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 never forget.
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 day.
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.
Robert Stearns, 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.
Father is increasingly bringing His government upon the earth to quicken mankind towards His image and intentions. It is time to assess and discuss the complex aspect of human behavior from a kingdom perspective. I pray we ask the Lord often to reveal to us what needs to be known—that which may be hidden—and help us to receive it and implement it in our lives for His glory. He desires us to be free, and empowers us to act against the very nature of self.
The gospel of the kingdom is the redemptive manner in which God intends for His will to be accomplished in the earth. This, in itself, should alert us to the misappropriation of prevailing messages of the “preparing us for heaven” gospel. Yes, thankfully heaven is in the mix, but the place called heaven is for later while the work of spreading heaven on earth is present and ongoing.
This kingdom is more than the redemptive act accomplished in the Person of Christ, resulting in our going to heaven. We are thankful for redemption, but we cannot remain stuck there, waiting on Him or heaven, while all the while, He is waiting on us. He has empowered us with His Spirit and therefore the power of heaven is within us. No more hanging on for Jesus to return when He is hanging out with us to occupy until He comes.
Lately I’ve been discussing the battle over the marriage definition with friends and parishioners. I have been amazed by a new collaboration between former political rivals in all of our urban, minority communities.
The largely white religious right is literally becoming a melting pot of diversity as far as this marriage issue is concerned. Huge numbers of blacks and Hispanics of faith are starting to feel that there is a “not so subtle” media attack on the nation’s most fundamental institutions. They realize that many movies and TV sitcoms have gone out of their way to express support of so-called “gay rights.”
They marveled at the number of celebrities that have jumped on the bandwagon for same-sex marriage. Two weeks ago 8, a play about Prop 8 produced by Rob Reiner, trotted out Hollywood’s finest—including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, among several openly gay actors and actresses. The entertainers read selected testimonies of traditional marriage which have never been released to the public. The point of the play was simply to ridicule traditional marriage supporters and “expose the bigotry” of the traditional point of view.
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.
The testimony of a former drug dealer from Ohio reminded me this week of the priority of evangelism.
Shannon McNeal: A total transformation
When my new friend Shannon McNeal was just a little boy, his older brothers put him in a washing machine, turned on the water and sat on the lid to trap him inside. Another time they taped him in a cardboard box and threw it down a flight of stairs to see if he would survive. And once they put him in the kitchen oven, turned it on and blocked the door with a chair while he screamed.
Shannon’s mom wasn’t around to stop the brutality. A single mother, she worked long hours at a Ford automobile plant in Lorain, Ohio, near Cleveland. Her husband had walked out on the family when Shannon was 2, leaving the three fatherless boys to fend for themselves.
I’ve been to more networking meetings than I can count. Sometimes I leave discouraged over what I see and hear: leaders with their own agendas whose lives don’t match the New Testament because they tolerate compromise.
But a week ago my reaction at Converge21 in Virginia Beach, Va., was opposite. Instead, there were leaders who see the problems in the church and who are committed to getting the church back on track. Several hundred even signed a resolution articulating this commitment. Keep reading to see the entire resolution.
Converge21—held at Regent University—included many significant leaders like Dr. George Wood of the Assemblies of God, Robert Morris from Gateway Church in Dallas, Billy Wilson of Empowered21 and Pastor Jack Hayford from The King’s University. It was really three meetings in one: the Society for Pentecostal Studies, which held its annual meeting; there was a small invitation only meeting of mostly older charismatic ministries; and Empowered21, which brought in “younger leaders.” Any time you get young people together who are eager to learn and be mentored, there is a tremendous energy!
Exhaustion; that’s the best word to describe how I’ve felt for the past three weeks. And there is no natural reason for it. I’ve been sleeping plenty. Drinking lots of water. Getting plenty of exercise. (Enjoying more than my quota of Starbucks!)
Yet the morning I penned this article—despite sleeping nine hours the night before—I went back to sleep for two hours after taking my daughter to school. And when I woke up, I was still exhausted—and disgusted.
I was starting to wonder what was wrong with me. And then I got a friendly reminder revelation from the Holy Spirit: It’s witchcraft. Wicked witchcraft. How could I forget? It caught me off guard. Now I'm warning you.