It is interesting to me that one of the greatest states in our Union, New York, has recently made legal the marriage of two people of the same sex. There is a lot of sin in the world, and along with God I am against all of it, to include any that may operate within me.
However, when something as profound as this happens in our nation and I barely hear a peep from people who call on the name of the Lord Jesus, that scares me.
During the holidays one year my family traveled to London, England, for a vacation. After we returned, I realized that the trip was an analogy of a much more important journey each of us is on — fulfilling God’s plan for his or her life.
In the aftermath of the devastation of 9-11, coupled with the series of severe and destructive hurricanes, historic Gulf oil spill, wars in the Far East, uprisings in northern Africa and the Middle East, and the devastating earthquake in Japan all happening in just the last few years, one is prone to ask many questions. In times of uncertainty, the “why” question appears in its many forms. But perhaps the question to be asking is not just “Why?” but “How?”
How are we to respond in such times? Difficult times come–whether it is in our own lives, or in a family, church, business, city or even nation.
Her “not guilty” verdict made a lot of people mad. But before we vent any more anger we may need an attitude check.
Where were you on July 5 when the Casey Anthony verdict was released? Just before the 2:15 p.m. announcement, I was in a restaurant in Orlando with my family—and our waitress was so anxious to hear the outcome of the trial that she brought up the topic after we ordered our lunch. Not since the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial have Americans invested so much emotional energy in a courtroom drama.
Because I live near Orlando where the trial was held, I’ve grown weary of the never-ending local news coverage, which included stories on how much Casey was allowed to spend on toiletries every week at the Orange County jail and how long out-of-town visitors waited in line to get tickets to the trial. I remember when 2-year-old Caylee Anthony went missing in 2008. I remember when her decomposed remains were found six months later in some woods near her home. I listened to the blur of reports about duct tape, the suspicious odor in the trunk of the car, the chloroform, and her mother’s partying habits.
The key to a life of peace is accepting God’s amazing grace
I spent a lot of years being frustrated about a lot of things. But one of my biggest problems used to be the frustration I had about me. I didn’t like myself.
So I tried very hard to change. I didn’t like my personality. I felt like I was too bold, straightforward, loud and expressive. Along with that, it seemed that every message I heard at church (and we were in church a lot) just pointed out more things that were wrong with me. I remember at times wondering, How can one person have so much wrong with them?
The church has had enough spin, denial and closed-door settlements. Leaders must demonstrate humility and repentance.
A few years ago a minister in my city went through a divorce, and the messy details of the settlement between the pastor and his wife were reported in our newspaper. But when the divorce was finalized there was no public statement. The man’s wife disappeared from the stage, her photo vanished from the church website and nothing further was said. Zip. Nada. No comment.
The message: It’s none of your business what happened between the pastor and his wife. He’s the anointed messenger of God. Just follow him.
Addressing a congregation with long-held beliefs that it’s shameful for a woman to speak in church isn’t the most comfortable assignment.
That's especially true when it’s in a church that’s more than 120 years old and where most in the audience are near-Centenarians. But that was my task last Saturday afternoon.
I wouldn’t have accepted the invitation to speak in a historic denominational setting that doesn’t approve of women with short hair who wear pants to church and pray in tongues—all three of those characteristics describe me well—but it was my grandfather’s memorial service.
To be sure, if my mother hadn’t asked me to speak after an old gospel hymn and in between two mature male pastors, this big city girl would have never invaded that small country town with the gospel of Christ. I expected weeping, but I hoped against gnashing of teeth as I waited for the hymns to end. In other words, I wasn’t expecting the best. (Read: lion’s den.) I decided to trust God. And the righteous are as bold as a lion. I stood behind that old pulpit and preached to those old pews. And I am glad I did.
If you are reading these words, then you’ve probably already chosen this day whom you will serve. But could it be possible that there are yet things you need to put away in order to truly worship the Lord in spirit and in truth and love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind? I submit to you that it is possible, and for many of us even probable.
One of my friend’s sons has a parrot named Danny. Once when I went to visit, the bird, which was perched on the child’s shoulder, screeched so loudly it hurt my ears. I looked nervously at it and then at its owner. Seeing my apprehensive glance, my friend’s son spoke to me.
Don’t lose hope. God has promised to answer when we persevere.
So you pray for something for years and then you wake up one day, breathe a big sigh and say to yourself: This is crazy. Nothing is happening. God must not be listening.
Congratulations. If this has been your experience you are not alone. You’ve been enrolled in the School of Persevering Prayer, and it’s not a one-semester class. It’s a lifelong journey designed to stretch your faith, develop your character, purify your motives, test your patience and increase your capacity to know and experience God’s amazing love.
Anyone who reads the paper, listens to the news, watches television or goes to the movies regularly can't help but be aware of the rising tide of anti-Christian sentiment in America. It is apparent in almost every aspect of our culture, including our educational system.
Negative views of Christians and Christianity are particularly blatant in the media. Believers are generally seen as religious fanatics who use their faith as an excuse for being hate-mongers. But the truth is, most believers do not fit this description at all.
A few months ago my friend Linda gave me an artificial bonsai tree. I brought it home and placed it in my office, and from the moment I sat down I sensed the Spirit’s whisper. “Research this tree. I have a message for you.” I was intrigued and excitement rose within as I uncovered the truth I share with you now.
In a nation known for communist oppression, intimidation and religious legalism, the Holy Spirit is sending a fresh wind of freedom.
Pentecost is a national holiday in Romania, and I celebrated it last Monday with members of Bucharest Christian Center, a growing congregation in the Romanian capital. The church was founded by my friend Ioan Ceuta, 54, a brave Christian leader who has served as president of the Assemblies of God since 1996. Like so many Romanian pastors who lived through the communist era, Ceuta has walked through fire and emerged stronger in his faith.
Ministry was not easy for Ceuta and his wife, Emilia, during the dark days of Nicolae Ceau?escu, the Romanian dictator who ruled with an iron fist and built one of the world’s largest buildings (second only to the Pentagon). Covert government informants strictly monitored all pastors during Ceau?escu’s era. The construction of church buildings was forbidden, frequency of meetings was limited, and Bibles were blacklisted as “mystical literature.”
Many people who have experienced a spiritual dream may write off the event as some type of weird result of eating too much pizza before retiring for the night. Some believers even have the attitude, “Well, if God wants to show me something, He can just show me!”
This brings up a good point: Why can’t the Lord just show you what is going to happen without using all the strange symbolism often accompanying a spiritual dream? I believe I have found an answer to that question.
Thirty-one years ago, my paternal grandfather passed away. We called him Paw Paw and my dad loved him very much.
Paw Paw loved to listen to his “45” of Tennessee Ernie Ford on his console record player and walk through the house singing at the top of his lungs. He had a lava lamp on top of the TV and an old fashioned cuckoo clock on the wall. Even with thick coke-bottle glasses he still had to use a magnifying glass to read his Bible, which he did the first thing every morning and the last thing every night. He loved Jesus with all of his heart. In church he would “amen” after almost every sentence.
Paw Paw died suddenly from a massive heart attack while at work. He was 80 years old. I remember my dad hugging me and saying, “I hope I can make it without him. I talked to him so often. I already miss him …”
Editor's note: Pentecost is Sunday, June 12. In this article, the late Art Katz, a Jewish believer whose prophetic and teaching ministries were internationally recognized, tells why some of the biblical promises about Pentecost have not yet been fulfilled for Israel.
“And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind [alt. ‘flesh’]; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.
And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:17-21).
Living the Christian life is a journey toward maturity in Christ. That’s why Jesus gave His Church a handful of equipping gifts. But the practical aspect of being trained as a skilled servant that moves in rhythm with Christian brothers and sisters, (and husbands, wives, daughters and sons) is not always a textbook experience.
Let’s get real for a moment. Silly putty doesn’t sharpen iron. Plastic doesn’t sharpen iron. Not even sandpaper sharpens iron, although at times you may feel like a fellow believer is aggressively rubbing your soul with sandpaper. No, Solomon in his wisdom tells us that it takes iron to sharpen iron. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17 NASB). That implies pressure, abrasion, pressure, abrasion, pressure, abrasion, and so on until the knife is sharp.
You may be saying, “I don’t need to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Consider the alternative. Any five-star chef, or even a first-year fry cook, will testify to the fact that a knife is useless if it is not sharp. A sharp knife can cut a vine ripe tomato into thin slices suitable for gourmet salads. A dull knife, on the other hand, will simply crush the tomato and ruin your recipe.
The passion for revival I saw in eastern Europe this week rivaled what I have seen in Africa or Asia.
Europe is often described as post-Christian, and some people have already given up on the continent. We’ve heard discouraging statistics about mosques replacing churches in England. We know about dismal numbers of churchgoers in Germany and France. Some people assume that the region that gave us the Protestant Reformation is now a spiritual wasteland.
But that’s not what I found in Hungary this past week. On Sunday I preached to a congregation that meets in what used to be a communist hall in the Budapest suburb of Szigetszentmiklos. The Free Christian Church, a lively Pentecostal group pastored by Josef and Lila Gere, was celebrating its 20th anniversary—and the mayor of the town showed up for the service along with the local minister of religious affairs.