Why are wives often ignored when male church leaders mess up? Their healing must be addressed too.
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Put on your seat belt. What we are experiencing is so much more than an economic recession.
Unless you are Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for years, I'm sure you feel the daily convulsions that are rocking our world. Change is hitting America right between the eyes. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken—from banks and insurance companies to car manufacturers and media empires.
Trusted brands, including Chrysler and United Airlines, may go out of business within months. Newspapers are laying off employees in droves as readers go digital; bookstores like Borders can't compete with Amazon.com. Pontiac is officially dead, and the city of Detroit—once the proud global headquarters of the auto industry—is rusting and jobless.
Before Slumdog Millionaire made the world's largest garbage dump famous, Biju Thampy was feeding the children who live there.
The Deonar garbage dump in Mumbai, India, is certainly not a glamorous location for a movie. The first thing that hit me was the smell—an awful combination of urine, rotting food and toxic fumes. But what made me nauseous was watching dozens of skinny Indian children forage through the mountainous heaps of trash looking for their next meal.
Welcome to Mumbai, a city of 24 million made famous last year by Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. The lead character in the movie, a boy named Jamal, grows up near the vast garbage dump (reportedly the world's largest), watches his mother die and then is coerced by a mafia boss into begging for rupees with other love-starved orphans.
Last December some children in the north Indian state of Orissa watched Hindu militants burn their fathers to death. Today these kids have found a refuge.
This past Monday at the Home of Hope Center in Coimbatore, India, more than 150 boys in matching uniforms stood in neat rows on the tile floor of their prayer chapel and began singing praise songs in Telugu, Hindi and Tamil. The smallest ones fidgeted as they clapped in unison. The older teens raised their hands in the air as they worshiped Jesus.
I sat on the stage and watched their smiling faces with amazement, knowing that some of these children had watched their own parents burn to death a few months ago.
Many Christians misjudged the California pastor after his recent interview with CNN's Larry King.
My switchboard almost short-circuited last week after California pastor Rick Warren appeared on Larry King Live to discuss the hot potato issue of the decade—same-sex marriage. Some concerned Christians called or e-mailed immediately to tell me that Warren had, just in time for Easter, denied his faith in true Judas style. They even lifted a quote from Warren's April 6 interview with King to prove that the pastor of the largest church in our country no longer believes in evangelical morality.
People who had not even seen the broadcast were hyperventilating. "How can Rick Warren do this to us?" they asked me. I decided to stay calm, breathe deeply and actually watch the broadcast instead of believing some slanted conservative blogs. (Note to readers: In this amazing age of TiVo andYouTube, you can actually check the facts easily before jumping to conclusions.)
After visits from three evangelists in four days, I figured it out. We've neglected the heart of our mission.
Something amazing happened to me last week during a ministry trip to Texas and Oklahoma. God sent three unexpected visitors over the course of four days to confirm something He is doing in the church today.
Last Thursday when I was speaking at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, my friend Sujo John called to say he wanted to drop by the campus and attend the conference with me. Sujo is a full-time evangelist who is originally from India. He surrendered to the ministry on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center.
When millions of curious seekers crowd into America's churches on Easter Sunday, what will they find?
Millions of "Easter Christians" and other curious spiritual seekers will crowd into America's churches on the next two Sundays. Some will visit simply to "put in their time"—either in an attempt to ease their consciences or to please relatives. A few will see it as an excuse to buy and show off new outfits. And many will come out of genuine spiritual hunger.
A recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research revealed that 56 percent of Americans would attend a church service if invited by a friend. And while polls show that many older denominations are losing members, non-denominational churches are growing in many regions of this country at a brisk pace (along with non-Christian religions). Despite all the grim economic news we've heard this year, some trends indicate that we could actually be on the cusp of a spiritual awakening.
We must use the right building materials if we want our ministries to stand in the day of His visitation.
Every state in this country has strict building codes. You can't just buy a piece of land and throw up a structure any way you choose. Local governments have standards for foundations, floors, drywall, roofs, exhaust systems, water heaters, wiring, lighting and sanitary drainage. In my neighborhood you can't even erect a shed in your backyard without a permit, and an inspector will always drop by unannounced to make sure you followed the rules.
These codes are important in Florida where I live. You don't want to discover during a hurricane that your contractor used shoddy plywood or defective concrete when he built your house or condo. Bad construction just might send your roof into a neighbor's yard!
In this day of compromise, we must restate the obvious: God requires leaders to play by the rules.
Almost two years ago a dynamic preacher from a growing church in the Southeast was caught in adultery. His distraught wife talked with the "other woman," an exotic dancer from another country, and shared Christ with her. Meanwhile a small group of pastors "covered" the situation and hurriedly sent the embarrassed pastor to a few weeks of counseling. In the end, the pastor and his wife divorced and members of the congregation who didn't have all the facts blamed her for the breakup.
Today this pastor is still in the pulpit—although his preaching has a hollow tone. Some members of the church left when they learned of the pastor's unfaithfulness. Yet many others stayed because they felt they shouldn't judge the pastor for his sin.
This week's announcement about evangelist Todd Bentley's hasty remarriage and restoration is sending a confusing message to the church.
I groaned when I learned early this week that Canadian preacher Todd Bentley, leader of the controversial Lakeland Revival, had decided to divorce his wife, Shonnah, and marry his former ministry intern, Jessa Hasbrook. The news surfaced after almost nine months of silence and speculation, during which time the board of Bentley's Fresh Fire Ministries in British Columbia publicly scolded him for committing adultery.
In a statement released March 10 by Rick Joyner, the popular author and minister who is overseeing Bentley's restoration process, we were told that (1) Bentley married his new wife several weeks ago and moved to Joyner's base in Fort Mill, S.C.; (2) Todd and Jessa agree that their relationship was "wrong and premature" and that it "should not have happened the way it did"; (3) Bentley will remain out of public ministry while he seeks healing; and (4) Joyner will oversee the healing process with input from Dallas pastor Jack Deere and California pastor Bill Johnson. (Read Rick Joyner's response to this column.)
The Bible tells us there are both true and false apostles. Let's learn to discern the difference.
For many years traditional denominations taught that the ministry of the apostle passed away after the New Testament era. It was assumed that the only people who served in apostolic roles were early followers of Jesus who witnessed His resurrection. Cessationists (those who believe that miracles stopped after the canon of Scripture was completed) believe that healing, deliverance, prophecy and all other supernatural phenomena ceased and that apostles are no longer necessary.
But as Christians in recent years began to experience the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, church leaders and even some theologians began to teach that the gift of apostle is vital if we hope to advance the gospel in our generation. The logic makes sense: If we still need pastors, teachers and evangelists (all part of Jesus' five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11), we also need the apostles and prophets who are listed in the same passage. The Bible never says these functions were discontinued.
British atheist Richard Dawkins wants to stamp out Christian faith in England. But that faith is still very much alive.
When I arrived in London last week I fully expected to see one of the city's celebrated "atheist buses" racing past Gatwick Airport on its way to Victoria Station. I had read about how Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins, author of the book The God Delusion, helped raise more than 140,000 British pounds from donors in January to plaster the city's famous double-decker buses with signs that read: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
Dawkins, who has publicly compared religion with the smallpox virus, is quite evangelistic when it comes to his doubts. But his London bus experiment was a dud, if you ask me. Early 2009 was not a good time to mount an atheist campaign. With British banks in crisis and companies laying off workers all over the U.K., most people would prefer to believe divine help is a possibility. "There's probably no God" is a depressing message to share with anxious Londoners who are weathering the Great Recession.
You don't have to compromise with our sex-saturated culture. By God's grace you can stay in the sexual safety zone.
There were some raised eyebrows last week on the campus of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., when I hosted a special meeting—the day before Valentine's Day—on the subject of fornication. That's not a word you normally associate with a lecture topic, but hey, I had to get attention. And since the hormones on most college campuses are as dense as Florida humidity, I figured the kids would be all ears when I attacked the subject.
I was right. At times you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium, especially when I talked about how most American young people aren't even sure how to define sexual activity anymore. (Today's college seniors were nine years old when President Clinton tried to redefine sex during the Lewinsky scandal.) At other times the students burst into nervous laughter, especially when I told how I gave my son-in-law a lecture about sexual boundaries in front of 700 of his classmates when he was dating my oldest daughter.
We need to be careful. Current fads involving angels, ecstatic worship and necromancy could push us off the edge of spiritual sanity.
No one fully understands what Nadab and Abihu did to prompt God to strike them dead in the sanctuary of Israel. The Bible says they loaded their firepans with incense, ignited the substance and "offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them" (Lev. 10:1, NASB). As a result of their careless and irreverent behavior, fire came from God's presence and consumed them.
Zap. In an instant they were ashes.
Last week Ted Haggard's wife, Gayle, dared to defy the high priestess of America's new morality.
Last week former Colorado pastor Ted Haggard hit the talk show circuit to promote the new HBO documentary about his fall from grace, The Trials of Ted Haggard. I'll admit I wasn't too excited about Haggard going public with the story of his relationship with a male prostitute, but there was a bright spot amid the awkward interviews. When Ted and his wife, Gayle, appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show Jan. 28, Gayle dared to defy Oprah and her audience.
The HBO documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard dredges up a lot of pain and sometimes blames the church for the Colorado pastor's problems.
In November 2006 the American evangelical movement was dragged through an embarrassing credibility crisis when Colorado pastor Ted Haggard admitted to a sexual relationship with a male prostitute. This week it's déjà vu all over again. In a documentary about Haggard's moral failure, HBO dredges up the ugly scandal and shows us how Haggard is coping with life now that he's out of the ministry.
We must pray that our new president will honor the God of our fathers and seek counsel from His prophets.
The hearts of millions of Americans were stirred on Tuesday as we watched Barack Obama place his hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible and swear to uphold his duties as president. The cynicism and divisiveness of politics gave way to civility for a few moments as Obama stood on that massive stage in front of the Capitol and spoke of a “new era of responsibility” that he hopes to initiate.
Forces in our culture want to rip the foundations of Christian faith right out from under America. Here are four lies we must challenge.
This past week I spent four days preaching at Emmanuel College, a Christian liberal arts school in northeast Georgia. I love speaking to college students because they are spiritually hungry, they love passionate worship and I don’t have to wear a tie.
The church today faces a serious leadership crisis. The only way to solve it is to embrace three forgotten virtues.
The people of Israel faced a leadership crisis during their sojourn in the wilderness. From morning until evening, dozens of people would line up outside Moses’ tent to ask him to resolve a dispute. When his father-in-law, Jethro, saw the crowds outside his door, he pulled Moses aside and gave him wise advice that ended up being recorded in Scripture.
While our nation faces its toughest financial crisis since the Great Depression, the church is wandering in a wilderness of disturbing uncertainty. Ministries that enjoyed success two years ago are announcing layoffs. Some churches have been squeezed to a breaking point because donations are down.