Last week 91 guys gathered for a three-day retreat.
It reminded me that real Christianity has nothing to do with superficial
at least 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
we went with a simple format that involved a donated church facility (thank
you, Pastor Donna), a totally informal dress code (jeans and T-shirts),
home-cooked meals (we met in North Carolina, the barbeque capital of the South)
and cheap rooms, courtesy of the local Hampton Inn. What surprised me was that
91 guys 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
(everyone kept their comments brief to allow time for fellowship).
Empty is not fun. No one
likes the thought of an empty glass, an empty gas tank and least of all, an
empty bank account. When considered in those terms, empty is just plain
undesirable. But what would happen if we could begin to think of empty as
opportunity? What if, every time we saw barren, we could imagine bounty?
The idea of seeing what could be instead of what is, would not be,
however, an earthly exercise in wishful thinking, merely an act of human
intellect. Instead it would be a spiritual application of a powerful biblical
principle, which simply teaches; "We [the righteous] live by faith, not by
sight" (2 Cor. 5:7, NKJV). In other words, we are to live in expectancy,
standing on what we know and believe to be true and not living in despair,
troubled by what we see with our natural eyes.
You and I are at the halfway point in a three-year time of transition. A prophetic word has come forth that the years 2008 through 2011 are a season of transition. In God's timing, the halfway point can be the most dangerous time during transition. It is a time when some people decide the journey is too difficult. They can't seem to catch the vision for the new place, so they decide to go back to an old place. Others make wrong turns that cause them to take a detour from their destinations.
In 1993, Pete Myers faced one of the
toughest challenges in sports history. To that point, the 6-foot-6-inch
journeyman had played sparingly for seven NBA teams in seven years. But
prior to joining the Chicago Bulls that year, Myers was asked to do the
impossible: Fill in for Michael Jordan after the greatest basketball
player of all time abruptly decided to retire (for the first time).
I’m thankful I don’t face as daunting a
task as Myers did—not because the person I’m replacing isn’t as
extraordinary, but because of the remarkable inheritance he’s left
behind and the way it’s being transferred. Lee Grady is one of the most
distinct and respected voices in Christian journalism today. After
serving Charisma for 17 years, he’s made my task of following
in his footsteps extremely challenging. Yet one thing I love about Lee
is that he’s never wanted me to trace his trail, but instead to blaze
one for myself. As anyone close to him knows, Lee leads by empowering.
He believes in handing over the necessary tools to let people run their
own course, all while he offers them his unconditional support.
The church desperately needs more Lee
Gradys right now. We need battle-proven generals who are willing to
make way for and empower a new generation of passionate, Spirit-filled
leaders. We need veterans with proven wisdom to help guide those eager
to venture further.
But let me remind my fellow emergents of
this two-sided coin: We may be blazing new trails, but we must not
neglect the wisdom of the pioneers who came before us. Our success will
be directly proportional to how well we listened to the voice of God
speaking through our predecessors. If the church is to truly flourish
in the next season, young and old must understand the need for
intergenerational conversation, not monogenerational monologues.
This month Charisma highlights
the Spirit-prompted generational transfer already in process—and shown
in places such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the ongoing Empowered21
conversations will be celebrated April 8-10. We believe these pivotal
multigenerational gatherings offer hope for all ages. Because as in
this magazine’s transfer from one editor to the next, those involved
understand that the state of the generational inheritance usually
matters more than the individual inheritors.
Famed philosopher and orator Edmund
Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for
good men to do nothing.” It’s true. Doing nothing is easy, but it’s
also dangerous. Where there is no opposition to evil, evil will
We all fall into the trap of complaining
about the things that are wrong. But complaining does nothing except
discourage us even more. It changes nothing because there is no
positive power in it.
Sin began in a garden. Thousands of years later, Jesus Christ stood in another garden and announced His ultimate victory.
The Easter story has many amazing scenes: Jesus' last Passover meal with His disciples, His arrest and brutal scourging, His crucifixion between two criminals, and the dramatic darkness that fell on Jerusalem at the moment of His death. But my favorite part of the story is when Mary Magdalene peered inside Jesus' tomb on that resurrection morning. John 20:11-12 describes it this way:
"But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying" (NASB).
When I was a kid I had one
particular "goin' to church" dress that made me cringe. I was 11 at the time and
the dress—the height of fashion for the late '50s—was crinkly pink organdy,
complete with a wide-swinging under-hoop. If I became too animated while wearing
it, I lost my balance! Even worse, my two younger sisters, Carolyn and Diana,
each had a matching crinkly-hooped dress. As you can imagine, trying to sit
together on the front-row pew during a church service presented a problem.
The Spirit of God was heavy on our 11-year-old daughter, Destiny, when she came to us and said,"Mom and Dad, God just spoke to me and told me to come and tell you something." She really caught our attention because giving us words from the Lord is not something she normally does. She was trembling slightly, and we all felt the presence of God as she shared a vision she had had of a great harvest and told us what God had instructed her to say:
"Prepare your fields for rain, for I am coming!"
We are about to experience a new move of His Spirit. As we welcome it, let's protect the church from abuse and misuse of His gifts.
During the past few months I have prayed for many people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It has reminded me of the mid-1970s, when Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists were discovering the power of the Spirit in small prayer groups, renegade Bible studies and gatherings in hotel ballrooms.
Back then people seemed especially hungry for a deeper experience with God. Hollywood actor Pat Boone wrote a book called A New Song to testify how he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett led thousands into the experience after he was dismissed from his staid, traditional church in California because he admitted speaking in tongues. And Presbyterian novelist Catherine Marshall wrote Something More to describe her encounter with the Baptizer.
Last night I watched the health care vote on C-Span. I was disappointed in how partisan the vote concluded. Quality health care for all will undoubtedly not be the result of last night's vote. Quality care for all means that the breadth of who is covered is matched with the kind of care that compels foreign nationals from around the world to fly to the Johns Hopkins Hospital or the Mayo Clinic. Balancing these two dynamics of care without bankrupting the nation is a victory that every American would celebrate.
spring of 1980, a series of earthquakes and small eruptions drew the attention
of people living in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists and sightseers were drawn
to Mount St. Helens. Steam vents, tremors and hot spots appeared almost
Then on May 18, a 5.1-magitude earthquake shook the mountain. For
a few seconds the north flank seemed to ripple, then broke loose and began
sliding downhill as a massive avalanche. Eruption plumes shot up as quickly as
600 miles an hour. The blast traveled as a hot, churning mass of gas, rock, ash
and ice. More than 50 people were killed or reported missing after the blast,
and the eruption devastated 235 square miles.
In 1999, while in intercession for revival in Arizona, I had a vision of a map of the southwestern region of the United States. Three major cities on the map were highlighted—Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. In the vision, one line was drawn from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and another from Los Angeles to Phoenix.
Last week, research company the Pew
Forum on Religion and Public Life released a comprehensive report on who the
Millennial generation is and how they think. This group, which is comprised of
people aged 18-29, will soon be the America of tomorrow. On the surface, young
people seem less religious, less materialistic, yet, less relationally anchored
than previous generations. I would like to talk about what Millennials'
attitudes toward faith are and what the evangelical church and social
conservatives should do in response. I am convinced they can be reached,
empowered and mobilized ... but not with the same old tired rhetoric and
judgmental approaches. Before I give a prescription, here are some of the specifics
of the spiritual views listed in the Pew report.
As a Christian counselor I have listened
to many married couples express feelings of frustration and hurt because of
their inability to effectively communicate with one another. Studies prove that
communication breakdown is a major source of conflict, one that can eventually
lead to other problems in the marriage, such as a lack of intimacy and divorce.
Statistics prove the truth of what the Bible says in Proverbs 18:21: "The tongue
has the power of life and death" (NIV).
However, there is a remedy. Many of the
struggles married couples face, in fact, can be avoided with the use of some
simple communication tools. Learning to use these tools to express ourselves in
more effective ways fosters better understanding, which results in greater
There are 5 strategic keys that will help propel you into your future and the destiny God has for you this year. Ask Him for specific insight and direction for you and your life, and allow Him to manifest in these areas throughout 2010.
1. God is sounding a wake-up call.
God is sounding a wake-up call to the body of Christ! There has been a lull and a spirit of slumber that has spread over much of the body in the last couple of years. We have become satisfied with "church as usual." Unfortunately, many people have settled into a place of comfort and complacency—but God is shaking and waking this sleeping giant once again!
We can't reach
the younger generation with yesterday's stale religion. It's time to unclog our
week I spoke to a group of ministry leaders associated with a particular
Pentecostal denomination in South Carolina. Many of these men and women 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.
told these folks they have only two options: Change or die.
Most of us remember the stellar advertising campaign A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste designed to give underprivileged college children a bite out of the educational apple. This week Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) decided to use this concept to become an advocate for middle school and high school students as well. Lieberman and five colleagues weighed in on D.C. politics, filing an amendment to a tax extenders bill to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP).
The D.C. OSP was created in 2004 under the Bush administration. These $7,500 scholarships made it possible for students to attend a private school. The students that used these scholarships felt a greater degree of safety as well as made major academic strides. A federally mandated evaluation of the program also showed these private school students received the equivalent of 3.7 months of additional learning than others. This has been done while actually reducing the District's costs as these students only received half of the city's $15,000-per-pupil assessment.
As a young believer, whenever circumstances that I viewed as roadblocks to an otherwise smoothly sailed life appeared, I took them as something to remove. They had no business causing a detour in my well-organized, over-controlled lifestyle. I had determined that anything negative must be the devil's playground, and I needed many hours of standing on the Word to void that which I perceived as his sinister activity. However, this seemed to have no effect. Situations remained.
Avoiding them or trying to pray the problems away was of no use either. Troubles sometimes arrived in a rush with no advance warning. It was confusing. Shouldn't believers be exempt from the normal living that existed for nonbelievers? Doesn't the writer of the psalms tell us that the crooked will be made straight? Doesn't Jesus calm troubled waters? But I also kept coming across words such as "suffering," "trials" and "testing" from New Testament writers. Could it be that somehow the Father allowed those dreadful situations in my life? If so, why?
Last summer while speaking at my church on a Sunday morning, I saw a vision of snakes wrapped around someone's lungs. It wasn't a great vision to have. ... I knew those snakes represented a demonic presence, probably a spirit of infirmity.
I didn't want to say what I was seeing because I thought some poor soul might be visiting for the first time and, not knowing there were such things, be scared to death. So I altered it a bit and said, "I see ropes wrapped around someone's lungs. Because of that constriction they aren't able to breathe, and God wants to heal them."