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Expectations

by Jamie Buckingham

The two stories were side by side on page one of the morning newspaper —both with daring headlines. One said, "SLAIN PASTOR'S DOUBLE LIFE ALLEGED." The other: "ACCUSED SHOPLIFTER WAS 'GOOD MINISTER.'

The first story was of an admired Methodist minister in Texas whose body had been found in the back of his van near the town where he pastored. He had been beaten and strangled. The police said there may have been a chance the 55-year old pastor had been living a dou-ble life and was deeply involved in drugs and illicit sex.

That was all the Dallas Morning News needed. They waited until Sunday—of course—and ran the article on page one. The second story told of a 41-year old Roman Catholic priest in Illinois who along with a 60-year old woman was ac-cused of stealing $9,000 worth of gold jewelry, books, greeting cards and other trivia at a shopping mail. The priest had been arrested Wednesday, but the Chicago papers waited until Sunday to print the story.

Our editor printed it alongside the first story in the Monday edition. Why this obsession on the part of newspaper editors to give extra publicity to ministers who are accused of going bad? In fact, anyone claiming to be a Christian runs the risk of newspaper crucifixion if it is discovered he is a sinner.

Several years ago when an elder in our church was accused of mishandling funds in his investment company, the story ap-peared on page one under the head "CHURCH ELDER ACCUSED." His misconduct, though, had absolutely nothing to do with his relationship with our church.

Recently a noted pornographic magazine printed photographs of a deceased congressman, showing him in compromising poses with a prostitute. The pornographer gleefully pointed out the congressman claimed to be a Christian. Is this obsession on the part of media people simply a battle of Good against Evil, with Evil doing everything it can to discredit God's people? Or is there something far deeper at work here? read more

Healing Life's Scars

by Jamie Buckingham

Scars are not evidence of imperfection; they are evidence of healing. Your scars glorify God.

In his book A Few Things I've Learned Since I Knew It All, Jerry Cook tells the story of his open-heart surgery. When he had his heart attack, Jerry was pastor of a large church in Oregon that believed in and practiced healing. During his recovery, a woman in his church asked him, "Were you embarrassed to have a heart attack?"

Jerry replied that he was not embarrassed. But the woman was. She was unable to handle the totality of life's experiences--including the fact that pain and suffering are real.

Later, after he recovered, Jerry had a visit from a man who was fearfully facing the prospect of his own bypass surgery. "I want to see your scars," the man said shyly.

Jerry took off his shirt. The man gently traced with his finger the violet scar that ran vertically down Jerry's chest.

The man went on, "The doctor says the most painful part of the operation will be the surgery on my legs. They're going to take out veins from my calf to use in the heart bypass. Looking up at Jerry, he asked, "Can I see your legs?"

Jerry rolled up his pants. The man got on his knees. Without shame, he put his hands on Jerry's legs, touching the scars with his finger. When he rose to his feet there were tears in his eyes.

"Thank you. Now I have hope." Seeing and touching the scars gave him hope for survival.

Easter night Jesus appeared to His disciples. They were frightened and thought He was a ghost.

"Look at my hands and my feet," He said. "Touch Me and see" (Luke 24:39, NIV).

Thomas was not in the room that night. Later he wanted to see His scars. Again Jesus obliged: "Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe" (John 20:27).

Jesus understands our need to see, to touch the scars. When we do we know we can survive.

Sometimes our lives get scarred. And sometimes we're embarrassed because of the scars. We think they are ugly--evidence of imperfection.

Scars, though, are not evidence of imperfection; they are evidence of healing. Scars glorify God, who has brought us through. read more

Remembering Jamie Buckingham

by Steve Strang

For February, we will focus our Ministry Today website and e-newsletter on the life and work of Jamie Buckingham. He was not only one of the most influential leaders in the charismatic renewal for many years, but was the editor of Ministry Today at his untimely death in February 1992—nearly 20 years ago.

Jamie, who died from cancer at age 59, was senior pastor of the 2,000-member Tabernacle Church in Melbourne, Fla., a nondenominational church he founded in 1967. He wrote more than 40 books, among them the biographies of charismatic leaders Kathryn Kuhlman (Daughter of Destiny), Nicky Cruz (Run Baby Run) and Pat Robertson (Shout It From the Housetops).

Join us as we celebrate the life and legacy of this great man who was also my friend and mentor. As we pay tribute to Jamie this month, please feel free to send us anything about Jamie or his influence on your life. You can send them to our staff editor Eric Tiansay (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

Thank you to those who have already contacted us about Jamie's impact on their life, including Grant Hansen, who emailed us from Boronia—a suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

"I read Jamie's book To Soar Like An Eagle," wrote Grant, whose family attends Planet Shakers City Church in Melbourne. "It was very inspirational. He was very transparent about his life and his mistakes in marriage, etc. He was very encouraging. Praise God for such a man." read more

A Cultural Exchange

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

America needs to hear the voice of the black church today.

With the success of such movies as The Passion of the Christ, the gospel is touching people we Christians never expected to reach. God seems to be creating a "new pulpit" from which His Word will be preached.

The unprecedented harvest we face as a result will require a new kind of church to disciple those He draws to Himself. This "new church" must have a proven track record of serving the suffering while remaining in step with the culture, and it must be strategic in its thinking as well as leadership-driven.

These attributes are already operative in the nation's best black churches. America has to be wise enough to use the black church as a resource.

Think about it this way. In 1619, one year before the Pilgrims arrived on these shores, boats such as the Amistad came carrying African slaves to the New World.

The slaves originally were not consumed with visions of the kingdom of God. Their goal was to survive, and their dream was to return home.

Yet many of them had life-changing encounters with Christ. Those who accepted Jesus became unlikely missionaries in our land, strategically placed by God in a hostile environment that would drive them into intimacy with the Lord.

This intimacy is still notable in African-American culture today. Black adults are nearly twice as likely as any other ethnic group to read the Bible during a typical week. Blacks are more likely to evangelize and share their faith. Black adults are 50 percent more likely than white adults to strongly affirm that the Bible is totally accurate in everything it teaches. read more

Remember the Poor

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

God desires to lavish His mercy on the needy of the land.

The church's responsibility to address the plight of the poor is fundamental to biblical faith. From the Bible, we understand that God hears the cry of the poor. Israel's deliverance from Egypt is a powerful example of God's justice on behalf of the needy (see Ex. 2:23-24; Ps. 68:8-10).

Old Testament law structured the life of Israel so that the poor could be touched by His love. Many special privileges were given to the landless poor (see Deut. 23:24-25). In fact, every seventh year financially weakened neighbors were given large amounts of food with dignity. Exodus 23:11 says emphatically: "But during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it" (NIV).

In addition, creditors were instructed to cancel the debts of their neighbors in the seventh year (see Deut. 15:1-2). This concept has made its way into American law. Our credit history in the United States is reported only in seven-year increments.

God desires to lavish His mercy on the needy of the land. Prov. 28:27 says boldly, "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing." Yet the verse doesn't stop there. It promises a penalty to those who overlook the needy: "But he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."

I don't want the curses. I want to walk in the goodness of God that I see in Prov. 19:17: "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given" (NKJV).

When talking about the needs of the poor, believers often quote John 12:8, "For the poor you have with you always," as a quick response to appeals for offerings earmarked for the needy. This statement on Jesus' part was not a cynical denunciation of the abilities of the poor. Jesus knew the hardness of men's hearts. His words reflected His recognition of the choices of men and society. read more

Seize the Moment

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

Historically, revivals have brought both spiritual and social change. Although the Azusa Street Revival influenced the known world of its day more than 100 years ago, most modern scholars agree that it could have had a more powerful and lasting effect on America. Unfortunately, its major purposes were never fully understood in 1906.

The concept that a revival can "misfire" or achieve only a fraction of its intended purpose is seen in Matthew 23:37-38 when Jesus said: "'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate'" (NKJV). In that passage, Jesus was lamenting that though God had sent prophets with a revival message of deliverance, the word went unheeded. If they had responded, the Lord could have taken Jerusalem to higher spiritual ground and protected its inhabitants from calamity.

Throughout U.S. history, God has sent at least one major revival each century to help the nation navigate into His deeper purposes. The First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s brought most Americans into a unified understanding of the Christian faith. Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians flourished alongside more established denominations as the church demonstrated spiritual unity without conformity and persecution.

This revived Christian community developed a burden for education, and founded colleges to equip believers to take the gospel to every corner of the world, including the marketplace. They also began to realize that the church had a responsibility to create an atmosphere of social justice for Native Americans and African-Americans.

In many ways, the Second Great Awakening, from 1790 to 1840, built upon the virtues of the first. This revival reminded the nation of its calling to know Christ and His power, helped advance voting rights and social equality for women, and emboldened those working to end slavery. read more

Christians and War

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

I thank God that my father, my uncle and other relatives enlisted in the military.

"Tell me one place where Jesus told people to raise an army or to arm themselves," the talk-show host screamed at me. I soon realized this friendly interview had switched to attack-dog mode and that I was the unsuspecting victim. "You call yourself a minister!" the person sneered. "I know that it makes you feel good being in meetings with the president."

The telephone call had become so insulting that I simply hung up. Don't worry; I didn't stoop to the level of the host.

After the conversation, though, I began to think about Scriptures I could have used to explain the Bible's teachings on military involvement and warfare. As I thought about how often self-righteous people with no biblical framework attempt to critique our faithfulness to Christ's teachings, it occurred to me how truly difficult balanced, Christian living can be.

Romans 13:4 says that believers should obey their government and the laws of the land. Paul's reasoning is clear: "For it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil" (NASB). read more

Black Millionaires Rock!

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

More than 30 years ago, I sat in a dorm room talking to a black, pre-law student from Detroit. As he glared at me, he said that it made more sense for us to think about being Republicans than Democrats because of the unique needs of our community in the 70s. That was out-of-the-box thinking at that time. Today this man is a successful investment banker, leading a powerful firm.

A few years later my first cousin, a Harvard Law graduate shared a vision of becoming a patent attorney and later a political leader. He spoke of shaking things up and making a lasting difference in our nation. As a result of his hard work, he joined a prestigious law firm at age 25 and was elected to the Richmond City Public School Board the same year. At age 32, he became a partner at the firm. He was nominated for the Virginia Supreme Court at age 34 and elected the first black Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court at 47 years old.

Today these stories sound like baby steps of racial achievement as we look at the emerging business, political, and religious leadership of blacks in today's world. The black community is changing overnight, and its leadership is finally experiencing a long awaited change. The breakthrough dynamic is manifesting in three major sectors of our community—business, politics, and religion.

Historically, the church has been the training ground for the nation's strongest black leaders. While this remains true, a black upper class is being birthed. A major glass ceiling has been broken. The new leaders that are emerging are prototypes for new approaches for black engagement in the culture. The most surprising new trends are in the business and political leadership realm.

A great book written by Lee Hawkins of The Wall Street Journal tells the story of a new generation of black entrepreneurs. Newbos: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass is an interesting, well-researched work. "Newbos," according to Hawkins, are young African-Americans who have used their careers in sports, entertainment, or media to bankroll their ascent into sprawling business empires. The book chronicles the fact that there are more black multimillionaires in the United States than ever before.

People like Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, 50 Cent, Russell Simmons and a number of black entertainers and producers are generating more personal income than their Fortune 500 counterparts. Because of my background, I used to place more stock in Kenneth Chenault's successes as CEO of American Express than Sean Combs. I was steeped in an intellectual bias against the new cadre of black entertainment-based entrepreneurs until I learned about how systematically many of them are expanding their empires. Think about this—in 2004, Chenault earned a total compensation only $21 million compared to Sean Combs' Bad Boy Records income of $36 million that same year. read more

What’s the Vex of Same-Sex?

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

Is the fight against same-sex marriage primarily one fought between religious groups and the gay community? Are there any issues that a secular society should consider in this fight? We have found at least eight negative sociological outcomes that could occur if same-sex marriage is legalized.

The first impact would most likely affect the number of marriages in the United States. Fewer people would see marriage as the ultimate covenant between two people. The proof of this lies in the state of Massachusetts where only 43 percent of same-sex couples who cohabitate have utilized the state law which grants them marriage rights. Heterosexual couples in Massachusetts are more likely to marry (91 percent) but the degree to which same-sex couples marry devalues the commitment for all couples and the number is likely to decrease. In the Netherlands, only 12 percent of gay couples have chosen marriage; this low number is consistent with other countries that have legalized same-sex marriages.

A second impact that legalizing same-sex marriage would have on our society would be that monogamous and sexually faithful relationships would decrease. Fidelity among same-sex couples in countries that have legalized same-sex marriage is extremely low. Several studies in the Netherlands show shocking figures: homosexual men who have a steady partner have had an average of eight other sexual partners per year; lesbians were found to have more male partners over their lifetime than heterosexual women. This lack of fidelity affects the view of marriage by the society in general, no matter the sexual preference.

Third same-sex marriage would negatively impact the number of couples who would remain married throughout their lives. As the transient nature of homosexual relationships becomes a normative ingredient of a society, all marriages will be impacted. One of the studies mentioned above found that the average male homosexual partnership lasts only a year and a half. This is a direct result of the widespread promiscuity among the homosexual community. read more

Don't Lose Hope!

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

A very disturbing CNN poll compared the expectations of those peering into the future at the dawn of 2000 with those of people looking forward into 2010. The survey reported that in 1999, 85 percent of Americans were hopeful for their own future and 68 percent were hopeful for the world. Today, however, people surveyed said that only 69 percent were hopeful for their personal future, while only 51 percent had hope for the world.

There was something almost mystical about the nation's entry into the second millennium after the birth of Christ. I remember all the TV shows that speculated about massive technology changes along with the fear that everyone's computer could mysteriously crash—resulting in a national crisis.

Some religious leaders advocated storing food and creating bomb shelters. Other spiritual leaders believed that the earth would experience the "rapture," as described in Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' blockbuster "Left Behind" series. Surprisingly, the dramatic calendar milestone caused everyday people to think in big picture, visionary terms. From the boardroom to the janitor's storage closest and everywhere in between, we all expressed confidence in our technology, our business acumen and our American spirit.

We began the new millennium as though we were opening the Wild West or exploring outer space. We all had a sense of invincibility and a feeling that we could rise to any challenge. Since 2000, a lot has changed. We have experienced a few setbacks. Things like the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, endless political scandals, the bank bailouts, the American auto industry bailouts and double-digit unemployment have all challenged our national self concept.

It's obvious that the delicate balance of government, business interests and our educational system must be recalibrated. Further, rigid ideological approaches to our problems are just fueling vitriol and blame shifting. Our focus today is much more mundane and personal than the global or generational perspective 10 years ago. We are concerned about how to keep our jobs, pay the mortgage and survive the economic downswing. The pressures of the times have caused a reopening of two age-old American divisions of class and race. read more

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