Page 380 of 380

A Woman's Place in Christ


For centuries the church has come under the influence of cultural norms whereby women have been held to second-class status. There has been gross misunderstanding of the role of women in society and the church and a marked refusal on the part of many to acknowledge our accomplishments. God is holding His church to a higher standard than the world's. He is calling for us to embrace the giftings of women and to appreciate the place they occupy in the heart and mind of God.

Everything in Moderation


At the tender age of 6, I was greatly influenced by television ads. After seeing a Brill Cream commercial numerous times that claimed one could have beautiful hair with just "a little dab," I decided a whole tube would be even better!

Delighted to find the miraculous salve in our bathroom, I anointed my head with all of it. After I had finished, I revealed the new me to my surprised parents.

After multiple shampooings, it became obvious that the cleansing process would take time. For weeks whenever I ventured out in public, I wore my Easter hat, a scarf or other head wear to conceal my finely greased hair.

A Season of Surrender

IT WAS A WOEFUL TIME WHEN MY VISION FOR MINISTRY DIED. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE END OF MY MARRIAGE TOO, HAD I NOT LEARNED TO TRUST GOD WITH EVERYTHING.

Some years ago, before my conversion, my husband, Nestor, renounced mysticism and gave his life to the Lord. I filed for a divorce.

Though I had grown up in a denominational church, my eyes were blinded to the gospel. But Nestor continued to pray for me, even when we were no longer together, and stood in faith for the return of everything the enemy had stolen from him.

Are You for Real?

LIFE WOULD BE HORRIBLY BORING IF WE WERE ALL THE SAME. DON'T STRESS YOURSELF--JUST BE WHO YOU ARE.

Aware of the public's increased demand for authenticity, advertisers today are placing a fresh emphasis on the "real thing." They sell drinks that have "no artificial sweeteners," bread that contains "no preservatives" and fabrics that are "100 percent cotton." (I have yet to figure out why 100 percent cotton is such a big deal. My iron and I have huge fights with it at least once a week!)

We all have a basic craving for the real rather than the phony. Yet more often than not we maintain a veneer of acceptability in our daily lives that belies who we really are.

The Best of All Gifts

THE ABSENCE OF FAMILY, FRIENDS AND HOLIDAY TRAPPINGS DAMPENED MY CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. BUT MY BABY DAUGHTER HELPED ME TO FOCUS ON WHAT WAS TRULY IMPORTANT.

It was a Saturday night, just two weeks before Christmas 1998, and instead of marching through the malls in search of gifts and glitter, I found myself driving along a dark country road with my precious 19-month-old daughter, Olivia. This was more than a road trip. My husband and I were moving from western Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Don's new job was taking us away from our home of over 10 years.

There were no Christmas parties this year, only packing sessions. And I was less than thrilled with the idea of moving to what I considered a too-remote area in a too-cold climate. In fact, I was having a hard time hearing God's voice on the matter. "If I could just get a sense of purpose for this place, maybe I wouldn't feel so gray about it," I prayed.

Castles in the Sand

IF WE'RE NOT CAREFUL, WE CAN INVEST A LOT OF ENERGY DEVELOPING PROJECTS THAT HAVE NO ETERNAL VALUE. WE NEED TO BUILD ACCORDING TO GOD'S PLAN, NOT OUR OWN.

Editor's note: The following excerpt is a portion of the record of the Rountrees' visions of heaven and the revelations the Holy Spirit gave them. The excerpt begins right after "Anna" has been directed by an angel to take the path to the throne room and go see her heavenly Father.

Much to my amazement, the path on which I had begun to walk seemed to be in motion, like a conveyor belt or a moving sidewalk. I looked down at my bare feet standing on its smooth, advancing surface.

I'll Never Become a Christian Because...


People who resist the gospel almost always use one of five generic excuses. Here's how you can respond.

All of us who follow Christ are called to the task of evangelism. Sadly, witnessing to unbelievers about the Christian faith is a scary prospect for many churchgoers.

I often hear their worries expressed like this: "But what if I get into a discussion and don't know the answer?" or "What if they get angry with me?" or "What if I end up looking stupid?"

We all struggle with the fear of being rejected. We also are afraid we will "lose" the argument. But we must understand that evangelism is not arguing.

First Peter 3:15 says: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (NIV).

In Philemon we are encouraged to "be active in sharing [our] faith, so that [we] will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" (v.6). Note that both of these verses are intended to be applied within the context of active evangelism--not passive religious discussion or arguing.

Jesus never argued with anybody. He certainly had His differences of opinion with the Pharisees, but He didn't fight with them.

The Bible says we are called to be witnesses--not debators. To be effective in evangelism we must simply learn to rely on the Holy Spirit's power--and be prepared to respond to the questions others have about our faith.

In my many witnessing experiences on college campuses, I've learned to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance in my conversations. I've also learned that most people have the same common excuses.

But rest assured, God is not looking for expert witnesses who have doctorates in theology. He is looking for faithful witnesses who are willing to share their faith with others. Here are five of the most common objections people will express when you share the gospel with them:

1. Don't all religions teach basically the same things but just use different names for God?

Because of my father's job with the Canadian Embassy, I have traveled to and lived in more than 40 nations. I encountered a number of world religions, philosophies and ideologies in my own search for truth.

Looking beneath the surface similarities, the world's religions are significantly different. One major difference is the contradictory view of the nature of God.

For example, some forms of Buddhism do not teach about God at all. Hinduism teaches that multiple gods exist and that even rocks, trees and animals are part of these gods. Christianity teaches that God exists but that He is separate from all creation.

Because various world religions offer mutually exclusive definitions, they cannot possibly be descriptions of the same God.

Most religions see Jesus as a prophet from God but not as who He claimed to be--the incarnation of God Himself. The Bible describes Jesus in an unprecedented fashion found in no other sacred text--as "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).

Other religions also deny that Jesus' mission was to give His life on the cross as a payment for our sins. Jesus is unique in that He not only claimed to be God but also proved it through His resurrection.

People who think all religions are the same usually ask, "As long as you are sincere, what difference does it make what you believe?" Consider Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden. Were these men not sincere? Sincerity is never a measure of truth.

And sincerely believing something doesn't make it true. You can be sincere and wrong at the same time.

2. Isn't it narrow-minded for Christians to think they're the only ones who are right?

I hear the "Christians are narrow-minded" argument all the time. Modern pluralists say they want a "tolerant" society that embraces all religions and lifestyles. They want a world where anything goes.

Yet Jesus never talked about tolerance but rather commanded His followers to demonstrate a far higher objective--to show love to all people. Though it is possible to tolerate someone without loving him, the reverse is impossible.

Jesus was not a model of tolerance. He was so intolerant of our lost condition, in fact, that He came to Earth to do something about it! He was intolerant of a number of things, including sin, hypocrisy and selfishness.

The issue is not really with us. It was Jesus Himself who said: "'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6, NKJV).

Jesus claimed to be the unique pathway to God and to eternal life. The important question is whether or not we have good reason to accept His position over all the other options.

I say this to people who think Christianity is narrow-minded: "Do you believe that 1+1=2? Do you believe that water boils at 212 F at sea level? If so, should you be considered narrow-minded, or do you have good reason for believing these are the only acceptable answers?"

3. I don't believe the Bible. It is a book of myths and legends put together by pre-scientific men marked by superstitions and fears.

When people bring up this objection, I usually ask them, "Have you ever read the Bible?" Unfortunately, most haven't. If they respond positively, I ask them, "How much of the Bible have you read?" Typically they have read very little.

If they claim to have read the entire Bible I ask them, "What do you believe the central message of the Bible is?" At this point most get it wrong. The vast majority of people who have a negative opinion of the Bible have formulated it before reading the text.

We must remember, however, to be gentle when reminding people of their inconsistencies so that we don't discourage them from further dialogue as we direct them toward the cross.

The Bible stands head and shoulders above any work of antiquity for both trustworthiness and bibliographical accuracy. The New Testament, in particular, offers a greater number of surviving manuscript copies (about 24,000) and a shorter time span between copies (about 50 years) than any other bibliographical work in the world!

Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix comment in A General Introduction to the Bible, "For all practical purposes the modern critical editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible represent, with their footnotes, exactly what the autographs (original documents) contained--line for line, word for word, and even letter for letter."

The Bible tells us that "above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:20-21, NIV). Like most other sacred texts, Scripture claims to be divinely inspired.

The uniqueness of the Bible is that it is the only holy book in the world having substitutionary atonement as its core belief. Jesus satisfied the demands of justice from a holy God, enabling the guilty parties (you and me) to be forgiven and experience true freedom through His death and resurrection.

No other religion in the world can offer you that. As you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit makes the text come alive, giving new understanding and revelation in a personally applicable way.

Because it is divinely inspired it consequently is authoritative to all areas of life. It speaks beyond the intellect to the depths of the heart, empowering us to make positive inner choices (repentance and faith) that produce beneficial lifestyle changes (regeneration and sanctification).

4. If a loving and all-powerful God really exists, why doesn't He do something about the evil in the world?

This is a difficult question. We must come to the realization that evil is not just some vague force that hovers around somewhere; instead it is personal and lives within each of us. If God wanted to get rid of evil, He would have to get rid of us as well!

God created us with a free will because He loves us. We can each choose to love and follow Him or to reject and turn away from Him. Without free will there would be no love.

We all have chosen at various times in our lives to rebel against Him and follow our own inclinations. Realizing we are part of the "evil" that people say God "should do something about" gives us a new and humble perspective.

With free will comes consequences for the things we choose. We live in a culture that cries out for freedom of choice but hates the responsibilities that come with it.

Consider the many lawsuits that have been initiated against fast food restaurants because people chose to eat there but then got fat. This "passing the buck" mentality is symptomatic of our fallen nature (see Gen. 3).

If God were to limit the consequences of evil, our free will would disappear, and moral consequences would become a mere game. Suffering often teaches us life's greatest lessons. In fact, the Bible says that even Jesus learned through what He suffered (see Heb. 5:8).

The Bible does tell us that God is both "just" and "merciful." In His mercy, He is patiently giving us time to turn to Him and receive the forgiveness and life He offers. God also promises that He will put an end to all evil and one day will execute final judgment.

Ironically, the existence of evil should lead us toward belief in God, not away from it. Without God there would be no standard of right and wrong.

The concepts of both "good" and "evil" are moral values or judgments that denote the existence of a moral governor (God). Without God, we would have come into existence by chance, and whatever we do would have no meaning or moral value, positive or negative.

Some people claim to believe this is the case, but their responses to life often reveal inconsistencies in their own convictions. As soon as they complain about some "injustice" or "unfair" situation or claim that someone has "wronged" them, they are making moral judgments about what is "right" and "wrong."

These judgments betray their belief in standards that are ultimately above us all--standards that come not from us but from God.

5. I don't believe in God. What kind of proof can you offer me that He exists?

Science points to the highly complex order in the universe. We also see complexity and order in the human body. Elementary logic tells us that any type of design demands a designer.

At this point another question often arises: Where did God Himself come from?

According to the Bible, God is the uncaused cause of all things. He has always existed.

In the Bible, His existence is considered an axiom (a self-evident truth). Because of the abundant evidence of Him in nature, He in no way attempts to justify that He exists.

But evidence is found in written history. Jewish, Roman, Greek and other sources all support the miraculous events of Jesus' life. Examples include His fulfilling more than 330 specific prophecies recorded hundreds of years earlier and performing numerous miracles.

The single biggest reason I know that God exists is that 23 years ago He changed my life in a way that was humanly impossible. I found that in spite of doing well both academically and athletically, there remained a distinct lack of overall purpose and direction to my life.

The ultimate fulfillment I sought was finally realized when I accepted Christ. His forgiveness and love has completely altered the course of my life. His peace and joy are now a daily reality.

Like me, most Christians have a testimony about the ways in which Jesus has changed their lives. If you learn to share your story effectively and to answer the objections unbelievers may pose, you will find evangelism easy and will bring many souls to faith in Jesus.

Darwin Dewar is associate pastor of Church on 99 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is also a chaplain at the University of Alberta.

Resist Lust's Temptation


Month after month, one particular article on my Web site receives an unusually high number of hits: "Overcoming Sexual Temptation." Many Christians, such as the reader quoted below, find sexual temptation a difficult struggle and walk in constant condemnation.

"I have failed God many times in the area of sexual lust. I find myself thinking about impure thoughts. I confess my sin, ask forgiveness and repent. I do OK for a few days but find myself back where I started. I feel out of control. How can I break this cycle?"

Here are the steps:

1. Stop sexual thoughts. Think on things that are pure, as the Scriptures command (see Phil. 4:8). You can control where your thoughts go by making a mental choice to focus on something nonsexual.

2. Remove sources of sexual temptation. Identify the things in your life that are contributing to the problem. Then remove them as sources of temptation. Areas to check include:

Movies: Avoid ones that encourage lust and erotica. They make it impossible for you to "flee from temptation."

Television: It may be time to rethink channel and program choices.

Magazines: The visual images can be arousing. The stories and suggestions often encourage lust.

Books: Reading steamy romance novels won't help you focus your thoughts on what is pure and virtuous.

Peer group: What values are reinforced? How explicit and graphic is the talk? Is being a virgin considered weird? Are your friends committing adultery?

Family: Some families don't model appropriate sexual behavior, limit sexual exposure or have good sexual boundaries. Know what's right and what isn't.

Computer: The Internet gives easy access to pornography. Put on parental controls or a filter system or unsubscribe if you can't seem to resist.

Alcohol: More illicit sex happens under the influence of alcohol because inhibitions are removed. Don't indulge.

Job environment: Resist pressure to be part of the group, go to bars and engage in sexual talk. And watch those opposite-sex friendships. Many affairs begin with an understanding, sympathetic, listening co-worker.

3. Purpose in your heart to follow God's Word. Don't be ruled by passion. No matter what you feel, act with your brain and not your emotions.

4. Don't put yourself in tempting places. In the same way that a recovered alcoholic would shun going into a bar, you must avoid going to places that make resistance tough (for example, X-rated movies, strip joints, bars). When Satan tempted Eve, she engaged him in conversation instead of telling him to go crawl somewhere else. We all know the outcome of her choice!

5. Resist with the Word. When Satan came to Jesus, His defense was to speak the Word. Satan did not argue with Scripture; he left.

6. Don't lie to yourself. Many Christians think they can handle a lot more sexually explicit material than they can. We aren't aware of the subtle influence it has and the desensitization that takes place as a result of regular exposure.

7. Keep your walk with the Lord strong. Develop an intimate relationship with your heavenly Father. Difficult times come when we get out of fellowship with God. He doesn't leave us; we stop relating to Him. It is imperative that we stay connected.

8. If you fall, don't live in condemnation. Recognize your mistake, ask God to forgive you and turn from sin. True repentance involves a turning from the behavior. I have worked with a number of people who repent but go right back to the behavior because they haven't made necessary changes, aren't ready to give up the immediate gratification that accompanies lust or don't exercise their spiritual authority over sin.

Finally, if you still have difficulty, speak to a therapist or minister. There could be a spiritual, emotional or psychological root that requires more intense work. Getting free from lust is not impossible, but it will require significant changes in your thought life and behavior.

Relationship Breakdown

There is nothing more painful than a relationship breakdown. Here’s how you can find healing and restoration when strife takes its toll.It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I felt as if I were watching a train wreck in slow motion, and I couldn't do anything to stop it. A great friendship was breaking up.

We had been close at one time, but our relationship had become strained. Words of peace somehow got warped. Confusion and suspicion whispered lies. Then suddenly, a firestorm of words ensued. It was over.

If you've ever experienced the pain of an unexpected relational meltdown, you've probably encountered the spirit of separation. You are not alone. Relationships in the church are under attack. The last decade has set records for divorces and separations, even among Christian leaders—and in the midst of headline-grabbing revivals.

weapons

Know Your Arsenal!

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our struggles are not with other human beings but with the devil and his demons. Satan, the enemy of our souls, attempts to defeat us with strategy and deceit through well-laid plans and deception.

But the devil is a liar. Jesus called him "the father of lies and of all that is false" (John 8:44, The Amplified Bible). He tells us things about ourselves, people and circumstances that are just not true. He does not, however, tell us the entire lie all at once.

He begins by bombarding our minds with a cleverly devised pattern of little nagging thoughts, suspicions, doubts, wonderings, reasonings and theories. He moves slowly and cautiously. He has a strategy for his warfare—he has studied us for a long time.

Out Where the Sinners Are

Recently while browsing through a Barnes & Noble bookstore with a friend, I struck up a conversation with the store manager. He seemed friendly and eager to know more about us, so halfway through our conversation I told him we were both pastors.

He was shocked—not because he doesn’t like ministers, but because he’d never really had a decent conversation with a Christian. “I normally only hear from Christians when they are mad,” he told me.


The three of us sat down at the coffee bar. The manager told tales about religious people who had called, written or walked in his store to inform him they would never do business with him because of objectionable books or ­Halloween displays.

Charisma — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit