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Filled With Misgivings: 9/11’s Birthday

Last Friday I had the privilege of appearing on the MacNeil/Lehrer Hour. My segment of the program had a Muslim leader, a liberal church leader who had worked extensively in New York just after 9/11, a secular current affairs blogger and myself (an evangelical minister). Our exchange was lively but thoughtful. The rest of the panel accused the majority of Americans of religious intolerance to some degree. They saw the threat of Koran burning made by Pastor Terry Jones of Dove Fellowship in Gainsville, Fla., as emblematic of a huge national resurgence of anti-Islamic sentiments.

On the other hand, I pointed out that the nation has never fully processed its grief about Sept. 11 or been told how to conduct itself in the "new" America. I cited the fact that religious leaders have the greatest access to the bulk of the American public. Unfortunately, many of us have not addressed the twin sisters of intolerance (fear and anger) that lurk within the hearts and minds of many of our parishioners. Political correctness has not allowed spiritual leaders to talk about their members' concerns or encourage them to be tolerant of Muslim neighbors' faith and background. I also was able to declare that tolerance works two ways. A few years ago, my congregation experienced a situation in which several community groups opposed our desire to build in a very exclusive neighborhood. Although we have the right to erect a church on an historic farm, which included the state of Maryland's oldest beach tree and a slave graveyard; it would not have created an environment for ministry in that community. Therefore, we chose to sell the property to a developer and find another location. read more

Surviving Life's Tsunamis

It seemed like a regular day at the beach. When the blasts of billions of tons of water wrecked the coasts of more than a dozen Asian nations on Dec. 26, 2004, most of the people on the beaches were totally unaware of the looming danger. In its wake the massive tsunami claimed more than 200,000 lives in 14 countries and left millions homeless. It was one of the largest natural disasters in history.

Life can be like that. Suddenly, without warning, you're hit with a torrent of trouble. Like the psalmist, you cry, "All Your waves and billows have gone over me" (Ps. 42:7, NKJV). Some of life's "tsunamis" literally hit home. Sudden shock waves jar us, pulling us against our will into a sea of trouble. Suddenly we feel overwhelmed with horrible circumstances. The tranquility of life is disrupted and we wonder if things will ever be the same as they were. read more

The Best Seat in the House


I happened to have been named for a Hollywood actor, James Stewart. If you've never heard of him, that's understandable. He's hardly a pop-culture icon anymore. He had his day in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, dying in 1997 at age 89. But once a year—at Christmastime—he's all over the TV map. Sometimes two, maybe three channels at the same time run his famous, either-you-love-it-or-hate-it movie "It's a Wonderful Life."



Ironically, during most of that film, Stewart's character, George Bailey, is miserable. Life for him is anything but wonderful.



George was a small-town guy who had dreams of leaving his dudsville hometown, Bedford Falls, for high adventure. He was just about to get that dream started when real life slammed him. The needs of others arose, and out of his compassion he responded. Before he knew it, he had sacrificed his own education for his brother's, kept the family-run savings and loan afloat, protected the town from the greed of a greasy banker named Potter, married his childhood sweetheart, and started a family. read more

Just Say No to Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who plans to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11, does not speak for charismatic Christians.


Most of us reacted with a collective groan when we learned that the pastor of a small charismatic church in Gainesville, Fla., said he plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11. I was especially disappointed because I lived in Gainesville in my 20s. This man's irresponsible plot has put a bustling college town in the crosshairs of a possible terrorist attack—and has made evangelical Christians look like intolerant goons.


I'd like to go on the record to say this: Rev. Terry Jones does not speak for charismatic Christians, and his brand of fire-breathing judgmentalism doesn't even remotely resemble the message of Jesus Christ. I am praying that he will repent and renounce his outrageous intentions before the time arrives to strike the first match. read more

America, There Is Still Hope

Being an itinerant speaker affords me the unique opportunity of assessing the state of our nation, as well as that of the church. Both church and country are in dire need of revival—one spiritual, the other economical. Though in the eyes of some the two may seem poles apart, I believe they are inseparably linked. God alone holds the key to both.

Economists tell us that America is on the verge of losing its A+ rating with the seemingly endless demise of the once great American dollar. I believe in the eyes of God, America lost its high approval status years ago, and now stands on the threshold of judgment. read more

Where Are Today's Brave Pioneer Women?

In the oil country of western North Dakota I met a brave woman pastor who is blazing a spiritual trail.

Barb Becker is one tough lady. Raised by alcoholic parents in a mining camp in Wyoming, she lived a rough life that included drugs and promiscuity. People continually told her she was good for nothing. She hated herself and became suicidal.

But in 1985, on the same day she planned to kill herself, she bought a little book called Power for Living for 25 cents at a second-hand store, read the Christian testimonies in it and prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. She became so hungry to know God that she read the Bible straight through four times in three months and ended up getting baptized in the Holy Spirit. read more

The Time of Today

“Savor this time, because the next thing you know, he’ll be all grown up.” I can’t count the number of times older parents have offered my wife and me this advice for raising our two little boys. We heard it so often when our oldest, Brayden, was an infant that the conversations became laughably predictable.

A total stranger (usually a grandmother, dragging her reluctant husband) would walk by our table at a restaurant, peer into Brayden’s car seat, ooh and aah over him, and, after asking how old he was, present her well-worn pearl of wisdom. As Brayden grew older, the interaction differed slightly—he’d initiate a game of peekaboo with a couple sitting across the room, or a grandpa would stop to ask him about his toy—but the advice was always the same: Savor this time. read more

God Is Pro-Choice

No, not like that—His choice is for you to fulfill your destiny

 

God chose me. He didn’t just get stuck with me, and He didn’t settle for me because there was no one else He could choose. He deliberately chose me. And the same is true for you too. 

I didn’t have a special talent when He chose me. The thing I do best is talk, and He’s made me a mouth in the body of Christ. My voice is unusual and unique—not the kind of voice you would think He would choose to broadcast all over the place. But God has given me the opportunity to speak to billions of people around the world. And I don’t always use correct grammar or pronounce words just right, but we don’t have to be polished according to the world’s standards to be used mightily by God. read more

Don't Give Up

Early one Saturday morning, I was sitting on the deck watching a female robin build a nest (or rather try to build a nest). She had chosen a location on the downspout that comes off the gutter. The spout was heavily sloped and made of shiny white aluminum. The surface was obviously very slick. I watched for about an hour.

She had made amazing progress. Then suddenly, as she landed on the nest it started to shift. She actually spread out her wings to use them like feathered arms trying desperately to hold the nearly completed nest in place, but to no avail. The nest slid off and fell two stories to the ground below. read more

Jesus Is Looking for Fruit in His Church

There is a moral rift in the foundation of our nation. But the Bible is very clear that judgment begins with the house of God: "For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God?" (1 Pet. 4:17, AMP).

God's judgments are good. Judgment is different from wrath. Wrath is God's destruction against sin. Judgment is God's righteous discipline and brings redemption and restoration. God's wrath destroys. His judgments redeem.

As we look at our nation today, we can quickly see that our moral foundations are decaying. But this is just a sign that there is a much deeper problem—there is also a crack in the moral foundation of the church. read more

Recovering the Lost Gift of True Friendship

Last week one of my best friends showed me what it really means to selflessly lay down your life.

Last week one of my best friends, Chris Maxwell, organized a two-day prayer gathering for me in north Georgia, where he serves as the pastor of a Christian college. Chris had listened to me whine for months about how confused I was about my future. He took it upon himself to contact a group of my friends, and they agreed to take time off work to pray with me about some important decisions.

Chris not only gathered nine men for this prayer retreat, but he also solicited counsel from other friends who couldn't attend, and from my wife. When I sat down in that living room on the first night, they put me under a microscope and proceeded to meddle in all my business. It was 48 hours of probing questions, wise counsel, sober warnings, gushing encouragement, brotherly affection and in-your-face honesty. read more

The Battle in the Mind

Have you ever heard the statement, "The battle is in the mind"? I have countless times. I've even ministered on the topic.



But have you ever asked yourself, "What battle?" The battle that goes on in our minds is the relentless siege by Satan upon our thought life that is intended to cause us first to think, and then to behave and speak contrary to the Word of God.

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God's New 'Media Centers'

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. –Genesis 1:1-2

I love this verse! One of the words that stands out to me is "hovering." I picture the Spirit of God bursting with passion to create, almost as if He is pulsating like a heartbeat and ready. Suddenly, something new bursts forth.

This scripture grips me because I see the Spirit of God doing the same thing today. He is hovering; He is bursting with excitement to create again, to birth the "new" on the earth.

His heart is to topple the mountain of media, as we know it today. He is stirring His bride and the prayer movement in the earth in happy holiness and joyful righteousness so we will be a people wholly given to the Lord and to His purposes. read more

Let Freedom Ring

This past Sunday, an excited and focused group of people gathered together for a singular purpose - to let our government leaders know that we stand for traditional marriage and for the right to vote on issues that affect the moral compass of our society.  Deitrick and Damita Haddon, the Rev. Walter Fauntroy and the Rev. Alveda King (niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) were among the notables who spoke. Here is the speech I delivered at that event.

Today we are gathering in front of the greatest symbol of American power - the Capitol. We come here today to express our confidence in the institution of marriage. More specifically, we have also come to say to the residents of Washington, D.C.; our two houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the President of these great United States that marriage (in its traditional form) is one of the nation's richest treasures. read more

Six New Testament Words You Need in Your Vocabulary

We've dumbed down the gospel for too long. Let's rediscover the Bible and become mature disciples.

I love words. That's why I do a crossword puzzle every day—not just because it is the mental equivalent of a three-mile bicycle ride, but also because I enjoy discovering that a word such as "coulrophobia" means a fear of clowns, or that "jobbernowl" means a stupid person.

Words are especially important to us as Christians, not only because Jesus is the logos—the word made flesh (see John 1:14)—but because our faith rests on the truth revealed by God in the Bible. We can't really know Him apart from the God-inspired words that describe who He is and what He has done for us. read more

Never Give In to Self-Pity

The opposite of confidence and worth is self-pity. Self-pity occurs when we feel we are warranted to receive but get passed by. This can occur in our natural or spiritual life. Self-pity helps define our moment or, may I say, cause us to miss our moment. We feel we are deserving or entitled to a blessing, and we lose faith when we see a blessing slip past our life.

One of the best examples of self-pity is the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda (see John 5). Jesus knew his full condition and then asked the man if he wanted to be healed.  read more

Christian TV's All-Time Worst Fundraising Gimmicks

Let's stop the hypnotism, the guilt manipulation and the high-pressure gimmicks. It's time to reclaim our lost credibility.

Normally I'd rather go to the dentist for a root canal than watch a telethon. But while channel surfing a few nights ago I tuned into PBS and discovered that Aretha Franklin, the legendary Queen of Soul, was hosting a fundraiser for the network. Seated at a piano, she was offering a 5-CD collection of classic rhythm and blues hits in exchange for a donation to public television.

It was simple. There were no gimmicks, no games and no strings attached in Aretha's offer. If you gave the suggested gift, she explained, PBS would mail you a big slice of American pop culture—including songs by Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops, Al Green and Aretha herself, singing her classic "Respect." read more

From Obstacles to Opportunities

Obstacles and difficulties in life can be challenging! B.C. Forbes was a Scottish financial journalist and author. He once said: "History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They finally won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats. Disappointments acted as a challenge. Don't let difficulties discourage you."

Often our obstacles can be used to activate dormant giftings within us that we have failed to realize. These difficulties can also bring new strength to our lives. Don't you love the way the very situations we hate and avoid at all costs can be used to propel us into something wonderful? read more

Angels of Mercy

Have you ever been in a predicament and someone appeared from out of nowhere to help you? That's happened to me more than once.

Years ago I took a trip from Oklahoma to Michigan driving an old, worn-out car. During the middle of the night somewhere in Missouri my car broke down. Here I was, a female with no credit cards, no AAA, no cellular phone and very limited cash, stranded in the middle of the night on the highway. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me.

Almost immediately from out of nowhere a man in a pick up truck appeared, fixed my car and made sure that I made it safely on my way. Whether he was human or an angel, heaven only knows. But of one thing I'm certain, he was sent by the Lord to help me out of a potentially dangerous situation. read more

Say Goodbye to the Untouchable Preachers

God is shaking His church and removing corruption. But we share the blame for giving charlatans a platform.


Al Capone once controlled all of Chicago. The notorious 1920s gangster bribed the city's mayor, bought the police and presided as king over an empire of casinos, speakeasies and smuggling operations. He dodged bullets for years and lived above the law—and earned the nickname "untouchable" because no one could bring him to justice.

Before Capone finally went to prison in 1932, he justified his crimes by saying: "All I do is satisfy a public demand." He didn't take responsibility for the pain he caused because he knew mayors, policemen, community leaders and bootleggers supported him the whole way. read more

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