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The Holy Spirit Is Not a Blob

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 advocatecomforter 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

Wright is Still Wrong!

This past week Rev. Jeremiah Wright emerged again from the ashes of obscurity to the spotlight. Like the mythical phoenix rising again from the fires of death, Wright is still politically alive after becoming a symbol of racism and division for mainstream America. His actions mirror his friend, Louis Farrakhan, who has recently attempted to malign Jews worldwide. The question I would like to answer here is, "How can such vehement hate mongers like Wright and Farrakhan survive so long in a land that longs so much for racial and religious equality?" Let's explore the answer as we look at the current status of Rev. Wright. How did he arise again?

Wright recently taught a weeklong course at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). The school is a 150-year old institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC). As many may not remember, Rev. Wright's former church (Trinity United Church of Christ) is the largest church in the UCC denomination. This denomination supports Rev. Wright's assessment of America's moral condition and motivations. CTS represents institutions that have continued to embrace the famed Chicago minister long after he dropped off the national radar. read more

Let Freedom Ring

"God bless America, my home sweet home!"

"What in the world is that?" exclaimed my husband, Terry, making a quick path out to the front porch.

We had just moved into a summer rental house across the street from a sleepy park. But from the sounds of it, the park was not so sleepy! The gazebo was filled with band members and a rather buxom woman was at the microphone. She was belting out patriotic songs in a high soprano voice. read more

God's Delays Are Not Denials

Do you trust God's timing? The path to spiritual maturity requires us to surrender our selfish deadlines. 

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 Mary and Martha, those were two very long days. read more

We Are in a Season of Net Mending

Many people are asking in this season, "What is God up to?" We seem to be living in a period of great silence. Believers are searching in vain for something God is doing powerfully in the body of Christ and trying to no avail to hear marching orders from Him for the church.

Do not mistake God's silence for inactivity!

Here is the prophetic word God recently spoke to me when I asked that question:

"This is a season of net-mending in the body of Christ."

I've reflected on this statement the last few days, and I am convinced it is a word that must be shared. God is moving mightily on the earth! But at the present time, His efforts are largely focused on mending His nets.

We are those nets. We are connected to one another through strategic, covenant relationships. During the last few seasons in the body of Christ, we have been in both great battles and great revivals. The stress of these events has damaged and broken the nets in many places. When you look around at the church today, you can see evidence of the stress: broken lives, broken marriages, broken friendships, broken ministries, broken churches, broken relationships and broken people.

I believe that before the next great move of God, the Lord is going to repair those nets!

Consider how fishing nets are constructed. Each square in the net is connected above, beside and beneath. In the old days, small knots were tied at each connection point. The net was only as strong as its weakest connection. This is why we must allow God to test and strengthen key relationships in this hour.

One of the main points in the prophetic word the Lord gave my wife, Nicki, for 2009 was, "Strengthen key relationships." During the past two years, God has been strengthening key relationships in our lives so we can form a stronger net to contain the great catch of souls that is coming into the kingdom of God.

Specifically, there are five things that this prophetic word means to you and me.

1. Make sure you allow God to strengthen your family ties during this season.

God wants to strengthen marriages and the bond between parents and children. Also, make sure that you remain in good standing with extended family members as much as possible—especially those in the body of Christ. Make time for each other and deliberately plan family events at which old connections can be renewed.

2. Make sure you are aligned under proper authority.

Don't be caught without a connection to the portion of the net above you. Submit yourselves to spiritual leaders you can trust—those who will truly look out for your souls. Make sure you are in relationships with leaders who walk in humility but also have great power, vision and purpose.

3. Surround yourself with people who are covenant-keepers.

Now is the time to make sure your friends are people who can make and keep their promises. Set yourself in the midst of committed friends. You need people of great love and integrity who can walk with you so that when the trials of life come, your relationships are not ripped apart by false accusation, jealousy, competition, offense, gossip, bitterness, and so on.

4. Beware of the spirit of offense.

Satan will try to come after your "net connections." He probably already has! Don't let yourself get offended with your spiritual leaders. Don't allow small issues to fester and become infected through bitterness and unforgiveness. Beware of the enemy's devices that will bring division and offense between you and others in the church. This is all part of his ploy to further weaken the nets that God wants to strengthen.

5. Do not get bored or impatient in this season and check out of the army of God.

As God is silently mending His nets for the next great catch, you must not allow yourself to get bored and stray from your assignment. Don't let yourself wander off into something new unless God is specifically directing it. Presumptions about the will of God will get you into trouble. The enemy will try to lure you into some other activity if you let your mind get sidetracked and don't stay focused on your last marching orders.

About the author: Mark Pfeifer is the founder and senior pastor of Open Door Christian Fellowship in Chillicothe, Ohio, a church he planted in 1991. He is also the lead apostle of the Soma Family of Ministries, a position he has held since 2003. He has founded and oversees several schools that are now a part of the Wagner Leadership Institute, for which he is a regional chancellor. Mark has authored several books, including his most recent, Change Agents. To order a copy of this book, click here. For more information about his ministry, go to markandnicki.com. read more

Why I Don't Apologize for Speaking in Tongues

Instead of denying or downplaying this misunderstood spiritual gift, we should have the courage to embrace it.

Last week after I taught a class on the Holy Spirit at a ministry school in Pennsylvania, a 22-year-old guy from Maryland asked if I could pray with him. He had heard me share how I was baptized in the Holy Spirit at age 18, and he wanted the same experience. He was especially intrigued by the idea of speaking in tongues—something he had never done even though he was comfortable around other classmates who had this spiritual gift.

This young man, Eric, understood that he already had the Holy Spirit. (We can't be born again without the Spirit entering our hearts and quickening Christ's life in us.) But he knew that Jesus offers us more—that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second experience in which the fullness of God's divine power saturates us and anoints us for supernatural ministry. read more

Carriers of the Glory

Ringing in my ears are the words of multiple prophets who are saying, "Get ready, the world is going to change fast, and so is the church." Some share the message from a more positive standpoint, others from a less positive one. The first kind causes me to anticipate what is coming; the second makes me nervous.

I don't always like to think about what the future holds from a natural standpoint, particularly when it's not pleasant and I can't change it. But I know one thing: Whatever happens, God's purpose for His people is the same—to reflect His glory. As we do, Habakkuk's prophecy will be fulfilled and "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14, NKJV). read more

Sometimes You Need to Talk to Yourself

When discouragement tries to rob you of joy and hope, open your mouth and turn up the volume.

Back in the old days, if you saw a guy talking to himself while he walked down the street you assumed (1) he had just walked out of a bar, (2) he was slightly on the loony side or (3) he had misplaced some money and was retracing his steps—like when absent-minded Uncle Billy lost his cash deposit in It's a Wonderful Life.

Today lots of people talk to themselves and we know they're not drunk, crazy or confused. They are wired to their phones, either with ear buds, headsets or Bluetooth devices. (What do you call more than one Bluetooth? Blueteeth?) What's weird is when you go into a men's restroom in an airport and guys are standing around talking to themselves—and closing business deals—with the sound of toilets flushing in the background. Welcome to the wireless generation! read more

Kay Winters

Removing the Head of the Serpent

Recently I had a prophetic experience that clearly portrayed the condition of the church in America. My husband and I take evening walks that sometimes bring us through affluent neighborhoods. We enjoy viewing luxury homes with their beautiful waterfalls and fountains. Sometimes I venture to curiously peer into the backyards of these homes, finding exquisite pools, sports courts, fireplaces, and landscaping that reminds me of a Thomas Kincaid painting.

As we were enjoying our walk one evening, my husband suddenly blurted out, "Snake!" After jumping in the opposite direction, I saw a three-foot-long rattlesnake about a foot away from where we had been walking.

Having been raised on a farm in Georgia, I am familiar with the behavior of snakes, especially poisonous vipers. Snakes react to ground vibration, so I was mystified about why the snake was not hissing or coiling to strike us. To our surprise, the snake ignored us and slowly slithered in the opposite direction. He seemed to be right "at home" in the landscape of the neighborhood. read more

Who Gives This Woman?

"Who gives this woman to be wed to this man?" Even though I was expecting this question, hearing it asked by the minister (who is my other son-in-law, Evan) caused a bit of pause. Keep in mind that other than writing a bunch of checks, this was my only real part in the ceremony. I was being asked to give my daughter to the man standing beside Evan. Not to go on a date. Not for a weeklong vacation. But forever!

This beautiful bride-to-be, standing beside me and holding my hand was my daughter.

When she was born I cut the umbilical cord. My wife and I stood beside her hospital bed a

1 year of age as she fought an unexplainable blood infection. I taught her to ride a bike. To swim. To drive a car (hence much of my gray hair). Much of the money I have made in my life somehow poured through her hands. read more

Are You Holding On … or Letting Go?

It's time to check your posture: Are your hands in the air? True worship requires surrender.

Christians used to talk a lot about surrender. They called it the consecrated life, and they sang about it in hymns such as "I Surrender All," "Have Thine Own Way" or "Wherever He Leads, I'll Go." These songs fueled the missionary movements of the past.

Today? Not so much. read more

Race Based Politics

Last week, Rep. Artur Davis (D) lost his primary bid for governor of Alabama in a crushing defeat. His opponent, Ron Sparks, won by 25 points in a contest which some believe shows that the race-based politics of the south have not changed. This conclusion has been postulated because traditional, non-elected black political stakeholders seem to have temporarily derailed the career of one of the Democratic Party's fastest rising black stars.

Before the emergence of President Barack Obama on the national presidential scene, lots of Democrats felt that Davis would eventually become the nation's first black president - especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). His credentials were incredible. In fact he was a classmate of President Obama at Harvard Law. He was incredibly articulate and what he lacked in charismatic speeches, he made up for in strategic thinking and networking ability. read more

Seeing From God's Perspective

We live in a time of shaking all over the world in both the natural and the spiritual realms. But we, as people of God, do not need to fear. In the midst of the shakings, God wants His people to have perspective, peace and purpose. The first of these—perspective, or vision—is a message God has continued to put on my heart. God made it real to me through a dream.

In the dream, I was a child in the middle of a large crowd. Noise and confusion were all around me, and because I was so small, I could not see what was happening. But then the Father lifted me up on His shoulders. He lifted me to a higher vantage point, from which I could see what was occurring all around me. I could see from my Father's perspective.

This is the perspective God wants us to have. He wants to transform us into a people with vision—a people with prophetic insight for the days we live in, prophetic understanding of what He is doing around us and prophetic wisdom to know how to lead others to the unshakable foundation of Christ. read more

Blind Spots

I was recently scared—really, really scared. I saw something that so frightened me it threw me back and stopped me cold in my tracks. What I saw was ugly, threatening and dangerous. It was large, intimidating and daunting. What was it? Spots! I saw spots.



I have seen spots that freaked me out before—age spots … well just one, but it was there and its presence was horrifying. I have seen other spots too: sore spots, weak spots and soft spots. But none of these shook me like the spots I saw recently: blind spots. read more

Strength In Weakness

I have reached the age at which it is hard to tell the difference between a Holy Ghost rush and a hot flash. It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't come to rely on body temperature as a spiritual thermostat to tell me when the anointing had hit. But now I just have to move out in faith, trusting that God is the initiator even when I don't feel a thing—or when what I'm feeling could be the result of a hormone imbalance rather than the prompting of His Spirit!

This season has brought other physical changes, too—a tiredness I can't seem to shake, wrinkles, sagging skin, body parts that don't want to get in shape no matter how much I do to encourage the process. Perhaps worst of all is the lack of desire to extend myself beyond the minimum requirements for sustaining life. If an activity isn't going to satisfy a crucial need, it isn't worth the effort. read more

The Gospel: The Ultimate in Counter-Terrorism Measures

How one brave Nigerian is risking his life to win militants and terrorists to Christ.

Kelechi Okengwu has taught me to face my fears.

This 32-year-old Nigerian evangelist will probably never star in a movie or be featured on the evening news. But he has been a younger role model for me since I met him seven years ago.

Converted to Christ at 21, Kelechi has spent the past decade reaching dangerous militants who are spreading violence on Nigeria's university campuses. Through his Gospel Mania Project, the young preacher shares his faith with leaders of The Black Axe, Brotherhood of the Black Brigade, The Big Eye, The Pyrates, the Buccaneers and The Mafia—clandestine groups that mix African occultism with drugs and violence to spread fear and political instability throughout the country. read more

99 Readers and One Crazy Aunt

I like change. I’m one of those “seasons” kind of guys who gets excited about new beginnings. But I also realize I’m in the minority and that, for most people, change is like the crazy aunt whom you’re perfectly OK with seeing only once in a blue moon.

 

Lately I’ve received a handful of e-mails and calls from readers who apparently don’t adjust well to change when it comes to this magazine. With any major shift you’re bound to have some strong reactions and opinions. And our last issue, which kicked off some major changes with Charisma’s look, feel and tone, has certainly garnered reaction—99 percent of which has been positive.

But the few concerns I’ve heard made me wonder if I needed to clarify at least three things. Jesus told the parable of the shepherd leaving the 99 to go after the one; here’s my attempt to pursue the change-challenged “ones” and clear the air of any misunderstandings about Charisma’s new season.

1) Charisma isn’t abandoning our older readers. Or any readers, for that matter. I still laugh at some of the comments I’ve heard about us “jumping ship on the older generation.” A fresh new design and feel doesn’t mean we’re ignoring our more mature readers, nor does it mean we’re favoring younger ones. If anything, we’re more attune than ever to ideas from readers of all ages. (Many of the changes you see here originated with you!) As our April issue highlighted, it’s critical that both young and old come together today within the Spirit-filled community. I believe Charisma fosters such a convergence on a monthly basis by letting every generation—boomers, busters, millennials, mosaics ... whatever you are—know what the Holy Spirit is doing on a broader scale.

2) Lee Grady isn’t going anywhere. At least not in our magazine. Lee’s become a prominent voice of truth within the church who continually challenges us to a higher level of Christ-likeness. As a contributing editor, he’s still involved with each issue of Charisma, and his Fire in My Bones column will conclude each issue. We know Lee’s words resonate with believers around the world. Aside from that, he’s a cool guy and a good friend to our team. We think we’ll keep him.

3) Charisma isn’t forsaking Christian news. If anything, we’re expanding our coverage and delivering it in more ways (check out p. 56 for what’s on our new mobile app). Fair or not, Charisma has been blasted in the past for reporting on the good, the bad and the ugly. (OK, mainly we’re criticized for the bad and the ugly parts.) Yet when we purposefully don’t cover the latest scandal within the Spirit-filled community, readers tell us they’re frustrated at having to find out about it from other sources. So here’s what we think is a happy median: When possible, we’ll minimize our print coverage of “scandal stories,” opting instead to spend more ink on the positive elements of the Holy Spirit’s work around the world. For those who want the full scoop (including the bad and the ugly), charismamag.com is the place to go, with developing news stories, features and more posted throughout each day.

Our purpose as a magazine isn’t to frustrate our readers but to serve you. So feel free to let me know what you think of these changes. I promise, I won’t treat you like the crazy aunt.

 


 

 

CONTRIBUTING TO THIS ISSUE ...

At 31, David Platt isn’t just one of the youngest megachurch pastors in history. He’s also way smarter than the average bear—the man has five degrees (and counting) and can recite most of the New Testament from memory.

As a freelance writer in Singapore, Karon Ng has contributed articles to magazines, newspapers and e-publications. She devours a book a week (on average) and loves chocolate. Not so much for mushrooms.

Recording artist, worship leader, author and speaker Alvin Slaughter has never missed a Seinfeld episode. His secret passion is to record a CD of Barry Manilow’s greatest hits. You read that right—Barry Manilow.

T.J. Harrington has a master’s in political science and is interested in how the spiritual and political connect. He works as a consultant for political candidates and on policy-change initiatives. Thus the blue shirt and red power tie.

  read more

God Connections

A few relationships in my life have been so important, I knew God had made the connection. One of these was my friendship with writer and pastor Jamie Buckingham. read more

I’m Tired of the Phony Stuff

For three years I’ve wanted to gather a group of friends for a time of encouragement and personal ministry. I couldn’t afford to host a fancy event, and I didn’t think these guys wanted a big hoopla with expensive hotels and high-priced speakers.

So we went with a simple format that involved a donated church facility, totally informal dress code, sub sandwiches, North Carolina barbecue and cheap rooms at a Hampton Inn. What surprised me was that 91 men from 20 states and four foreign countries showed up for three days of worship, small-group interaction and inspiring messages from 32 of the guys. (Don’t worry, they kept their comments brief.)

What happened in that small window of time amazed me. Weary pastors met new friends. Younger guys bonded with new mentors. Men opened their hearts about their deepest struggles. And best of all, God showed up and spoke to many of the guys about their insecurities and fears.

On the second day a panel of six young men shared about their need for godly role models. Some admitted that they have dysfunctional relationships with their dads. Others said they found it difficult to connect with spiritual fathers.

One man, Charles, said that in his church, young men were never allowed to develop real friendships with pastors or leaders. They were expected to be “armor bearers” who acted like personal valets—by shining the pastor’s shoes, carrying his water bottle and escorting him to the pulpit.

The young men who came to our Bold Venture discipleship weekend were crying out for authentic relationships. They aren’t going to receive the mentoring or the spiritual nurture they need by carrying a preacher’s Bible or by serving as his bodyguard. True discipleship only happens in a loving, relational context.

This was the apostle Paul’s method of discipleship. Though he did speak in church meetings, his ministry wasn’t focused on events, sermons or a flashy delivery style. And it certainly wasn’t about high-pressure offerings, pulpit showmanship or grand entrances. There was nothing fake or phony about New Testament Christianity.

Paul told the Thessalonians that he was “well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” 
(1 Thess. 2:8, NASB). He knew ministry was all about investing in people. He did not live for applause, silk suits or swooning crowds.

The reason he could endure beatings, shipwrecks, betrayal, riots, hunger and imprisonment is that he loved the men and women on his ministry team. Everything he did was about pouring the life of Jesus into Timothy, Silvanus, Mark, Phoebe, Priscilla, Euodia and all the other New Testament heroes who called Paul a spiritual father.

How would Paul react if he were alive to see the warped version of “ministry” we’ve created? I imagine he would tear his robe and call us all back to raw humility.

Robert, a Ugandan pastor, wrote me a week after our retreat to share with me his plan for discipling men. He said: “Next week I will meet about 24 guys to deposit what I experienced. We are going to do life together, laugh, cry, be vulnerable and open with each other. This is not an African thing, but I know it is the way to go.”

Like Robert, I don’t want an armor bearer, a bodyguard or an entourage. But I do want to spend the rest of my life mentoring and empowering young people. It was Paul’s style. And it’s the Jesus way.

Discipleship is a simple concept—too simple for some of us who have become addicted to the fancy bells and whistles of American religion. But if you listen carefully, amid the noise of the crowd, you’ll hear the Holy Spirit calling us back to New Testament basics.


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 online at themordecaiproject.com. His new book, The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale, was released in April. read more


Cindy deVille

What in the World Is Happening?

If you have been listening to the news or viewing it online over the last few years, or even the last few days, you might think you were watching scenes from a riveting movie about the end times.

We have witnessed unprecedented flooding, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, including the erupting of a volcano that shut down most of Europe's air travel. We have seen a historic oil spill threatening our coastlines and economic systems; massive earthquakes; tsunamis; wars; severe rioting; political unrest; economic turmoil and terrorists bent on killing masses. read more

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