God has prepared and anointed a new generation to carry His message.
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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.
Put on your seat belt. What we are experiencing is so much more than an economic recession.
Unless you are Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for years, I'm sure you feel the daily convulsions that are rocking our world. Change is hitting America right between the eyes. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken—from banks and insurance companies to car manufacturers and media empires.
Trusted brands, including Chrysler and United Airlines, may go out of business within months. Newspapers are laying off employees in droves as readers go digital; bookstores like Borders can't compete with Amazon.com. Pontiac is officially dead, and the city of Detroit—once the proud global headquarters of the auto industry—is rusting and jobless.
Before Slumdog Millionaire made the world's largest garbage dump famous, Biju Thampy was feeding the children who live there.
The Deonar garbage dump in Mumbai, India, is certainly not a glamorous location for a movie. The first thing that hit me was the smell—an awful combination of urine, rotting food and toxic fumes. But what made me nauseous was watching dozens of skinny Indian children forage through the mountainous heaps of trash looking for their next meal.
Welcome to Mumbai, a city of 24 million made famous last year by Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. The lead character in the movie, a boy named Jamal, grows up near the vast garbage dump (reportedly the world's largest), watches his mother die and then is coerced by a mafia boss into begging for rupees with other love-starved orphans.
Last December some children in the north Indian state of Orissa watched Hindu militants burn their fathers to death. Today these kids have found a refuge.
This past Monday at the Home of Hope Center in Coimbatore, India, more than 150 boys in matching uniforms stood in neat rows on the tile floor of their prayer chapel and began singing praise songs in Telugu, Hindi and Tamil. The smallest ones fidgeted as they clapped in unison. The older teens raised their hands in the air as they worshiped Jesus.
I sat on the stage and watched their smiling faces with amazement, knowing that some of these children had watched their own parents burn to death a few months ago.
Many Christians misjudged the California pastor after his recent interview with CNN's Larry King.
My switchboard almost short-circuited last week after California pastor Rick Warren appeared on Larry King Live to discuss the hot potato issue of the decade—same-sex marriage. Some concerned Christians called or e-mailed immediately to tell me that Warren had, just in time for Easter, denied his faith in true Judas style. They even lifted a quote from Warren's April 6 interview with King to prove that the pastor of the largest church in our country no longer believes in evangelical morality.
People who had not even seen the broadcast were hyperventilating. "How can Rick Warren do this to us?" they asked me. I decided to stay calm, breathe deeply and actually watch the broadcast instead of believing some slanted conservative blogs. (Note to readers: In this amazing age of TiVo andYouTube, you can actually check the facts easily before jumping to conclusions.)
After visits from three evangelists in four days, I figured it out. We've neglected the heart of our mission.
Something amazing happened to me last week during a ministry trip to Texas and Oklahoma. God sent three unexpected visitors over the course of four days to confirm something He is doing in the church today.
Last Thursday when I was speaking at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, my friend Sujo John called to say he wanted to drop by the campus and attend the conference with me. Sujo is a full-time evangelist who is originally from India. He surrendered to the ministry on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center.
When millions of curious seekers crowd into America's churches on Easter Sunday, what will they find?
Millions of "Easter Christians" and other curious spiritual seekers will crowd into America's churches on the next two Sundays. Some will visit simply to "put in their time"—either in an attempt to ease their consciences or to please relatives. A few will see it as an excuse to buy and show off new outfits. And many will come out of genuine spiritual hunger.
A recent survey conducted by Lifeway Research revealed that 56 percent of Americans would attend a church service if invited by a friend. And while polls show that many older denominations are losing members, non-denominational churches are growing in many regions of this country at a brisk pace (along with non-Christian religions). Despite all the grim economic news we've heard this year, some trends indicate that we could actually be on the cusp of a spiritual awakening.
We must use the right building materials if we want our ministries to stand in the day of His visitation.
Every state in this country has strict building codes. You can't just buy a piece of land and throw up a structure any way you choose. Local governments have standards for foundations, floors, drywall, roofs, exhaust systems, water heaters, wiring, lighting and sanitary drainage. In my neighborhood you can't even erect a shed in your backyard without a permit, and an inspector will always drop by unannounced to make sure you followed the rules.
These codes are important in Florida where I live. You don't want to discover during a hurricane that your contractor used shoddy plywood or defective concrete when he built your house or condo. Bad construction just might send your roof into a neighbor's yard!
In this day of compromise, we must restate the obvious: God requires leaders to play by the rules.
Almost two years ago a dynamic preacher from a growing church in the Southeast was caught in adultery. His distraught wife talked with the "other woman," an exotic dancer from another country, and shared Christ with her. Meanwhile a small group of pastors "covered" the situation and hurriedly sent the embarrassed pastor to a few weeks of counseling. In the end, the pastor and his wife divorced and members of the congregation who didn't have all the facts blamed her for the breakup.
Today this pastor is still in the pulpit—although his preaching has a hollow tone. Some members of the church left when they learned of the pastor's unfaithfulness. Yet many others stayed because they felt they shouldn't judge the pastor for his sin.
This week's announcement about evangelist Todd Bentley's hasty remarriage and restoration is sending a confusing message to the church.
I groaned when I learned early this week that Canadian preacher Todd Bentley, leader of the controversial Lakeland Revival, had decided to divorce his wife, Shonnah, and marry his former ministry intern, Jessa Hasbrook. The news surfaced after almost nine months of silence and speculation, during which time the board of Bentley's Fresh Fire Ministries in British Columbia publicly scolded him for committing adultery.
In a statement released March 10 by Rick Joyner, the popular author and minister who is overseeing Bentley's restoration process, we were told that (1) Bentley married his new wife several weeks ago and moved to Joyner's base in Fort Mill, S.C.; (2) Todd and Jessa agree that their relationship was "wrong and premature" and that it "should not have happened the way it did"; (3) Bentley will remain out of public ministry while he seeks healing; and (4) Joyner will oversee the healing process with input from Dallas pastor Jack Deere and California pastor Bill Johnson. (Read Rick Joyner's response to this column.)
The Bible tells us there are both true and false apostles. Let's learn to discern the difference.
For many years traditional denominations taught that the ministry of the apostle passed away after the New Testament era. It was assumed that the only people who served in apostolic roles were early followers of Jesus who witnessed His resurrection. Cessationists (those who believe that miracles stopped after the canon of Scripture was completed) believe that healing, deliverance, prophecy and all other supernatural phenomena ceased and that apostles are no longer necessary.
But as Christians in recent years began to experience the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, church leaders and even some theologians began to teach that the gift of apostle is vital if we hope to advance the gospel in our generation. The logic makes sense: If we still need pastors, teachers and evangelists (all part of Jesus' five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11), we also need the apostles and prophets who are listed in the same passage. The Bible never says these functions were discontinued.