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AG's George O. Wood Calls Persecuted Pastor's Letter a Modern-Day Epistle

A letter received by American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini, carried out from Iran's notorious Evin Prison, tells of beatings and interrogations, around-the-clock bright lights and ongoing lies designed to create hope—in order to crush it. The remarkable letter also reveals a depth of faith and compassion that could only be granted by God.

Abedini, a U.S. minister, has been imprisoned in Evin Prison in Tehran for his faith since Iranian authorities removed him from a bus in September while he was visiting his homeland.

Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, recently received the letter from her husband through family members who were able to visit him in prison. Naghmeh passed the letter on to Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood, with the encouragement to share the letter with everyone. read more

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Joseph Mattera: 25 Signs of Leading From Your Dark Side

May God help us to not lead from insecurity, through manipulation, or for personal ambition! Here are 25 practical examples that indicate when someone is leading from their dark side:
 
1. You inwardly celebrate when a colleague or fellow minister falls.
 
2. Your spirit of competition causes you to inwardly celebrate when other organizations or ministries in your field aren’t doing as well as you. 
 
3. You are more concerned about your local church or organization than the good of the kingdom of God and cultural transformation.
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Buck the Culture By Reinventing Yourself

Remember some of the great bands of the 60’s and 70’s?  Three Dog Night, Led Zepplin, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Rare Earth, and even the Monkees? What songs do you remember? Probably, songs they recorded during that specific period.

Then think about the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Elton John, or Dylan, and what do you remember? Chances are, you remember something much more recent. That’s because most of the great bands of the 60’s and 70’s got stuck. They couldn’t break out of the era of their initial success. Sure they continue to play, but while they used to pack any arena in America, today you’ll probably find them performing at State Fairs or Indian Casinos.

On the other hand, in spite of their age, the Stones, McCartney, Elton John, and a handful of others are still booking world tours in massive arenas, and have a new generation of fans. Why? read more

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Spiritual Maturity Reaches Way Beyond Salvation

How overwhelmed Peter must have felt looking into the faces of 3,000 new converts in Jerusalem. I’m sure he must have thought: They’ve chosen to follow Christ, but will they follow me into the mature faith necessary to carry our church forward? As Christian leaders, we know it takes effective leadership to move people from their salvation decision into mature discipleship. We also know maturity empowers blessing in their lives and enables them to bless others.

Recently my friend told me a comical story about his son’s youth football game. The score was tied 6-6 in the second half. As the opposing quarterback faded back to pass, the boys rushed in and tackled him. They immediately started celebrating, but they failed to realize that the ball had been fumbled. The other team ran it in for a touchdown and won the game. My friend said with a smile, “Our boys made half a great play.”

As a pastor I get pretty excited when people choose to accept Christ. Then I’m reminded that we’re only halfway there. I still have the formidable task of maturing them so they can fulfill their potential. read more

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Prayer Language Enhances Holy Spirit's Presence

The gift of tongues is still very much in evidence today. It is not meant to replace normal Christian responsibilities or minimize the importance of the Bible, but it will enhance all the good things of God already in your life. Here are six great reasons for seeking and using this gift:

1. Personal evidence.The Holy Spirit uses tongues as a miraculous, abiding sign. Miracle languages confirm the inner presence of the Spirit by using the body member most dependent on volitional, human intelligence--the tongue (see Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 19:6; James 3:8).

2. Praise declaration. Tongues initiates a prophetic gush of inspired worship and causes the heart to soar in adoration and worship unattainable by human means, creating "the fruit of the lips" (see Is. 57:19; Heb. 13:15; John 4:23-24; Phil. 3:3). read more

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10 Ways to Make Visitors Feel Welcome

People never get a second chance at a first impression. Neither do churches.

My family recently visited a church (no, it wasn’t your church), and we were able to get in and out undetected. Had it not been for our toddler’s need for childcare, we could have avoided human contact altogether. Needless to say, we didn’t feel very welcome.

Nearly everything about a Sunday morning worship service communicates something to first-time visitors. From the church bulletins to the parking lot layout, churches demonstrate how much—or how little—they care about people. Here are some things I learned from my last church visit. read more

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Billy Graham: Prayer for the New Year

This prayer from Billy Graham, written for "The Saturday Evening Post" in 2008, is just as relevant this year. Get in agreement with the beloved evangelist.

Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.

We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year. read more

Six Advantages of the Local Church


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

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Is the Great Apostasy Upon Us?

While in prayer over the vision God gave Steve Hill about the “spiritual avalanche that could kill millions,” an alarming question nagged my soul: Could the great falling away already be underway? Could we be witnessing the first fruits of the great falling away even now? Are we at least seeing a shadow of the Great Apostasy?

There is much talk about Christ’s soon Second Coming. But we know that Jesus will not return for a church without spot or wrinkle unless the falling away comes first … (1 Thess. 2:3). Although it’s nothing entirely new, we are indeed witnessing a fast-progressing departure from sound doctrine and a holy life.

Even a quick comparison between what Scripture tells us about the last days and the manifest sin that has penetrated our generation should serve as a wake up call to every believer: Don’t ignore the signs of the times. In His discussions on the end of the age, Jesus warned us not to let anyone deceive us (Matt. 24). If it weren’t possible to get caught up in the Great Falling Away, Jesus wouldn’t have issued such a strong warning to His followers and left a record of it for you and me. read more

Thinking Exponentially Won't Put God in a Box

Do we really believe all things are possible with God? 

A few years ago Rick Warren and I were talking about faith, and he told me that faith in ministry includes setting goals so incredibly bold that you’re bound to fail unless God moves in a miraculous way. That conversation has radically transformed my faith—and my dependence—on God.

The truth is, Jesus continually pushes us to a place where we have to choose for or against Him. When we step forward in faith, will we choose to remain independent of Jesus or will we choose to be totally dependent on Him?

For instance, Jesus tells the rich young man to give away everything he has so he can follow Jesus as a disciple. The young man’s choice is not about the wealth. Rather, he must decide if Jesus is who He says He is and if Jesus will come through on His promises. read more

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What On Earth Am I Here For?

At some point we’ve all questioned why we’re alive. Whether you or someone you know is struggling to find their life mission, here are five specific purposes for which God created us.

Everyone in your congregation wants to know if life really matters. Members, visitors, even your staff want to know: 

What on earth am I here for?

Essentially, they’re asking three basic questions. First, there’s the question of existence: Why am I alive? For thousands of years people have asked this question. Many people of the Bible did. Jeremiah asked: “Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace?” (20:18, GNT).  read more

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Local Churches Hold Many Advantages

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. read more

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Rediscover the Beauty of Christmas

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the December 2004 edition of Charisma.

I love to celebrate Christmas because I love the Christ of Christmas. Yet we live in a day when celebrating "Christ's mass" is frowned upon by the secularists, who want to excise Jesus from the holiday, and surprisingly, by some Christians who want to exorcize Christmas from the calendar.

You have no doubt heard some of these more popular "Bah! Humbug!" criticisms from sanctified scrooges:

  • Christ wasn't born in winter, let alone on December 25.
  • Christmas comes from an occult winter-solstice festival.
  • Evergreen trees and holly and mistletoe come from pagan customs and therefore are "of the devil."

    Sound familiar? Let's see if I can help those "Christ-massers"among you celebrate the birth of Christ in a deeper, more meaningful and festive way, without guilt or condemnation. read more

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In Time for Christmas: Purpose Driven Life App

A new iOS app providing a portable and interactive user experience for the 10th Anniversary expanded version of Rick Warren’s bestselling The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? is now available from Zondervan at http://zndr.vn/UBL4E5.

The “Purpose Driven Life” app includes the entire content of the book as well as 42 built-in videos of Warren further sharing insights into each chapter. In addition, individuals will have the ability to create notes to use in small group settings or for personal study.

“The ‘Purpose Driven Life’ app allows for simple and efficient portability perfect for on-the-go reading,” said Tracy Danz, Vice President and Publisher, Zondervan Trade Books. “What better gift to give this Christmas than one that will help an individual start a journey of discovering the answer to life’s most important question: What on earth am I here for?” read more

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Home is Where the Heart is for Christmas

Editor's Note: This article appeared in the December 1982 issue of Charisma Magazine and was written by Jamie Buckingham, former senior pastor at Melbourne Tabernacle Church in Melbourne, Fla. Buckingham died in 1992 at age 59.

I write this aboard a jet airliner speeding south from one of the nation’s greatest northern cities. I am heading home for Christmas.

How eager I am to see the face of my wife, embrace my now-grown children who are gathering at the old homestead, grab my little grandchildren and swing them high as they squeal: “PaPa’s home!”

How eager I am to sit quietly with my dear friends, my extended family, to embrace and whisper “I love you” in the ears of those as committed to me as they are to their own blood relatives. We will embrace, take off our shoes, sit in front of a fire (sipping eggnog), and feel “at home” in each other’s presence. read more

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Sometimes, Words Fail Us Even in Prayer

Some members of my church gathered near the altar last Sunday to pray for those affected by the recent school massacre in Connecticut. Our pastor had a list of the victims, and he asked that we mention each of the families by name.

It wasn’t easy to read that list. It included Daniel Barden, age 7; Charlotte Bacon, 6; Olivia Engel, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; and Jack Pinto, 6. A total of 20 children died in the shootings, plus six adults, including Victoria Soto, the brave first-grade teacher who herded her students into a closet when the gunman approached her classroom. She was 27, the same age as my oldest daughter.

Some people in my church found it too difficult to pray out loud. That’s understandable. But how exactly do we pray when tragedy strikes? read more

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Amidst the Pain, Take Comfort in God’s Love

Last Friday, just as our nation was showing the beginning stages of healing from 9-11 to our nation, we took another hit. A total of 26 children and six adults were massacred in a quiet, suburban, elementary school.

The devastation of this small community has rocked the nation. People from all over the nation are sending comfort, wreaths, Christmas trees, toys, ornaments and coffee to the community of Newton, Connecticut. Why does this massacre hurt so much?

Schools are usually considered safe places. In fact, most emergency shelters are in schools. Before 9-11 we felt the U.S was impenetrable. In the last years, churches, colleges and high schools have seen death and violence—and now, an elementary school. The outpouring of love and support to this devastated community shows that we all share in the pain, and we can all share in the recovery.

The burning question this week for me is how will this impact our Christmas services? read more

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Did You Miss This in the News?

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.

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Billy Graham Ponders Evil, Suffering, Death

The technological revolutions of today stagger our imaginations. We try to peer into the future, and if we could actually see what the world will be like 10 or 20 years from now, I'm sure that we would be overwhelmed.

This is not the first time, however, that the human race has undergone a technological revolution.

Three thousand years ago when a young man by the name of David became king of Israel, Israel was divided and backward, and was oppressed by its neighbors. Israel was little more than a cluster of primitive tribes living in tents, and people were barely scratching a living from the land. read more

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Suffering: Why Does God Allow It?

On Nov. 21, 1980, when the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas burned, survivors were brought into the Convention Center, where our Crusade meetings were being held. In an interview, Governor Robert List talked about the good times at the MGM only 24 hours before. “And how quickly,” he said, “the music has stopped.”

Some day, for all of you, if you don’t know God, the music will stop. It will all be over. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

The Bible says that Job suddenly lost all of his wealth and his children. The devil said to God, “If You take all those possessions away from him, he’ll curse You and turn from You.” But God replied, “You can do anything to him, except you can’t kill him, and then we’ll see” (Job 1:11-12). read more

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