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Because He First Rescued Us

Why grasping God’s sacrifice compels a radical response      to injustice

I bolted upright in bed, tears stinging my eyes and sweat drenching my hair. The shrill screams for help still rang in my ears. Instinctively, I cried out, “We’re coming for you!” But there was no response, only silence. These girls were in my dreams now.

Anyone who’s a first responder will tell you they encounter things they can never “un-see.” First responders—paramedics, firefighters, law enforcement and medics—observe human suffering up close, sometimes too close. When instinct says to look away, these heroes zoom in on the pain. Years later, many can still see the faces and hear the screams. Tragedy and injustice are not easily forgotten.

Over the past four years, my husband, Nick, and I have learned that firsthand. After seeing “tragedy” I couldn’t ignore any longer, Nick and I became first responders, founding The A21 Campaign in 2008 to help fight human trafficking in Eastern Europe. Until then, like most people, we had kept a safe distance—unsettled by the idea of modern-day slavery, but not yet upended. 

With little knowledge and a lot of passion, we began to zoom in on the pain and quickly learned that sex trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year industry and the world’s fastest-growing organized crime today, second only to drug trafficking.  

What we saw was astonishing. I couldn’t get away from it, not even when I slept. I still can’t.

When you meet a young girl who was burned and whipped by her captors, you don’t forget that. When a hollow-eyed survivor asks softly, “Why didn’t you come sooner?” you don’t forget that. When a woman is so traumatized from abuse that she can no longer speak, you don’t forget that. 

Like I said, some things you can never un-see.

A Holy    Resistance

These images—these people—are a part of me now. They remind me that atrocities aren’t confined to history books; they slip off the pages and crawl into our local communities. If no one stands against them, they will rehearse their evil practices of the past. 

There must be a holy resistance. I believe that resistance is the church.

Today, more than ever, I’ve come to realize that the battle against injustice is not a calm fight. Evil is not solved; it must be overwhelmed.

That means we, as the church, must embrace a level of radical behavior that makes many people in the church uncomfortable. But when I read the Gospels and the stories of how Jesus identified and fought evil, I can’t help but think, Isn’t “radical” what we were originally called to be? Isn’t that how the church was founded—with radical Christians who had walked with Jesus, watching Him breathe life into the dead, refute the Pharisees and ultimately give His life? 

They heard firsthand Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The early church defied tyrants, demolished prejudices, overran obstacles and outlasted persecution.

When I read the stories in Scripture, I’m overwhelmed with evidence that the church was never intended to be a safe place, but rather a saving place. As He prepared the disciples for ministry—those who would build His church—Jesus told them, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV).

The early church of the book of Acts was a constant center of activity—a movement, not a museum. The church was created to be active and alive. When the church is working like Christ mandated, it is as much a verb as it is a noun—loving, moving, building, comforting, charging, rescuing.

A Kingdom Fight

Our work to abolish human trafficking is a simple exercise in this radical behavior. We are the arms of the church. One arm fights violently against the devil, while the other arm extends healing to those the devil has tried to destroy.

And we’re not doing it alone. The church is rising up and fulfilling its call. Every shelter that has been built and every girl that has been rescued are direct results of the generosity of the saints of God and the local church. 

Radical generosity is making a radical difference in Eastern Europe. We’re seeing it firsthand.

It’s astounding to think of what God has done over the last four years. Together with ministries such as Joyce Meyer Ministries’ Hand of Hope, we are rescuing women from some of the worst environments imaginable. 

With shelters in Greece, Ukraine and Bulgaria, we are infiltrating the very heart of darkness and exposing the enemy’s evil. I call these shelters the point of the sword, fighting human trafficking on its own turf—prying victims from their tormentors’ grip.

However, we know the battle against human trafficking won’t be won through rescues. We need a long-term, sustainable solution. 

That’s why in addition to building shelters, we’re raising awareness of the global sex trade, offering employment to those at risk, educating “clients” to the realities of what they are engaging in and offering transition programs so that no victim ever finds herself in that place again. We are in the schools, on the streets, working with the governments and constantly in prayer. 

Yet the strongest anointing isn’t in the fighting, but rather the extension of a radical, generous love to girls who had given up hope that such a thing could exist.

A Rescue Story

As I think about all of this, I’m reminded that God was the first on-scene responder. He saw us in our brokenness, He ran to our rescue, He simply couldn’t un-see our pain. We were forever on His mind. Throughout the Old Testament He called out, “I’m coming for you.”

The Bible is a rescue story. Before there was racial oppression or human trafficking, we were slaves to our own sin. We were beaten and battered, assailed and assaulted. But God saw us in our lowly state, and in His radical generosity sent a one-man rescue team to become a holy atonement for our sins, forever closing the gap between Him and us.

This example—our own rescue—inspires us to do the same for others. Whether you’re reaching out to underprivileged kids in the inner city, helping care for single mothers in your community, stocking the local food pantry or staring down human traffickers, it is all a response to the rescue you have already received.

I think about 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us” (NIV). That Scripture could just as easily read: “We rescue because He first rescued us.” This is the beauty of the church. Redeemed people, rescued people, sharing redemption with others.

I so love what my friend and mentor Joyce Meyer says about living out your faith. I can still hear her saying with her trademark passion and conviction, “You have to start somewhere. Just go do something for God!” Time and again, she has shown me that faith is more than a concept. Faith must be lived out loud. We can’t just talk about standing against injustice; we must do something about it.

The Great Opportunity

I have great hope for A21 and the church at large. I believe that God is raising up a generation of men and women who are passionate about living out their faith with a generosity that can change our culture and illuminate the darkest places. 

I believe an awakening is taking place. I see leaders who are running to the battle rather than sitting on the sidelines and watching things become progressively worse. On every continent of the globe, families are standing against injustice, cruelty and oppression.

But to be a leader during this time in history isn’t for the weak of heart. Binding up the brokenhearted and preaching freedom for the captive are as real for us as they were for Jesus 2,000 years ago. 

This isn’t a part-time endeavor, and it can’t be done from a distance. It requires on-site response. You have to zoom in on the pain.

For A21, this means finding real girls experiencing real pain in a really broken world. They aren’t someone else’s problem. They are our pursuit.

I always ask people who say they want to make a difference in the world around them today: “What is your pursuit?” When you understand that you have the great opportunity to live a life demonstrating the radical generosity of God’s love, it’s one of the most incredible and life-altering things you can experience.

And in the moments when you feel overwhelmed, or can’t sleep because of the call in front of you—when the names and the faces and the cries stay with you—don’t despair. Take heart. You’re in good company. Jesus understands your call. He feels your burden. He lies awake with you. Jesus is your rescuer, too.
Christine Caine travels the globe taking her messages of hope and inspiration to people around the world. She is a member of the leadership team at Hillsong Church (based in Sydney, Australia), and founder of The A21 Campaign. Caine lives with her husband, Nick, and their two daughters in Southern California. read more
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Loving Out Loud

The eternal impact of radically serving the community around you

I can remember being 20 years old, coming to Los Angeles with the goal of having a 24/7 church that would serve the local community’s needs. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I had no idea of the challenges ahead.

Coming from such a large church—Phoenix First Assembly of God, led by my father, Tommy Barnett—it was a bit of an adjustment to have just a few people show up to some of our earliest servicesv. Feeling defeated after an especially difficult night, I walked through the neighborhood, listening for the voice of God. 

That night, I saw people caught up in drug addiction, homelessness, prostitution. Just walking around, I could sense the turmoil and oppression. In that moment, God told me these broken people were my congregation, that my ministry was and would not be confined to a church building. Instead, this ministry would reach beyond walls and throughout the neighborhood. 

That night—and finding that calling—was a life-defining moment for me. read more

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Big 'H' or Little 'h'

Struggling with your next sermon? Make the intentional decision to listen for the heartbeat of Jesus.

We all have those times in ministry when it's just plain difficult. In the early days of my ministry and preaching, Saturdays and Mondays were those times for me.
Saturdays were spent struggling to find a verse, an illustration, a thought to share with the people that would show up at church the next morning to see and feel all my hard work. These were "pre-Internet" days, so by mid-morning I'd have 25 books spread out all over my floor just to find one nugget of truth.
The second-worst days were Mondays. After I had the time to let the damage I caused the day before sink in, Monday became a depressing day of "no one was changed, saved or transformed and even cared." And then realization set in that I got to do this again for the midweek service.
There has to be a better way, I thought. Over the years, I found one.
It all depended on what my "H" looked like. read more
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Preach It ... With More Than Just Feeling




Preaching. Countless people have done it and are doing it. And as we all know, there isn't just one way of doing it. When it comes to the work of proclamation, we have various strategies and styles—some healthier than others.

Three Common Approaches to Preaching
What I find most often among preachers is something close to one of the three following approaches. While each approach has value, they are not enough in and of themselves.

The inspired approach. We probably know this better as the "I had a word from the Lord" approach. In its best form, this approach reflects a preacher who has been impressed by the Holy Spirit concerning a particular truth in Scripture. It is, in a sense, first-person: "The Lord led me, and I want to tell you how He is leading." In some ways, it reminds us of 1 Peter 4:11: "If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God's words."

The danger here is that if we aren't binding ourselves to the Word of God, it isn't difficult to get off the path of truth and allow our hearts—which the Bible calls deceitful—to guide our preaching more than we allow Scripture to guide us. read more

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Power from on High

A FORMER NONBELIEVER IN THE BAPTISM AND GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT SHARES WHY THE ANOINTING OF GOD IS THE INDISPENSABLE COMPONENT FOR PREACHING POWER PREACHING

In His first sermon, Jesus told the people of Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel" (Luke 4:18). As with Jesus, so with us: There can be no authentic preaching of the gospel without the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
My 60-plus years of ministry can be divided into two parts. For the first 27 years of pastoral work, I was a hard-line nonbeliever in the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. My denomination insisted that miraculous works of the Spirit vanished when the Apostle John died, and I wrongly carried that error to my congregation.

A Hard Road to Spiritual Awakening
During that period I never saw an alcoholic, drug addict, suicidal person or someone suffering from similar problems miraculously deliv-ered by the power of God—nor did I expect it. It's difficult to think about and admit, but my ignorance of Scripture was extremely costly to me and my flock.
I'll never forget one particularly dark time. A young mother in our congregation, whom we all thought gentle and kind, loaded a gun, murdered her husband and three children, and committed suicide. At the time it was Atlanta's worst-ever murder-suicide. It's impossible to describe the horrific effect the tragedy had on a network of families, friends, neighbors and our church. read more

The Holy Spirit or Nothing


How the indispensable command to preach the third person of the Trinity empowers and breathes life into our churches
and world

O Spirit of the living God, Thou light and fire divine,
Descend upon Thy church once more, and make it truly Thine.
Fill it with love and joy and power, with righteousness and peace;
Till Christ shall dwell in human hearts, and sin and sorrows cease.
Teach us to utter living words of truth which all may hear,
The language all may understand when love speaks loud and clear;
Till every age and race and clime shall blend their creeds in one,
And earth shall form one family by whom Thy will is done.
         —A traditional Welsh hymn by Henry H. Tweedy

More than 50 years of ministry have produced several personal convictions expressed in this hymn and evidenced in Scripture. I want to be frank with you—especially those called to preach the gospel to the church: It is the Holy Spirit or nothing. No salvation; no holiness; no discernment; no power; no prayer; no miracles; no God.

If we are going to preach the gospel, honoring the third person of the Trinity is both necessary and inevitable. He is not just a phantom or an associate God—He is God here, God now, God where it counts. No one is saved without His work of conviction and conversion. No one develops holiness of heart without the Holy Spirit's continuing work. No one is empowered for witness and service apart from Him.

And while more than 150 specific works of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the New Testament, let's not forget that without the Spirit there would be no Bible—Old Testament or New Testament. R.T. Kendall declares that the Holy Spirit's greatest work is the Bible itself, having inspired those who wrote it.

Second Peter 1:20-21 reminds us: "Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God the message that came from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (NIV). read more

Word & Spirit to the People


What will it take to get back to preaching that results in people wanting to "talk about God"?


A pastor in Kentucky had only one sermon. Even though recall time was coming, he could not come up with a new message. But when the vote was taken, he got a unanimous recall.

The following year, he tried to improve but couldn't. He still had only one sermon.

"We better pack our belongings," he said to his wife. "They aren't going to keep us another year." read more

A Preacher’s Preacher

R.T. Kendall can preach with the best of them, yet it’s his gift of connecting knowledge to Spirit-empowered truth that truly sets him apart

 

Since we started having guest editors two years ago we’ve covered some important topics: integrity, giving, church growth, evangelism, prayer, leadership, social transformation and, most recently, revival and healing.

We’ve had some high-profile guest editors such as Reinhard Bonnke, Robert Morris, Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson and Dr. Mark Rutland. During these two years, Ministry Today has experienced a resurgence unlike anything in its nearly three-decade history. I’m grateful to these guest editors and for the response from readers like you.

Now we focus on an equally important topic for pastors:  preaching. To do so, we asked one of the best preachers of our generation—Dr. R.T. Kendall—to be guest editor.  read more

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Revival Involves Taking Risks

It’s 6 at night as I arrive home from a long day at work. I flip on the TV to catch the news. The commentator rattles off some of the day’s headlines: “The American economy is in serious trouble! President Obama and the Republicans can’t agree on the solution. With the declining economy, crime is increasing and poverty is on the rise. Internationally: Iran is threatening to destroy Israel ... the violent North Korean dictator has just died, leading to greater global uncertainty ... Egypt has turned violent ... There’s a growing threat of civil war in Iraq, and immorality seems to be at an all-time high.”


My heart wrenches with anxiety as the stories unfold. Get us out of here, Lord, I pray silently. Then suddenly, without warning, a thought stands erect like a brave soldier on the battlefield of my mind:Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Before I can process that verse, more soldiers begin to take their stand on the war-torn sands of my imagination; “Arise and shine for your light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold deep darkness covers the earth, deep darkness the people, but the Lord will rise upon you. His glory will be seen on you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising!” In a matter of seconds, other soldiers emerge, shouting their commands into the foxholes of my heart, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth; therefore, go and make disciples of all nations!”

Courage slowly seeps into my soul as I am reminded of our mandate and mission. We were never placed on this planet to reflect the culture; we’ve been called to transform it. The kingdom of God is to be cultivated within us so that it infects and affects the kingdoms around us, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God. read more

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Bethel Church: Bringing Heaven to Earth

I have heard about revival all my life. Raised in a Pentecostal church, I remember the older people longing for revivals they’d experienced or heard about—but I didn’t see much actual revival happening. The fires that had taken the message of the Holy Spirit around the world and birthed the Pentecostal movement had essentially diminished into a few glowing embers. Although the charismatic movement and the Jesus movement stoked those revival fires once again, it’s been 50 years since the charismatic renewal began, and many of those early ministries have dissipated or gone away.

The church and the world need revival more than ever. What the Bible teaches about miracles and healing is still true today. Unfortunately, the term revival has become synonymous with an extended meeting where there’s a lot of excitement and maybe TV coverage by GodTV. After all, what’s left of the famous Brownsville Revival of the 1990s? Or what about the Lakeland Revival that lasted only a few months before evangelist Todd Bentley self-destructed amid a wake of controversy? Is there any revival that is new, fresh, legitimate and lasting

The answer is yes. The Holy Spirit is still at work and moving powerfully today—particularly in the small town of Redding, Calif., where Bethel Church has been experiencing revival for more than 16 years now. read more

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