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Planet’s Fastest Woman Slowed by God

“I really feel like God put me in a situation and slowed down my life enough to say: You know what, Marion, I should be the most important One in your life.”
—Marion Jones

Once named the fastest woman on earth, Olympic track star Marion Jones could no longer run from God when she found herself in a federal prison.

“God put me in a situation and slowed down my life enough to say: You know what, Marion, I should be the most important One in your life,” she told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Jones described her relationship with God, prior to her conversion, as nominal, consisting of a flippant “Lord, help me” before a track race or an offhanded ”Thank you” if she ran well.

She quickly ascended to fame and fortune after the 2000 Olympics, when she became the first woman to take home five medals. Gracing the covers of Vogue and Time magazines and signing million-dollar endorsement deals, Jones thought she had finally put herself on the right tack.

But in 2007 everything came to a screeching halt when she was convicted of perjury for lying to federal officials about taking performance-enhancing steroids.

She was stripped of her records and medals and sentenced to six months in Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas. She says she unknowingly took the drugs, but did recognize them when confronted about them.

While in prison things got worse. A fight with a fellow prisoner landed Jones in solitary confinement for 49 days with only a few photos of her young children, her Bible and her memories. There, during what she calls “probably the worst part of my life,” she turned to Christ: “I found myself opening up [the Bible] and the Word was just kind of oozing into me. I was like a sponge. Sometimes God puts you in situations where there’s nothing else and you have to turn to Him, and I feel comfortable saying that.”

Two years after being released, Jones signed with the Tulsa Shock in the WNBA. Today she travels the country with her ministry, Take A Break, inspiring youth and college students to think before making decisions that will affect their future—something Jones wished she’d done when she was questioned about her steroid use years earlier. Last year God opened a door for Jones to share her message internationally at the invitation of the U.S. State Department.

She considers the work she now does even more important than her previous occupation.

“I wouldn’t wish [my experiences] on my enemy—but actually I would, if it would change them in such a positive way,” she says. “It has helped me to prioritize what’s important in my life and it’s not fame, it’s not fortune. It can only be Him. I’ve finally realized that I have a plan and it’s His plan for [me].”  read more

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The Million Heirs Club

As a 15-year-old Daniel King was inspired to set a goal larger than most could even dream. He’d read a success book that told him to aim for earning $1 million by age 30. But King, who grew up on the mission field, set a different goal: to see 1 million souls saved by the time he was 30. 

“Instead of trying to become a millionaire I wanted to lead 1 million ‘heirs’ into the kingdom of God. And God started opening up doors,” he said.

At 28, just two years shy of his 30th birthday, King led his 1 millionth heir to Christ during a crusade in Haiti. Though most Christians never witness such a feat, it was only the beginning for King. Now 33, the evangelist has set a new goal of leading 1 million people to Christ every year.

King is feverishly working to reach this new objective in places such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia and other nations in the 10/40 window, where the message of Christ has never been heard. His crusades consistently draw tens of thousands, and his efforts to train local pastors have resulted in planting 14 house churches with 70 people or more attending each.

“For me it’s an awesome privilege to go to these places and tell people about Jesus,” King says. “They’re so hungry for the gospel, and when you go to a nation and you see thousands and thousands of people who want to hear about Jesus, you see how powerful the message of God’s love really is.”


 

On the Rise

“God is·supernaturally·raising up a movement of young people like I have never seen in 27 years of student ministry—ever. It is as if the Spirit of God is just beckoning this to happen.”···—Jay Mooney, after the Converge21 USA conference­, where young people and church leaders fervently prayed for and discussed the future of the Holy Spirit-empowered movement. read more

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Miracle Turns Strip Club Into Church

In a move to redeem some prime real estate in South Florida, a Haitian church purchased a closed strip club with the intent of turning into God’s house.

Eglise Assemblee Evangelique de Christ in Boynton Beach, Fla., bought Platinum Showgirls strip club last spring for $600,000. Though the property was theirs, they couldn’t hold services in the building until it was renovated and up to code.

The problem: finances. Eglise Assemblee spent all its money to buy the building and had been paying high rent at an interim facility. That left them without money to wrap up the redemptive project. read more

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Model Fights Against Cosmo Magazine

 

Model and actress Nicole Weider is leading a change.org campaign demanding that the magazine Cosmopolitan be sold in a non-transparent wrapper to adults only, to prevent children from buying and reading material inappropriate for their development. The model initially created a YouTube video displaying her discontent with the magazine and posted it to her fast-growing website geared toward Christian teenage girls, ProjectInspired.com.

But Weider (pictured) received so many responses from girls who had been negatively affected by Cosmopolitan that she decided to create the change.org petition. At press time, the petition included almost 24,000 signatures. “We are not asking Cosmopolitan to change their content,” explains Weider. “We simply want them to take responsibility for it.” —Gina Meeks read more

Inspire-WaterIgnites

Water ignites spiritual flames


Water is often used to extinguish fires, but Water Mission International has been using H2O to ignite Holy Ghost blazes around the globe. Founders George and Molly Greene closed their lucrative engineering firm in 2001 to engineer safe water filtration systems in areas where children die daily of water-borne illnesses. What they discovered was astonishing: The more water they purified, the more communities were open to hearing the gospel.

“People are always questioning about how this [water] system works and asking how they can acquire it,” Uganda’s Glory Center pastor Charles Neddje says. “We always tell them about our great God. Can you imagine that even nonbelievers come willing to offer us land to plant churches because of this water system? It is an iron tool for the gospel.”

But with 884 million people without clean water around the world, there is much work still to be done. So the Greenes are enlisting Western churches to help during Water Sunday, March 22. Congregations are dedicating a portion or an entire service to raising funds and awareness to help end the clean water shortage. Through video and photos, attendees are shown how quickly the gospel is spread by giving an impoverished area a purified water source.

“The goal of our projects is not just to provide physical water, but to share the Living Water message as well,” says Kevin Herr, a Water Mission representative. “When a project is completed we have a special celebration ceremony and when appropriate, show the Jesus film.”

Water Mission has provided clean water in 49 countries and hopes to be a world leader in water filtration by 2017. ­­—Felicia Abraham read more

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Faith Catapults NBA Coach’s Bounce Back

A cardiologist once gave Monty Williams a crushing diagnosis: an enlarged muscle was making it difficult for Williams’ heart to pump blood. The doctor said the condition meant an end to Williams’ college basketball career, the end of his NBA dream—and possibly the end of his life.

Two years later, the condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy vanished. Doctors called it inexplicable; Williams called it a healing from God. A 6-foot-8-inch forward, Williams played nine seasons in the NBA. Chronic knee injuries tested his faith and led to his retirement.

Today, Williams continues to proclaim his faith as the second-year head coach of the New Orleans Hornets, despite relentless hardship. Over the past year and a half, the NBA’s youngest coach has seen his general manager fired, his top scorer blow out a knee (then opt out of his contract), another player arrested, a third player lose two relatives in a fatal car accident and the franchise sold to the NBA. 

“Adversity,” he says, “has a way of getting us to listen to God.”

His second season began with more trouble. The Hornets dealt their best player, Chris Paul, to the Los Angeles Clippers in a controversial trade. Yet through numerous trials early in his coaching career, Williams has shared the source of his strength with media. “No question, it’s my faith in Jesus Christ,” he says. “I read my Bible in the morning and I study in the evening. When tough times do come, it’s not easy. But I realize a guy like me is blessed to be in this position.”

Previous challenges make NBA conflicts seem minor. Williams says he suffered abuse and molestation as a child. He became suicidal when he learned of his fatal heart condition. With God’s help, Williams has emerged with a strong faith and a powerful testimony. 

The Lord is present in our most trying times, Williams says, working all things for our good.

“I’m blessed to be in this business,” he adds. “I pray I can keep this attitude as long as I’m able to coach.”       —Ken Rodriguez  read more

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Raising Her Voice to Change Poverty and Child Abuse

Recording artist and singer Beckah Shae says one of the most underutilized weapons Christians have is their voice. The Dove-award nominee isn’t referring to her soulful crooning; she’s talking about speaking out against injustice. Every day, she notes, children go hungry and young girls and boys are trafficked for sex—not because there aren’t enough people to change that, but because those who are aware of the problems aren’t vocal enough about them. 

“This is the most powerful thing for me—to be a voice. I have a powerful platform right now,” Shae says. She uses her voice in numerous ways, including to create contemporary Christian albums such as Destiny, her most recent. She is also a spokesperson for Kids Alive, which fights poverty, and for A21, which rescues girls from sex trafficking.

The songstress says she was both heartbroken and elated when she visited Kenya to see the work Kids Alive was doing during the drought that has created a hunger crisis in east Africa. She witnessed the ministry helping to rescue orphans who had been physically abused, then meeting the spiritual, physical, educational and emotional needs of the children who had nowhere else to turn.

“It’s more of a family-type setting. They make it like a family so it’s not like an orphanage,” she says. 

Shae and her husband, a music producer, sponsor a child with Kids Alive. She is committed to helping—and using her voice to tell about the injustice and the work being done in Kenya to change it.

“It’s not about everything we do,” Shae says, “it’s about [our lack of] doing anything.”

Beckah Shae’s favorite quote:

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
         —Martin Luther King Jr.  read more

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Bikers Deliver Christmas Gifts, Santa-Style

On a crisp and sunny Saturday recently, hundreds of bikers from around the Carolinas descended upon the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., with gifts strapped to their motorcycles for the Fourth Annual Bikers with Boxes event. The group is an annual supporter of Operation Christmas Child, an outreach by Samaritan’s Purse that last year alone gave 8.2 million underprivileged children Christmas shoe boxes. 

“We’ve just really been thrilled that this has been an annual event and that the bikers have embraced it,” said Diane Wise of the Billy Graham Library. “Bikers are the most generous group of people.” read more

Inspire-GrowingFaith

Growing Faith on a Farm

 You’ve probably heard of Sunday school classes being the catalyst for mission trips, cell groups and friendships, but have you heard of a Sunday school class spawning a farm? 

Neither had Joe and June Richey—at least not before they started Questfarms, a farm that houses and employs special-needs adults. They were inspired to start the farm after teaching the Christian education class at their church and realizing their students needed support beyond the childhood years.

“When we came here we came with an idea. There weren’t any books that said: ‘This is how you start a farm for mentally-challenged people,’ so we had to just pick along,” says Joe Richey. read more

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Seeing the Invisible

When USA Today advertising executive Laura Schroff first met 11-year-old panhandler Maurice Mazyck on the streets of New York City, he was hungry and in need of a friend. Compelled to help, Schroff, who was 35, took him to a nearby McDonald’s for lunch. That day began years of Monday-night dinners and a 25-year friendship. 

As their unique friendship continued, Schroff quickly learned that Mazyck’s life was in turmoil. Not only was he not getting enough to eat, his mother was addicted to drugs and he was constantly getting into fights—when he’d occasionally attend school. 

His living situation wasn’t any better. He bounced in and out of homeless shelters, foster homes and one-bedroom apartments inhabited by 20 other people. read more

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