Allow the fire of this current season to refine you and your message.
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You might remember Edgar Whisenant. He wrote a best-selling book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988—and a much less popular sequel, The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. The second book said Jesus didn't come back in 1988 because the author, who was a former NASA engineer (!), missed his mathematical calculations by a year.
The mood of the 1980s was uneasy. After Ronald Reagan was elected president, some Christians began to surmise that Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was the Antichrist. When he died they gave the title to the next Soviet leader, Yury Andropov, and then to his successor, Konstantin Chernenko. When Chernenko died unexpectedly, people were certain that Mikhail Gorbachev was the Antichrist because he had that awful red birthmark on his forehead.
It has been 15 years since Rwanda's darkest tragedy. Here's how one pastor suffered in that holocaust—and now offers healing.
Unless you catch sight of the jagged scars on Emmanuel Kadege's* legs, you wouldn't know he is a survivor of Rwanda's genocide. During a conference last week in Pennsylvania he greeted me with a warm hug, a bright smile and a cheerful "Praise the Lord." But after we got to know each other, and I encouraged him to talk honestly, this 31-year-old pastor let down his guard and shared his horrific story.
A member of Rwanda's minority Tutsi population, Emmanuel was only 16 when leaders of the majority Hutu tribe announced on the radio that it was time to kill the "snakes" and "cockroaches"—their ominous code words for Tutsis. For 100 days—from April 6 to July 14, 1994—Hutu militants and thousands of civilians slaughtered an estimated 1 million people.
Spending time last week with a persecuted Christian brother ruined me forever.
I can't reveal my new Pakistani friend's name, even though he gave me permission to use it. I could never live with myself if he died because of something I wrote, but he wants the world to know his amazing story. So I'll just call him Saleem.
I met this young church leader last weekend during a missions conference in a northeastern state. The same day we met, Islamic radicals were burning Christian houses to the ground in Gojra, an area not far from Saleem's city. So far, the body count in Gojra has been estimated to be as high as 20, and 19 others were injured when masked militants associated with the Taliban attacked a peaceful Christian settlement.
We often pray for more of the Holy Spirit's anointing. But if God gives you His power, will you actually use it?
A few years ago the Lord challenged me about my level of spiritual hunger. He showed me that even though I had stood in many prayer lines and repeatedly sung the words, "Lord, I want more of You," I wasn't as passionate for Him as I thought I was.
In 1999 my church sponsored a conference on the Holy Spirit. At the close of one service I was lying on the floor near the altar asking God for another touch of His power. Several other people were kneeling at the communion rail and praying quietly for each other.
Over the past 30 years many of our churches have developed a sterile religious atmosphere. How can we reclaim relational Christianity?
Legalistic religion is dangerous. Here's how you can detect and avoid the poison of a religious spirit.
After Elisha watched Elijah ascend into heaven, the prophet went to the city of Jericho and performed his first miracle. The men of that city faced an environmental crisis: Their water was toxic, most likely because of the sulphur and other chemicals that had rained down upon nearby Sodom and Gomorrah years earlier. This poison had made the land barren (see 2 Kings 2:19-22) and it was probably affecting people and animals as well as plant life.
So Elisha performed a bold, prophetic act. He threw salt in the water and proclaimed: "Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer'" (v. 21, NASB). His proclamation brought immediate cleansing.
We need voices from the past—like Andrew Murray, Corrie Ten Boom and Charles Spurgeon—to help us find our way to the future.
During a visit with my parents in Georgia, two of my daughters asked if they could listen to a tape recording my father made in 1962 when I was only 4 years old. So my dad rummaged through some drawers and found the old reel-to-reel tape, which was amazingly still intact. Then he went to the garage and found the old Realistic tape player that no one in the family had used since the Nixon administration.
To our surprise the scratchy tape actually played without breaking, and my girls laughed when they heard me—in a babyish Southern drawl—describing a Florida vacation and a fishing trip with my grandfather. After my "interview," it switched to an older recording made in 1956. It included a conversation with my dad's mother, who died before I was born.
It took an independent film company to make a movie that exposes the cultural oppression of women in the Middle East.
Millions of women around the world live under the ironfisted rule of male domination. They are gang-raped in Latin America; their genitals are mutilated in parts of Africa; they are forced to wear burkas in Afghanistan; they are sold as sex slaves in Thailand; they are denied education in India. Yet most westerners are oblivious to this cruel injustice. It's out of sight, out of mind.
But now, thanks to an independent film company and a director who cares about issues that Hollywood ignores, we have a movie that exposes the plight of women in Iran. It hit theaters last weekend, just a few weeks after Iran's authoritarian government came under international scrutiny.
After Colorado pastor Ted Haggard admitted to an embarrassing moral failure with a male prostitute in November 2006, the Christian community wasn't sure what to do with him. Some people wrote him off and kicked him to the curb. A few wept and prayed for the pastor and his devastated wife. We all tried our best to move on—knowing that the American church had suffered a big black eye through the ordeal.
I didn't know what to say to Haggard when the news broke two and a half years ago. Like so many others who had read his books, listened to his sermons and admired his church, I felt betrayed. I sent one brief e-mail to let him know I was praying. After he appeared in the HBO documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard earlier this year, I decided to ask him if he would talk to Charisma about his healing process.
God has prepared and anointed a new generation to carry His message.
We can quibble over when the previous wave of the Holy Spirit ended. But what's important is that we follow God's presence into a new season.
Some readers were offended when I declared in an online column a few weeks ago that the charismatic movement is dead. One woman even accused me of heresy, since—in her words—I believe "the age of the Holy Spirit has ended." (I didn't say that.) Others on the opposite side of the spectrum asked why I waited so long to state the obvious. All this discussion prompted me to address the issue further.
I am not a coroner. But I do believe the historic period we call the American charismatic movement ended a while ago. By making that pronouncement I was NOT saying that (1) the Holy Spirit isn't moving today; (2) the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit aren't available to us any more; or (3) people who are associated with this movement are all washed up.
Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul modeled accessibility and had close bonds with their disciples. That's the way we should do ministry.
A friend in Alabama recently told me about a preacher who came to his city in unusual style. The man arrived at a church in a limousine and was whisked into a private waiting room behind the stage area. The evangelist gave specific instructions to leave his limousine's engine running (I guess he wasn't concerned about rising gas prices) so that the temperature inside his car would remain constant.
This evangelist then preached to a waiting crowd, took up his own offering and retired to the waiting room for some refreshments. Then he left the church with his entourage without even speaking to the host pastor.
If I had been a black slave in Alabama in 1860 I would have been worth about $3,000 on the auction block because of my gender and height. Taller men cost more.
That’s one thing I learned this week while visiting a museum in Mobile, Ala., where some of the last slaves were sold in the United States. The museum also offered a sobering recreation of the interior of a slave ship, showing how Africans were stacked like cord wood and chained to each other in the frighteningly narrow hold.
Go ahead: Call me intolerant. I still believe the church must protect the marriage altar.
This past Saturday I stood on a church stage in Gainesville, Fla., and performed a wedding in front of 100 guests. The bride, Christina, was stunning in her billowing white gown. The groom, A.J., was beaming with delight. Tears flowed freely during the ceremony—especially during communion when a talented singing duo performed "The Prayer," the wedding anthem made popular by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.
Thankfully there were no awkward moments—no fainting groomsmen, lost rings, squawking loud speakers or candles lighting dresses on fire. It was a picture-perfect moment in June, the month we've come to know as ideal for weddings even though summers in Florida are sweltering. I was grateful that I made it through my sermon without crying—since weddings involving friends or family can choke me up.
If you think your past has disqualified you, take courage from the life of this Gentile widow.
It is truly profound that Ruth's name appears in the royal genealogy of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Matthew tells us: "Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king" (Matt.1:5-6, NASB).
In Old Testament times women's names rarely appeared in genealogical records. Women were invisible. They were not valued for their gifts or talents; they simply faded into the background—even though they worked hard, served their husbands and raised children. Women had no voice.
The genuine power of the Holy Spirit is not just about miracles—we must also embrace holiness.
Very few evangelical Christians today observe the traditional church calendar. Sure, we know when to celebrate Christmas and Easter, but more obscure holidays like Epiphany or All Saints Day have long been forgotten—usually because we consider them "too Catholic."
But we have a strange way of treating Pentecost, which happens to fall this year on May 31. Even those of us who wear the Pentecostal label rarely commemorate it, either because we forget to count the weeks after Easter or because we don't place any importance on a date that gets lost somewhere between Mother's Day and Memorial Day.
The epidemic of moral failure among men in the church today is directly tied to our lack of healthy relationships.
Despite the proliferation of iPhones, Blackberries, e-mail and social networking Web sites—not to mention Starbucks locations—many Christian men, if they are honest, will tell you they are lonely. They may Twitter several times a day to co-workers; they may have occasional golf buddies; they may even grab coffee with colleagues from time to time. But so many men who attend church regularly are friendless.
This was made real to me last weekend when I spoke to a group of men at a large charismatic church in Rochester, N.Y. I was talking about three different types of relationships we need: (1) "Pauls," who serve as spiritual fathers; (2) "Barnabases," peer-level encouragers who support and challenge us; and (3) "Timothys," younger men we inspire and mentor.
At my second daughter's college graduation this weekend I saw the future of our movement.
Some people twitch or roll their eyes when you say the word Pentecostal. The term conjures up outdated images of either (1) slick-haired, Bible-thumping preachers who spew saliva on the unfortunate souls seated in the first three pews, or (2) scowling women with their hair in buns who know how to scare you with glossolalia.
Say goodbye to the worn-out stereotypes. Last weekend I saw the future of the Pentecostal movement when my wife and I attended a graduation ceremony at Emmanuel College, the liberal arts school in northeast Georgia that was founded 90 years ago by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. What we witnessed on Saturday was a refreshing reminder that God has raised up a new generation of young people who are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Why are wives often ignored when male church leaders mess up? Their healing must be addressed too.