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Don't Turn Jesus Away

I was in New York City years ago shopping with my sister, when a young man stopped me on the sidewalk and asked me for a handout. He was wearing designer everything, so I didn't give him a dime. In this case, it was easy for me to ignore a poor person. After all, this man wasn't poor—he was a con!

People who try to take advantage of our kindness have approached many of us. Street peddlers or drug addicts who trick people out of money so they can buy drugs or liquor make it difficult for the truly destitute who are forced to live on the streets.

Since we don't want to decide who's really poor and who isn't, we tend to look the other way. It's easier to just ignore them.

Rewind this story 2,000 years and something sounds familiar.

There was an expectant mom who arrived in an unfamiliar city and was told there were no motel rooms or boarding houses available. Though she was about to have a baby, she and her husband were homeless.

Nobody recognized her need, so she was forced to give birth in a barn. Her baby's name was Jesus. He became poor so we could have the priceless gift of eternal life (see 2 Cor. 8:9).

Do you recognize the poor around you? This holiday season many of us will shop until we drop and on the way out the door, we'll probably throw some loose change into the Salvation Army kettle to help others. Or possibly some of us will volunteer to feed the hungry during a church outreach.

But helping the poor needs to become more of a priority for all who follow Jesus. So much of His ministry was directed to the poor. Why, then, do so few churches in the U.S. support ministries that meet the physical needs of underprivileged people?

God's Word instructs us to feed the hungry, visit prisoners, care for orphans and widows, and give clothes to those who don't have any. So when we don't make room for these people in our hearts, we are doing what the innkeeper did to Mary and Joseph when they sought a room in Bethlehem. We are turning Jesus away—again.

When you see someone truly in need, allow Jesus to break your heart, so you can feel what He feels for the woman who has to live in a cardboard box, the many who must sleep on bench or the child who rarely eats a healthful meal.

This Christmas—and all through the year—let's make room in our hearts for the poor.

Be Thankful for Suffering

As Thanksgiving approaches once again, I am reminded of so many people who are learning to be thankful despite their suffering.  However I want to encourage them to go one better — I believe we can even learn to be thankful for suffering.

It is a common response to question God's goodness when we endure hardships — whether physical limitations, illness, job loss, the death of a loved one, you name it. read more

Prayer Makes the Difference


Soon after I graduated from college I gave my life to the Lord. Even though I grew up in a godly home, I treated salvation like a game of Russian roulette. I played around because I figured I had time on my side. Was I ever deceived!

I know today what made me drop to my knees, repent of my sins and ask Jesus into my life: prayer. My mother spent untold hours in prayer crying out to God, "Lord, save my children." She knew back then what I know now: Prayer changes things. read more

Reflections on God’s Intervention at ORU

In the last several years I have witnessed at least two astounding miracles where Christian ministries have experienced a literal rebirth.

The first is a doctrinal miracle. The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1934, reexamined its doctrines and practices after Armstrong's death in 1986. This led to a complete theological reformation to Christian orthodoxy in the 1990s. Today, no longer viewed as a cult, the denomination has changed its name to Grace Communion International and is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. read more

Scouting the Divine: Unforgettable Lessons From a Shepherd

In my research for Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey, I spent time with a shepherd in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado and vintner in California. With each person, I opened up the scripture and asked, “How do you read this passage—not as a theologian—but in light of what you do every day?”

The journey was chock-full of spiritual insights, but one of my favorite stops was my time with Lynne, a shepherdess, who took care of a flock of a few dozen sheep in the fields near her home in Oregon. Not only did we feed and water the sheep together, but we just spent time among the flock sitting in the field, watching the sheep and talking.

During our time together, I was struck by just how much a sheep knows its shepherd. One of the most amazing times I had with the shepherdess, Lynne, was the very first time she introduced me to her flock. I followed her up a muddy path to the upper field where the sheep were grazing.

She whispered to me, “When they hear my voice, they’ll come running.”

Then simply by saying the words, “Sheep, sheep, sheep,” she called her flock. Every last sheep in the field bolted toward her.

That moment was powerful for me. John 10 describes the sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice as a metaphor for us knowing God’s voice. Yet it isn’t just a metaphor—it’s the way sheep really behave. Standing in the field with Lynne and watching the sheep run toward her made that verse come alive in a whole new way. I recognized that just as a sheep is created to know its shepherd, we are created to know God and live in relationship with Him.

During my research on sheep, I discovered a remarkable story from Gary Burge, a professor at Wheaton College, that illustrates the close relationship of shepherds and their flocks. He describes how Israeli soldiers visited a poor village outside of Bethlehem after a Palestinian uprising and demanded that the people pay the taxes they owed. They refused.

The officer in charge gathered up all the animals of the village—primarily sheep and goats—and placed them into a huge pen. A poor woman approached the officer in charge and begged him to release her animals. Because the poor woman’s husband had been imprisoned, her sheep were literally all she had.

The officer laughed at her request. How could she possibly find her dozen sheep in a pen of more than 1,000 animals?

The woman challenged the officer. If she could find her animals, could she keep them?

Intrigued, the soldier agreed.

The woman then invited her 10-year-old son to stand before the pen. He pulled out a flute and began to play a simple tune. As he walked through the fenced-in area, a dozen sheep gathered behind him, following him all the way home.

The officer and soldiers were impressed. They broke into applause, shut the gate and then announced that no one else could use the trick to get their sheep back.

Why did the sheep follow the boy? Because they knew he was their shepherd. And they knew he was a good shepherd. They were not only familiar with his voice, they knew the very tunes he played on his flute—songs he had played in the fields many times before.

That portrait of a sheep knowing its shepherd so well gives me hope that I, too, can know God intimately. For me, spending time with a loving shepherd was a powerful portrait of God’s love for each of us—a love that is tangible, practical and unending. From this perspective, some of the seemingly opposite attributes of God, such as discipline and grace, began to make sense.

Over the course of our time together, I watched a shepherd who truly loved her sheep—it was so evident in the way she spoke to and about them. Whether feeding her animals by hand, changing their bandages, administering medicine or keeping a watchful eye, her love was constantly on display. I also watched when Lynne had to reprimand or punish a sheep by placing it in time out. Even those moments were founded in love and caring for her flock.

The entire time, Lynne wanted what was best for the flock and the individual sheep. She was for them. For me, it was a tangible reminder of just how much God is for us, individually and as His flock.

Margaret Feinberg is a popular speaker and critically acclaimed author of Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, & Wild Honey. Become her friend on Facebook or follow her on Twittter @mafeinberg. read more

Your Success is Determined by Others

You are successful to the degree that you empower others! Too often, in today's world, success is defined by the size of your organization, the amount of money you accumulate or how influential your name is. Although each of these things may be found in a successful person's portfolio, they are not true indicators of real success. Success as a leader is measured by the degree that you empower others. read more

The Circus Comes to Town

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is the title of atheist Richard Dawkin’s latest book which released in the United States on Sept. 22. Coincidentally, that is the same release day as bestselling author Ray Comfort’s new book, Nothing Created Everything: the scientific impossibility of atheistic evolution.

Comfort said, “I am amazed that the two publications came out on the same day. We sure didn't plan it that way, but I must say that professor Dawkins has appropriately named his book this time. Evolution is the supreme circus. There’s nothing else like it on earth. Dawkins is the main act, and he is able to do his incredible high-wire act without the safety net of science. It really is amazing to watch from the sidelines of common sense and basic reason. All evolution has, is bumps on whale bones and bacterial mutations, and yet he dazzles the awestruck crowd. There is no evidence for species to species transitional forms in the fossil record or in creation. That’s what was missing in Darwin’s day, and it’s still missing today, something that doesn’t seem to bother the professor in the slightest. He sure has nerves of steel.”

Comfort said that his new book exposes the embarrassment of what is widely believed among evolutionists—the nothing created everything. “When they are confronted with that, they almost always backslide into agnosticism” the author and television co-host added. “This is because nothing cannot create anything. It is a scientific impossibility. To believe that is an embarrassment. Yet it’s what the learned professor believes."

Dawkins said in his book The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, "The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing--is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.”

Comfort said that he doesn’t dislike the professor. “I not only offered him $20,000 to debate me (which he turned down), but I used his special condemnation of me on the cover of Nothing Created Everything, and even dedicated the book to him.” This November, Ray Comfort plans to give away 100,000 copies of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (with a special Introduction) at 100 of the country’s leading universities. This is to mark the 150th celebration of publication of the book. Details at www.livingwaters.com. read more

Jesus’ Health Care Plan

You can't turn on the TV, listen to radio or read a newspaper without confronting some information about the raging debate on health care. Surveys continue to show that Americans are not well-informed on the issue and are struggling to figure out who is telling the truth about existing needs, the financial implications of the policies under consideration, and how they will personally be affected.

Because so much of the debate relates to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, Americans are playing this one a bit more cautiously than usual. Most adults define themselves as living a middle-class life, and believe their levels of comfort are a direct result of their own hard work and diligence. As politicians plead their case regarding health care provisions, citizens are conflicted, vacillating between a hard-line stance that expects others to work as hard as they have to get good health care and showing some compassion toward those who are less fortunate.

Views of Poverty
Our surveys underscore the fact that about three-quarters of all adults believe poverty is one of the most serious issues facing the nation. Even more significantly, most Americans also contend that when it comes to alleviating poverty, that's mainly the government's responsibility. Two-thirds of adults look to the government to solve issues related to poverty - including health care deficiencies. Just one out of every five adults believes that solving poverty is an individual duty, and a mere one out of 25 people assigns that task to non-profit organizations, and another one in 25 assigns it to churches.

As we assess how individuals deal with poverty on a personal level, we find that Americans do get involved, but in a kind of arms-length manner. For instance, the most common responses are for people to give money, food, and clothing to someone else to get the job done. In contrast, the most personal responses are the least common. Relatively few Americans talk directly with the needy, tutor them, build homes for them, visit them, befriend them, or engage in other types of personal activities to address the issue.

One might say, then, that we mean well but we're too busy, too disinterested, or feel too inadequate to actually address poverty personally, head-on. Given that mind set, it's no wonder that the current health care debate centers not on what every American can personally do to help alleviate human suffering, but on how we can get the government to provide a more efficient alternative that will neither break the bank nor hinder our lifestyle.

In essence, what Americans seem to want is increased government services, more efficient delivery of services, no increase in taxes, and no personal involvement in the process. In a nutshell, our argument is: it's not my fault and it's not my job, so let the paid professionals deal with it.

Jesus the Healer
Given the fact that devout Christians mirror these attitudes, it raises the question of what a Christian's obligation to the poor is in the matter of health care. Should Christians feel comfortable accepting the "let the government handle it" philosophy?

If a Christian were to turn to the Bible for guidance in these matters, a simple read through the gospel according to Luke would provide some answers. Luke, the author of the third gospel account in the New Testament, was a physician and would have been especially sensitive to how Jesus dealt with people's medical needs.

In fact, Luke's narrative contains 26 different passages describing how Jesus responded to people's physical and medical needs. The book shows that Jesus healed hundreds of people. But it also gives us some consistent patterns from Jesus' ministry to the poor and suffering people He encountered that we might use as principles to guide our personal responses to today's health care challenges.

There were at least seven noteworthy perspectives that underlie Jesus' health care strategy.

Jesus healed people because He believed that good health matters. People with serious medical challenges lack hope - and people without hope have no reason to keep living. Since life is a precious gift from God, and He wants people to enjoy and celebrate life, as well as the God who gave it to them, restoring health was a viable means to an end. Whenever He had the opportunity to do so, He healed people and sent them on their way.

Jesus invested Himself in their healing because He loved and cared for people. In Luke 7:13 we read that "His heart overflowed with compassion" for those people. He did not heal them because it showed His power or grabbed attention as much as He healed them because He felt their pain and knew their desolation. Healing was a practical demonstration that God was not wrathful but graceful.

Jesus healed everyone who presented a medical need because He saw no reason to screen some out as unqualified. Whether He knew them or not, He helped them. Whether they supported Him or not, He helped them. Whether they were adherents of His faith or not, He helped them. He did not set up conditions and hoops in order for people to qualify. He just healed them because He could.

Jesus healed every kind of illness He encountered. No malady was too simple (such as a fever) or too complex (including paralysis, leprosy, and demonization). He even took on the impossible - death - and raised people from the dead on three separate occasions!

Jesus pursued them because He saw Himself as a servant. A servant does what he can to address the needs of those being served, whether the needy one comes to the servant or the servant must go to the needy. Jesus did not get caught up in the ego games of who should pursue who; when He saw a need He went out of His way to address it.

Jesus allowed them to disrupt His schedule because He realized that people's pain and suffering was their top focus in life. Because the main value in His life was giving love, things like remaining on schedule, following His pre-determined agenda, maintaining orderliness and predictability all took a back seat to the chance to affect other people's lives with genuine love.

Jesus expected His closest followers to heal others. The needs of the people were substantial and providing a healing touch grabbed people's attention so they could see Him for who He was and what His message to them was. Consequently, Jesus included healing in the marching orders He gave to not only the 12 apostles, but to another group of 72 disciples that He had been mentoring in the ways of grace. (Luke 9:1; 10: 1, 9, 17)

Jesus Health Care Strategy
In short, Jesus Christ showed us that anyone who follows Him is expected to address the most pressing needs of others. You can describe Jesus' health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. Whoever needed to be healed received His healing touch. Whatever affliction they suffered from, He addressed it. Whenever the opportunity to heal arose, He seized it. Wherever they happened to be, He took care of it.

Contrast the Jesus model with the preferred American model. The latter might be described as deciding to throw some money at the problem - but not too much - so that somebody else can do what needs to be done, for those who qualify, in a manner that does not inconvenience us. The former approach was the whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever strategy.

It's quite a contrast, isn't it?

The Underlying Foundation
Don't overlook the fact that Jesus called on His followers to personally attend to the health care needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Not only did Jesus model healing for His followers, but He supported such outreach with ample philosophical underpinnings. You see Him teaching His followers before, during and after instances of healing. We are familiar with the principles, but perhaps not their application to health needs.

Do to others what you would like them to do to you (Luke 7:31). Jesus asked His followers to see themselves in the people who yearned for a healing touch and to respond accordingly. Although He was mocked and opposed for His efforts to heal, such opposition never stopped Him from treating others as we would want to be treated.

Produce results (or, in biblical language, bear fruit) (Luke 6:43-45). These days, we might think of His teaching as admonishing His followers to not pass the buck. He reminded them they had been given gifts and resources so that they could affect reality. He warned them against simply discussing solutions and instructed them to conceive and implement solutions.

Do whatever it takes to love God and all people with your heart, mind, strength and soul (Luke 4:8, 6:27-36). Jesus used love as a verb, not an adjective. He exhorted His followers to prove their love by doing compassionate things for those in need. Jesus showed them what was important by focusing on the act of giving, rather than receiving. Often, those whom He healed did not thank Him, and He was never paid for his medical care - but He healed them regardless, because it enabled Him to love those who lacked hope.

Always try to do the will of God (Luke 12:29-31). Your life is not about what you want; to be a follower of Jesus your desires should match God's. The way we demonstrate that we understand this principle is by allowing God to change your heart, and by following His plan.

A Personal Challenge
So, if Jesus went to such lengths to put feet on His health care strategy, what is yours? He did not seem inclined to wait for the government to provide for the poor. His strategy called for people to help people, through the power and ability that He entrusted to His followers. One must wonder if the American preference for government programs is the best solution to the existing needs - and if a nation where 83 percent of adults label themselves "Christian" can blend that religious connection with a desire for state-based solutions.

Government clearly has a role in people's lives; the Bible supports its existence and circumscribed functions. It is unfortunate that when God's people, collectively known as the Church, fail to exhibit the compassion and service that He has called us to provide, we are comfortable with the government acting as a national safety net. In a society that has become increasingly self-centered and self-indulgent, we simply expand our reliance upon the government to provide solutions and services that are the responsibility of Christ followers. Some Christians have heeded the call, as evidenced by the medical clinics, pregnancy centers and even hospitals across the nation that were initiated and funded by small numbers of dedicated believers who grasped this responsibility. Imagine what an impact the Church would have on society if it truly reflected the model Jesus gave us of how to care for one another!

As we think about the elements embedded in the national debate, perhaps each of us should be asking ourselves a few simple questions. What kinds of people within your realm of influence need health care assistance - and how do you respond? How do you figure out who to help - and who to serve them in partnership with? How do you decide when and how often to invest yourself in helping poor people who have health needs? What limitations do you place on the kind of health care assistance you offer to the needy? What gifts, talents, and resources can you be more aggressive at applying to the health care needs of the poor?

I don't know what God is asking or preparing you to do in relation to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. All I know is that we have been told to imitate Christ, and His health care strategy is whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever. read more

Urgent Call to Prayer: Signs of the Times

Convergence

It is critical that the church in America understands the times and what needs to be done now. The natural things speak of the invisible. Natural happenings on the earth are revealing something that is going on in the spiritual realm. There is a great spiritual conflict with a rising tide of Islamic boldness being manifested. Several happenings are converging this week. First of all, our President has recently proclaimed, honored, encouraged the Muslim holy days of prayer and fasting called Ramadan. He was very silent on the National Day of Prayer but very vocal on the support of Ramadan. Interestingly at the same time a major Christian leader of the Emergent Church called for forty days of fasting and prayer in the same Ramadan period with the goal that the church will better understand our Muslim friends. We are all for understanding but we must have spiritual discernment as to the spiritual dark powers that are being invoked into our nation.



Cause for Concern

At the same time, on the 25th of September, Muslims are calling for a Muslim Day of Prayer in Washington D.C. They are calling for 50,000 Muslims to gather and pray on the D.C. Mall. This is the exact word of one of the Sheikhs who is leading this historic gathering, “Muslims should march on the White House. We are going to the White House so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become into a Muslim house.” These are not empty words. They speak of a dark spiritual intent and a coming day of great trouble to America.



A Divine Moment


Now one of these events is enough to awaken us to this significant throbbing moment, but when they all converge it becomes a massive spiritual alarm that must be responded to by the praying Church. However, I believe in this moment of divine providence God has raised up on the stage of history a little “Esther” that if we pray and fast for her she could be a major voice to expose the dark under-belly of Islam and radiate a bright hope for a day of salvation for Muslims in America.

Headlines

On Monday, Rifqa Bary, a young 17-year-old woman, will be in the headlines of U.S. news. Four years ago, while living in a very devout and radical Muslim home, Rifqa met Jesus in a powerful way as her savior. She hid her conversion, began praying secretly, and began hiding her bible from her parents. Then, on Facebook, her love for Jesus was exposed to the radical Muslim community in Ohio. Rifqa’s father demanded that she renounce Jesus or he would kill her as is commanded by the Koran. As a radiant believer in Jesus she refused to renounce her Lord and fled to Orlando where she was taken in and cared for by a Christian Church and family. Now, the father is appealing to the courts to bring her back under his custody. Major television networks have already covered her story. How must the Church of America respond in this moment for our sister who is a part of the Body of Christ?

A Major Sign

This convergence, I believe, is urgently summoning us in the midst of the rising tide of Islamic influence in America to recognize that our God is above every god and that if we return to Him with all of our hearts and call upon Him with fasting and prayer then God could use what the enemy meant for evil to bring about a great day of salvation for Muslims in America, of which Rifqa is but a major sign.

Here is The Call

First of all, we cannot be passive as a Church to let these kinds of developments go on without being challenged in the spirit. Our fight is not against Muslims, it is against principalities, powers, and forces of darkness. We are calling the Church of America at the end of Ramadan, from September 21st through 25th, to five days of concerted prayer. On Monday, we must pray that God would grant supernatural wisdom to the courts so that the testimony of Jesus would be proclaimed and that the best situation for Rifqa and her family would take place. We must pray for Rifqa to be bold in proclaiming Jesus that even thousands of Muslims would hear and be awakened to the love of Christ. She has already said that this is not about her but about many Muslims coming to Jesus. We must pray for her lawyers who are being bullied, threatened, and challenged on every side. On Friday, Sept. 25, the Muslim Day of Prayer, we are calling the Church of America to fast and pray that Muslims would be moved by the Holy Spirit, convicted by the testimony of Christ, and even be visited by Jesus in dreams. We must pray that God would restrain the spiritual powers behind Islam and grant us the great awakening that we desperately need for America.

Let us hear the call to prayer and not miss this moment,

Lou Engle
The Call read more

Dream Big ... and Be Richly Rewarded!

Editor's Note: Prophetic minister Bobby Conner posted the following article on his Web site, bobbyconner.org, in June. It is a word for believers to remember and to apply not only in this season but also throughout our lives.

The Spirit of God is constantly seeking to plant new seeds of victory inside you. Why? He is enlarging your vision and increasing your capacity for faith, hope and love. God longs for you to dream big! Ephesians 3:20-21 assures us that our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (NKJV).

The Greek word translated "exceedingly" here is a marvelous word—one that should bring unspeakable joy to our hearts. It is hyper! We know what it means to be hyper—to be hyperactive, hyperacute, hyperalert, hyperexcited or hypersensitive. We know that a hyperbole is an exaggeration of the truth. read more

Not Thinking Too Deeply

"You should stop using the criminal justice system as an analogy for your God. As you have pointed out many times, it is entirely unjust for someone else to pay the punishment for the crimes you are guilty of." --Lurker

As far as I know, you are the only one who has ever said to me that it is entirely unjust for someone else to pay for crimes of which another is guilty. I have to conclude that you made this statement rashly, and without too much thought. There is nothing at all unjust about any father stepping in and paying a speeding fine for his son. It happens all the time, and the judge has no concerns of where the payment comes from, as long as it is lawfully paid.

How would you react if you were guilty of violating civil law, and your dad loved you so much that he sold his house and spent all of his hard–earned savings to pay the massive fine, so that you could get out of prison? Would you point at your father and accuse him of some sort of crime? How perverse would that be? If you did that, you would not only be despising his incredible sacrifice, but you would also reveal something horrible about your own character.

That’s what you are doing when you accuse almighty God of being unjust. He became a man in Jesus of Nazareth to take the punishment for the sin of the world, so that we could live forever. If you or I accuse Him of being unjust, it reveals something horrible about our character. We need to humble ourselves, get on our knees and thank God for giving us life in the first place, and then for offering wicked humanity such an unspeakable gift.


Ray Comfort has sold over one million copies of The Atheist Test, debated atheists on ABC's Nightline, and has written a number of books on the subject of atheism, including his latest, Nothing Created Everything (with a special cover condemnation by Richard Dawkins). He has debated atheistic evolution on the BBC, and been a platform speaker at the 27th National Convention of American Atheists, Inc. in 2001. He also produces a syndicated weekly radio program on atheism and evolution for Moody Radio. Known as the man who is "Internationally hated by atheists," he daily blogs at "Atheist Central" to hundreds of atheists. He is a best-selling author and co-host (with actor Kirk Cameron) of an award-winning TV program. Kirk and Ray send out a free weekly email ipdate to help equip Christians to share their faith--available at livingwaters.com read more

A Most Common Mistake

"If the Bible is always right and never needs up dating, why is there a New Testament? Why don't boys have to be circumcised now? Why can you eat pork? Why can you work on a Saturday? Why don't you have to batter people's skulls in with stones who worship 'false gods'?" Andy Duchemin

One of the most common mistakes people make with the Bible, is to confuse the issues of Law and grace. The Scriptures make the difference when they say "The Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The Law of Moses is categorized into three parts: the Moral Law (the 10 Commandments), the Civil Law (the Law for Israel's court system) and the Ceremonial Law (the Law for ceremonial worship). The whole Law had 613 precepts (its do's and don'ts ).

Male circumcision was part of the ceremonial Law given to Israel to set them apart from other nations, as was not eating pork and Sabbath worship. Capital punishment under the Law--for murder, adultery, idolatry, blasphemy was part of the civil Law of Israel, so why should we as a nation live under the standards of justice given to a nation three thousand years ago? We are under no obligation to keep any of the dietary, civil, or ceremonial Laws of Israel.

However, we are under obligation to keep the Moral Law. It was given to Israel but its purpose is to "leave the whole world guilty before God" (see Romans 3:19-20). And it certainly does. When we study its holy precepts and understand that we violate the Seventh by our lust, it shows us we need the grace (mercy) of God.

The reason the Moral Law leaves us guilty before God is that its precepts are written on our hearts, via the conscience. We intuitively know that its wrong to lie, to steal, to lust, to hate, to murder, to commit adultery, etc.

It was one night way back in 1972 that the Law showed me that I was guilty, heading for Hell, and it sent me to the Savior where I found mercy. The Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. As the hymn-writer wrote 200 years ago:

"By God's grace at last my sin I learned, then I trembled at the Law I spurned, till my guilty soul imploring turned, to Calvary." read more

Are You Addicted to S_ _?

Several years ago my friend mustered up the confidence to tell me about her struggle with lust. Even though she wasn't dating anyone, she was afraid her fixation would eventually seduce her into having premarital sex.

Thinking about her problem made me want to blog about premarital sex, a topic I believe the church often shuns. But why? Christian singles have sex or want to have sex too. And though the Bible prohibits such behavior, that hasn't stopped believers from going too far.

Sadly, some Christian singles behave as if there are no consequences to sex outside of marriage—but there are. Dr. Freda McKissic Bush, a Christian, a board-certified OB-GYN and co-author of Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children, says premarital sex and extramarital affairs can unleash a host of psychological and emotional problems in a person's life.

Dr. Bush says hormones are released in the body that "knit" couples together and "complement the biblical vision of two becoming one flesh." In females, she says, oxytocin is released in the brain when a woman experiences "meaningful touching." And in men, vasopressin is released when a man experiences meaningful touching.

But Dr. Bush says dopamine, the other brain hormone, also "rewards" the body. "The God-given gift of sex is exciting and when the bonding act of love is rewarded with dopamine, we become 'hooked,' even addicted, to this bonding activity with our mate. Within the confines of marriage this is healthy and in accordance with God's intent.

"When an individual begins to search for extramarital opportunities to satisfy their natural desire for a dopamine fix, the consequences include a chemical bond that literally addicts that person to sin."

Are you addicted to sin? My friend was, but she confessed her problem and got counseling. With all the scandals happening in the church today, we can no longer afford to keep quiet about sexual issues. Let's start talking about it now.

  read more

Who's the Real God?

How do you know God is of the Christian variety? Equally devout Muslims disagree.

"Hi Ray, I have a sincere question: How do you know God is of the Christian variety? Equally devout Muslims disagree. If I'm on the fence, I need a better answer than 'I just KNOW. God has revealed himself to me.'"



Good question. The thing that makes Christianity utterly unique is the cross. For it to make sense you have to back up from Jesus to Moses. He was the one who received the Ten Commandments from the hand of God. The Law of Moses was given to reveal God's standard of "righteousness."



Now zoom forward about 1500 years to the time of Jesus. He was God in human form who came to earth to "magnify the Law and make it honorable." You can see Him do that in the famous Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5-7). During that sermon He quotes the seventh commandment (about adultery) and then says, "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (v. 28). " So let's think about that one commandment for a moment. If God is going to judge us on judgment day by that (very high) standard, who of us would be guiltless and avoid hell?



So humanity has a problem. All of us have violated God's Law. He is a perfect judge, and we are guilty criminals, heading for a just and terrible punishment for our "multitude" of crimes against His law. So my prayers, my fasting, my helping others in that context aren't "good" works. If we offer the Judge anything as "payment" for our crimes, the Bible says it's an abomination to Him, because it is a detestable attempt to bribe Him, and He will not be bribed. Not for a millisecond. So the religion of doing things to merit God's favor is fruitless, in the truest sense of the word.



So how can we be saved from His wrath? Only by the mercy of the Judge. God Himself became a person in Jesus Christ, suffered on a cruel cross, and then rose again on the third day. That cross was the complete payment for our crimes against God and His law. We broke the Law of Moses, but Jesus paid our fine. That means that the Judge can (upon our repentance and faith in Jesus) completely dismiss our case. Everlasting life is the free gift of God (see Ephesians 2:8-9). It can't be earned by "religious" works, and therein is the uniqueness of Christianity. Take it or leave it, but do so at your own eternal peril. See John 8:31-32 and John 14:21 for more details: "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him," (Heb. 5:8-9).


Ray Comfort has sold over one million copies of The Atheist Test, debated atheists on ABC's Nightline, and has written a number of books on the subject of atheism, including his latest, Nothing Created Everything (with a special cover condemnation by Richard Dawkins). He has debated atheistic evolution on the BBC, and been a platform speaker at the 27th National Convention of American Atheists, Inc. in 2001. He also produces a syndicated weekly radio program on atheism and evolution for Moody Radio. Known as the man who is "Internationally hated by atheists," he daily blogs at "Atheist Central" to hundreds of atheists. He is a best-selling author and co-host (with actor Kirk Cameron) of an award-winning TV program. Kirk and Ray send out a free weekly email ipdate to help equip Christians to share their faith--available at livingwaters.com read more

No Pardons for Thousands of North Korean Prisoners

Today U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling returned home to their friends and family in an emotional reunion after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il issued a special pardon. Their return came after former U.S. President Bill Clinton made an unannounced visit to Pyongyang to help secure their release.

Ling and Lee had been found guilty of allegedly entering North Korea illegally across the Chinese border in March and later sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. They reportedly were being held at a “guest house” during their confinement.

The North Korean News Agency said the two reporters’ pardon and release was a sign of North Korea’s “humanitarian and peace-loving policy.”

That might be the case in this instance, but let’s look at the facts:

· North Korea is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world. Open Doors, an international Christian organization which supports persecuted believers (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org), puts the number of prisoners at least 200,000, including 40,000 to 60,000 Christians.

· North Koreans can be imprisoned for virtually any state-defined crime such as owning a Bible, making a negative comment about the regime, failing to have a picture of Kim Il-Sung in their house and traveling to China to look for food and freedom.

· KimJong-Il’s government keeps its citizens in its grip through systematic use of torture, public and private executions, brutal imprisonment, lack of due process of law, starvation and even forced abortions.

· North Korea has been known to arrest not only the suspected dissident but also three generations of his/her family to “root out” the bad influence.

· This year North Korea was re-designated by the U.S. State Department as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern” for its severe religious freedom violations. The Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians has ranked the hermit country as the worst offender of religious freedom for seven years in a row.

The Associated Press reported last month that North Korea publicly executed a Christian woman for distributing Bibles, based on information it received from South Korean activists. Ri Hyon Ok, 33, was also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and organizing dissidents, according to the Associated Press. She was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon near the border with China on June 16, according to a report from an alliance of several dozen anti-North Korean groups.

Ri's parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp in the northeastern city of Hoeryong the following day, according to the report, citing unidentified documents it said were obtained from North Korea.

This is the shocking reality of what takes place inside this communist country where there is no basic human rights. One colleague of mine who has traveled to North Korea described North Korea “as an on-going nightmare.”

It surely was a nightmare for Kim Young Soon, a special witness during North Korea Freedom Week in April before a group of Congressmen in Washington, D.C. The North Korean refugee is one of the few survivors of the infamous Yodok political prison camp. She was thrown into prison for nine years on a trumped up charge of divulging a secret about Kim Jong-Il’s marriage. Her parents and four children were also imprisoned. In the Yodok prison camp, her parents died of malnutrition, an eldest son drowned. Her husband was shot to death in 1970 while attempting to cross the border to escape from North Korea.  Mrs. Kim’s youngest son was arrested in 1988 while attempting to cross the border and was put in prison for four years. He was executed in 1993 by a firing squad because he tried to escape from North Korea again. Mrs. Kim escaped from North Korea and resettled in South Korea.  She has made it her life’s mission to expose the cruelty and truth about the prison camps in North Korea.

 

She testified: “I entered prison camp No. 15 at Yodok. I spent nine years there; treated like an animal. What made me feel most mortified was the fact that my father, mother, daughter and three sons, who were innocent of any crime, were also sent to Yodok, all because of me.

 

“We were forced to engage in heavy labor day and night. On August 5, 1971, I lost my father. I had to wrap his body in a straw mat since there were no coffins in Yodok. Before long, my mother also died of malnutrition. Unbearable sadness cut my heart to pieces.

 

 

“Still with tears in my eyes, I was struck by another painful accident when my eldest son drowned. I was nearly mad with grief. Yodok was really a hell to me. I cried to God asking that He might burn them all to death in Yodok with lightning.

 

 

“Every mountain and field in Yodok was covered with dead bodies because of malnutrition and hunger. In 1973, two detainees were killed by public execution at a place between Sector 3 and 4 on charges of trying to escape from prison. Countless numbers of detainees were killed by public execution and torture. Due to malnutrition and hunger, little children withered to death with their stomachs swollen. Adult people were looking everywhere for young rats which they believed to be a kind of medicine to save their children. And they literally ate up all the snakes in Yodok to avoid painful death from malnutrition.”

 

 

Yes, we should rejoice for Ling and Lee. They now have complete freedom in the United States.

 

But please join me in praying and advocating for those who have not received pardons; for those languishing in the “hell” that is North Korea.

 

Jerry Dykstra is the media relations director with Open Doors USA. read more

Needed: A New Reformation in the Church

I recently attended Sunday services at an impressive 19th-century church in London. In a building with seating for 3,000 in ornate pews, a handful of elderly people sat there … in chairs set up in the foyer.

The service, held in a vibrant city full of millions of people, reminded me of a funeral. Not the funeral of a person – the funeral of a once-great institution. In the past 40 years, 1600 churches in England, with hundreds of years of ministry behind them, have shut their doors, according to an architectural preservation group called the Victorian Society. read more

Is Michael Jackson in Heaven?

What is it about him?

I was 13 years old and somehow convinced my dad, an avid Frank Sinatra fan, to play "Off The Wall" while driving to my uncle's house. He reluctantly agreed. For me, it was the coolest 45-minute road trip and probably the most painful for him. Little did I know that the young voice I heard on the eight-track tape player would eventually become the subject of worldwide praise.

Thirty years later, I find myself talking to people every day who look for ways to move past the things that hold them back. Michael Jackson was an expert at breaking barriers. He was extraordinarily talented and accomplished things that most only dream about. He had the best-selling album of all time. He was one of the highest paid entertainers in history, pulling in over $750 million and giving more money to charities than any other celebrity. He arguably changed the way the world dances. read more

God Can Satisfy

Several years ago I regularly struggled with discontentment. I was so disheartened by my problems and life in general that I spent hours seeking God for answers. I would pray in my car, in the office, everywhere. But nothing changed.

The uneasiness I sensed was the last thing on my mind when I went to bed at night and the first thing to flood my thoughts when I awoke the next day. I started to concede defeat and remain unhappy when God spoke to me through His Word.

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with good things” (Ps. 107:9, NKJV).

At that moment I knew what God meant. I had experienced many highs in my walk with the Lord. I was used to the Father blessing me every time I sought His hand, so I became relaxed in my relationship with Him. But God wanted more, so He started prodding and creating in me dissatisfaction for spiritual mediocrity.

I cannot adequately describe what God did for me during that season of my life, but I can say I learned never to take His goodness, favor and presence for granted. Yes, God blesses us with earthly blessings, but He is the only person who can satisfy that deep yearning we have for Him because He is the one who creates it.

Don’t settle for business as usual. Step out of your comfort zone and let God move you to a new place in Him.

No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord, whether on the mountaintop of life or in the valley of hardships, stay close to Him and seek His face. He will respond and invade your mediocre walk with Him. read more

Prayer Can Turn It Around

Have you ever read Frank Peritti’s This Present Darkness? I read it maybe 15 years ago and it changed my prayer life forever. The book is about spiritual warfare and what happens when Christians pray—or don’t pray. I held on to every word, comma and semicolon in the book because it taught me the value of seeking God.

After watching Gloria Copeland’s powerful healing prayer in Say It, Sister!, I thought I would invite you to join me in prayer right here on SpiritLed Woman eMagazine. Let’s pray for the lost, our loved ones, broken marriages, our nation, and whatever else in need of God’s intervention.

I believe this world will soon get what it deserves if the church does not repent of its slothfullness and pray more. Second Chronicles 7:14 says: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (NKJV). read more

The Fatherless Epidemic



If you have a dad who loves you well, celebrate him with joy this Father’s Day.   But keep in mind that outside of Norman Rockwell’s America, Father’s Day can be a source of great pain.




Many children today don’t live with their biological father. According to fathersforlife.org, the figure approaches 40 percent nationally and is almost double that in the inner city. Add to that those who simply have a strained relationship with their father over some disappointed expectation, and the pain multiplies greatly.  I know many people who find these Hallmark days painful for the love they lacked because a father was absent, or even abusive.

The fallout from absent fathers has been well-documented.  Eight-five percent  of children with behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes, as do 90 percent of homeless children, 71 percent of dropouts and 63 percent of suicides.  It seems we were made for the love of a father, and the pain of not having one has dire consequences.

That was driven home to me one day when I had jury duty.  A 23-year-old woman I’d never met walked down a row of empty chairs to sit in the one right next to me in the assembly room.  I greeted her briefly, curious why she’d chosen to sit next to me.

Moments later, she grabbed me around the arm and her eyes filled with tears.  “I think my dad hates me,” she said through her sniffles, choking back the sob that hung in her throat.  Then she detailed the fight they’d had the night before.  Her dad was upset about the provocative way she often dressed, and she was certain he had no respect for her choices.

I walked her back through the conversation, a surrogate dad who suggested that her father’s fears were less about judging her than they were trying to protect her from men with less than honorable intentions.




“So you think my dad doesn’t hate me?” she asked at the end.


“I have no idea.  He’s your dad, but I would be surprised if he didn’t love you very much.”

She smiled and assured me she’d go by his house that evening and talk with her dad.  Dads are too precious to throw away over a misunderstanding.  Suddenly her name was called for jury duty and she stood to leave.  On a whim I grabbed her hand.  “Nicole, can I ask how things are with your heavenly dad?”




Her twisted face told me my question had confused her.   A moment passed.  “Do you mean God?”




I nodded.  “I grew up in church,” she said.  “I hate him.”




Not all are so honest who have been so disillusioned.  Unfortunately, religion often teaches us about a God who is an angry judge, rather than the loving Father Jesus told us he was. In one of his most beloved stories, The Parable of the Prodigal, he told about a son lost in his own selfishness and the affection of a father that waited for him to come home.  This Father was truly like no other any of us have ever known, regardless of how abusive or how great our earthly fathers might have been.




I smiled as I looked back at Nicole, and whispered to her as if sharing the most incredible of secrets:  “As wrong as you might be about your earthly dad, I can tell you you’re dead wrong about your heavenly one.”




Her eyes lit up.  “What do you mean?”




“Nicole, you have a father who loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.”




The hope that we all have a father who knows us completely but loves us extravagantly is all but lost in our day.  It might be time to uncover it again.



Wayne Jacobsen is the author of He Loves Me:  Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection. read more
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