“I really feel like God put me in a situation and slowed down my life enough to say: You know what, Marion, I should be the most important One in your life.” —Marion Jones
Once named the fastest woman on earth, Olympic track star Marion Jones could no longer run from God when she found herself in a federal prison.
“God put me in a situation and slowed down my life enough to say: You know what, Marion, I should be the most important One in your life,” she told the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Jones described her relationship with God, prior to her conversion, as nominal, consisting of a flippant “Lord, help me” before a track race or an offhanded ”Thank you” if she ran well.
She quickly ascended to fame and fortune after the 2000 Olympics, when she became the first woman to take home five medals. Gracing the covers of Vogue and Time magazines and signing million-dollar endorsement deals, Jones thought she had finally put herself on the right tack.
But in 2007 everything came to a screeching halt when she was convicted of perjury for lying to federal officials about taking performance-enhancing steroids.
She was stripped of her records and medals and sentenced to six months in Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas. She says she unknowingly took the drugs, but did recognize them when confronted about them.
While in prison things got worse. A fight with a fellow prisoner landed Jones in solitary confinement for 49 days with only a few photos of her young children, her Bible and her memories. There, during what she calls “probably the worst part of my life,” she turned to Christ: “I found myself opening up [the Bible] and the Word was just kind of oozing into me. I was like a sponge. Sometimes God puts you in situations where there’s nothing else and you have to turn to Him, and I feel comfortable saying that.”
Two years after being released, Jones signed with the Tulsa Shock in the WNBA. Today she travels the country with her ministry, Take A Break, inspiring youth and college students to think before making decisions that will affect their future—something Jones wished she’d done when she was questioned about her steroid use years earlier. Last year God opened a door for Jones to share her message internationally at the invitation of the U.S. State Department.
She considers the work she now does even more important than her previous occupation.
“I wouldn’t wish [my experiences] on my enemy—but actually I would, if it would change them in such a positive way,” she says. “It has helped me to prioritize what’s important in my life and it’s not fame, it’s not fortune. It can only be Him. I’ve finally realized that I have a plan and it’s His plan for [me].”
Why being a better dad is more important today than ever—and how you can be one.
Good fatherhood is a cornerstone of any happy family, and happy families are the cornerstone of our civilization. But fatherhood is under attack. Radicals call it outmoded and unneeded, while countless dads have put fatherhood on autopilot to pursue bigger paychecks and other idols. Yet virtually all research tells us that a good father is vital to the future success of his children. Conversely, fatherhood failure makes children (when grown) much more likely to be convicted of a felony, commit suicide, suffer from severe mental illness, drop out of high school, become a drug addict, etc. In fact, the U.S. government today—at all levels—spends tens of billions of dollars a year treating the symptoms of fatherhood failure. And the problem is getting worse.
Whether you’re the president of the United States, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the guy picking up the garbage, your job as the father of your children is the most important job you’ll ever have. Think about it: Being a dad is the only job that you’ll never lose—unless you quit. It’s the only job that promises lifelong benefits, as well as eternal blessings. And it’s the only job for which you’re uniquely qualified. No one else in the world has the emotional, spiritual and physical qualifications you bring to your job as the father of your children. The research is clear: Children whose grandfathers and even great-grandfathers were men of commitment, competence and character (i.e., good fathers) are more likely to succeed.
Wedding bells may be ringing this time of year, but statistics reveal that all too often the beauty of a wedding day turns into the disaster of divorce. With the average wedding costing $27,021—according to a survey from theknot.com—it’s important for couples to know how to make that honey moon feeling last longer than it takes to pay off the wedding.
Follow these five tips for a marriage that can last a lifetime:
As a child, I grew up under the strong hand of a wonderful, loving and godly father. (Sometimes I felt his hand was a bit stronger than necessary, but looking back, I can see why he had to be so firm with me.) Whenever Father’s Day came around, I was always happy to either make or buy a card for him, give him a token of my love and make his day special. It was a day I looked forward to.
As an adult, I appreciated Daddy even more and, with a husband and family of my own, came to understand more fully the need to be firm but loving. When we moved to Florida many years ago, it seemed that Arkansas (Daddy’s home) was continents away from ours. We spoke on the phone quite often but were able to see each other only a couple of times a year.
When Daddy died, I felt alone. Although I had a husband and family, there was nothing like having my daddy to talk to. I knew he loved me no matter what my faults or failures were and always wanted the best for me.
Even after Daddy died, I still loved Father’s Day. It was always a special day in our home. I enjoyed watching our three daughters make or buy cards and gifts for their daddy. We would fix his favorite foods and make him “King for a Day.”
A weeping, flowering cherry tree is one of the most beautiful of all of the ornamental trees. We bought my mother-in-law one for Mother’s Day many years ago. She was so excited. Being a certified nurseryman, I planted the tree exactly the way it should be done. The next year it bloomed nicely—and even better the next year.
However, after about four or five years, my mother-in-law called me right after the tree had bloomed. She expressed concern because the tree barely bloomed at all that spring. In fact, she said it was pitiful. The next time we went for a visit, I took my pruning clippers and small pruning saw. While she watched, I got the ladder and went to work. Several times I heard her say, “O my,” and “O dear.”
Correct, effective pruning is different than just “shearing” the tree to look like a lollipop. There are two basic types of branches that need to be removed. The first is a branch that is growing the wrong direction. These branches rub theother branches and can cause disease. They also block out the sunlight that is needed for flower buds to form.
The other type of branch to prune is a “sucker” branch that shoots out beneath the graft. These branches are incredibly dangerous to the life of the tree. They will draw all of the strength and energy from the tree into themselves, and the tree will often die—but only above the graft, which is where the blooms grow.
In April of 2001, my pastor solemnly announced from the pulpit that he’d had a vision and in it I was healed. I didn’t believe healing was “for today,” but my face lit up and I smiled back at him from my pew. The Lord showed him that He was going to open me up to hear the truth.
At the time I was sick with an incurable disease called multiple sclerosis. I felt hopeless and helpless. Seismic tremors wracked my body. There were multiple malfunctions on every front. I was in a losing battle.
Later, Pastor “Doc” asked if he could come over once a week to show me what the Bible said about healing. He was a Class A+ worshipper, and he told me two things were required before I could enter the highway of healing and he wouldn’t begin working with me until they were done.
He said, “Here’s the first thing. Are you right with God? Do you willfully disobey Him?”
Hey, what kind of question is that? I go to church. I believe in Jesus. Though briefly offended, I knew I needed to pray. That night, I lay on my bed, alone, and I timidly asked, “Lord, am I right with you?” I heard no answer.
Live in a sex-charged culture, without getting zapped!
Jim is in my office one Saturday morning crying over the lust, guilt and terrible sexual choices that are destroying his life. I don't know whether to empathize with his pain or kick his butt for going to sleep on his watch!
I remind him that the battle for sexual integrity demands constant vigilance. It's a wrestling match with Satan, and any time you let your guard down, you get body-slammed.
If we humbly confess our sins and failures, the Lord faithfully forgives us and immediately restores our fellowship with Him: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But He doesn’t stop there. He immediately schedules another chance for us to obey, providentially arranging another situation spiritually similar to the one in which we failed.
Why? To punish us further by cruelly reminding us of our failures? No, His kind purpose is just the opposite. He wants us to be able to forget our failures completely. So He provides us with another chance that we might avenge our spiritual defeats and live thereafter in the joy of overcoming rather than the frustration of failure. He wants us to be more than forgiven; He wants us victorious! Joyful! Soaring!
Not surprisingly, our Creator understands our deepest thoughts. He knows that even when we believe that we’re forgiven, the memories of our past failures tend to linger and vex us. Like David, we sometimes feel as if our sins are always before us (see Ps. 51:3).
As a 15-year-old Daniel King was inspired to set a goal larger than most could even dream. He’d read a success book that told him to aim for earning $1 million by age 30. But King, who grew up on the mission field, set a different goal: to see 1 million souls saved by the time he was 30.
“Instead of trying to become a millionaire I wanted to lead 1 million ‘heirs’ into the kingdom of God. And God started opening up doors,” he said.
At 28, just two years shy of his 30th birthday, King led his 1 millionth heir to Christ during a crusade in Haiti. Though most Christians never witness such a feat, it was only the beginning for King. Now 33, the evangelist has set a new goal of leading 1 million people to Christ every year.
King is feverishly working to reach this new objective in places such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia and other nations in the 10/40 window, where the message of Christ has never been heard. His crusades consistently draw tens of thousands, and his efforts to train local pastors have resulted in planting 14 house churches with 70 people or more attending each.
“For me it’s an awesome privilege to go to these places and tell people about Jesus,” King says. “They’re so hungry for the gospel, and when you go to a nation and you see thousands and thousands of people who want to hear about Jesus, you see how powerful the message of God’s love really is.”
On the Rise
“God is·supernaturally·raising up a movement of young people like I have never seen in 27 years of student ministry—ever. It is as if the Spirit of God is just beckoning this to happen.”···—Jay Mooney, after the Converge21 USA conference, where young people and church leaders fervently prayed for and discussed the future of the Holy Spirit-empowered movement.
In a move to redeem some prime real estate in South Florida, a Haitian church purchased a closed strip club with the intent of turning into God’s house.
Eglise Assemblee Evangelique de Christ in Boynton Beach, Fla., bought Platinum Showgirls strip club last spring for $600,000. Though the property was theirs, they couldn’t hold services in the building until it was renovated and up to code.
The problem: finances. Eglise Assemblee spent all its money to buy the building and had been paying high rent at an interim facility. That left them without money to wrap up the redemptive project.
Water is often used to extinguish fires, but Water Mission International has been using H2O to ignite Holy Ghost blazes around the globe. Founders George and Molly Greene closed their lucrative engineering firm in 2001 to engineer safe water filtration systems in areas where children die daily of water-borne illnesses. What they discovered was astonishing: The more water they purified, the more communities were open to hearing the gospel.
“People are always questioning about how this [water] system works and asking how they can acquire it,” Uganda’sGlory Center pastor Charles Neddje says.“We always tell them about our great God. Can you imagine that even nonbelievers come willing to offer us land to plant churches because of this water system? It is an iron tool for the gospel.”
But with 884 million people without clean water around the world, there is much work still to be done. So the Greenes are enlisting Western churches to help during Water Sunday, March 22. Congregations are dedicating a portion or an entire service to raising funds and awareness to help end the clean water shortage. Through video and photos, attendees are shown how quickly the gospel is spread by giving an impoverished area a purified water source.
“The goal of our projects is not just to provide physical water, but to share the Living Water message as well,” says Kevin Herr, a Water Mission representative. “When a project is completed we have a special celebration ceremony and when appropriate, showthe Jesus film.”
Water Mission has provided clean water in 49 countries and hopes to be a world leader in water filtration by 2017. —Felicia Abraham
Model and actress Nicole Weider is leading a change.org campaign demanding that the magazine Cosmopolitan be sold in a non-transparent wrapper to adults only, to prevent children from buying and reading material inappropriate for their development. The model initially created a YouTube video displaying her discontent with the magazine and posted it to her fast-growing website geared toward Christian teenage girls, ProjectInspired.com.
But Weider (pictured) received so many responses from girls who had been negatively affected by Cosmopolitan that she decided to create the change.org petition. At press time, the petition included almost 24,000 signatures. “We are not asking Cosmopolitan to change their content,” explains Weider. “We simply want them to take responsibility for it.” —Gina Meeks
God wants our communication with Him to be unencumbered by rules and legalism.
Do you realize that even directing a thought toward God qualifies as silent prayer? It's true! Whether you have been praying for years, are just learning to pray, have hit a "slump" in your spiritual life or simply want your prayer life to improve, know this: God wants you to learn to pray more effectively, and He wants your prayer life to become more fulfilling.
Short, simple prayers can be mighty beyond description, but this does not take away from the fact that prayer is also a grand mystery. Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian who wrote many profound books while imprisoned for his faith, wrote: "Prayer is the most wonderful act in the spiritual realm, as well as a most mysterious affair."
A third-generation Pentecostal’s take on staying Spirit-filled without the hype.
My roots in the charismatic-Pentecostal movement go very deep. My grandpa and grandma both became ordained ministers in the Assemblies of God (AG) following radical encounters with God. They dedicated themselves to preaching the gospel and planting churches across rural Oklahoma and Southern California.
My father, Hubert, became a traveling evangelist with the AG while still in high school. He and my mother pastored churches together in Colorado, Missouri and Texas. Dad served as a missionary in India after my mom’s death in 1991.
Initimacy with the Holy Spirit will ignite your ministry and change your life forever.
At the start of the 20th century, Wales was known for its music and entertainment, its independent spirit and its rich sports heritage, but something was terribly wrong. The bars flourished while the powerless and passionless churches dried up.
Gambling and greed were beginning to dominate virtually every activity and captivate the nation's middle class. Violent crimes increased so quickly that there were not enough police officers in the entire country to restore order.
According to noted revival historians, as the hunger for personal pleasure began to dominate the culture, Evan Roberts, then a coal miner, would carry his beloved Bible into the mines with him. For 13 months Roberts cried out to heaven in intense prayer and intercession as God birthed a desperate need for revival in his heart.
Want to be part of saving the world from a preventable disease? Here are some practical ways to support this effort:
1) Pray. Too many have suffered, died or lost loved ones because of malaria, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Intercede for those suffering from the disease and the families mourning the loss of loved ones. Pray that God would stir people’s hearts to help put an end to this disease. With your help, malaria can be eradicated by 2015. Is God leading you to be a part of this war? If so, prayer is the first line of defense.·
So what requirements has God established that lead to a pathway of prosperity? The Bible reveals several overarching keys.
1) Seek Him. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). All what things? All the things He mentioned in the verses preceding verse 33—such as treasures upon earth or what you will eat or drink or wear. We are not to seek those things first. We are to seek the kingdom first.
What does it mean to seek the kingdom? It is seeking to do His will. His will is what He did on the earth, such as healing all (Acts 10:38), casting out devils (Mark 16:15-18) and preaching repentance (Matt. 4:17).