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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

The Cycle of Love

Sometimes my ministry has good cycles in which it goes well, and sometimes it has bad cycles when I cannot sense the anointing of God's presence and the people seem bored. Sometimes my circumstances have cycles of blessing, and sometimes I have life cycles where I can hardly see any blessing at all. Sometimes my health is very good, and sometimes it has been assaulted. Sometimes my most important relationships are healthy; sometimes they are being undermined. But none of these circumstances ever change the fact, the bedrock of truth, that I am loved and that I am a lover. When pressures come in all areas of life, the confession that brings me comfort, the confession that brings me out of despair, is this: I am loved. I am a lover. Therefore, I am successful.

 

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. —Psalm 36:5-6

{ PRAYER STARTER }

Father, nothing compares in life to the fact that You utterly and unconditionally love me! As long as I remember Your love, I know that I will be successful before You. 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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The Face of Love in Southern Sudan

The Face of Love in Southern Sudan

Born without her left hip, leg and kidney, Michele Perry, 32, has faced adversity from birth. By age 13 she had already undergone 23 surgeries.

Not allowing her disabilities to sideline her, the Florida native went on to become a missionary in the slums of Bangladesh, India and, most recently, Yei, Southern Sudan.

“My visible sign of need opens doors ... to share Jesus,” she says. “People want to know why I am here and how I could possibly be happy, so I tell them about the One who is the love and joy of my life—Jesus.”

Perry is the founding field ministry director for Iris Ministries Sudan (IMS), a ministry that works in conjunction with Heidi and Rolland Baker of Iris Ministries Inc. in Mozambique.

She and the indigenous IMS team now care for 110 children in residential care and around 90 children in their community care program.

“I’ll be honest, I do miss hot baths and 24/7 power and the Internet, but in the long run, it is a small price to pay.” For Perry, these challenges can’t compare to living God’s dreams for her life. read more

Humbled In Haiti

Humbled In Haiti

How did you respond when you heard about the magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked Haiti in January? For Maribel Landis, simply offering a prayer wasn’t enough. A registered nurse, Landis grabbed her scrubs, medical kit and Bible, and boarded a plane bound for the impoverished country.

It didn’t take long for her to join in with other volunteer doctors and nurses treating wounded people at the Harvard Humanitarian Relief Initiative/Love a Child field hospital in Parisien, Haiti.

“It was painful to hear the screams of burn victims who had undergone skin grafts to get their wounds cleaned,” Landis says. “But I tried to show them God’s love by treating them and praying for them.” She says she left the country “humbled” by the resolve of the Haitian people.

Landis, wife of pastor Randy Landis of Lifechurch in Allentown, Penn., is no stranger to Haiti. Lifechurch operates Rescue Children Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, where the majority of the estimated 230,000 earthquake-related deaths occurred. Fortunately, all 11 of the ministry’s orphans made it out alive as their home crumbled around them. read more

Church on the Front Porch

Church on the Front Porch

After spending lunch breaks driving through an impoverished Nashville, Tenn., neighborhood in search of an investment home, Thom Hazelip began feeling an undeniable burden for the people in the community. Forfeiting his upscale home with a pool house in the backyard, he decided to move his wife, Michelle, and four young children to the drug-infested area of McFerrin Park.

“What changed it from being a business venture, to us moving down here to be a part of the community was God,” Thom says. 

Michelle admits she thought her husband had “lost his mind” when he first proposed the idea of moving to McFerrin Park. But after she saw the numerous needs of the kids in the area and their parents, some of whom were only 13 or 14 when they became parents, she felt a change of heart.

As the family began spending more time “eating Popsicles and painting” with the neighborhood kids on their front porch, it became obvious why God had prompted the move. 

“We [now] know all our neighbors,” Thom says. “We know all the kids, what’s going on in their lives.”

The Hazelips have created the nonprofit Front Porch Ministry to offer financial and volunteer support (frontporchministry.org). The organization provides scholarships and rehab assistance to children and their parents respectively.

McFerrin Park resident Armentria Kelly is grateful for the Hazelips’ ministry:  “They have touched many lives ... and it’s helping me to want to change and want to be able to do what they are doing, to be able to give back.”


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Church on the Front Porch

Love and Remarriage

Love and Remarriage

For years statistics have shown that Christian marriages are just as likely to end in divorce as non-Christian ones. Adding to the bleak snapshot of the American church is the fact that clergy divorce rates are lock step with their congregations. But pastor Isaac Pitre and his wife, Denisha, (pictured above) who helm Christ Nations Church in Texarkana, Texas, say God wants to restore all marriages—even if couples have already divorced. Charisma recently spoke with the pair, who remarried each other six years after their 2003 divorce. You can hear the entire interview at pitre.charismamag.com.

Charisma: After 10 years of being married, what led to your divorce?

Isaac Pitre: It was basically just not understanding that my ministry was really to be at home and to [Denisha] as much as it was to the church and the world.

Charisma: What caused the two of you to reconcile your relationship?

Isaac: I had to accept personal responsibility for what I did and what I caused, and that it wasn’t the devil. It was my own pride and selfishness and neglect of really honoring and loving her. It took me awhile to come to that conclusion, but when I did, I immediately knew that our relationship could come back together. If I helped tear it up, then I could help fix it.

Denisha Pitre:  Immediately during the separation I realized that this was not the will of God, so I ... tried to reconcile with Isaac. After a few years of realizing that the relationship was not going to be reconciled, I just started to pray ... for soberness of mind. I continued to pray for myself and that God would just cleanse me and make me whole.

Charisma: What happened next?

Isaac: The night God broke through to me was the same night I picked up the phone. I went after Denisha and told her what the Lord had showed me—that I was wrong and it wasn’t her. It wasn’t about the ministry. It was my arrogance and my pride, and I wanted her back.

Charisma: Denisha, what were you thinking at that point?

Denisha: When he called, I just didn’t trust it because I thought there was a hidden agenda. But the faith that was built through [the previous year’s trials] helped me to accept him calling and accept that what he said was true.

Charisma: What happened after you decided that you were going to reconcile?

Isaac: We dated for six months, just to make sure we were really transformed. God had really started working on us, and Denisha wanted to make sure I was this new and improved Isaac, and I wanted to make sure she was the new and improved Denisha. After the end of that, I think another month and a half we were married.

Charisma: What would you tell someone who is currently going through a divorce or is contemplating getting one?

Isaac: First of all, everyone should understand that God hates divorce. Even though God forgives, divorce outside the groundworks of the Bible is wrong. The next thing is to understand that if there is a possibility for reconciliation, meaning the other person is not remarried, instead of asking God for someone else, ask God to fix the marriage you had. If the man is not fixed and the woman is not fixed, no matter who you remarry, you’re going to have the same issues.

Charisma: Pastor, do you have any specific advice for husbands? Isaac: Yes I do, and it is simply Ephesians chapter 5, that we are to love our wives as Christ loves the church. First Corinthians 13 says that we can have power to understand mysteries; we can preach with deep revelation, and we can have faith to move mountains, but the Bible says that if we have not love then we are nothing. That became very real to me.

Charisma: And how about you, Denisha—any advice for wives?

Denisha: For all wives, but especially for pastors’ wives, you should learn not to be a clone of what you think a pastor’s wife should be. I urge women to look inward and discover who they are. Focus on developing that. Everything you need for your spouse is wrapped up in who you really are.

Charisma: How do you now view your experiences?

Denisha: One of the greatest things I see in retrospect is that staying together is really one of the easiest things to do. You simply love each other, be humble and put God first. If you’re sincere with who you are in Christ, then you don’t have all those flaws and pride that cause separation. To actually stay in the relationship ... is one of the easiest things to do.

Isaac: We give glory to God for our reconciliation ... but instead of saying that God put us back together, we like to say that we allowed God to put us back together. God is trying to fix every marriage in every home, but He’s often not allowed to [mend relationships] because people don’t yield to Him. He is either trying to put every home back together or He is trying to keep every home from falling apart. It’s not a question of what God can and cannot do; it’s a question of what God is allowed to do. read more


Love and Remarriage


Walking for Water

Walking for Water

You’d think walking 3,400 miles across 170 North American cities in only 374 days would be a pinnacle lifelong achievement for one person, but not for Daren Wendell. This was just the beginning of his global trek known as The Earth Expedition (theearthexpedition.com), which he founded in 2006 to raise awareness for the lack of clean water and AIDS pandemic in Africa.

“I had to sell everything I own to do this—literally. All the walkers [who commit to walking a leg of the expedition in various countries] do so by raising their own support,” Wendell explains.

Participants often sacrifice everything to hike thousands of miles for each leg, most often alone. Along the way, they visit various coffee shops, conferences, churches and schools to raise awareness and funds for the effort.

Together Wendell and the group plan to traverse three continents, 14 countries and 18,000 miles—taking 36 million steps in all to provide clean water to Africa. read more

Finding God ... and other things to do during a One-Year Airport Layover

Finding God ... and other things to do during a One-Year Airport Layover

Some people dread airport layovers that last longer than an hour. Imagine a layover for more than one year.

Nigeria-born Elizabeth Woleta was left stranded for more than a year in a terminal in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport after her passport was stolen in March 2007 in a 15-foot section considered a “legal no man’s land” that’s couched between Russian and international territories yet governed by neither. Despite her predicament, Woleta, now 31, found Christ when American traveler Brian Dodd told her God loved her. She later used her desperate situation to minister the gospel to people from more than 17 nations.

“It’s just the grace of God, “ she told Charisma. “I was saved by that grace and that same grace had to continue and moved me to preach the Word of God to as many as I could.”

Woleta said before praying with Dodd she was a “tortured” soul who’d never experienced love. “Brian … showed me an example that Christ really cares for us,” she said.

Despite her numerous attempts to get help from governmental authorities, airport officials and other travelers, Woleta was unable to depart the terminal.

After Dodd returned to the U.S. he immediately began working to find a way to help Woleta leave the airport. He and some of his companions smuggled food and a cell phone in for her. Despite their efforts, Woleta would go days without eating and sometimes resorted to drinking water from the toilet. Seeking some form of sustenance Woleta turned to the Word of God.

“[People would] see me reading a particular book for quite a long time,” she said. “In fact, I’d sit in one position for more than six hours just reading the Bible. Others would come to find out what’s making me read that Bible. I actually preached the Word of God to them.”

She’d even use her cell phone, which could only receive calls and send text messages, to ask others to translate Bible verses so she could minister to people speaking other languages. Though Woleta said she didn’t keep count, she estimates that at least 50 people accepted Christ after she witnessed to them in the airport.

After one year, Woleta was finally able to leave the airport when Dodd contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to have her returned to Nigeria, where she continues to host Bible studies. 

“The Holy Spirit of God actually helped me. ... [He] has been my food all along,” she said. “I continue to thank God for what He has done in my life.”  read more

Students Go Hungry to Feed Others

Students in the United States and abroad not only turned down their plates to fast during World Vision’s latest 30 Hour Famine, they also helped raise money for starving children in other countries.

In late April, participants fasted for 30 hours, performed community service projects such as feeding the homeless, cleaning up shelters and giving care packages to hospital patients. Some students even slept outside to try and duplicate the experience of young people in impoverished nations. Partakers also raised money to donate to World Vision’s efforts to end child hunger and build wells in nations around the world.

At press time, the total amount of money raised was unknown, but organizers were hoping to collect $12 million as a result of the famine. Since 1992, students worldwide have raised more than $130 million for the project.

But for some kids, saying no to food was a challenge. “I wanted to open their eyes so their compassion for the hungry would increase,” said youth minister Ross Runnels, of Canoe Creek Christian Church in St. Cloud, Fla. He said it was important for students “dragging their heels” to get involved with the famine. 


                   Students are sacrificing by:

» Fasting for 30 hours       » Sleeping on sidewalks

» Feeding the homeless    » Making care packages read more

Moms Get ‘Red Carpet’ Treatment

By the time most moms get their children ready for school, go to work, then come home and cook and clean, they’re too drained to pay attention to their own needs. But single mom Danette Crawford wants to help mothers feel appreciated—and pampered.

During her annual Mother’s Day Celebration, Crawford and her team bus in some 2,000 women from Hampton, Va., and surrounding cities, and shower them with love. Military wives whose husbands are deployed, widows, single moms, women from homeless shelters and assisted-living facilities all attend the event.

“When they first arrive, we give them the red carpet treatment,” says Crawford, who will sponsor her 10th celebration on May 9. “We give them a red rose or carnation, and a five-star meal. They have dinner with their children, and we just pamper them.”

The author of Don’t Quit in the Pit: Power to Turn Any Situation Around, Crawford provides activities for the children and shares the message of Jesus and teachings from her book with the women.

“When there’s no dad in the picture, these women go without honoring,” she says. “Our message is, ‘Don’t give up. You are loved.’” read more

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