Dick Woodward can’t move anything below his neck. But that hasn’t prevented him from training and mentoring pastors around the world.
Despite a degenerative spinal disorder that slowly robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, the veteran pastor provides audio Bible studies and ministry-training materials through the Mini Bible College (MBC) he founded in 1974. The college offers nearly 800 programs, which have been translated into more than 25 languages and are being used in 50 nations, including India, China, Sudan and Haiti.
Strange as it may seem, Woodward, 80, believes the MBC may never have been more than an idea had he not gradually lost mobility. He was a busy pastor. He founded Virginia Beach Community Chapel—which he led for 23 years before planting Williamsburg Community Chapel—hosted a TV and a radio program, and taught weekly Bible studies. Because of his hectic schedule, he never found time to record the Bible training materials he’d been sensing God wanted him to produce since he was in seminary in the 1950s.
Today many Christians are fed up with the immorally charged films being produced in Hollywood. And some are heeding the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Numerous churches and Christian organizations are starting to make movies and/or back films more closely aligned with their moral leanings. Check out the flicks coming to a screen near you.
Agape International Missions, dedicated to ending child sexual slavery in Cambodia, helped produce the documentary Not My Life. Releasing next month, the film depicts the disturbing yet inspiring testimonies of survivors of the modern-day global sex-trafficking industry.
T.D. Jakes, the megachurch pastor of The Potter’s House, releases his third film, Jumping the Broom, on May 6. The movie, which stars Hollywood elites such Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine, chronicles two families from different socioeconomic backgrounds who are being joined by marriage.
On DVD, former semi-pro racer Scotty Curlee stars as a veteran cyclist in The Potential Inside.Reeling from grief after a family tragedy, he is given an opportunity he doesn’t want—to train a rookie cycling prodigy. The movie’s message is “about the potential we have inside of us, in Christ, to reach our best.”
Atlanta-based pastor Shaun King has made a promise to speak or consult with any organization of any size, anywhere in the world at no charge. His only requirement: the ministry using his services must sponsor a child at the Miriam Center for disabled orphans in Saint-Louis-du-Nord, Haiti.
The Courageous Church pastor is part of a group helping to rebuild this dilapidated orphanage, which King says is Haiti’s only school and home for orphans with severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, deafness and blindness. Many of the children are unwanted by their parents because some Haitians view handicaps as a curse, while others simply can’t afford the hefty bill that comes with caring for a disabled child.
“Many of the children were simply dropped off at the doorstep of the Miriam Center,” King says. “The director there has picked random birthdays on the calendar for most of the children.”
People-pleasers are everywhere. They can parade as successful pastors or as top-of-the-corporate-ladder executives. The most easily identified are the passive, co-dependent types.
All pleasers are out to prove they are valuable people—trying to quiet the voice within that says they aren’t. People-pleasers play a tape that says, “People will love and accept me if I please them.” Their myth says, “You are somebody when you please others.”
Pleasers believe that a failure to please will result in rejection and the false assumption that they are not valuable. As a result, they go about trying to make everybody but themselves happy.
This frequently requires pleasers to keep their own thoughts, desires and needs locked away in their inner selves. They believe their mission on Earth is to drive themselves into an emotional breakdown, if necessary, to make sure others approve of them. When they fail to please someone, they feel guilty or believe (probably unconsciously) that their world is going to end.
The paradoxical dynamic that takes place is that the very individuals to whom people-pleasers try to prove their worth very often use and abuse them. Instead of gaining respect as a pleaser, you often lose it. So trying to please everyone to feel you are “somebody” is a dead-end street. You will eventually find yourself exhausted, disillusioned and feeling less like somebody than ever.
Instead, resolve with God’s help to redirect your life and energy toward becoming a whole and healthy person who does not require the acceptance and affirmation of others to say, “I am valuable.”
Are You a People-Pleaser?
The first step toward freedom from “people pleasing” is to determine if you are a people-pleaser. You can do this by honestly answering the following questions:
* Do you accept responsibility for the happiness of others?
* Do you believe you can make others happy?
* Do you feel guilty when you think of yourself instead of others?
* Do you feel guilty when you tell someone no?
* Do you believe it is un-Christian to think of yourself and your own health and emotional well-being?
* Do you feel better about yourself when you give in to the desires of others rather than pleasing yourself?
* Are you able to set boundaries when it comes to your own health and emotional well-being?
* Do you understand what it means to set boundaries?
A people-pleaser would answer “yes” to the first six questions and “no” to the last two. If you conclude that you are a people-pleaser, then what are you to do?
If you are a people-pleaser, you need to redirect your need to please. Your focus needs to change from horizontal to vertical. In other words, you need to become more concerned with what pleases God than with what pleases others. They are not the same thing, as many people believe.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that we are to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (NKJV). But if we are going to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (and people-pleasers literally do this), then it must be to God alone. We are to please Him first, and He is the only one we are to worship.
The flip side of this truth is that when we give our all to please others, we are in fact engaging in a type of worship toward those we want to please. Many pleasers believe this kind of behavior is “virtuous,” but it isn’t—because it is done with the unconscious motive of getting approval and acceptance in return.
Are we to please God hoping to get something from Him? No, we please Him by recognizing what we have already received from Him. When God brings us into relationship with Himself, we become somebody. The full realization of this comes with time as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s efforts to “grow us” into the persons we were meant to be.
Once our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to see and understand that it is God’s will for us to seek to “be somebody” in His sight rather than in the eyes of others. We can also find an answer to the question I am asked so often: “What am I supposed to do when I am asked to do this or that?”
For the Christian, the answer is simple: Focus on pleasing God by seeking to know His will for each situation as it arises. It is not necessarily God’s will for us to do everything we are asked to do, even in the church! When our heart’s desire is to please God, we will be able to put others’ needs and desires in a healthy perspective.
Weary people-pleaser, ask God to forgive you for trying to please everyone else besides Him. Begin to believe you are now somebody in the kingdom of God because God says so.
We change our beliefs about our personhood by believing the truths of God’s Word rather than by continuing to believe our myths. This is the first step toward positive change. Next come the behavioral changes.
Changing Pleaser Behavior
People-pleasers need to budget their time and energy as they would financial budgets. This means they must prioritize their lives and determine how much time will be allotted for specific people and activities, including themselves. I suggest the following order (in order of importance): relationship with God; family (marriage, children, parents); employment; personal time (time alone with God, time alone with self); self-care; church; community; other.
God asks for the No. 1 position in our lives. We commit to that when we make the decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ (see Luke 14:25-33). The problem is that some people-pleasers wrongly believe that being “a good Christian” means pleasing others. They believe they are putting God first when they say “yes” to a good cause, especially if it is a church-related activity. They have not confronted this myth with reality.
When God reigns at the top of our list of priorities, we can trust Him to show us where to place other people, ourselves and all other involvements. When our vertical relationship with God is right, then our horizontal relationships will naturally fall into their rightful places. The same is true of the commitments we make.
So how do we divide or budget our time commitments according to our priorities? First, we must recognize that God wants us to make our families our No. 1 priority under Him. When over-commitment begins to rob us of time that should be given to our families, it is time to say “no.”
You may notice that after employment I listed “personal time.” It makes sense to me that if you don’t take some time for yourself, then the time you give to others won’t amount to much! If there ever was a person with a vision, a purpose and a consuming passion, it was Jesus the Son of Man. Yet He was not a people-pleaser. Have you noticed that when He needed time for Himself, He took it?
The Gospel of Luke records, “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place” (Luke 4:42, NIV). Since the Lord had been up all night healing the sick and casting out demons, He was exhausted. Instead of expecting His heavenly Father to give Him supernatural strength to continue, the Lord recognized His need for rest and rejuvenation.
We need to designate time in our busy schedules for us to nurture our relationships with our heavenly Father. We must be fed from the Word of God and energized by the Holy Spirit to be fruit-bearing Christians.
We also need time to minister to ourselves. This means taking time for reflection, time that is used to get in touch with ourselves to find out where we are, where we want to go and (sometimes) where we have been.
These times of reflection should always be under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We must become still and quiet to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit that is so vital to our spiritual health. The Scriptures tell us He knows all about us, and He knows the mind of God (see Rom. 8:27). We need this information to confront our myths with reality.
Quiet times provide the vital opportunities people-pleasers need to get things into perspective. A clear perspective can help pleasers make wise decisions about all the requests and demands put on their time by others. This helps bring order and control to their agitated lives as they sort out their priorities and allocate their time. By spending time with God and with themselves, people-pleasers will be able to put the obligations of home, church, community and other areas in their rightful places in their time budgets.
People-pleasers often experience guilt when it comes to saying “yes” to themselves. But it can prove to be one of the best investments of time you will ever make.
Another vital step needed to break free from people-pleasing is to learn how to set boundaries. Boundaries differentiate us from other people.
People-pleasers have difficulty erecting fences between themselves and others. They lack the ability to set limits that declare what they will or will not do, or what they will or will not tolerate.
People-pleasers can be unaware that certain things belong to them personally, such as the right to say “no” when they want to say no, and “yes” when they want to say yes. They can also be too afraid to build personal fences for fear of hurting others or of somehow displeasing God.
The truth of the matter is that when we allow others to take advantage of us, we are encouraging and assisting them in their disobedience. God is not pleased with anyone who uses and abuses another!
People-pleasers can gain the respect and sense of personhood they are searching for by setting firm boundaries regarding their involvement in the lives of others. When it is necessary to tell others “no” to choose what is best for ourselves (according to our God-ordained priorities), or even to submit to our own valid needs or desires, we should do it graciously but steadfastly.
People-pleasers can effectively change their self-defeating behavior once they begin to view themselves as separate from others, sharing equal standing in the kingdom of God with everyone else. Each individual person bears the image of the Creator Himself.
Everyone enters the kingdom “by grace...through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Grace is “the unmerited favor of God,” and we don’t receive it by our “works” or good deeds (see v. 9).
We all enter God’s kingdom through the same gate: Jesus Christ. None of us is good enough to enter on our own merits. Our real value depends solely on our potential in Christ.
You and I have every reason to accept ourselves once we are convinced that we are children of God and that we are loved, forgiven and accepted by Him. When we are self-accepting, we don’t have to seek the approval and acceptance of others to confirm our personhood.
As pleasers accept the truth of their value in Christ and learn to budget their time according to their priorities and limits, they will soon feel positive new feelings about themselves. Their old behavior of looking to others for affirmation will fall away, and they will find themselves seeking out God rather than people for the satisfaction that only He can provide.
God doesn't want to heal only me. His deliverance is available to all.
"Come here, Joyce. I have to give you a ticket for a free lunch," my teacher said. I approached her desk feeling self-conscious and humiliated.
"Your parents have enrolled you in the Title 21 Lunch Program. That means you get free lunches, and they don't have to pay for it."
I nodded and took the ticket, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me. I started to turn away and go back to my seat, but she continued to talk about me.
"You'll never amount to anything. You'll never get out of the projects. You'll always be one of those people with your hand out, looking for a free ride."
Unfortunately, I had come face to face with the ugly reality many believers struggle with. It's called rejection.
Today, as a confident woman and evangelist, I do not allow people to label me, dictate my future or make me feel unworthy of God's love and acceptance. My relationship with Christ is the foundation of my identity.
Rejection is what I call a "fatal distraction" because it is emotionally debilitating and if left unchecked, it can mentally paralyze you. Scripture reveals that "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. 18:21, NKJV).
Maybe a trusted friend, parent or spouse has rejected you and stripped you of your self-worth. People can be brutal when you don't measure up to their expectations. My teacher rejected me because my family was poor, and in her mind, I was lazy, worthless and a waste of her time.
I believe also that rejection becomes fatal when you take ownership of it. You tend to make life choices based on what you have been told about yourself rather than what God has to say about you.
My teacher told me I would never get out of the projects, and I believed her. I accepted her comments as valid, and from that moment on I began to look at myself through her eyes instead of God's.
What the Bible says is true: "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). It is imperative that you replace rejection with the life-giving, life-changing Word of God. It will assure you of His unconditional love.
Yes, the words and attitudes of other people can deeply wound you, but please don't allow them to destroy you.
I am grateful to God that His grace did not permit me to live under a cloud of rejection. My life began to change when I moved in with "Big Mama," my maternal grandmother.
She didn't have any better sense than to believe that, regardless of our economic and social status, my family and I were the people God said we were.
Big Mama affirmed me, and pumped me full of God's Word. She constantly told me I was a child of the King, had royal blood flowing through my veins and was going to grow up to be "a mighty woman in the Lord!"
Slowly but surely, through her love and by the sheer power of Scripture, she eradicated those feelings of rejection from my life.
I went on to become a cheerleader and the homecoming queen of my high school. I was even voted "most popular" in my senior class! I eventually graduated college and became a teacher.
Today, I travel the world proclaiming the gospel of Jesus at conferences, churches and in other settings. I am enjoying a life enhanced by the blessings, favor and anointing of God.
If you struggle with rejection and want to be restored, run to the Father. He doesn't want to heal only me—His deliverance is available to all who will turn to Him.
Joyce L. Rodgers is an evangelist and sought-after speaker. She is the author of Fatal Distractions (Charisma House), and the founder of Primary Purpose Ministries in Dallas. Rodgers also serves at an international level with the Church of God in Christ.
When was the last time you ran a reality check on your perceptions of God's Word? Too many believers embrace popular misunderstandings of what God has said rather than the truth. According to Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, understanding God's truth means your perceptions become aligned with God's reality of the thing being perceived. One area in which the perceptions of believers do not line up with the truth relates to our understanding of how we are to deal with the devil. Many Christians believe we should order Satan around with great fervor, frequency and volume.
Satan cooperates with this deception, conceding victories whenever necessary to perpetuate the lie that God's people need to battle him for everything God has promised them. This deception keeps earnest Christians too busy with Satan to focus on humbling and surrendering themselves to God.
But God is more concerned about the state of our souls than He is about the devil. He says in His Word, "'If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves [their souls], and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways [of their souls], then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their [souls'] sin and heal their land' " (2 Chr. 7:14, NKJV). The Hebrew word for wicked (ways), ra, includes characteristics of being disagreeable and having an unhappy disposition.
God is telling us that what will bring about the healing of the land is His people's turning away from wrong attitudes and self-centeredness. He does not say anything about warring with Satan to heal the land.
Daniel understood the need for humility and repentance. He prayed and confessed the corporate wrong agreement of God's people when they were in captivity in Babylon: "We have sinned and dealt perversely and done wickedly and have rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances...We have not earnestly begged for forgiveness and entreated the favor of the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and have understanding and become wise in Your truth" (Dan. 9:5,13, The Amplified Bible).
The Israelites had been and still were actively entering into wrong agreements about what God was saying to them through His prophets. These wrong agreements had created "legal" grounds for Satan to establish a territorial dominion over them, controlled by the demonic prince of Persia. Wrong agreement always gives right of access to Satan's workings.
Daniel knew that surrender and obedience were the solutions to the Israelites' bondage. When he sought right agreement with God through confessing the sins of his people and repenting, God swiftly sent the archangels Gabriel and Michael to take out the prince of Persia. Note that God did not say Daniel or the Israelites needed to fight Satan over their bondage.
Plans for Satan's Destruction
It is man's desires for power, status and riches that allow evil spirits to harass human souls. These same desires are cunningly promoted by Satan as requirements for "power-Christian" status.
But is "power Christianity"--constant warring with the enemy--God's plan for Satan's ultimate destruction? I don't think so.
In Ephesians 3:9-10 Paul gives us a clue to God's will for the body of Christ on earth: "To make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (NKJV, emphasis added). The terms "principalities and powers" here mean "demonic forces," as it does in Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Considering 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Daniel 9:5,13 along with Ephesians 3:10, we see an interesting truth emerge. God's manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10) will be made known through the church to principalities, powers and rulers of darkness when the body of Christ comes into alignment with 2 Chronicles 7:14, using Daniel 9:5-13 as a pattern for prayer.
And I believe God's manifold wisdom may be the exact opposite of the charismatic "power-Christianity" being modeled today. Regardless of how contemporary Christian songs portray him as a fool, Satan is quite aware that he will ultimately go down. However, he may not know how he will be brought down.
Perhaps he believes he will be known in eternal history as the only entity with whom God Himself ever had to personally war. But what if God's manifold wisdom is to use His own children, humble lambs with servant-like natures, as conduits of His power to take Satan down? Wouldn't that be the ultimate humiliation--to be defeated by sheeplike believers with no personal strength to match Satan's own destructive powers?
We'd be just God's kids counting on His promises that He would use us to fulfill His great purposes. If Christians could see their lives through the perspective of such a plan, it would help clarify what misunderstandings must be put away in order to be a part.
Surrender and Obey
When we are unaware that our Christian walks are not centered in God's truth, we will often make wrong choices to accommodate our souls' unhealed hurts, unmet needs, fears and doubts. All of us have made wrong choices, as Jonah did when he ran from God, and had to suffer the consequences. But today we're being taught to "rebuke" the consequences of those bad choices.
This is ridiculous. No human being could have rebuked or cast Jonah's whale-sized consequence from him! Yet after Jonah prayed and surrendered his own will, trusting in the mercy of God, God commanded the whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land (see Jon. 2:7-10). What a concept!
There is a catch, however. When God delivers you from a tough consequence He expects you to realize that He is delivering you to put you back on track with His will. Beware of casually walking away from a divine intervention in your circumstances to pursue your life in the manner that led you into the whale's belly in the first place! God has little patience for that.
Many struggling Christians are embracing the wrong idea that they can confess away the consequences of their self-willed choices. They are being taught to rebuke or command Satan's "hindrances" out of their paths, with little understanding that most of the hindrances have been self-created.
Brothers and sisters, you cannot command or rebuke consequences out of your way; you must surrender and obey your way through them. Obedience always brings grace to the one who seeks to avoid getting back into the same circumstances.
If you are stiff-necked and stubborn, God may lift His grace and let consequences ride over you like a herd of elephants. Try confessing, casting or commanding elephants out of your path!
Consequences from choosing to believe wrong teaching will almost always have industrial-strength Velcro all over them, sticking to everything we try to do. If we could just admit, "God, nothing I've tried works!" and ask Him, "Why do I keep doing this to myself, and how can I stop?"
I believe He would answer: "You have wrong ideas and are depending on wrong things. You cannot command your way out of a spiritual mess; you have to obey your way out of it! You're going to have to let your wrong understanding go, and trust Me to teach you the truth that will set you free."
Faith, Fear and Finances
Three areas in which we have embraced misunderstanding rather than the truth of what God has said are faith, fear and finances. Extreme teachings on these topics are setting up many Christians for delusion about the source of their troubles and causing them to doubt in God's faithfulness.
Faith is being taught as a force, a weapon to use against Satan and a means of "spiritual financing" for what the human soul wants. Charismatic teachers often say that faith is a tangible spiritual force with the ability to produce natural substance.
But Paul used the Greek word hypostasis ("substance") in Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for," to mean "a steadfast mind having courage, resolve, confidence and trust in God's goodness" (Thayer's). Nothing in Hebrews 11:1 implies a tangible substance that can be produced by what a human mind conceives and desires.
New Testament Greek almost always defines "faith" as "having trust and confidence in the goodness, wisdom and power of God." God has a most excellent future for each one of us here on Earth--good works to do, good paths to walk in and good lives to live (see Eph. 2:10, The Amplified Bible). Stepping fully into this excellent future requires obedience and surrender to His will.
My best prayers seek the alignment of my will on Earth with His will in heaven. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus said, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10, NKJV). So, the best prayer I can pray is: "I bind my will to your will, God. Your will be done."
When I live in accordance with this prayer, I don't have to figure out how to save the world, my family, my bank account or my reputation--or how to save myself from the devil. I just need to obey what God has said. True faith is a place of rest and peace because it trusts an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God to take care of all of the details. He doesn't need my input to get them right.
Regardless of how much faith we have, disobedience to what God has said allows Satan to get involved in our lives. Let me give you an example. Ephesians 4:26 says we are not to let the sun go down on our anger. If we choose to ignore this command and retire with anger still festering in our hearts, we open the door to bitterness, resentment and other evil works.
And justifying our actions does not absolve us of wrongdoing. How often God must wonder, "What part of Ephesians 4:26 don't they get?" Rationalizing and justifying are the timber and bricks of the strongholds in our souls, and Ephesians 4:27 (The Amplified Bible) tells of their consequence: They give the devil a foothold in us. Satan uses such access to attack believers in spite of their authority, blood covering and righteousness in Christ.
Authority is always hindered, even rendered useless, by the presence of open doors that an enemy can access. Military leaders know their highest levels of authority are useless if they have open doors in their supply sources and communication lines. There isn't a smart enemy alive--including Satan--who won't use such doors to attack, slash and burn.
We have been told exactly what to do to see God heal our land, and we have not done it. We have become too power and authority conscious to humble ourselves as God instructed.
Fear is another subject of extreme teachings today. Many people have been taught that there is a demonic spirit of fear. This teaching is generally based on 2 Timothy 1:7, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (KJV).
The NIV translation is clearer, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Thayer's defines pneuma (spirit) as it is used here to mean "being filled with the same spirit as Christ, and by the bond of that spirit to be intimately united to Christ." In other words, regenerated human spirits are not timid, having no room for fear because they are filled with the Spirit of Christ.
Fear is a symptom of an unresolved issue in the soul that keeps churning out emotional confusion, doubt and lack of trust. As long as any such unresolved issue exists and is fiercely guarded by self-constructed strongholds, the enemy can apply pressure in circumstances that mimic those out of which the fear was birthed in the first place.
Fear is not an evil spirit; it is an emotional response to a lack of trust and confidence in the goodness of God. You cannot be delivered of a lack of trust or have stronghold-protected wrong thinking, damaged emotions and unresolved issues cast out of your soul.
And God won't dismantle your strongholds. That would be a violation of your soul's attempts to guard itself. You have to choose to tear them down (see 2 Cor. 10:3-5) and give God voluntary access to heal you.
Finances is another area of extreme teaching today. I have visited several charismatic ministry Web sites and come away concerned regarding advice about finances. One Web site encouraged financially strapped people to confess: "My debt is gone. I have no debt. My bills are paid!"
There is no scriptural basis for such a confession regarding unpaid bills. If God were to deliver some Christians from their debt without teaching them to have a paradigm shift in thinking about money, these Christians would get in debt again. If we do not learn why we are always living in lack, any reprieve from God will be only a stopgap. God could make millionaires out of all of us, but He wisely chooses not to--at least not until we bring our understanding of finances into alignment with His.
God has never said His kingdom work is dependent on human wealth. Rather, it is "dependent" on the condition of the hearts of those who want His will done, even if it requires that their entire financial wealth be surrendered to Him.
I believe that money in itself means very little to God, that He created it only to teach us about our own motives. God is concerned about what money means to the one who wants it. Money is not the answer to our deepest needs.
When Bethany Hamilton decided to hit the waves on Oct. 31, 2003, she had no idea one ride would forever change her life. Attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark, the then-13-year-old surfer lost her left arm and 60 percent of her blood. But according to Hamilton, she also gained an understanding of her purpose.
Hamilton not only returned to the surfboard but won several championships. She now travels the country telling others how her faith in Christ helped her overcome her challenging circumstance.
Don and Deyon Stephens know how to dream big. In 1978 they imagined launching a ship that would provide medical care to the poor in undeveloped nations. Thirty-three years later, Mercy Ships, the ministry the couple founded, has expanded that vision to include the world’s largest charity hospital ship.
“Jesus clearly, in the New Testament, gave us the great commandment and the Great Commission, so those are the bookends of Mercy Ships,” Don says. “Those are the two compass points that have helped me develop Mercy Ships.”
2011 began bleak. With 13 million Americans unemployed, many middle-class families had to turn to an unfamiliar source to put food on the table: the church.
Many ministries such as Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida have recorded a 100 percent increase in the number of soup kitchens and pantries that they start to collect and distribute donated food.
The Obama administration has revised portions of the “conscience clause,” which protected health care workers from being forced to perform procedures that conflict with their faith. The new regulations still protect medical workers’ rights not to perform abortions, but professionals can no longer refuse to provide contraception or to give in-vitro fertilization to lesbians or single women.
A new survey found that 61 percent of young people would like to be virgins when they get married. Another 63 percent said they would regain their virginity if it were possible, cites a OneHope survey of 5,108 teens between the ages of 13 and 18.
Sixteen-year-old pop superstar Justin Bieber (below) was outspoken about his pro-life views when featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. Dubbed the “Tween evangelist” by USA Today, Bieber says he is a Christian and released a single titled “Pray” last year. His mother, Pattie Mallette, says Bieber recognizes his singing is “a gift—and a ministry.”
The Holy Spirit is on the move in the small town of Brooksville, Fla., observers say.
With the local economy in shambles—including a 17 percent unemployment rate—even the ever-popular Starbucks restaurant closed its doors. Yet the Rising Sun Café, owned by John and Lisa Callea, continues to buck the trend.
Within a year of his conversion John arrived in Florida in 2005. He was penniless and divorced, but he remembered a message the Lord gave him in 2001: “The church is broken. It’s become a business and has forgotten Me. I will build My church in the marketplace.”
Try this: Turn on your television and flip through the channels. You’re more likely to see sex, drugs and violence than you are positive images.
“The media has helped to shape the young minds with some negative/false images of what is acceptable for a teen to feel valued in society,” says Stacey Spencer, founder of youth-oriented ministry Teen Tyme.
A documentary that follows a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian and an Israeli Jew’s journey to bring peace in the West Bank, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem won this year’s Reel Rose Award for Best Documentary at the John Paul II International Film Festival.
In Little Town of Bethlehem, three men born into violence are determined to risk everything to bring peace between their respective religions.
Director Jim Hanon says his documentary doesn’t land on one religious side but instead highlights the need for peace among religions and the biblical model of loving your enemies.
Still, producer Mart Green, whose film company has backed other award-winners, hopes the film prompts audiences to at least ask this question: “Might love be the greatest weapon of all?”
Philippians 4:1-23 Most of us are familiar with the phrase that is "batted about" so casually today: "Don't worry, be happy." There is a way you can not worry and be happy no matter what you are facing in this life—pray. The phrase should be revised to say, "Don't worry, Pray!" If we followed this admonition, our lives would be filled with joy (not just a happy "ha-ha" joy, but an inner joy that will strengthen us in all circumstances).
Worry is a sin. Worry is negative meditation. When we meditate, we roll over and over again in our minds the same thing. When we worry, we keep thinking over and over again the same negative thought. Both my mother and mother-in-law were worriers. I think since they both went through the Great Depression a little worry bug was implanted deep within them, and it was hard to shake it off. Most of the things they worried about never came to pass.
We all have unseen weakness that could make us vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. Here’s how to be on your guard.
Many people who by the grace of God have never been "had" by the devil wrongly assume that all departures from godliness are nothing but rebellion and proofs of inauthenticity. They have no idea of the suffering involved when someone with a genuine heart for God slips from the path.
I don't know how many times I've repeated the statement I'm about to make, but I'll keep saying it until at least one skeptic hears, "Not everyone in a stronghold of sin is having a good time."
Our relationships become healthier when we remember the message of the cross.
In our relationships, it is important for us to remember that mutual love and respect are to be accomplished out of reverence to Christ. To the degree that each of us is subject to Jesus Christ, the Lord enables us to relate to each other lovingly and respectfully.
The reverse corollary is also true. To the degree that we are not subject to Jesus Christ, He will not rule our hearts, and forgiveness will not be built into us as a moment-by-moment daily practice. When we do not submit our wills to Him, we will be subject to one another, but to one another's selfish control rather than to blessing.
Good, bad or indifferent, each of us does relate to every person with whom we come in contact. We affect others in some way. In that sense, we cannot avoid being subject to on another.
Without the presence of Jesus in our lives, we will relate to others only according to the flesh and not by the Spirit. Only when the cross is present is the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ able to transform our relationships to produce blessing rather than harm.
Our distance from the cross of Christ, practically, in daily living, is the reason we have so many broken relationships and divorces today. People are paying lip service to Jesus, but they don't know how to walk with Him moment by moment. They can't maintain long-term relationships because the fire of unforgiveness burns within them.
When a man and woman enter the marriage relationship, the husband and wife often tend to counterbalance each other. For example, if one tends to talk too much, the other is likely to remain silent. If one is a strong disciplinarian, the other probably will be more lax.
When this tendency to counterbalance one another occurs, tensions develop between partners because one or the other is pressed to lean uncomfortably toward behavior contrary to his or her normal temperament or beliefs. This counterbalancing dynamic is also active among siblings, friends and business associates.
The key to overcoming this dynamic is in sensitive applications of the cross and forgiveness. We must evaluate what is happening in all our relationships and put our own ego in proper perspective.
Jesus said, " 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me'" (Matt.16:24, NKJV). We can take the practices of our relationships to the cross through forgiveness so that through the power of Jesus Christ our selfishness can be put to death and our wounded feelings healed.
Find out a few things speaking in tongues empowers a believer to do.
Our spirit language enables us to have spirit-to-Spirit communication with God. Speaking in tongueshelps us fulfill the Scriptures that instruct us to be filled with the Spirit, led of the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, and worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.
Our spirit language builds up our spirit man. Praying in tongues charges our spirits like a battery charger powers a battery. Jude 1:20 declares that we build ourselves up in the faith by praying in the Spirit. The apostle Paul also declared in Romans 5:5 that the love of God is poured into our hearts by praying in our spirit language.
Our spirit language is a catalyst that produces all the manifestations of the Spirit of God. Speaking in tongues empowers us to become more Christ-like, produce the fruit of the Spirit and manifest the supernatural gifts of God (see Gal. 5:22; 1 Cor. 12:7-11). First Corinthians 14:4 says, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” Edify means “to build up, enable, empower and charge.”
The gift of the Holy Spirit places a power-producing plant within us that generates the power of God like the Hoover Dam pumps electricity. The dam’s water gate is like our mouths, while the turbine inside the gate is like our tongues. The dynamo in the heart of the dam is like the Holy Spirit within our spirits.
The fast twirling of the turbine’s blades is what causes the rotation of the great dynamo in the heart of the dam. The dynamo is what generates the power, but it’s the turning of the turbine that starts and keeps the dynamo going.
This is what happens when we are filled with the Spirit, open the water gate of our mouths and allow those rivers of living water to flow. As the turbine of our tongues begins to churn out the language of the Spirit, it starts a dynamo activity in our spirits that generates the power of God within us.
From this illustration we understand more what Jesus had in mind when He said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8, NKJV). You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit enables you to generate the power of God by praying in tongues. The reservoir is filled with good evangelical water for cleansing, baptizing and fishing for new converts, but it does not produce any power until it flows through the water gate and turns the turbine.
The spirit language is the activator of the gifts of the Spirit. In short, speaking in tongues grows the fruit of faith, which is the procurer of all God’s promises.
Everybody is either in a trial now or between trials.
You have either just had one, you are going to have one, or you are having one. But why call it a "fiery" trial as Peter does? This is because by its light the fire reveals precisely what we are spiritually.
It is apparent, of course, that this only appeals to those who have a desire to be godly.
For example, our endurance can be tested during a trial by how we respond to it. If we begin complaining and murmuring, we will acknowledge later that we did not stand up to the trial very well for we did not display a godly nature. Thus trials will test our ability to manifest all the fruit of the Spirit. They test our work whether we have been walking in the light, and they expose how spiritual we really are, which is the sum of all that has gone on before.
What makes a trial a trial is that God, as it were, leaves us, and we feel deserted and betrayed. We say, "God, I don't believe this; why would You do this to me? Why desert me at a moment when I needed You the most?" Is that not the way you have felt? That's why it is called a "fiery" trial; God leaves you to test you, to see what is there. And so, this is the thing about the trial by fire: it exposes how spiritual we really are—which is the sum total of all our Christian living so far. We are forced to see ourselves, and we can find out how Christlike we truly are.
Excerpted from When God Says "Well Done!" (Christian Focus Publications Ltd., 1993).
Unforgiveness says three things to God (hint: none of them good).
God is no fan of an unforgiving spirit—at all. Jesus was clear about it: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, your Father will not forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15, NKJV). Why does He so hate an unwillingness to forgive?·
·1. It shows an indifference to the greatest thing God did.
This “greatest thing” was God sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. To be forgiven is the most wonderful thing in the world. But in order to forgive us, God paid a severe price.·
I predict that when we get to heaven we will be able to see, little by little, what it meant for God to send His Son to die on a cross. We now see only the tip of the iceberg. We see waves of glory, and these overcome us, but we’ve seen little.·
God did for us what we did not deserve. He therefore wants us to pass this on to others who don’t deserve it.
2. We interrupt God’s purpose in the world: reconciliation.
God loves reconciliation. He has given the ministry of reconciliation to us, and He wants it to continue.·
When we are forgiven, He wants us to pass it on. When we interrupt that, He doesn’t like it at all. He sent His Son to die on a cross, effectually calling us by His grace and giving us total forgiveness. But we interrupt that flow by not passing it on.
·3. God hates ingratitude.·
God knows the sins for which He has forgiven us, and He loves a grateful response. Matthew 18 relates the story of a servant who owed a great debt. He fell on his knees before his creditor, his master, and said, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all” (v. 26). The master took pity on him, canceling the debt and letting him go. The master knew the things for which he had forgiven his servant.·
But then that same servant went out and found one of his own servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He grabbed the man and began to choke him, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” (v. 28).·
The fellow servant did exactly what he himself had done; he fell on his knees and said, “Please forgive me. I will pay you back.”·
But the one who had been forgiven a much greater debt refused to extend forgiveness, and he threw his servant into prison. To think there could be such ingratitude!·
Word eventually reached the original master, and the unforgiving servant was also thrown into debtor’s prison.·
Jesus then added, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matt. 18:35).·
God knows what we have done. He knows the sins for which He has forgiven us, the things that no one else will ever hear about. If we turn around and say, “I can’t forgive that person for what he has done,” God doesn’t like that at all. He hates ingratitude.
For 16 years, Annie Lobért was known at various times as a prostitute, high-class escort and stripper. At the age of 18, Lobért willingly entered the sex industry as a rebellious and curious teenager, only to be sex-trafficked later into a life of coercion and threats—and utter misery.
“Ninety percent of prostitutes are sex-trafficked,” says Lobért, who finally broke free from the industry, became a Christian and now lives to help others who want to get out.
She says people don’t understand that although many women enter the industry on their own free will, they eventually lose control of their lives: “In the end, you’re trafficked.”