By the time many of
you receive this, Congress may have found a solution to the current
debt-ceiling crisis. The immediate danger may be averted—temporarily.
The real issue, however, isn't the budget, the debt ceiling or
anything else, as much as it is a philosophical battle over the
direction of the country. This is the root of the intransigence and
increasing bitterness exhibited by both parties.
I learned some important lessons about courage last
weekend while I was dangling in midair.
am not a daredevil. I have never bungie-jumped off a cliff, parachuted out of
an airplane or spent any time in a shark cage. But when my friend Michael Cole
from Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI) asked me
to speak at a leadership retreat in Ohio—and he informed me that we would be
participating in a high ropes course on Saturday afternoon—I said to myself, Bring
on the challenge! I thought it would be fun!
Few of us are privileged enough to inherit millions. Even
so, those who do must wait to tap into their inheritance. That is not so with
the believer. We receive a portion—or “down payment”—of what eternally awaits
us when we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ redeemed us from the curse by His death, paid
our debt and has called us to an eternal inheritance. We read in Hebrews 9:15,
“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death,
for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those
who are called may receive the promise of the eternalinheritance” (emphasis added).
When I felt led to start a small church magazine, I barely knew what
God had in store. That magazine released 36 years ago today, so I
thought it was appropriate to reflect on what's happened, and more
importantly what is on the verge of happening as we move boldly into the
Many of you know Charisma started at a megachurch in central
Florida. I was working full time as a newspaper reporter then. My, how
the media world has changed! The staff found this in the archives: a
black-and-white photo of me holding a copy of The Rock, a youth newspaper that I published before Charisma.
They had me hold an iPad to show the contrast. Back then I could have
never imagined today's iPad! Yet I dreamed that maybe somehow we'd reach
a million people. Do you know how many trees you'd have to cut down to
print that many magazines?
So from 1975—before the personal computer was invented and a time
when the electric typewriter I used was considered
high-tech—fast-forward more than three decades and now Charisma (and our other magazines) are available in digital format that's almost beyond belief.
Two elderly missionaries inspired me this week to
value character so I can finish well.
You’ve probably never heard of Hobert and
Marguerite Howard. They didn’t write best-selling books. They aren’t rich. They
don’t preach on television or pastor a megachurch. Fame was the farthest thing
from their minds when they both surrendered their lives to serve God on the
In 1951 this Pentecostal couple boarded a
steamship and sailed for 50 days to India, where they built orphanages, schools
and churches and trained Christian leaders. This week the Howards officially
retired, and I had the privilege of attending a special reception to honor them
for 60 years of service.
"Know this day that all you need shall be upheld in
the atmosphere of perfect love. While many would allow godly love to grow cold,
choose in all things to let that love abound through you. It will overcome the
impossible and create an entrance for the supernatural," says the Spirit.
Because we are living in the last days that Jesus spoke
about, it is more important than ever that we examine our walk with God
regularly. The enemy is using so many different temptations, trials and
distractions to throw people off track. Jesus said one of the ways this
would happen is that our love for each other would begin to show signs of
growing cold (Matt. 24:12).
Despite a “solid Christian” upbringing—raised in Hong Kong by Southern Baptist missionaries—I don’t remember ever being taught specifically about the Holy Spirit during my youth. Not one sermon or Bible study devoted to who He is, what He does, why we need Him ... nothing.
Like the kid on the playground picked for teams only because he was the coolest kid’s little brother, the Holy Spirit became a tagalong idea to my understanding of God. I doubt those raising me spiritually intended to shun the Holy Spirit so badly. Sure, He was always trumpeted as the divine inspirer of Scripture. And He was a staple on Sunday school flannelgraphs as the “dove from above” who accompanied Jesus.
But there was no talk of the Holy Spirit being an actual person like Jesus or the Father. Other than acknowledging by rote the Spirit’s fruit, there wasn’t a connection to how He regularly operated in us to produce such fruit. Certainly passages such as 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 (listing the Spirit’s gifts) weren’t discussed. After all, our mission board, though not cessassionist on paper, sent home any appointees found speaking in tongues or publicly confessing to such “extreme” gifts of the Spirit.
How to avoid the traps of religion and enjoy a real relationship with God
As a teacher of God’s Word, I have a great responsibility to equip people with the knowledge of how to live a holy life and not be legalistic. It’s part of addressing the age-old issue in the church of liberty versus legalism—by helping believers understand how to be free in Christ instead of “holier than thou.” But in our quest for freedom, we can’t forget that God is a holy God, and He does want us to live holy lives.
A good place to start is by simply understanding the difference between what real holiness actually means and what legalism looks like.
“Holy” means being separate and set apart for God’s use. It’s about belonging to God, not the world, and pleasing God, not man. The focus is on God’s love and grace—God’s power, given to us free of charge, to enable us to do with ease what we could never do with any amount of struggle or effort. It’s having a heart that desires to do what’s right because you love God, not because you want to try to earn something from God or impress anybody.
I was born again 41 years ago. At that time I had such a
thirst for God’s Word that I would read it for hours, often staying up until 2
or 3 a.m.
One of the Scriptures I encountered that set me on this
course was Joshua 1:8: “this Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth,
but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do all that
is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will
have good success” (NKJV).
In March of this year, approximately a week after
the earthquake in Japan, I abruptly awoke at 1:23 a.m. I did not give it much
thought, until I again suddenly awoke at precisely 1:23 a.m. the very next
night. Knowing that the Lord was speaking through this prophetic sign, I
carefully examined all the 1:23, 1:2-3, 12:3 and 123 scriptures in the Bible. I
discovered in the 123 verses a clear prophetic message to America. The first thing that caught my attention was that
two of the 123 scripture passages in the Gospels proclaim a sober message to
prepare the way of the Lord, by making a straight path for Him.
There are three basic
categories of Christians. The largest group consists of people who, though they
try to avoid the darkness in the world, have no hope that the world can be
redeemed. Assuming Christ's return is imminent, they retreat into what seems a
shelter of apathy concerning the non-Christian world around them. Yet most are
not truly apathetic. Their souls, like Lot's, are vexed by the conduct of
unprincipled men (2 Pet. 2:7-8). Their compassion, though, is kindled even if
it's limited. Rarely do they extend themselves beyond the needs of their
immediate family and closest friends.
Peanuts. It is amazing that I still love them after all the
drama they caused me as a very young boy.
My mom kept a very large can of them in the cabinet. She kept a container the size of a tub
of coffee, or an old “Crisco” can shut up tight with a plastic lid.
It is funny how certain events that happened even when we
were very young are forever burned into our memories. This is one such
incident. One night I was watching TV and had one of those “I need a
snack” thoughts. I quietly went into the kitchen, climbed up in a chair
where I could just reach the elusive peanut can. I got it down. It
was very heavy … a good sign … it meant LOTS of peanuts to enjoy as I watched
“Lassie.” I carried the can into
the TV room and proceeded to climb up into my mom’s favorite overstuffed chair.
By all outward appearances, this was shaping up to be a
great night. When I tried to get the lid off of the peanut can I noticed
that it was very tight. I turned the can slightly on its side to get
better leverage. POP. The lid came off. Instant tragedy! Used fried chicken oil spilled all over and
worse, all over my mom’s special chair. My mom had used an empty peanut
can to save her fried chicken oil to use again.
Many young adults today are abandoning biblical
faith or mixing it with other religions. How should we respond?
Since the Wild Goose
Festival was held in North Carolina’s mountains, you might be tempted to think
it was a typical bluegrass festival. Think again. The organizers of this event,
which attracted 1,500 people in late June, say their quasi-Christian conference
“is going to grow into the largest, best run, most dynamic religious happening
in the U.S.”
If a slick-haired TV
evangelist had made such a pompous statement we would have rolled our eyes and
laughed the guy off the stage. But the founder of Wild Goose, a peace activist
from Northern Ireland named Gareth Higgins, is convinced his movement will
capture the hearts of young Americans who are questioning their evangelical
faith and exploring other options.
I wish you could have experienced the powerful connections that
took place recently at our headquarters near Orlando, Fla., with high
level ministry and business leaders. It illustrated the “power of
connection,” which to me is important since I am a “networker”
Graham Power, a successful Christian businessman from South Africa
who founded the Global Day of Prayer, shared from his rich experience
in the marketplace and in ministry. He taught on principles of
leadership and living out one's calling as a believer in the business
world in a program he calls "Unashamably Ethical." Click
here to listen to an interview
We also had time to talk in a confidential round-table setting
about some of the opportunities and challenges we were facing in our
different situations, share ideas, offer counsel and of course pray
together. We all left encouraged and equipped. The emails I've been
getting have told how much they got as members of the new Ministry21
M21 Network (as we sometimes call it)
is a relational network bringing together like-minded pastors and
leaders to develop their own leadership skills, connect them with
others, provide needed coaching, continuing education and wonderful
Time and space are two of the most interesting and difficult
concepts to grasp as you move through your life journey. We are in time, but
God is not. Though some of us may feel that we were born out of time, we have
been set in time and place to understand our Creator and what He created us to
For many, mother-in-law jokes have a ring of reality. But for me
they don’t. I had the perfect mother-in-law—Rose Ferrell who left
us this week. In the 38 years I've been her son-in-law, we never had
a cross word. It was well known in the family that she always sided
with the in-laws if there was ever an argument.
She lived with Joy and me for the past 3-1/2 years. She was always
independent and a pleasure to have in the home. She was a godly
woman, and I would hear her praying for her six children, nine
grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Now she’s gone. On Monday, at age 96, she breathed her last
surrounded by family and friends. I had spent the night with her in
the hospital on Friday, helping the nurses care for her. I fed her
breakfast and she was doing so well I took off the next morning for
the annual booksellers convention in Atlanta. But she had been
hospitalized for congestive heart failure and Monday morning it was
obvious it was a matter of hours until she died. As soon as I found
out, I immediately flew home from Atlanta and arrived at the
hospital in Altamonte Springs, Fla., an hour before her heart quit
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).
interesting to me that one of the greatest states in our Union, New York, has
recently made legal the marriage of two people of the same sex. There is a lot
of sin in the world, and along with God I am against all of it, to include any
that may operate within me.
However, when something as profound as this happens
in our nation and I barely hear a peep from people who call on the name of the
Lord Jesus, that scares me.
During the holidays one year my family traveled to London,
England, for a vacation. After we returned, I realized that the trip was an
analogy of a much more important journey each of us is on — fulfilling God’s
plan for his or her life.
In the aftermath of the devastation of 9-11, coupled
with the series of severe and destructive hurricanes, historic Gulf
oil spill, wars in the Far East, uprisings in northern Africa and the
Middle East, and the devastating earthquake in Japan all happening in
just the last few years, one is prone to ask many questions. In times
of uncertainty, the “why” question appears in its many forms. But
perhaps the question to be asking is not just “Why?” but “How?”
How are we to respond in such times? Difficult times
come–whether it is in our own lives, or in a family, church,
business, city or even nation.