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How You Can Help Fight the War on Malaria

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.· read more

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The Keys to Prosperity

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). read more

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Integrity for the Race

God wants to develop His character in us so we can persevere for the long haul. Yet how he does it is often anything but easy.

We are not born with integrity. Integrity is something that is developed in our lives through the choices we make every day.

Integrity is an internal standard and conviction. It is having a sensitive conscience before God. The more sensitive your conscience is, the more in tune with the Holy Spirit you will be. As you follow your conscience, you will develop integrity in your life. True character and integrity are revealed in the choices you make when no one else is around. read more

What If I Don’t Forgive?·

 Unforgiveness says three things to God (hint: none of them good).


God is no fan of an unforgiving spirit—at all. Jesus was clear about it: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, your Father will not forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15, NKJV). Why does He so hate an unwillingness to forgive?·

·1. It shows an indifference to the greatest thing God did.

This “greatest thing” was God sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. To be forgiven is the most wonderful thing in the world. But in order to forgive us, God paid a severe price.·

I predict that when we get to heaven we will be able to see, little by little, what it meant for God to send His Son to die on a cross. We now see only the tip of the iceberg. We see waves of glory, and these overcome us, but we’ve seen little.·

God did for us what we did not deserve. He therefore wants us to pass this on to others who don’t deserve it.

2. We interrupt God’s purpose in the world: reconciliation.

God loves reconciliation. He has given the ministry of reconciliation to us, and He wants it to continue.·

When we are forgiven, He wants us to pass it on. When we interrupt that, He doesn’t like it at all. He sent His Son to die on a cross, effectually calling us by His grace and giving us total forgiveness. But we interrupt that flow by not passing it on.

 

·3. God hates ingratitude.·

God knows the sins for which He has forgiven us, and He loves a grateful response. Matthew 18 relates the story of a servant who owed a great debt. He fell on his knees before his creditor, his master, and said, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all” (v. 26). The master took pity on him, canceling the debt and letting him go. The master knew the things for which he had forgiven his servant.·

But then that same servant went out and found one of his own servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He grabbed the man and began to choke him, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” (v. 28).·

The fellow servant did exactly what he himself had done; he fell on his knees and said, “Please forgive me. I will pay you back.”·

But the one who had been forgiven a much greater debt refused to extend forgiveness, and he threw his servant into prison. To think there could be such ingratitude!·

Word eventually reached the original master, and the unforgiving servant was also thrown into debtor’s prison.·

Jesus then added, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matt. 18:35).·

God knows what we have done. He knows the sins for which He has forgiven us, the things that no one else will ever hear about. If we turn around and say, “I can’t forgive that person for what he has done,” God doesn’t like that at all. He hates ingratitude. read more

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Rescued From Rejection

God doesn't want to heal only me. His deliverance is available to all.

"Come here, Joyce. I have to give you a ticket for a free lunch," my teacher said. I approached her desk feeling self-conscious and humiliated.

 

"Your parents have enrolled you in the Title 21 Lunch Program. That means you get free lunches, and they don't have to pay for it."

I nodded and took the ticket, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me. I started to turn away and go back to my seat, but she continued to talk about me.

"You'll never amount to anything. You'll never get out of the projects. You'll always be one of those people with your hand out, looking for a free ride."

Unfortunately, I had come face to face with the ugly reality many believers struggle with. It's called rejection.

Today, as a confident woman and evangelist, I do not allow people to label me, dictate my future or make me feel unworthy of God's love and acceptance. My relationship with Christ is the foundation of my identity.

Rejection is what I call a "fatal distraction" because it is emotionally debilitating and if left unchecked, it can mentally paralyze you. Scripture reveals that "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. 18:21, NKJV).

Maybe a trusted friend, parent or spouse has rejected you and stripped you of your self-worth. People can be brutal when you don't measure up to their expectations. My teacher rejected me because my family was poor, and in her mind, I was lazy, worthless and a waste of her time.

I believe also that rejection becomes fatal when you take ownership of it. You tend to make life choices based on what you have been told about yourself rather than what God has to say about you.

My teacher told me I would never get out of the projects, and I believed her. I accepted her comments as valid, and from that moment on I began to look at myself through her eyes instead of God's.

What the Bible says is true: "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). It is imperative that you replace rejection with the life-giving, life-changing Word of God. It will assure you of His unconditional love.

Yes, the words and attitudes of other people can deeply wound you, but please don't allow them to destroy you.

I am grateful to God that His grace did not permit me to live under a cloud of rejection. My life began to change when I moved in with "Big Mama," my maternal grandmother.

She didn't have any better sense than to believe that, regardless of our economic and social status, my family and I were the people God said we were.

Big Mama affirmed me, and pumped me full of God's Word. She constantly told me I was a child of the King, had royal blood flowing through my veins and was going to grow up to be "a mighty woman in the Lord!"

Slowly but surely, through her love and by the sheer power of Scripture, she eradicated those feelings of rejection from my life.

I went on to become a cheerleader and the homecoming queen of my high school. I was even voted "most popular" in my senior class! I eventually graduated college and became a teacher.

Today, I travel the world proclaiming the gospel of Jesus at conferences, churches and in other settings. I am enjoying a life enhanced by the blessings, favor and anointing of God.

If you struggle with rejection and want to be restored, run to the Father. He doesn't want to heal only me—His deliverance is available to all who will turn to Him.


Joyce L. Rodgers is an evangelist and sought-after speaker. She is the author of Fatal Distractions (Charisma House), and the founder of Primary Purpose Ministries in Dallas. Rodgers also serves at an international level with the Church of God in Christ. read more

Symptoms of a Bound Life

After spending a decade doing hand-to-hand combat with satanic forces, I have discovered several symptoms of demonic operation. Some of these indicators can be signs of mental illness, which isn't always the result of demonic attack. But when good psychological care from Christian professionals doesn't result in a cure, it is often possible that the person's symptoms could point to demonic operation.

Drawn from the account of the demoniac of Gadara in Mark 5, the first six symptoms are extreme. The man in that passage was controlled by a legion of demons and had been chained in a cemetery because of his erratic and violent behavior. Other signs of demonic activity may be subtler, but they are no less dangerous and shouldn't be ignored.

1. Incapacity for normal living (see Mark 5:1-5). The actions of legion made him unsuitable for normal social interaction with friends and family. An unusual desire for solitude, accompanied by a deep loneliness, will often set in. The person will often become very passive with no desire to change.

2. Extreme behavior (see Mark 5:4). An explosive temper and extreme uncontrollable anger could be signs of demonic activity. These are dangerous behaviors that control the individual and affect surrounding loved ones.

3. Personality changes (see Mark 5:9,12). Changes in personality, extreme or mild, may be evidence of demonic activity. And though all cases of multiple personality may not be demonic, in most cases demon activity is involved.

4. Restlessness and insomnia (see Mark 5:5). The demoniac cried in the tombs "night and day." He couldn't sleep. Insomnia can be a sign of a physical or spiritual problem. God has gifted His children with sleep (see Ps. 127:2). So when you can't sleep night after night and there is no medical reason, the devil may be tormenting you.

5. A terrible inner anguish (see Mark 5:5). Grief and anguish are normal emotions. Yet persistent unresolved anguish that won't leave after normal therapies of counseling, encouragement and prayer could well be demonic.

6. Self-inflicted injury and suicide. In Mark 5:5, the demonized man was cutting himself. And in Mark 9:14-29, a man's son was both deaf and mute because of a demon, and the evil spirit would often throw the boy into fire and water to destroy him. Demons can cause people to injure themselves and even incite suicide.

7. Unexplained illness. When medical testing produces no physical cause for an illness, then we should look to the mind and spirit for answers. Sometimes illnesses are psychological, and good counseling can result in a cure. Other times the battle is with demons. Luke 13:11-16 tells the story of a "daughter of Abraham" who was afflicted by a "spirit of infirmity." Although she was a child of God, she was tormented by illnesses caused by this class of demons.

8. Addictive behavior. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling and other things opens the door to demonic influence and control. I'm not saying demons cause all of these problems. But anything that causes one to be out of control opens that person to infernal control.

9. Abnormal sexual behavior. The spirit of harlotry is mentioned several times in Ezekiel 16:20-51. This spirit infected the nation of Israel with the sins of Sodom and even motivated the people to sacrifice their own children. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication and even infanticide were all inspired by the spirit of harlotry (see Hos. 4:12). And nations and families are sold into spiritual bondage by the witchcraft of this spirit (see Nah. 3:4). When we play around with sexual sin, we open ourselves to this demonic spirit. We must battle this principality that dominates our nation.

10. Defeat, failure and depression in the Christian life. It is Satan's purpose to rob us of the victorious life that is ours in Christ (see 2 Cor. 2:10-14). This symptom is often manifested by an inability to praise and worship, which is a weapon of warfare. In Psalm 106:47, David asks God for salvation so he could "triumph in [God's] praise."

11. Occult involvement and behavior. Occult involvement is clearly a symptom of demonic control. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 catalogs the works of the occult, including child sacrifice, fortune-telling, sorcery and calling up the dead.

12. Speech difficulties. In Matthew 9:32-33, Jesus rebuked a demon, and the mute man was able to speak. Speech difficulties may be physical, emotional or mental, but in some cases they are demonic. Extreme language and cursing also may be prompted by the enemy.

13. Doctrinal error. First Timothy 4:1 warns that in the last days deceiving spirits will teach the doctrines of demons. Today religious cults and charlatans abound. The reason these deceivers draw many people is the power of the demonic that teaches them.

14. Religious legalism. In Galatians 3, the church at Galatia had forsaken a faith ministry that resulted in the miraculous for a law ministry of rules and regulations. Paul classified this error as witchcraft. Some deeply religious people are under the bondage of tradition, man-made rules and outward appearances. Demons thrive in this kind of environment, especially demons of control. Whenever something is substituted for faith in the finished work of Christ, it is a doctrine of demons. read more

End of the Line

End of the Line

God is shifting the church from one seasonal pIatform to another. Are we ready?

 

There is an uneasy feeling in evangelicalism today that everything is changing. Long-held certitudes are being challenged both within and without the Christian faith. The way things were even 10 years ago is no longer the way things are today.

Western Christianity has reached a critical juncture. We have come to the end of the line—not the end of the line for Christianity, but the end of the line for the track we have been on.

We are like people on a subway who have taken a train as far as it will go. The car has stopped, but we have not exited. We’re sitting in the terminus, waiting for the train to start moving again.

We have two choices.

We can stay on the train that’s going nowhere, or we can disembark, find our way through the confusing labyrinth of the new station, locate the proper platform for continuing our journey and catch the train that will take us farther down the line.

Changing Tracks It reminds me of times I’ve been in Paris traveling across the city on the metro system. If I want to get from Notre Dame to Montmartre, I can’t do it on one train. I have to get off, find the correct platform and catch a new train. If you’ve never done it before, it can be confusing.

This could be a prophetic analogy for the heightened uneasiness we’re feeling in this first part of the 21st century. We need to transfer to a new train, and we’re not quite sure which one.

We can be quite certain of one thing, however: The train we have been on will not carry Christianity forward in a compelling or engaging way—no matter how enthusiastically we sing “Give Me That Old Time Religion” as we sit motionless on the track.

It’s easy to be disconcerted by all this. During a time of pronounced uncertainty it is tempting to succumb to nostalgia, to long for some point in the past that we identify as the “glory days.” But we cannot go back.

The healthy practice of recognizing the contributions of the past and building on them is not the same as a regressive attempt to return to a bygone era.

Neither is revivalism the answer. Too often it is a naive attempt to recapture a particular past. It’s like a Renaissance fair—nice entertainment for a pleasant afternoon, but you can’t live there.

An idealized memory of the past is not a vision that can carry us into the future. Nostalgic reminiscing is for those who no longer have the courage or will to creatively engage with contemporary challenges and opportunities. All of this is related to the critical juncture we’ve come to in the course of Western Christianity.

Ride Over! So then, what is this train we’re on that is stuck at the station? I think it can be summed up as “Christianity characterized by protest.” We need to face reality—the “protest train” has come to the end of the line.

It’s been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation—when Christianity first boarded this protest train. At the beginning of the line, it was a way forward from the moribund corruption of medieval Catholicism.

But for all the good the Reformation did (and it was absolutely necessary!) we must understand it for what it was. It was a debate between Roman Catholics and Protestant reformers over the theology and practice of the medieval church, a debate among Christians within Christendom.

And that’s all well and good.

But we no longer live in that Christendom—the one in which Christianity was the default assumption of an entire age, continent and culture. We live in an era that is, if not post-Christian, certainly post-Christendom.

Yet we make the mistake of trying to engage our postmodern secular culture in the same way the reformers engaged medieval Catholicism—through protest. This approach doesn’t make sense and is no longer tenable.

The Reformation, though it brought necessary reform, placed us on a trajectory to become angry protestors. Protest is deeply ingrained in our identity. It’s in our DNA. But Protestant reform is no longer the central issue and is not the problem. The problem is our uncharitable and ugly protest attitude.

Testy Passengers? To attempt to engage post-Enlightenment secular people with the gospel of Jesus Christ by protesting their sin and secularism is madness. It’s a method guaranteed to fail. It is simply not the way for the church to move forward. We are in danger of being reduced to angry protesters sitting in the station on a train going nowhere, shouting at people who long ago stopped listening to us.

If we are going to persuade a skeptical world of the gospel of Jesus Christ and make a compelling case for Christianity in this century, we will have to do so on their terms. We can no longer pretend to be living in medieval Christendom or frontier America.

Simply citing chapter and verse and shouting, “The Bible says so!” is going to be largely ineffective. Telling a secular world that does not possess an a priori acceptance of Scripture that Jesus is the way because John 14:6 says so is seen as circular reasoning and unconvincing.

To persuade postmodern Westerners that Jesus is the way we must actually demonstrate the Jesus way as a viable alternative lifestyle. This lifestyle will have to be characterized, not by angry protest and polarizing politics, but by faith and hope and—most of all—forgiving love.

Because of our tradition of protest inherited from the Reformation, as well as the American Revolution, we have an ingrained infatuation for the angry dissenter who can “tell it like it is.” Whether it’s delivered by a pundit, politician or preacher, the rant has become something of a contemporary art form.

But this kind of populism plays well only with those who already agree with us. It’s cathartic and can “energize the base,” as we say, but in the end the angry preachers stuck in a paradigm of protest only further alienate an already disinterested culture. They deepen the destructive “Us vs. Them” attitude endemic in American evangelicalism.

Have we embraced, due to our frightened response to uncertainty and shifting culture, an angry “Ann Coulter Christianity” and made apostles of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity without recognizing they are simply entertainers and profiteers in America’s culture war? If so, we had better disembark the protest train before we are marginalized into complete irrelevance.

Now that we are a full decade into the third Christian millennium, it’s time to take stock of a movement that in Western culture isn’t moving forward much anymore. How then have American evangelicals come to be identified?

Largely by our protests and our politics. We are mostly known for what we are against and what political positions we hold. We have unwittingly allowed our movement to be defined in the negative and to be co-opted as a useful tool in the cynical world of partisan politics.

Excess Baggage But don’t we have something better to do? Don’t we have some good news to tell? Isn’t it time for us to become identified by something more refreshing and more imaginative than angry protest and partisan politics? Might it not be time for a new reformation? And this time, not a reformation in the form of protest, but one in some other form?

The purpose of reformation actually is re-formation—to recover a true form. What is the true form of Christianity? It is the cruciform—the shape of the cross. The hope I see for Christianity in the 21st century is in a “cruciform reformation.”

Instead of using protest as a pattern, what if the church reformed itself according to the cruciform? What if we responded to hostility and criticism, not with angry retaliation, but in the Christ-like form of forgiving love? What if instead of “fighting for our rights” we laid down our rights and in love simply prayed, “Father, forgive them”?

Or ask yourself these questions: Does the protest paradigm look like the cruciform? Does the Christian who wants to protest every perceived slight with an angry petition remind you of the Christ who forgave His enemies from the cross? Does our grasping for power and privilege conform to the image of the crucified Christ?

Five hundred years ago Martin Luther and the other reformers looked to Scripture as the basis for reforming the church. I suggest we do the same. And I suggest we center our reading in the Gospels.

The great 20th century Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote: “Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, the Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the clearest revelation of who God is.”

He’s correct. The cross is the full and final revelation of God. His nature of forgiving love is supremely demonstrated at the cross. When Jesus could have summoned 12 legions of angels to exact vengeance, He instead prayed for His enemies to be forgiven.

Vengeance was canceled in favor of love. Retaliation was overruled in favor of reconciliation. Protest was abandoned in favor of forgiveness. This is the cruciform.

That evangelical Christianity has become identified by protest and politics instead of forgiving love is nothing short of scandalous. The disreputable behavior of celebrity preachers notwithstanding, the greatest scandal in the evangelical church is that we are no longer associated with the practice of radical forgiveness.

It should be obvious that forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. That should be obvious from the simple fact that at the most crucial moments the gracious melody of forgiveness is heard as the recurring theme of Christianity.

Consider how prevalent forgiveness is in Christianity’s seminal moments and sacred texts.

As Jesus teaches His disciples to pray they are instructed to say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (see Luke 11:4). As Jesus hangs on the cross we hear Him pray—almost unbelievably: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34, NKJV). In His first resurrection appearance to His disciples, Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (John 20:23). And in the Apostles’ Creed we are taught to confess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

Whether we look to The Lord’s Prayer, or Jesus’ death or resurrection, or the great creeds of the church, we are never far from the theme of forgiveness. If Christianity isn’t about forgiveness, it’s about nothing at all. And I am afraid that if we don’t leave the protest train, we are in danger of making Christianity about ... nothing at all!

Tickets, Please We have come to the end of an era. We are in a time of transition. Things are uncertain. Old assumptions are being re-evaluated. We feel uncomfortable. We are trying to make our way through a confusing metro station we’ve never been to. We are tempted to cling to the familiar and stay on the train that has brought us here.

That is not the way forward. We have to find the new platform and catch the next train. The platform is forgiveness. The train is a cruciform reformation. If we leave the paradigm of protest, position ourselves on a platform of radical forgiveness and get on board with a cruciform reformation, the 21st century will be full of hope, promise and unparalleled opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ.  


Brian Zahnd is pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., and author of What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life. His next book, Unconditional? (Charisma House), is scheduled to release in January.


Listen to Brian Zahnd elaborate on the future of the church at zahnd.charismamag.com


The Protestant Reformation

A brief look at a major shift in church history

The Protestant Reformation began in Germany in 1517 with Martin Luther, a Saint Augustine friar and professor. Luther wrote and published The Ninety-Five Theses as a protest of clerical abuses aimed at the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

He is said to have posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the main door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg. At the time, the church was a repository for one of Europe’s largest collections of Catholic relics. The storehouse included some extreme oddities such as vials of the milk of the Virgin Mary—but viewing the antiquities was said to bring official relief from temporal punishment for sins in purgatory.

However, Luther was primarily disgusted with “indulgences.” The Catholic Church sold these as part of a fundraising scheme and propagated them upon the people in both convoluted language and theology:

Buying an indulgence would enable the payee to partly or wholly avoid—depending on specific Church restrictions—God’s temporal punishment due for sins committed but forgiven.

Numerous religious voices fell in line to support Luther’s initial protest. The discontent spread quickly, due largely to the efficiency of the printing press. It enabled copies of The Ninety-Five Theses and other documents and ideas to be disseminated widely.

Paralleling the events of the Reformation in Germany was a similar movement in Switzerland under Ulrich Zwingli, a Zurich pastor.

Some of Zwingli’s followers, however, believed the German Reformation was too conservative.

Ultimately, ensuing protests in assorted locations spawned new groups or movements—such as Calvinism, which has its basis in the writings of John Calvin, a French theologian.

In 1521, Luther was excommunicated from the Church by Pope Leo X, who had also condemned the Reformation.

 


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Still Here: Thoughts on Why We Weren't Taken

Well, the world as we know it did not end last weekend – much to the chagrin of a few Bible teachers.

I’ve been around long enough to remember the flurry of interest in a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. When that year passed, the author followed up with predictions that Jesus would come in 1989 . . . then 1993 . . . then 1994. 

Now another misguided prognosticator suddenly became famous (or infamous) by assuring us all that Judgment Day would definitely be last Saturday, May 21. What now will be the fallout for his devotees? 

Don’t get me wrong. A time of worldwide judgment is indeed coming. Scripture is very clear about that. Paul confidently proclaimed, “God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained.  He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). But we get into trouble – big trouble – when we become more definitive than the Bible. Jesus said no one knows the day nor hour of His return to Earth (Matt. 24:36).  read more

Are You a Target for Seduction?

We all have unseen weakness that could make us vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. Here’s how to be on your guard.

Many people who by the grace of God have never been "had" by the devil wrongly assume that all departures from godliness are nothing but rebellion and proofs of inauthenticity. They have no idea of the suffering involved when someone with a genuine heart for God slips from the path.

I don't know how many times I've repeated the statement I'm about to make, but I'll keep saying it until at least one skeptic hears, "Not everyone in a stronghold of sin is having a good time." read more

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