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Miraculous Praise Amid Haiti's Destruction

When the earthquake struck last week, a brave American woman found supernatural strength to praise the Lord—and to help deliver two babies.

My friend Linda Graham believes in miracles, but her faith was stretched beyond her wildest imagination last week when she arrived in Haiti with three other women from Durham, N. C. They were on a routine mission to deliver blankets, clothing and medical supplies to an orphanage in the town of Carrefour.

They had no idea they were walking right into one of the worst natural disasters in modern history.

Closing the Christian Generation Gap

There's too much awkward silence when it comes to old and young. It's time to start a conversation.

One of my core passions is training younger Christians. Whether I'm doing an online Bible study with a friend overseas or taking a couple of guys with me on a mission trip, relational discipleship has become a priority now that I'm older. Young leaders need more than stuffy talking heads who just preach at them from acrylic pulpits; they want approachable mothers and fathers who will share a meal, listen, ask questions and invite co-equal participation.

Shyju Matthew is a young leader I met last year in India. Based in Bangalore, he serves on the staff at Bethel Assembly of God Church. He's only 24, but Shyju conducts evangelistic events around the globe. He has exceptional maturity and spiritual anointing. Yet he recognizes his need for input from the older generation. In fact, he seeks it out.

You Can Start 2010 With Fresh Faith

The late Oral Roberts used to say, "Expect a miracle." That's good advice as we enter this new season.

When Pentecostal healing evangelist Oral Roberts died a few weeks ago I was shocked that some Christians pounced on his legacy so quickly. They didn't even wait a few days for friends and family members to mourn. While Billy Graham—a true Christian gentleman—was offering kind remarks about Roberts, the heresy hunters were denouncing him as a charlatan.

Besides being incredibly rude, these harsh judgments were unfair. While I am sure Roberts made plenty of mistakes in his six decades of ministry, I'm grateful that he dared to believe God for the impossible. He pioneered the use of television to reach millions for Christ in the 1960s. He built a successful Christian university. And, in spite of the naysayers, he challenged a doubting church to believe in divine healing.

God Is in the Turbulence

I despise airplane turbulence. Even though I enjoy high-speed roller coasters, there is something about hurling through stormy skies in a commercial jetliner at 37,000 feet that turns my knuckles white. This is why I always ask for a window seat. Whenever we hit rough air and the seat belt sign flashes on, I feel safer if I can look outside.

But that didn’t help me recently when I was flying into Canada. I was not aware that rough weather was raging below and that parts of Vancouver were flooding. All I knew was that our journey though Canadian airspace reminded me of Doctor Doom’s Fearfall—a theme-park ride I’ve enjoyed many times with my daughters.

That ride lasts only a few seconds, and it is firmly bolted to the ground. The turbulence over British Columbia lasted half an hour.

It was 11 p.m., and I couldn’t see anything outside my window except horizontal rain. I kept reminding myself that the pilot was using radar and other high-tech instruments to avoid crashing into the side of a mountain. But my knuckles did not believe this. I clutched the armrest, prayed and—for a few seconds—wondered how my wife would plan my funeral.

Of course the plane did not break apart in mid-air. When we descended below the cloud cover and the lights of the city became visible, all my color returned. I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving when I heard the familiar sound of wheels touching the runway.

You may not share my fear of turbulence, but all of us have walked though scary times in life when we couldn’t see the path in front of us. Many people I know are going through such times right now because of the economic downturn. Some are facing job loss, financial hardships, foreclosures or unusual spiritual challenges.

Churches, too, are finding it hard to navigate change. More people than ever are in a season of transition because old business models don’t work, and ministry paradigms are shifting. Some of us find ourselves digging our fingernails into the armrest while the plane is bouncing all over the stormy sky. And when we look out the window we see nothing but darkness.

I have found comfort in the words David penned after he escaped from Saul’s pursuits. He wrote in Psalm 18:4-6: “The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. ... In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help came into His ears” (NASB).

In describing God’s just-in-the-nick-of-time rescue, David borrowed vivid imagery from the day when God opened the Red Sea to deliver His children from Egypt. “The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice. ...Then the channels of water appeared, and the foundations of the world were laid bare. ...He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. ... He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me” (vv. 13-19).

David’s transition wasn’t easy. In the most difficult moment he noted that God had “made darkness His hiding place” (v. 11). We must remember that darkness is not a sign that God has abandoned us. It became stormy just before the Red Sea split open. Yet God was working behind the scenes, even when the clouds were black and the wind was violent.

If you are in the midst of a transition, hold tightly to His promise as you enter this new year of 2010. You can trust Him. Better things are still to come. In yet a little while He will intervene.

Don’t focus on your job crisis, the bad economic news, your lack of options or the bumpiness of the ride. Call upon the Lord. When His lightning flashes, He will split the obstacles in front of you and make a dry roadbed in the midst of the sea. He can make a way where there is no way.

Ask the Lord to transport you. Eventually you will hear the sound of wheels touching down on the wet runway. You are helpless to make this transition on your own, but your Deliverer will safely carry you from your present crisis into a broad place of future fruitfulness.


J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. You can find him on Twitter at leegrady.

 

Where Is God Going? Seven Spiritual Trends of the ’00 Decade

The last 10 years weren't just about terrorism and recession. Amid the storm clouds, God was working in profound ways.

We didn't know what to call it—was it the '00s?—yet we've just passed through quite a decade. We had natural disasters (the 2004 Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in 2005), financial meltdowns (bank failures and 10 percent unemployment) and global conflict (9/11 and the war on terror). It brought doom and gloom on one hand and technological breakthroughs on the other. What a ride it has been.

How has God been working during this tumultuous season? Here's my list of seven megatrends that marked these last 10 years:

1. Third-World Christianity kept growing. There are now about 600 million Christians in Africa. Protestant Christianity grew 600 percent in Vietnam in the last decade. In China, where a 50,000-member megachurch was raided in Shanxi province a few weeks ago, there are now an estimated 130 million churchgoers.

A Holiday Playlist: The Best (and Worst) Christmas Music



The poll results are counted.
Charisma readers chimed in on their favorite and least favorite holiday songs.


Long before the advent of iTunes and political correctness, Christmas music was about, well ... Christmas. People actually sat around fireplaces or gathered in churches and sang carols that made overt references to the birth of Jesus.

Nowadays, however, some radio stations play holiday music 24 hours a day that rarely mentions the reason for the season. We hear lyrics about snow and winter weather (even though Christmas is hot in most parts of the world), overcoats, shopping, sleighs, Santa Claus, reindeer, toys, holly, elves, bells and chipmunks.

I Danced So Much I Praised My Coat Off


I could sense heaven's ecstatic joy last weekend when I visited a multiethnic church in Montgomery, Ala.—birthplace of the civil rights movement.


There were two very separate worlds in Montgomery, Ala., when I lived there as a child. I lived in the white world, on the east side of town in the Dalraida area. Everybody at Dalraida Baptist Church was white. All the kids at Dalraida Elementary School were white. The only black people I saw in my neighborhood on Green Forest Drive were the maids who arrived each day to clean houses.

I was oblivious to what was happening in Montgomery in 1964 when I started school. No one told me about Martin Luther King Jr., who fueled the civil rights movement from his pulpit at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church downtown. I didn't know about the bus boycotts, the lunch-counter sit-ins or the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four black girls.

Father of the Bride, Part Two

I gave away my second daughter last weekend, and it wasn't any easier this time around.


I've never met George Banks. That would be impossible, since he is the fictional dad played by Steve Martin in the 1991 film Father of the Bride. But I feel I know George because I've watched this sappy comedy so many times. I watched it again last week just before my second daughter's wedding.

I guess the film provides a mild form of therapy. It helps me deal with my loss. Despite what they all say ("You're not losing a daughter! You're gaining a son!") I started to feel an uncomfortable lump in my throat at least 72 hours before the ceremony.

I’ll Have My Pollo with Perro, Por Favor

I tell my friends in Latin America that my Spanish is peligroso—dangerous. Here's why.

I took three semesters of Spanish in college and spent hours practicing conversation with a Nicaraguan immigrant a few years ago. But when I travel in Latin America these days, my mantra is: Mi español es muy peligroso. My Spanish is very dangerous.

On my first visit to Guatemala, for example, I discovered its most popular fast-food restaurant, Pollo Campero. It means "country chicken," and (with apologies to KFC) it is the moistest, tastiest, most delectable fried chicken on the planet. You will smell it on flights from Guatemala to Miami because people like to take boxes of it to relatives.

Trusting God During Turbulent Transitions

In this stormy economic season, trust the Lord to transport you to the other side.

I despise airplane turbulence. Even though I enjoy high-speed roller coasters, there is something about hurling through stormy skies in a commercial jetliner at 37,000 feet that turns my knuckles white. This is why I always ask for a window seat. Whenever we hit rough air and the seat belt sign flashes on, I feel safer if I can look outside.

But that didn't help me last week when I was flying into Canada. I was not aware that rough weather was raging below and that parts of Vancouver were flooding. All I knew was that our journey through Canadian airspace reminded me of Doctor Doom's Fearfall—a theme park ride I have enjoyed many times with my daughters. (That ride lasts only a few seconds, and it is firmly bolted to the ground. The turbulence over British Columbia lasted half an hour.)

With Jesus on the Road to Saspán

In a tiny village on a mountain in Guatemala, I gained a better understanding of how Jesus paved the way for us to know the Father.


Like so many other poor communities in Guatemala, the village of Saspán is way off the beaten path. To get there you first must travel on a two-lane highway from Chiquimula, then turn onto a one-lane dirt road that winds precariously for two miles up a mountain. The scenery is spectacular, but if you look too long you might drive right off the side of a cliff. It's best to wait until you arrive at the top to enjoy the view.

I went to Saspán last Monday with my friend Oto, a pastor who was born in this village, and Roque, a Puerto Rican minister who leads a church in Pennsylvania. We came to preach at Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Visión (Christian Church of New Vision), one of two growing evangelical churches in this town of 1,000 families. The church's pastor is Oto's sister, Gisela, an energetic young woman who has a particular concern for the children in this isolated community, many of whom lack education and proper nutrition.

Breaking Free From the Spirit of Control





Here are six ways to identify an unhealthy leadership style in a church or ministry.


My world was shaken 20 years ago this week. On Nov. 10, 1989, one day after German protesters tore down the Berlin Wall, a Christian ministry I had been a part of for 11 years also fell apart.

Maranatha Campus Ministries was a vibrant outreach to college campuses. It was founded in Kentucky during the Jesus movement by a passionate charismatic couple, Bob and Rose Weiner, who eventually started churches on more than 50 American universities. In its heyday in the Reagan era, students from Maranatha took the gospel around the world.

Sloshed in the Spirit? It's Time to Get Sober

Getting "drunk in the Holy Spirit" has been a popular concept in some churches. But is it biblical?

A few years ago a traveling charismatic minister from the West coast passed through Florida to conduct a series of renewal meetings. I'd never heard of the guy, but the rumor was that he carried a "special" anointing.  It was unique, that's for sure-especially when he took the microphone, slurred his words as if intoxicated and leaned to the left of the pulpit as if he were about to fall over. Then, in between some bizarre spasms, he would shout what sounded like "Walla walla bing bang!"

His message didn't make sense. But if he had just said "Ding Dong Bell" or "Yabba Dabba Doo" over and over, some people in his meetings would have run to the front of the room and swooned, even though he never opened his Bible during his message. They wanted what this man claimed to possess—an anointing to become "drunk in the Spirit."

How a Four-Day Bus Ride Changed My World

Last month God used a poor pastor from Malawi to challenge my suburban American priorities.

When I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, last month to conduct a women's conference, my host, a journalist named Gideon, mentioned that my "pastor friend from Malawi" was waiting to see me. I was surprised to hear this, since I wasn't aware that I had a pastor friend from Malawi. I've never been to that country and I didn't remember talking to anyone from there.

"He says you've been e-mailing each other," Gideon said. "And he arrived today to see you."

The Re-Definition of Marriage: A View From Africa

In Uganda and Kenya, where polygamy is common, Christians are defending the Bible while we disdain it.

Two weeks ago when I was speaking in a women's conference in Kampala, Uganda, I asked the women to raise their hands if they grew up in a polygamous home. A majority of the hands went up. Then I asked how many wives lived in their father's home.

"How many had two wives living in the house?" I asked. A majority of the hands went up.

Spiritual Awakening: The Only Thing That Will Save Us

We can learn an important lesson from the East African Revival, which transformed a region 80 years ago.

The people of Uganda call it Balokole. In the Luganda language it means "the saved ones," but the word became synonymous with the East African Revival—one of the most significant Christian movements in modern history.

This revival had humble beginnings in September 1929, just before America's Great Depression. Historians trace it to a prayer meeting on Namirembe Hill in Kampala, Uganda, where a missionary to Rwanda, Joe Church, prayed and read the Bible for two days with his friend Simeoni Nsibambi. They felt God had showed them that the African church was powerless because of a lack of personal holiness.

The Radical New Look of African Anglicanism

St. Kakumba Chapel in Uganda has grown from 500 to 5,000 members since Pastor Medad Birungi replaced stale traditions with Pentecostal vibrancy.


Pastor Medad Birungi was the least likely man to engineer a spiritual rebirth in the tradition-bound Church of Uganda. Raised in a polygamous home (his alcoholic father had six wives and 32 children), Birungi suffered horrible trauma, rejection and poverty. But he had a dramatic encounter with the Holy Spirit while he was a college student, and his moment of renewal is still having ripple effects throughout Uganda and the world.

Birungi was a religious Anglican before this experience. He despised Pentecostals and viewed them as sheep-stealers and misguided pretenders. But while he was performing with a choir on a conference stage near Kampala in 1987, he felt strangely compelled to run outside to pray. He was then literally arrested by the power of God. He fell to the ground and spoke in tongues for three hours.

Give Us Your Feedback: Is Celebrity Christianity Dead?

Here’s your chance to shape the direction of Charisma in 2010. We really do care what you think.

An impressive collection of framed covers of Charisma decorate a hall around the corner from my office. Visitors often stop to admire the nostalgic lineup, which includes a 1975 issue featuring healing evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman and a 1978 cover of South African theologian David du Plessis. These magazines offer a panoramic view of the history of the charismatic movement—warts and all.

I’ll admit that sometimes I wince when I walk down this hallway to get coffee—and I cringe even more when I sort through my stash of old magazines. As much as I love to remember the old days—and to appreciate the spiritual giants we featured at times—it is painful when I realize that some people we wrote about did not finish well.

We Must Bow Down and Cry Out

On the anniversary of 9/11, I learned that we need extraordinary prayer in this time of national crisis.

Last week I attended a prayer gathering across the street from the World Trade Center site in New York City. Several dozen Christian leaders met in a cramped room overlooking the place where terrorists destroyed the tallest monument to America's financial power and killed more than 2,700 people in the process.

It was the eighth anniversary of 9/11. Flags in the city flew at half-mast while a drizzling rain made the gray mood even more somber. New York City firemen and police officers got respectful applause as they marched in a small parade along Church Street. A few blocks south, in Battery Park, thousands of people filed past a mobile monument that bears the names of all 9/11 victims—including those killed in Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.

The Lost Message of Consecration

From reading some old books I've discovered a missing spiritual dimension. The Lord is inviting us to reclaim it.

A few months ago I went on a special diet. I put aside all newly published books and limited my reading to a small collection of Christian classics, mostly devotional works by Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, E.M. Bounds, Charles Spurgeon, A.B. Simpson and Corrie Ten Boom. I knew God had a message for me in those musty pages.

I had noticed a similar theme in all these books, but it took me a while to crack the code. These writers from the 19th and 20th centuries wrote from a spiritual depth that I rarely see in the church today, and I wanted to know their secret. I slowly began to figure things out while reading A.B. Simpson's book, A Larger Christian Life, which he wrote in 1890 when the Holiness Movement was at its zenith in the United States.

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