A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity. read more
There is a concept called Margin. I first learned about margin the hard way. When my oldest child went to kindergarten, I mapped out the route, and figured out exactly how much time it would take to arrive at school on time. With this information, I calculated what time I needed to leave every morning.
For the next three months, every morning was a race against the clock, and most days I lost – I would pull onto the school grounds just as the bell rang.
Then my husband was laid off and took over the morning duty, and suddenly, my daughter was arriving with time to spare. I was in awe! I asked him how he managed to get her to school on time. With a bit of reflection, I discovered that I hadn’t created space for the time it took to get a baby and kindergartener to the car, or the time it took to get from the car to the classroom.
When life gets busy, sometimes we find that we are rushing from event to event, hoping we make it on time. First we decorate the church, then our home. We plan for the holiday parties in each ministry area, and the church staff. We prepare for the Christmas concert, and Christmas service, then comes the New Years’ service. For a few moments, we pause – often after pulling an all-nighter to wrap presents - and have a Christmas get together at home.
The weeks of December are often bundled with joy and energy. Yet in all that activity, it is easy to get so wrapped up in doing that we end up in January totally wiped out, not able to even hear our own thoughts, let alone God’s voice.
This season can be different. There is a growing trend (again) to focus on the spiritual disciplines. As I have been going through several books on the subject, there is one resounding theme: Space.
And this is what I learned: I am the only one who has the authority and ability to create space in my life. Even if I have other people to report to, space will never be created in my life unless I lead the charge.
As you progress through this Christmas season, here is a simple tool to help you reflect on how you spend your time, and where you might need to create space:
Take a moment to make a grid on a piece of paper – then fill in the boxes with your activities for the last week. If you are very crammed, you might even just do the last three days.
Do you notice a pattern? What can you do to focus your time on the most critical items on your agenda? What are you doing that really isn’t urgent, isn’t important, and could be done by someone else?
Now, where is your time with God on that grid? What can you do to create space in your activities, and create time for your relationship with God?
In this season of celebration, remember to take time to nurture your soul. After all, your relationship with Christ really is the reason for the season, and those around you will learn from your example. read more
In the week following Isaac Hunter's resignation as senior pastor of Summit Church, the Orlando Sentinel reports that Hunter was in a downward spiral of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts, according to a domestic violence petition filed Friday.
“I currently fear for my life and the lives of our three children,” Rhonda Hunter wrote in a petition for a temporary restraining order against her husband. “Isaac is unstable and has demonstrated erratic behavior, alcohol abuse, and fits of rage.”
Circuit Judge Roger J. McDonald granted Rhonda Hunter's petition the same day it was submitted. The order bars Isaac Hunter, 35, from the couple's home in Winter Park, Fla., his church, his children's schools and his wife's workplace.
Isaac Hunter admitted to an extramarital affair and resigned from his post as senior pastor at Summit Church in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 28, one day after his 13th wedding anniversary. Hunter is the middle child of prominent evangelist Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Fla., and spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama. read more
On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations’ General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. The Jewish leadership accepted the plan; the Arab leadership rejected it. Sixty-five years later, on Nov. 29, 2012 (Thursday), Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, excoriated Israel, praised Islamic terrorists and received the overwhelming approbation of the General Assembly, which voted 138 to 9 (with 41 abstentions) to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state.”
Abbas was perfectly clear: “The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: ‘Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation.’” The world, then, through the U.N., would be rebuking Israel with its vote.
To be sure, President Abbas made some conciliatory remarks, such as, “We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel.” But these remarks were completely overridden by his unstinting condemnation of Israel, whose policies, he claimed, “have thrown [negotiations] into the intensive care unit.”
How could he claim that he came to the U.N. to “launch a final serious attempt to achieve peace”? read more
Culture wars are real. I’m speaking of the battles that continually pursue between those who hold to traditional values and those who are opposed. My friend, the gospel is greater than any force that comes against it. When we preach the pure Word of God, amazing results follow. Please allow me to give you an example.
The governor of Alabama once invited me and several of my evangelist friends to a historic meeting. It was a Saturday afternoon rally in support of keeping the Ten Commandments posted at the State Supreme Court.
Upon arrival we were shocked to see more than 25,000 people gathered together on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion. Surrounding the crowd were all the major media networks broadcasting this historic event.
I remember asking the governor what he wanted me to say at this secular rally. His response was crystal clear: “Preach the gospel and give an altar call.” read more
If revival can come to a wicked city like Nineveh in response to the preaching of God’s Word by Jonah, then I believe there is hope for our nation.
The results of the recent election show a definite move toward secularism and a shift away from Christian values and biblical morality. In some states, same-sex marriage was approved and marijuana was legalized. Unbelievably, whether it was apathy or indifference, there were millions of evangelical Christians who stayed at home and did not go to the polls. Had more Christians exercised their right and privilege to vote in this election, perhaps the outcomes on the national and state levels could have been quite different.
However, I believe that followers of Jesus Christ can still make a crucial difference in our country going forward. read more
As a pastor I have been involved in political, economic and social issues in order to be holistic in ministering to the needs of our community, as well as functioning prophetically to influential elected officials. In this context, I have observed how many leaders also involved in holistic ministry have “behaved themselves” in regards to speaking out prophetically on major biblical issues. My opinion is that we are all called to be prophetic—especially preachers of the gospel (1 Peter 4:11).
For example, during the past decade I have been a major proponent of preserving biblical marriage and have worked against legalizing alternate forms of marriage such as same-sex marriage. As I have helped lead the charge, some of my good friends have intentionally remained silent for a variety of reasons.
The following are some of the reasons pastors have muzzled their prophetic voice: read more
We are living in times that can cause both great fear and great opportunity. These are seasons where the faithful and wise people of God can flourish.
It is not because all is peaceful or that challenges and hardships are diminishing, but these are the days that great character is forged. As we contend with difficulties, strong hearts and minds are being formed and creative new strategies for life are being birthed.
Deep calls to deep and extreme necessities call upon great virtues. When minds become transformed and passionate hearts are engaged, then those qualities, which would otherwise have lain dormant, awake to new life and new opportunities. The Spirit of God empowers and releases these battle tested messengers of light to bring forth His power, presence, and glory upon the earth like never before. read more
We have just come out of a presidential election. Some Christ followers are happy, some are not, some have concern, and some continue to live in fear. I do not have a problem with concern, but I do have a problem with fear.
Fear has the ability to imprison the faith and hope within us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and it is impossible to live in the overcoming power of the Kingdom of God within us. God is much bigger than who is in charge of our nation or any nation. Whoever is in charge should never be an opportunity to allow fear to grip us.
Romans 13 says, "Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear." read more
Our country finds itself in perilous times, facing uncertainty and anxiety stemming from economic challenges, global instability and threats to our freedom and security as a people.
Having just come through a divisive national election, I am urging pastors across this country to lead their congregations in praying daily for our president, Barack Obama, and all of our elected leaders--for wisdom, Divine guidance, and that God would accomplish His will and purposes.
While politics is noticeably partisan, prayer must never be partisan. Americans need to come together, and people of faith should lead the way, by praying diligently for our leaders whether or not they agree with them or their policies. God's Word commands us to pray for 'kings and all who are in high positions.' (I Timothy 2:2) read more
We are living in perilous times—and I’m dedicated to exposing the schemes of Satan and then educating Christians on what to do about it.
We are finding that many churches have become Satan's sanctuary. Satan can sit down and savor a soft sermon. The pillow prophets behind the sacred pulpit won’t dare preach against him. Rather, they offer us savory snacks that produce anemic malnourished Christians whose lives are void of Holy Ghost strength.
I fear we are raising up a generation of weak, cowardly, young people. They don't know how to cast out devils. Many have never been filled with His Spirit and haven't experienced the glorious manifestation of tongues. They don't know how to pray. They don't know how to go after God. They want to sit under some teacher that's going to tickle their ears and make them happy. read more
Jonah was a prophet typical of many believers today who wrap their faith in nationalism and/or patriotism to the point where it supersedes obedience to the will and heart of God.
The Assyrian nation (modern-day Iraq) had harassed and fought against Israel and in 721 BC took the land of the ten tribes of Israel. Jonah was called by God to preach the gospel in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh either before or right after this period of disinheritance. Jonah initially refused to go because of his hatred toward the Assyrians; this would be like a Jewish rabbi being sent to Berlin to preach repentance to Hitler during the Holocaust, or like an American evangelist being sent to preach to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in Pakistan, or to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
This lesson from the book of Jonah is also preached by Jesus in the Beatitudes of the gospels when He taught us to “love our enemies” (Matt. 5). This is not just referring to our personal enemies but also our national enemies. It is hard for the human soul to believe that God actually loves our enemies and those people responsible for atrocities committed against humanity. But we have to realize that God is bigger than our prejudice and our pain! (For example, how do you think the families of the victims of the “Son of Sam” shooter David Berkowitz feel when they hear him giving his testimony of his conversion to Christianity?) read more
Note: The following is an excerpt from the book Lead and Succeed by Sara. J. Moulton Reger
Business leaders can never go wrong by building their foundation on godly principles. The fundamentals in this chapter are the underpinnings of our thinking, so they precede effective decisions, actions, and habits. Just as it is a good idea to check the foundation of your home periodically to ensure it is sound, you may want to return to this chapter periodically to review these important Bible fundamentals for business leadership.
Acknowledge That Leaders are Chosen by God
The apostle Paul wrote the following passage at a time when Rome ruled the world. One of Rome’s emperors would eventually order Paul’s death.
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1) read more
Billy Graham is known for preaching fiery sermons that see even the hardest hearts converted. Now, the 94-year-old evangelist is under fire for newspaper ads that compelled voters to cast their ballots based on biblical principles.
A group of atheists is taking the Internal Revenue Service to court over its failure to enforce electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit Wednesday, claiming the IRS violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and FFRF's equal protection rights.
The Rev. Billy Graham and his son Rev. Franklin Graham met with presidential candidate Mitt Romney last month. Romney asked the 94-year-old evangelist to pray for him for the duration of his campaign. Billy Graham reportedly told Romney, “I’ll do all I can to help you.”
Concerning the election results, I was right and I was wrong in what I thought would be the outcome, and, at the Lord's behest, chose to remain silent rather than issue a prophetic statement about who would win. In the aftermath of Election Day, the nature of that mix of right and wrong became clear and significant.
On Sept. 29 as I prayed for the outcome of the presidential election the Lord said to me, "He isn't the man I chose, but I will elect him. Close by a two point margin." In my intense desire not to see Barack Obama get another four years, I supplied the name "Mitt Romney" as the one the Lord referred to. Intense emotion and strong desire tend to distort what we hear from God. Out of the storehouse of our flesh, we fill in the blanks according to what we want to hear or what our emotions predispose us to hear. This explains the many false prophetic pronouncements so many of us have seen and read, even from leading voices.
Having learned this principle the hard way, I sensed the Father's hand of restraint, respected the nagging doubt I felt, and chose not to publish what I believed I heard.
When I shared what I thought it meant with a few others in private settings, I qualified it by saying that because of my intense emotional involvement in the issue, I could not be certain that God really spoke what I thought I heard and I made it clear that I was not, therefore, speaking prophetically. It appears, however, that I did hear accurately, but was confused concerning which candidate it applied to. read more
This is going to all Popes, Apostles, Prophets, Bishops, Priests, and Pastors and any other leader who has influence over people. God relates with you directly, and does not need you to get between his relationships with others, as He desires to relate with them directly.
You are called to point people to God and not to yourself or any other system or agenda. When you command that they look at you, serve you, get answers from you, you begin to minimize, dilute, and most times get in the way of their ability to hear Gods voice on their own.
You are called to lead as a servant. You are called to humility. You are called to communicate that everything they need is within them for Christ Himself; the hope of glory is within them. The people you serve are not called to serve your agenda, and you are called only to serve Fathers agenda for their lives, which may not have anything to do with your agenda.
God does not need middle management as He has all the management He needs by the power and revelation of His Holy Spirit on earth. Get out of His way, and serve only in His way. All Priest-craft must go, “apostle-craft, prophet-craft, and pastor-craft included,” and they all must surrender to the Master-craft of all creation, Jesus our Lord. Ungodly hierarchy has no place in the Kingdom of God. Leaders are called to serve. The greatest of leaders becomes the servant of all. read more
I am not writing this letter to accuse but rather to advance understanding. And even though I am white, I am not writing as an outsider but as a fellow evangelical, part of the same spiritual family. May I pose some candid questions?
Are you guilty, on any level, of blind allegiance to the Democratic party? And, on Election Day, did any of you compromise your convictions out of racial solidarity?
I have been very open in my criticism of white evangelicals, pointing out how we often put our trust in the Republican party and how we look to the latest candidate as some kind of political savior, only to be disappointed time and time again, complaining that the Republicans wanted our votes but did not stand up for our values. “We won’t get fooled again,” we say, only to repeat the same cycle four years later.
On Election Day morning, I posted an article entitled “A Warning to Moral Conservatives,” raising concerns that if Mitt Romney was elected, we would be making a grave mistake in looking to him to advance our moral and social agenda. I even wrote an article in June entitled “Mitt Romney Is Not the Answer,” and I often told my evangelical radio listeners that I would not argue with them if they could not vote for Romney because he was a Mormon. So, I do understand black Christian reticence towards Romney (for these reasons, among others). read more
All of us care a great deal about our country. The intensity of opinions and feelings during the long political campaign showed the depth of that concern.
Now with the votes counted, it is important to remember that whether we are personally pleased with the outcome or not, God wants us to pray for those chosen to be our leaders—at the national, state, and local levels. The Bible urges us to do so with both respect and thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Tim. 2:1–3).
We must also remember that no election will ever solve America’s most basic problems. That is because the trouble, at its root, is in the human heart, and the only path to true restoration—for a person or for a nation—is through repentance. The Bible says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV).
Only the gospel, God’s Good News, has the power to change lives, heal hearts, and restore a nation. read more
In spite of escalating turmoil in our world, and failed hopes for presidential elections in the USA, there still remains one last, great outpouring of mercy before the time of the end (see Matt. 24:14; Acts 2:17). This supernatural season is not something for which we must beg God.
No, its coming has been predetermined. It is the “appointed time” of the Lord.
As most know, an “appointed time” is an open display of the sovereignty and power of God, whether it is in calling a person or calling a nation. In it we discover with absolute certainty that nothing is impossible for God. It is a season when God fulfills the hopes and dreams of His people.
As it is written, “But You, O Lord, abide forever, and Your name to all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come” (Ps. 102:12-13). read more
George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, is speaking out about the presidential elections in a new online video designed to offer guidance for Christians.
Wood, who recorded the video prior to Election Day, explains that no matter who won the election, the president now leads a country that is in the midst of multiple sharp social and economic challenges domestically and severe tensions internationally.
Using an acrostic gleaned from Jeremiah 29:7, Wood spells out a P.E.A.C.E. plan for how the Assemblies of God can influence the nation in a godly direction—including Prayer, Evangelism, Action for the common good, Civility and Example.
After encouraging routine fervent prayer for leaders, Wood takes time to clearly state that although being politically active is important, it is not to be a Christian's priority: "The mission of the church is to 'make disciples of all nations' (Matthew 28:19), not to 'win an elections in all voting precincts.'" He goes on to encourage Christians to be known as soul-winners and discipleship-makers. read more
When the votes were counted and it was clear Barack Obama had been re-elected, I felt a profound sense of sadness. That's because from my worldview as a charismatic Christian, Obama's policies represent everything wrong with America.
He claims to be a Christian and he seems to be a fine family man. The one time I met him he seemed thoroughly likable. But Obama favors policies such as same-sex marriage and abortion on-demand. In addition, his policies seem to be eroding religious liberties at every turn.
He has been a weak leader by almost every measure—his taxing policies hurt an already weak economy; he promised many things he didn’t come close to delivering; and, from what I can tell, he not only botched protecting our consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, but then lied about the fact the attack was by a mob angered by an anti-Islamic video rather than by terrorists. read more
The outcome of the 2012 presidential election reinforces the fact that what America needs the most is not a political movement driven by expediency and agendas of man but a prophetic movement driven by the impetus of the cross.
Accordingly, the outcome of the 2012 election speaks to a fragmented Bible-believing community where ethnic followers of Christ validated the donkey while white evangelicals supported the elephant. We need a new narrative that will bring both groups together.
To that respect, I am convinced more than ever that the only agenda that can save America and unite the body is not the agenda of the donkey or the elephant but the agenda of the Lamb.
The agenda of the Lamb is one of righteousness and justice. We need a multi-ethnic kingdom culture cross-driven movement that will reconcile Billy Graham's message with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march. In other words, we need a movement committed to protecting life and alleviating poverty, defending marriage and doing justice in the name of Jesus. It can no longer be either or, it must be both-and.
In order to protect our Judeo-Christian value system, defend the image of God in every human being (in and out of the womb), secure religious freedom, reform the culture, transform our political discourse and usher in a new awakening, we must reconcile truth with love, conviction with compassion, sanctification with service and holiness with humility.
Finally, as many pro-life biblical worldview Christians fight off the effects of post-election stress disorder, let us not forget that God is still on the throne. At the end of the day, our objective is to convey to America one simple message; Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of mankind. Behold the Lamb! read more
My feelings, following the results of the 2012 presidential race, are not predicated on the relative merits or either candidate. They are borne with facts that are true of Americans' lives at this time in the 21st century; some of which are flavored by choices by our seated president's words and actions, but not without difficulties that may be attributed to either of our presidential candidates or their parties. In short, our vulnerabilities and weaknesses as a nation—economically, spiritually, morally or otherwise, have a deeper root than the failures of human management or policy.
It is in the light of that preamble that I make this statement: The re-election of President Obama is yet another landmark of history that reveals the inevitable flow of events which increase in depth and spread when the church mistakes its mission. As one incident, the election outcome holds the portent of being a prophetic announcement of the impending end of the significance of the church in America, unless ...
... Unless a reawakening of Christ's body in America occurs, which heeds the "first of all" priority Paul, by the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 2:1-2), assigned to the church's ministry of prayer and intercession for leaders, peoples and nations, no administration or political party will be capable of a solution to our nation's essential problems. read more
I did not vote for Barack Obama. I am almost ashamed to admit I voted for a Mormon.
Until two weeks ago I decided not to vote at all, knowing as I do that Mormonism is shrouded in the demonic. But I rationalized that our national debt—and trend away from family values—warranted my vote for Mitt Romney.
In any case, Barack Obama won by a far greater majority than most of us predicted. It is my view that the Monster Storm had something to do with this. That said, God (for some reason) has allowed for President Obama to be our president for another four years. read more
I’m writing this at 9 p.m. on election night, so I don’t know who’s going to win, but by the time you read this, you’ll probably know. I’m watching people meltdown on Twitter and Facebook, and it’s making me think about the relationship between politics and culture. No matter who wins, many of my readers will be thrilled, and just as many will be depressed. Either way, it’s worth remembering Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher’s quote: “Let me write the songs of a nation: I don’t care who writes its laws.”
Whatever happens with the election, if you’re an artist, filmmaker, pastor, writer, teacher, business person, leader – whatever, keep moving forward. Create. Spark visions. Inspire people. Speak the truth. The influence of culture is far more significant and life-changing than whoever sits in the White House.
Politics are important, no question. The direction of the country, the national debt, and national security are all critical issues. But as Confucius said: “To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
Start where you are, and make change happen. As R.R. Reno said in the magazine “First Things”: “At the end of the day, elections don’t shape or influence our cultural imaginations. It’s worth remembering that the future of America will turn on culture, not politics: the poetry of our moral and social imaginations, not punditry. So by all means vote, but don’t neglect the real and deeper sources of public life.”
Now get back out there in the fray and start creating … read more
I am not in the least bit discouraged with the outcome of the presidential elections, and I write these words with faith in the presence of God.
Without a doubt, I have grave concerns about where our nation could be heading under four more years of President Obama and I grieve over the steady erosion of our liberties.
I am burdened by the deepening division within our country and troubled over real questions about our relationship with Israel along with issues concerning our national security. And I am pained by the fact that, for the first time, Americans voted to redefine marriage and make it genderless (and we did in all four states where this was on the ballot). read more
Prayer warriors targeted the 2012 U.S. presidential elections with a fervent spirit and faith to see America return to God. From churches to houses of prayer to solemn assemblies—petitions for a leader who would govern our nation according to the Judeo-Christian values upon which it was founded went forth day and night.
Although I didn’t literally see anyone in sackcloth and ashes, I saw thousands rending their hearts instead of their garments. I witnessed the remnant in deep repentance over the sins of our nation. I watched as denominations, races and ethnicities united together with no other agenda beyond walking out 2 Chronicles 7:14.
And yet we woke up this morning with a president who strongly supports legalized abortion on demand and same-sex marriage. Some may be asking, “How can this be? We humbled ourselves. We prayed. We sought His face …” Second Chronicles assures us that if we do those things He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land. Yes, but that Scripture doesn’t promise healing begins by replacing a pro-gay, pro-abortion president with a moderate Mormon who happens to ascribe to strong family values. read more
Editor’s Note: The below article responds to the Rev. Dennis Dillon, publisher of The Christian Times, who recently wrote an article called, “Why Christians Should Vote for Barack Obama.” Mr. Dillon mentioned Bishop Mattera by name, attempting to rebut the Bishop’s piece, “Why Do So Many Believers Shun Biblical Values While Voting?”
Before I respond to Mr. Dillon, let me preface it by saying that I do not like using a pen to debate someone who calls himself a brother. I would rather be face-to-face. Despite our disagreements, I trust that he is an honorable man who sincerely believes that he best represents Christ. But because the article he published singling me out and encouraging Christians to vote for Barack Obama was both theologically ignorant and politically naive, I must respond.
I love sitting in the front row. It’s been my vantage point at church for about 30 years now. Whether turning around to view everyone, going out and ministering to the people, standing to preach or watching our congregation do a processional for offerings or communion, I love seeing the people God has entrusted to our care. I remember how my heart would swell with love and pride for each person who would come to the front and pass by for those processionals.
As a pastor, you love your flock. You want the best for them. You desire and pray for each member that God has placed in your care to be strong in the faith, walk with Christ, hear His voice, understand and apply God’s Word to their lives, know their unique calling and gifting, and effectively minister to others—especially by helping new believers grow and by reaching out to this lost and dying world. read more
As evangelist Billy Graham prepares to celebrate his 94th birthday on Nov. 7, he has been reflecting on the previous year and preparing for what God has in store for him during his 95th year on the planet.
"I never expected I would live this long, outliving my beloved wife Ruth as well as many friends and loved ones," Mr. Graham said. "I believe God must still have a purpose for keeping me here, and I look forward to seeing what that might be."
Graham continues to be called upon to provide perspective on world events and the spiritual state of our nation, especially heading into a presidential election. He has encouraged all Americans to join him in praying for our country and its leaders during this critical time. He regularly prays for the president, those who are currently in office, and those who are seeking to lead our nation into the future.
When Jim Garlow found out his wife had more than 100 tumors, he sat at home alone and wept. As he looked around the house, everything reminded him of Carol.
How can I stand? How can I live life? How can I make it? Garlow asked himself. “I resolved that whatever happens, nothing impugns the love of God. If anything tragic happens to my wife it is not because God willed it. Because of the rebellion and the cumulative impact of sin, the world is filled with heartache, pain, sickness, disease and death.”
Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., has been fighting for his marriage since Carol was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. Carol’s diagnosis came just weeks before a group of pastors gathered at Skyline to organize a historic battle for traditional marriage via Proposition 8. read more
Are you missing the most essential part of sermon prep?
That God would call a man from the hills of Kentucky to England's Westminster Chapel is one of the great incongruities of church history. I was honored to serve at that famed church from 1977 to 2002. In fact, every time I ascended that lofty pulpit, I pinched myself. Yet it was both a preacher's dream and a pastor's nightmare. The dream: All I had to do was prepare sermons and preach them. The nightmare: Being a good pastor from the pulpit only. John Calvin once said he would as soon enter the pulpit undressed as unprepared—and, believe me, the Westminster pulpit is one platform you do not want to enter having not done your homework. read more
He knows it’s not his to bear alone, but in his sphere of influence—which happens to be the City of Brotherly Love—the pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church can’t help but see lost souls all across Philadelphia.
“The burden of lostness,” is how Williams describes his passion most succinctly. “My vision is to share that burden of lostness.”
So when Williams heard about the nationwide outreach My Hope with Billy Graham, he did not hesitate to jump on board.
That “burden of lostness” was burning inside of him more than ever. read more
Where do you go when you need information fast? Like millions around the world, I go straight to Wikipedia, the world’s largest free online encyclopedia.
The “wiki” part of Wikipedia is from a Hawaiian word meaning “quick.” While it may seem as though Wikipedia has had quick success, it was actually a bit of an accident.
In 2000 Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger started an online encyclopedia called Nupedia. The goal was for it to include contributions written only by experts. Before an article could be posted on Nupedia, it had to go through an extensive scholarly review process. That strategy proved to be painstakingly slow. read more
That was the climate this particular morning and exactly how I like it when headed out for a walk. My then-2-year-old son, Jude, loved our walks for many reasons, but particularly for the thrill and excitement of the downhill runs in his stroller. These hills couldn’t come soon enough for him.
We had barely left when Jude yelled, “Let’s go faster!” Pointing to the uphill crest in front of us, he leaned forward in enthusiastic anticipation. I looked at the graduating elevation before me and realized he had his directions mixed up. An incline wouldn’t give him the speed he was looking for; the hill had to turn in the opposite direction. Sure, we could gain some speed, but it would be more difficult (certainly for me, the one pushing). What he wanted would be best achieved when this uphill journey pointed down. read more
The need for the nation to pray about her problems would be high on my grandmother's to-do list. In fact, she often said, “Prayer changes things!” As a black woman who was also part Native American, she was very proud to achieve the status of licensed practical nurse.
She was a natural caregiver whose profession was simply an extension of the way her mother before her had lived out her faith—visiting the sick and shut-ins her church. Her generation saw America change because of a non-violent civil rights movement that was fueled by civil disobedience and the power of prayer. Her personal life also changed because of prayer and faithfulness.
In fact, she lived long enough to see her four daughters and her 15 grandchildren all graduate from college. Two of us even attended a prestigious Ivy League graduate school, with one of her grandsons becoming the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. read more
After 37 years of covering most of the world’s major ministries, I believe Joyce Meyer’s is one of the best.
We were honored to have Joyce as the guest editor for Ministry Today’s September/October issue. When I became aware of her enormous outreach, I asked if she’d be willing to tell how her family and ministry have made such a huge impact through their missions efforts, both domestically and overseas, as well as their commitment to a lifestyle of radical generosity.
I wondered if she’d say yes. After all, she has one of the largest ministries in America. With her ongoing teaching and travel schedule, along with leading a global ministry, she’s obviously in high demand. In addition, she has the ability to get out her message through her own media. read more
When it comes to engaging in public policy and challenging today’s culture, some of the least successful strategies are ones built around criticism. The growing number of churches and ministries that are constantly “against something” is a disturbing trend.
Every month, I see an avalanche of direct-mail campaigns and magazine articles by organizations upset about the latest movie, court decision, TV show and cartoon series, or mad at the homosexual community or some other special interest group.
But while a healthy debate is the cornerstone of a vibrant democracy, the truth is, just being critical creates very little change. After all, as Christians, we of all people should be known as being for something. read more
Do you know Jesus? Do you really? Following the recent unveiling of a papyrus fragment in which Jesus reportedly says, "my wife," many historians are now questioning what people know about the life of Jesus.
Aside from the bearded, longhaired, Sunday-school image of Jesus, a new poll reveals that Americans are not at all familiar with the impactful life of this man.
According to the poll, most people do not grasp Jesus' influence on culture despite recognizing His image some 2,000 years after his death. Sixty-six percent believe Jesus is the most-recognized figure in history, but most were not able to correctly answer questions regarding His influence. read more
Why churches, not business or government, are best suited to help the needy
In today’s culture it’s easy to think that the only way to solve the overwhelming challenges we face is either through innovative business or big government. Yet the reality is that the church, despite its faults, is still God’s chosen instrument of blessing and has been for 2,000 years.
When senior pastor Rick Warren began rethinking Saddleback Church’s missions strategy, which led to the PEACE Plan, he realized the body of Christ has several advantages over the efforts of business and government to help those in need. He saw that:
1. The church provides the largest participation.More than 2 billion people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. That’s one-third of the world’s population! In the U.S., about 100 million people went to church last weekend. That’s more than all who will attend sporting events this year in the U.S.
2. The church provides the widest distribution. The church is everywhere. You could visit villages all around the world that don’t have a school, clinic, hospital, fire department, post office or business. But they have a church. We are more widely spread—or distributed—than any business franchise in the world.
Consider this: The Red Cross noted that 90 percent of the meals it served to victims of Hurricane Katrina were cooked by Southern Baptist churches. Many churches were able to act faster than government agencies or the Red Cross.
3. The church provides the fastest expansion.Did you know that 60,000 new people a day come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? That means thousands of new churches will be started throughout the world today—and tomorrow and the next day.
Why is fast expansion important? One reason is, if a problem is growing rapidly, then a solution is needed that will grow even faster. For instance, HIV/AIDS is growing incredibly fast worldwide. Yet the church is outgrowing the disease, so more and more believers can help minister to the victims.
4. The church provides the highest motivation. Why do any of us do what we do in ministry? Not to make money or a name for ourselves. We do it out of love. Jesus stated it as the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, NKJV). We wouldn’t do the hard work required to tackle these global giants if it were for money or fame. It just wouldn’t be worth it. We’d quit before we finished.
5. The church provides the strongest authorization. God authorized us to take on global giants such as spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. So the outcome is guaranteed to be successful.
When you know God authorized you to do something, you don’t worry about failure because God doesn’t sponsor flops. If God says we’re going to do it, then it’s going to happen. In fact, God will give us His power to complete the task. This is God’s way: ordinary people empowered by His Spirit.
6. The church provides the simplest administration.The way the church is organized, it networks faster and with less bureaucracy than most governmental agencies or even well-meaning charities. The old wineskin of “command and control” won’t work well in the 21st century. The organization of the future is the “network.” And there’s no better worldwide network than the church, where every member is a minister empowered by God.
Consider it this way: Tens of millions of Christians in millions of small groups within churches around the world can take on the global giants with no other authority than Jesus Christ’s. We have God’s permission and God’s command to do it. There is no need to seek permission from anyone else.
It is a great privilege to be called, as we are, to lead our local churches. Like mine, your church is a vital part of the greatest force on earth—the church; God’s chosen instrument of blessing for every nation and people. God has given us an awesome responsibility, but He wouldn’t have placed us where we are if He didn’t believe we could handle the task.
Tom Holladay is associate senior pastor at Saddleback Church, where he has served for almost 21 years, and assists senior pastor Rick Warren in teaching Purpose Driven church conferences to Christian leaders worldwide. He is the author of The Relationship Principles of Jesus (Zondervan) and has a daily podcast, “Drivetime Devotions,” at drivetimedevotions.com. read more
Check out some links below to recent stories from Charisma News that you'll find interesting and informative. You can also sign up to receive stories on your smart phone by signing up for the free Charisma News app by clicking here.
Check out some links below to recent stories from Charisma News that you'll find interesting and informative. You can also sign up to receive stories on your smart phone by signing up for the free Charisma News app by clicking here.
Six ways to better represent the diversity of your community
Many Christians in the Western World have confused culturally determined expressions of the Christian faith with the faith itself.”
That quote from analyst Christian Schwarz, leader of the Natural Church Development movement, is all too telling. As our world becomes more diverse, we’ll need to examine our own “culturally determined expressions” of Christianity in light of the gospel.
Much of what we believe in the United States simply doesn’t make sense in other countries, which tells me we haven’t found a spiritual truth, but rather a Western approach to life. One of those areas, I believe, is our approach to leadership, specifically our leadership criteria.
I doubt I have to tell you that your town or city is becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse by the day. Below are some ways your church can begin to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of its neighborhood and empower people from diverse walks of life to become the people God created them to be:
1) Diversify your leadership. Look around. Who is on your staff? A bunch of middle-aged white men? If you’re in a culturally diverse neighborhood—and you care about reaching the people in that neighborhood—consider looking for leaders with which your community can identify the next time you fill a staff position.
2) Recruit young. When you put young people into ministry, you plant seeds for your church’s future. The young people in your church already understand cultural diversity. Their schools are culturally and ethnically diverse. Train them as ministers, and they will make a difference.
3) Create opportunities for leadership. Proactively look for and discover the talents and giftings of the people God has placed in your church. Get to know those who aren’t currently serving in ministry. Create, or better yet, empower them to create and lead ministries that match their passion and vision.
4) Tell the story. You know those giant screens in your sanctuary? Use them to share people’s stories. Tell the story of a guy in recovery (make sure he’s in a stable place) or the mom who didn’t think she could make it. Help the people in your congregation get to know each other outside the Sunday morning arm pump.
5) Work together. If cultural diversity has some real kickback in your church, start with the men. Enlist some of your key male leaders to be on a work team with other men from a different socio-economic grouping and ask them to work together for a few months. My experience has been that as groups work side-by-side and get to know each other, unity develops. Check back regularly to ensure cultural differences haven’t become the focus of the group.
6) Connect with the neighborhood. Sometimes the real problem is that your congregation isn’t a good representation of the neighborhood. If the people in your church are commuting and the people of the neighborhood are sleeping in on Sunday, you need to create opportunities for people in the neighborhood to feel welcomed. Find ways to celebrate what makes your neighborhood unique by connecting with the community and discovering their concerns.
God put your church in your location for a reason. He isn’t surprised that the neighborhood has changed; in fact, He wants to help you reach this new, diverse group of people. Leadership in mixed cultural situations can be challenging, but communication and an understanding of the strength that diversity brings will help you create a firm foundation for growth now and in the months and years to come.
Your first step is to take an honest, hard look at the makeup of your church leadership, your congregation and the surrounding neighborhood. Does your leadership reflect the congregation? Is your congregation a fair representative of the community? Take these disparities to prayer and discover God’s starting point for your unique situation.Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor working primarily in urban areas. She has a master’s in Theology from Fuller Seminary and is a contributor to Linked2Leadership.com. Connect with her on her blog Deepimprints.com and on Twitter @KimMartinez. read more
A divine plan for propelling us onto new spiritual plateaus
Bright and sunny with a soft breeze.
That was the climate this particular morning and exactly how I like it when headed out for a walk. My then-2-year-old son, Jude, loved our walks for many reasons, but particularly for the thrill and excitement of the downhill runs in his stroller. These hills couldn’t come soon enough for him.
We had barely left when Jude yelled, “Let’s go faster!” Pointing to the uphill crest in front of us, he leaned forward in enthusiastic anticipation. I looked at the graduating elevation before me and realized he had his directions mixed up. An incline wouldn’t give him the speed he was looking for; the hill had to turn in the opposite direction. Sure, we could gain some speed, but it would be more difficult (certainly for me, the one pushing). What he wanted would be best achieved when this uphill journey pointed down.
I assured him that on the other side of the summit, where the curve of the paved road seemed to meet with the sky, he’d get what he wanted—a full-speed race down to the bottom. A downhill journey would set the perfect stage for maximum momentum to occur.
Where We Find Full-Speed Faith
“Things are looking up.”
That’s what we say when the downturns of life reverse direction. We much prefer the “uphill” portions of our journey—the seasons where things are headed in a positive trend. None of us would likely choose the more difficult “down” times over the easier to manage—or at least easier to accept—rise of the “up” ones.
Yet time and again, experience shows us that spiritual momentum and full-speed faith are often best achieved when things are looking down. Somehow, when our days and details are not going in a way we’d prefer, eagerness in our seeking and searching for God picks up the pace and intensifies in speed.
To be clear, we can most certainly experience spiritual growth when things are going well. Thank the Lord that difficulty is not a requirement for discipleship. But in our quest for happiness and ease, could we be sacrificing the spiritual growth we deeply desire on the fleeting altar of good times? Is it possible that in our drastic attempts to keep ourselves and our loved ones from experiencing the “downs,” we are being robbed, and robbing others, of the optimum environment for spiritual speed to be gathered, distance to be covered, endurance and character to developed, and quickened faith to be cemented into place?
Scripture says it this way: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy ... your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow” (James 1:2-4, NLT).
Maybe, instead of merely detesting the “down times,” we can also be expectant of the high-speed work God is preparing to do in us while we’re passing through adversity. Maybe, just maybe, the warp speed with which He wants to propel us to the next dimension of our callings will be best achieved on this side of the hill of life.
We can and must address and encourage each other through harsh realities, yes, and we can also count it as our privilege to make our requests for His intervention in our lives known. But we must also have the sting of joyful and holy fervor that reminds us our more difficult days are propelling us onto new spiritual plateaus. Somehow, through this, we start trusting more fully, believing more abundantly, expecting more wholly and our hearts start percolating with a newfound spiritual passion.
Things looking down, my friend? I pray that things will look up again soon. But until then, lean forward into the fast and furious winds of grace and prepare for the ride of your life.
Priscilla Shirer is a Bible teacher who speaks nationwide. She has written multiple books, including A Jewel in His Crown. With her husband, Jerry, she founded Going Beyond Ministries. For more information, visit her blog at goingbeyond.com or follow her on Twitter@PriscillaShirer. read more
Are your sermons as well-lived as they are well-studied?
Afew years ago I played hooky from our Saturday night service and hit the ski slopes with my son, Parker. It was the last weekend of the ski season, so it was our last chance to go after a life goal we share in common: learning to snowboard. It was an amazing day, but one moment is frozen in my mind forever. We were riding up the chair lift when I had an epiphany. I realized that my life had completely revolved around National Community Church for the better part of a decade. In one respect, that's the price you pay when you plant a church. But it was as if the Holy Spirit said in no uncertain terms: "Get a life!" Let me be blunt: If your life is boring your sermons will be too. If you have no life outside of church—no hobbies, no friends, no interests, no goals—your illustrations will feel canned, your ap-plications theoretical instead of practical and your sermons will be lifeless instead of life-giving. read more
John Adams once said that “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”
What a time to live in when you constantly hear about Stage 4 cancer getting healed, missing limbs growing back, marriages being restored, deaf ears opening up, blind eyes now seeing, cancellation of debt, children’s hearts turning back to their parents.
The church has a unique and tremendous opportunity to see the kingdom of God continue to touch our world in our time and to see it increase in the next generation. It’s important that we live our lives in such a way that will set up a generation we will never see for success. read more
One trip to Israel was all it took to make me repriotize my life and ministry
After 19 years of international ministry, a weekly television broadcast, establishing a consultancy for pastors and other initiatives, I have experienced something that has caused me to entirely rethink my approach to ministry and also my theology. It has changed the way I prioritize, the way I preach and the way I pastor. This life-changing encounter was with the land of Israel.
After sailing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, standing in the Garden of Gethsemane and peering into the field where the battle of Armageddon is to take place, I realized that much of my ministry had been based upon personal introspection—what I had read and what other scholars had interpreted. Moreover, we often allow English grammatical rules to interpret biblical text and biblical culture.
However, Western theology often opposes Eastern thought. For instance, the Western mind argues the truth; thus we have so many denominations and different reformations. But the Eastern mind simply obeys the truth. In the past, this difference in approach would have inhibited me from fully absorbing the Scriptures. But my trip to this unique place changed all that. I can now personally identify with Naaman the leper who took soil from Jerusalem back to his native land of Syria, so that he could stand upon it and worship the God of Israel. read more
Eight reasons Christians need to be active in standing with Israel
We as leaders find ourselves in a sobering moment in history, which calls us to take a stand with God’s covenants in the earth. It is our responsibility to do kingdom business until He comes (Luke 19:13).
More than 10 years ago, Robert Stearns asked me to join him in encouraging Christians to pray every year on the same day for the peace of Jerusalem. It is a daunting task to stir the global church to unity in prayer, but the millions of believers who now do just that the first Sunday of every October are proof that God’s grace is on this important issue.
The most essential things I could hope to pass on to the next generation of church leadership are these several reasons for standing with Israel: read more
What my grandfather taught me about the essentials of ministry
Publisher’s Note from Steve Strang: Jamie Buckingham had a huge impact on my life and on our organization. He encouraged me to start Ministry Today and wrote in it many times. He served as editor for several years before his untimely death in February 1992. We recognize his ongoing legacy with this article. You can read more about Jamie Buckingham, and enjoy some of his best articles in a special online tribute at ministrytodaymag.com/jamie
It has now been 20 years since my grandfather, Jamie Buckingham, passed away. I cherish the 11 short years I had with him. He inspired me to pursue a life in ministry, for which I am very thankful.
Jamie was a unique man, and consequently a unique pastor. He often spoke and wrote about the various traits and the type of character required of those who have been called into ministry. They remain relevant for leaders today, and I am pleased to be able to share some of them with you to honor his memory.
Be real.Jamie often preached and wrote about his many flaws, citing specific examples of ways he had fallen short. He discovered how God could work in those imperfections to give encouragement to others. Living and preaching like this takes a lot of courage (and, according to my grandmother, requires permission from your spouse), but it allows you to experience an intimacy with others you might not otherwise find. read more
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