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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


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

Crying Wolf on Racism

The controversy surrounding Arizona's new border law is unprecedented. From the White House to girls on the basketball team, we find people voicing their criticism of the legislation. Many people upset about the law call it "racist" and "xenophobic." Unfortunately, it seems the real reason for the outcry is a political attempt to change the tables in the 2010 and 2012 elections. 

The real game-changer would occur if the largest minority vote, the Hispanic community, falls uncontested into the hands of the Democratic Party. If the Democrats can ramp up the rhetoric loud enough and long enough, they may very well attract a majority of Hispanic voters for the next two and a half years. If they can keep the controversy going instead of solving the problem, the party will maintain both their Congressional seats and perhaps even the presidency. read more

God's Strategic Plan for Iran

An Iranian evangelist says a spiritual awakening of unprecedented magnitude is occurring behind the scenes in a nation known for its terrorism.

Most Americans have put Iran on a blacklist. We're concerned about Shiite militants who spread terrorism around the world, we don't trust Iran's nuclear weapons plans and we can't stomach Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's human rights record or his maniac ways.

But my friend Lazarus Yeghnazar, an Iranian evangelist based in England, hopes you will develop some compassion for this part of the world. Most of us associate the Bible with Israel, but did you know that Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezra and Habakkuk all walked on Persian land that is now called Iran? In fact, the tombs of Esther, Daniel, Habakkuk, Cyrus and Darius are in Iran. read more

God Cares for You

Do you know why there are many believers today who don't cast their cares upon the Lord? It is because they don't have a revelation that He cares for them. Look at what His Word says: "[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7, NKJV). Unless you have absolute confidence that Jesus cares for you, you will not cast your cares upon Him.

Just think: Would you call upon the help of a relative or friend in your time of need if you were not confident that the person would respond to your call? Jesus cares for you! When you call upon Him, you can know that you have His fullest attention with all of heaven's resources backing you up. read more

How to Humble Yourself

Pointedly, persistently and passionately, in both Old and New Testaments, the Bible calls us to humility.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses told the Israelites three times that God tested them in the wilderness for the express purpose of humbling them: "The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee...and he humbled thee...that he might humble thee" (Deut. 8:2-3, 16, KJV, emphasis added). By inspiration the apostle Paul added that their trials were recorded as examples to us in this Christian era: "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11). In his epistle, therefore, James exhorts Christians everywhere, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord" (James 4:10). Peter orders the same in his general epistle, "humble yourselves...under the mighty hand of God" (1 Pet. 5:6). read more

Religious Predators Target Girls?

For many years, Africans and immigrants from the Middle East have secretly remained faithful to cultural rituals and rights of passage that have been designed to keep their young women chaste and eligible for marriage. Partial or total female circumcision is one of these practices. In an alarming reversal of protocol and wisdom, this dehumanizing practice is gaining acceptance within the U.S. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that American doctors be given permission to perform "ceremonial" female circumcisions.  

Once again American leaders are fearfully overcompensating for cultural and religious practices from other lands. America especially seems to be intimidated by rituals found in Islam. There are some cities in the nation that even desire to allow Sharia law to operate in the United States. In that spirit of accommodation, the AAP wants to give pinpricks or to "nick" the genitals of young girls here in the U.S. whose families come from cultures that mandate female circumcisions. The doctors' rationale is that if they perform the lesser procedure here in the States, it would keep their families from sending the girls overseas for full circumcisions. 

Before I go further, let me explain exactly what female circumcision is. The biological reason behind this practice is to reduce a girl's sexual desire. Many cultures and religious groups are convinced that this practice will ensure a young woman's virginity until marriage. Removal of all or part of the clitoris is the essence of female circumcision. The more extensive procedure could also involve stitching the vagina. Reducing the size of the vagina is also intended to increase the husband's enjoyment of the sexual act. 

Although the current law "makes criminal any non-medical procedure performed on the genitals" of a girl in the United States, the AAP believes that U.S. residents will be discouraged from returning to their homelands for the cruel surgeries often administered by midwives or female village elders.

Thankfully, there are many opponents to female genital mutilations. Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York, actually introduced a bill that would make it a crime to take a girl oversees for such a purpose. Georgeanne Chapin of Intact America has urged the AAP to avoid moving down a "slippery slope." More specifically she said, "There are countries in the world that allow wife beating, slavery and child abuse, but we don't allow people to practice those customs in this country. We don't let people have slavery a little bit because they're going to do it anyway, or beat their wives a little bit because they're going to do it anyway." 

Today, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that over 130 million women and girls have undergone female genital cutting. Circumcisions are typically performed on girls under 15-years old in countries including Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. Earlier this week, I saw a BBC special from South Africa which had a village "mother" explaining her commitment to cutting the genitals of the younger women with wives tales about their sex organs growing backward inside of their bodies, thus creating long term health problems. Unfortunately, the true story is that there are severe consequences to this surgery. The problems include: 

1.) severe complications with pregnancy, 

2.) problems with childbirth, and 

3.) sexual dysfunction later in life. 

Nonetheless, the AAP restates its rationale as follows "in some countries where FGC (female genital cutting) is common, some progress toward eradication or amelioration has been made by substituting ritual ‘nicks' for more severe forms."

America needs to take an about face from our temptation to tiptoe around problems like these. Our national leaders like Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, are reticent to "tell it like it is" if another faith -especially Islam - could be seen in a bad light. We must take a different approach and speak out against genuine sexist or dehumanizing practices which can harm our people. We cannot let any faith tradition get away with abusing our citizens - especially children.

We applaud our national desire to allow religious freedom. This openness is something we have all learned from Christianity. Other nations, however, are hardly as open or respectful of human rights.

More specifically let's look at the Muslim faith's track record of religious tolerance. In the Islamic world there are several nations, which have large populations of non-Muslims who had been conquered by jihad wars. Historically Islam conquered huge territories in Africa, Asia and Europe from the 630s AD until 1683 or so.  In these nations, dhimmitude is a status given to non-Muslims and their own formerly sovereign land. The word "dhimmitude" comes from dhimmi, an Arabic word meaning protected.

Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma).  Dhimmitude is an extension of the ideology of jihad. 

The dhimmis - the conquered people who remain Christian or Jewish - have a protected status under Islamic law. Yet, they also are targets of mass discrimination. In Iran, for example, dhimmis may have to change the names of their children to Islamic names in order for them to be able to attend school. Their local religious leadership may be persecuted or deliberately eliminated to inhibit their practice of their "protected" religion. In addition, strict rules concerning public conduct have been imposed on dhimmis in certain communities. 

In Turkey, religious freedom does not exist according the definition established by the United States or the international community. Due to their policy of secularism, religious freedom walks on a tightrope. Secularism is practiced not as a way to insure that religious groups do not exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings for personal or political influence, but it is mechanism for state control over religion and the practices and rights of religious groups. 

In conclusion, our parents, our schools, our doctors, and our laws must protect our most vulnerable residents and citizens. Until other faiths, especially the Islamic community, observe the basic rights and freedoms of all people regardless of their race, color, gender and religion to enjoy constitutional and legal protection, they cannot lay claim to humanitarianism.  At the same time we must resist non-productive compromises that endanger our people.

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Don't Downplay the Power of Pentecost

Pentecost is Sunday, May 23. Here are four reasons we should celebrate the Spirit's outpouring.

I've often wondered why we tend to ignore the historic events of Acts 2. We celebrate Christmas for weeks, and we pack as many people as possible into our churches on Easter Sunday. But in our smug evangelical subculture, Pentecost is just an add-on, if it's noticed at all. We can take it or leave it.

Many pastors will make no mention of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost Sunday, May 23. read more

Christ Our Hope

About a year ago I wrote on the subject of biblical hope. Since then, like many believers, my wife, Naomi, and I have been pelted with heartbreaking news. Unexpected deaths of friends and ministry associates. Cancer among our dearest friends. Defections from the ministry. Moral failures. Bankruptcies. Church splits. Widespread disillusionment—even among veteran believers. Over all of this there seems to be a virtual canopy of "dis-ease." Just as Jesus predicted, "People [are] fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world" (Luke 21:26, ESV). read more

Free Refills

There probably isn't a mother alive who doesn't love McDonald's. Not for the cuisine, mind you, but for the convenience. Due to today's busy lifestyles, many moms frequently take advantage of this fast-food phenomenon.



At one time I was among the millions who do, and I have to admit, my kids loved it, too. It was amazing how my tots could spot those golden arches from their backseat vantage point! They would squeal with delight at the prospect of "driving through."

The real thrill came, however, when we actually pulled in, parked and went inside. read more

God Will Guard Your Promise in Dark Times

Many people today feel overwhelmed by negative circumstances. But you can be sure the Lord has an amazing plan to carry you through.

Long ago God promised He would send the Messiah through the lineage of King David. Yet there was a time in Judah's history when the royal seed was almost snuffed out.

It happened during the oppressive reign of Queen Athaliah, a selfish woman who was so power-hungry that she killed her own grandchildren in an attempt to secure her position. The Bible says in 2 Kings 11:1-3:

"When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him from among the king's sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So they hid from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. So he was hidden with her in the house of the Lord six years, while Athaliah was reigning in the land (NASB)." read more

Strategies for a Season of Crisis

We are approaching a season of crisis, and in a season of crisis, the strategies of heaven must invade your sphere of authority. What does this mean?

You have been positioned by God in a particular sphere of authority. You must understand your sphere and know how to operate in it with others. This sphere is where you are watching the formation of your "new." read more

Outside the Box

 After Mother went home to be with the Lord, the family held an estate sale of her possessions that had been sitting in boxes for years.

As I rummaged through the boxes of elegant china, laces and linens, one box in particular caught my eye. This one smelled musty, and a piece of straw was poking through the top. I pried it open with scissors and began to sneeze. read more

On 'Cinco de Mayo', Please Check Your 'Actitud'

Many Christians who defend biblical morality can sound hateful when it comes to immigration policy. What happened to loving our neighbor?

A few years ago I attended my oldest daughter's college graduation ceremony in north Georgia. The school had invited a respected state legislator to address the students—a woman known for her conservative Christian values. I enjoyed some of her remarks, until she suddenly veered onto the subject of immigration policy.

This lady launched into a blistering tirade against illegal immigrants and blamed them for bringing danger, drugs and disease into the United States. An icy chill went through the audience and students began to fidget nervously with their graduation caps. I was embarrassed. read more

The Father's Heart and Prophetic Warnings for the Coming Days

I have not been alone in hearing from God and issuing a prophetic word that God is moving His people from the age of salvation to the age of the kingdom of God; from a focus on self, personal healing and individual blessing to a focus on demonstrating the power of the kingdom of God beyond the walls of the church for the sake of all those Jesus came to save.

But He has also been calling us deeper into His heart—a message not often proclaimed. Sooner or later, power exercised without the loving heart of the Father results in foolishness and abuse, even when it's heaven's power. The kingdom of God operates on the law of God and the order of God. He is, after all, a King. His law and His order are the expression of His own nature and character. read more

Afraid to Try?

I heard of a guy who couldn't speak English. He was terrified of trying because he did not want to fail. So he found an English teacher and asked him to teach him how to order a meal in a restaurant in perfect English. The teacher taught him how to say four words: hamburger, french fries, Coke.

Every day after that, the man went to order his hamburger, french fries and Coke. Soon he grew tired of eating the same things every day. So he asked the English teacher to teach him how to order something else to eat. The teacher taught him to say eggs, toast and juice. read more

Unclog Your Wells

In February I spoke to a group of ministry leaders associated with a particular denomination in South Carolina. They are hungry for a fresh move of God, but they are also aware that they aren’t effectively reaching people for Christ. Most of their small congregations are getting grayer by the day. I told these folks they have only two options: Change or die.

Using a story from the life of Isaac, I reminded them that we should never build our ministries with only one generation in mind. God identifies Himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Ex. 3:6, NASB). He wants His work to advance from one generation to the next. And this requires us to be open to change.

After Abraham’s death, Isaac journeyed to the land of Gerar during a famine. Genesis 26:18 says, “Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father ... for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham.”

God wants to open spiritual wells of blessing, but He doesn’t want to limit that blessing to one generation. Our enemy loves to stuff our wells with all kinds of garbage—religiosity, tradition, legalism and denominational politics. We must keep our wells unclogged.

Isaac renovated his father’s wells so they could be a blessing to his generation. In the same manner, we must be willing to remodel our ministries so the younger generation will want the drink we offer. I’m not talking about changing our core message or compromising on the altar of cultural fads. But we won’t effectively reach the Isaac generation with a stale, outdated presentation.

We need an extreme makeover. Here are just a few areas where you may need renovation, remodeling and unclogging:

1. Genuine, authentic spirituality. We overdosed on hype during the charismatic-Pentecostal movement. We celebrated preachers who wore shiny suits and helmet hair. We felt it was OK to push people to the floor during altar-ministry times. But young people today are nauseated by fakery and pretense. We don’t have to act weird to be supernatural.

2. Music styles. If we want to reach young people then we must update our playlists. We can’t be selfish and build our church services around the music of 1972. And remember: It is possible to update the great hymns of the church with new instrumentation without losing those classics.

3. Dress codes. Young people feel out of place when everyone looks like they are at a funeral. Many young guys today can’t afford to buy a dark suit, and young women don’t want to be forced to wear a feathered hat, white gloves or a skirt that covers their ankles. Nothing will clog up your well faster than yesterday’s religious garb.

4. Team leadership. The one-man show was the norm in churches in 1980. That system didn’t work and wasn’t biblical. Young people today want interaction and connection. In the New Testament, Paul had a multigenerational, multiethnic team that included men and women (see Rom. 16:1-16). So should we.

5. Relational discipleship. In the past season, Christians tended to be spectators who built their spiritual lives around big events. But young people don’t want to learn from a guy who arrives at the church in a limousine, sits on a throne on the stage, preaches from a pedestal and then disappears. They want a real relationship with a real spiritual father (or mother) who is willing to spend time with them.

6. Technology. You would never go to a foreign country to serve as a missionary without learning its language. Yet today many churches try to reach the younger generation without mastering digital media. God wants to use all new forms of communication to spread His truth.

Don’t get stuck in an old place. The Holy Ghost offers the best Drano for your clogged wells. Open up your life to the new things God is doing in this exciting hour.

 


 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 book, The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale, was released in April. read more


The ‘New’ Charisma

Much has happened since Charisma was started in 1975—in the church, in our culture and with technology. Over those 30-plus years I’ve been blessed to be part of many powerful moves of the Holy Spirit. Yet seasons change. read more
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