I found this word in my file recently. I received it in July 2005. It was a very strange experience at the time because it came while I was in the midst of a panel discussion dealing with leaders. I was sitting behind a table on the platform at our church during a women's conference where about 500 women were present.
Suddenly, it felt like we were having an earthquake. I could feel a distinct rumbling under my chair, as if all the earth under me were shaking. I not only felt it, I heard it. Everything was shaking—everything.
As I was re-reading this word recently, I heard the Lord say that it is for now. I did not send it out when I first received it. I held on to it.
I believe this word will help guide you, help create understanding in you about the times and seasons we are in, and give you the key to the door of deliverance.
Here is the word:
There is a rumbling in the earth. God is rumbling you out of mindsets, positions, identity, locations, relationships, bondages, fears. I was sitting here, and I could hear it. I could hear this constant ongoing and seemingly unending rumbling of rocks under us, and it was shaking everything. It was as if we were standing on rocks, round rocks, and they were all moving and rumbling. And they just kept rumbling. We could hardly maintain our footing.
When my husband and I went out to dinner one night we were served by an extremely helpful waitress. This woman seemed to anticipate our every need; she even suggested an item that was not on the menu.
Throughout the evening, she served us with both joy and efficiency. She made our evening so pleasant that the next time we went to that restaurant, we requested her as our waitress. In a society in which mediocrity has become the standard, she distinguished herself by her excellence.
When Mary and Martha sent news to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was about to die, Jesus didn’t respond the way his friends expected. He actually snubbed their request. The Bible says when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, “He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was” (John 11:6, NASB).
For those two anxious women, that was a very, very, very long time. Doubts tormented them. They thought: What kind of friend is Jesus, anyway? Why didn’t He rush to our aid? Mary was especially troubled by Jesus’ seemingly insensitive delay.
When moving from point A to point B, we sometimes feel trapped in between. Trust God to guide you to your destination.
A few months ago I passed through the tiny community of Between, Ga. With a population of only 148, the place is not much to write home about. (And besides, it doesn't even have its own zip code). The town got its name because it's halfway between Atlanta and Athens, Ga. But as I passed the local convenience store I couldn't help but imagine the strange reactions I'd get if I lived there.
I have been a pastor for many years, and in my opinion, the hardest fact in the world to believe is that God really loves us. It is harder to believe that than to believe that there is a God or that Jesus died on the cross or even that He rose from the dead.
It's not difficult to believe that God will take care of you or that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Rom. 8:28, NIV), though we may not believe that they are for our good at the time. We can be detached from life sufficiently to look back and say yes. It all worked out.
It's hard to remember a time when people were more angry. A civilized person ought to be, first of all, civil. Yet today there is no discourse, no respect for another's opinion, no reasoning together for the common good. I am concerned, especially for the church.
One may argue: "Our society is decaying. We should be mad." Yes, but we can be angry yet still not sin (Eph 4:26).
Our souls should be vexed at the darkening cloud of demonic infestation in our culture. Especially when children are caused to stumble, or the weak are exploited, or because the advance of evil ultimately means more people will die without Christ.
So, if we are angry, it does not necessarily mean we have sinned. It can simply mean we care.
My concern is, however, that unless this anger regenerates into something more redemptive—more Christlike—we will not see our world renewed. Indeed, anger that does not awaken in us redemptive action ultimately degrades into bitterness and unbelief.
Hell advances into our world on many levels, but I want to discuss only two primary areas.
The first is a brazen, widespread and alarming manifestation. For example, a corrupt law is passed or gang violence breaks out or a beloved public figure is scandalized. It makes the news, and people are talking about it. The shock waves caused by this demonic intrusion smash against our hearts—we're disappointed, offended, stunned and often outraged.
While we're in this state of mind, hell launches the second area of attack. No newscast features this next stage of warfare. On this front, the devil does not come flaunting himself openly. He comes quietly. In seething whispers he stirs the pot of our discontent until it boils. Ultimately, where once the heart of the Christian was full of faith and love, now bitterness, hatred and malice churn.
So, though we must fight the culture wars of our times, we must also preserve our capacity to love if we want to actually win our war. We must remember we are not fighting "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph. 6:12, KJV).
Sadly, I have heard many people say recently that they've lost their vision for America. What they actually lost wasn't their vision. It was their love. For love believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7).
This month a small group of Hispanic and Anglo Christians traveled from Florida to Arizona to pray for immigration reform.
While many Christians are arguing about Arizona's strict immigration law, charismatic pastor Nebby Gomez decided to do something about it. He and his wife, Dee, traveled from Florida to Arizona in early July with three members of their church to address what they believe are the spiritual roots of the crisis.
They prayed on the lawn of Arizona's capitol in Phoenix, where lawmakers passed the controversial SB1070 bill in April of this year amid national protests. Gomez and his friends also prayed on the site of Arizona's oldest Spanish mission near Tucson and on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales.
Editor's Note: In the message that follows, Robert Ricciardelli gives a prophetic explanation for the shaking that currently is occurring worldwide and clarifies what God is doing in the church during this period of widespread uncertainty. He notes that we are in a "swift season of change" and describes what our personal response should be to this season. Robert is a prophetic minister, an entrepreneur and the founder of Converging Zone Network, a social-networking site developed to spread the kingdom of God on a global level through the exchange of products, services, training and ideas.
Can a nation be born in a day? You are that nation, you are that people, you are My people. Beyond America and nationalism, and in all nations, is a people called by My name. The shaking felt around the world is My doing.
Many of you have asked: "Lord, where are You in all this? Have we not prayed? Where are You in my challenges? Where are You in my problems?"
I say, "I am in them, around them and have caused many of them."
My brother is a captain with Delta and currently he flies to Amsterdam several times a month. On the map, the route from Detroit to Amsterdam is a straight line. So to me, logically he should be able to get in the airplane, take off, set his heading and just drink coffee until he gets there.
But when I shared my logic with him, he laughed at me (something he spends way too much time doing). When I asked him what was funny, he said: "Things simply don't work that way. I spend most of my time making course corrections."
No true message from God will flow through a person who is smug and self-confident. If you want to speak for Him, prepare to die!
I did it again. This past Sunday I stood in a pulpit, looked out over a congregation of mostly strangers, cleared the lump in my throat and preached a message that the Lord had laid on my heart from the Bible.
Thousands of men and women speak publicly like this every week. It's what preachers do. No big deal.
God wants you to know His purpose for your life. My entire life changed when I discovered this one truth: The destiny of my life is hinged upon understanding God's eternal purpose, which He unveiled to man through His sacrificial love.
I was not aware of this powerful truth, despite the fact that I had finished my graduate studies in theology, including rewriting the 500 cardinal doctrines of the church for my thesis. Through my studies, I had learned how to investigate the great truths of the Bible and thought I knew something about almost every doctrine. I prided myself on my attempts to be an exegetical theologian, pastoring and carefully teaching the Word in Bible colleges for 17 years.
We are living in a strange season! This is a season of extraordinary, spectacular, unexpected events. Even the prophetic insight offered by leaders spans a wide range of interpretations and applications. And, interestingly enough, most of the insight is accurate but very diverse. Really strange!
When you picture a magnificent flying bird, it is usually not a chicken that comes to mind. I've never seen a chicken portrayed in flight-many eagles, but no chickens. We quote the Scripture from Isaiah 40:31 that talks about being borne up on the wings of eagles or with wings like eagles. There is a difference, however, between being on His wings and being under His wings.
This promise in Psalm 91 is not elaborating on the flying wing but on the sheltering wing. One indicates strength and accomplishment, while the other denotes protection and familiarity. When you imagine the warmth of a nest and the security of being under the wings of the nurturing love of a mother hen with chicks, it paints a vivid picture of the sheltering wing of God's protection that the psalmist refers to in this passage.
Make room for the Holy Spirit's bulldozers. He wants to give you an extreme makeover.
Last spring during a visit to Charlotte, N.C. I stopped by the Billy Graham Library to take a tour of the evangelist's boyhood home and to see his ministry's offices. In a shaded grove on the same property I stumbled upon the grave of his wife, Ruth Bell Graham. Her tombstone bore an unusual inscription: "END OF CONSTRUCTION. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE."
Mrs. Graham (who died in 2007) apparently saw these words on a highway sign, and she told friends that she wanted them on her grave marker. Apparently the message from the road construction crew reminded her of God's patient care in preparing her for heaven.
The Lord longs for His glory to cover the earth like the waters cover the sea (see Hab. 2:14). The sea of the Gulf of Mexico is now filled with a gunk that represents uncapped resources that are now coming onto our shores. What has opened up is a spewing power that the enemy is accelerating with pressure—a well that can't be capped by natural means. This has become a supernatural situation. Instead of [our being able to bring] forth the resources of the earth in an efficient way for the benefit of mankind, we are seeing these resources not only out of control but also unrefined and poisonous to the ecology.
Considering he had died the previous week, I’ll admit that talking with my father was a bit strange. But there he was, conversing with me in a dream that to this day seems far more than that.
Daddy appeared too real, his words too precise and prophetic, and our surroundings too divine for just another night vision that I could later blame on pizza, false hope or even my still-raw grief of losing him to a sudden heart attack. Upon waking, I was convinced I’d just experienced a touch from heaven.
Still, over the next few weeks I wrestled with the reality of my encounter, fully aware that Scripture rarely puts interaction with the deceased in a positive light. The Old Testament presents no fewer than six specific warnings against consulting the dead (see Deut. 18:10-13), while the New Testament clearly speaks of the Holy Spirit as the lone source of truth amid the spirits and demonic forces that dwell in this world.
I didn’t consult with a medium and had no intention of connecting with anything associated with the afterlife. But did this somehow legitimize my experience, or had I “defiled” myself by talking to a dead man—albeit subconsciously (Lev. 19:31)? What was I to make of my all-too-vivid encounter with my dad? Had my visit with him truly given me a glimpse of heaven?
I don’t have definitive answers for these or other related questions. Like millions of others who have had similar encounters with deceased loved ones, I struggle with the fact that my experience doesn’t fit nicely into a neat little theological box within my faith grid.
That seems to be a common theme when it comes to dealing with heaven and hell. Questions abound, while experience both complicates and confirms. How can something so universally accepted as the afterlife remain so misunderstood?
For that reason, this issue of Charisma combines questions and personal experience to give you a deeper sense of what heaven and hell are like. The Bible is explicit on some things regarding the afterlife. Bible teachers Perry Stone (p. 36) and Bill Wiese (p. 44) point this out as they use Scripture to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about heaven and hell.
Yet there’s also a reason people around the world throughout history have been fascinated with stories of heaven and hell. We seem to have an innate sense of wonder when it comes to visualizing what comes after our life on Earth. This month we’ve let Richard Sigmund, Lonnie Honeycutt, Choo Thomas and a few others offer their wondrous descriptions of heaven, based on what they claim were personal visits to God’s abode. Just as real, yet on the other extreme, is the harrowing account of Wiese, whose 23-minute journey to hell has left a permanent impression not only on his soul, but millions of others’ as well.
Given their importance in the scope of life, heaven and hell get a ridiculously small amount of airtime today. And for all the buzz surrounding the afterlife these days, you’d think we might have more understanding of humanity’s end destinations. I hope this issue changes that.
CONTRIBUTING TO THIS ISSUE ...
In 1979, Ron Phillips was called as pastor of Central Baptist Church in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area, where he serves today. An avid knife collector, he once wrote a book on parenting but burned every copy after having children.
As a teenager, former real estate broker Bill Wiese (pictured with wife Annette) was attacked by a 9-foot tiger shark off the Florida coast while surfing. As scary as that sounds, it still pales in comparison to his 23-minute adventure in hell.
Valerie G. Lowe is an award-winning journalist who got her start in media doing a kid’s show on TV in the sixth grade. She’s an identical twin, a fan of CBS’ The Good Wife and enjoys shopping at vintage thrift stores.
After writing this month’s cover story about people’s fascination with heaven, freelance writer Ken Walker is looking forward to a reunion there with his second-oldest stepdaughter, who died of a heart attack in 2005.
Two popular charismatic speakers stood on a stage a few years ago and tried to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit. One guy pretended to throw an imaginary “fireball” at his friend, who promptly fell on the floor as if he’d been zapped by divine power. Then, feeling equally playful, the guy on the floor stood to his feet and threw the “fireball” back at his friend—who fell down after the blob of God hit him.
Everybody had a hilarious time at this outrageous party. There was just one problem. The Holy Spirit is not a blob, a fireball or any other form of cosmic energy that can be thrown, maneuvered, controlled or manipulated.
This scenario happened in a charismatic church—a place where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presumably honored and understood. It’s sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity. We need to step back, regroup and reconsider what the Bible says about who the Holy Spirit is and how He works:
1. He is the Spirit of the Lord. He is not a force (as in Star Wars), a magical power or an “it.” The Holy Spirit is God, and we should revere Him as God.
2. He is our regenerator. Jesus told Nicodemus that we are born again by the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5). True conversion is the most supernatural thing we will ever experience. When a person puts his faith in Christ for salvation, it is the Spirit who opens the heart and imparts divine life. He then indwells us—and He gives us the confidence that we are now children of God.
3. He is our empowerer. When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit we are “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NASB). The Spirit who already indwells us fills us to the point of overflowing. Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s power would flow out of us like “rivers of living water” from our innermost being (John 7:38). This overflow releases supernatural boldness as well as the anointing for various gifts of the Spirit including prophecy, speaking in tongues and healing.
4. He is the Spirit of truth. The Spirit has access to all the wisdom and knowledge of God. When we abide in Him, He leads us continually into truth—causing us to grow and mature spiritually. He is our “teacher” (see 1 John 2:27), and those who depend on Him will walk in discernment and avoid deception and pride.
5. He is our counselor. Also translated advocate, comforter or helper, the actual Greek word, parakletos, means “one called alongside to help.” It implies that the Spirit comes to our legal defense when we are accused or troubled; it also means He is a close friend who offers encouragement, consolation and direction when we face any difficulty.
6. He is our intercessor. This is one of the greatest miracles of grace. The Spirit who lives inside us “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). Even when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit prays the perfect will of God. No matter what kind of dark difficulty we face, the Spirit travails for us until we emerge safely through the test.
7. He is our refiner. The Spirit took the form of a dove at Christ’s baptism, but He is often portrayed in Scripture as a fire. He purifies us of bad attitudes, wrong motives, unhealthy addictions and selfish agendas. If we cooperate with Him, rather than quenching or grieving Him, the Spirit will purge the dross from our lives so we can reflect the character of Jesus.
Let’s rediscover the Holy Spirit. He is so much more than we ever imagined—more than a doctrine, a concept or a glowing blob of energy. I guarantee your spiritual life will go to a whole new level if you simply pray, “Come, Holy Spirit,” and ask for more of Him.
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years. He now serves as contributing editor while devoting more time to ministry. You can find him on the Web at themordecaiproject.com. His latest book is The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale (Chosen Books).
This past week Rev. Jeremiah Wright emerged again from the ashes of obscurity to the spotlight. Like the mythical phoenix rising again from the fires of death, Wright is still politically alive after becoming a symbol of racism and division for mainstream America. His actions mirror his friend, Louis Farrakhan, who has recently attempted to malign Jews worldwide. The question I would like to answer here is, "How can such vehement hate mongers like Wright and Farrakhan survive so long in a land that longs so much for racial and religious equality?" Let's explore the answer as we look at the current status of Rev. Wright. How did he arise again?
Wright recently taught a weeklong course at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). The school is a 150-year old institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC). As many may not remember, Rev. Wright's former church (Trinity United Church of Christ) is the largest church in the UCC denomination. This denomination supports Rev. Wright's assessment of America's moral condition and motivations. CTS represents institutions that have continued to embrace the famed Chicago minister long after he dropped off the national radar.
"What in the world is that?" exclaimed my husband, Terry, making a quick path out to the front porch.
We had just moved into a summer rental house across the street from a sleepy park. But from the sounds of it, the park was not so sleepy! The gazebo was filled with band members and a rather buxom woman was at the microphone. She was belting out patriotic songs in a high soprano voice.