discouraged I am reminded that no matter how bad things may be, God is in control.
This happened recently when I was invited to meet with a small group of Christian leaders in Seoul, South Korea. I’d never heard of their network, which consists mainly of several dozen megachurch pastors outside North America who meet for friendship, fellowship and to work together to fulfill the Great Commission. They have no website, and while they have a name, they’re so low-key I won’t use it here.
To be invited into the network, the churches (or networks of churches from a single church) had to have 20,000 members. Some were much higher. In Korea, 450,000; in Africa, a network with 250,000 members; in India, 80,000; in South America, 20,000.
This year, for the first time, they invited a few megachurch pastors from the U.S. They also invited CEOs of large parachurch ministries such as Campus Crusade, The Navigators, Mercy Ships, Open Doors, Alpha and several others to talk about how we can work together. I was the only one specifically invited from media and was honored to be included.
Because the meeting was below the radar screen, it wasn’t a “news event” to cover. Instead, I decided to write my opinion on the group and what I observed:
First, I came away encouraged at the state of the church worldwide. The pastors seemed full of vision. Even in countries with very difficult circumstances such as poverty in Africa or persecution in the Islamic world, they seemed to be encouraged.
I was impressed with the humility and character of those who attended. Instead of displaying huge egos as we have become accustomed to in the West, these leaders talked about their ministries with humility.
Dealing with Islam was the central theme of the meeting. Yet these pastors didn’t seem alarmed by the threat of Islam, unlike many American pastors who are stunned when they discover there’s a mosque in their town. They shared how thousands of Muslims are coming to Christ through signs and wonders, and through dreams and visions. One Arab pastor shared how his church is dealing with political unrest in his nation, adding that its churches “applaud the overthrow of the regime.”
Yet there are grave dangers and much persecution of Christians in the Islamic world. An Indonesian pastor shared how he and his wife learned to forgive the terrorists who planted a bomb in their car that exploded and left his wife without a leg.
An American attendee named Joshua Lingel has a vision to train the church in apologetics and Muslim ministry. He told us Muslims are trained in Islamic apologetics and most Christians don’t know how to answer them. His ministry, i2, has amazing training materials and a success record in winning Muslims to Christ. Well-known Christian apologist Josh McDowell added that many American evangelicals leave the faith when confronted with anti-Christian ideas because they don’t know what they believe.
Because of this extraordinary meeting I’m motivated to help American Christians understand their faith; to network more—none of us can do the job alone—to fulfill Christ’s command to share the gospel and make disciples; and to pray for more visionary, humble leaders to lead the church through theses difficult times. We Westerners have a lot we can learn if we would bother to listen.
It was early evening yesterday, April 28, when a cell-phone call let me know the devastating news: David Wilkerson had been killed in a tragic traffic accident. Dr. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, had just learned the news and felt I would want to report it. Knowing how important this was, we had a story online within 40 minutes that included a statement from Dr. Wood until we could get more details. The traffic on our website was so great the site temporarily crashed, and the article had more forwards on Facebook than any in the history of Charisma News.
That’s because David Wilkerson was one of the great Christian leaders of our generation, and his passing is a loss to the global church. He was the model of integrity, and he finished strong in a day when some televangelists are photographed in foreign countries with women they aren’t married to while others are exposed for secret gay activity while publicly opposing the gay agenda. Wilkerson was the paragon of virtue and his influence was tremendous.
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)
We are grateful for all the traditional Seders that are being held as believers from the nations are being restored to the biblical Jewish roots of our faith. I encourage you to participate in them as the Lord leads. Gather your family and friends together for a meal and "remember this day"—the Passover and the "last supper." Passover began at sundown yesterday, April 18.
You may choose to use a Haggadah (traditional Jewish way of remembering the evening). Or you may choose simply to read the Passover story from Exodus 12 and the account of the Passover evening meal with Yeshua and His disciples on the night of His betrayal (see Matt. 26:17-30) and to celebrate your own deliverance from slavery through the blood of Yeshua.
My world was totally rocked in 2001 when I started doing ministry in developing countries. I thought I was going to these places to help needy people. What I soon discovered was that these "poor" people had a lot more to give me. This prompted me to do a major overhaul of my values and priorities. And each time I fly to another continent, I go through yet another process of re-evaluation.
Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God. Everywhere He went He preached the same message, “Repent for the kingdom of God,” or “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (see Matt. 4:17, Mark 1:15). All throughout the gospels, we find that Jesus’ emphasis was on the kingdom.
The primary reason Jesus came was to inaugurate the kingdom of God. Often, we hear that the reason Jesus came was to die on the cross. Jesus did come to die on the cross, but that death on the cross was for the purpose of establishing the kingdom of God.
There were multitudes of people when Jesus preached the message of the kingdom. Some missed it—others did not.
There’s plenty of talk about how technology aids evangelism, but 21st century technology also opens the door to a myriad of creative ways to judge, criticize and condemn people.
You can jot judgmental remarks on a blog. You can e-mail critical comments. You can compose condemning words on Twitter (so long as you don’t use more than 140 characters). You can relay your rebuke via text message. Or you can put them on blast by way of Facebook.
Of course, most of us are too sophisticated to launch outright public attacks against our brothers and sisters in Christ, even behind the cloak of technological tools that guarantee anonymity. More likely, we keep our disapproval of a friend’s choice, the disparaging analysis of our pastor’s message, or the dislike of our daughter’s wardrobe in our thought life—or maybe we share it in confidence with our prayer partner so they can “touch and agree” on the thing with us.
Whether we judge, criticize and condemn publicly or keep the matter in our own hearts, God sees and hears it all. And every drop of scorn we pour on another is collecting in a bucket of belittlement that will one day tip over and drench us with detraction. In other words, as the Message Bible says, that critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.
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!
Throughout the history of God's dealings with man, He has revealed Himself as a covenant-making God. The Almighty made major covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David; He renewed His Abrahamic covenant in His call to Isaac and Jacob. Each covenant initiated a new wave of redemptive power into the world and forever impacted the human condition. The word covenant means, "to fetter" or chain together. It was the highest form of commitment that two individuals could share. Any of several rituals were employed to express the covenant partners' unity.
A few years ago I had a somewhat perplexing dream. In this dream I was about five months pregnant. Now, for starters, I’m not married and had no reason to be pregnant. I was trying to deny it, but my mid-section was clearly swelling—and it wasn’t from eating too many tasty empanadas from the corner Cuban café. In my dream I asked a trusted friend what she thought. To my dismay, she said, “You’re definitely pregnant!”
To say I was none too happy would be a monumental understatement. A flood of thoughts rushed at me in my dream state. “How will I get all my work done with a newborn baby to care for? I’m too busy for this! My life is challenging enough as it is. This is certainly no time to complicate things with a baby!” Even still, I knew there was no way of escape on this one. I had a sense that I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. This baby was coming into the world in about four months whether I liked it or not.
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.
One evening when my parents, my husband and I were having dinner at a small family restaurant, I witnessed a scene that became a powerful object lesson. Initially, the atmosphere in the restaurant was warm and friendly, alive with the laughter and conversations of parents and their children.