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The Rising Tide of Influence

How Pentecostalism is gradually changing the dynamics of American politics


A phenomenon is emerging in politics today, one off the radar of most political observers. This movement hasn’t come crashing on the scene all at once, but instead has been steadily forming like a tsunami, untraced by most and even ignored by those aware of its potential yet who dismiss it out of personal bias. As this wave surges, its rising water line can lift political candidates to new heights of influence almost overnight. 

The tsunami I speak of is the new wave of proactive involvement among Pentecostal/charismatic Christians in the American political system, and it is becoming an increasingly powerful force with enough potential to change a nation. Donald Miller, professor of religion at the University of Southern California, has said that “Pentecostalism is reshaping the face of Christianity.” I would argue it is also reshaping the face of American politics and represents a significant part of a larger movement to return America to its Judeo-Christian values.

According to the World Christian Database, there are almost 80 million “renewalists” in the U.S., which would include Pentecostals, charismatics and neo-charismatics (often referred to as the “Third Wavers”). Yet to understand just how influential the Pentecostal political movement is becoming, we must first understand how far charismatics (a term that, for the sake of brevity, I’m using interchangeably with Pentecostals) have come regarding politics. read more

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So HeIp Us, God

Answering the Anti-PentecostaI Bias

 

When Sarah Palin became the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, reports quickly surfaced saying she had long been a member of a Pentecostal church. With that news, any grand American tradition of religious tolerance for her vanished. More than simply being disrespected for her Pentecostal beliefs, Palin was derided for them with smears that were close to bizarre in their misuse of the facts. 

She was a heretic, bloggers claimed, and under the hypnotic sway of modern Elmer Gantrys. She was robotically devoted to the cult of a witch hunter. She attended a church in which people ranted in tongues, raised Nazi salutes and trained their children to be Christian versions of suicide bombers.

The truth was, Palin was a member of one of the fastest-growing movements in Christian history, one that must be considered mainstream today by any standard. From a handful of adherents when modern Pentecostalism began in the early 1900s, Pentecostals now number more than 580 million worldwide. They are growing by more than 19 million a year, some 54,000 per day, and researchers predict by 2025 there will be more than 1 billion Pentecostals and charismatics in the world, most located in Asia, Africa and Latin America. read more

Feedback

Not all Muslims want to kill you

Thank you for the profound article by Christopher Alam, “Not All Muslims Want to Kill You” (September). It gives a history of the Muslim background, but not as the media presents this situation. This article was God’s truth, explaining how we as Christians can reach Muslims with God’s love. Hopefully it took the fear out of our way of thinking about Muslims. 

Laurie Stark, via email

 

Thank you for the two great articles “When Muslims See Jesus” (by Audrey Lee) and “Not All Muslims Want to Kill You” (by Christopher Alam). I celebrate the definitive insights and instructions for the body of Christ that Alam offered concerning Muslims. This sounds like Jesus to me: “We Christians should have no enemies because our DNA is one of faith and love, not fear and hatred. We must not forget we have received commandments to bless those who curse us, to overcome evil with good.” 

Steve Dixon, Fayetteville, Ark.

 

Too much Faith in fiction?

Carol Johnson’s article “Saving Stories” (September) on the impact of fiction suggests popularity equals influence. But if Christian fiction is to impact the world, it must grow in the area where it is still weak: craftsmanship. Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Bridges of Madison County, both hugely popular but now largely forgotten, are probably better templates for contemporary Christian fiction than a classic like To Kill a Mockingbird.

John L. Moore, Miles City,  Mont.

 

A dilemma over our ‘gay dilemma’

This is in response to Julia Randle’s letter (September), questioning why the magazine published articles on homosexuality (“The Church’s Gay Dilemma,” July). If “Christians should not be involved,” then how is the church supposed to handle this issue? What do we do if “they” come into our congregations? 

Ms. Randle, what will you do if “it” shows up in your family? Jesus said to let he who is without sin cast the first stone. It’s time for the church to lay down their stones and take on the compassion of Jesus. Thank you, Charisma, for printing articles that help the body of Christ learn more about these controversial issues.

Sherry Toler, Ernul, N.C. read more

The Greatest Publicity Job on Earth

I work with people every day who are hired to herald the arrival of a new product, campaign, author or artist. They’re called publicists, and their sole
professional purpose is to stir up media hype surrounding whatever it is they’re pushing.

The good ones do this by establishing authentic relationship with media gatekeepers who, in turn, can trust the publicists to not pester them with projects outside of their audience’s interest. The bad ones aren’t just annoying, they’re often laughable with their misguided requests. Recently a publicist actually pitched me on writing an article—inCharisma, mind you—about how to help senior adults select “adult toys.” This clueless publicist figured that since our readers were within her target audience, her request was reasonable. (Sadly, she wasn’t joking.)

That’s low, but after watching some publicists at a recent political debate, I now know these hired guns can stoop lower. Amid the media frenzy succeeding this event were dozens of publicists who would follow the every move of “personalities” and hold name cards directly above the heads of these VIPs who apparently needed to be recognized. It didn’t matter if you were a politician, CEO or wannabe celebrity blogger, wherever you went these publicists were willing to look foolish for the sake of everyone knowing your name. read more

Why This Isn’t Politics As Usual

Recently two well-known charismatic leaders contacted me to voice their concerns about the sudden increase in attacks against charismatic Christian
leaders—especially Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation. How timely, then, that I had already planned to publish Wagner’s response in this issue and examine the new role that Pentecostals and charismatics are playing on the national scene.

What’s being attacked isn’t new. Conservative, Bible-believing Christians have long believed we should put righteous people in government and other positions of influence. Preachers have thundered against sin from the pulpit and called people to repentance. Yet mostly we do that within the church’s four walls, out of range from hearing the cultural elites who increasingly don’t want any restraints on their favorite sin. 

These attacks are part of an effort to intimidate using a spirit of fear—and sadly most of the time it works. This happened to Sally Kern, the Baptist pastor’s wife who as an Oklahoma legislator was concerned about how some gay activists were targeting Christian candidates. She sounded the alarm and was viciously attacked in ways so extreme we can’t even repeat some of them here—just because she voiced biblical principles. If you want to read more, buy her book, The Stoning of Sally Kern—if you can find a copy, that is. Most secular stores won’t even stock it, and sadly many Christian stores won’t either because they don’t want to stir up problems. (You can still order it online or buy the Kindle version.)  read more

What Happened to Holiness?

Zachery Tims’ story had a great beginning. As a young man he met Jesus and was saved from a life of crime and drugs. He and his wife, Riva, moved from Baltimore to Orlando in 1996 to launch a church that aimed to pull teens out of trouble. New Destiny Christian Center grew fast, and Tims was soon a regular on Christian television.

But things unraveled in 2009 when the young preacher was caught in an affair with a stripper he met in France. He admitted to an “indiscretion” and got counseling, but he didn’t take serious time off for rehabilitation. Riva divorced him for his infidelity. 

The story did not end well. On Aug. 12, Tims was found dead—at age 42—in a New York City hotel room. His four children lost their dad, and his church lost their beloved leader. But while Tims’ family and friends face enormous grief, I’m also grieving over the fact that the body of Christ has yet another embarrassing religious scandal to explain. read more

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Our Banana Tree Christmas

Facing a ‘different’ Christmas while in Africa, our family discovered new meaning in the season

 

Christmas is the time when nothing ought to change.”

Our newly married daughter, Liz, put into words what all of us were feeling. We had come from our home in New York state to spend the holidays with her and her husband, Alan, in their new apartment in Tucson, Ariz. Outside, on Christmas Eve, cactus-wrens hopped about the mesquite bushes beneath a glorious desert sky, while indoors the four of us gulped iced tea and thought of pine woods and falling snowflakes.

“Home in Leicester,” Alan recalled of his Massachusetts upbringing, “we’d generally go skating about now.”

“And tonight there’d be the midnight service at St. Mark’s!” Liz said. “Remember, Mom and Dad, how you can see your breath, walking in from the parking lot?”

We did remember. We wanted every time-hallowed tradition just as it always had been. No changes. Not at Christmas. read more

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The Wonder of Bethlehem

Christmas should be a time of awe and reverence. Our salvation was made possible because God took on human flesh in a manger in Bethlehem.

 

T he shepherds saw a babe in a manger. The wise men, arriving later, also saw a young child. But the one who emerged from Mary’s womb that cold winter night in Bethlehem of Judea was much more than what was discernible with human eyes.

He was God. The sacred record is clear: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ read more

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AngeIs We Have Heard (and Seen)

Explaining the reality of angelic beings in everyday life


Angelic activity always increases at times of great spiritual breakthrough in the kingdom of God. Christmas was just such a moment in history. At the first advent of Christ, the earth exploded with angelic activity.

God sent angels to make announcements to all who took part in the birth of the Savior. Gabriel appeared to the priest Zacharias and told him: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). Soon after, Elizabeth was pregnant with the Messiah’s forerunner, John the Baptist.

Gabriel was also sent to Mary, Jesus’ mother, to herald her as the woman chosen by God to birth His Son. Joseph was reassured of Mary’s virginal purity by an angel who appeared to him in a dream. An angel directed the shepherds to Bethlehem so they could find the stable where Jesus was. The same angel along with countless others serenaded above the shepherds’ field. read more

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Extravagant Giving

When giving comes from the heart, God will bless the gift-and reward the giver

 

Luke 6:38 is a wonderful verse. But it’s also one of the most frequently misapplied, misunderstood Scriptures in the Bible. It’s so familiar to Christians, you can probably quote it from memory: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. ... For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Many people assume that Jesus is speaking only of money here. In truth, He was unveiling a principle of God’s kingdom that applies to every area of human life. Back up some and read verses 36 and 37: “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Only after making those statements does Jesus say, “Give, and it will be given to you” (v. 38). 

Jesus was talking about the broad principle of giving. He was saying, whatever you give is going to be given back to you in “good measure” and “running over.” read more

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