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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


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.


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

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

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

Postmodern World

Postmodern World

An Internet search of the term “postmodernism” will reveal, among many things, an advertisement from an online book distributor stating, “Millions of titles, new and used!” Obviously an enormous amount has been written on the topic. Webster defines “postmodernism” as: “Of, relating to, or being of an era after a modern one, or being any of various movements in reaction to modernism typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms, or being a theory that involves radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language.” read more

Wayne Jacobson

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

What Are We Celebrating?

President Barack Obama just issued a proclamation declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. Of course, his declaration poses a problem for most Christians, but his words raise some ideas worth pondering.

In his public statement, Obama said: "LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities." read more

Prop. 8 Traumatic Stress Disorder

The verdict is in. The California Supreme Court has ruled and the voter's voice on marriage has been preserved, at least, for the moment. I must confess, though, that while I'm relieved, I'm a bit fatigued. Watching Miss USA contender Carrie Prejean assaulted for stating her views on marriage has been brutal. Hearing actor Sean Penn admonish supporters of the California law, Proposition 8, at this year's Academy Awards ceremony to "sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes" was ugly. Reading about how Proposition 8 opponents were circulating Google maps detailing the locations of Proposition 8 supporters' homes to harass them was insidious.

I'm sure I'm not alone. Many Christians may be hesitant, if not completely resistant, to engage the culture on issues that contradict their values and beliefs the next time around. But we must ask ourselves - as the church, what should our response be? The answer for me comes in looking back at how the early church responded to similar opposition. They were committed to stand for what they knew to be truth, even if it meant the ultimate sacrifice. Many were sent to their death in the jaws of wild beasts in front of a coliseum of eager spectators. Today rather than facing the lions, the church now faces the merciless jaws of litigation. Instead of an audience of robed spectators, there is now a virtual coliseum of media correspondents, magazines and talk shows ready to voice their particular perspective on the events. The attitude against the church is the same but the venue for persecution has been modernized. As a result many churches have gone underground on this issue of homosexuality and are fearful to engage the topic at any level. Some believe there is too much to risk and besides; gay marriage will eventually be federally legalized so why fight it?

But wait a minute. Who is the real victim in this scenario? Is it really the church?

The interesting thing about fear is that it desensitizes us to the needs of others by causing us to be preoccupied with our own concerns. When the church does not respond because of fear, others fall victim in this tragic truth war. What about the people that are looking for an alternative to unwanted homosexual struggles? What answers will they find? Will the only message they hear be one that directly opposes God's divine plan and creation?

I remember growing up in the church in the 1980s while struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. At times, I have wondered what course I would have taken had I grown up in today's culture. There are so many options that appear to be based on truth and love that were not available 20 years ago. Would I have taken the same road or would I have chosen a path that was more harmonious with my proclivities? I would like to think I would be where I am today, but I have my doubts considering the growing, fearful silence of so many within the church.

Consider the men and women that may never know the merciful truth of Christ because we have allowed ourselves to become intimidated by those who oppose this truth. Are we communicating to these men and women that they are not worth the risk? Perhaps it is not the church that is in the coliseum, but rather those who have been blinded to the false promises of gay ideology. They are being sacrificed to a culture that methodically destroys God's intended design for gender and sexuality. The spectators are not the activists, politicians, or media, but rather the church as it sits in deafening silence, fearful that if they speak out, the culture will turn on them.

We must not shrink back in silent terror. If fear dictates our response, many will be lost. More than ever, we need to be a voice of truth in a compromised culture. So many men, women and children are in need of a redemptive message on homosexuality. The life-giving power and love of God cannot be contained by a cultural gag order or even by legal mandate. It is the church's high calling to proclaim it to those who need to hear it no matter what the cost may be. Jesus considered us worth it. May we follow His example as we press past our fatigue.

Jeff Buchanan is a pastor and the Director of the Exodus Church Association (www.exoduschurchassociation.org), a national network of more than 120 churches helping those dealing with same-sex attraction to live a life that reflects the Christian faith. read more

Meredith Grady

Making Sense About Saving the Earth

I made a collage for a boyfriend once. Silly, I know. I spent hours pinning little bows, buttons, kissy-pictures and other embarrassing items on a large piece of misshapen cardboard. It was Valentine's Day or some anniversary (or a Tuesday), and I thought a creative, thoughtful expression to be thoroughly appropriate.

After adding paint, song lyrics, and probably more kissy-pictures, I presented my work of art to him with enthusiasm. He seemed appreciative enough at first, spouting phrases like, "Oh, I love that picture" and "Excellent color scheme!" I assumed this meant he was going to take care of my masterpiece forever and ever.

How surprising it was, then, to find it on his floor months later, next to CDs and socks. No amount of initial marveling could make up for mistreatment later. His casual disregard of my efforts felt more like direct disrespect toward me.

I've heard Christians blabber on about how beautiful mountains and oceans are, about how much they enjoy nature - yet they make no real effort to actually take care of it.  (And does hunting really qualify as nature-appreciation?) The problem with pollution and deforestation isn't just that it hurts creation, but that it disrespects the Creator. How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.

This is why the aforementioned boyfriend and I eventually broke up. (It wasn't only because of his misplacement of my arts and crafts project, but you get the idea.) There were some serious respect issues between us, and they influenced the relationship's demise. Now, God isn't going to "break up" with the Church over the environment. I think it's safe to say, though, there are respect issues that could hinder the relationship.

Many Christians presume "going green" means you have to start voting Democrat and dressing entirely in hemp - that somehow being an environmentalist means putting humans second, as if it really were a choice between hating trees or hating babies. This is pretty idiotic, because last time I checked, people live on Earth. When we protect the environment, we're protecting people. Oil spills and over-farming won't just hurt sea  otters and soil. They will hurt us.

Going green is about loving and respecting the Creator and our neighbors. (This was the idea behind that "Greatest Commandment" in Mark 12:29-31.) So, do some research. Recycle. Raise awareness. Conserve water and electricity. Carpool. Buy organic. Trendy, leftist activities they may be, they can also be acts of worship - steps that prevent the Earth from becoming a dump (and possibly prevent God from wanting to dump us).


Meredith Grady is a senior at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia. She is also (surprise!) the daughter of Charisma editor J. Lee Grady. read more

Chad Thompson

Love Homosexuals as Jesus Would

In September 2005, the Lord sent a team of ministers, led by Jesse Engle, to San Francisco, California. Their calling was to "cry for mercy on behalf of San Francisco and for deliverance of the homosexuality community." The Justice House of Prayer in San Francisco (JHOPSF) has been fulfilling this call for three years now. However, the passing of Proposition 8 has significantly heightened the amount of hostility they must face as they attempt to share the love of Jesus with the gay community in Northern California.

Last November, while ministering in the Castro District of San Francisco, Jesse's group experienced persecution so intense that it took about 20 police officers to control the mob of approximately 200 angry homosexuals attempting to harm them. For those who haven't heard, Proposition 8 was a ballot that recently passed in California, changing the state's Constitution to define marriage as being only between a man and woman. read more

Fine Line Book

New Study Shows Greater Ambivalence to Christianity

Although twice as many Americans say they have no faith compared to 1990 there's a new hope on the horizon.

Are Americans becoming disillusioned by religion?

According to a new study, detailed in the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), released last week, traditional religion is playing less of a role in American life. More people are opting for non-religious weddings and funerals (30 and 27 percent respectively).

In just 18 years, the swing is significant, revealing that despite nearly 50 million adults added to the U.S. population by growth and immigration, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.

Most significant-the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined, more than 11 percent in a generation. According to Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA TODAY, "the faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: the Bible Belt is less Baptist ... the Rust Belt is less Catholic ... and everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers - or falling off the faith map completely."

In fact, the number of people who say they have "no religion" has nearly doubled in the same time (8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent today).

This dilemma largely stems from how people perceive Christianity in the U.S. Unfortunately most people are only exposed to two types of Christians-Separatists and Conformists and neither option is very compelling.

In The Fine Line, published by Zondervan, I address these recent trends by exposing the two irrelevant camps of Christians fueling this disillusionment.

The first camp-the Separatists-are anti-everybody, anti-everything, and they retreat from culture. Their excessive rules are an attempt to escape the world. Those who lean toward the Separatist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they allow: rules to replace relationships, microscopes to replace mirrors, and performance to replace passion.

Rules and Relationships: Rules give them the illusion of control. They allow Separatists to hide their hearts safely behind their lists of do's and don'ts. By embracing ritualistic rules they inevitably forfeit a vibrant relationship with God. 

Microscopes and Mirrors: Microscopes magnify the image of small objects. When used to examine cells in the science lab, this is a good thing. But microscopes shouldn't be used to examine everything. Jesus warned, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:3). Unfortunately Separatists not only disregard this Scripture, but also their fellow Christians.

Performance and Passion: Separatists replace an inner passion for God with an outward performance for people. They fixate on out-doing others.

The second camp-the Conformists-are hypocrites, biblically shallow and consumers of culture. Their excessive desire for trendiness results in merely mimicking culture.

Those who lean toward the Conformist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they allow: media to replace meditation, liberty to replace love, and tolerance to replace truth.

Media and Meditation: Conformists rarely take the time to get quiet before God.  The average American is exposed to over 3,000 ads every single day. As a result, keeping our minds biblically and theologically sound is difficult to do. Conformists fall into the pattern of being amused-not even recognizing the meaning of the word or its impact on their lives. Amuse means "to not think." Conformists might benefit by thinking a little bit more about why they don't think.

Liberty and Love: No one likes to be restricted, especially Conformists. It's easy to flaunt our freedom without considering how it affects others. Many Conformists have a personal vendetta against Separatists because they barely escaped their grip of control. As a result, Conformists enjoy their freedom and vow never to be subjugated to any individual or organization again. But many times they go too far and their freedoms quickly end up enslaving them. What started as a social drink here and there rapidly evolved into a love affair with hard liquor in order to cope with the stress of life.  And what began as watching films that incorporated risqué images somehow transitioned into a steady diet of porn movies.

Truth and Tolerance: For Conformists truth is only true when it's convenient. Besides who wants to come off as someone else's judge? Conformists certainly don't. Separatists are too narrow and so Conformists instead prefer a generous orthodoxy that incorporates anything and everything. In the process, their orthodoxy (meaning ‘right belief') becomes anydoxy.

Thankfully there is an alternative.

Enter stage right the Transformists, a new breed of Christ followers who are in the world but not of it and more clearly mirror New Testament Christianity. Transformists embody the Scripture, which exhorts Christians to neither separate from culture nor conform to it, but rather to be "transformed by the renewing of their minds" (Romans 12:2).

The back-story of Transformists is quite convincing. For starters, they don't need to have everything figured out, for that would mean they're Separatists. They don't need to say anything goes, for that would mean they're Conformists. They neither add to God's Word nor do they ignore it. Instead, they obey it.

They're not perfect, but they're seekers. They long to have a pure relationship with the Creator of the Universe. They desire to know the "why" behind the "what" and the purpose behind the principle. Of course there will be mistakes along the way, but this is what sets them apart. They have a little more grace and patience with each other, because they know what they've been saved from.

The movement is beginning. The gathering has united. They come from a variety of backgrounds, but share a common purpose. Above all else, they passionately love God and people. They don't fear culture because they're called to shape it. They don't fear Christianity because they're called to embody it. They are the Relevant. They are the Transformists.

Although initially the trend of ambivalence toward Christianity might seem disturbing, true followers of Jesus have an epic opportunity in these tough times to change the unconvincing stereotypes of Christianity set forth by Separatists and Conformists.

Despite nearly 2.8 million people identifying with dozens of new religious movements, calling themselves Wiccans, pagans or "Spiritualists"-such people are forced to re-evaluate their faith when they interface with Transformists and the undeniable grace and truth which defines them.

By integrating their faith with their culture Transformists are a breath of fresh air to both the world and the church. And because this remnant is walking the fine line of being in the world and not of it, there's hope on the horizon once again.


(Excerpt from The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture.  Used with permission from Zondervan Publishing. ISBN: 0310285453)

Kary Oberbrunner, MDiv, DMin, is a self-proclaimed "Recovering Pharisee" and founder of Redeem the Day Ministries. The author of The Fine Line, Called, and The Journey toward Relevance, he serves as the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Grace Church in Powell, Ohio. Kary and his soul-mate, Kelly, are blessed parents of Keegan and Isabel. Contact him at www.KaryOberbrunner.com.


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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


The Smell of Sin

A look at the parallels between sinners and smokers.

No one stinks like a smoker does. It’s true, and what’s more, they don’t realize how bad they smell. The reason they smell so poorly is that they have deadened the sensitivity of their nose. They literally can’t smell the stench that a non-smoker can smell.

The conscience is like a nose. It sniffs out the stench of sin. Someone who has deadened the sensitivity of his conscience literally can’t detect how morally bad he is. That’s why we need God’s Law. It stirs the conscience so that it can detect sin. When the conscience does its bloodhound duty, it shows us that we don’t smell like a rose, but that even our very best deeds stink (for want of a better word) to high Heaven. Check out Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:10-20 to sniff out more details. 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

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

Christian Leaders Are Becoming Atheists?

After seven seasons as host of Canada's “most listened to spiritual talk show,” Drew Marshall announced to his listeners that he is no longer convinced there's a God. ABC News recently reported that a Southern Baptist pastor has become a closet atheist, and an evangelical Bible Belt pastor said that he had been living a lie and confessed, "I live out my life as if there is no God."

The doubting talk show host said that he became a follower of Christ in 1981. But it wasn’t until recently that he verbalized that he wasn’t convinced that God existed, saying “I feel pretty close to walking away from my faith.” read more

Ray Comfort

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

World at War

In this season of seeing and gaining new vision, the eyes of the church must be cleansed and focused. We cannot "see" through the traditions of our past or the fears of our future. We must restore a true vision of the one who liberated us to represent Him in sharing the Good News of the kingdom and take dominion in our generation. This rearrangement of vision is causing leaders for a new generation to see beyond the world's filters. These conforming screens have caused us to lose the same boldness and transformational change that Jesus of Nazareth displayed. He represented the Father and resisted the opposition of a supernatural foe that longs to mold us into an image denying the power of the King of all Kings.

A new governmental order will arise. The key to the civil government war will be the restored government of God regaining power to legislate the heavens. Binding and loosing, forbidding and permitting will be transferred to the hands of the apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists of the future. The government of God will lose the political spirit of Judas, align itself with heaven and represent the order of God. This means that these gifts-leaders in the church must be restored from territory to territory and nation to nation. The voice of God in His leaders must be restored and heard, just as Moses represented the Lord before Pharaoh, and as Jesus represented His Father before the Sanhedrin. We must do likewise! read more


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