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)."
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.
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.