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Behind the scenes of the Trayvon Martin case—and the inspiring account of reconciliation no one’s telling
Trayvon Martin was killed 2.3 miles from my office in a newer part of Sanford, Fla. The exact street where he was shot is less than a mile from a similar gated townhouse community where my younger son lives.
So to me, this is extremely personal. As we put together this special issue, I’ve been in a whirlwind of meetings and diplomacy unlike anything I’ve ever experienced during my journalism career, stretching back to high school. And as with most stories, there is a behind-the-scenes account that’s just as interesting. This is my attempt to tell that personal side of the story, even as Charisma deals with the spiritual, cultural and political effects of this situation.
I’ve known for years Sanford was a racially divided community, and I’ve worked in my own way to bring healing and reconciliation—including getting to know black pastors, attending their churches and serving on the board of a small ministry to the homeless in the center of this predominantly black area. I’ve helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for many of these ministries. I’ve even been involved in Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations and lobbied to get a street named after the slain civil rights leader. read more
Prophets would do well to keep their mouths tightly shut when they don’t have an unction from the Holy Spirit. Yet too many prophets feel the people pressure—the natural expectation that comes with the office—to prophesy profusely in public meetings. And too many prophets feel they must offer up a “prophetic word” about the latest natural disaster, governmental shift or economic crisis.
Yes, God surely does nothing unless He reveals it to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). But that doesn’t mean prophets and prophetic people should move beyond the unction and in to presumption, does it? We can prophesy according to the proportion of our faith all day long, but that doesn’t necessarily make it accurate, does it? Prophetic ministry is not an exercise that is ego-boosting—or at least it shouldn’t be.
Week in and week out I write this column. Sometimes I share experiences from my life. Sometimes I share prophetic insights. Sometimes I offer warnings. This week I am fighting a horrible cold and I didn’t really have anything to say. I was not moved by the Holy Ghost to offer a profound exhortation or even some simple edification when I sat down at my computer to start typing. I didn't have anything to say. read more
I’d rather invest in a few emerging leaders than preach to crowds of thousands. Here’s why.
Once when I was traveling in India a pastor made a tempting proposal. “If you come to our city, we will stage a big evangelistic campaign and invite thousands,” he said. “You can preach to all of them.” This man assumed I would be intrigued. After all, I could take photos of the big crowds and use them to brag later about how many people made decisions for Christ.
I didn’t accept the offer. Instead I gave the man a second option. “Let me spend three days with a small group of pastors,” I said. “Let me encourage them, and then they can go out and preach at the big meetings. They will do a much better job than I could.” read more
I was involved in another prophetic experience that I think has some great lessons. It happened when I was flying our ministry plane to Nashville, Tenn., with some of our musicians to do some recording.
After taxing to the General Aviation ramp, a line girl directed us to a parking spot. After we deplaned, the wife of one of our musicians said to the line girl as she walked past her, “You get along with animals better than you do people—you should have been a vet.” The line girl looked stunned, and I couldn’t help wondering if this had insulted her.
Our team left with their ride, which had been waiting to take them to the recording studio. Before I left, I gave my fuel order at the service desk when the line girl came in and blurted out, “Was that girl with you a psychic?” I said, “No, but why do you ask?” She told me that when she was parking our plane she was thinking about how she gets along better with animals than she does people and that she should have become a vet. That’s when the musician’s wife spoke to her. read more
Sabine Barig-Gould apologized for the famous English hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers” he wrote in 1865. Why? For writing it so quickly that some of its lines were “faulty.” He permitted hymnbook compilers to change some of the lyrics, such as the phrase “one in hope and doctrine” to “one in hope and purpose” and “we are not divided” to “though divisions harass.”
If Barig-Gould were alive today, he may be compelled to offer his permission to change the title, adding the word “wounded” to the plight of the Christian soldier.
Sadly, there are too many wounded saints limping around the church trying their level best to serve God. Rather than walking in their Christ-given victory, they are walking in emotional defeat that oft holds them in bondage. Beloved, many of us have battle scars but many others are still the walking wounded. They need the healing balm of Gilead, spiritual medicine to heal their souls. But they also need natural, practical help to break free. read more
Pentecost’s power is more than wind, fire and supernatural hoopla. Without love it is just noise.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Pentecostal”?
A. · · A woman with a beehive hairdo, support hose, Granny shoes and no makeup?
B. · · Someone rolling on the floor while speaking in tongues uncontrollably?
C. · · A slick-haired televangelist in a white suit who begs for donations?
D. · · A sour-faced Christian who looks like he just sucked all the juice out of a lemon?
E.···· A sincere Christian who passionately loves God and people and believes in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit?
I wish we all could answer E., but we Pentecostals have an image problem. I’m not ashamed of the word itself, but I don’t use it as a label because the bad stereotypes (A., B., C. and D.) have just about ruined it for the rest of us. Many people associate Pentecostals with dry legalism, fanaticism, charlatanism and downright hatefulness. read more
A young woman called me looking for a prophetic word. She was befuddled, sore vexed and all-out desperate to hear from God about a certain situation.
This young, Spirit-filled woman, we’ll call her Tammy, insisted she just couldn’t hear from God. She had prayed. She has worshipped. She had read books on how to hear the voice of God. Yet she adamantly confessed that she could not hear a word. She called me because she wanted to me to “go to the throne” on her behalf.
Tammy went on to rehearse every detail the devil was telling her. She told me how the devil said she was going to get fired on the next round of job layoffs. She told me how the devil said her car was going to break down soon. She told me how the devil said she was going to get sick. And she was full of fear.
Can you see the contrast yet? Tammy did not believe she could hear the voice of God—and this after I had coached her for weeks on how to quiet her soul and listen for that still small voice—yet she could tell me every lie the devil was whispering in her ear with pinpoint accuracy. And her fear testified that she believed those lies. read more
Robert Stearns' Jerusalem Banquet in New York City is a magnificent event that brings together Jews and Christians who share a love of and support for Israel. read more
Day and night. Night and day. These are themes that run through the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—and they are awakening the praying church to new realms of intercession.
Fellowshipping with God through prayer and worship is what we were created for. It’s just that simple. Yet how easy is it to stray from this reality when the spirit of the world is tugging on your sleeve with trouble, with persecution, with the worries of this life, or with the deceitfulness of riches?
How easy is it? Too easy in an American church that’s being lulled to sleep by a false gospel working its way into our mindsets through compromised Christian television preachers and seeker-friendly congregations that look to make numbers rather than disciples. read more
In the days leading up to the Global Day of Prayer, let’s bombard heaven on behalf of the United States.
Twelve years ago a South African businessman, Graham Power, felt God nudge him to organize a prayer gathering in the city of Cape Town. About 45,000 Christians responded to the call by jamming into a rugby stadium in March 2001 to intercede for their nation.
That was the beginning of the Global Day of Prayer, an event that will likely involve millions of Christians in 220 nations on Pentecost Sunday, May 27. This year organizers are encouraging people to extend their prayers for 10 days prior to the event, beginning on May 17. They are also urging pastors to fuel the prayer with sermons about the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s power. read more
Ive never understood why only a few Pentecostals celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Maybe its our revivalist tradition that came from the sawdust trail where anything that hinted of formal religion was thrown out. read more
On May 9 President Obama finally openly voiced his support for gay marriage. Already he has falsely characterized opposition to abortion as a war on women, thus stating his support for abortion rights and further adding fire to his campaign to ignite gender and class warfare.
Evidence of suppression of Christian expression in the military grows. Under Obamacare, freedom of religion has been abridged in the requirement that our Catholic brethren provide employees with birth control coverage through their health insurance programs. The president's "concession" requiring only the insurance companies to make that provision is no concession at all. The Catholic Church still pays for the service. It makes no difference that we Protestants do not share the Catholic conviction concerning birth control. It would be a mistake to assume that this requirement doesn't touch us. If the Catholic conscience can be overridden in this case in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state, then other religious freedoms for the rest of us can be similarly abridged.
These are not simple differences of political opinion, but are rather issues of morality that matter deeply to God. As America's moment of decision approaches, take note and remember these things, together with much that will yet be revealed in the course of the presidential campaign. Listen carefully to what the candidates and their surrogates say, note what is actually done by both of them and then vote according to your conscience. read more
The president’s decision to endorse same-sex marriage is a great disappointment for many people. His statement—which he announced Wednesday—is of great concern to those who still believe in traditional marriage.
These people fall into two major categories—those whose belief systems are informed by their spiritual background and those who have been convinced that redefining marriage will be a horrible social experiment that will further weaken America’s declining structure.
Many in the faith community have suspected for some time that the president’s announcement was coming. It seems as though the administration feels that this moment will bolster the same-sex marriage movement from the crushing defeat it experienced in North Carolina. read more
Reclaiming the process of discipleship will require a total overhaul of how we do church.
I get funny looks from some charismatic Christians when I tell them I believe God is calling us back to radical discipleship. Those in the over-50 crowd—people who lived through the charismatic movement of the 1970s—are likely to have a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to the dreaded “D word.”
That’s because the so-called Discipleship Movement (also known as the Shepherding Movement) turned a vital biblical principle into a weapon and abused people with it. Churches that embraced the warped doctrines of shepherding required believers to get permission from their pastors before they bought cars, got pregnant or moved to a new city. Immature leaders became dictators, church members became their loyal minions, and the Holy Spirit’s fire was snuffed out because of a pervasive spirit of control. read more
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