Like it or not, the American Idol syndrome is alive and well in most Western churches today. We see it in the modern worship arena, with many young Christians believing that becoming a worship leader is the next best thing to being a rock star.
“What should I wear today?” is a question many of us ask ourselves every day. From a natural standpoint it’s important to honor God in what we wear physically. However, it’s even more important that we know how to dress ourselves spiritually.
Can Christians save the mess that is today’s American political scene? Better yet, should we? Charisma asked two pastors to offer their unique viewpoints on the role politics plays in believers’ lives.
The Church as a Prophetic Voice
by Harry R. Jackson Jr.
I am often asked why I spend so much time engaging in the moral battles of our day. My critics see my work outside the pulpit as crass political pandering or fleshly power grabs.
They often are joined by a host of folks in our culture who want to renounce the religious right. These peace-loving believers have not been able to identify with angry, self-appointed spokespersons who have historically dominated the media.
Despite the excesses of some of our forerunners, the church dare not withdraw in monklike fashion from the public square.
Paul Anderson, a 66-year-old charismatic Lutheran, has started a discipleship revolution in Minneapolis.
Paul Anderson doesn’t act his age. I hope he never does.
A father of the charismatic renewal movement among Lutherans, the 66-year-old minister could be settling down to retire. Instead, he’s pioneering a new outreach to young adults in Minneapolis—and reaching hundreds of 20-somethings who are bored with traditional church.
“I am proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks,” Anderson told me last weekend when I interviewed him in his home in north Minneapolis.
Have you ever had a dream that inspired you? Did you know God has a dream for you?
God said to Abram, "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you" (Gen. 12:1). God was calling Abram out of his natural identity into the dream He had to bless the nations. It was in that journey of faith that Abram became Abraham, the father of our faith.
God's dream revealed to Abraham marched down through the members of his family line, shaping their lives and destinies. Jacob, exiled and alone with nothing but a rock for a pillow, dreamed a dream in which God made him a promise: "This is the land that I will give you and your children's children."
Removing jealousy from our own lives is hard enough. It's even more complicated when we encounter jealousy from others. How should we handle another's jealousy? What is the proper response? Again, Jesus is our perfect example: We should overlook it.
Jesus did not say to those who were jealous of Him, "The trouble with you is that you're jealous." That would never do.
We can't have New Testament power if we don't walk in New Testament love
The New Testament church was characterized by exciting miracles and supernatural anointing, but it was not immune to division. The earliest churches suffered splits—not only because of doctrine but also because of bitter personal disputes.
Even the apostle Paul, who modeled Christian affection and implored his followers to preserve the bond of love, had an unfortunate disagreement with his close colleague, Barnabas, early in their ministry partnership.
The exact nature of their argument is a mystery. We only know that Paul did not want to take John Mark, Barnabas' cousin, on his second missionary journey because the young disciple had deserted the team in Pamphylia. Acts 15:39 says: "And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus. (NASB)"
I believe God has great plans for America; however, our country may need to walk through some very hard things in the days ahead. I pray this message will give you insight about how, together, we can seek God to change the course of our nation:
Time is running out for America. Our country has been on the path of self-destruction for decades and is now on the verge of complete moral and economic collapse, with threats of attacks and war as well. Our nation hangs in the balance, and as God's people we must take action now before it's too late.
Several years ago a couple I had not met before came to our Lake Mary office. The gentleman and his wife were old friends of several people in our company and had stopped by for a quick visit and to update the staff on what they are currently doing for a living.
They traveled with two very well dressed young men, who stood near them in the background and maintained full attention. Except for their youth these men looked very much like the Secret Service men who guard the president of the United States.
Are you trapped in a prison of despair, doubt or anxiety? Learn to release the power of praise.
The apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians is one of the Bible's most unique books. Some scholars call it "the epistle of joy" because the word "joy" or "rejoice" appear in it 16 times. Yet what is amazing is that this letter about Christian joy was written from a prison cell!
While Paul was under the watchful eye of Roman guards, bound in chains, he wrote some of the most uplifting spiritual words ever penned. In the letter's four short chapters the author continually exhorts us to praise God no matter how dark our circumstances are. He writes: "I will rejoice" (1:18, NASB), "I rejoice and share my joy with you all" (2:17), "I urge you, rejoice in the same way" (2:18), "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord" (3:1) and "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (4:4).
Over the past few weeks, black crosses have appeared in various locations around the country, including coalmines and energy meetings. Even the White House became a target. After a march from Freedom Plaza and a rally at Lafayette Park, more than 100 people staged a sit-in in front of the White House to demand President Obama end mountaintop mining. Approximately 100 people from the group, called The Black Cross Alliance, were arrested when they refused orders from U.S. Park Police to vacate the sidewalk.
Why all the hubbub? These people have displayed a negative symbol of a black cross around the nation, including our national capitol. In some ways they remind me of the cross burnings of the South. Cross burners sought to uphold their own twisted brand of justice, while abusing the rights of thousands of blacks. The same group of people who were victimized by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) are the victims in the energy debates of our day -- poor blacks. The Black Cross Alliance shackles people's hopes and living standards. They make it harder for people to heat and cool their homes, pay their rent and mortgage, afford a car or medical treatment.
There are many types of fear we could name or count, but they all have the same source and the same purpose. They all are from Satan and they all are intended to steal the life Jesus died to give us.
We often think fear is simply an emotion or feeling, but it also affects us physically. In Who Switched Off My Brain? author Caroline Leaf notes, “[Fear] triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses, and activates more than 30 different hormones and neurotransmitters.” Fear, she says, is at the root of all stress. When fear causes a stress reaction, it actually “marinates” the body in toxic chemicals. This, of course, is terribly unhealthy and threatening to our physical well-being.
We are again experiencing the disappointment and even disillusionment that comes when perceived servants of God fail. This is a dangerous time for us. How will we respond? Will we privately rejoice because we saw flaws and cautions that others did not see? Do we discount those who were healed, who came to faith or who experienced the move of God? Are we to assume that everything was a farce? Was there never any real hunger for God? Was it all sham and hypocrisy?
Years ago when a prominent television evangelist's moral failure was exposed, another television evangelist was publicly harsh and judgmental in his assessment. The Lord laid on my heart to write that television evangelist a letter. "Brother, be careful. ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matt. 7:1-2).'" A few weeks later the sexual failure of the man who had done the judging was paraded before the American public. Most of us would affirm the gifting that was in both these men, but their character did not match their gifting.
To me, morning is the best time of day. I'm sure it's because, especially in the first few moments after waking up, the waters of my mind are still silent and unrippled, giving God uncontested time to speak to me before the demands of mental processing begin to roll in like a relentless tide. I believe those moments are our heavenly Father's time with us as His children to begin to speak His Word into our spirits. It's like being summoned to the breakfast table, knowing fresh bread has been prepared to feed and fuel you for another new day.
Perhaps my favorite mornings of all are those on which God awakens me with a song. So often, the song He puts on my heart is a prophetic word that not only lifts my spirit but also gives strength and direction throughout my day. On mornings such as these, it's easy to live above the circumstances. After all, His mercy, like daily bread, has been fresh again today!
Most ministry today focuses on crowds. Yet the most effective way to make disciples is up close and personal.
Last week I went to the nation of Colombia to preach in a conference sponsored by two churches in the city of Barranquilla. I could have gone alone, but I asked Jason, a young pastor from South Carolina, to accompany me on the seven-day trip.
When we boarded our first flight to Panama I said to Jason: "You are going to grow two feet during this adventure." He told me yesterday when we were preparing to come home: "I think I grew two-and-a-half feet."
"The art of spiritual war is of vital importance to the individual, the community, the nation, the church, and the world. It is a matter of life and death, blessing and cursing, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of study that no one can neglect." -The Art of War, 1:1-1, by Sun Tzu (paraphrased)
Prayer is the simplest of practices, and at the same time, the most mysterious of spiritual disciplines. In it lies the master key to everything God wants for you, and yet no other aspect of following God seems more difficult to fathom. While folding your hands, bowing your head, and turning your thoughts or words toward God is as easy as sitting down to coffee with a friend, what transpires in the aftermath is the most multifaceted and mystifying journey in the universe.
At its essence, prayer is a quest surpassing anything that you could or will ever read about in any thriller novel or adventure story. It is in prayer that we probe spiritual realities, communicate with God, access the arsenal of heaven and expand God's kingdom on the earth. It is as simple as pulling aside to a quiet place and opening your heart to God, and as dynamic as tapping into the power and imagination that created the cosmos.
Two weeks ago the black church world stopped for a moment when Bishop Eddie L. Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta addressed his congregation. The 25,000-member church (once the largest of any kind in America) was briefed concerning a lawsuit that alleges their pastor had sexual relations with four young men. His statement to his church was simple but clear. He said that he never claimed to be perfect but he was not the man the media portrayed him to be. With that in mind, he declared that he wanted his day in court. Further, he vowed to fight the civil lawsuit.
Who is Eddie Long? Simply, he is one of the most exceptional orators of this generation. His international television broadcast has taken him into the homes of people around the globe. Further, as the recipient of the Trumpet Award for leadership in 2005, he has been acknowledged time and time again for his leadership in the black community. He also serves on the board of numerous universities and colleges, including Morehouse, Emory and North Carolina Central.
The current economic recession is much more severe than we first thought, and the discouraging thing about it is that it's hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Along with this financial downturn, we, as a church, seem to be approaching a spiritual "deep winter."
The church of Jesus Christ has gone through more ups and downs than any other institution in history. Saying, "We have seen it all before," is never an overstatement with us. We'll get through this coming season as we have (100 percent) in the past. We outlast every other endeavor on earth, over time—always have, always will.