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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.”


  read more


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

Why You're Not Satisfied

People who are born again do not automatically have a sense of the nearness of God.

Intimacy with Jesus is the context in which the deep longing in our hearts for more of Him is progressively satisfied. People who are born again do not automatically have a sense of the nearness of God. Effective ministry produces a satisfaction that comes through helping others and being useful in God's kingdom, but it is not the same as the satisfaction that comes from encountering God in our inner man. The Holy Spirit may give spiritual gifts to believers and release His power through us, but these things do not ultimately satisfy the desire in our hearts for more of God. When our spiritual hunger is not being satisfied, we will experience frustrating spiritual boredom and restlessness.

{ PRAYER STARTER }

You alone can satisfy the longing of my heart, Jesus. All I want is more of You. Let me live my life in intimacy with You.

Nothing but an intimate relationship with Jesus
will satisfy this inner cry birthed
by the Holy Spirit. read more

Finding God 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 where you're unable to eat for days at a time, and are forced to drink toilet water and fend off sexual predators.

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. The 15-foot section of this unique airport is considered a "legal no man's land"-it is couched between Russian and international territories and is governed by neither. Despite her peculiar predicament, Woleta, now 31, found Christ when a missionary told her God loved her. She later used her unique situation to minister the gospel to people from more than 50 nations. read more

Easy Ways to Bless Mom

Here are some unique, inexpensive and easy ways to reflect God’s love to your mother this season. Why not go out of your way to make your mom feel special this Mother’s Day.

Goody Basket
Make mom a goody basket. Fill the basket with small items you know your mother will love.

De-stress-her 
Treat mom to a massage at a classy spa or a nice relaxing night at a hotel in town. read more

The Source of Pure Delight

Several years ago I was introduced to the poignant Irish hymn "Be Thou My Vision" for the first time. It quickly became a favorite, especially the stanza that reads: "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise / Thou mine inheritance, now and always / Thou and Thou only, first in my heart / High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art."

Whenever I hear this verse-and I sing it often-I imagine the glorious, eternal riches of our inheritance in Christ. It is true that on Earth and in heaven, God has by His grace provided for us "one blessing after another" (John 1:16, NIV). Yet without eyes to see Christ as our inheritance and our chief aim, we don't recognize His blessings for what they are. read more

How to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit

Find out the simple steps you can take to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

When we meet Christ and put our trust in Him, we are "born again" (John 3:3) and we receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This is the most important decision we will ever make. This happened to the disciples of Jesus in John 20:22, which says: "[Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'"

But before Jesus ascended to heaven He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the "promise of the Father" had come (Luke 24:49). He told them that if they would wait there they would be "clothed with power from on high." In Acts 1:8 Jesus told His followers that they would receive "power" to be His witnesses. read more

Today's Servant of Christ

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. —Hebrews 6:10

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Grace Is Not Cheap

Grace Is Not Cheap

It is true that grace is free.But beware of any message about grace that does not lead you to true discipleship.

I have learned by hard experience to be thankful for consumer reports about products offered on the Internet. Reading the customer reviews can save a potential buyer a lot of grief and money. Nowadays, because of the usefulness and availability of these reports few people would consider making a purchase of even something as small as a cell phone or an MP3 player without doing some due diligence in the form of research. read more

Put God First

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. —Matthew 10:37

All relationships must ever be subservient to God's greater glory. No matter how close people get to each other, they must be closer to God. The irony is, the closer people are to God, the more they will love each other. The more they put the voice of God prior to their commitment to each other, the more they really respect each other. read more

What Is Love?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. —1 Corinthians 13:4-5 read more

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Being Uncomfortably Content

Meditating on the Bible is one way to find God's peace and contentment. Here are helpful verses taken from the New King James Version.

"When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." -Deuteronomy 24:19

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." -Joshua 1:9

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. -Psalm 56:3 read more

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