"Who gives this woman to be wed to this man?"Even though I was expecting this question, hearing it asked by the minister (who is my other son-in-law, Evan) caused a bit of pause. Keep in mind that other than writing a bunch of checks, this was my only real part in the ceremony. I was being asked to give my daughter to the man standing beside Evan. Not to go on a date. Not for a weeklong vacation. But forever!
This beautiful bride-to-be, standing beside me and holding my hand was my daughter.
When she was born I cut the umbilical cord. My wife and I stood beside her hospital bed a
1 year of age as she fought an unexplainable blood infection. I taught her to ride a bike. To swim. To drive a car (hence much of my gray hair). Much of the money I have made in my life somehow poured through her hands.
It's time to check your posture: Are your hands in the air? True worship requires surrender.
Christians used to talk a lot about surrender. They called it the consecrated life, and they sang about it in hymns such as "I Surrender All," "Have Thine Own Way" or "Wherever He Leads, I'll Go." These songs fueled the missionary movements of the past.
Last week, Rep. Artur Davis (D) lost his primary bid for governor of Alabama in a crushing defeat. His opponent, Ron Sparks, won by 25 points in a contest which some believe shows that the race-based politics of the south have not changed. This conclusion has been postulated because traditional, non-elected black political stakeholders seem to have temporarily derailed the career of one of the Democratic Party's fastest rising black stars.
Before the emergence of President Barack Obama on the national presidential scene, lots of Democrats felt that Davis would eventually become the nation's first black president - especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). His credentials were incredible. In fact he was a classmate of President Obama at Harvard Law. He was incredibly articulate and what he lacked in charismatic speeches, he made up for in strategic thinking and networking ability.
We live in a time of shaking all over the world in both the natural and the spiritual realms. But we, as people of God, do not need to fear. In the midst of the shakings, God wants His people to have perspective, peace and purpose. The first of these—perspective, or vision—is a message God has continued to put on my heart. God made it real to me through a dream.
In the dream, I was a child in the middle of a large crowd. Noise and confusion were all around me, and because I was so small, I could not see what was happening. But then the Father lifted me up on His shoulders. He lifted me to a higher vantage point, from which I could see what was occurring all around me. I could see from my Father's perspective.
This is the perspective God wants us to have. He wants to transform us into a people with vision—a people with prophetic insight for the days we live in, prophetic understanding of what He is doing around us and prophetic wisdom to know how to lead others to the unshakable foundation of Christ.
I was recently scared—really, really scared. I saw something that so frightened me it threw me back and stopped me cold in my tracks. What I saw was ugly, threatening and dangerous. It was large, intimidating and daunting. What was it? Spots! I saw spots.
I have seen spots that freaked me out before—age spots … well just one, but it was there and its presence was horrifying. I have seen other spots too: sore spots, weak spots and soft spots. But none of these shook me like the spots I saw recently: blind spots.
I have reached the age at which it is hard to tell the difference between a Holy Ghost rush and a hot flash. It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't come to rely on body temperature as a spiritual thermostat to tell me when the anointing had hit. But now I just have to move out in faith, trusting that God is the initiator even when I don't feel a thing—or when what I'm feeling could be the result of a hormone imbalance rather than the prompting of His Spirit!
This season has brought other physical changes, too—a tiredness I can't seem to shake, wrinkles, sagging skin, body parts that don't want to get in shape no matter how much I do to encourage the process. Perhaps worst of all is the lack of desire to extend myself beyond the minimum requirements for sustaining life. If an activity isn't going to satisfy a crucial need, it isn't worth the effort.
How one brave Nigerian is risking his life to win militants and terrorists to Christ.
Kelechi Okengwu has taught me to face my fears.
This 32-year-old Nigerian evangelist will probably never star in a movie or be featured on the evening news. But he has been a younger role model for me since I met him seven years ago.
Converted to Christ at 21, Kelechi has spent the past decade reaching dangerous militants who are spreading violence on Nigeria's university campuses. Through his Gospel Mania Project, the young preacher shares his faith with leaders of The Black Axe, Brotherhood of the Black Brigade, The Big Eye, The Pyrates, the Buccaneers and The Mafia—clandestine groups that mix African occultism with drugs and violence to spread fear and political instability throughout the country.
I like change. I’m one of those “seasons” kind of guys who gets excited about new beginnings. But I also realize I’m in the minority and that, for most people, change is like the crazy aunt whom you’re perfectly OK with seeing only once in a blue moon.
Lately I’ve received a handful of e-mails and calls from readers who apparently don’t adjust well to change when it comes to this magazine. With any major shift you’re bound to have some strong reactions and opinions. And our last issue, which kicked off some major changes with Charisma’s look, feel and tone, has certainly garnered reaction—99 percent of which has been positive.
But the few concerns I’ve heard made me wonder if I needed to clarify at least three things. Jesus told the parable of the shepherd leaving the 99 to go after the one; here’s my attempt to pursue the change-challenged “ones” and clear the air of any misunderstandings about Charisma’s new season.
1) Charisma isn’t abandoning our older readers. Or any readers, for that matter. I still laugh at some of the comments I’ve heard about us “jumping ship on the older generation.” A fresh new design and feel doesn’t mean we’re ignoring our more mature readers, nor does it mean we’re favoring younger ones. If anything, we’re more attune than ever to ideas from readers of all ages. (Many of the changes you see here originated with you!) As our April issue highlighted, it’s critical that both young and old come together today within the Spirit-filled community. I believe Charisma fosters such a convergence on a monthly basis by letting every generation—boomers, busters, millennials, mosaics ... whatever you are—know what the Holy Spirit is doing on a broader scale.
2) Lee Grady isn’t going anywhere. At least not in our magazine. Lee’s become a prominent voice of truth within the church who continually challenges us to a higher level of Christ-likeness. As a contributing editor, he’s still involved with each issue of Charisma, and his Fire in My Bones column will conclude each issue. We know Lee’s words resonate with believers around the world. Aside from that, he’s a cool guy and a good friend to our team. We think we’ll keep him.
3) Charisma isn’t forsaking Christian news. If anything, we’re expanding our coverage and delivering it in more ways (check out p. 56 for what’s on our new mobile app). Fair or not, Charisma has been blasted in the past for reporting on the good, the bad and the ugly. (OK, mainly we’re criticized for the bad and the ugly parts.) Yet when we purposefully don’t cover the latest scandal within the Spirit-filled community, readers tell us they’re frustrated at having to find out about it from other sources. So here’s what we think is a happy median: When possible, we’ll minimize our print coverage of “scandal stories,” opting instead to spend more ink on the positive elements of the Holy Spirit’s work around the world. For those who want the full scoop (including the bad and the ugly), charismamag.com is the place to go, with developing news stories, features and more posted throughout each day.
Our purpose as a magazine isn’t to frustrate our readers but to serve you. So feel free to let me know what you think of these changes. I promise, I won’t treat you like the crazy aunt.
CONTRIBUTING TO THIS ISSUE ...
At 31, David Platt isn’t just one of the youngest megachurch pastors in history. He’s also way smarter than the average bear—the man has five degrees (and counting) and can recite most of the New Testament from memory.
As a freelance writer in Singapore, Karon Ng has contributed articles to magazines, newspapers and e-publications. She devours a book a week (on average) and loves chocolate. Not so much for mushrooms.
Recording artist, worship leader, author and speaker Alvin Slaughter has never missed a Seinfeld episode. His secret passion is to record a CD of Barry Manilow’s greatest hits. You read that right—Barry Manilow.
T.J. Harringtonhas a master’s in political science and is interested in how the spiritual and political connect. He works as a consultant for political candidates and on policy-change initiatives. Thus the blue shirt and red power tie.
For three years I’ve wanted to gather a group of friends for a time of encouragement and personal ministry. I couldn’t afford to host a fancy event, and I didn’t think these guys wanted a big hoopla with expensive hotels and high-priced speakers.
So we went with a simple format that involved a donated church facility, totally informal dress code, sub sandwiches, North Carolina barbecue and cheap rooms at a Hampton Inn. What surprised me was that 91 men from 20 states and four foreign countries showed up for three days of worship, small-group interaction and inspiring messages from 32 of the guys. (Don’t worry, they kept their comments brief.)
What happened in that small window of time amazed me. Weary pastors met new friends. Younger guys bonded with new mentors. Men opened their hearts about their deepest struggles. And best of all, God showed up and spoke to many of the guys about their insecurities and fears.
On the second day a panel of six young men shared about their need for godly role models. Some admitted that they have dysfunctional relationships with their dads. Others said they found it difficult to connect with spiritual fathers.
One man, Charles, said that in his church, young men were never allowed to develop real friendships with pastors or leaders. They were expected to be “armor bearers” who acted like personal valets—by shining the pastor’s shoes, carrying his water bottle and escorting him to the pulpit.
The young men who came to our Bold Venture discipleship weekend were crying out for authentic relationships. They aren’t going to receive the mentoring or the spiritual nurture they need by carrying a preacher’s Bible or by serving as his bodyguard. True discipleship only happens in a loving, relational context.
This was the apostle Paul’s method of discipleship. Though he did speak in church meetings, his ministry wasn’t focused on events, sermons or a flashy delivery style. And it certainly wasn’t about high-pressure offerings, pulpit showmanship or grand entrances. There was nothing fake or phony about New Testament Christianity.
Paul told the Thessalonians that he was “well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8, NASB). He knew ministry was all about investing in people. He did not live for applause, silk suits or swooning crowds.
The reason he could endure beatings, shipwrecks, betrayal, riots, hunger and imprisonment is that he loved the men and women on his ministry team. Everything he did was about pouring the life of Jesus into Timothy, Silvanus, Mark, Phoebe, Priscilla, Euodia and all the other New Testament heroes who called Paul a spiritual father.
How would Paul react if he were alive to see the warped version of “ministry” we’ve created? I imagine he would tear his robe and call us all back to raw humility.
Robert, a Ugandan pastor, wrote me a week after our retreat to share with me his plan for discipling men. He said: “Next week I will meet about 24 guys to deposit what I experienced. We are going to do life together, laugh, cry, be vulnerable and open with each other. This is not an African thing, but I know it is the way to go.”
Like Robert, I don’t want an armor bearer, a bodyguard or an entourage. But I do want to spend the rest of my life mentoring and empowering young people. It was Paul’s style. And it’s the Jesus way.
Discipleship is a simple concept—too simple for some of us who have become addicted to the fancy bells and whistles of American religion. But if you listen carefully, amid the noise of the crowd, you’ll hear the Holy Spirit calling us back to New Testament basics.
J. Lee Gradywas editor of Charisma for 11 years. He now serves as contributing editor while devoting more time to ministry. You can find him online at themordecaiproject.com. His new book, The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale, was released in April.
If you have been listening to the news or viewing it online over the last few years, or even the last few days, you might think you were watching scenes from a riveting movie about the end times.
We have witnessed unprecedented flooding, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, including the erupting of a volcano that shut down most of Europe's air travel. We have seen a historic oil spill threatening our coastlines and economic systems; massive earthquakes; tsunamis; wars; severe rioting; political unrest; economic turmoil and terrorists bent on killing masses.
The controversy surrounding Arizona's new border law is unprecedented. From the White House to girls on the basketball team, we find people voicing their criticism of the legislation. Many people upset about the law call it "racist" and "xenophobic." Unfortunately, it seems the real reason for the outcry is a political attempt to change the tables in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
The real game-changer would occur if the largest minority vote, the Hispanic community, falls uncontested into the hands of the Democratic Party. If the Democrats can ramp up the rhetoric loud enough and long enough, they may very well attract a majority of Hispanic voters for the next two and a half years. If they can keep the controversy going instead of solving the problem, the party will maintain both their Congressional seats and perhaps even the presidency.
An Iranian evangelist says a spiritual awakening of unprecedented magnitude is occurring behind the scenes in a nation known for its terrorism.
Most Americans have put Iran on a blacklist. We're concerned about Shiite militants who spread terrorism around the world, we don't trust Iran's nuclear weapons plans and we can't stomach Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's human rights record or his maniac ways.
But my friend Lazarus Yeghnazar, an Iranian evangelist based in England, hopes you will develop some compassion for this part of the world. Most of us associate the Bible with Israel, but did you know that Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Ezra and Habakkuk all walked on Persian land that is now called Iran? In fact, the tombs of Esther, Daniel, Habakkuk, Cyrus and Darius are in Iran.
Do you know why there are many believers today who don't cast their cares upon the Lord? It is because they don't have a revelation that He cares for them. Look at what His Word says: "[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7, NKJV). Unless you have absolute confidence that Jesus cares for you, you will not cast your cares upon Him.
Just think: Would you call upon the help of a relative or friend in your time of need if you were not confident that the person would respond to your call? Jesus cares for you! When you call upon Him, you can know that you have His fullest attention with all of heaven's resources backing you up.
Pointedly, persistently and passionately, in both Old and New Testaments, the Bible calls us to humility.
In Deuteronomy 8, Moses told the Israelites three times that God tested them in the wilderness for the express purpose of humbling them: "The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee...and he humbled thee...that he might humble thee" (Deut. 8:2-3, 16, KJV, emphasis added). By inspiration the apostle Paul added that their trials were recorded as examples to us in this Christian era: "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11). In his epistle, therefore, James exhorts Christians everywhere, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord" (James 4:10). Peter orders the same in his general epistle, "humble yourselves...under the mighty hand of God" (1 Pet. 5:6).
For many years, Africans and immigrants from the Middle East have secretly remained faithful to cultural rituals and rights of passage that have been designed to keep their young women chaste and eligible for marriage. Partial or total female circumcision is one of these practices. In an alarming reversal of protocol and wisdom, this dehumanizing practice is gaining acceptance within the U.S. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that American doctors be given permission to perform "ceremonial" female circumcisions.
Once again American leaders are fearfully overcompensating for cultural and religious practices from other lands. America especially seems to be intimidated by rituals found in Islam. There are some cities in the nation that even desire to allow Sharia law to operate in the United States. In that spirit of accommodation, the AAP wants to give pinpricks or to "nick" the genitals of young girls here in the U.S. whose families come from cultures that mandate female circumcisions. The doctors' rationale is that if they perform the lesser procedure here in the States, it would keep their families from sending the girls overseas for full circumcisions.
Before I go further, let me explain exactly what female circumcision is. The biological reason behind this practice is to reduce a girl's sexual desire. Many cultures and religious groups are convinced that this practice will ensure a young woman's virginity until marriage. Removal of all or part of the clitoris is the essence of female circumcision. The more extensive procedure could also involve stitching the vagina. Reducing the size of the vagina is also intended to increase the husband's enjoyment of the sexual act.
Although the current law "makes criminal any non-medical procedure performed on the genitals" of a girl in the United States, the AAP believes that U.S. residents will be discouraged from returning to their homelands for the cruel surgeries often administered by midwives or female village elders.
Thankfully, there are many opponents to female genital mutilations. Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York, actually introduced a bill that would make it a crime to take a girl oversees for such a purpose. Georgeanne Chapin of Intact America has urged the AAP to avoid moving down a "slippery slope." More specifically she said, "There are countries in the world that allow wife beating, slavery and child abuse, but we don't allow people to practice those customs in this country. We don't let people have slavery a little bit because they're going to do it anyway, or beat their wives a little bit because they're going to do it anyway."
Today, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that over 130 million women and girls have undergone female genital cutting. Circumcisions are typically performed on girls under 15-years old in countries including Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. Earlier this week, I saw a BBC special from South Africa which had a village "mother" explaining her commitment to cutting the genitals of the younger women with wives tales about their sex organs growing backward inside of their bodies, thus creating long term health problems. Unfortunately, the true story is that there are severe consequences to this surgery. The problems include:
1.) severe complications with pregnancy,
2.) problems with childbirth, and
3.) sexual dysfunction later in life.
Nonetheless, the AAP restates its rationale as follows "in some countries where FGC (female genital cutting) is common, some progress toward eradication or amelioration has been made by substituting ritual ‘nicks' for more severe forms."
America needs to take an about face from our temptation to tiptoe around problems like these. Our national leaders like Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, are reticent to "tell it like it is" if another faith -especially Islam - could be seen in a bad light. We must take a different approach and speak out against genuine sexist or dehumanizing practices which can harm our people. We cannot let any faith tradition get away with abusing our citizens - especially children.
We applaud our national desire to allow religious freedom. This openness is something we have all learned from Christianity. Other nations, however, are hardly as open or respectful of human rights.
More specifically let's look at the Muslim faith's track record of religious tolerance. In the Islamic world there are several nations, which have large populations of non-Muslims who had been conquered by jihad wars. Historically Islam conquered huge territories in Africa, Asia and Europe from the 630s AD until 1683 or so. In these nations, dhimmitude is a status given to non-Muslims and their own formerly sovereign land. The word "dhimmitude" comes from dhimmi, an Arabic word meaning protected.
Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma). Dhimmitude is an extension of the ideology of jihad.
The dhimmis - the conquered people who remain Christian or Jewish - have a protected status under Islamic law. Yet, they also are targets of mass discrimination. In Iran, for example, dhimmis may have to change the names of their children to Islamic names in order for them to be able to attend school. Their local religious leadership may be persecuted or deliberately eliminated to inhibit their practice of their "protected" religion. In addition, strict rules concerning public conduct have been imposed on dhimmis in certain communities.
In Turkey, religious freedom does not exist according the definition established by the United States or the international community. Due to their policy of secularism, religious freedom walks on a tightrope. Secularism is practiced not as a way to insure that religious groups do not exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings for personal or political influence, but it is mechanism for state control over religion and the practices and rights of religious groups.
In conclusion, our parents, our schools, our doctors, and our laws must protect our most vulnerable residents and citizens. Until other faiths, especially the Islamic community, observe the basic rights and freedoms of all people regardless of their race, color, gender and religion to enjoy constitutional and legal protection, they cannot lay claim to humanitarianism. At the same time we must resist non-productive compromises that endanger our people.
Pentecost is Sunday, May 23. Here are four reasons we should celebrate the Spirit's outpouring.
I've often wondered why we tend to ignore the historic events of Acts 2. We celebrate Christmas for weeks, and we pack as many people as possible into our churches on Easter Sunday. But in our smug evangelical subculture, Pentecost is just an add-on, if it's noticed at all. We can take it or leave it.
Many pastors will make no mention of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost Sunday, May 23.
About a year ago I wrote on the subject of biblical hope. Since then, like many believers, my wife, Naomi, and I have been pelted with heartbreaking news. Unexpected deaths of friends and ministry associates. Cancer among our dearest friends. Defections from the ministry. Moral failures. Bankruptcies. Church splits. Widespread disillusionment—even among veteran believers. Over all of this there seems to be a virtual canopy of "dis-ease." Just as Jesus predicted, "People [are] fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world" (Luke 21:26, ESV).
There probably isn't a mother alive who doesn't love McDonald's. Not for the cuisine, mind you, but for the convenience. Due to today's busy lifestyles, many moms frequently take advantage of this fast-food phenomenon.
At one time I was among the millions who do, and I have to admit, my kids loved it, too. It was amazing how my tots could spot those golden arches from their backseat vantage point! They would squeal with delight at the prospect of "driving through."
The real thrill came, however, when we actually pulled in, parked and went inside.
Many people today feel overwhelmed by negative circumstances. But you can be sure the Lord has an amazing plan to carry you through.
Long ago God promised He would send the Messiah through the lineage of King David. Yet there was a time in Judah's history when the royal seed was almost snuffed out.
It happened during the oppressive reign of Queen Athaliah, a selfish woman who was so power-hungry that she killed her own grandchildren in an attempt to secure her position. The Bible says in 2 Kings 11:1-3:
"When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him from among the king's sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So they hid from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. So he was hidden with her in the house of the Lord six years, while Athaliah was reigning in the land (NASB)."