NOT EVERY POLITICAL ISSUE IS DEBATABLE FOR BELIEVERS. SOME CHOICES CAN BE READILY DISCERNED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD AS RIGHT OR WRONG.
On Resurrection Sunday this year we had a special visitation in our church service, but it was not from the Lord. A group of men and women from New York visited my congregation that day.
From an insider I learned that most of the people in this group were on paid leave from their regular jobs in New York so they could work on a "special project" in Florida. This project entailed recruiting and encouraging people to vote in the upcoming election. read more
One day when I was driving down the highway, a song came on my CD player. Some of the phrases rang in my spirit: "I am so tired of compromising/ I am so tired of lukewarm living/ I want to go against the grain/ Set me on fire." As I listened, I was struck by the thought that many Christians today live in a state of compromise.
It hasn't always been that way. There have been times in history when the church lived by a different standard than the world. During the days of the early church, for example, the new believers went straight to the marketplace after being baptized in the Spirit and declared what had happened. As far as we know from the biblical record, no one told them to do that; they just had such an intense awareness of who Jesus is--glorified and risen--that they were compelled to share it!
Even in the midst of the persecution that attended their testimonies, they could not keep silent. The Bible tells us that many were scattered to other regions, and "those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went" (Acts 8:4, NIV). Miraculous signs followed those who believed.
A friend named Arthur Burt once told me a story of a farmer who found an eagle with a broken wing. The farmer rescued the eagle and put it in a chicken pen. Because of its injury, the eagle was forced to live like a chicken. But it wasn't a chicken; it was an eagle with a higher destiny.
One day after its wing was healed a visitor came by and noticed the eagle. He asked the farmer for permission to return the bird to its natural habitat. With the farmer's consent, he took the bird and headed for a nearby mountaintop.
The man's first attempt to set the bird free was disappointing. The eagle flapped its wings but didn't try to take off. It still saw itself as a chicken.
Recently Charisma magazine reported on a crusade in Nigeria that was hosted by German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. During the six days of the crusade, a record number of people--3.4 million--made decisions to receive Christ.
In a television interview not long after the crusade Bonnke said:"The tide is coming in! The immovable is now movable; the impossible is now possible; the incurable is now curable!"
I believe Bonnke's comment was a prophetic statement about the spiritual atmosphere in the world today. Many leaders, both Christian and secular, have sensed a turning of the spiritual tide. Related to the recent change of leadership in our nation, a secular newscaster declared that "God is in," and U.S. News & World Report raised the question, "Is America undergoing a spiritual awakening?"
Recently my husband, Steve, and I visited Argentina, where revival has been taking place for several years now. Over and over again we heard the same message proclaimed: God is pouring out His fire to purify and prepare a bride who is without spot or wrinkle. This message is based on the declaration John the Baptist made about Jesus, "'He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire'" (Matt. 3:11, NIV, emphasis added).
One of the results of being baptized in fire is holiness, a characteristic that was the primary focus of the Spirit in the late 1800s. It defined the Holiness movement and set the stage for the Pentecostal movement that followed at the turn of the century.
But gradually the emphasis in the Holiness movement changed from seeking to develop a pure heart to simply following a set of rules, and true holiness--taking on the nature of God--was lost. We settled for a doctrine of partial holiness: one that allowed a watered-down purity to coexist with carnal hearts full of compromise, competition and division.
Many of us don't know and understand the love God has for us, so it's hard for us to be completely dependent on Him. First John 4:16 says, "And we have known and believed the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (NKJV).
We know God loves us because He tells us so. And, we know by His actions. He sent His only Son to suffer and die in order to take away our sins and provide us with eternal life so we could be with Him forever.
Many of us intellectually know that God loves us. But do we really believe He loves us? Do we claim all that He has for us?
Knowing and believing are two separate things. If we believe God loves us, we have no cause to worry about anything. He is the only one who will never let us down. There is no one like Him.
Many times we feel we don't deserve God's love, but it's not about what we do to earn His love. It's about what He did for us--He gave.
What matters to God is that we learn to accept His love as freely given to us. God's love makes it possible for us to work through any situation that comes our way. read more
Whether it's things, people or our dreams, loss comes to us in many ways. Life is never quite the way we imagine it to be.
But loss is not going from having to not having; it's going from one thing to a new thing.
Paul understood that he had to lose everything to gain Christ (see Phil. 3:7-8). He could no longer trust in people, things or his own ideals but had to put his trust in God. His willingness to lose himself transformed him from Saul to Paul.
Jesus transformed death (loss) into new life. This is the model He gave us--embrace loss. Don't try to avoid or deny it.
Ever since the fall we have been trying to get back to the Garden of Eden. We long for that perfect place of rest, peace and intimate connection with God and each other.
Thankfully, Jesus came to show us how to find that connection. He tells us we must lose our lives to find them (see Matt. 16:25).
This is radical thinking. The challenge is not to fear loss but to embrace it so you can find the new thing. That way you will not be dependent on people, things or your ideals to meet the needs of your soul.
We must be dependent on God and nothing else. Our every hope lies in Him. read more
BEING CHANGED INTO THE IMAGE OF JESUS REQUIRES THAT WE KNOW WHAT HE WAS LIKE.
Becoming sons of God is our goal. This means that we are to become like God's Son Jesus Christ. In order to do that, we must ask the questions: "What is Christ like? How does He behave toward His Father, and toward His Father's work?"
The first thing we notice about Jesus is His everlasting obedience to the Father's will. The Gospel of John says, 49 times in 49 different ways, words that mean simply that the Son can do nothing of Himself and that He does only what He sees the Father doing: "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me" (John 6:38, NKJV). read more
Several years ago I took part in a management seminar in which we were asked to retrace our professional steps and graph the highs, lows and plateaus of our careers. When we finished that exercise, we were instructed to chart our spiritual journeys during the same period.
Once we started analyzing our information, an interesting, though not altogether surprising, pattern emerged for nearly everyone. In spite of the pain of trials and hardships, most of us had come into our own as men and women of faith during the worst seasons of our lives.
In the midst of pressures of every description--from firings to bankruptcies to broken relationships, God was working in us to make us the kind of people we'd prayed to become. Our prayers to become more godly were being answered!
During my youth, I did everything I knew to fit in. As a result, I fell in with the wrong crowd, did the wrong things and was on the wrong road to my future. Had there not been a major intervention by God, I would probably have been dead before the age of 20.
But God did intervene. And today, as a pastor, I often encounter people at my church with problems similar to the ones I had in my teen years in Baltimore, Maryland. For years now, my message has never changed: God doesn't make mistakes. He has never given up on you. God loves you and wants to see you fulfilled in life. God has a purpose and calling—a destiny—that He seeded into you when you were first conceived in your mother's womb, and He is still holding it for you today. read more