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God Gave Beauty for Ashes

Paul and Betty Neff lost four children in a fire just days before Christmas. Six years later, their only remaining son was killed. Yet through it all, they've watched God turn their grief into something beautiful.


Betty Neff was 23 and a first-time mother when she dreamed she visited heaven:

“I was a young girl, running barefoot through a soft grassy meadow. I came to a small hill and immediately recognized Jesus standing at the top. He wore a long, white robe with a blue sash draped over one shoulder and wrapped around His waist. I couldn’t see their faces, but there were four children on Jesus’ right side and a person the size of an adult on His left.”

The week before Christmas in 1983, Paul and Betty Neff’s youngsters were pleading with their dad, hammering away at his refusal to attend their Christmas play at church that afternoon: “Please, Daddy, oh, please! It just won’t be the same without you there,” they exclaimed.  

Paul, a 37-year-old, 222-pound ex-Marine who had fought some pretty tough battles in Vietnam, realized that in this case it would be easier to surrender. “OK, I’ll go,” he announced. read more

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The Christmas Rush

Are there blessings hidden amid the tinsel, the sales and the madness at the mall?


Does it bother you at Christmastime when carols are being played in shopping malls to the accompaniment of ringing cash registers? Does it upset you when the symbols of Christmas such as the Bethlehem star and the manger scene are used to sell merchandise and cards and decorations?

There’s no doubt, the commercialization of Christmas has been overdone. It would be nice if Christmas tinsel wouldn’t appear until at least after Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, I suggest we cool it on the complaining.

It’s unfair to put down people who make their living in merchandising just because they like to do a brisk business at Christmastime, and because they use the Christmas symbols and themes to help them do it. Like it or not, we are a “nation of shopkeepers”—we believe in and depend upon free business, which is a lot better than depending upon the government to feed us and tell us what to do. read more

Feedback

"I am so impressed with Charisma and how it has progressed with the times without losing sight of our mission as believers."

-Sarah Matthews

 

A Virtual winner

Wow! The October issue was very powerful and informative. Awesome research on all the new digital and virtual technology for spreading the Good News of Jesus around the world. I also loved the 30-year-old picture of beloved founder and publisher Steve Strang.

Bob Weiner, Gainesville, Fla.

 

I’ve been carrying my October issue in my tote because it is chock-full of articles I intend to share with friends and family. Charisma is always a blessing. 

Lisa Letterii DeFelice, Marlboro, N.Y.


October was one of the best issues yet. The cover looks like Moses giving the Ten Commandments. Brilliant!

DaisyMay Rader, Minneapolis


The October issue was OK for me. We are in a small town with a small-town church, so none of this stuff really applies to us.

Colleen Cobb Audette, Sebastian, Fla.

 

Staying true to the mission

I’m a long-time reader and I am so impressed with Charisma and how it has progressed with the times without losing sight of our mission as believers. 

I also get Charisma News updates on my iPhone. I love getting kingdom news—and you certainly can’t get that in the mainstream media. Keep up the great work!

Sarah Matthews, Jacksonville, Fla.


Let’s ‘watch’ our Timing 

Regarding your article “Timing the Spirit” (September, Inform), I say, “Amen.” I suggest that pastors and teachers remove their watches in the pulpit. It is a pet peeve of mine, seeing them checking their time. 

I have said to them on occasion that they should not be concerned about how long the message goes; it is the Holy Spirit’s work, not theirs. I too wonder how many wonderful things have been missed because there was more concern for people-pleasing.

Thanks for all the great articles and information in your magazine. I look forward to Charisma every month. J. Lee Grady is right-on and almost every column of his gets a hearty “Amen!” from me, too. 

Pam Dolson, Lihue, Hawaii read more

Where You’d Least Expect Him

She wasn’t wrapped in swaddling cloths in a manger; instead, she was tangled in sweat-drenched sheets in a crib. That’s how Maria spent most of her days at the Guatemalan orphanage. The 7-year-old couldn’t talk or turn over in her bed. She had little control over her body. Yet her smile could illuminate a room.

Maria (pictured) had been rescued from near starvation deep in the Sierra de las Minas, but the prolonged malnutrition left her so mentally and physically impaired that she now looked barely half her age and was bed-ridden in a room filled with babies and toddlers. Despite the intensive care she’d need for the rest of her life, her beaming grins came fast and easy. 

From a natural perspective, there was no reason Maria or any of these kids should’ve been glowing with smiles. Most of them were birthed in horrific situations. A couple of the young girls had been tied to a post for two years and were merely 13 and 14 pounds when rescued. Another pair of siblings—babies only three months apart—faced severe health problems as a result of their father and grandfather being the same man. Incest, rape, abuse, drugs, divorce, murder ... these were the elements surrounding the children as they entered a dark world. read more

Giving at Christmas

Christmas is a time for memories. For me, putting together this issue brought back memories as we picked the very best Christmas articles over the last 36 years. While preparing, I reread all of my Christmas-related columns.

Some had to do with Christmas customs; others were about the culture wars to take Christ out of Christmas. Some years, I showed pictures of my staff or my young family and shared my own Christmas memories.

When we chose to include the best Christmas articles we’ve run in the last 36 years, I thought I’d pick my best column. But we soon decided I needed to introduce this issue, share my own memories and do what I’ve done at many times in the past: encourage you to give this year at Christmas. read more

The Biology of Christmas

My wife and I have four girls, and I was in the hospital room for each birth. There was a normal amount of blood, but no serious complications. Our oldest took forever to be born. Our second was in such a hurry that we thought she might end up on the floor of a hospital hallway. Our third tied her umbilical cord in knots in the womb. And our youngest calmly slipped out as if to say: “OK, I’m born. What’s next?”

I had very little to do in the delivery room. My wife was the hero. She sweated, strained, pushed and gasped for hours. I stroked her arm a few times—and ate some doughnuts.

Normal births are amazing, whether they occur in hospitals or homes or the back seats of taxis. But when I consider the birth of Jesus, I’m in total awe—not just because of Mary and Joseph’s bumpy ride from Nazareth, Mary’s lack of a doctor (and no anesthesia!) and the crudeness of the manger, but also because of how Jesus was conceived. Mary was a virgin. Joseph, the “father,” had nothing to do but stand in the background.  read more

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God’s Requirements for Recession-Proof Living

How to not only survive but even prosper amid today’s economic challenges{jcomments on}

Before a pilot takes off on a flight, he goes through a checklist of things that must be cleared to ensure his plane is in good working order. If he forgets to check his list, he may miss something, and that could cost him his life. This awareness causes him to be extremely careful not to make any mistakes. As Christians, we should be as diligent in our everyday lives at searching the Scriptures to see if we are missing something God’s Word instructs us to do. 

We are under grace, so I am not talking about earning anything from God or obeying by our own power. It is His grace that enables us to obey His Word, as Hebrews 12:28 states:  “Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” 

From searching the Scriptures, we know that the Bible says part of God’s covenant with us is prospering us (Deut. 8:18; 28:2). Yet do we even know what biblical prosperity is? Is it synonymous with being financially rich? No, I don’t believe that. 

The Bible’s definition of prosperity is “sufficiency in all things.” Biblical prosperity is God’s grace abounding toward us so that we have sufficiency in everything. Here’s the way 2 Corinthians 9:8 defines it:  read more

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SpirituaI Trends to Watch in 2012

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The doom-and-gloom crowd always expects the negative. But behind the troubling headlines, God is working in surprising ways.


Some people are terrified of 2012. Their fear is based on the fact that the Mayans of ancient Mexico mysteriously ended their 5,126-year-old calendar on Dec. 21, 2012—as if they expected the world to end that day.

This stupid hypothesis became the basis for several New Age books and a silly disaster movie, 2012, in which actor John Cusack avoids meteors and earthquakes just in time to get his family aboard the modern version of Noah’s ark (built in China!) before the rest of the world is destroyed by a tsunami.

I’m not worried about 12/21/12 because (1) Ancient Mayans never actually said the world would end in 2012—and even if they did, they didn’t have an inside track to God; (2) Doomsday predictions have never been accurate; and (3) Jesus Christ holds the future in His hands. As long as I’m in relationship with Him, it doesn’t matter what happens on earth. I’m secure.

Despite strange weather patterns, global terrorism and the spectre of an economic crash, I’m actually optimistic about where we’re headed in 2012. Through my research and travels, I’ve noticed these emerging trends—some negative, some positive—that will shape our future: read more

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2012: America’s Final Warning?

{jcomments on}More than 2,700 years ago God gave ancient Israel a specific warning accompanied by nine symbolic signs of things to come if it didn’t return to Him. Those same harbingers of destruction are today reappearing—in uncanny detail—in America. Has God issued the same prophetic message for our nation of what is yet to come?

Is it possible that there exists an ancient mystery in which is hidden the secret of America’s future? Is it possible that this mystery lies behind everything from 9/11, to the War on Terror, to the crash of Wall Street and the global economy, to the Great Recession and more—even the words and actions of American leaders, including the president of the United States? And is it possible that this mystery contains a prophetic word—a message to America from God, a warning of national judgment?

It might sound like the plot of a science fiction novel or an Indiana Jones movie, but it’s real. In fact, it’s so real that it has affected and is affecting the course of our nation to this day. read more

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Bearer of the Harbinger

{jcomments on}Jonathan Cahn’s new book, The Harbinger, isn’t just an exciting read; it’s a bold prophetic message and biblical mystery wrapped in one powerful story. But there’s far more to this timely revelation—and the person delivering it—than what’s on the page.

As he looked across the waters of the Hudson River from the Statue of Liberty, the twin towers of the World Trade center spiking the New York City skyline, Jonathan Cahn had a deep sense of foreboding.

The Messianic rabbi had joined with other prayer and prophetic leaders at the nation’s symbolic gate—Lady Liberty greeting the many immigrants arriving at nearby Ellis Island, where they would take their first steps in their new land—to seek God. They had gathered with a shared burden to pray for the city and a sense of concern about a possible terrorist attack on the United States.

Two years later, the suicide flights that stunned the world would touch Cahn’s, too. His future wife, Renata, was to have been at the World Trade Center for an appointment but changed her plans at the last minute, as did other members of his congregation who worked there. Two who were in the Twin Towers were among those who escaped before the collapse. read more

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