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The Loose-Change Abolitionist

Zach Hunter had always thought he should’ve been born more than 200 years ago. Heartbroken by the idea of slavery, which he says is America’s “biggest blemish,” Hunter felt he could have made a difference alongside leaders of the anti-slavery movement that included Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. 

That perspective changed when Hunter discovered there are millions of people in various forms of slavery in the 21st century. He knew at that moment what God was calling him to. 

“I just thought, Wow, I can do something to change the world,” says Hunter, who launched the student-led Loose Change to Loosen Chains campaign while in middle school. He says there are billions of dollars in change in American households alone. “Why not take something as underestimated as the teenage years and something as underestimated as loose change and see what we can do?” read more

A Bridge Over Depression

Weighing about 100 pounds and facing hospitalization, award-winning vocalist Candy Christmas, former member of southern gospel group The Hemphills, says she hit rock bottom. 

In 2004 her doctor, seeing Christmas’ depression was winning the war inside and out, suggested medication or admittance to a hospital. But deep inside, Christmas knew there was another way to overcome the darkness in her life. 

“I knew that the Word of God says that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and so I told my doctor ... either my religion works for me or it doesn’t, and I’m just not going to go that direction,” Christmas says. read more

Running for His Life

Gilbert Tuhabonye loves to run. Growing up in Burundi, he ran the African plains near his village every day, challenged often by other distance runners who wanted a race. “They would see dust,” he says, “because I would run like the wind.” 

Now 36, Tuhabonye never dreamed his youthful passion for running would one day save his life or become his gift of life to people a continent away. 

Of the Tutsi tribe, Tuhabonye was a middle-schooler when civil war ignited in his country between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes. One afternoon, Hutus came to his school. read more

Making Real Men Outdoors

Remember, fear is a controllable emotion. That’s the last thing Ted Thompson, co-founder of Real Men Outdoors mentoring camps, says to a group of boys before sending them into a dense forest with only the moon’s light providing visibility for the next few hours. No, this isn’t punishment for the teens; it’s one of the many character-building situations they’ll face as part of the Orlando, Fla.-based ministry’s program to instill godly values in developing young men.

Run by an all-volunteer staff, Real Men Outdoors is a organization that uses the “wilderness experience” to teach fundamental qualities such as responsibility and accountability, which Thompson believes are missing in many of today’s youth. Citing results from a census poll taken a few years ago, Thompson says he and his co-founder Lawrence Williams were dismayed to find that 40 percent of all young men under the age of 19 in America live in homes without responsible men present. read more

Shooting for the Stars

Born with a hearing problem—in addition to having speech issues and wearing glasses and braces—Olympic Gold Medalist and WNBA All-Star Tamika Catchings was made fun of for most of her childhood. That is, until she realized she had a knack for playing sports. 

“No matter what sport it was, no one could make fun of me,” says Catchings, who eventually decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a professional basketball player. She dedicated her life to achieving that dream. 

Over time, however, Catchings says basketball “became my god.” It wasn’t until she damaged her ACL during a college game that she realized it was time to recommit herself to Christ. Only then did she begin living her dream. read more

Prayer Proof?

Are you statistically likely to pray?

The Pew Forum on Research recently asked American Christians about their prayer habits. Think you have a healthy prayer life? Tally your points from this quiz to see how you compare. 

 

What type of church do you attend?

A historically black church 4

Evangelical Protestant 3  

Orthodox Christian 2

Mainline Christian 1

 

 How old are you?

65+ 4

50-64 3

30-49 2

18-29 1

 

What’s your gender?

Female 4

Male 3

 

How much do you earn per year?

Less than $30,000 4

$30,000-$49,999 3

$50,000-$74,999 2

$75,000 + 1

 

According to the study, a female making less than $30,000—who attends a historically black church and is older than 65—would score a perfect 16 points and statistically pray the most. How did you compare? For a better measurement, how does your prayer life compare to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV)? read more


Terms of Offense

Why some believers in Christ don't want to be called Christians.

 

Charisma places accuracy at the forefront in each story we publish, but sometimes even our most carefully crafted words can send the wrong signal. This was the case in a recent article we published about Messianic Jews and Israel’s statehood, which included the subheading, “These brave Christians are sharing the love of Jesus in Israel.” With the exception of the word “brave” (Jews in Israel living out their faith in Yeshua are brave indeed), we’ve learned that the rest of the phrase could be damaging to Messianic Jews’ vital task of making Yeshua real to Jewish people. Our friend Eitan Shishkoff, a Jewish believer and director of Tents of Mercy in the Galilee, graciously explains why in the following article.

As believers in God’s Son, we stand at a crossroads today of two major developments rooted in our spiritual history. Each emerged from events that took place more than 40 years ago. One is the spiritual renewal that swept the world beginning in 1967. The other is the rebirth of Israel as a nation, highlighted by the recovery of Jerusalem as a Jewish city, also in 1967. 

The late Bible teacher Derek Prince used the term “parallel restoration” to refer to this simultaneous restoring of God’s full activity in the church and the resurrection of Israel from exile’s oblivion. This awakening of both the church of Jesus and the Israel He loves constitutes nothing less than the preconditions for His second coming. 

At this intersection is a curious figure: the Messianic Jew. His arrival coincides with the events of 1967. From that year on, the Spirit of God touched many searching young Jews, like me, and we found Jesus. Then we returned to our Jewish heritage as New Testament disciples of Jesus, or in Hebrew, Yeshua

Thus, the “Messianic Jewish movement” was born, giving rise to congregations founded to provide a spiritual home for Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Yeshua who want to celebrate the biblical Jewish roots of their faith. 

We are a curiosity because we tear down the wall between Jews and Jesus erected by both church and synagogue. That wall is built on the foundational “rule” that says: “If you’re Jewish, you can’t believe in Jesus. If you do believe in Jesus, you’re no longer Jewish.”

This rule is the primary reason we had not discovered our Messiah in the centuries since His birth—and it was unintentionally affirmed in a recent issue of Charisma, for which I was interviewed as one of the Israeli believers. Messianic Jews truly appreciated being featured, but when I read the description of us as brave Christians sharing our faith in Israel, I was shocked. 

I know the term “brave Christians” was meant as a serious compliment, but it simply is not our self-understanding. We have not converted to Christianity. We have returned to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through His Messiah, Yeshua.

Our life practice, residence in the land of Israel and testimony before our people are a collective reality, which is that Jesus has made us more Jewish than ever, and through Him we have come to deeply value and celebrate our biblical Jewish heritage in a fresh, Spirit-breathed way. This is our evangelism. This is the way we would like to be known.

Concerted campaigns in several Israeli cities have publicly condemned us as nothing more than a mission to convert Jews to Christianity. These accusations threaten relationships we’ve worked years to develop. They severely miscommunicate the testimony of Yeshua, making Him irrelevant and undesirable to Israelis. This “turning Jews into Christians,” which was even strongly indicated by several references in the article, is patently not our aim. 

So, if we are not bringing Israelis into Christianity, then what are we doing?

We are seeking with all our hearts to introduce our people to Yeshua, the Messiah promised by the prophets. We are rejoicing in the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that God would make a new covenant with us. We are growing new houses of worship—not as missionary churches, but as indigenous, Hebrew-speaking, Yeshua-centered congregations in Israel. 

I am grateful that Charisma regularly focuses stories on Israel. As Israelis and as Messianic Jews we are aware that not all Christians have acknowledged modern Israel as the dramatic fulfillment of biblical prophecy that it is. Many don’t know that more Jewish people embrace Jesus as the Messiah today than at any time since the first century. Charisma stands with us.Thank you!

How then do Israeli Messianic followers of Yeshua want to be known by the global church? 

We want to be known as those who have come home. We’ve rejoined the nation of the patriarchs and the apostles.

Like Yeshua’s first disciples, we see ourselves as those who have neither rejected their heritage nor converted to another religion. 

We are called by God to identify ourselves as New Covenant Jews, heralding the return of our King with the words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39, NKJV). 

At the same time, we delight in the true brotherhood shared by all His followers, Jew and non-Jew. We are one in the Spirit and sincerely covet your friendship and prayers. 


Eitan Shishkoff is the founder and director of Tents of Mercy, a network of Messianic congregations and humanitarian aid works in the Galilee region of Israel.


Hear Eitan Shishkoff detail why it could be offensive to call a Messianic Jew a Christian at shishkoff.charismamag.com read more



‘Homeless’ by Choice in Florida

This summer 24-year-old Brian Seeley wanted to do more than just soak up the sun on the beaches of sunny Florida. He decided to live alongside the homeless in Lakeland, Fla.

The Southeastern University senior wanted to build lasting relationships when he willingly gave up the comforts most college students enjoy by sleeping outdoors, taking bucket showers and eating with the homeless at places that offer free food. read more

Healing the Pain of Childlessness

What do you say to a sister in Christ who can’t get pregnant?

I said something stupid today. Trying to offer a word of wisdom without casting false hope to a woman with a high-risk pregnancy, I made a comment that went over like a lead balloon. Although Maria has two children, she has also lost two babies to the same physical complication currently endangering her unborn child, and she is afraid to bond with the seven-month-old baby in her womb because she knows the baby could die during childbirth.

 

“I have another friend who lost three babies,” I told her, “and when they learned during one of the pregnancies that their baby wouldn’t make it, they just decided to love that child for whatever time they would have her in the womb.” That couple’s love for their unborn child provided some meaning during their time of grief, but it wasn’t exactly a word of encouragement to Maria, whose legitimate fears have robbed her of any joyful feelings about her pregnancy.

It’s not as though my statement was out of context; we were talking about the painful emotions associated with infertility. I sensed an instant bond between us because I’ve walked down a similar path. But of all people, I should have known better than to try to console her with someone else’s story.

As I apologized for my dispiriting comment, I assured Maria that her guarded heart is a normal human reaction to the grief she’s already experienced. I call it the wall of sorrow.

The Bible gives us an inside look at another woman’s sorrow in the story of Hannah (see 1 Sam. 1). Hannah felt dejected and ashamed because she was unable to have children.

Her husband, Elkanah, loved her very much, but he had a second wife, Paninnah, whom he apparently married to bear him offspring. Peninnah provoked Hannah to bitterness year after year by reminding her of her barrenness.

During one of Hannah’s annual pilgrimages to Shiloh with Elkanah, she was so consumed with sorrow that she wept and could not eat. When she went to the temple, her anguish was so great that she couldn’t even verbalize her prayers. Eli, the priest, judged her weeping as drunkenness and scolded her (see vv. 13­–14).

Later, realizing he had misjudged her, Eli pronounced a blessing over Hannah, saying, “May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of Him” (v. 17, NLT). To Hannah, this was a spiritual breakthrough. It meant that God had heard her prayers. She soon composed herself and went on her way.

Eventually, Hannah conceived and gave birth to Samuel, whom she took to the temple at the age of 3 to live out his life in service to the Lord. Later, she gave birth to five more children.

Not every infertility story has an ending like Hannah’s. But this account does show the gut-wrenching struggle of a woman who entrusted her wounded heart to the Lord and awaited His loving answer to her cry.

It’s not shameful to be childless in our culture, but it can be devastating when it’s not by choice. Almost 5 million couples in the United States experience infertility at some time in their marriage.

Yet most often, couples who struggle with this trauma are met either awkward silence or inappropriate advice, even in the church. Comments like “Just relax, honey” are both an insult and a trivialization of what is usually a muddle of medical, emotional and spiritual mysteries.

So what can we do or say to help someone who is struggling to overcome the pain of childlessness? Here are some general guidelines:

1. Be a friend. Genuine, supportive friendship is the greatest gift we can offer to anyone dealing with infertility. A childless wife sometimes feels like a misfit, even in today’s society.

She may have more spontaneous lifestyle than woman with the responsibility of a family, but she may be too old for the college crowd and too young to be a companion of women whose child-rearing days are behind them. Yet with her peers—young mothers—she can be painfully aware of the “survivor’s guilt” that new moms sometimes feel around women who are struggling just to conceive.

2. Communicate. While it’s good to be sensitive to a childless women’s feelings, don’t assume she is jealous or unable to rejoice in your happiness with your children. She undoubtedly will have days when she would love to attend your daughter’s school play, and other days when just seeing a baby could send her into tears.

The key is honest communication. Allow her to freely accept or decline your invitations. If she is uncomfortable around your children, plan a ladies’ night or couples-only event.

For a woman in your community or church who is struggling with infertility, your physical presence and availability may fill a barren place in her day-to-day routines that even her family can’t. if yours is a long-distance relationship, phone calls and letters during this season of life will be priceless, and they will undoubtedly come at just the right moments.

3. Acknowledge her spiritual state. Don’t be surprised if this friend displays a pessimistic outlook on life or seems obsessed with having a baby. Realize that the month-after-month disappointments she experiences or the hormonal changes that take place with each pregnancy, along with the grief of lost babies, only heighten her wall of sorrow.

A woman who continually experiences disappointment and death may find it hard to have a positive outlook. Conversely, if she masks her sorrow, it may be because she is afraid to reveal her pain lest she seem unspiritual. She may also be angry at God or feel that He is punishing her.

Help your friend work through her spiritual confusion. Let her know that she doesn’t have to understand God’s plans and purposes in order to trust Him. Provide a safe place where she can wrestle with her spiritual questions.

4. Recognize the uniqueness of her experience. Realize that husbands and wives may deal with their questions and grief differently. Despite Elkanah’s deep love for Hannah, his question, “You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?” (1 Sam. 1:8) shows his inability to understand her pain.

This kind of marital dynamic is not unusual. The guilt and blame that can emerge from infertility are enough to set many couples on the road to divorce. A supportive, accountable relationship with another couple may help, but because infertility issues seem to be (and sometimes are) so permanent, couples may not take the initiative to seek others out.

In addition to struggling with guilt, couples going through infertility workups are often paying high medical expenses and living in “limbo,” always leaving room for the possibility of pregnancy. The ongoing plan for a family affects everything from career decisions to vacation choices and the kind of automobile to buy. The tentative nature of their existence and the insecurity of “not knowing” may be more difficult on the wife than on her husband.

In general, a little understanding and a lot of honest dialogue go a long way toward healing the pain of infertility. The goal is to walk with your friend until she finds a solution to her situation. God’s answer may be a miraculous pregnancy, the building of a family through adoption or foster parenting, or the peace to live a childless, yet fulfilling lifestyle.

Until the answer comes, don’t be like Peninnah who provoked Hannah to bitterness. Don’t be like Hannah’s husband who trivialized her pain or like Eli who misunderstood her anguish. Don’t be too quick with your words, like I was with Maria. Even encouraging words can be received as a prophecy, so don’t be push or presumptuous.

Instead, be like Jesus, the friend who sticks closer than a brother, who wept at the tomb of Lazarus and then raised him from the dead. And when you don’t know what to say, just remain silent, shedding an empathetic tear or giving your friend the opportunity to share her heart. Your presence alone can speak volumes, resurrect her faith and help break down her wall of sorrow.

Anahid Schweikert is a free-lance journalist in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

 

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More Than a Sport

When kids in Roatán, Honduras, join a soccer team, the odds of them becoming involved in drugs, premarital sex and street violence decreases. That’s because the CAN Fútbol Foundation (CANFF) uses the sport for more than recreation. It has become a way to promote education and social change among more than 150 underprivileged youth living on the island. 

“There’s so much poverty in Honduras, and I realized I could use soccer to not only keep these kids active, but also as a vehicle to motivate them to do better in school,” says executive director and co-founder Jason Old, a former soccer player with the Honduran National Fútbol League. read more

Retreating to a Land of Milk and Honey

Sharon Norris Elliott says that women often imprison themselves in the cares of this world by not slowing down to relax and pray. 

As a result, Elliott, founder and CEO of Life That Matters Ministries, began Milk & Honey Life Retreats—spa vacations for Christian women who need some time to unwind, think and ultimately hear from God. read more

Iranian Pastors Risk Lives for Training

If the Iranian government knew Christians were learning how to grow a church in the middle of their Muslim nation, the converts could lose their freedom—or worse, their lives.

But that hasn’t stopped pastors with the underground church in Iran from secretly attending classroom sessions led by Dave Anderson, a founder and longtime trainer for EQUIP, the organization led by Christian leadership guru John Maxwell. read more

Hot Sauce for Haiti

You probably never thought you could help rebuild the earthquake-torn nation of Haiti by purchasing hot sauce. 

Think again.

Churches and other nonprofit organizations are helping to improve Haiti’s economy by purchasing a Haitian-grown pepper sauce called Haiti Is Hot! The Haitian-American-owned company Bel Soley sells the sauce to churches and organizations that commit to using some of the resale profits to aid Haitian families in need. read more

Victim to Victor: Building a New Life After Abuse

Jeanette Towne vividly recalls the morning her chronically abusive husband went into a rage and began beating her with a hammer. 

“I thought he was going to kill me,” she says. “I started praying like I had never prayed before.  read more

Sharing a Recipe for Life

Chef Brett Swayn believes that teaching the homeless to cook can save their lives. 

Swayn says this was his experience after his marriage collapsed and his music career fell apart, causing him to live four months in a homeless shelter before he found work. He later emerged from his despair and learned a new trade in culinary arts.  read more

6 Ways to Worship ‘In Spirit and Truth'

As God's worshippers, how can we match the mission of Jesus with the music and expressions of worship we embrace.  And how do we facilitate worship as a lifestyle? It may require us to take practical steps toward personal change:

1) Refocus. Reductionist Western worship is possible because we have lost a sense of awe and reverence for who God is, fashioning instead a God in our own image. Author Mark Labberton writes in his book The Dangerous Act of Worship: "The God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is. We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it." Let's refocus on who really matters. read more

Love Is Being Satisfied


 A dictionary definition of envy would be something like "a feeling of discontent aroused by someone else's possessions." That is what I mean by being unsatisfied. However, love gives one a feeling of being satisfied. The person who is unsatisfied is still looking for his identity, wanting to know who he is.

Three things can be said about envy. First, it is of the flesh; it flows from nature. We don't have to go to school to learn how to be envious; everybody grows up that way. read more

Baptism 2.0 Basics

Answering the most frequently asked questions about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

My life is filled with amazing people. Recently, a widow I know pointed to a midnight intruder and boldly commanded him to leave her house. He did! Another friend refused to panic when her teenage daughter ran away. As she was calling the police, the Holy Spirit revealed the girl’s exact location to her. Another woman—a shy single mom—overcame a 12-year battle with bulimia. Today she teaches a weekly Bible study to women with addictions. Are these people superheroes? No, they’re just ordinary Christians who have received the extraordinary baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

When people are baptized in the Holy Spirit, they are filled with God’s ability. Natural people do supernatural things. Lives of chaos find serenity and purpose. Shy people become bold, and selfish people experience radical changes in their priorities. Sadly, many Christians today don’t seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit because they don’t understand it. They don’t know what they’re missing! Here are some of the questions I hear most frequently. read more

Racing for Jesus With One Arm

Winner of the 2009 ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete With a Disability, 36-year-old Jason Lester is proof that a dysfunctional home, physical trauma and personal loss aren’t reasons to quit on life. 

Already a regular on the Ironman circuit, Lester won the ESPN award after becoming the first person with a disability to complete the Ultraman triathalon—a grueling three-day, 320-mile biking, running and swimming race involving the world’s top 36 endurance athletes. 

“I feel honored that He’s chosen me to do what I’m doing,” says Lester, who shares how Christ helped him endure his trials in his upcoming book, Running on Faith. “My hope is that people will say, ‘There is a greater cause and purpose in my life’ and see that God has a perfect plan for them.”

He has good reason for hoping people will believe that. At age 12 Lester was thrown nearly 130 feet from his bike in a hit-and-run. He suffered 21 broken bones, a collapsed lung, and his right arm was paralyzed. Only months later his father died of a heart attack. With his alcoholic mother already out of the picture, Lester threw himself into sports and eventually took up extreme running as a way of hiding from the pain. However, his conversion in 2001 showed him that God had given him athletic talent for a reason. 

“My mission is to inspire others to use their God-given gifts and their calling for their life,” he says. Next up for Lester: He plans to run in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7. read more


The Apostle of Health

Small-town pastor Steve Willis catapulted to national prominence when he appeared on the ABC miniseries Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution challenging his congregation to embrace a healthier lifestyle. 

The teaching pastor of First Baptist Church of Kenova, W.Va., says health is just as much a spiritual concern as it is a physical one. “What we do with our bodies matters to God,” Willis says. 

He explored the spiritual aspects of health after noticing numerous ailments in his community, many of which he says stemmed from obesity. Around this time a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report was released and dubbed the area the nation’s unhealthiest.

The pastor soon began a sermon series challenging his congregation to change their lifestyles. His church also started the Biggest Loser, an exercise class derived from the hit TV show. According to Willis, participants have collectively shed “about a ton” of weight—apparently enough for several national news outlets and the Food Revolution producers to notice the church’s efforts.

“Just as parents want to set a good example for their children, we’re working to be a good example to churches who are watching what we do,” says Willis, whose endeavor mirrors such Christian initiatives as last year’s Fight of Our Life health tour by gospel artist Kirk Franklin.

While teaching physical stewardship, Willis also plans to team up with Oliver to put a dent in the federal school lunch program’s processed food ethic.

“We’re working on what we need to do next to see this go on a larger scale,” Willis says. “If that means working with people in Washington, D.C., to make some necessary changes, then that’s what we’re willing to do.”

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