In Uganda and Kenya, where polygamy is common, Christians are defending the Bible while we disdain it.
Two weeks ago when I was speaking in a women's conference in Kampala, Uganda, I asked the women to raise their hands if they grew up in a polygamous home. A majority of the hands went up. Then I asked how many wives lived in their father's home.
"How many had two wives living in the house?" I asked. A majority of the hands went up.
We can learn an important lesson from the East African Revival, which transformed a region 80 years ago.
The people of Uganda call it Balokole. In the Luganda language it means "the saved ones," but the word became synonymous with the East African Revival—one of the most significant Christian movements in modern history.
This revival had humble beginnings in September 1929, just before America's Great Depression. Historians trace it to a prayer meeting on Namirembe Hill in Kampala, Uganda, where a missionary to Rwanda, Joe Church, prayed and read the Bible for two days with his friend Simeoni Nsibambi. They felt God had showed them that the African church was powerless because of a lack of personal holiness.
St. Kakumba Chapel in Uganda has grown from 500 to 5,000 members since Pastor Medad Birungi replaced stale traditions with Pentecostal vibrancy.
Pastor Medad Birungi was the least likely man to engineer a spiritual rebirth in the tradition-bound Church of Uganda. Raised in a polygamous home (his alcoholic father had six wives and 32 children), Birungi suffered horrible trauma, rejection and poverty. But he had a dramatic encounter with the Holy Spirit while he was a college student, and his moment of renewal is still having ripple effects throughout Uganda and the world.
Birungi was a religious Anglican before this experience. He despised Pentecostals and viewed them as sheep-stealers and misguided pretenders. But while he was performing with a choir on a conference stage near Kampala in 1987, he felt strangely compelled to run outside to pray. He was then literally arrested by the power of God. He fell to the ground and spoke in tongues for three hours.
Here’s your chance to shape the direction of Charisma in 2010. We really do care what you think.
An impressive collection of framed covers of Charisma decorate a hall around the corner from my office. Visitors often stop to admire the nostalgic lineup, which includes a 1975 issue featuring healing evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman and a 1978 cover of South African theologian David du Plessis. These magazines offer a panoramic view of the history of the charismatic movement—warts and all.
I’ll admit that sometimes I wince when I walk down this hallway to get coffee—and I cringe even more when I sort through my stash of old magazines. As much as I love to remember the old days—and to appreciate the spiritual giants we featured at times—it is painful when I realize that some people we wrote about did not finish well.
On the anniversary of 9/11, I learned that we need extraordinary prayer in this time of national crisis.
Last week I attended a prayer gathering across the street from the World Trade Center site in New York City. Several dozen Christian leaders met in a cramped room overlooking the place where terrorists destroyed the tallest monument to America's financial power and killed more than 2,700 people in the process.
It was the eighth anniversary of 9/11. Flags in the city flew at half-mast while a drizzling rain made the gray mood even more somber. New York City firemen and police officers got respectful applause as they marched in a small parade along Church Street. A few blocks south, in Battery Park, thousands of people filed past a mobile monument that bears the names of all 9/11 victims—including those killed in Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.
From reading some old books I've discovered a missing spiritual dimension. The Lord is inviting us to reclaim it.
A few months ago I went on a special diet. I put aside all newly published books and limited my reading to a small collection of Christian classics, mostly devotional works by Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, E.M. Bounds, Charles Spurgeon, A.B. Simpson and Corrie Ten Boom. I knew God had a message for me in those musty pages.
I had noticed a similar theme in all these books, but it took me a while to crack the code. These writers from the 19th and 20th centuries wrote from a spiritual depth that I rarely see in the church today, and I wanted to know their secret. I slowly began to figure things out while reading A.B. Simpson's book, A Larger Christian Life, which he wrote in 1890 when the Holiness Movement was at its zenith in the United States.
Facing a difficult situation? You need to release the shout of the Lord.
According to the rules of proper grammar, exclamation marks should be used rarely, and only when conveying extreme emotion. I'm sure you agree there is nothing more annoying than an article or e-mail FILLED WITH ALL CAPS AND PROFUSE EXCLAMATIONS!!! An overuse of such punctuation is the journalistic equivalent of screaming in a public library.
Yet exclamation marks do appear in the Bible, especially in the Psalms. Apparently there are times in our spiritual lives when extreme emotion and pumped-up volume are necessary.
Don't let the sensationalism of eschatology distract you from the priority of evangelism.
You might remember Edgar Whisenant. He wrote a best-selling book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988—and a much less popular sequel, The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. The second book said Jesus didn't come back in 1988 because the author, who was a former NASA engineer (!), missed his mathematical calculations by a year.
The mood of the 1980s was uneasy. After Ronald Reagan was elected president, some Christians began to surmise that Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was the Antichrist. When he died they gave the title to the next Soviet leader, Yury Andropov, and then to his successor, Konstantin Chernenko. When Chernenko died unexpectedly, people were certain that Mikhail Gorbachev was the Antichrist because he had that awful red birthmark on his forehead.
It has been 15 years since Rwanda's darkest tragedy. Here's how one pastor suffered in that holocaust—and now offers healing.
Unless you catch sight of the jagged scars on Emmanuel Kadege's* legs, you wouldn't know he is a survivor of Rwanda's genocide. During a conference last week in Pennsylvania he greeted me with a warm hug, a bright smile and a cheerful "Praise the Lord." But after we got to know each other, and I encouraged him to talk honestly, this 31-year-old pastor let down his guard and shared his horrific story.
A member of Rwanda's minority Tutsi population, Emmanuel was only 16 when leaders of the majority Hutu tribe announced on the radio that it was time to kill the "snakes" and "cockroaches"—their ominous code words for Tutsis. For 100 days—from April 6 to July 14, 1994—Hutu militants and thousands of civilians slaughtered an estimated 1 million people.
Spending time last week with a persecuted Christian brother ruined me forever.
I can't reveal my new Pakistani friend's name, even though he gave me permission to use it. I could never live with myself if he died because of something I wrote, but he wants the world to know his amazing story. So I'll just call him Saleem.
I met this young church leader last weekend during a missions conference in a northeastern state. The same day we met, Islamic radicals were burning Christian houses to the ground in Gojra, an area not far from Saleem's city. So far, the body count in Gojra has been estimated to be as high as 20, and 19 others were injured when masked militants associated with the Taliban attacked a peaceful Christian settlement.
We often pray for more of the Holy Spirit's anointing. But if God gives you His power, will you actually use it?
A few years ago the Lord challenged me about my level of spiritual hunger. He showed me that even though I had stood in many prayer lines and repeatedly sung the words, "Lord, I want more of You," I wasn't as passionate for Him as I thought I was.
In 1999 my church sponsored a conference on the Holy Spirit. At the close of one service I was lying on the floor near the altar asking God for another touch of His power. Several other people were kneeling at the communion rail and praying quietly for each other.
Legalistic religion is dangerous. Here's how you can detect and avoid the poison of a religious spirit.
After Elisha watched Elijah ascend into heaven, the prophet went to the city of Jericho and performed his first miracle. The men of that city faced an environmental crisis: Their water was toxic, most likely because of the sulphur and other chemicals that had rained down upon nearby Sodom and Gomorrah years earlier. This poison had made the land barren (see 2 Kings 2:19-22) and it was probably affecting people and animals as well as plant life.
So Elisha performed a bold, prophetic act. He threw salt in the water and proclaimed: "Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer'" (v. 21, NASB). His proclamation brought immediate cleansing.
We need voices from the past—like Andrew Murray, Corrie Ten Boom and Charles Spurgeon—to help us find our way to the future.
During a visit with my parents in Georgia, two of my daughters asked if they could listen to a tape recording my father made in 1962 when I was only 4 years old. So my dad rummaged through some drawers and found the old reel-to-reel tape, which was amazingly still intact. Then he went to the garage and found the old Realistic tape player that no one in the family had used since the Nixon administration.
To our surprise the scratchy tape actually played without breaking, and my girls laughed when they heard me—in a babyish Southern drawl—describing a Florida vacation and a fishing trip with my grandfather. After my "interview," it switched to an older recording made in 1956. It included a conversation with my dad's mother, who died before I was born.
It took an independent film company to make a movie that exposes the cultural oppression of women in the Middle East.
Millions of women around the world live under the ironfisted rule of male domination. They are gang-raped in Latin America; their genitals are mutilated in parts of Africa; they are forced to wear burkas in Afghanistan; they are sold as sex slaves in Thailand; they are denied education in India. Yet most westerners are oblivious to this cruel injustice. It's out of sight, out of mind.
But now, thanks to an independent film company and a director who cares about issues that Hollywood ignores, we have a movie that exposes the plight of women in Iran. It hit theaters last weekend, just a few weeks after Iran's authoritarian government came under international scrutiny.
In an interview with Charisma, the fallen Colorado pastor reaches out to the Christian community and asks for forgiveness.
After Colorado pastor Ted Haggard admitted to an embarrassing moral failure with a male prostitute in November 2006, the Christian community wasn't sure what to do with him. Some people wrote him off and kicked him to the curb. A few wept and prayed for the pastor and his devastated wife. We all tried our best to move on—knowing that the American church had suffered a big black eye through the ordeal.
I didn't know what to say to Haggard when the news broke two and a half years ago. Like so many others who had read his books, listened to his sermons and admired his church, I felt betrayed. I sent one brief e-mail to let him know I was praying. After he appeared in the HBO documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard earlier this year, I decided to ask him if he would talk to Charisma about his healing process.
We can quibble over when the previous wave of the Holy Spirit ended. But what's important is that we follow God's presence into a new season.
Some readers were offended when I declared in an online column a few weeks ago that the charismatic movement is dead. One woman even accused me of heresy, since—in her words—I believe "the age of the Holy Spirit has ended." (I didn't say that.) Others on the opposite side of the spectrum asked why I waited so long to state the obvious. All this discussion prompted me to address the issue further.
I am not a coroner. But I do believe the historic period we call the American charismatic movement ended a while ago. By making that pronouncement I was NOT saying that (1) the Holy Spirit isn't moving today; (2) the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit aren't available to us any more; or (3) people who are associated with this movement are all washed up.
Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul modeled accessibility and had close bonds with their disciples. That's the way we should do ministry.
A friend in Alabama recently told me about a preacher who came to his city in unusual style. The man arrived at a church in a limousine and was whisked into a private waiting room behind the stage area. The evangelist gave specific instructions to leave his limousine's engine running (I guess he wasn't concerned about rising gas prices) so that the temperature inside his car would remain constant.
This evangelist then preached to a waiting crowd, took up his own offering and retired to the waiting room for some refreshments. Then he left the church with his entourage without even speaking to the host pastor.