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Exercising Mustard-seed Faith

Exercising Mustard-seed Faith

In one of the most populated nations in the world, where thousands of children live on the street, Mustard Seed International (MSI) is relying on faith to feed and educate the vulnerable homeless children of Calcutta, India. 

Today MSI is giving 3,000 impoverished children an education at the eight schools the missions group operates in the nation’s cultural capital.

Bengali native Subir Roy and his wife, Eunok, oversee the schools. MSI workers have a shoestring budget of approximately $6,000 a month to manage a staff of 60 full-time and 40 part-time teachers. 

“Our schools meet the immediate physical needs of these poor, desperate children, while also providing them with hope for a more fulfilling and productive life through education,” says Bill Deans, MSI’s president. “We seek to provide Christ-like compassion, kindness and love to a people plagued by abject poverty.”

MSI’s Calcutta schools are based in church buildings; two are mobile operations aimed at children living on the streets. Often, the meals MSI serves will be the only ones the students receive that day. The ministry has also planted churches and built hospitals and children’s homes. 

In order to operate, MSI has to keep overhead costs down: All U.S. staffers are volunteers, including Deans.

“I wanted everything that came in to go to the ministry,” says Deans, who retired from business in his early 50s. “We don’t pay any salaries or payroll taxes. Things don’t get done as quickly as a hard-charging businessman would like, but they get done.” read more

A Suicide Saves Lives

A Suicide Saves Lives

It’s true that God will give His children beauty for ashes in their darkest hour. Such was the case with Mark Canfora Sr., whose 18-year-old son committed suicide in 2005.  

Canfora was devastated when his daughter called him at 2:30 in the morning and said, “Daddy, Marky is dead.” Mark Canfora Jr. had hanged himself in a park in Barberton, Ohio. 

“I met the ambulance at the hospital, unzipped my son’s body bag and laid hands on his chest and asked Jesus to bring him back,” Canfora recalls. “[But] God spoke to me and said, ‘He’s not here  … he’s with Me.’” Out of the seemingly hopeless situation came a ministry.  

“Every year we sponsor the Celebration of Life Festival in the park where my son lost his life,” Canfora says.

Some 3,000 people attended the festival on Easter in Florida, where Canfora now resides. The event has spread also to Georgia and Tennessee. In his book, A Child Died, A Father Cried … and God Answered, Canfora addresses false teachings about Christians and suicide. 

“I have over 2,000 friends on Facebook, and every day someone reaches out to me because they have lost someone to suicide. I let them know God understands their pain, and He loves them.”  read more

Dysfunctional Evangelism

Dysfunctional Evangelism

Assemblies of God missionary and former pastor Scott Bush travels on his Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic ministering to hundreds of bikers at festivals throughout the country. His way of telling people how much Jesus loves them: help them find out how truly dysfunctional they are. Read on ...

 

CHARISMA: What drew you to the biker crowd?

Scott Bush: I’ve ridden a motorcycle since I was 18 years old; I’m now 48 years old. In 1991 I started working with bikers, going to motorcycle rallies and sharing the gospel with people. It was incredible. They showed up at my house and wanted to start a Bible study. So my wife and I ended up starting one. I had no desire to be a pastor or to be an evangelist. But more and more people came, and we ended up starting a church. My wife and I pastored a biker church for seven years in Orlando, Fla., and as I was pastoring I realized how dysfunctional these people were. I went to college and got my undergraduate in behavioral science so that I could better understand who I was ministering to.

 

CHARISMA: You’ve got to admit, calling a biker dysfunctional is an interesting way to start a conversation about Christ.

Bush: Currently we’ve been using a wheel of dysfunction [to draw people]. It’s a game that we play with the bikers. They walk by our booth and we ask them if they’d like to take a personality test or check for dysfunctions they may have. They laugh, but they’ll also usually walk over and spin the wheel. 

On the wheel there are many dysfunctions. One is a funny one—it’s “Goofball.” Another one is “Histrionic,” which means a person is a drama queen, and another one is “Borderline Psychotic.” The bikers are interested in getting the worst diagnosis the wheel can produce. There’s only a 1-in-13 chance that they’ll land on “Normal.”

 

CHARISMA: No Pat Sajak or Vanna White, huh? So what happens after the bikers spin the wheel of dysfunction?

Bush: From there everyone gets a big laugh, their friends will point and laugh, and then their friends may spin the wheel. After that we’ll invite them to come into the booth to get their free prize. 

We’ll then go through the salvation message in a couple minutes telling them about heaven, telling them about sin, telling them about the blood of Jesus and talking to them about salvation. 

 

CHARISMA: Your team visits both small and large bike festivals—sometimes with up to 1,500 people. What type of response do you typically get from bikers at these festivals?

Bush: Most of the response is very good. We usually get 1 out of 4 people [to say the prayer of salvation]. If a biker says, “I don’t want to pray that prayer,” I say, “That’s great—let me tell you about God’s plan for our lives.” If they respond yes, then we pray the prayer of salvation. From there we’ll hand them a pocket Bible. We give them another card which explains what they just heard and all the Scriptures so that they can be reminded of them.

 

CHARISMA: What’s your biggest challenge when ministering at bike festivals? 

Bush: One of our biggest challenges is not having enough people to work the booth. By the time you’ve spun the wheel, gone through the plan of salvation, prayed with the person and had them fill out a follow-up card, it can be timely.

 

CHARISMA: Sharing the gospel with a tough crowd is right up your alley, isn’t it?

Bush: Yes. My hobby was riding motorcycles, and God used my hobby to minister to those that I would come in contact with in that arena. read more

Ex-Madam on a Mission

Ex-Madam on a Mission

Patsyann Maloney knows enough about being used. When she was 6 years old a relative molested her. Two years later a blind man in her neighborhood began sexually abusing her, offering her 25 cents for every encounter.

Violated throughout her young life, Maloney also battled dyslexia but would later turn her pain into a business. She became a prostitute in her early 30s and eventually a madam. read more

Evangelist Purchases Modern-Day Slaves

Imagine children as young as 4 and 5 years old being forced to work 14- to 16-hour days making bricks, cigarettes, rope and textiles, then being forced to beg strangers for food in order to eat. This is the picture of slavery in many Asian and Middle Eastern countries. 


“It’s a pretty harsh and brutal environment,” says evangelist Bruce Ladebu, founder of the Children’s Rescue Initiative (CRI), which has been purchasing the freedom of these victims. “The children never have any time off. They worked from sun up to sun down.”


Many have been enslaved because of debts accrued by their parents. Armed with guns and money, Ladebu and the CRI team go into these slave areas to purchase children and sometimes entire families for anywhere between $200 and $1,000 per child or family. read more

Help! I Think I’m Possessed!

Help! I Think I’m Possessed!

Demons are real—and Christians aren’t immune from their influence. But thanks to Christ’s work on the cross, we are guaranteed victory over Satan and his minions.

 

One of the most popular television series in recent years is Survivor. A group of people are left in a desolate location and must survive on what is at hand. As part of the intrigue, only one can win the large cash prize when the contest ends. As the show progresses, the contestants never know their friends from their enemies.

We live in a beautiful world, yet to survive we, too, must know our enemies. Our worst adversaries are not people but invisible forces of darkness. These forces carry out the orders of a former ally who turned against God. Satan and his evil minions are very near and ready to take out God’s soldiers. Yet God has given us the resources to survive and thrive.

To defeat our enemy, we must know him and be fully aware of the weapons at our disposal. Revelation 12:9 reaches back before time: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast out to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (NKJV). These fallen angels are given several different names in Scripture—demons, principalities, powers, ruler(s) of darkness, wicked spirits, unclean spirits, among other descriptions—and there are many of them. According to Revelation 12:4, one-third of the innumerable hosts of angels fell. The “stars of heaven” refer symbolically to the angels.

Jesus Christ regularly confronted demons as an integral part of His ministry. Luke 4:18 records how He launched His public ministry by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor ... to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Obviously Jesus knew His purpose was to rescue humanity from the bondage and oppression of the enemy.

Jesus confronts demons at least nine times in the New Testament, notably in Luke 8:26-39 when He cast a legion of demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs. The demons had the power to torment and create mental disorders. Yet the glorious truth is that they had to obey the commands of Jesus Christ.

Can people still be demon-possessed? The short answer is yes. The Greek word describing the condition of a person affected by a demon is “daimonizomai,” which was translated as “demon-possessed” in the King James Version. According to Bible scholars, the word is in present tense with an active voice and a passive ending. A person in this condition can be described as in “a demon-controlled passivity.” He or she is being controlled to the a point of passivity by a demon.

Because Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them, the degree of demonization is limited in believers. A Christian can be controlled by the enemy, but not owned. This is important to remember because one of Satan’s great strategies is to get Christians to believe that they are immune to demonic influence. A Spirit-filled believer walking in obedience to Christ is absolutely protected from the enemy. However, while a disobedient Christian’s spirit is protected from the enemy, his mind and body can be subject to attack.

A Christian can “give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27). When a Christian lives with unconfessed, habitual sin the enemy moves in to that place in the believer’s life. The enemy constructs a thought pattern around that sin or attitude. Second Corinthians 10:4-5 describes that house of thoughts as a stronghold. Demons can take up residence in that stronghold in the believer’s life. These demons don’t possess the Christian anymore than a cockroach can possess a house. Cockroaches are dirty and troublesome, but they don’t own the house. In the same way, demons can harass, oppress and depress the believer, but they can’t damn him or her.

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.

The Liberating Truth

Ignoring the truth about demonic forces is frivolous and perilous, but at the heart of spiritual warfare is this truth: The battle has already been won! Satan and the forces of hell are on a short leash because of what Christ did at Calvary. We are not fighting for victory, but rather from victory. The powers of darkness were conquered at the cross. Colossians 2:15 says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, [Christ] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

The blood of Jesus wiped out our sin and left Satan powerless. Every blow that drove the nails into His holy hands was also a nail in the coffin of Satan. The glorious truth is that you and I can enforce that victory. We can see Satan in rapid retreat, and the steps to victory are simple.

Submit to the authority of Christ. Before a believer can effectively put Satan to flight, he must be under authority himself. James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The word proud in that verse describes a self-sufficient person who runs his own life. The word resist means “to arrange an army against.” God has placed an army against the self-sufficient.

A rebellious, sinning Christian cannot put Satan to flight. The Christian who lives in obedience under God-given authority can send the enemy fleeing. The secret to Jesus’ power was that He lived under the will of the Father. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death (see Phil. 2:8). After His submission came His exaltation. Philippians 2:10 declares that every realm is now under Christ’s authority—the spiritual realm, the natural realm and the demonic realm. Before we can stand in authority, we must submit ourselves to God completely.

Resist Satan. James 4:7 says: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We must learn that we can’t hide from Satan. We can’t outrun him, and we can’t get away from him on this planet. How, then, do we resist the enemy?

 

  •  
    • Live, under authority, an obedient and clean life.
    • Stand against Satan in the authority of Christ.
    • Remain steadfast in faith, believing God for the victory.
    • Verbally attack Satan with the Word of God and the work of Christ.
    • Give no place to Satan; give up no ground whatever.
    • Demand in the authority of Christ that he leave.
    • Give thanks and praise to God and watch the devil run.

 

When believers are set free from bondage, it releases the flow of God’s life into the church. The dry places are where demons live, according to Luke 11:24. When believers experience the liberating power of the truth of the good news of Christ, then the power of God is released through them. God promises revival and a harvest to those who come home from bondage.

Satan and his minions are defeated foes. The victory has been won at the cross. The battle rages on earth, but we don’t have to live in bondage and defeat. We can know the joy of victory and release. 


Ron Phillips is pastor of Abba’s House in Hixson, Tenn., and author of Everyone’s Guide to Demons and Spiritual Warfare, which releases in September.


Find out how to recognize and defeat the seven demons that attack the church at warfare.charismamag.com  read more



Jamaican orphanage raises children on coffee

Jamaican orphanage raises children on coffee

In the mountains near Kingston, Jamaica, City of Refuge Children’s Home is cultivating two of the country’s most precious resources: children and coffee. 

Assemblies of God missionaries Steve and Kim Puffpaff decided to open a children’s home after witnessing countless orphaned children living on the streets. In 2002, thanks to donations, the couple purchased property in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains and transformed a former luxury hotel on the property into a children’s home. read more

Breaking Racism’s Curse

Breaking Racism’s Curse

In the ’70s Richard Harris made history by becoming the youngest Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon state leader in history. Now a pastor, professor and author, Harris decries his former life and confronts the issue of racism head-on. 

Harris says his change of heart happened at age 20, after four years in the Klan. His superiors assigned him to a chaplain position and required him to study the Bible. read more

Saved by AngeIs

Saved by AngeIs

Can you imagine a 10,000-pound axle from a logging truck falling on top of you and nearly cutting the midsection of your body in two? That’s what happened to diesel mechanic Bruce Van Natta when the semitrailer he was repairing fell off a jack in November 2006. 

Van Natta shouted to the driver “Turn it off!” and then pulled part of his body our from under the bumper of the vehicle. He was in agonizing pain, but what happened next is the reason the 40-year-old travels the world proclaiming Jesus. read more

Dreams Come True for Hidden Homeless

Dreams Come True for Hidden Homeless

Pastor John Wiley didn’t think it was fair that the working poor or “hidden homeless” in Kansas City, Mo., had to live in rent-by-the-week motels, paying $800 to $1,200 a month, so his church did something about it.

Three years ago, as Wiley watched nearly a dozen children get off a school bus and go into a motel, he thought, No child should have to live in such a horrible place. Soon after he drove by an old hospital and said to himself, “Somebody ought to buy that hospital and turn it into a place for homeless people and break the cycle of poverty.” read more

Embezzler Finds True Path to Riches

Embezzler Finds True Path to Riches

Before Kevin Cross turned 22 he’d received a bachelor’s degree in accounting, embezzled $300,000 from the government, been blackmailed by the mob and convicted of a felony. But Cross says the excitement of his cinematic life story doesn’t compare to the exhilarating life he now leads in Christ. He travels the country teaching that true riches can be found only through biblical financial stewardship. 

Cross says he spent most of his early years chasing riches. “My god was pleasure, and it was so satisfying. The problem is, it wears off like a drug,” says Cross, who is president of Cross Stewardship Ministries in Roswell, Ga. read more

Life After Death Row

Life After Death Row

In 1974, Army veteran William Moore returned to his Georgia home to find that his estranged wife had become a drug addict. Her addiction left him with little money to provide for their 4-year-old son, and in an act of desperation, Moore attempted to burglarize the home of an elderly man. But the robbery turned violent, and Moore murdered the 77-year-old. 

The former soldier pled guilty to robbery and murder charges and was given the death penalty. Through the next 16 years in prison he accepted Christ and began praying with other inmates and preaching the gospel to them. He also taught inmates to read and write and assisted them in appealing their sentences. “I’d do anything to help anyone so long as I was not focusing on me,” he said. 

While in prison Moore received 15 stays of execution,  and his death sentence eventually was reduced to life. In 1991, he was paroled. Moore is now the only self-confessed death-row inmate in Georgia to be released. The  victim’s family members, who are Christians, all spoke to the appeals board on Moore’s behalf. 

Moore says his freedom is a testament to God’s grace. “The only thing that I can say is Jesus Christ, that’s the answer,” Moore told Charisma. “Beyond that, Billy Moore isn’t a special person. It’s just God’s grace.”

Moore is now an ordained minister with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God denomination and travels the country sharing his testimony and preaching the gospel.  read more

Messiah among the Maasai

Messiah among the Maasai

How a God-hating tribal warrior found Jesus 

I was the instigator of all the trouble among my tribe. If there was mischief to be done, I was leading it. I was vicious.

People were leaving our traditional Maasai ways. Some of the older people lost faith in our witchdoctors and started worshipping a God I didn’t know. Even a few warriors left our traditions and started following this God whom they were calling “Jesus.” It really made me angry, and for nine years I persecuted the people in the church.

Determined to stop this chaos, I confronted the woman who started the church. I went to Sabina and jabbed my stick into her throat. “Why are you stealing my girls from me?” I shouted at her. She just stood there and calmly said, “I will teach anyone who wants to learn about my God!” Then, she cursed me saying, “You are a snake, and in the name of Jesus you will slither in the dirt !”

That night they began to sing songs about Jesus. I flew into a rage. I picked up a stick from the fire to beat them, but as soon as my hand touched that stick my mind completely left me. I couldn’t think clearly. I fell to the ground, and I began to eat dirt for weeks.

I don’t remember that time at all. All I remember is that when I woke up, I wanted to worship Jesus. Sabina told me that I lay like a snake on the ground for months ... and I begged her to pray for me.

I must have tired of lying on the ground because I finally agreed to serve her God. She prayed for me, and I immediately got my mind back. She told me, “Now your name will be Yona (Jonah), because you ran away from God just like Yona in the Bible.”


Most of  Yona’s village now serve Jesus. This testimony was excerpted from the photobook En Kátá. It can be purchased at en-kata.com. read more


Making the invisible visible

Making the Invisible Visible

Armed with a video camera, an iPhone and a bag of socks, Mark Horvath travels the country capturing compelling stories of America’s homeless. He uses the footage as well as social media to share and supply needs for some of these poverty-stricken individuals and families.

In 2009 Horvath drove a car packed with Hanes socks across the country to raise awareness for the homeless and posted his candid videos on InvisiblePeople.tv. At times, some of his 6,000-plus Twitter followers have met him at grocery stores around the country to buy food, clothes and other supplies for the families he encounters.

Horvath feels drawn to minister to homeless people because he’s lived on the streets himself. He insists that he’s not “called” to this work—he’s forced. “If you’re called, you can hang up the phone,” Horvath says. “I don’t have any choice.”

Horvath’s life story has the ups and downs of a roller-coaster ride. After a career in the TV industry, Horvath ended up on the streets. He got back on his feet thanks to the commitment of the Dream Center, a Los Angeles church.

But in 2005 his six-figure income instantly disappeared after losing his job. Only weeks away from homelessness—again—Horvath used the opportunity to launch InvisiblePeople.tv

“Don’t waste a good crisis,” Horvath advises. “Tonight there are people who were homeless that are sleeping inside because I had the courage—or I was dumb enough—to drive around the country.”

 


  read more

Soaring Above the Downturn

Soaring Above the Downturn

While businesses across the nation are struggling to survive the economic nose dive, charismatic entrepreneur Mark Sterns says his successful aviation business, Higher Power Aviation, is soaring because of Christ.

“The first thing we did as a company was to dedicate it to the Lord,” says Sterns, an Oral Roberts University graduate who co-founded his company with a partner 15 years ago. “Not only did we want it to be a business, but also for it to be a ministry.”

Sterns is president of the Fort Worth, Texas, training school, which has funneled more than 2,000 pilots to Southwest Airlines and trained astronauts and actors to take flight. He says that his Christian values have helped his school gain the reputation within the aviation industry as the premier flight school.

“For many of those pilots who want to go to Southwest Airlines, they’ll talk amongst themselves and say: ‘Oh, you want to go to Southwest? Call on Higher Power. ‘ And they don’t realize what they just said.” 

Sterns says that although his business operates in the private sector, demonstrating Christ has still been possible.

“What we have been able to do by just living and ministering through our business … [is give others] permission to live lives of faith in their professions,” Sterns says.  read more

Laughter in the Dark

Laughter in the Dark

Christian funnyman Michael Jr. has performed on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the Comedy Central network. But instead of settling for smiles from TV audiences, he took his jokes to unlikely venues—prisons, homeless shelters and safehouses for the abused and HIV patients. Charisma spoke with him about his comedy tour to these depressing places that’s chronicled in his upcoming film, Comedy: The Road Less Traveled, set to release in September. 

Charisma: Why did you decide to leave the normal setting for a comedy show and take your routine to people in desperate situations?

Michael Jr.About a year and a half ago I was headlining in a club in Los Angeles in a well-to-do area. Most of the time when a comedian gets on stage he wants to get laughter. That night God said, “Don’t go out there to get laughter from people, go out there and give them an opportunity to laugh.” [That statement] changed everything I did. After the show I walked outside and there were a lot of people around me wanting my autograph and smiling. I looked across the street and saw a homeless guy with the exact opposite look on his face than those around me. After I saw this guy, I asked myself, How can I take comedy to him? What would that look like? Then we decided do this film called Comedy: The Road Less Traveled, and we went on a tour.

Charisma: You visited the Samaritan House in Fort Worth, Texas, which houses homeless people with HIV; The Dolphin House in Montrose, Colo., which cares for children abused by their drug-addicted parents; and youth and adult prisons. How did you incorporate their very serious, sad circumstances into your comedy shows?

Michael Jr.: I have no idea how it happened. In every location I went to, it was pretty phenomenal ... but to be real with you, I was a little afraid. I would think: Everyone in this room has HIV, they’re homeless or they have some sort of other issue. And now I’m going to tell jokes. How will I be received?

In an adult prison, I’m sitting there praying: “[God], I need a joke right up front, so I can be funny—immediately.” I was going to say, “You guys are a captive audience!” But because I was afraid, I didn’t do that one. But there was an old white guy right up front [in the audience] named Moses. He had a white beard, so I looked at him and said, “Moses, when I read about you in the Bible you were doing better than this. What happened?”

I said, “Moses, this is what I want you to do: I want you to look the prison guard directly in his eyes. I want you to say, ‘Let my people go.’” The whole room burst out laughing, and we had a fabulous time from that point on. In most locations there was something there that really allowed me to connect [with my audience].

In this film you actually get to see these transformations. In the Samaritan House a guy approached me and said, “I want you to know I haven’t laughed like this in over 20 years, since I was diagnosed with AIDS.” It was at that moment that I knew this thing was bigger than just going and telling jokes to people.

Charisma: That’s exciting. What kind of reaction have you seen so far from people watching the film?

Michael Jr.: We’ve done a few small screenings. After people see this film they want to do something. A lady in Orlando saw the film and [told me], “On Wednesdays, I’m opening up my [dance] studio to teach homeless kids how to dance ballet.” It just blew me away. She comes up with this because of seeing this film. There are other people doing the same kind of stuff.

Charisma: Though you’re a Christian comedian, you’ve performed in both religious and secular venues. How has your faith affected your craft?

Michael Jr.: I have an understanding that my comedy and the things that I do are way bigger than me. It’s just a gift that I have, and it’s only really a gift if I am willing to give it away—not just to those who can afford it, but more importantly to those who really need it.

The Bible says in Proverbs 17:22: “A merry heart does good like medicine” If it’s a medicine and it does good for you, shouldn’t we give medicine to those who really need it—to those who are sick? It just makes sense to me.

 


 

Your Turn

How can you use your gifts for good? It’s not as hard as you may think. Here are a few easy ideas.

1.
 If you are a seamstress, why not use your abilities to provide clothes for the less fortunate? You could even offer to teach classes at women’s shelters in your area.

2. Can you read?  Why not volunteer at an orphanage or nursing home. Taking time to read to someone could mean the world to a person who feels abandoned.

3. If you’re a great business person, look into teaching interview skills at a homeless shelter. Some people just need a little direction  to get back on their feet.  read more

Using the Unusual

Amena Brown doesn’t always close her eyes and sway to music while in praise and worship at church. Sometimes she stands in front of the congregation and performs worshipful, hard-hitting “spoken-word poetry” to music. Brown, who also ministers her thought-provoking poetry to young adults at Fusion and Passion conferences across the country, says that everyone should let God use whatever gifts they have—not just the “popular” gifts usually used in church. “I’m always really big on encouraging young people to do what’s in your heart,” Brown told Charisma. “Do what you’re passionate about. You’re never too young or too old to start doing the passion that God put in your heart.”

An Inconvenient Savior

 

Jesus is no convenient savior
He is agitation to the prideful religious
He is the truth in love to the

 

Heart of a sinner

He did not call us to finding cotton-like

 

comfort in Christianity
He called us to live honestly,

 

turn over tables for justice,

love the unloved and unloving

In Jesus there is no comfort zone,

 

no playing it safe
There is feeling the tremble of fear and

 

 

letting it propel you to do His will
Holding His hand in the dark and letting 
Him lead you where you can’t see

 

-Amena Brown read more

With this ring...I give to the poor

With This Ring...I Give to the poor

Would you donate your wedding ring to a worthy cause if you knew it meant a child living in Africa would have clean drinking water for years to come? That’s the purpose behind With This Ring (WTR), a ministry dedicated to building wells in Third World countries. “We take to heart the command of Jesus when He says that we should sell our possessions and give the money to the poor,” says Ali Eastburn, executive director of WTR. “We believe that if we can learn to give radically, we can literally change the world for Jesus.” To donate your ring, first have it appraised for cut, style and estimated worth. If the cost of the appraisal is more than the ring, WTR recommends that you sell it and donate the proceeds to the ministry. If the ring is worth more than $500, go to withthisring.org and follow the steps to donate your jewelry. read more


Angelic Bodyguards

Angelic Bodyguards

Psalm 91, which speaks of God’s divine protection, takes on new meaning when angels come to the rescue. Such was the case for Mike Disanza of the New York City Police Department, whose angelic encounter is highlighted in Peggy Joyce Ruth’s latest book, Psalm 91:

 

Over my system came the message: 72nd Street and Broadway, Manhattan! I knew the meaning of the code: Cop in trouble and needs assistance. I rushed to the subway and there was a crowd of people around the cop who refused to let him get his prisoner. I walked directly over and cuffed the prisoner, which made the crowd go wild.

One man shouted: “Here comes the train! Let’s throw the cop in the subway!” The crowd converted into a mob. I felt myself moving toward the subway track, being pushed by this angry crowd who was intending to hurl me onto the tracks in front of the speeding train. I could hear the sound and see the lights of the oncoming train in the tunnel. 

Being a new Christian, I cried out the best prayer I knew: “Jesus help!” Suddenly, these two big guys in the crowd started pushing the mob out of our way. They parted the crowd, got over to me and said, “Follow us!” I grabbed the prisoner and followed them as they made a path for us—and felt the other cop right on my heels hanging onto my jacket. The two men ushered us back to the patrol car and I loaded the prisoner in the back seat. He was still screaming his mouth off about how he hated cops. I turned around to thank the two strangers, but was surprised that neither of them was there. Oh, well, I thought, and muttered my thanks to them anyway.

I jumped in and the other cop got in next to the driver. He thanked me gratefully for my help. I deflected the compliment and said, “Thank God for those two big guys pushing the crowd apart, telling us to follow them and moving us to the car!”

“I didn’t hear nothing. I didn’t see nothing,” he said. “And I never heard anyone tell us to follow them.” 

Puzzled, I asked, “Eddie, how could you not see the men? You were right behind us!”

When I turned around, I suddenly saw a 3-D message through the glass: Angels are ministering spirits to help those who will believe. It was at that moment I realized what had happened and said to myself, My gosh, those guys were angels!

God really does give His angels charge concerning us (see Ps. 91:11). read more

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