We are approaching a season of crisis, and in a season of crisis, the strategies of heaven must invade your sphere of authority. What does this mean?
You have been positioned by God in a particular sphere of authority. You must understand your sphere and know how to operate in it with others. This sphere is where you are watching the formation of your "new."
After Mother went home to be with the Lord, the family held an estate sale of her possessions that had been sitting in boxes for years.
As I rummaged through the boxes of elegant china, laces and linens, one box in particular caught my eye. This one smelled musty, and a piece of straw was poking through the top. I pried it open with scissors and began to sneeze.
Many Christians who defend biblical morality can sound hateful when it comes to immigration policy. What happened to loving our neighbor?
A few years ago I attended my oldest daughter's college graduation ceremony in north Georgia. The school had invited a respected state legislator to address the students—a woman known for her conservative Christian values. I enjoyed some of her remarks, until she suddenly veered onto the subject of immigration policy.
This lady launched into a blistering tirade against illegal immigrants and blamed them for bringing danger, drugs and disease into the United States. An icy chill went through the audience and students began to fidget nervously with their graduation caps. I was embarrassed.
I have not been alone in hearing from God and issuing a prophetic word that God is moving His people from the age of salvation to the age of the kingdom of God; from a focus on self, personal healing and individual blessing to a focus on demonstrating the power of the kingdom of God beyond the walls of the church for the sake of all those Jesus came to save.
But He has also been calling us deeper into His heart—a message not often proclaimed. Sooner or later, power exercised without the loving heart of the Father results in foolishness and abuse, even when it's heaven's power. The kingdom of God operates on the law of God and the order of God. He is, after all, a King. His law and His order are the expression of His own nature and character.
I heard of a guy who couldn't speak English. He was terrified of trying because he did not want to fail. So he found an English teacher and asked him to teach him how to order a meal in a restaurant in perfect English. The teacher taught him how to say four words: hamburger, french fries, Coke.
Every day after that, the man went to order his hamburger, french fries and Coke. Soon he grew tired of eating the same things every day. So he asked the English teacher to teach him how to order something else to eat. The teacher taught him to say eggs, toast and juice.
In February I spoke to a group of ministry leaders associated with a particular denomination in South Carolina. They are hungry for a fresh move of God, but they are also aware that they aren’t effectively reaching people for Christ. Most of their small congregations are getting grayer by the day. I told these folks they have only two options: Change or die.
Using a story from the life of Isaac, I reminded them that we should never build our ministries with only one generation in mind. God identifies Himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Ex. 3:6, NASB). He wants His work to advance from one generation to the next. And this requires us to be open to change.
After Abraham’s death, Isaac journeyed to the land of Gerar during a famine. Genesis 26:18 says, “Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father ... for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham.”
God wants to open spiritual wells of blessing, but He doesn’t want to limit that blessing to one generation. Our enemy loves to stuff our wells with all kinds of garbage—religiosity, tradition, legalism and denominational politics. We must keep our wells unclogged.
Isaac renovated his father’s wells so they could be a blessing to his generation. In the same manner, we must be willing to remodel our ministries so the younger generation will want the drink we offer. I’m not talking about changing our core message or compromising on the altar of cultural fads. But we won’t effectively reach the Isaac generation with a stale, outdated presentation.
We need an extreme makeover. Here are just a few areas where you may need renovation, remodeling and unclogging:
1. Genuine, authentic spirituality.We overdosed on hype during the charismatic-Pentecostal movement. We celebrated preachers who wore shiny suits and helmet hair. We felt it was OK to push people to the floor during altar-ministry times. But young people today are nauseated by fakery and pretense. We don’t have to act weird to be supernatural.
2. Music styles.If we want to reach young people then we must update our playlists. We can’t be selfish and build our church services around the music of 1972. And remember: It is possible to update the great hymns of the church with new instrumentation without losing those classics.
3. Dress codes.Young people feel out of place when everyone looks like they are at a funeral. Many young guys today can’t afford to buy a dark suit, and young women don’t want to be forced to wear a feathered hat, white gloves or a skirt that covers their ankles. Nothing will clog up your well faster than yesterday’s religious garb.
4. Team leadership.The one-man show was the norm in churches in 1980. That system didn’t work and wasn’t biblical. Young people today want interaction and connection. In the New Testament, Paul had a multigenerational, multiethnic team that included men and women (see Rom. 16:1-16). So should we.
5. Relational discipleship.In the past season, Christians tended to be spectators who built their spiritual lives around big events. But young people don’t want to learn from a guy who arrives at the church in a limousine, sits on a throne on the stage, preaches from a pedestal and then disappears. They want a real relationship with a real spiritual father (or mother) who is willing to spend time with them.
6. Technology.You would never go to a foreign country to serve as a missionary without learning its language. Yet today many churches try to reach the younger generation without mastering digital media. God wants to use all new forms of communication to spread His truth.
Don’t get stuck in an old place. The Holy Ghost offers the best Drano for your clogged wells. Open up your life to the new things God is doing in this exciting hour.
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 book, The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale, was released in April.
Much has happened since Charisma was started in 1975in the church, in our culture and with technology. Over those 30-plus years Ive been blessed to be part of many powerful moves of the Holy Spirit. Yet seasons change.
And I’m the new editor of Charisma. If you’re annoyed at me for starting a sentence—worse still, an editor’s note (gasp!)—with the word and, I apologize ... but get used to it. Not the poor grammar, mind you, but the slightly different way of communicating.
Charisma has been around awhile—35 years this summer—and, like every successful entity, must continually find ways to inject fresh ideas, perspective and stories into its life stream.
Given that, I’m thrilled to announce some major changes with our magazine that I know you’ll like.
1) Nip, Tuck and Print—This issue shows off our major facelift on paper. It’s not always kosher to brag about such surgeries (unless you’re Joan Rivers), but we honestly think the magazine looks better than ever. We’ve nipped and tucked, reorganized and restructured to pack more in every issue, making it an easier read for today’s active lifestyle. The magazine’s main departments aim to do exactly what their titles indicate: inspire, inform and empower. We hope to inspire you with stories and images of everyday believers doing remarkable things. We’ll inform you through Charisma’s award-winning news stories—delivered in a slightly different manner now—of what the Holy Spirit is doing around the world. And we’ll empower you with resources, products and teachings that can help you in your spiritual journey.
2) Digital Sunrises—We continue to expand our online horizons with a digital issue that now offers a completely unique reading experience. Flip through the pages onscreen and you’ll find feature stories not included in the print version, as well as videos, podcasts, songs, photo galleries and other downloads. If you’re missing out on this, sign up at charismamag.com. Trust me, describing it on paper is like trying to paint a Caribbean sunrise without being there in person.
3) I’ll Take a Side of App, Please—Speaking of being present, did I mention we’ll also be unveiling our first app this month? Smartphone users can now get Charisma News stories as they break—anytime, anywhere—along with other features from our mobile-friendly environment. We’re also working on making Charisma available on as many e-reader platforms as possible. That is, if we can keep up with the ever-increasing number of new readers being released.
4) Remodeling the House—With more than 1 million visitors traipsing through last year, charismamag.com is starting to show a little wear and tear—the usual track marks on the carpet and dings on the door. Instead of needlessly tearing down the house, we think a simple remodeling job will do. Look for our Web site to be easier to navigate, more informative and more of a hub for believers than ever.
It’s a new day. New editor, new look, new platforms and new ways to communicate. Yet amid all the changes, I’m thankful Charisma’s vision remains the same. We’re still passionate about “Life in the Spirit” (our new tag line) and about telling the story of God at work in His people. In fact, I’m more excited than ever that we get to tell His story in so many new ways. I hope you are too—even if I start a few sentences with and.
CONTRIBUTING TO THIS ISSUE ...
Brian Zahnd, founding pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., has 1,390 Bob Dylan songs on his iPod. On his 40th birthday he climbed Kilimanjaro. And he drives a Harley-Davidson Road King. Enough said.
Founder and CEO of Community Solutions Consulting Services, Jeremy Del Rio discovered “living sacrifice” worship (Rom. 12) because he’s certifiably tone deaf and sings only joyful noise.
A former editor for Christian Retailing magazine, Orlando, Fla.-based freelance writer Lorie Coka enjoys finding a bargain anytime, anywhere. That’s especially true in the $1 section at Target.
Writer Chad Bonham is from Broken Arrow, Okla. To this day, he maintains that Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Dancing With the Dinosaur” was inspired by Barney, though he has no conclusive evidence to substantiate that claim.
We charismatics celebrate the Holy Spirit, yet our theology of the Spirit is often off balance.
Two popular charismatic speakers stood on a stage two years ago and decided they should demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit. One guy pretended to throw an imaginary "fireball" at his friend, who promptly fell over as if he had been zapped by the 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 after the "blob" of God hit him.
Everybody laughed and 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 divine energy that can be thrown, manipulated, maneuvered or controlled.
"It's incredibly sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity."
This scenario happened in a charismatic church—a place where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presumably honored and understood. It's incredibly sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity. At the risk of sounding way too elementary, I'd like to offer this basic layman's guide to pneumatology—the study of the Holy Spirit 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. The concept of the Trinity doesn't make sense to the human mind. Yet Scripture reveals God as a triune being. As theologian Norman Geisler writes: "God is one what (nature) with three whos (persons). This is a mystery but not a contradiction."
2. He is our Regenerator. Jesus told Nicodemus that we are born again by the Holy Spirit (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 quickens divine life. He then indwells us. While this is an invisible process, it is no less miraculous. When we are converted our hearts cry out, "Abba! Father" because the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of adoption" (Romans 8:15); He gives us 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 (Acts 4:31) 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 wants to fill us with the treasures of heavenly revelation. We can fully trust Him because He never does anything to violate the Word of God. As our teacher (1 John 2:27), He knows the difference between truth and error, and those who depend on Him will walk in discernment and avoid deception, pride and carnality.
5. He is our Counselor. This word is also translated "Advocate," "Comforter" or "Helper." The 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. He is truly a friend who "sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24).
6. He is our Intercessor. This is probably one of the greatest miracles of grace. The Spirit who lives inside of 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 on the other side.
7. He is our Unifier. Like the master conductor of an orchestra, the Holy Spirit pulls together each individual Christian—with all of our diverse gifts—and causes us to flow in synchronization as one body. The Spirit distributes His gifts to individuals (1 Cor. 12:11) and He brings about the "fellowship of the Spirit" (2 Cor. 13:14)—a supernatural, loving harmony among believers that overcomes jealousy, envy, strife and bitterness.
8. 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 is the "refiner's fire" (Mal. 3:2-3) who purifies us of selfishness, pride and wrong motives. The Holy Spirit is indeed the fire of blazing holiness, and He can be both grieved (Eph. 4:30) and quenched (1 Thess. 5:19) when we disobey His promptings.
As we prepare to celebrate the day of Pentecost in less than a month (it's on May 23), let's meditate on all aspects of the Spirit's work in our lives—and invite Him to fill us in a fresh way.
J. Lee Grady served as editor of Charisma for 11 years and is now contributing editor. You can find him on Twitter at leegrady. His newest book isThe Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale.
On Saturday, March 6, during a time of worship, the Lord spoke to my heart. I was caught up in His presence when the voice of God spoke these three things to me:
Church gatherings are about to experience a fresh wind of God's Spirit as whole meetings will be caught up in His manifest presence.
Mantles are soon to be released over the church, empowering people to do extraordinary things for the kingdom of God. Those who have been in a place of hiding and preparation are about to come forth in power.
The voice of the Lord will be heard not only from the pulpit, through anointed preaching and teaching, but also from the pews. A fresh anointing for the corporate prophetic utterance is about to be revived. God's voice will be heard through His people.
The last two weeks have been anything but calm in the world of faith and religion. Conservative Christians are wondering whether they are being betrayed by both officials in the White House and in the court system. The ruling of a Wisconsin judge that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional and violates the concept of the separation of church and state has been like a blow to the solar plexus for battle weary Christians. In the much touted culture wars, there has never been such an open case of liberals throwing down the gauntlet in a specific area that has been deemed "Christian territory."
After spending some time last week with Bob Hartman, founder of Petra, my hat is off to a true musical pioneer.
Last week while I was preaching at Cumberland Worship Center, a charismatic congregation in Crossville, Tenn., the pastor invited a musician to the stage to play during the offering. I didn't think anything about this performance at first, until a friend reminded me that the unassuming guy with the gray beard was Bob Hartman, founder of the Christian rock group Petra.
The presence of Jesus is all you need. It is exciting to enjoy His presence daily in everything you do. The Bible records the story of a group of friends who broke through the rooftop of a house, so they could bypass the crowds blocking their way to Jesus, and bring their paralytic friend before Jesus to be healed.
I love that "whatever it takes" spirit to be in the presence of Jesus. But you know what? Today we don't have to climb mountains, swim vast oceans or even break through rooftops to be in His presence. Right where you are, Jesus, your Immanuel, is with you!
On December 31, 2009, the Holy Spirit spoke through me and said: "I'm going to shake the earth. You will begin to see earthquakes—I am going to shake everything that can be shaken. Look where the earthquakes are hitting because God is going to release a wind of Pentecost in those places."
Since that time we have seen an increase in earthquake activity on a large scale. Haiti experienced horrible devastation during a recent quake. But afterward, the president called for three days of fasting and prayer for the nation. This was a miracle in a country that had formerly been dedicated to voodoo.
At the Empowered 21 Conference last week in Tulsa, thousands of people celebrated the renewal of a movement.
At a time when many Christian conferences are suffering from sluggish attendance, at least 10,000 people jammed into the Mabee Center on the Oral Roberts University (ORU) campus last week to honor the pioneers of the Pentecostal movement and to pass the torch of Holy Spirit renewal on to the younger generation.
The Empowered 21 event, nicknamed E21, was a bold attempt to bring every stream of the charismatic and Pentecostal movements together under one huge roof. When I arrived on Wednesday night for a welcome dinner, I met leaders from the Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, Foursquare Church, Pentecostal Holiness, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) and even the United Pentecostal Church International—plus directors of such varied ministries as Teen Mania, Every Home for Christ, International House of Prayer and Convoy of Hope. We even had Matteo Calisi, an Italian man who gives leadership to thousands of charismatic Catholics.
In recent weeks, several leading Republicans have been crying for the ouster of party Chairman Michael Steele. If Steele is fired or resigns before he completes a critical stabilization plan for the party, it may spell doom for the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2010 and beyond. Let me say it simply: Steele must be kept in place until there is a clear vision and mandate that is created for the party's future.
His situation is very reminiscent of what happened to world-class CEO and businesswoman Carly Fiorina in 2005. During the time in which the technology powerhouse Hewlett-Packard felt that they needed to change their image and revitalize their brand, they sought to circumvent the normal painstaking process of self-analysis, restructuring and rebuilding by bringing in a management superstar - Fiorina. Her academics were impeccable, framed at Stanford University, University of Maryland and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But all of this was inconsequential because the board of directors had made an improper assessment of where the business was. Their vision was murky. Their mandate was muddled. Therefore the corporate message was unclear. Thus in a few short years, they fired the woman who once graced the covers of major national periodicals in their name.
On March 18, 2010, my ministry, Prepare the Way International, sent out a prophetic bulletin that was reprinted in Charisma's Prophetic Insight e-newsletter a few days later as "A Call to Repentance." This bulletin was in essence an urgent call to repentance and intercession for Los Angeles, California, regarding the imminent divine judgment on Hollywood for projecting evil throughout the world over the past century and thus becoming a stumbling block for the nations.
A few weeks ago, Colbert King of The Washington Post wrote an incendiary op-ed about the Tea Party movement. Titled "In the Faces of Tea Party Shouters, Images of Hate and History," the piece was incredibly skewed. The article’s condescending tone called the protesters “racists.”
King equated the people that rallied in D.C. (just before the health care vote) with the folks who wanted to block the first black student from entering the University of Alabama in 1956. Further, he suggested that those who blocked nine black kids from entering a Little Rock, Ark., high school in 1959 resembled Tea Party members. Most shockingly, he compared the faces he witnessed nearly 20 years ago at a David Duke rally in Metairie, L.A. with the party faithful. He went on to describe the folks at the Duke rally as “sullen with resentment, wallowing in victim-hood, then exploding with yells of excitement as the ex-Klansman and Republican gubernatorial candidate spewed vitriolic white-power rhetoric.”
Last week 91 guys gathered for a three-day retreat. It reminded me that real Christianity has nothing to do with superficial religion.
For at least 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 (thank you, Pastor Donna), a totally informal dress code (jeans and T-shirts), home-cooked meals (we met in North Carolina, the barbeque capital of the South) and cheap rooms, courtesy of the local Hampton Inn. What surprised me was that 91 guys 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 (everyone kept their comments brief to allow time for fellowship).
Empty is not fun. No one likes the thought of an empty glass, an empty gas tank and least of all, an empty bank account. When considered in those terms, empty is just plain undesirable. But what would happen if we could begin to think of empty as opportunity? What if, every time we saw barren, we could imagine bounty?
The idea of seeing what could be instead of what is, would not be, however, an earthly exercise in wishful thinking, merely an act of human intellect. Instead it would be a spiritual application of a powerful biblical principle, which simply teaches; "We [the righteous] live by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7, NKJV). In other words, we are to live in expectancy, standing on what we know and believe to be true and not living in despair, troubled by what we see with our natural eyes.