Over the past 30 years many of our churches have developed a sterile religious atmosphere. How can we reclaim relational Christianity?
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We might be changing careers, getting married, having children, leaving all that’s familiar for the mission field, going back to work after 20 years as a homemaker, becoming serious about diet and exercise, and so on. Our minds fill with excitement, yet we think: What if? What if? What if?
Any time we step out to do something new, especially for God, we almost always—and almost immediately—face a negative circumstance that tries to discourage us or convince us we cannot do what God asks of us. Something will come up to tell us it is too hard, does not make sense, or will not work; or that we are not qualified to do it. The enemy uses such words and thoughts to discourage us, hoping fervently we will never accomplish what we set out to do.
Revelation 12:4 gives insight on how the devil tries to plant fear in us before we even get started: “And the dragon stationed himself in front of the woman who was about to be delivered [give birth], so that he might devour her child as soon as she brought it forth.”
The dragon (who represents Satan) had stationed himself in front of her so he could devour her newborn child. This scene represents a dynamic that often happens in our lives as believers. Every time God puts a fresh new idea in our hearts or gives us a dream, vision or new challenge for our lives, the enemy will be there to oppose us. I am not referring simply to the times we want to do “big” things for God; the enemy is not selective.
When we receive Jesus as our Savior, that’s a new level. When we begin to move into a deeper walk with God or begin to pray bolder prayers, those are new levels. When we begin to give time, money and energy to God’s kingdom, we are moving to a new level.
God constantly calls us to new levels. Some seem big and important; others seem relatively small or insignificant. Whatever the case, when we reach a new level with God we face a new level of opposition from our enemy, the devil.
Along with opposition, however, comes opportunity (see 1 Cor. 16:9)—but God is always with us, and we have no need to fear. Some things may seem too great for us, but nothing is impossible with God. He is not surprised or frightened by anything.
If you are determined never to give up on your dream, then you have to take chances; you have to be courageous. When you face situations that threaten or intimidate you, you do not need to pray as much for the fear to go away as for boldness and courage so you can move ahead in spite of the fear. I can promise you, fear will not go away. It is not something you can get rid of, so you must learn to overcome it.
The spirit of fear will always try to keep you from going forward. The enemy has used fear for centuries to try to stop people, and he is not going to change his strategy now. But you can defeat fear; you are more than a conqueror through Him who loves us (see Rom. 8:37).
Courage is not the absence of fear; it is pressing forward while the feeling of fear is present. I want to encourage you to be determined to face fear when it comes against you. Stand firm, trusting God and knowing He is always with you.
Joyce Meyer is a New York Times best-selling author and one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers. She has written more than 80 books, including the popular Beauty for Ashes and Battlefield of the Mind, and her most recent, Never Give Up! Enjoying Everyday Life (all FaithWords). She is also the founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries Inc. and the host of radio and TV programs, which air on hundreds of stations worldwide.
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.
It is amazing that the biggest news story for the last few weeks has been the arrest of a Harvard professor for disorderly conduct at his home in Cambridge, Mass. Overshadowing the health care debate, national security and every other national concern -- the story simply will not go away. It’s got all the elements of a good television drama, except there’s no sex or violence.
Anyone who has traveled with a specific destination in mind knows that before you head out on the road, it helps to map out your route. If you're not lucky enough to own a GPS, then you at least need to use a road atlas or go online and map out your route using a mapping service such as MapQuest.
As many people travel down life's highway in search of happiness, they figure they'll run into it somewhere, someday. They head off in a general direction, assuming happiness will pop up on the way like a highway sign directing them which way to turn, how many miles to go, and what exit to take to get there. Happiness, however, isn't like a tourist attraction, an all-you-can-eat buffet, or a theme park.
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.
Editor's Note: The following word is a description of a dream the Lord gave evangelist Perry Stone a number of years ago that has significance today. It is a reminder for all believers to continue to pray for the United States. The word was posted on Stone's Web site, Voice of Evangelism, at voe.org in June.
Several years ago, when Hillary Clinton was a senator for the state of New York, I had a very strong, clear dream. In this dream I was staying in a hotel in a major city (I am uncertain which city it was). I was with a group of young people who were a part of the ministry. As we entered a van, I observed a very large tornado moving toward the heart (downtown) of this city. We were attempting to "get out" before the main storm struck the area.
Have you ever prayed and felt that the ceiling of the church was a sheet of brass? Has your worship ever felt as though you were speaking into a hollowed log? Or have you ever prayed for a specific need to be met and felt like your words were lost in outer space? Biblically, prayers can be hindered (see 1 Pet. 3:7), delayed (see Dan. 10:11-13), and under some conditions, not even heard by the Lord (Mark 11:25). If prayers can be hindered, then so can the manifestation of your healing.
Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, made comments that should have won him an award for the most racially insensitive remarks of the year. His statements were made in a committee markup. An audio recording of the heated exchange between Durbin, and Sen. Brownback, R-KS, revealed the unfortunate bias of the senator from Illinois. Durbin justified the fact that 41 percent of pregnancies in Washington D.C. are terminated by abortion by essentially saying it was a black thing. His exact words are listed below:
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.
At early morning prayer [on Tuesday, July 1], I began to prophesy about a very narrow way coming for us. ... Here is a portion of the revelation that came forth prophetically. We could hear the Lord saying:
"A new corridor is forming, and I will narrow your way. You must narrow your desires. I am sanctifying desires and narrowing the corridor through which you will walk.
"You are entering into new alignments and assignments, and coming into a place that will bring you forth into a realm you have not known. You will come from a dark place into light, but the corridor that you have been in is beginning to narrow to push you through into the new.
On one of my lunch hours, I went out and bought a new cell phone. I was ecstatic about the great offer a co-worker had clued me into—more minutes for literally the same amount of money I had been paying for my previous service, and no roaming charges! What a deal!
But I had no idea when I walked out of the cellular store reveling in my purchase, bag full of manuals, brochures and terms of contract in tote, that this new phone had many more capabilities than the ones that had first attracted me to it.
Back at work, I set the phone on my desk, unable to take time at that point to go over the extensive directions. I figured I would just leave it there and wait until the weekend—or some other convenient time—to delve into them.
When I finally activated the phone three days later and set up my voice mail and ring tone, I found myself at a crossroads. Should I brave the textbook-sized user manual? After all, my phone was turned on and functioning. I knew how to send and receive calls. What more did I need? I was good to go.
But the salesman’s pitch about the numerous features my phone had still rang in my ears: “You’ve got caller ID, call waiting, free phone calls to other people in our network…” So, I peeled back the shrink-wrap from the owner’s manual and began to skim it.
At first I was in awe. “Wow,” I thought. “I can send an e-mail from my phone! And would you look at that, I can access the Internet…hmmm, it even has voice-activated dialing. I wonder what else this compact wonder can do?”
Soon, however, I was overwhelmed by the thought of trying to implement all the special functions. “Where would I begin?” I wondered. “I don’t have a lot of time to fool around with all these settings, and I’m not very good at high-tech stuff.”
Eventually, I gave up. “I’m not going to be able to figure this out. I can just use the phone for normal calls and not worry about all this other stuff. Or maybe I’ll get to it later.”
For several days I walked around in cell-phone ignorance, just moving my phone in and out of my purse, hooking it into the wall to recharge, answering and initiating calls. One day, on my 40-minute commute home from work, I realized that the way I was handling my cell phone is the way many Christians handle the gifts and talents God has given them. He invests so many “features” in us—yet, like me with my cell phone, we don’t take the time out to find out what they are and cultivate what He has placed in us.
Instead, we go on in blind ignorance, using only the features that are more obvious and easy to access. We fail to delve into all the “settings” that God has programmed into us not only to bless Him but also to bless others.
In my case, I saw that I had left areas untapped at times because of fear of failure or busyness or just plain laziness. Like the man Jesus described who hid the talent his master gave him (see Matt. 25:18), I too, had buried His investment in me rather than using it wisely so that it would bring Him a return.
Needless to say, this little epiphany changed my way of thinking. I don’t want to receive the same response from God that the servant received from his master. The master called the man a “’wicked and lazy servant’” and took away the one talent he had given him (vv. 26,28, NKJV).
Shortly thereafter I sat down at my kitchen table with my mound of cell phone instructions and plodded through them. I read a good portion of the manual, and you know what? I’m still finding new features available to me! May it be so in all our lives as we hunger after the Lord and truly seek to develop the gifts He has placed in us!
What has He set in you?
The following is an excerpt from a letter that will be sent this week to President Obama from leaders in the African-American community. Two events have precipitated the writing of this letter.
1. The President hosted a Stonewall Riot 40th anniversary celebration at the White House, when no such meeting has been afforded to African-American clergy.
2. The legal attempt to overthrow the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that has come out of Massachusetts last week.
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.
Editor's Note: The following word from the Lord was declared by Mark J. Chironna during his June 9, 2009, Institute of Leadership Initiatives. To learn more about this weekly leadership series, go to tmtic.com.
"Truly the hungry and the thirsty, in this hour, are seeking water, and they have found none. But I will open up rivers in high places, and I will water the wasteland, and the desert shall blossom like the rose. And I will satisfy your desire in scorched places, for I have seen the journey of My people. I have seen the affliction with which they have been afflicted.
"I have walked with you through your dark places. I have held you and caressed you in your dry places. Yet, because of the nature of the journey in this season, it has been difficult for many to recognize My hand. I would say unto you now, while you cannot see My hand, you do know My voice. Take comfort in the fact that while you are waiting to see My hand of visitation and My hand of vindication, yet you can hear My voice.
King Hezekiah commanded the priests to carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. The call to clean the holy place was not an option; it was a command. "So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the Lord they brought out to the court of the house of the Lord" (2 Chr. 29:16, NASB).
When the priests entered the holy place, they entered alone; the rest of Israel was in the outer court and beyond. Here, privately before God, they were to remove those things that were defiling this sacred place. No one else had seen these desecrations. They could have remained in secret, and none except the priests would have known; but they did not. They brought out the unclean things. What was unholy was exposed publicly and removed.
From where did these abominations arise? Predominantly they were the sins of their forefathers—the traditions and offenses handed down to them from the wicked generation who preceded them. The careless approach to holiness, the unbelief toward the promises of God, and the idolatry and worship of man-made things were the products of a generation turned from God. They gave to their children, as a legacy, a society oppressed by sin and the devil.
In the new covenant temple, the church, it is our private, inner lives that need this deep cleansing. We have inherited traditions that justify and reinforce darkness of soul within us. Most Christians have little hope that purity of heart is even attainable. The revival that will turn a nation begins in the trembling unveiling of our hearts, in the removal of what is defiled and hidden within us.
I will tell you a mystery. It is in this very place, this chamber of our deepest secrets, that the door to eternity is found. If the Father is near enough to "see in secret" He is close enough to be seen in secret as well. If He has entered us, we can, in truth, enter Him. The key to entering the presence of God is intimacy, and intimacy is secrets shared. To ascend the hill of the Lord, to stand in the holy place, we must have clean hands and a pure heart; we cannot lift up our souls toward falsehood (see Ps. 24:3-4). At this door of eternity we must renounce those things hidden because of shame and, in humility of soul, receive Christ's cleansing word.
Our goal is not merely to be "good" but to see God and, in seeing Him, to do what He does. However, John tells us that he who seeks to "see Him just as He is … purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3, NKJV). We can be assured that each step deeper into the Lord's presence will reveal areas in our hearts that need to be cleansed. Do not be afraid. When the Spirit shows you areas of sin, it is not to condemn you but to cleanse you.
Let me give you an example. My wife set herself apart to seek the Lord. Her cry during this time was, "Lord, I want to see You." As she sought the Lord, however, He began to show her certain areas of her heart where she had fallen short. She prayed, "Lord, this is not what I asked for; I asked to see You, not me." The Holy Spirit comforted her, saying, "Only the pure in heart can see God."
In the same way, the Lord desires His church to see Him as well. Thus, He is exposing the areas in us that are unclean. If we will walk as Jesus walked, we must remember that Christ did only the things He saw the Father do (see John 5:19). Out of the purity of His heart He beheld God and then revealed His glory.
This cleansing must become a way of life, but it does not have to take a lifetime. For Hezekiah and the people with him, it occurred in a matter of eight days.
Our prayer should be to bring all the defilement of our flesh and spirit out of the secret chambers of our hearts and give them over to the Lord so that our hearts would be purged.
"O God, thoroughly cleanse my heart; purify me quickly! In Jesus' name."
Adapted from When the Many Are One, by Francis Frangipane, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. In this book the author calls us back to oneness with Christ, and through Him oneness with other Christians. With the character and power of Christ in our midst, the church can again bring transformation to our communities, our nation and our world. To order a copy click on this link:
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.
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