In a tiny village on a mountain in Guatemala, I gained a better understanding of how Jesus paved the way for us to know the Father.
Like so many other poor communities in Guatemala, the village of Saspán is way off the beaten path. To get there you first must travel on a two-lane highway from Chiquimula, then turn onto a one-lane dirt road that winds precariously for two miles up a mountain. The scenery is spectacular, but if you look too long you might drive right off the side of a cliff. It's best to wait until you arrive at the top to enjoy the view.
I went to Saspán last Monday with my friend Oto, a pastor who was born in this village, and Roque, a Puerto Rican minister who leads a church in Pennsylvania. We came to preach at Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Visión (Christian Church of New Vision), one of two growing evangelical churches in this town of 1,000 families. The church's pastor is Oto's sister, Gisela, an energetic young woman who has a particular concern for the children in this isolated community, many of whom lack education and proper nutrition.
The church is entering into a new season. Many are about to experience great restoration and harvest in their lives.
John 10:10 declares: "The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)" (The Amplified Bible). It may feel as if the enemy has come in like a thief and tried to rob, steal, kill and destroy. But I have a word from the Lord for you:
Two weeks ago, just after Maine's successful reversal of the state legislature's decision to sanction same-sex marriage, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer asked me a profound question: "Would Jesus have spent $550,000 to oppose same-sex marriage?"
The question was exactly what many secular parties had been asking in Portland, Maine, where she was speaking to me by satellite. My answer was that Jesus would have given the money to oppose same-sex marriage. My reasoning was simple: Jesus would have upheld his own teaching; refusing to be a loving, permanent enabler of a misguided local government. I mentioned in the interview that Washington, D.C. was struggling with the same question.
Have you ever had mixed thoughts and emotions about your spouse? I have-just this morning, in fact.
Today started out as any other day, but for some reason things just affected me differently than they usually do. I got out of bed and began my regular devotional time with the Lord, reading the Word, studying a powerful book, and praying. When I stood to my feet, I was filled with peace and gratitude.
"I feel great!" I thought to myself. And off I went to begin what I thought was going to be a wonderful day.
The kitchen was first on my agenda. I don't know why, exactly, but I have a plaque over my stove that reads, "A kitchen is the heart of the home." When I was growing up, my mother always kept a clean kitchen, with a pot of something deliciously fragrant simmering on the stove.
The only thing fragrant about my kitchen this morning was a hot, empty coffee pot, left sitting on the coffee maker with the switch in the "on" position, by my husband.
"I get so tired of this," I thought. "Why do I have to clean up his mess?"
I picked up the pot and carried it over to the sink. There I discovered the spoon he'd used to stir the sugar in his cup. It had been set beside the sink and now lay in a brown, sugary puddle. I grabbed a cloth and began to wipe the counter-muttering the whole time.
"That man!" I said in frustration. "Why can't he just put the spoon in the sink where it belongs?"
I decided to tackle the bathroom instead. You can probably guess what I found-beard clippings and blobs of toothpaste in the sink, and puddles of water on the counter top. I turned to grab a towel.
As I did, I looked at my towel, folded neatly in thirds over the rack (Mom said double is allowed, too, but not as nice looking). My husband's towel was bunched and crumpled, as if he doesn't care at all about being neat. I stood there staring.
After a few moments, I started to unravel and re-fold his towel. But something happened to change my whole mind-set and along with it, my feelings. I looked from his towel to mine, back and forth.
I felt myself begin to soften. I started to appreciate and praise God for our differences. Feelings of love, softening my heart, began to manifest. I tenderly touched his towel, leaving it as it had been.
Then I went back into the kitchen to clear the table, where he had been sitting and drinking his cup of coffee. My eyes caught sight of his open Bible and a yellow highlighting pen. I remembered the early morning I discovered him sitting in the same chair with closed eyes and folded hands, offering up a silent prayer to God.
Last week was a milestone in modern American political history. The election results (New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races) and the battle over healthcare show that the nation’s interest in social issues has not waned. New coalitions are forming around the pivotal legislative concerns of our day. From my vantage point, I am noticing a passion among individual citizens to engage in the political process - whether the topic is the economy, healthcare or gay marriage. The average citizen not only wants to express their opinion, but also has become savvy in engaging the powers that be. The insight of these new activists is shown in their ability to organize and get results. Over 20,000 people came to D.C. last week to voice their concerns about healthcare.
Here are six ways to identify an unhealthy leadership style in a church or ministry.
My world was shaken 20 years ago this week. On Nov. 10, 1989, one day after German protesters tore down the Berlin Wall, a Christian ministry I had been a part of for 11 years also fell apart.
Maranatha Campus Ministries was a vibrant outreach to college campuses. It was founded in Kentucky during the Jesus movement by a passionate charismatic couple, Bob and Rose Weiner, who eventually started churches on more than 50 American universities. In its heyday in the Reagan era, students from Maranatha took the gospel around the world.
In this season we must rehearse the Word! We must meditate on what God says until the power of that revelation enters our bloodstreams and cell structures. We also must learn to worship and minister in our homes. Doing so will allow our gifts to be activated in new ways in small groups. When the time comes that we are not free [to worship publicly in our church buildings], we will already know how to continue in our homes. Take the points below and use them to speak into your life and the environment around you.
Have you ever asked God why? "Why me, Lord?" "Why not pick somebody else for this?" "Why am I always the one going through the fire?"
In the good times we say, "Lord, I love You." We quote, "Oh, in the volume of the book it is written of me I delight to do Your will, O Lord." Then we add, "Father take me, mold me, use me. Take my life, and let it be consecrated to Thee."
For the last few weeks I have been writing about the battle to defend the foundations of marriage in D.C. and beyond. Last week several thousand D.C. residents joined me on Freedom Plaza to protect God's first institution. Although our faith has inspired most of us to take our stand to protect the definition of marriage, our ultimate reason to make our stand has been based on the need for every child to have a father and a mother. While thousands are being mobilized on both sides of the marriage debate, the sad fact is that marriage (on an individual basis) is being woefully mismanaged.
Americans are losing the ability to live out the high promise of love and fidelity in the context of a covenant relationship called marriage. Marriage, on a personal level, is on life support, gasping for breath because of the lack of role models, training and mentoring by qualified survivors of the War of the Roses. Do you remember the dark comedic movie with the same name that stared Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito? The movie was a satiric study of the reasons relationships begin, deteriorate and end. The classic picture ends with the once amorous couple attempting to physically divide the house that was the symbolic center of their union.
I have believed for a long time—since I entered the financial industry nearly 30 years ago—that there would be a day when America and the world would go through some incredibly difficult financial times. I have known from my own research that demographically everything pointed to the year 2010 for the economy to roll over, but I think we are now on the front edge of that storm, perhaps two years prematurely. The economic winter—essentially a "Category 5" financial hurricane—has started, and I don't think it is going to be over anytime soon. Bounces will occur along the way, but the demographic winter is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
When my oldest sister got engaged, I jumped right in to help. I was happy that she was so happy and eager to share in her joy. But what I saw as helping, my future brother-in-law viewed as interference. Our relationship went from bad to worse; my pride had been stepped on and I was hurting. I was treated like the scum of the earth, which only served to fuel my anger at his arrogance.
The more I thought about him, the angrier I became. Soon it was all I thought about. I was angry, bitter and stressed. My thoughts turned to revenge—surely there was some way I could hurt him back. I would have been perfectly pleased if he would have just dropped dead.
To be successful in accomplishing God’s will for our lives, we must have determination. One definition of “determine” is “to settle a dispute by an authoritative decision or a pronouncement.” This definition encourages me because I make “pronouncements,” often as a way of building my determination in certain areas.
Sometimes the best way to overcome the temptation to give up is to say to yourself: “Oh, no you don’t! Stop your whining and straighten up right this minute!” Over the years, when I have felt like giving up and had no one to encourage me, I’ve said to myself: “Joyce, you can make it! It may be hard, but you can make it and don’t you dare think you can’t!”
This past week, D.C. city council member Jack Evans vehemently warned D.C. citizens that if they took their concerns about marriage to Capitol Hill there would be grave consequences. Knowing that he and his colleagues have garnered the votes they need to pass a same-sex marriage law in D.C., he thought that he would flex his political muscles. After repeating his threats in several different ways he summarized the essence of his warning: “Proceed at your own peril.”
Following god is easier when we are led by his spirit rather than by our emotions.
It is God's greatest desire that, as believers, you and I progressively learn how to be led by His Spirit. However, there is a powerful enemy that stands in the way: our emotions. Satan is the most powerful enemy we face externally, but internally, it's our emotions that give us some of the biggest problems.
Getting "drunk in the Holy Spirit" has been a popular concept in some churches. But is it biblical?
A few years ago a traveling charismatic minister from the West coast passed through Florida to conduct a series of renewal meetings. I'd never heard of the guy, but the rumor was that he carried a "special" anointing. It was unique, that's for sure-especially when he took the microphone, slurred his words as if intoxicated and leaned to the left of the pulpit as if he were about to fall over. Then, in between some bizarre spasms, he would shout what sounded like "Walla walla bing bang!"
His message didn't make sense. But if he had just said "Ding Dong Bell" or "Yabba Dabba Doo" over and over, some people in his meetings would have run to the front of the room and swooned, even though he never opened his Bible during his message. They wanted what this man claimed to possess—an anointing to become "drunk in the Spirit."
Have you ever read the book of Acts with longing to be back in that time so you could experience the miracles and the move of the Holy Spirit? Don't worry; right now, today, God is turning that water into wine. In fact, He has saved the best wine for last, and the glory of the latter house is going to be greater than the glory of the first (see Hag. 2:9). We are going to walk in such miracles that there will be no comparison. I would rather be in this move of God than to be in the book of Acts, because this wine tastes better.
In the book of John we read that miracles are manifestations of the glory of God: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him" (John 2:11, KJV). You may say, "Well, Brother John, why do you need miracles?" The answer is simple: We need the glory.
"Well, Brother John, why do we need the glory?" The answer is because it is only the glory that will change us into the image of Jesus Christ. Prophecy comes, miracles come, the glory comes and then change comes. We are changed into His likeness.
It is the glory of God that will change us into the image of Jesus Christ. There is no way we can come into contact with the glory of God and not be affected with a positive change.
I am sure that most people have not yet truly come into contact with the glory of God. How do I know? Because people can regularly attend church year after year, hear the Word, and go through all the religious motions, yet they never seem to change into the image of Jesus Christ. They stay the same. They are stuck.
People can pray, read their Bibles, and still never experience the change that God desires—until they come into contact with the glory of God. But the glory of God has not been manifested in a lot of churches; they have neither the unction nor the anointing of God.
It doesn't matter how much people may want to change. They need something more so they can reach the fulfillment of their desires. And that something more is the glory of God. Scripture says that we are changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord (see 2 Cor. 3:17-18).
We must have the glory of God in our services in order to experience change. What is the glory of God? It is the tangible, manifest presence of God. What do I mean by that?
Most people understand that God is omnipresent; people realize that God is everywhere. People therefore know that God is present whether you feel Him or not. The Bible says the eyes of the Lord are everywhere, beholding the evil and the good. And yet, chances are you are not going to feel the presence of God in a bar. Instead, you are going to feel the presence of demons, sin and darkness.
The glory of God is something you can feel, sense and see. In the Old Testament, the glory of God was manifested in a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. It was also manifested sometimes by smoke, although it was not literal smoke but rather the palpable strength of His presence.
When the glory of God comes, when the tangible anointing and presence of God are in a building or in a person, a person cannot help but be changed. When this happens, you are able to sense the presence of God beyond the faith realm. The influence of God is very heavy because He is manifesting Himself. His manifest presence brings a change.
People cannot come into contact with the glory and presence of God and not be changed.
I want you to notice that the best is yet to come. The Lord has kept back the good wine until the end of the age. You talk about miracles, signs and wonders—you haven't seen anything yet!
We need to pursue the glory and the presence of God. Let's decide today to pursue Him and His glory so that He can change us into His image and experience the best that is to come.
Adapted from God Still Speaks by John Eckhardt, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. This book combines instructive, narrative teaching with powerful truths that helps bring moving in the prophetic easily achievable, while sparking your zeal to pursue the presence and glory of God and be forever changed. To order a copyclick on this link:
Last month God used a poor pastor from Malawi to challenge my suburban American priorities.
When I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, last month to conduct a women's conference, my host, a journalist named Gideon, mentioned that my "pastor friend from Malawi" was waiting to see me. I was surprised to hear this, since I wasn't aware that I had a pastor friend from Malawi. I've never been to that country and I didn't remember talking to anyone from there.
"He says you've been e-mailing each other," Gideon said. "And he arrived today to see you."
The first thing you must do in taking possession of your land—all God has prepared for you—is to take possession of your thoughts. There is a direct correlation between the quality of your thoughts and the quality of your life. What you think determines who you are, what you are, where you go, what you acquire, where you live, whom you love, where you work, what you accomplish, what you read and so on.
It had been a week since my dear mother passed away at the age of 89. As a minister and follower of Jesus Christ, I knew Mother had gone home to be with the Lord. God's Word had promised heaven for all believers in Jesus (see Rom. 10:9,13). Hours before her death, I had even witnessed the miracle of my blind mother waking up from her coma, to see again—and to see a glimpse of heaven.
However, a week later, as I walked through the rooms of her house, I was sorrowful.
Would this sadness ever lift? As Mother's unofficial caregivers, my husband, Terry, and I, had come to stay with her—personally and painfully witnessing Mother, the picture of "spit and spunk"—her term for "full of life"—decline to the picture of a jaundiced corpse. Whenever I thought of Mother, it was this picture of death that would come to mind. It was so sad a picture, so unlike Mother, that it overpowered me, making me sorrowful.
On this day of visiting Mother's house, I finally cried out to the Lord: "Lord, give me a new picture of Mother I can live with—one that assures me You have restored her to joy again!"
My brief prayer request was cut short by the ringing of the front doorbell. It was Pat, a neighbor who had known Mother for years.
Pat offered her condolences about Mother's illness and death. Then, without skipping a beat, she looked me squarely in the eye and announced: "I must tell you something about your mom—or Florence, as all the kids on the block called her. Did you know that the young kids, my son included, liked to knock on her door and say, 'We're here by special invitation—can Florence come out and play?' And she always did!"
A new picture was forming in my mind—Florence, just one of the kids, full of life stepping out to play. By special invitation, mind you!
Then a curious thing happened. My jaw suddenly began to drop and quiver, not from fighting off any more tears of mourning—but from fighting a good belly laugh that was greater than the tears. I could just see it now! "Can Florence come out and play?"
Like a dam bursting, I gushed out a laugh that took me to the ground. I grabbed Pat's shoulders for support, but ended up taking her with me. Picture two mature ladies in white polyester leisure pants rolling around in raucous holy laughter on the wet green grass—in broad daylight. I'm sure this wasn't a pretty sight. But something beautiful was happening. The Lord was showing a daughter in mourning a new picture. Her mother, Florence, stepping joyously into eternity—by special invitation.
God understands our sorrow, and He can give us joy in the midst of it. He also wants to lift the burden of sadness. When we simply ask, He will turn our mourning into joy—and sometimes even laughter in a white leisure suit.