Evangel Magazine https://www.evangelmagazine.com Evangel Magazine Wed, 30 Jan 2019 20:22:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2 127330868 Then Comes Revival https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/then-comes-revival/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/then-comes-revival/#respond Tue, 21 May 2019 13:00:45 +0000 https://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4571

“When the king heard what was written in the BOOK OF THE LAW, he tore his clothes in despair” (2 Kings 22:11 NLT).

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evival is needed during desperate times. The injustice and social issues we see create the urgency needed to stir up a spirit of prayer within the body of Christ. When saints pray and seek God, He will show us what needs to be purged in order to bring revival and restoration to our lives and communities.

The reign of King Josiah, recorded in 2 Chronicles 34 and 35, gives us a pattern for seeing revival, renewal, and restoration come into our most desperate situations.

In order to get the appropriate setting for the environment in which Josiah became king, we need to look briefly at the reign of the kings who came before him—his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. I’ll start with his great-grandfather, Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a godly king who, if you will recall, became ill and asked the Lord to extend his life. God granted his request, and Hezekiah ruled righteously for the rest of his life, bringing revival back to the land. But then after Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh (Josiah’s grandfather) came into power.

Manasseh was one of the most wicked kings Israel ever had (2 Chronicles 33:1-20). He had the longest reign—55 years—during which he led Israel into all kinds of idolatry, witchcraft, sorcery, and divination. As a judgment against him, God had the king of Babylon come and take Manasseh from his throne in Jerusalem and put him in prison in Babylon. While he was in prison, Manasseh repented because he recognized he had messed up, and God restored him to his throne in Jerusalem.

Manasseh’s story is one of the most amazing accounts in the Bible of an individual who was involved in all kinds of witchcraft and divination but repented. The Bible says he humbled himself, and God brought him out of prison and restored him to his throne in Jerusalem.

When he died, his son Amon took over the throne.

Amon was also an evil king (33:21–25). He only reigned for two years before his servants conspired against him and killed him. After they murdered him, the people of the land caught everyone who conspired against Amon, killed them, and made Josiah their new king.

When Josiah ascended the throne, he was only 8 years old. His father had just been murdered, so he was coming into a pretty bad situation. Being so young, he probably had someone helping him to rule the kingdom. Immediately he got on track to become one of Israel’s greatest godly kings. He was responsible for repairing the house of God, which had been in disrepair and neglected. He restored the Passover to the land, the priesthood back to its purpose, and praise and worship back into the house of God. He was also responsible for rediscovering the Law of God, which had been completely lost.

Josiah’s reign is a model for how revival and restoration of the land—the earth—starts with the people of God. That is why this message of what to pray and what to expect in desperate times is so important. We are in a time of desperation in our world. What is evil is being called good; what is good is being called evil. There are things in our lives that must be purged if desperate times are to give way to times of revival and glory. Let’s take a closer look at the steps Josiah took to restore God’s glory among his people, heal the desperation of their times, and usher in the last revival the people of Israel would see before their captivity in Babylon.

    Purge the Land

In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a young boy, [Josiah] began to seek out the God of David his father; and in the twelfth year he began to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem from high places, Asherah poles, idols, and carved and cast images. So they tore down the altars for the Baals, and he cut down the incense altars that were above them and smashed the Asherah poles and carved and cast images. And he crushed them to dust and scattered them before the graves of those who sacrificed to them (2 Chronicles 34:3-4 MEV).

What’s interesting about Josiah’s beginning actions as king is that this young man had no Book of the Law. That wasn’t discovered until later. All of his actions at this point were based on his desire to seek God. And with that desire, God put in Josiah’s heart the motivation to remove idols and images from throughout the territory. Josiah began with purging the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.

How do we apply this in our own lives?

    Get Rid of Idols

Josiah’s story shows us that as we seek God, He will give us the desire to get rid of the ungodly things in our lives. As you seek God, you find Him. And as you come into His presence, conviction comes, and you begin to want to take on His image, which is holy. You are motivated to remove things from your life that separate you from God and His standard of holiness. A person who is seeking God for any period of time will begin to remove the idols and unclean things from their life. That’s why you cannot tell me someone is truly seeking God and still holding on to idols. This purging is also a picture of deliverance.

See, we often want revival, but we don’t want to get there God’s way. We want to see a move of God in the land; we want peace and freedom in our lives; we want fulfillment of dreams; we want blessings; we want fruit, increase, and multiplication; but we don’t want to seek God and begin to deal with the things in our lives that we place before God. But this is what should happen and what Josiah modeled for us during his reign in Israel.

    Dig Up and Destroy Roots of Bondage

Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and so cleansed Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 34:5 MEV).

What Josiah did here may seem harsh or extreme, but the priests were false priests, and it shows the level of godly righteousness and zeal in this 20-year-old man. He doesn’t just deal with stuff in a nice way, which is a problem we have sometimes. We want to deal with the Enemy and his devices in a nice way, but that is not how we break free. Sometimes it takes righteous zeal to tear down the idols and things in our lives and in our land that rise up against the knowledge of God. We can’t just pat them down. Sometimes we have to cast them or throw them down.

So the Bible is telling us that Josiah began to break stuff down. He dug up the bones of the false priests—as if their control and false prophecies over the people were not dead enough—and burned their bones. It is as if he called the coroner’s office and had their bones exhumed just to make sure every evil thing they led the people into was good and dead.

Josiah recognized that his city was defiled and unclean, that it needed to be cleaned up in honor of the God who had given them the land. He was dealing with the things every ungodly king before him brought into the land. He knew one of his own forefathers had led the people into rebellion and permitted all kinds of wickedness and evil. He was turning the tables and cleaning up strongholds and bondages that were generational.

We often talk about getting deliverance from generational spirits. Some of the things that we battle have been introduced into our lives or our communities as a result of what our ancestors have done. It could be smoking, drinking, perversion, lust, uncleanness, drug addiction, witchcraft, or mishandling money and resources.

However long those issues have been in your family, when you begin to seek God, He will give you the desire to get them out of your life, to be cleansed, to pray for revival to come, and to want His blessing to come upon your life. His Spirit will cause you to want to get rid of those things so you can have the fullness of God instead.

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Empathy In Action https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/empathy-in-action/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/empathy-in-action/#respond Tue, 21 May 2019 08:00:07 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4454

“Whoever has the gift of showing mercy to others should do so with joy” (Rom. 12:8 NCV).

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o you remember where you spent Christmas in 1980? I do. As a thoroughly hopeless and broken young man, I was cowering in a Salvation Army shelter for the homeless in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I had lived on the streets for the previous three years due to a crippling addiction
to alcohol. Now, pursued by paramilitary gunmen, I was hiding in the only place in Belfast that would shelter me. I detested Christians, yet the only thing keeping me alive was mercy shown to me by Christians!

You might think their mercy would have prompted some kind of gratitude, but my sinful rebellion was such that it only increased my hatred. I did everything I could to make myself objectionable to those Salvation Army people. I cursed them, spat at them, and blasphemed their Savior. On one particularly dark and chaotic night, I tried to kill the captain who managed that shelter . . . dropping a beer bottle toward him from three floors above. I still wonder if it was intoxication or the grace of God that spoiled my aim and saved me from being guilty of murder.

That Salvation Army captain, a Welshman named George Hardy, consistently responded to me with grace and mercy. His active and continual practice of mercy, in the face of the most extreme provocation, eventually melted my heart in a way no sermon ever could.

    The Gift of Mercy

All Christians must be merciful (Luke 6:36), but not all have the gift of mercy (Rom. 12:8).

The Greek word for mercy is primarily an action word. It occurs most often in the New Testament in connection with Jesus’ healing ministry. It goes way beyond nice feelings, denoting instead the taking of positive action in order to eliminate misery. As Christians, we should all show mercy in active ways, yet God calls some of us to do so in a much greater and more effective manner.

When Pentecostals think of the gifts of the Spirit, mercy is not usually the first to spring to mind. Yet, if we accept the scriptural identification of mercy as a gift of the Spirit, then we should excel in this gift. Pentecostals should be more active and more effective in addressing poverty and injustice than anyone else in the world!

The history of Church of God World Missions provides some stirring examples of the spiritual gift of mercy in action. Think of Margaret Gaines and her steadfast commitment to the Palestinian children of Aboud in the West Bank . . . Fred Garmon and the incredible mercy being displayed through People for Care and Learning in Cambodia . . . and Rick Waldrop’s passionate insistence in Latin America that a commitment to social justice is integral to being truly Pentecostal.

Amazingly, however, we still have a few voices within the Pentecostal ranks that speak disparagingly of involvement in social justice as if it were somehow incompatible with a strong commitment to the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. My own life and ministry, both as a recipient and a giver of mercy, have convinced me of the awesome power of this spiritual gift.

    Becoming Merciful

Two months after I entered the homeless shelter, I found myself kneeling at the front of a church, crying out to Jesus for pardon and salvation.

Two decades later, as overseer of the Church of God in Ireland, I asked myself who the most unloved people in my nation were. That was an easy question to answer. Large-scale immigration into Ireland has included over 10,000 Roma gypsies. Their lifestyle, often characterized by stealing and begging, has made them a target of hatred and abuse. Their reputation is such that it is almost impossible for a member of the Roma community to find a job, and their subsequent reliance on state welfare increases the resentment towards them from the rest of society.

The Church of God in Ireland made a decision to practice unflinching mercy towards this community. It has not been easy. Since 2000, I have found myself in many tense interviews with police and government officials. Yet today we have eight Roma congregations, and over 15 percent of this marginalized community are now members of the Church of God!

I don’t know if I have the spiritual gift of mercy or whether I am simply struggling to manifest the mercy every believer should exercise. I know I fall far short of the extraordinary mercy exemplified in someone like Margaret Gaines. Nevertheless, my experiences with mercy thus far have convinced me that, as a Pentecostal, I want to be part of the most merciful people on earth.

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Find the Rest of God https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/find-the-rest-of-god/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/find-the-rest-of-god/#respond Mon, 20 May 2019 08:00:57 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4450

Early on in my ministry, I neglected the Sabbath. I justified my actions because I was doing the ‘Lord’s work.’

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his article is due today. I probably should have written it yesterday, but I could not because yesterday was my day off.

I take every Monday off. I am not legalistic about it. I just believe if I can protect it, I will. So I have sanctified it—I have set Monday aside. Let me explain why.

    Some Things Need Explaining

Since 1997, my wife and I have been parenting twins. Obviously, raising one child is a huge responsibility; raising two is twice the responsibility. It is our job to help them grow up into responsible, respectable Christians.

In our endeavor to help them mature, we have had countless conversations about what they should and should not do. Some of the instructions are short. They are easy to comprehend, and they do not require lengthy conversations. At other times, we must go into more detail to drive the point home.

In giving the Ten Commandments, God kept some short: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal. He elaborated on some of the other commandments—especially the fourth one. God uses 99 words in the NIV (94 in the KJV) and four verses to teach His children about the importance of observing the Sabbath:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Ex 20:8-11 NIV).

I do not believe any one of the Ten Commandments is more important than any one of the others. God gave all of them to us for a reason. However, when it comes to Sabbath, we can easily get caught up in our busyness and push this commandment aside.

God knew this could easily become a neglected area of our lives, so He explains in detail the expectations He has concern- ing the Sabbath. Sabbath is a commandment, not a suggestion.

    Who’s in Charge?

Man and woman were created just before the first Sabbath. Before God allowed Adam to work even one day, God invited him to partake in this wonderful day of rest. The Sabbath is not, therefore, a question of only resting when we are tired, but a sign of commitment to our Father.

God requires that we rest. He alone wants to be God.

When we don’t participate in Sabbath, we are saying it all depends on us. When we neglect the Sabbath, we are creating ourselves as lord over our lives. If you are like me, I have never been successful at being my own master. I fail miserably when I try to control my life seven days a week.

    The Things That Matter Most

The Sabbath commandment bridges the commandments concerning our relationship with God and the ones about our relationships with one another.

As the speed of our lives increases, the quality of our relationships decreases. Our relationship with our spouse suffers. Our relationship with our children weakens. Our relationship with our closest friends is found wanting. If the quality of these tangible relationships decreases, imagine what happens with our relationship with our unseen yet ever-present God.

The problem with busyness is we become too busy to notice we are too busy! We don’t purposefully neglect these relationships. It just happens. Sabbath gives us one day a week to focus on the only thing that we can take to heaven with us—our relationships.

    Corporate Rest

Every July, my church participates in Sabbath. We intentionally rest as a corporate body. We still meet on Sundays, but we cancel all small-group activities and plan family-friendly events. I teach our parishioners the importance of rest and relationships.

We have done this for seven years now. I believe marriages have been saved and families restored because of our annual Sabbath month. I have watched people grow in their walk with God. They trust Him to do what they cannot do.

    It Applies to Me Too

I will let you in on a secret, but please don’t tell my church. Our annual Sabbath is more for me than it is for them. I need it. I have a tendency to fall back into my old habits and routines. Every summer, God’s Word reminds me to rest. Just like the Sabbath rest for the land mentioned in Leviticus 25:4, my life becomes more fruitful when I sanctify a time of rest.

Early on in my ministry, I neglected the Sabbath. I was at the church seven days a week and worked long hours. I justified my actions because I was doing the “Lord’s work.” In all of the good I was doing, my family was suffering. God convicted my heart and I had to sanctify the Sabbath and keep it holy.

As a lead pastor, I still work on Sundays. But now I take every Monday off to focus on my relationship with my God, my spouse, and my children. I rest from the worries of my job. I allow God to do more in that one day than I can get done in six days.

I know there are things to do and people to see. There are never enough hours in a day. So, stop. Recognize God as the Creator, setting aside one day for rest. Be still and know that He is God.

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Speaking For God https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/speaking-for-god-2/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/speaking-for-god-2/#respond Fri, 17 May 2019 08:00:32 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4439

The gift of prophecy should be the most common gift operating in the church!

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he gift of prophecy is classified as a gift of inspiration (along with the gifts of tongues and the interpretation of tongues) because the inspiration of the Spirit is required for its function. Prophecy seems to be especially significant, since Paul mentions it 22 times in 1 Corinthians 11–14.

    What the Gift of Prophecy Is Not

The gift of prophecy is not . . .

• Foretelling the future.

Foretelling future events can be an aspect of any prophecy, but it is never the primary meaning or purpose of it. Prophecy is more about forth-telling than it is foretelling.

• Preaching.

Some people believe whenever an individual preaches a sermon, he or she is implementing the gift of prophecy. While prophesying may resemble preaching in some aspects, it is entirely different. In preaching, the Spirit engages the natural mind; in prophecy, the Spirit’s mind is operating through a person’s natural speech. A preacher expounds the written Word of God, but the one prophesying spontaneously and supernaturally speaks inspired words from the Holy Spirit.

• Rebuking.

The individual implementing the gift of prophecy will make statements that lift up and encourage the body of Christ. Correction comes from preaching the Word and from direct confrontation by authorized spiritual leaders.

    Prophecy: Speaking for God

The gift of prophecy is a supernatural and spontaneous utterance in a known tongue—speaking one’s own language in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the original Greek, to prophesy means to “speak for another.” Consequently, to prophesy is to speak for God!

Like the other gifts of the Spirit, it is a divine intervention at a particular moment to meet a pressing need of God’s people. The person declaring a prophecy is caught up in the Spirit and, in his own language, speaks a message to the church directly from the heart of God.

Much like the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation, the believer experiences a strong, almost uncontrollable urge to declare the words of God. Almost uncontrollable is appropriate because the individual does not lose control, for “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). One can and should control when and how the message of prophecy is given.

The gift of prophecy should not be confused with the office of the prophet, listed as one of the fivefold ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11. Only the names are similar. The office of the prophet is a gift from Jesus to His church, while the gift of prophecy is given by the Holy Spirit to an individual. In Acts 21:8-10, we clearly see the difference: four virgin daughters of Philip the evangelist who “did prophesy” (gift) are contrasted with a “certain prophet, named Agabus” (office).

God calls certain individuals in the body of Christ to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. However, any Spirit-filled believer can be used
to speak a prophetic word. In the Old Testament, the prophet Joel predicted the connection of this gift with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost: “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (2:28 NKJV). In Acts 19:6, when Paul laid hands on twelve men in Ephesus, they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. At that moment, “they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (NKJV).

    Why We Need This Gift

In 1 Corinthians 14:3, we find three purposes for the gift of prophecy: “He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (NKJV).

1. Prophecy edifies (“builds up”). Jesus is building the Church through the salvation of sinners, and the Holy Spirit is building up the Church through manifestations of His power. The gift of prophecy strengthens men and women who are weary from spiritual warfare, and replaces doubt with faith and hope.

2. Prophecy is a source of exhortation (“encouragement”). In the original Greek,
to exhort signifies “to call near.” When a church or individuals within a church are straying from God or in need of revival, God will use this gift to call His people back to Him. Men and women will hear and know the grace and compassion of a God who longs to fellowship with His people. Like the Prodigal Son, they will know they can come running to the Father.

3. Prophecy provides comfort to the congregation. If certain members are being persecuted, or the church is going through a trial, God will speak words of consolation and support.

As with the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues, prophecies should be given responsibly and in harmony with the Word of God. First Corinthians 14:29- 33 gives explicit guidelines for the gift of prophecy:

• No more than three people should give out a prophecy in a church service.

If this rule is violated, a spiritual leader—preferably the pastor—should step in. The leader should explain to the church why he is stopping the speaker, taking the opportunity to train his people. After the service, he must meet with the violator privately and lovingly correct him or her.

• It is the responsibility of the church in general, and the church leadership in particular, to judge the prophecies.

If anything is spoken contrary to Scripture, a church leader should stop the message or address the issue immediately with the congregation. They should be told to disregard what they heard, and the pastor should meet with the erring member in private to deal with the matter.

    The Power of Prophecy

On January 26, Tim Hill was the guest speaker for our 15-year church anniversary. At the conclusion of his message in the second service, he prophesied to our church: “This is the Amos 9:13 season—the season when the plowman overtakes the reaper. As soon as you sow it, you’re reaping it. And as soon as you can reap it, the ground is so rich and so fertile, it’s time to sow again. That is your 2014!”

Our leaders, members, and I believed the spoken word and knew God was going to accelerate His work. By the end of February, we had received 15 new members into our church and had nearly broken our tithe record!

We have too many members of Pentecostal churches believing the gifts are only for a chosen few. Any Spirit-filled believer can be a channel through which these special graces flow to minister to God’s people. We need to heed Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:39: “Desire earnestly to prophesy” (NKJV). The gift of prophecy should be the most common gift operating in the church!

If you are not operating in the gifts of the Spirit, ask the Holy Spirit to flow through you. Tell Him you are a candidate—a vessel He can use. Ask Him to replace any fear with faith, and start living with the expectation that God is going to use you. Soon, you will know the power and joy of flowing in the gifts of the Spirit.

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Convinced by the Spirit https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/convinced-by-the-spirit/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/convinced-by-the-spirit/#respond Thu, 16 May 2019 08:00:35 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4432

The Holy Spirit is not just a doctrine we learn about or a dove on a stained- glass window.

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n January 20, 1951-in the home of Rose Marie Underwood’s parents-Bill Williams pledged his life and love to the only girl he ever dated. Eleven months after the wedding, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and, after basic training in Geneva, New York, was assigned to Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Rose Marie traveled
by train to join him, and they shared a small, four-room house on Holiday Street with another couple.

After graduating second in his class, Bill was sent to Mid-western State University to
prepare to teach in Air Force training school. He and Rose Marie saved enough money
to buy a car, and they started attending the Maurine Street Church of God. There, under the care of Pastor L. L. Green, my dad was nurtured in the faith.

As a young Christian, my father carried a small New Testament in his pocket. He looked for opportunities to read and pray. He longed to know God and to discover God’s purpose for his life.

Dad had a simple trust in God, believing that through Him all things were possible. But when it came to Spirit baptism, Dad looked on with suspicion. He watched as people worshiped in response to the Spirit’s moving and heard them speak with other tongues. He observed their behavior both in and out of church, and concluded he was not interested in receiving this scriptural experience. After all, he would remark to Rose Marie, some of them who shouted the loudest did not even pay their tithes.

Revival time came, and Evangelist Jack Crutcher came to the Maurine Street Church. Bill and Rose Marie invited a couple to join them for a service. Brother Crutcher was greatly used by God in ministering through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so Dad’s friend walked forward to stand in line for prayer. Upon meeting this man for the first time, the evangelist looked at him and said aloud, “You are living a lie! This woman you are with is not your wife. You have paraded yourself to be single, but you have a wife in Cincinnati, Ohio!”

The man immediately fell to his knees, begging God for mercy. That convinced my dad there really was something to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. He earnestly began seeking God for the baptism in the Spirit, and on January 16, 1954, Bill Williams received this gift. Dad often called it a defining experience that changed his life.

The Holy Spirit is not just a doctrine we learn about or a dove on a stained-glass window. He is God himself—the God who has “invaded our lives with transforming presence,” as Craig Keener put it.

The Church of God is a Spirit-empowered movement whose mission is to proclaim the full gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spirit and power of Pentecost. We must do more that simply acknowledge theologically the modern activity of the Holy Spirit. We must be open to the demonstration of the Spirit’s gifts. In the words of Jeff Kennedy, “Christianity cannot be seen as a credible option in a culture where it is reduced to a mere historic curiosity, devoid of wind and fire—absent the Spirit of life.”

The word of the Lord that came to Zerubbabel comes to us in the 21st century: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6 NKJV).

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It’s Not About Us! https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/its-not-about-us/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/its-not-about-us/#respond Wed, 15 May 2019 08:00:47 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4426

Honoring God Through Music

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urn your music down!” is the cry of many parents to their teenagers.

Even in churches, music is often a point of contention between the generations.

What kind of musical instruments can we use in worship? Should choir members wear robes or regular clothes? Should we sing with hymnals or projection screens?

Worship should be sacred, but contention over worship music can wear away at the foundation of a congregation. What should worship look like? What types of songs are acceptable? What is the church’s answer to the complaints, and how does the church encourage all participants to enter into worship?

    STYLE

Many older people live and breathe by hymns, while the younger generation wants the new, seemingly more “alive” music. The older generation forgets that hymns were once new songs, while the younger generation often fails to realize the hymns were written out of dynamic, intimate encounters with the Spirit.

The psalmist David wrote, “He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord” (Ps. 40:3 NKJV). We should use new songs in our worship, and we should also use weathered songs (which were once new).

    LYRICS

Many of the older hymns have archaic wording (such as “Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing” and “Hangs my hapless soul on Thee”).

The generation which grew up loving the hymns argues that “more recent praise choruses seem to ignore all the rules of good composition, giving us not well-shaped melodies but just one note after another” (Chuck Colson, “Worship Wars,” The Christian Post). I have heard my retired pastor-father, who is in his 60s, argue that worship songs are just repetitive.

It is important to incorporate songs in our worship services that are biblically and doctrinally sound. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 NKJV).

    INSTRUMENTS

Cathy Grossman wrote, “Nearly 50 percent of Protestant churches now say they use electric guitars or drums in worship, up from nearly 35 percent in 2000, according to the recently released Faith Communities Today study of 14,000 congregations” (USA Today News, Nov. 2011).

Some churches advocate nonelectric instruments only, while others use full orchestras. The argument against instruments, or certain types of instruments, becomes valid when the focus is placed on the instruments rather than the One being worshiped. However, if God is receiving the glory, instruments should be allowed. Psalm 150 says we should “praise Him” with stringed, percussion, and wind instruments.

    FOCUS IS THE KEY

Worship should not cause dissension. Focus on the Lord is the key. In Revelation 4:11, the 24 elders cry out, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (NKJV).

If everything we do as Christians is supposed to give honor and glory to God, it must break His heart for us to argue over worship music.

The genre of a song is not important. If it gives honor and glory to God, it is appropriate for worship.

If the lyrics honor God, the song is acceptable for worship.

If the instruments demand all the attention, detracting focus on God, they should be toned down. Otherwise, they are appropriate for worship.

Churches must seek unity in every aspect, including worship music. This sometimes means reminding all generations that worship is not for the worshipers, but for the One being worshiped.

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We Need Each Other https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/we-need-each-other/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/we-need-each-other/#respond Tue, 14 May 2019 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4421

Leaders who see the power of connecting generations—choosing to live with the tension it brings and do the hard work of leading through it—will set their churches up to fulfill the Great Commission with greater effectiveness.

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he Bible commands us to confess to one another (James 5:16), so here I go: I was wrong. Before you judge too quickly, I was not willfullywrong. It was an accident-I promise. Nevertheless, I was wrong.

See, when it came to generational ministry in the local church, I was a separatist (for lack of a better word). I believed all age groups deserved and needed their own environment at church.

As the person responsible for overseeing the spiritual development of children and youth, I frequently lobbied for rooms and resources. I insisted that we have age-appropriate teaching so kids could “get the gospel on their level.” I contended that in order for our youth to thrive spiritually, they needed their own place to worship. I even supported our senior adults’ endeavors for fellowship and Christian education in their rooms and on their terms.

However, I was wrong. While age-focused ministries are important, I was wrong for not realizing how much the generations need each other. I was so adamant that every group should have its own space that I diminished the enormous value in bringing generations together. I missed the significance in being with and learning from each other.

We can never move to where we need to be without speaking honestly about where we are. Many congregations face the problem described by Peter Menconi:

“Churches with one dominant generation, no matter what generation it is, are most at risk for ineffectual ministry” (The intergenerational Church).

In those churches, major decisions are based on how they affect a specific demographic. Churches who use this restricted filter limit their potential to fulfill the Great Commission. Menconi believes effective intergenerational churches allow all age groups to feel at home as they participate in the life of the church.

The struggle is that intergenerational ministry presents challenges. I am not a homebuilder, but I’ve read it is easier to build a new house than to remodel an old one. Clearly many pastors and church leaders apply this philosophy to ministry. They choose to start over rather than to shape and add to what is already established. Intergenerational ministry requires people to see the necessity of honoring their heritage while engaging their future. Intergenerational ministry will force churches to live with the tension that it brings. Incorporating a few principles will make living with that tension a little easier.

    WORSHIP

Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away (Neh. 12:43 NLT).

Usually, worship experiences serve as the central ministry of a church. They are the center of the hourglass. In order for all generations to feel part of the church, there should be regular opportunities for multigenerational worship.

If kids and students never participate in “big church,” they never get the sense of being part of something bigger than themselves. Even worse, if they are exposed only to the age-appropriate environments we’ve created for them, they could become focused on style rather than substance.

The danger is when they graduate from these specialized environments, they begin to ask questions like, “Why don’t we sing my kind of music?” If they do not get what they want at your church, they may decide to go to the hipper, cooler church that started on the other side of town.

An effective multigenerational service is not accomplished by just throwing a bone to each generation. If that is all we do, people will leave church not remembering the elements catered to them, but being upset about the parts that were not. A true multigenerational service involves the generations. Kids, students, adults, and seniors serve as greeters, ushers, Scripture readers, and worship leaders. At our church, we include focused prayer as a part of every worship service, and I love it when we team up our kids with adult prayer partners. It is beautiful to see kids and adults praying together.

    SERVE

Be like the Son of Man. He did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others (Matt. 20:28 NIrV).

Over time, organizations tend to turn their energies inward. This is true for churches as well. Every church plant (at least the ones not the product of a church split) starts with a passion for the Great Commission. However, as time passes, even the most outreach-minded churches will begin to assess the needs of their own people. In that process, it is easy to lose sight of the needs of the lost because, well, they may not be in church every week . . . but we are.

One of the best ways to escape that trap is by implementing community service. Serving our community takes the focus off ourselves and rightly puts it on others. When you have a paintbrush in one hand and a hammer in the other, the style of music last Sunday suddenly doesn’t matter as much. When you go with a person from another generation to take food to a needy family, you realize you’re on the same team.

When we’re serving, it’s impossible not to have the mind-set described in Philippians 2:4: We no longer focus on our own interests, but we instead focus on the interests of others.

    VALUE

He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Mal. 4:6).

When it comes to the generational divide within our tribe, I land somewhere in the middle. I’m young enough to know that kids talking about The Hunger Games are not planning their next “Daniel fast.” However, I’m old enough to have a degree from Lee College. As someone in the middle, I need to value both the voices older than me and younger than me.

No matter your age or experience, you need to value those younger than you. Their opinions do matter. Their concerns, as hard as they may be for you to understand, are real. If you do not value those younger than you, when you finally do decide to pass along your faith, you may find there is no one left to receive it.

Likewise, it is vital that you listen to the voices of those who have gone before
you. Stylistically, you may differ. When it comes to methods, you may not agree. However, their wisdom can help you avoid the pitfalls they’ve already experienced.

We can read about the worst “church split” in history without going onto the Internet. Bad leadership in the midst of a generational challenge caused it (2 Chron. 10). Rehoboam, the newly appointed king, made a huge mistake. Before making his first major decision as king, he sought the wisdom of two generations. However, he chose to follow only the counsel from friends who had grown up with him. He listened to the folks who looked like him, talked like him, and thought like him, ignoring what his elders had to say. Within days, the nation of Israel split in two.

As church leaders, we need to listen to the voices and opinions of those younger and older than us. Too often church leaders do not listen, and too often the results are similar to what happened to Rehoboam. Conversely, leaders who see the power of connecting generations—choosing to live with the tension it brings and do the hard work of leading through it—will set their churches up to fulfill the Great Commission with greater effectiveness.

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Family Ministry https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/family-ministry/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/family-ministry/#respond Mon, 13 May 2019 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4503

Equipping Parents to Be Spiritual Leaders

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ecently, a mom of a second-grade boy emailed me to say she was keeping her son out of kids’ church on Sunday as punishment for bad behavior. Not a good idea!

Then, another mom told me she did not know how to discipline her child and would be talking to her pediatrician for advice on handling her child’s misbehavior. What?

Yet another young couple recently expressed their gratitude for the resources our church provides to them because they previously had no idea how to approach child-rearing from a Biblical and spiritual standpoint.

These examples point to the great need for local churches to support and resource parents in raising their children to love and serve Jesus as they pass on a first-hand faith to the next generation.

In a 2018 Barna Research survey, three out of five Christian parents (59%) said they are primarily responsible to develop their children’s faith. More than one-third of parents (39%) said it’s mostly up to them, with the help of church leaders (barna.com/parentsandpastors).

Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78, and Ephesians 6:4 urge parents to take the spiritual training of their children very seriously. As parents, our main effort at spiritual training is often bringing our kids to church. For example, in the Barna survey, 89 percent of the parents said they take their teen children to church, while only 59 percent said they pray with them. However, church attendance is only a small part of planting and nurturing spiritual truth in our kids’ lives.

In our local fellowship, we believe it is our job to equip parents to effectively train their children in the Christian faith as they engage in events of everyday life, including mealtime, homework, and recreation. Faith is far more important than just two hours on Sunday. This process of passing on faith begins even while the parents are expecting a child and continues throughout childhood and adolescence. Our aim is to partner with parents in the following ways as they endeavor to train their children in faith.

    Expect Something

Our ministry to expectant parents and those with children up to one year of age is called “Expecting Something.” We gather with young parents three to four times per year for a light breakfast and an opportunity to hear stories of where they are in their parenting journey. For expectant parents, we want to know when their due date is, how mom is feeling, if they’ve heard the heartbeat yet, if they know the gender of their baby, if they’ve chosen a name, and all the other exciting components of expectant parenthood.

What about the parents who have recently given birth and are now experiencing for the first time (or once again) the sleepless nights, the uncertainty of nutrition and health concerns, the joy of the first smile, first words, and their love and pride blooming for their new little one? We give them the opportunity to tell their stories and ask for advice and opinions from other parents who are further along in their child-rearing journey. At every gathering, we pray for the parents and assign them partners who make themselves available for prayer and conversation as parents call on them for support.

In Expecting Something gatherings, we take tours of the nursery area of our church, meet the nursery workers, and help new parents become familiar with the procedures in anticipation of their child becoming part of the nursery ministry. Additionally, we determine a date that we can host a church-wide baby shower for the new parents. This is a dynamic way to introduce expecting parents to the church family as a whole and shower the expecting couple with gifts and necessities. We also present the opportunity for parents to dedicate their child to the Lord before the congregation.

    Family Dedication

Family Dedication includes a workshop with the family/children’s pastor helping new parents begin to understand the responsibility and privilege God has given them in entrusting them with their new child. We share the Biblical mandate from Deuteronomy 6:7: “Repeat them [God’s commands] again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (NLT).

We encourage young parents to begin having intentional faith talks with their little one by reading Bible stories, surrounding their child with spiritual music, making the most of teachable moments, and praying blessings over their child. At the dedication itself, besides the traditional elements of the pastor praying over the child and extended family and friends surrounding the couple, we encourage the parents, in their own way, to pray blessings and a prayer of dedication over their child.

We have witnessed parents pray their own personally written prayers based on Scripture, parents and other family members singing over the new little ones, toddler cousins laying their hands on their newest little cousin, and even babies being handed from grandparent to grandparent for prayer over their new grandchild. This personalization of the family dedication, after helping parents understand the privilege of spiritually training their child, gives special meaning and purpose to the event.

    Family Devotions

On Sundays, we resource parents with children of all ages with a weekly devotional activity for them to engage in with their children in preparation for the next Sunday. We don’t want parents to pick up their kids after church and ask, “What did you learn?” Instead, we want kids to be familiar with the truths of that week’s Bible lesson because mom and dad have already introduced it to their children during that week. This is God’s plan—that mom and dad “start children off on the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).

At church, we will be surrogate spiritual parents to any child who should need that covering. However, that is not God’s best plan; parents leading the way is best.

As children grow to the preschool/kindergarten age, we invite families with kids in that age group to attend a fun luncheon activity. We serve a tasty, kid-friendly lunch, play games, and offer door prizes before the highlight of this special event—presenting Bibles and Bible storybooks. For children not yet ready for kindergarten, they receive a Bible storybook. For the children going into kindergarten, they are given a Bible.

After the awarding of the Bibles, we hand out the next week’s family devotional activity and, as an entire group, we walk through how to have family devotions. Parents and their children sit together in their own family group as step-by-step we lead parents in using the weekly devotionals we provide. Our desire for this luncheon is to equip parents with tools and some practice time to see how simple and rewarding it is to sit down with their children to read God’s Word and pray together.

    Salvation and Baptism

During the elementary years, parents are invited to a “Leading Your Child in Salvation” workshop. The goal is to help them understand how to lead their children to a saving relationship with Jesus, as well as how to begin discipling their kids.

As the Holy Spirit begins to lead a child in the desire to know Jesus as Savior, parents should be ready to engage their child in a Scripturally based conversation and pray with their child for salvation.

Once a child has trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we encourage parents to help their child to follow the example of Jesus in baptism. We offer a short video about baptism for parents and children to watch together, with an accompanying fill-in- the-blank worksheet. This worksheet also helps the child to organize their thoughts about their salvation experience. The child’s words are used in a video testimony that is played at their baptism.

    Equipping God’s People

God’s design for passing faith to the next generation is through the context of the family while the church plays a supportive and equipping role to this endeavor. The church’s responsibility is to “equip God’s people to do his work” (Ephesians 4:12 NLT).

The intention of family ministries is to work toward the common goal of faith development in this generation of children by resourcing parents with tools to accomplish this task.

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Reasons Preachers Fall https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/reasons-preachers-fall/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/reasons-preachers-fall/#respond Mon, 13 May 2019 08:00:16 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4416

“Ministry” is no substitute for relationship with god

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his is not easy to talk about. There is always the danger that we would look condescendingly on the struggles of others or somehow imagine it could never happen to us.

There is a reason God gives us these warnings:

• “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12 NKJV).
• “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1 NKJV).

The number of ministers succumbing to one form of temptation or another that strips them of credibility and effectiveness has reached epidemic levels. Pride, abuse of power, lust, and excessive lifestyles are all too common. We painfully watch peers paw through the ashes of ruined lives, families, and ministries. We have seen it too many times.

This should motivate us in a couple of ways. Galatians 6:1 says our capacity to restore is a measure of our spirituality and maturity, or lack thereof. We believe nothing is beyond God’s grace and that, with complete repentance, there is complete restoration.

We should also make sure safeguards are in place in our lives. Understanding why some preachers fall should serve as preventative medicine. While this is not an exhaustive list, it should help us to think through the health and strength of our lives and callings. What are some reasons preachers fall?

    1. Slipping in Prayer

In every instance that I have assisted in restoration, in some way this has been the case. Like you, I have seen those I was sure would never fall. Being aware of my own weakness, I have become convinced my prayer life is one of the primary things that has kept me from falling.

I do not intend that as a self-righteous or superspiritual self-witness. I do mean it as a witness to the power of prayer. Regular and sustained periods in the presence of God expose me for what I am and connect me to God’s power, like plugging an appliance into an electrical outlet.

    2. LackingAuthentic Ministerial Relationships

When I have the opportunity to spend time with other ministers, I find a common weakness. We can’t stop being preachers long enough to be people. We love the people whom we pastor, but there are things we cannot tell them. Some things only another minister can understand.

Whether it is the Methodist pastor across town with whom I can eat breakfast, or my friend in another state I can call, I better make sure there is somebody. I have to spend some time cultivating a few of these friendships; they usually won’t happen by coincidence. I should see it as another dimension of my ministry, because I need it, even if my congregation does not always understand it.

At times, I have traveled significant distances to be part of a pastoral prayer gathering. I have done so not only because I have a heart for prayer, but also for the value of the connection with other pastors. It has helped sustain me.

There is not much good we recall about Joab (captain of King David’s army)—he was a rascal. But when faced with enemies on both sides, he told his brother, Abishai, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come and help you” (2 Sam. 10:11 NKJV).

If you do not have a strategy like that in place in advance, it may be too late when the battle comes. You may know lots of people, but that is different from building a few deep, meaningful relationships with other ministers.

    3. Making Ministry an Idol

Next, preachers tend to substitute ministry for relationship with God. They are not the same thing. I can’t just study the Word in order to get something to preach—the Bible is not merely a sermon resource manual. I should be ministering to people out of my overflow, seeking Him for myself. Preaching won’t be a problem after that.

It is easy to make an idol out of ministry. We get more excited about ministry than about knowing God. We have to remember that being is far more important than doing. In Acts 6:4, the apostles gave us their philosophy of ministry: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

Perhaps the main reason so many preachers are falling is that we have deserted our primary calling—our personal walk with God.

As a pastor, I cannot lead people where
I have not been. I cannot take them any further than I myself have gone. There will be no more anointing on my church than there is on my life. My church will be no closer to God than I am.

    4. Cracking Under Pressure

Ministry is a pressure cooker, perhaps more now than ever. Pressure cookers have a valve that periodically lets off steam, when necessary. Unless preachers find release from stress through the right means—relationship with God, Sabbaths, and godly friendships—it will be released in the wrong way, such as sexual indiscretion. The foundational problem may not be sexual, but it is expressed in that way.

God will sustain me with His grace as long as I need it, but I must avail myself to it. When the pressure gets excessive, I must find the proper relief.

    5. Failing to Find Healing

All of us in ministry have scars; it goes with the territory. Scars do not indicate we are wounded. Instead, they show we have been healed.

It is not easy for us to talk with someone else about our wounds; it may be a pride issue. We are so accustomed to being the one up front that we find it difficult to listen. We are so used to giving that receiving proves a challenge.

How can we expect to help others find healing if we do not receive it for ourselves? It concerns me that in a large worship gathering I can usually identify the preachers, and not because I know them. They are probably the ones who are not worshiping. Have we taken the platform for so long that we can’t even worship God anymore unless we are in charge? We need safe places in which we can receive from God and others.

    Depend on the One Who Can Keep Us

In the end, it is vital that you are possessed by a conviction. You never want to imagine you are beyond falling, but you do not have to live in fear of it, either. Believe in “Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24 NKJV).

We should not be naïve to our propensity to sin, but neither should we doubt the power of God to sustain us. We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).

I have gone into hotel rooms for a personal prayer retreat and literally turned the TV toward the wall to avoid watching things I should not. Could it be turned back around? Yes, but it was a reminder to keep my thoughts pure. And I have learned to listen to a wife who was strong enough to confront me over my pride or other concerns, even if it wasn’t pleasant at the moment.

People who pour concrete understand expansion joints—spaces for the concrete to expand and contract with changing temperatures. Wise individuals build some spaces into their lives that will keep them healthy in the end, and they trust in God’s ability to preserve them for His purpose.

God is more than able to keep me, if I want to be kept. There is no reason to fall, so long as I am depending on His strength and not my own.

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Taking Care of God’s Temple https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/taking-care-of-gods-temple/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/taking-care-of-gods-temple/#respond Fri, 10 May 2019 08:00:49 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4411

Who better to carry the banner of healthy living than holiness people?

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grew up in the 1960s and ’70s as a Church of God preacher’s kid. One of the greatest things about our church was fellowship. Usually, fellowship meant food . . . and lots of it.

There were lots of activities we were not allowed to do, so going out to eat was a world-class event. The conversation on the way to church usually consisted of “Where will we eat after church?” I was not taught the importance of practicing a healthy lifestyle, and it was manifested in my physical life as the years passed by.

As I grew older, I abused my body through eating the wrong things and not exercising enough. My weight peaked at 333 pounds. Like most everybody who is over- weight, I tried many diets and lost hundreds of pounds in the process. Nothing ever worked long-term. The taste of food always won the battle over the thought of being at a normal weight.

In July 2009, I changed my life. A crisis moment compelled me to decide I would never be obese again. The best way I can describe this moment is Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

The decision to change my life was a transformation due to the renewing of my mind. I was a changed man in one day and began the process of dropping weight. Over the next 16 months, I lost 110 pounds. During this period, more was happening than the loss of weight. I was learning about fit living and actually enjoying it.

When my journey began, I was mostly interested in losing weight. Having attempted fad diets in the past and gaining the weight back, I knew I had to change my habits and begin honoring God with my body. I learned that diet is a noun, not a verb.

Along with eating a healthy diet, I began walking 25 miles a week. Eventually, the walk became a run, and today I compete in races all over the country. I have completed one full marathon (26.2 miles) and over 60 other races in 20 states. It has been five years since I began the journey, and I have successfully maintained my weight loss. More importantly, I have learned about healthy living. It is who I am, not what I strive to be.

Here are seven steps to consider in becoming healthier and fit.

    1. Make the decision.

Choose to transform your life by the renewing of your mind. The first step to good health and fitness is to change your thought process. Nothing about a fad diet or a fitness-center membership will do that for you. You have to do it yourself. Anything else is just putting a Band-Aid on the problem.

    2. Have a plan.

When I made the decision five years ago, my plan consisted of walking 25 miles a week. I did not intend to become a runner; that just happened. Running did not cause me to lose weight; you cannot outrun a bad diet! Healthy eating is vital, and you should exercise by doing something fun. Biking, swimming, hiking, walking, lifting weights, running—it doesn’t matter which you do, as long as you enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, you will quit.

    3. Set a goal.

I wanted to weigh 190 pounds, but I never reached that goal. However, I have maintained my weight at around 215 pounds for over three years. My weight, however, is not as important as eating healthy. My goal of 190 pounds was the catalyst for a weight loss of 110 pounds in 16 months.

You need a goal, and you need to own it. Make your goal known through social media or other means. It keeps you accountable. I still have the blog I wrote about my goal and read it frequently. Even if you don’t quite reach your weight goal, the ultimate aim is leading a healthy life.

    4. Become obsessive.

Some people are obsessed about their sports teams; I am obsessed about my
health . . . and everyone around me knows this. I have to be obsessed in order to maintain. Obsession is good if it’s about the right thing. There is a difference between being obsessed and obnoxious.

    5. Educate yourself.

When I started five years ago, I had no clue about healthy living. I have educated myself about what to eat and drink. I am still learning every day.

I have learned that Americans don’t eat real food; we eat processed foods. However, we can learn to enjoy genuine food instead of processed junk. The Internet is full of great resources. The key is to avoid those websites that are attempting to sell a particular product.

Here is a good start: Stop consuming foods and drinks from cans, and stop using artificial sweeteners. Start eating organic foods. Eat little or no pork and red meat, and eat more fish and chicken. Drink water. Add spices like turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne. God has created real food for us, but man messed it up by adding chemicals. Research “super foods” and consider adding these to your diet.

    6. Help others.

I wrote a book called All My Strength. It is my story and my way of attempting to help others. We have a responsibility to help each other with the knowledge we attain. I wish I had learned about healthy living earlier.

    7. It’s a spiritual matter.

If the Lord gave us a beautiful vacation home for the summer, would we take care of it? Would we attempt to leave it in better shape than when He gave it to us? I believe most of us would.

In fact, the Lord did give us a house to live in. He calls it “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19 NKJV), and He compels us to take care of it. It is good for us and our families, and it is God’s best for each of us.

Who should lead the way in healthy living? Who better to carry the banner of healthy living than holiness people?

We have always been wise in warning against the health risks of smoking and drinking, but what about the risk of eating the wrong things? It is my desire to see a health revolution invade this church to the point that our healing lines are shortened. There is healing in God’s food; there is disease in man-made food.

Let’s embrace personal holiness by treating our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Not only will we live longer . . . we will also live better.

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Holy Living, Christlike Living, and Christian Integrity https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/holy-living-christlike-living-and-christian-integrity/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/holy-living-christlike-living-and-christian-integrity/#respond Thu, 09 May 2019 08:00:32 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4405

Our calling as Christians is that we not be conformed to the world, but that we be conformed to Christ in our attitudes, words, and deeds.

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oly living, Christlike living, and Christian integrity are all vitally related; so much so, it is not possible to have one without the others. Doctrinally and practically, all three are the same.

    Question About Holy Living

It is somewhat amusing that so many Christians are reticent about holy living as God’s way of life for Christians. Ask a Christian of any stripe (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal), “Do you believe holiness is God’s standard of living for His people?” and you will get silence more than anything else. But ask those same people, “Do you believe Christians should live Christlike?” and each of them is likely to answer with a definite “yes.”

These contrasting responses strike me as strange. Is not Christlike living holy? Is not holy living Christlike? Is not Christian integrity holy and Christlike?

Why are Christians reluctant to affirm holiness is God’s standard of living for them? Consider three factors:

1. There are Christians who believe holy living is not possible, at least not for most Christians, themselves included.

2. Some Christians have been turned off to any consideration of holy living by the “holier-than-thou” attitude of certain Christians they have known.

3. Many Christians simply do not understand what is meant by “holy living,” and they do not know how a believer in Christ becomes holy. They mistakenly equate holy living with the evils of legalism and self-righteousness.

These three issues need to be addressed by stating what holy living is not, and what it is.

    What Holy Living Is Not

Holy living is not legalism. As it relates to religion, legalism is the attempt to save oneself from sin by obeying the commandments of God and doing good deeds.

Holy living is not self-righteousness. Making oneself righteous is the end product sought by legalism, but is, in fact, never possible to obtain. Simply stated, we cannot make ourselves righteous in the sight of God, no matter how hard we work at it.

In any honest discussion of holy living, two crucial questions must be answered:

(1) What must I do to be saved from sin?
(2) Once I am saved from sin, how ought I to live?

Both questions are answered in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJV).

We do not—in fact, we cannot—lead holy lives to save ourselves; but when we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works. Doing these good works (“walking in them”) is living in holiness with Christian integrity.

    What Holy Living Is

When we understand from Scripture how a person is made holy, and what holy living is, we realize it is not legalism nor self-righteousness—holiness by virtue of one’s own goodness.

In the Bible, certain places are regarded as holy because of some memorable manifestation of God’s presence in those places; and objects such as altars, tables, cups, and buildings are regarded as holy because they are dedicated to God’s service in worship. Things are made holy by their relation to God, who is holy.

Likewise, people are made holy by consecration to God, because God makes holy those whom He brings into relationship with Himself. In simplest terms, sanctification (holiness) is consecration to God that results in our being made holy by God.

As told in Scripture, as Christians we are made holy by God imputing to us (giving us credit for) His righteousness and the righteousness of Christ. Also, God makes us holy by imparting to us His holiness and the holiness of Christ. This He does by the agency of the Holy Spirit applying the cleansing blood of Christ to our lives in conjunction with our belief in and obedience to the sanctifying Word of God.

Practically, for the Christian, holy living (living in holiness) is the pursuit of spiritual and moral excellence in likeness to Christ by dependence on continual cleansing from all unrighteousness by His blood (1 John 1:9); by submission to the holy influence of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16); and by sanctifying belief in and obedience to the Word of God (John 17:17). This pursuit of spiritual and moral excellence in likeness to Christ must be done with an attitude of humility toward God, and without an attitude of moral superiority to others (1 Peter 3:15). If the pursuit of holiness is done in the wrong attitude, the endeavor fails (James 4:6-10).

    Our Belief in Holy Living

Early in our history as a Christian movement, the Church of God adopted the doctrinal position that “holiness is God’s standard of living for His people.” In the “Resolution Relative to Principles of Holiness of Church of God,” adopted by the General Assembly in 1994, the first paragraph reads: “The foundation of the Church of God is laid upon the principles of Biblical holiness. Even before the church experienced the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, its roots were set in the holiness revival of the past century. It was, and is, a holiness church—holiness in fact and holiness in name.”

While the Church of God has long taught that holiness is God’s standard of living for His people, we did not invent this doctrine, and neither did our Wesleyan-Holiness forebears invent it. The apostle Peter restated God’s commandment to Israel, “Be ye [all of you] holy; for I am holy,” as a commandment for Christians to obey (1 Peter 1:16; cf. Lev. 11:44). Reading the church fathers and major Christian commentaries on Scripture leaves no doubt that the belief that holiness is God’s standard of living for His people has always been an essential part of orthodox Christian doctrine.

    Holy Living and Christian Integrity

The word integrity can have a number of definitions, depending on how the word is used. Generally speaking, integrity is associated with being honest and good. However, it can mean being loyal to a code of professional, scientific, political, or artistic values that may or may not be consistent with the values taught by Holy Scripture. For many, integrity is regarded as being true to one’s own character, which may or may not be good when judged by God’s Word. Therefore, it is important for Christians to define integrity from a Christian perspective.

For the Christian, a life of integrity is not the practice of socially acceptable morality; it is something far superior—it is living in holiness before God, which is Christlike living. Christian integrity is a reflection of the integrity of Jesus Christ, in whom all the virtues of true godliness, righteousness, and holiness were found.

Our calling as Christians is that we not be conformed to the world, but that we be conformed to Christ in our attitudes, words, and deeds.

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No Room For Road Rage https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/no-room-for-road-rage/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/no-room-for-road-rage/#respond Wed, 08 May 2019 08:00:54 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4400

The rude mom who cuts you off in the kindergarten pickup line is still a beloved child of the King, as are frazzled patrons who shout expletives in a drive-through for no good reason.

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ecently, I read about a woman who was cursed out in the Starbucks drive-through. She and another driver had pulled into line at the same time, unsure who should go next. Apparently, the other driver assumed this woman had tried to cut her off, and started yelling expletives at her as she pulled forward.

Rather than honking, yelling back, or praying God would smite the other driver, the woman tried to buy the offender’s coffee in hopes of brightening her day. This experience was especially poignant because the author of this story had been praying to see people as God sees them— His children who may be tired, frustrated, and even desperate for some coffee-and to respond with love.

I like this story. I shared it on social media. It made me feel good…for a minute. Then I felt convicted.

The day before reading the article, I found myself in nearly the same situation. I was in line to pick up my kindergartner from school. The traffic situation was a mess, as usual. I had arrived at school 40 minutes early just to get in the line, yet I was still nowhere near the front. When I finally got close enough to pull into the parking lot, another woman was ready to pull in from the adjoining cross street. She looked like me—a young mom in a minivan, her children’s name cards resting on the dash to identify which students go to her car. She even had a pink card-the color for kindergartners-and I wondered if our kids might be friends. Any other day, perhaps we mom would be friends…but not that day.

Common traffic laws dictate that the car turning right (me) has the right-of-way, while cars turning left (her) must wait until either traffic clears or a compassionate right-turning driver decides to wave them on. Usually I am the compassionate driver because, while the cross-street drivers have probably been waiting 10 minutes compared to my 40, I recognize that one or two cars hardly makes a difference as to when I see my kid.

However, when I saw her try to rush her red van ahead of me—even as I pulled forward to indicate I was proceeding with my rightful place in line—I thought, How rude! I’m not going to let her snatch up my spot! I’ve been in this line for almost an hour!

When she did not back down, I gave a little honk—not a long, loud honk that often accompanies unfavorable hand gestures—just a quick “beep” to let her know I was there.

Immediately the other driver threw her arms up in the air and mouthed an exaggerated “Take turns!” Feeling vindicated as I moved into position, I raised my eyebrows, shook my head no, and looked away.

I know the rules, here, lady! I thought. I have the right-of-way! Back off! The car behind me, probably a kind person like the author of the Starbucks story, saw the woman’s frustration and waved her on. As the red van pulled up behind me, I began to worry. I prayed, “God, please don’t let that woman’s child be in my daughter’s class. I don’t want to face her at the Christmas party!”

    Things Unseen

A few years ago, I was moved by a song that asks God to open our eyes to things unseen. I began making that my prayer, asking God to allow me to see others through His eyes. Miraculously, He
has answered that prayer many times, impacting how I view rude cashiers at the grocery store . . . troubled teens in my youth group . . . and exotic dancers I meet through a local outreach ministry.

In them, I see myself before Christ intervened: broken, insecure, frustrated, and depressed. I also see the people God created them to be—healed, whole, peaceful, secure in Christ, joyful, and fulfilled. I thank God for His blessings every day.

However, when I went through that car line, I chose to see with my flesh a rude, self-righteous, impatient mom who could not wait for a few more cars that had earned their place in line by arriving long before school let out!

Looking back on the situation with spiritual eyes, I missed seeing the precious child of God who was driving that red van. Maybe there was a screaming baby in the backseat making that mom feel like every second counted to get this kid back home to sleep.

Flashback to my own battle with postpartum depression: If a honk—even one like my short little “beep” to establish my presence—upset my colicky baby, I would be ready to scream and cry too. Maybe that’s one reason Jesus taught us to love our neighbors. To quote a popular mantra, “Everyone is fighting a hard battle.”

    Backgrounds and Battles

Sometimes I wonder about the backgrounds and battles of the people Jesus encountered in the New Testament. Consider Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector from Jericho featured in Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was wealthy, held a prominent position with the Roman government, and probably looked like he had it all together. Sure, common people knew him as “a notorious sinner” (v. 7 NLT), but he probably brushed off those judgments as others envying his wealth or status; or perhaps he thought they were bullies who picked on his small stature.

I imagine him strutting through Jericho as if to prove his confidence and security. But deep down, something troubled Zacchaeus. He was so dismayed that when Jesus passed through town, he climbed a sycamore-fig tree just to get a peek. When Jesus called to him, he scampered down the tree and joyfully welcomed Jesus into his home.

Joyful Zacchaeus promised to give his wealth to the poor and repay with interest those he had cheated. Jesus responded by validating him as a “true son of Abraham” (v. 9 NLT)—an identity that seemed lost through Zacchaeus’ extortion and disobedience to God’s law. Salvation came
to this home because Jesus saw through Zacchaeus’ façade to his broken spirit, and loved him right where he was.

Honestly, I don’t think Zacchaeus planned to reconcile with God and others when
he climbed that tree earlier in the day. Maybe he just wanted to see if anything seemed different about this Jesus; then he could approach Him later, when no one was looking, like Nicodemus did (John 3:1-21). However, when Jesus took the time to see Zacchaeus with divine eyes, it changed Zacchaeus’ life.

    A Different World

How would our world be different if we viewed all our neighbors through God’s eyes rather than our flesh? The rude mom who cuts you off in the kindergarten pickup line is still a beloved child of the King, as are frazzled patrons who shout expletives in a drive-through for no good reason. The love of Christ is life-changing; we should never forfeit an opportunity to share it with others.

My prayer from the other day has changed: I do hope that mom’s child is in the same class as my daughter, and I hope to run into her again someday. She needs to hear about the hope I have . . . and an apology for my traffic attitude is probably a good place to start.

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Take Time To Be Holy https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/take-time-to-be-holy/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/take-time-to-be-holy/#respond Tue, 07 May 2019 08:00:02 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4395

It takes time to be holy, and it will take holiness to see God!

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tanding near the Southwest Airlines gate counter at T. F. Green International Airport in Rhode Island, my level of uneasiness steadily escalated.

It was a sunny summer Sunday evening; I was on my way back to Washington, D.C. Thanks to a Ford Foundation Grant, I was about to finish my research on the African Diaspora. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was determined to get to D.C. soon enough to start working early Monday morning.

My thoughts raced, my conscience kept yelling, and the Holy Spirit persisted. I knew I could not go. Research or no research, there was only one right thing to do. I asked the gate agent to take me off the flight, and I turned in my boarding pass. Rather than moving on as if nothing had happened, I had to stop and make things right with my daughter.

In my haste from the pulpit that Sunday morning, to a hurried meal at the house in the afternoon, and in a rush to get to the airport, I had spoken harshly to her. The Holy Spirit rebuked me, but I had just kept going.

Now I was in a taxicab on my way back to the house with my heart bleeding with remorse; I must make it right. When I walked into the house, I went straight to her and said, “I’m sorry, Honey. I should not have spoken to you like that. I was wrong.”

“It’s OK, Dad,” she replied.

“No; it is not OK. I was wrong.”

I guess the way we live out personal holiness is much more important than the way we talk about it.

Growing up Pentecostal, I was taught externals—holiness that could be seen. So we did not swim with the opposite sex, neither did we play sports or work on Sundays. We could not go to the movies or attend dances, and we could not wear trendy clothing. We never wore jewelry, and girls could not use makeup or lipstick. Personal holiness was all about what we could not do.

Over time, keeping the rules became easier but not always enjoyable. I guess these restrictions helped us to be disciplined, but they were not sufficient. They did not provide the tools we needed for self-examination that engenders internal holiness. They never showed us how to examine our lives through the lens of the Holy Spirit.

Keeping rules never taught us how we could become so committed to the Lord that regardless of what others did, like Joseph we could question, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Or, like David, the rules could not teach us to cry out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

As I mature in my walk with God, I often search deep inside to ensure I do the right thing. Sometimes I have had to lay aside my pride and humbly surrender to God’s will.

When I asked my daughter to forgive me for being harsh with her, the Holy Spirit had already spread multiple layers of holiness over the depths of my soul; so when the time came, I was responsive to His insistence and just did what was right. It was not easy, but I had to do it.

This aspect of the Christian life is not conjured up in the fires of emotionally charged worship services. It takes time to be holy, and it will take holiness to see God!

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Is America Blessing God? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/is-america-blessing-god/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/is-america-blessing-god/#respond Mon, 06 May 2019 08:00:43 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4388

The United States of America is at a crossroads. Will we be guided by a view of Scripture or by the value system of secularism?

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ith the excitement of independence boiling in the streets of Philadelphia, John Adams rose early on July 2, 1776. Sitting as a small desk in a rented room, he wrote a note to his wife, Abigail:

The second day of July 1776 will begin the most memorable epoch in America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other from this time forward forevermore.

July 2, 1776, was the day for final debate regarding Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. The document would formally and publicly declare that America would no longer live under the British crown. It was officially adopted two days later.

However, declaring freedom did not make it so. As Congress met in Philadelphia, warships massed in the harbors of New York. Adams also wrote to Abigail that he was aware of the “toil and blood and treasures it will cost us to maintain this declaration.” The statement proved prophetic. Adams forecast the seven years of violence that followed to eventually break free.

For those of us who reside in the United States, it is important to reflect on those tumultuous days 238 years ago—to pause for more than a moment so we can transport ourselves from our high-tech world of convenience to the uncertain future that faced our ancestors. Those 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence immediately became outlaws and objects for the hangman’s noose. Most paid dearly for their desire for self-government.

Five were captured and tortured before their deaths. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost sons in battles. Nine fought and died from wounds received. Many of them were wealthy farmers, lawyers, or businessmen, yet the majority of these founding fathers wound up bankrupt and destitute. independence cost them everything.

The last sentence of the declaration reads, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Unquestionably, God has blessed America. The question today, “Is America blessing God?”

History is filled with the obituaries of nations that forgot God. The Medo-Persian Empire was once great, but their citizens drank their way to debauchery, and their civilization collapsed and disappeared from the earth. Egypt flourished under Joseph and, for more than 400 years, they enjoyed God’s favor. But after Joseph died, Egypt turned their back on God and the nation fell into ruin. Alexander the Great conquered the world, but he could not conquer himself. He died in drunken debauchery, and the civilization of Greece collapsed.

Rome was thought to be an eternal city, built on seven hills and complete with roads, aqueducts, coliseums, and marching legions. It was once said, “The sun never sets on the Roman Empire.” But luxury and lust struck at the heart and soul of the once mighty nation, and the greatest empire crumbled to the dust—collapsing from within.

I believe the United States of America is at a crossroads. Will we be guided by a view of Scripture or by the value system of secularism? I ask you to join me in prayer for this nation. Pray that God will save and bless America, and in turn, that America will once again bless God.

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Choose To Worship https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/choose-to-worship/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/choose-to-worship/#respond Fri, 03 May 2019 08:00:45 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4382

There is no special formula or secret ingredient. The only way to break through is by choosing to worship.

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he sanctuary lights are dim, and the music is loud. Everyone is standing with their hands stretched high, eyes closed, in an act of surrender to God. Some people are weeping, others clapping, some laughing, and others swaying with the music. One thing is for sure—if you’re not feeling it, you need to have a spiritual tune-up.

Aren’t those the preacher’s words when he enters the pulpit after a wonderful time of worship in song? I think we all know what he means, and I know we all love those services. Why, then, are those times rare even in Pentecostal circles? Why are people always trying to find the right church that checks off every one of their preferences, allowing them to “truly worship”?

I had the chance to attend a megachurch in Texas. The lighting, music, audio, and media all helped create an exciting atmosphere. Music played before the service began, helping the congregants to prepare their hearts to focus fully on God. They sang songs that worshipers could relate to and help them move into a deep level of worship.

I have also been in small churches with no special lighting, poor sound quality, and maybe a piano and a couple of singers, where the Spirit of God moved powerfully. So, what constitutes true worship?

In Pentecostal churches, we love to feel the excitement of worship—the person beside us is jumping up and down, others are clapping, and the whole room is filled with electricity. It drives the worship inside our hearts, and makes us want to move. It is easy for us to get revved up when everyone else is feeling it too. However, when those around us are checking their watches and whispering back and forth, it is difficult for us to worship God.

As a worship leader, this is the hardest part of my ministry—getting people to move beyond their emotions into true worship. It is easy to worship when the situation is right and everyone around us is enthusiastically praising God, but that should not be the reason we praise Him.

In John 4, Jesus has an important encounter with a woman whom He meets at a well in Samaria. Being a Samaritan, this woman had been taught to worship God on nearby Mount Gerizim, where her ancestors had built a temple three centuries earlier. She asks Jesus why the Jews worship at the Temple in Jerusalem instead of at Mount Gerizim.

Jesus tells her, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (vv. 23-24 NIV).

It no longer mattered is a person worshiped here or there; what mattered is how one worshiped.

The Scriptures give us many reasons to worship God, but our primary motive should be Jesus’ sacrifice for us. For some people, the joy of salvation motivates them to worship exuberantly—they might shout and dance. For others it is solemn reverence, and they kneel at the altar.

Over time, that initial reaction begins to fade away. We can sing the words while making a shopping list or trying to decide where to go for lunch. Attending Sunday worship can easily become nothing more than a routine.

More than once, I have heard a longtime churchgoer tell a new Christian, “Oh, you’re excited now, but soon it will fizzle out and you’ll be like the rest of us.” Sadly, it is often true. After a few months, too many new believers take their salvation for granted like other Christians easily do.

We try to rationalize our indifference by saying, “I am a mature Christian, and I do not need that type of worship to be close to God,” but our justification just covers up our waning desire. We get into a rut, and we find ourselves going through the motions.

How, then, do we break through? We might go from one church to the next looking for a place that will boost our passion. We find evangelists and revivalists who can pep us up. We look for the “next big thing” to help us encounter God. However, when the services are over, that same old feeling creeps back in, causing us to begin looking for the next high.

There is no special formula or secret ingredient. The only way to break through is by choosing to worship.

When everyone looks to the style of music, the setting, or the type of preacher, no one will be completely satisfied. To meet everyone’s preferences, we would have to organize churches by labeling them: (a) the church with acoustic worship, dim lighting, and a mellow preacher;
(b) the church with a choir, bright light- ing, and a loud preacher; (c) the church with flashing lights, a praise band, and a seeker-friendly preacher; (d) many other combinations. No church will check off every box on a person’s preference list.

The solution is choosing to worship. No matter the musical style, choose to worship. No matter the lighting, choose to worship. No matter the preacher, choose to worship. When we think about who God is and all He has done for us, we should be prompted to worship Him.

Our worship is an act of expression to God of our appreciation, love, and reverence to Him. Our choice to worship— whether we run the aisles, kneel, or lift our hands—will move the heart of God.

If we want God’s Spirit to move in our worship services, it is time that we stop trying to make Him move, and just let ourselves worship Him.

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Quit Pretending! https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/quit-pretending/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/quit-pretending/#respond Thu, 02 May 2019 08:00:31 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4376

God is not looking for once-a-week performers but daily practitioners.

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t was a Saturday afternoon, and a group of neighborhood children had congregated in our kitchen. They talked excitedly of the adventures they were going to embark on that afternoon. The pirate ship they had created in our yard was about to come under attack after this short interval for juice and cookies. Their imaginations created a world of possibilities that made this ordinary Saturday afternoon an extraordinary day.

As they set out into the yard, the conversation rapidly changed to which role everyone was going to play. Some were deemed worthy of the role of pirate, while the girls became mermaids and princesses. When all the roles were filled, each character headed out to the “high seas.” After several hours of playing, tired from the sword fights and treasure hunts, the small group of friends went their separate ways, heading home for dinner and bed. Just like that, the game was over. There had been no fatalities, no permanent damage—just a lot of swashbuckling fun.

As I watched this scenario play out, the Spirit of God reminded me that the adventure we are called to as His children is not an imaginary one. It is not a call to pretend for a few hours each weekend at church or to pretend with each other in our relationships. Just because we are considering changing our towns, cities, and neighborhoods and have a desire to see people saved, transformed, and restored does not mean this will happen, though this is the start.
Unless we marry our desires with a partner called action, then we are only playing pretend when it comes to turning around our communities.

We are called to something that is much more serious. God has called us each to play our part in a real adventure. The fight we are called to engage in is very real—and our enemy is not playing games.

In 1 Peter 5:8, we are instructed to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV). The Enemy is not messing around, nor is he merely threatening to bring harm. He is seeking people to devour and destroy. He is seeking those who are living unaware of his schemes, whose imaginary play has left them vulnerable in this very real battle.

    REALITY CHECK

God is not asking people to merely think about turning our world around; He is relying on us to do it. It’s not just a nice thought for us to talk about or a potential adventure for us to consider embarking upon. God has enrolled us all in His commission; therefore, we are to stop pre- tending and get serious about the responsibility God asks us to carry.

Our society today is in danger of having many dreamers who are not real doers. All you have to do is flick through your TV channels to see countless programs where people have been told: “You can be the next greatest star if you just believe.” You can watch thousands standing in line, waiting to be auditioned in the latest pop-music singing competition, hoping to find a shortcut to fame. While many in the line are hardworking musicians who deserve to be heard, they are always outnumbered by thousands of people with no musical background or practical experience in playing an instrument. These hopefuls are standing in line thinking they might stumble into an escape route to the celebrity life. They believe that just by showing up at the auditions, they will somehow end up a potential star.

These imaginary contenders, much like the children in my backyard, are looking to play a role in a world they have dreamed up. Big dreams come crashing down for these aspiring artists, when after standing for a few hours in the cold, waiting for their big moment, they are stunned when one of the judges faces them with the reality of their lack of talent. Deflated and often emotionally volatile, they are forced to face facts and leave the room in which their dreams collided with reality.

As believers, we need this experience where dreams face reality. As God’s children, we are not called to stand in line, hoping for our own moment of greatness, or wait to become some spiritual superstar. There is no shortcut to God’s turnaround. God does not give imaginary callings, nor does He play pretend. We need to enter God’s reality room, not to be judged but to allow His Spirit to nudge us from our dream-state into a realization of what serving the turnaround God requires from each of us. We are not called to pretend-play the change; we are commissioned to be the change. Our lives are not about the end performance but about the discipline of daily practice. God is looking for those who will faithfully commit to develop their spiritual gifts and grow in faith. He is looking for those who will not waste time standing in a line but instead will invest a lifetime into helping needy lives.

God is not looking for once-a-week performers but daily practitioners. He wants people who are taking what they have learned and passing on their wisdom, taking what they have grown and helping others to grow. We are not given gifts and talents so we can entertain or impress one another but so we can help the people whom others pass by. We need to position our lives and ministries so that real challenges of this world shape the priorities of God’s people. We must be ready to respond to the call of the broken, lost, and vulnerable. Our stage is our streets; our greatest gift is our acts of service.

Wherever God’s people gather, we need to commit not merely to enjoying one another’s company, but to allowing our commission to shape our conversations and making the needs of others affect our choices. We need to talk about real problems and determine to play a real part in being an answer. When we see the full scale of what we are called to do, when we see the real reason we are called to turn things around, then we will stop standing in line dreaming and instead start taking our turn and doing.

Let’s consider those who have biblical legendary status: Joseph the prime minister, David the giant killer, Daniel the lion tamer, Elijah the fire starter, Peter the rock, Solomon the wise, and many more. None of these men was a performer. They were never found wasting time in a line dreaming of being great. Instead, these men went to obscure places to be faithful, to serve diligently, and to commit to being a disciple of the difference they sought to see.

    BE DILIGENT

The apostle Paul said, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16 NIV). Paul was asking Timothy to give himself wholeheartedly and regularly, not in a one-off grand statement of commitment, but with a consistent commitment to preserve his growth ethic.

Often the difference between those who make a difference and those who imagine they are called to make a difference is the word diligence. It’s the commitment to show up even when no one else will. It’s the study no one sees and the sacrifice no one applauds. It’s David’s diligence on a hillside to protect a few sheep when no one else is looking. It’s the diligence shown by Joseph in prison to be a faithful steward when no one expects it.

Our community does not need God’s people to charge in like knights in shining armor. They don’t need promises that are never going to be kept or commitments that are never seen through to completion. God’s turnarounds require those who understand what it is to persevere and to be diligent.

In our city, we have been involved helping the street girls for over ten years. The reason that their lives are being turned around is not because we impressed them with our gospel presentation or that we quoted our best messages to them. The reason they want God to turn their lives around is because we have diligently turned up.

Diligence is a language the Enemy hates. He can’t throw diligent people off their cause with a few problems because they have developed a perseverance that will keep them turning up. Paul knew Timothy had a call on his life to turn people to Christ, and he wanted Timothy’s commitment to reach maturity so his diligence would forge in him a deep determination to see the job for which he was sent completed.

God is looking to you and me to grow up and to progress from the flight simulator of Christianity into the real work that we are called to do. God’s turnarounds require His people not just to show up, but to grow up and to mature. There are many risks out there that we will need to embrace, but God is waiting for you and me to get to the height they require.

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My Journey to Pro-Life Ministry https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/my-journey-to-pro-life-ministry/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/05/my-journey-to-pro-life-ministry/#respond Wed, 01 May 2019 08:00:42 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4371

Abortion affects each of us. Women and men are suffering in silence in our churches.

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n a typical day, 3,400 unborn babies are killed by abortion in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute. Does this shock you? It stunned me. With that in mind, I want to tell about my journey into pro-life ministry.

My trek began with a step in the wrong direction. Although I grew up in the Church of God, during my teen years I walked away from my Christian upbringing. While in my early 20s, an unmarried friend confided in me with tears streaming down her face that she was pregnant. I strongly advised her to have an abortion.

I gave my friend this advice because I viewed the unborn baby as only a clump of cells or tissue. Thankfully, my friend did not take my advice. Somehow, she found the courage to continue her pregnancy. The first moment I held that precious newborn, I immediately knew how wrong I had been to even suggest abortion. The Lord used this experience as the driving force in my passion for pro-life ministry.

    From Quiet to Active

I was quietly pro-life for years, even after returning to the faith. Then one day while shopping in a thrift store, the Lord guided me to Abby Johnson’s book unPLANNED, which tells her story of being the director of a Planned Parenthood abortion center. After eight years of working in the abortion industry, Abby witnessed an ultrasound-guided abortion. She saw a 13-week fetus struggle and lose his battle for life.

Abby left her job and became an advocate for life. She credits her conversion to
the peaceful prayer vigil 40 Days for Life (40DFL), which began on the sidewalks of the abortion center she managed in College Station, Texas. Her book sparked a fire in me. I could no longer just say I was pro-life; I had to do something. I contacted the local pro-life ministries and joined this worthy cause.

Soon I became part of the planning committee for my city’s 40DFL campaign, which is held in the spring and fall each year. This campaign draws attention to the evil of abortion through a three-point program: (1) 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, (2) peaceful prayer vigils on the sidewalks of abortion centers, and (3) community outreach.

The mission of 40DFL, now international, is to unite the body of Christ in prayer to abolish abortion. The results have been astounding. According to their website, since 2007, 41 abortion clinics have closed where 40DFL has been held. More than 7,500 babies and their parents have been spared from abortion, and 83 abortion-clinic workers have left the industry. There is tremendous power when God’s people join in focused prayer.

    Changing Minds

During last spring’s 40DFL campaign, I was praying outside a Planned Parenthood center on a busy abortion day in Mobile, Alabama. A man who brought a young woman to the clinic for an abortion was standing near me, and I was given the opportunity to speak to him. He told me the young woman was his sister. I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to gently say, “You know that is your niece or your nephew she is carrying.”

This simple sentence seemed to awaken him to the reality of what was happening. Her niece or nephew was about to be aborted. He went inside to talk to his sister. About 10 minutes later, they both came out and stood at the door talking. Then she walked toward the car with her hand in his. As they approached us, she said with a smile, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to keep my baby.”

Those of us praying on the sidewalk rejoiced in a life saved, knowing this young woman would not suffer the pain and regret of an abortion.

We also have learned of instances when women have changed their minds simply because of a person standing or kneeling in prayer on the sidewalk. Being present makes an enormous difference.

    A Church Issue

Since 1973, when abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court, some 50 million babies have been aborted. When I learned nearly two-thirds of women having an abortion profess the Christian faith, it made me realize the church must address this issue. These women need to feel loved and know forgiveness and healing can be found in Christ.

There are many ways to participate in pro-life ministry in a Christlike way. In addition to participating in 40DFL (40days forlife.com), my home church, Forest Hill Church of God (Mobile, Alabama), assists the local crisis-pregnancy center by giving monetary donations and baby items.

We are also involved in a nationwide event called Life Chain. It features an annual public witness of individuals who peacefully and prayerfully line up along the highway in front of the church, some holding pro-life messages. We are also working to provide a confidential Bible study to help post-abortive women begin their journey to healing.

Our involvement in these ministries is a visual statement that the church supports the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception. The psalmist David wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (139:13 NIV). We believe abortion kills children created in the image of God.

    Spiritual Battleground

Abortion is a spiritual battleground. We read in Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Abortion is a weapon the Enemy has used to destroy the lives of millions of babies and to mar the lives of countless mothers and fathers who suffer the consequences of a deadly decision.

Abortion affects each of us. Women and men are suffering in silence in our churches. Many children are learning of siblings they will never meet because of abortion, and our society has lost the contributions of 50 million people. We can no longer ignore this evil. The church must be an open door preventing abortion and providing healing.

You can make a difference by simply spending one hour a week in prayer on the sidewalk near an abortion center, or volunteering at your local pregnancy center. You could be the vessel God uses to save His next great evangelist, artist, educator, or scientist.

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From Discipline to Delight https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/from-discipline-to-delight/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/from-discipline-to-delight/#respond Tue, 30 Apr 2019 08:00:51 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4355

Establishing A Pattern Of Prayer

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rayer is an essential to our spiritual life as food is to our physical body. There are many different types of prayer mentioned in the Bible—prayers of praise, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praying in the Spirit, just to name a few. They are all important and useful. There are times I feel led by the Holy Spirit to pray in a particular way, and this may change from day to day.

The most important element of prayer is the simple fact that we pray. Prayer is dependence on God. It is where we humble ourselves before God and He turns our weaknesses into strengths through a transfer of His power.

James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (NKJV), so our first step is to simply talk with God. We must establish a pattern of prayer in our life.

This is the beginning of a new year and a good time to set a new pattern in our lives. It takes about 21 days to establish a habit.

I set aside time for prayer early in the morning. I love the stillness of the morning, and this time works best for me. It is important for you to find the time of the day that works best for you. My grandpa, Rev. E. L. Newton, found that late at night, after everyone else was in bed, worked best for him.

Whether it is morning, noon, or night, put together a pattern of prayer in your life. If you do not have a plan of action, you will not have a successful prayer life. However, if you do establish the discipline of a daily quiet time, you can move from a discipline to a delight! Once your prayer time has become a delight, it can then move to discipleship.

I begin my quiet time with God through reading the Word of God. It has become such a delight for my life that each night as I go to bed, I anticipate this time of reunion with my God. During these early morning sessions, God speaks to me in powerful ways.

I also like to take a daily walk with God. As the hymn says, “He walks with me and He talks with me.” Each day presents new circumstances and challenges, but “the Lord’s mercies . . . are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23).

The next step of my pattern is intercession, which for me includes worship and praying in the Spirit. I have many responsibilities, so I have found this type of praying to be essential. There are times I feel overwhelmed and do not know where to even start praying, but the Holy Spirit is always there to lead me and intercede through me according to the will of God:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27 NKJV).

Here are some suggestions to help you in establishing a daily time with God. These are taken from experience and have been used in discipleship training.

    Make Prayer a Priority

Jesus spent much of His time in prayer. Luke 5:16 says Jesus “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (NKJV). We need time to get alone with God to hear His directions and receive His strength. Battles are waged and victories won on our knees in prayer.

If Jesus, who was the Son of God, needed to get away to spend time in prayer to maintain a life of victory, then how much more do you and I need to pray?

Are you facing a battle today? Are you in need of peace or direction for your life? If so, pray about it. You have worried about it long enough. Pray today in expectation of meeting with the God of heaven.

    Listen for God’s Voice

Over the years, I have learned God will rarely interrupt my busy life nor shout at me over the noisy activities of my day. However, God does speak to me when I take time to get away from the busyness and sit quietly in His presence.

Elijah found this to be true as well. He did not hear the Lord speak in a mighty wind, a powerful earthquake, or a raging fire, but in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 NIV). God speaks clearly but quietly, so we must listen closely. True prayer involves both talking and listening.

Could it be that God wants to speak to you today? You might never know unless you get alone with Him in a quiet place. Do you have a quiet place to get alone with God and pray? This is an essential element in developing a deep relationship with Christ.

The Word of God says those who know the Lord will know His voice (John 10:27). The Bible is one of God’s ways of speak- ing to us. Listen to what He says to you through His Word, and listen to His gentle whisper as He speaks to guide your life.

    Practice Persistence

Jesus instructed us to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1 NIV). Persistence in prayer is another secret to our victory.

Not only do I set aside regular time to get alone with God, but I also like to have a continual conversation with Him. This sometimes takes the form of an outward talk, but many times it takes place in my head and spirit. That might sound strange to some, but I have found this continual walking and talking with the Lord to be very helpful. It follows Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Try it. Such prayer can be transformational.

    Learn to Wait

Have you been praying and waiting on an answer from God? Sometimes the answer is not “yes” or “no” but, rather, “wait.” But we don’t like to wait! We want instant gratification. We have microwaves, fast-food restaurants, and instant messaging. . . and we expect the same “quick service” from God. However, God doesn’t always move on our timetable. The psalmist said, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7).

    Start Now

Establish a daily quiet time that works best for you. Pay the price of discipline, and in time, praying will become the delight of your life. Once this time is a delight, you will grow as a disciple.

God speaks to me through His Word and prayer each day as I seek Him. I daily dig out nuggets of truth and encouragement and listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Out of this overflow He has allowed me to grow in discipleship.

I now share these daily words of encouragement to others through Facebook, Twitter, texting, and a daily radio program “An Apple for Today.”

Don’t wait another day. Set a new pattern in this year to have a daily time alone with God.

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Faith Works https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/faith-works/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/faith-works/#respond Mon, 29 Apr 2019 17:00:50 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4446

In Inner-City Baltimore and Everywhere Else

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eet Justin. This past Christmas, he became the proud owner of a 2009 Pontiac G6. Justin lives right where he was raised— inner-city Baltimore, Maryland; a hotbed of violent crime.

Meet Billy Humphrey. He too was brought up in Baltimore, where he still lives. Billy and his wife, Sarah, pastor Pathway Church of God and run Baltimore’s City of Refuge.

These three individuals met many years ago, and they have developed a strong and lasting bond. They met not by accident, but because someone had the basic understanding that true Christian faith must bear fruit. In other words, daily application of Scriptural knowledge must be applied by professing Christians if the world is going to believe that Jesus Christ is who the Bible says He is.

The apostle James put it this way: “Faith, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17 NASB). Said in a different way: Jesus is still dead to a nonbelieving world when they observe people of faith every day who profess Jesus, but do not follow that belief with action.

Baltimore’s City of Refuge is a place where faith is put into daily practice. When you walk on the grounds, you witness people putting their faith into action through their works. They minister to the hurting—people who are hungry, raggedly clothed, and homeless. They also share the greatest message the world has ever heard—salvation through Jesus Christ.

Justin accepted Jesus Christ through this ministry. Justin is a young man whose greatest support system is the church. He doesn’t get it from home because to him, home doesn’t have the same meaning as it does to millions of others. There is no white-picket fence, two-car garage, or community center for youth to enjoy. His “picket fence” consists of abandoned cars; his “garage” consists of parking on the street; and his “community center” is a corner where drug deals come down and prostitutes are hired.

According to Pastor Humphrey, Justin’s story can be any one of a thousand stories of youth in Baltimore. The problems are many, but the Church of God has a lighthouse there that is making a difference, one person at a time.

For a young person to begin the climb out of poverty, they must get a good- paying job. In order to get that job, they need to be trained with a skill that will cause an employer to want to hire them. Then, to get that job, they must have transportation. Public transportation
isn’t good enough for most employers to hire a young person from the inner city. Employers need employees whom they can count on to get to work on time every day.

The struggle that young people have in cities like Baltimore are multiplied throughout America and around the globe. In Justin’s case, “faith with works” showed up on time. The Church of God family went to work. Money was raised and a call was made to a friend of the church who owns car dealerships. Ken Jones is a man who understands the powerful combination of faith with works. He found a car for Justin, checked it out, assisted in its purchase at his expense, and delivered it to Maryland just before Christmas.

In addition, for a 19-year-old from inner-city Baltimore, the least-expensive liability insurance we could find was around $2,000 for six-months. But what would be a game-stopper for most people was another opportunity for faith to produce some more works. Twelve pastors, congregations, and individuals from the Delmarva-DC region put their faith to work and paid the insurance for Justin’s first year.

What is the point of this story? Simply this: You can say you have faith and preach that you believe the Bible; but until your faith becomes visible action, there is no proof of your belief system.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
—James 2:18 (NKJV)

The apostle was not saying we are saved because we do works. Instead, he was saying we do good works because we are saved. Faith in Jesus Christ produces visible, tangible acts of love and kindness to the world.

Most everyone that I know loves fruit. You probably prefer some fruit over others (I’m not a grapefruit fan); but most of us love to eat certain kinds of fruit. The world may not always say it, but they love to see the Christian faith produce good fruit. Christian faith lived out produces such fruit.

According to Jesus, faith acted out:

    (1) glorifies God and
    (2) allows others to determine if Christians are real or fake, based on the fruit they produce.

He said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8 NKJV). Our heavenly Father is glorified when His children produce visible fruit. In addition, we move from “might be” or “could be” to “will be” disciples once we begin producing this fruit.

Think about it this way: What good is faith without obedience? James says even the demons in hell believe. They take it a step further than most and “tremble” at what they believe (James 2:19). For us as Christians, faith is taking God at His Word and obeying Him even when we don’t fully comprehend it. Obedience is the process where works are applied and lived out in our daily lives.

Until I have obeyed, I have not really trusted. When I do not obey God, I’m saying, God, I really don’t trust You or Your Word. I know what You have said, but I’m going to do it differently.

It is not those Christians who only hear God’s Word who are found faithful; rather, it is those who hear and obey. That is what Romans 8:14 tells us: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (NIV).

The ingredients of faith are simple. First, God’s Word must be heard. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NKJV). To have faith, you must know what God has said and what God is saying in His Word. Faith comes by hearing, not by having heard.

Second, the Word must be believed. Hearing God’s Word is absolute; however, acting upon what we hear and believe is also mandatory.

People who do not believe are not dealing with an intellectual problem; they are dealing with a moral problem. It is not an issue of the head, but an issue of the heart.

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.
—Hebrews 3:12 (NASB)

Faith is a response to God himself. God created my eyes so they would respond to light, my ears so they would respond to sound, my nose so it would respond to aromas, my hands so they would respond to feeling, and my spirit so I could respond to Him.

Third, the Word must be obeyed. Faith has always been linked to obedience. Faith that does not lead to obedience is not the lifestyle of a disciple of Christ. Just as light and heat are byproducts of fire, so works and obedience are byproducts of genuine faith.

There are countless people just like Justin around our world who need God’s people to act upon the faith Christ has imparted to them. As the hymn writer John H. Sammis penned:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

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We Must Never Forget Israel https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/we-must-never-forget-israel/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/we-must-never-forget-israel/#respond Mon, 29 Apr 2019 08:00:34 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4349

God is calling Christians to come alongside the Jewish people— praying for them, blessing them, and comforting them.

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erusalem! It is difficult for me to say that name or describe this land without emotion spilling our of every word. I am mesmerized by the sites, the history, and the people—but, most of all, what I know will happen here in future days.

From my balcony, where I am writing now, I see the ancient walls surrounding Mount Moriah, where the temple of God once stood. Ascending from the south, I see places where Jesus stood and taught on so many occasions.

After living here with my wife, Gina, for many years, it still seems new. Perhaps I’m sentimental, but anytime I travel from here, I come to this balcony to take a mental picture of the city one more time. When I return, it’s not long before I’m standing once again gazing at those walls and at the Mount of Olives where Christ will return.

This compelling love for Israel I have is not mine alone. Over the past few decades, the hearts of millions of Christians have been captivated by the land of Israel and the Jewish people. Without hesitation I can tell you, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Israel’s Purpose

Israel is unique. No other nation can rightfully claim they are the chosen people of God. In the opening pages of the Bible, we hear God promising Abraham he will father a nation that will be a blessing to every family on earth. He also promised the land of Canaan as Israel’s inheritance forever.

The purpose of God’s choosing Israel is not revealed until Exodus 19. Here we catch a glimpse of Israel camping as a little flock before Mount Sinai. Dramatically, God reveals their earthly destiny. He says to Israel, “You shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vv. 5-6 NKJV).

To seal their calling, God descended on the mountain with fire, completely surrounding it with smoke, accompanied by violent shaking. Then a trumpet blast grew louder and louder until God’s thunderous voice was heard by every person present.Wow! What an ordination service! What a revelation of the purpose of Israel’s existence!

Among the many responsibilities of priesthood, none is more significant than being the revealers of God and His Word—precisely what Israel has done. We would know nothing about God’s existence, the creation of the earth, the fall of humanity, and God’s efforts to bring us to Himself without these revelations that came through the Jewish people.

Most important, the Jews were exclusively chosen to present Jesus the Messiah to the world, demonstrated by what He said to a desperately inquiring Gentile woman:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24 NASB).

Furthermore, all the apostles chosen by Jesus were Jewish. The early church was Jewish, and the spreading of the gospel in the first century was generally a Jewish movement. Of course, many in the nations became believers and began spreading the word as well.

In A.D. 70, Jerusalem was tragically destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations of the earth, where they existed for over 1,900 years. Their path was unbelievably difficult, suffering persecutions and expulsion from one country after the other. To the casual observer, their priestly calling was apparently withdrawn.

    Israel’s Restoration

In the late 1800s, God began stirring the hearts of the Jews to return to their homeland as the first wave of Jewish immigrants made their way from Eastern Europe to reclaim their promised land. A half century later, after the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust, just as the prophets proclaimed, Israel and its people came back to life in 1948, when Israel officially became a nation once again.

From a prophetic point of view, these are the days of restoration spoken of by the prophets. Ezekiel described Israel as nothing more than dry bones scattered across a valley. But then he watched as the Spirit of God breathed on them, giving them life. God said to Ezekiel:

Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves’” (37:11-13 NKJV).

And the prophet Isaiah stated it would be Gentiles who would help bring them home:

Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders” (49:22 NKJV).

It is no coincidence that when the Iron Curtain came down in 1991, numbers of Christian ministries from the nations, including Ministry to Israel (MTI), crossed into the former Soviet Union to help bring Jewish people home.

I remember one particular time in the Ukraine when we were bringing Jews by bus to the airport in Kiev to fly to Israel the next morning. We had ridden for eight hours, and it was late. There was a 40-year-old invalid woman on the bus and no one was coming to help her, so I picked her up in my arms and carried her into the airport. As the automatic doors opened, the words of verse 22 exploded in my heart: “They shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.”

Tears began streaming down my face. The next morning we flew 186 Jews to Israel. Since we chartered the flight, just before landing, I had the opportunity to speak over the public-address system, telling them that their God was finally bringing them home. The whole plane broke out into applause.

Today, MTI and her sister organization, Ezra International, have over 200 Christian workers in the former Soviet Union helping Jews return to Israel. To date, we have assisted over 130,000 Jews to return home. Also, MTI has established the Jerusalem Support Center and the Israel Sup- port Network of Jewish fellowships, where we have assisted tens of thousands of new Jewish immigrants, including thousands of Lone Soldiers (members of Israel’s military whose families live abroad).

    Understanding the Spiritual Events of Our Time

These are remarkable days. In our times, after 1,900 years of waiting, we are seeing the final ingathering of believers from the nations while also watching the miraculous return of the Jewish people to their beloved Promised Land. With great precision, the Lord is setting the stage for His soon return to the nation of Israel. Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16 NKJV).

This is His work, His final intent in these days—one flock, one Shepherd.

The restoration of Israel, however, is by no means complete. It is a process, not an event. Though they are coming home physically, there is still a spiritual void in the hearts of many Israelis. As darkness approaches the planet, Israel will become more isolated than ever. God is beckoning to Christian believers to come alongside His people—praying for them, blessing them, and comforting them.

The reason Christians are so drawn to this land and the Jewish people is because we have been gathered into their flock, adopted into the priestly calling, and grafted into their olive tree. They are our spiritual family. Like Ruth the Gentile and Naomi the Jew, we are inseparable. May we never forget.

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When You’re Betrayed https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/when-youre-betrayed/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/when-youre-betrayed/#respond Fri, 26 Apr 2019 08:00:51 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4343

If you leave a decaying apple in the bowl long enough, the other fruit will rot along with it.

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e have all been touched by some form of betrayal.

Maybe you can remember when…

• He said he would love you and you alone. But the note on the table says he’s not coming back. He asks for
a divorce, and his attorney’s card is stapled to the note.
• She said she would always be your best friend, but now she’s taken your place with him.
• It was your idea. He listened to you share it over dinner, and then he took it to the boss and got the assignment.
• You shared something very personal and believed everyone understood it was confidential. Now you’re embarrassed beyond belief, and deeply hurt that someone you trusted betrayed you.

When we feel the bitter sting of disappointment and betrayal—as Joseph did when his brothers betrayed him (Gen. 37:23-28) —we have to deal with the hurt. There will be no peace until we settle this issue.

A wise friend once told me, “When someone trusts you, it is a heavier weight than when they don’t!” Broken trust may never be fully restored. Watch marriage partners struggle to regain their relationship after dealing with unfaithfulness. It’s indescribably difficult. Observe the businessman, whose partners sold him out for a large profit, struggle to even speak peaceably with them again. Anger is inevitable when faced with betrayal. Emotions run deep.

Several years ago, I was the victim of vicious criticism by two men I trusted and believed in. Although I am not usually sensitive to such things, there was something in this act that hurt to the core. When I overheard these men talking about me, enumerating my abilities and shortcomings, I was wounded. To my knowledge, they never knew I was around the corner. To this day, I doubt they even recall their words. Unfortunately, I do. When it happened, I quietly left the building and started home. Only God and I knew what was in my heart. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks and my heart screamed, Why me?

The only time in my life I believe I saw a vision was in the car driving home that afternoon. In the vision, there was a beautiful bowl of fruit on a kitchen counter. I saw a body move past the bowl and accidentally knock it off the counter. The bowl and fruit came crashing to the floor. While I saw no faces, I heard a voice say, “Pick it up and put it back into the bowl. Nothing is hurt.”

The voice was wrong. The fruit had been bruised from the fall. If you place a bruised apple in a bowl with healthy fruit, no one would notice—for a while. But over time, the apple would decay. If you left it in the bowl long enough, the other fruit would rot as well.

As I drove, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, That’s what will happen to you if you allow this bruise to go unattended.

“But it’s not my fault,” I protested. “I didn’t do anything to them.”

Even so, the bruise is yours to deal with. It is your spirit that will be affected. Then I remembered the words of Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me . . . to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). I realized the Lord would have to help me deal with my bruise.

“That’s what I want!” I cried with all my heart. Supernaturally, the Lord
touched me in that car. By the time I got home, I was a different person. I still remember the experience, but I am not negatively affected by it anymore, because the Lord set me free from the bruise I had suffered.

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Through The Storm https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/through-the-storm/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/through-the-storm/#respond Thu, 25 Apr 2019 08:00:55 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4340

The Bowling Family Keeps Singing

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hether in a large concert hall, a Gaither taping session, or a church service, The Bowling Family communicates the power of the gospel through their music and through their testimonies of God’s faithfulness to them following a serious bus accident. The group is comprised of Mike and Kelly Bowling, their daughter Hope, and a longtime friend, Troy Peach.

    First Songs

Kelly, born in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, remembers singing her first song, “He’s Still Working on Me,” at age 3. She was saved at age 14 shortly before attending a Church of God youth camp. About the same time, her family broke up and later became part of a blended family—the Crabbs. For 17 years, Kelly sang with Jason Crabb, twin brothers Aaron and Adam, and their sister Terah.

Mike grew up in London, Kentucky. At age 8 he started playing piano for his church. His mom paid for piano lessons, but his teacher finally said, “There’s not much I can do with him because he insists on adding chords and playing his own style.”

Mike loved piano so much that he wouldn’t let anyone else play for services in his home church. He also loved to sing solos. “My favorite time to sing was during the offering when no one was shouting and everyone was quiet.” He admits that’s not the case today, but the spiritual lessons he learned as a child in that country Holiness church stand true today. “I remember my daddy telling me, ‘Son, don’t ever step on the stage without the anointing.’ The Holy Spirit taught me how to do that,” he said.

When Mike was 16, he rode a Greyhound bus to Atlanta to begin singing and playing the piano with the popular LeFevre Trio, who attended the Mount Paran Church of God. “I was privileged to live with Uncle Alphus (LeFevre). He was my mentor and the closest thing to a saint I had ever known,” Mike said. “I had to finish high school by home schooling, which wasn’t popular at the time.”

After high school, Mike attended college and earned a degree in respiratory therapy before returning to the music world. In 1995, he joined the New Hinsons, a singing family known best for their song “The Lighthouse.” This was a perfect blend, considering Mike’s vocals are similar to those of the late Kenny Hinson. After a short time, Mike joined another successful group of family singers, the Perrys.

In 1996, Mike was singing lead with the Perrys when he met Kelly. The first year of their marriage, he traveled with the Perrys; she traveled with the Crabb Family until she got pregnant. Then he traveled with the Crabb Family and opened for them as soloist. Although this was his first time as soloist since his childhood days of singing for the offertory, his first single went to number four on the Southern Gospel charts. Mike and Kelly knew they would sing together, but it was all in God’s timing.

    The Bus Accident

On July 1, 2010, the Bowling Family’s touring bus was involved in a serious acci- dent. Kelly describes what happened:

“We were on our way to a TV taping in Indian Trails, South Carolina, which is close to Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of the time we travel at night, but on July 1, most of the family was up front. The weigh-station sign should have been posted ‘Full,’ but it wasn’t.

“Going 60 miles per hour, our bus hit a semitruck that was stopped in traffic. Mike was holding Katelanne, our youngest daughter, in his lap. He was knocked unconscious and sustained a brain injury and bleed, a broken arm, lacerations, and bruising. Katelanne had a large cut on her face that barely missed her eye, and her clavicle was crushed. They were both airlifted to the hospital in Charlotte, and the rest of the family was taken to a Charlotte hospital by ambulance.

“My back was broken. Our families were eight hours away. Terah Penhollow, who was singing with us at the time, was not injured seriously, so she was able to go through the tests with the three children.

“When tragedy strikes, you realize, It’s just me and God. In the ambulance, I remember thinking, This could easily be the worst day of my life, but I know God is with me. After five days, I was released from the hospital, but I lived in a body brace— what I called my turtle shell—for many months, and then I was on a walker.

“I had never been sick, but now I couldn’t even give my 3-year-old a bath or hold her in my lap. My bones were collapsing at one point, and the doctors thought I would need surgery, but God intervened.”

Mike said, “You can’t help but think, If we were in God’s will, this would never have happened.” Then he read Jesus’ words about Lazarus in John 11:4: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (NIV).

    The Healing

“My mother’s home looked like a hospital room with wheelchairs, hospital beds, and months of physical therapy,” Kelly said. She experienced the words to the song she had sung for years with her brothers and sister: “He will take you through the fire again.”

The Bowlings were unable to travel and sing for seven months. Mike said, “We couldn’t take care of our kids, and we had no way of supporting the family. The days seemed unbearable, but God provided. Every day when the mail ran, the checks came in so that we never missed our payments. Singers like Ricky Skaggs, the Gaither Vocal Band, and many others held several benefits for us that made it possible for us to regroup and survive.

“Katelanne required plastic surgery, but God was so faithful. Even with a crushed clavicle, in three weeks she was turning cartwheels. I believe this happened so we could encourage others. God didn’t cause the accident, but He used the outcome to reveal His plan.”

    Back in Ministry

“It was natural for us to fear getting back on the bus,” Mike said. However, their calendar is now filled with 200 dates a year, and all of the Bowlings are doing well.

“It’s hard work when you’re home three days a week and gone four, but God has opened so many doors for us,” Kelly remarked.

One Alabama pastor, Tony Matheny— who has had the Bowlings minister in his church more than once—said, “Mike and Kelly Bowling are an amazingly talented family. I have been listening to Mike Bowling sing since he was with the New Hinsons. He sounded so much like one of my all-time favorite singers, Kenny Hinson, but over the years he has developed a style that is all his own. Most of all, I love his heart and his desire for ministry. He and Kelly are true examples of what Christianity is all about.”

Mike offers this advice to anyone who desires a singing ministry: “Be sold out
to God first. He gives gifts to imperfect people, but you must put God first and work hard. Ask yourself,

Why do I want to sing?

If it’s because you’re a good singer and want to be heard on the radio, it’s not the right reason. You can have a great gift, but you also have to love people.”

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Oh, So This Is Bootcamp! https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/oh-so-this-is-bootcamp/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/oh-so-this-is-bootcamp/#respond Wed, 24 Apr 2019 08:00:53 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4334

This season you’re in may puzzle you, but it does not bewilder God.

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n November 28, 1965, the fighter plane of Howard Rutledge exploded under enemy fire. He parachuted into the hands of the North Vietnamese Army and was promptly placed in the “heartbreak Hotel,” one of the prisons in Hanoi.

When the door slammed and the key turned in that rusty, iron lock, a feeling of utter loneliness swept over me. I lay down on that cold cement slab in my 6-by-6 prison. The smell of human excrement burned my nostrils. A rat, large as a small cat, scampered across the slab beside me. The walls and floors and ceilings were caked with filth. Bars covered a tiny window high above the door. I was cold and hungry; my body ached from the swollen joints and sprained muscles…. It’s hard to describe what solitary confinement can do to unnerve and defeat a man. You quickly tire of standing up or sitting down, sleeping or being awake. There are no books, no paper or pencils, no magazines or newspapers. The only colors you see are drab gray and dirty brown. Months or years may go by when you don’t see the sunrise or the moon, green grass or flowers. You are locked in alone and silent in your filthy little cell breathing stale, rotten air and trying to keep your sanity (In the Presence of Mine Enemies).

Few of us will ever face the austere conditions of a POW camp. Yet to one degree or another, we all spend time behind bars.

    • My email today contains a prayer request for a young mother just diagnosed with lupus. Incarcerated by bad health.
    • I had coffee yesterday with a man whose wife battles depression. He feels stuck (chain number one) and guilty for feeling stuck (chain number two).
    • After half a century of marriage, a friend’s wife began to lose her memory. He had to take away her car keys so she wouldn’t drive. He has to stay near so she won’t fall. They had hopes of growing old together. They still may, but only one of them will know the day of the week.

Each of these individuals wonders, Where is heaven in this story? Why would God permit such imprisonment? Does this struggle serve any purpose?

As long as Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV), he will wreak havoc among God’s people. He will lock preachers, like Paul, in prisons. He will exile pastors, like John, on remote islands. He will afflict the friends of Jesus, like Lazarus, with diseases. But his strategies always backfire. The imprisoned Paul wrote epistles. The banished John saw heaven. The cemetery of Lazarus became a stage upon which Christ performed one of His greatest miracles.

Intended evil becomes ultimate good.

As I reread that promise, it sounds formulaic, catchy, as if destined for a bumper sticker. I don’t mean for it to. There is nothing trite about your wheelchair, empty pantry, or aching heart. These are uphill, into-the-wind challenges you are facing. They are not easy.

But neither are they random. God is not sometimes sovereign. He is not occasionally victorious. He does not occupy the throne one day and vacate it the next. “The Lord shall not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the thoughts and intents of His mind” (Jer. 30:24 Amp.). This season in which you find yourself may puzzle you, but it does not bewilder God. He can and will use it for His purpose.

Rather than say, “God, why?” ask, “God, what?” What can I learn from this experience? “Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him” (Deut. 11:2 TEV). Rather than ask God to change your circumstances, ask Him to use your circumstances to change you. Life is a required course. Might as well do your best to pass it.

God is at work in each of us whether we know it or not, whether we want it or not. “He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way” (Lam. 3:33 TM). He does not relish our sufferings, but He delights in our development. “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again” (Phil. 1:6 NCV). He will not fail. He cannot fail. He will “work in us what is
pleasing to him” (Heb. 13:21 NIV). Every challenge, large or small, can equip you for a future opportunity.

Howard Rutledge came to appreciate his time as a POW in Vietnam. He wrote:

During those long periods of enforced reflection, it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste. . . .

My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. . . . I wanted to know about the part of me that will never die. . . . I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. . . . It took prison to show me how empty life is without God. . . .

On August 31, after 28 days of torture, I could remember I had children but not how many. I said Phyllis’ name over and over again so I would not forget. I prayed for strength. It was on that twenty-eighth night I made God a promise. If I survived this ordeal, the first Sunday back in freedom I would take Phyllis and my family to their church and . . . confess my faith in Christ and join the church. This wasn’t a deal with God to get me through that last miserable night. It was a promise made after months of thought. It took prison and hours of painful reflection to realize how much I needed God and the community of believers. After I made God that promise, again I prayed for strength to make it through the night.

When the morning dawned through the crack in the bottom of that solid prison door, I thanked God for His mercy.

Don’t see your struggle as an interruption to life but as preparation for life. No one said the road would be easy or painless. But God will use this mess for something good. “This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. . . . God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best” (Heb. 12:8, 10 TM).

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Knowing What You Know https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/knowing-what-you-know/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/knowing-what-you-know/#respond Tue, 23 Apr 2019 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4360

What belief do Christians hold that aren't aligned with the Bible, just because someone told us they were right?

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ast December, some coworkers and I watched the funeral of President George H.W. Bush. One of the news commentators stated the President was going to be behind at the University of Texas. I knew that was wrong. He actually was going to be buried at Texas A&M University. (If you are from Texas, or if you pay any attention to college sports, you know there is a big difference between the two schools.)

I corrected the faceless voice on the television, saying it was “Texas A&M University,” not “the University of Texas.” For emphasis, I said the full name of the school: “Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University.”

One of my coworkers, Jeff, was sitting with me when I made that statement. He looked at me with a puzzled expression. He asked me if I was certain the A&M stood for “Agricultural and Mechanical.” I was—at least until he questioned me about it. A quick search on my phone confirmed it was, indeed, Agricultural and Mechanical.

Once I confirmed I was correct, Jeff laughed out loud in disbelief. He said for 50 years, he had believed the A&M stood for “Agricultural and Mining.”

Why did he believe that? Because his father had told him that when he was a small child, and he never bothered checking it.

Jeff’s father loved to joke with his son, and he would often tell him exaggerated stories or make humorous comments. He would generally correct them after a short while and tell his son the truth. However, he forgot to correct it on this occasion; or maybe he did correct it and his son wasn’t paying attention. As a result, Jeff had spent most of his life believing A&M meant something different than it does.

We had a bit of laugh about this, but it made me think:

What beliefs do Christians hold that aren’t aligned with the Bible, just because someone told us they were right?

Stated differently: How do we know what we “know”?

We lived in an age where we regularly hear terms like fake news and situational ethics. However, it is important that Christians know the truth about what we believe and how we conduct our lives.

An action is not right simply because it is popular or politically correct. Likewise, something we have done for many years should be reevaluated if it is not aligned with the teachings found in the Bible.

If you were blessed to grow up attending church, you were probably taught lessons in a variety of settings ranging from Sunday school to pastoral sermons. However, those aren’t sufficient.

Christians are directed to study the Word of God instead of relying on someone else to do it for us. The apostle Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV). Timothy was a young minister, but Paul’s directive is relevant to every Christian.

We are all ministers of the Gospel whether or not we stand in a pulpit on Sunday mornings, and we cannot fulfill that obligation if we do not know what is taught in the Bible.

The only way we can truly understand the Word of God is to study it. Through regular Bible study, devotion, and prayer, we can be certain that we know what we know as Christians.

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God Gives Peace When We’re In Pieces https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/god-gives-peace-when-were-in-pieces/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/god-gives-peace-when-were-in-pieces/#respond Tue, 23 Apr 2019 08:00:16 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4326

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 NKJV).

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handed my husband, Kurt, the phone and held my breath. He listened for a few moments, then turned toward me and mouthed “tumor.” I clasped my hand over my mouth as tears poured down my cheeks.

The minute Kurt heard the news, he felt God’s peace come over him. Not so for me. While we rushed to the doctor’s office, I repeated, “Our God is mighty; our God is great.” Yet all the while, I cried.

The brain surgeon showed us Kurt’s MRI result and said he needed to operate on Monday. The tumor was most likely cancerous and growing fast. This was Friday.

Kurt came out of the shower the next day and surprised me by saying, “I feel strongly that God wants me to speak during the church service. He wants someone there to know they need to put their trust in Him.”

Kurt had never asked to speak at church before, but he wanted to be obedient to the Lord. He called our pastor and explained everything. The pastor readily agreed and said it even fit in perfectly with his sermon.

Throughout the agonizingly long weekend, I repeated, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV). I knew God would help me get through this crisis, but I was still afraid. After hearing Kurt speak at church, God’s perfect peace came over me.

Our pastor told us a woman who heard Kurt speak had been contemplating suicide, but immediately those thoughts had disappeared. We didn’t know the whole story until a year later.

Amanda contacted us and wanted to meet Kurt. “He saved my life,” she said. We were eager to meet with this woman so we could explain it was God, not Kurt, who had rescued her.

As the three of us sat in a coffee shop, Amanda told her story. She had experienced so many health issues, discouragements, and other crises that she felt she could not handle them any longer. She developed a suicide plan. Her husband would be out of town on a particular Saturday night. She was going to enjoy a leisurely dinner, then swallow a full bottle of pills and lie down. Her husband would find her body when he returned from his trip.

However, that afternoon she sensed God urging her to attend church the next morning. “I don’t want to,” she said aloud. But in her mind she kept hearing,

Go to Church!

Amanda struggled for hours, then found herself driving to church. She does not even remember getting into the car. She had not showered nor changed her clothes that morning. Yet, she was on her way.

Amanda sat in church with her arms crossed and head held low. Why am I here? I don’t want to be here!

She nearly got up to leave several times. However, when Kurt stood in front of the congregation and began to speak, her eyes were drawn to him. The message spoke to her heart; God loved her and wanted her to put her trust in Him. Immediately, God’s peace came over her. She no longer wanted to kill herself; she wanted to live!

After relaying her story, Amanda reached over and hugged Kurt. “See?” she said, misty-eyed. “You saved my life.”

Kurt and I gently took hold of Amanda’s hands. “God saved your life,” Kurt said. “He spoke through me so you would know you needed to trust Him.”

Amanda nodded and hugged us both.

If Kurt had not obeyed God by speaking at church . . . and if the pastor had not agreed that he could speak . . . and if Amanda had not obeyed God’s urging to attend the service, she would probably not be alive today.

God gave Kurt, Amanda, and me His perfect peace—peace that comes when we put our trust in Him. As Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 NKJV).

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Tired To The Bone https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/tired-to-the-bone/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/tired-to-the-bone/#respond Mon, 22 Apr 2019 08:00:57 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4320

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NIV).

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hen I was a little girl, my daddy would come home from a long day of working at the chicken plant. He would be nasty-dirty, covered with . . . well, you can imagine.

As I would run to meet him, I would ask, “How was your day, Daddy?”

His response was always the same, as I hung onto the dirty leg of his faded blue jeans. “Hard, Sissy—hard and dirty. Daddy is ‘tired to the bone.’ Let me go get cleaned up now.”

Many years later, I came to understand that phrase “tired to the bone.” It hit me particularly hard one day when I was huge pregnant with our second child. Jim and I were struggling to get our little church going, and things were very tight financially. I’d taken a job at a local doctor’s office three days a week—sometimes four. We had events at the church nearly every night of the week it seemed, trying to get attendance up and make people in the community aware of the ministry.

While I truly enjoyed our work with the church and was very involved in the women’s group that was forming, I also loved my work at the clinic and had become quite good at being a medical assistant. On any given day, I might be called on to take and develop an x-ray of a child with a broken bone or an elderly man with emphysema; or I might be the one to share the results of a pregnancy test with a new mother. Sometimes a patient was happy beyond belief, while at other times, a patient was simply, well, unwilling to believe.

One particularly hard day, I had been on my feet for eight hours. My feet were swollen over the tops of my white nursing shoes, and my huge baby belly was causing my back to ache until I could barely stand it. I was watching the clock, waiting and hoping for the end of the day. The clinic had been packed all day—full of sick people and those who weren’t sick but thought they were.

About 5:00, just before closing time, I heard a frantic banging on the back door of the facility, just off the exam rooms. Wondering who on earth would be there when most everyone used the front entrance, I hurried to the door. Standing in the late afternoon sunset was a young mother and father and their little boy. I knew them well. We had seen her through a recent pregnancy and rejoiced in the birth of their beautiful baby girl.

The mother was holding the baby close to her breast, and a look of utter terror was on her face. Shoving the baby toward me, she said,

“Do something! Please do something! She is not breathing!”

Seeing the tiny bundle held tightly in her mother’s arms, my heart nearly stopped. It seemed like yesterday when this baby with black curls had been born. I had rejoiced with the family as she squalled in all of her squirming glory, turning beet red, when she had her six-week checkup.

Ushering the family to an empty exam room, I turned to find the doctor at my elbow. The receptionist had alerted him of the crisis. As I watched, he gently took the tiny girl from her mother’s grasp.

Laying her on the exam table and turning back the soft blanket, he did what all good doctors do—he tried his best to find any sign of life. There was none. It was too late. The beautiful little girl was waxen and white, only a shell of what she once was.

We all wept as we stood helplessly in that cold, stark room.

I remember well that feeling of being tired to the bone.

During my life, I have felt that tired just a few other times…but I will save those episodes for another day. It’s a feeling of desperation—being caught in a situation you can do nothing about— being hopeless.

Yet, Jesus Christ tells us to cast all our burdens on Him. He says, “Come to
me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30 NIV).

A few months after the woman lost her baby daughter, she came in for another doctor’s visit. I was again on duty that day, and was asked to run the blood work to see if she might be pregnant again. As I watched the test turn positive, I didn’t know whether to rejoice or to cry. How would this young mother react to knowing she was once again pregnant shortly after losing her little girl?

By this time I had my own baby girl to hold and cherish, and could not imagine the pain of losing her, as had this mother.

As the doctor and I together shared with her the results of her pregnancy test, joy filled her eyes and her face. She began sobbing and thanking us for giving her the good news.

A few months later, this mother was blessed to hold another beautiful baby girl in her arms. I remember rejoicing as I saw the sweet head nestled to her mother’s breast and realizing there truly is rest for our weary souls. And that “bone-tiredness” does not last forever if we lay it at our Savior’s feet.

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God Is Our Rock And Strong Tower https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/god-is-our-rock-and-strong-tower/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/god-is-our-rock-and-strong-tower/#respond Fri, 19 Apr 2019 08:00:42 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4316

God’s miraculous intervention for the Robinson family

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eeing the Declaration of Independence on the 237th anniversary of its adoption, followed by a spectacular July Fourth fireworks display, concluded what was to be the first part of our family’s 2013 vacation to Washington, D.C., and New York City. That night also culminated a five-week endurance of increasing but tolerable pain in my stomach and lower back.

The next morning, when Ginger and I, along with our daughters, Madray (14) and Mallory (13), left Washington to travel to Norfolk, Virginia, I was suffering from what I had come to think was a kidney stone. We were going to spend a couple of nights with friends Les and Tressa Woodard, and then I would preach on Sunday at the Azalea Garden Church of God.

After arriving at the Woodard home that Friday evening, we drove to the Chesapeake General Hospital, expecting my self-diagnosis to be confirmed. However, after several tests and scans, Ginger and I were shocked from our relaxed, vacation mindset when shown that my right kidney had a very large tumor. While the emergency-room doctor hesitated to tell me I had cancer, he was clear that it might be and told me I was very sick. He strongly urged us not to continue our vacation to New York but instead to return home immediately and find a urologist.

My wife of 20 years and I walked out of the hospital stunned, and before leaving the parking lot we held hands and prayed. I said, “God, You are our rock and our strong tower. We don’t even have a general doctor; we don’t know any doctors. Thankfully, we have not been sick. We don’t know what to do—You are going to have to lead us from this moment.”

As I finished our brief prayer, Ginger told me that right then, at the outset of our new journey, God had just given us a confirmation of His presence. Unknown to me, while I had been undergoing one of the tests that night, she had sat alone in the exam room resisting the Enemy’s voice of death and despair by repeating over and over, “Lord, You are our rock and You are our strong tower.”

Unable to stay and preach in Norfolk, we left early Sunday morning for a hectic, holiday weekend drive back to Washington, D.C., where we had arranged to fly home. Becoming much weaker and suffering intensifying pain, I reluctantly had to let Ginger and our daughters handle the luggage as I dragged myself through the airport. Another of God’s provisions was experienced when we were upgraded to first-class tickets, which enabled us to avoid incredibly long security lines at Reagan International and also have a more comfortable flight home.

We boarded the plane to fly nonstop to St. Louis with much anxiety about what was taking place, but with a sense that God was ordering our steps and going before us into the storm we sensed was brewing. We did not know how dark that storm was becoming with every passing minute. However, the Lord knew! We learned later that our friends from a church on our district—Pastor Doug and Lynda Bowers, and their Granite City Church of God praise team—had felt an intense and unplanned burden all day Sunday to pray and intercede for “someone’s” healing. I am fully convinced the Holy Spirit called them to pray when at the time no one—including us—knew how much we needed prayer.

After an almost two-hour delay, with us sitting inside our plane on the tarmac and many flights being canceled due to poor westerly weather conditions, our flight was rerouted and we took off. After landing in St. Louis, our plan was to ride the Metro Link train from the airport to downtown and spend the night at the Parkway Hotel that adjoins the sprawling Barnes-Jewish/Washington University Hospital complex, where I would “shop” for a urologist on Monday.

Once in St. Louis, we made our way through the airport to the Metro Link station. Thinking we might miss the train, we rushed to board it. The moment I stepped onto the train, I announced I was about to faint. I collapsed into an empty seat as the train began moving from the platform. With my eyes rolled back, extreme difficult breathing, profuse perspiration, and my lips turning blue, Ginger held my head in her hands.

Just as the train was leaving the station, someone pressed the emergency button to stop the train while strangers offered water and comforting words of support. One man asked if he could pray, and he did so fervently “in Jesus’ name.” After coming to a sense of my surroundings and thinking I could still get to the hotel, a Washington University medical student on board assured us we needed immediate medical attention. He called ahead to the university’s security staff in order to have a wheelchair ready for me at the Central West End station, which was several stops away. After getting off the train, I was quickly wheeled into the full, bustling emergency room of this massive hospital.

The next few hours were filled with tests that revealed the tumor on my kidney had actually grown through the renal vein and up the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) toward my heart and lungs. When running to board the Metro Link in St. Louis, three pieces of the tumor had broken off and passed through my heart and into my pulmonary arteries. In the words of my cardiac-thoracic surgeon, Dr. March Moon, “One tumor clot should have killed you instantly—let alone three.”

With one of the tumor clots approaching the size of a golf ball, Dr. Moon used the word “miracle” to describe how the tumor clots had “nudged just enough to let a trickle of blood through” until I could get to the emergency room. With my difficulty breathing, there was discussion with Ginger about the possibility of life support as my condition grew more critical. After being stabilized, I learned that if I had arrived at the hospital just one day later, I would probably not have lived.

The decision was made to proceed with major open-heart surgery to inspect for almost certain heart damage, remove the three tumor clots from my lungs, remove the tumor and right kidney, and determine the extent of any possible cancer. By Monday afternoon, we were told to call our family to come from Tennessee and other parts of the nation as the 12-hour surgery would be critical. One out of three people don’t survive such a surgery, and I was as risky of a patient they had seen. In fact, my urologist, Dr. Arnold Bullock, told his wife that he was not sure about the rationale of even attempting such a surgery, given my condition.

That night, I asked Ginger, “What do you do on what could be your last night?” I’ll never forget the heart-wrenching discussion with my family—especially with Ginger, Madray, and Mallory—of things I wanted and felt I needed to say to them if God didn’t bring me through the surgery the next day. Though against policy, given the severity of my condition, Ginger was allowed to stay with me the night before surgery. We held hands through the night, with Ginger occasionally awaking to make sure our hands were still clasped if this were to be our last night together.

The next morning, Tuesday, July 9, just four days after first learning about my illness, I entered the operating room with several teams of doctors standing by to each do their part. In addition to prayer from our family at the hospital and those unable to come—as well as many of our incredible local congregation gathered across the river in Bethalto, Illinois—hundreds of people worldwide were fasting and praying with us for God’s hand to be evident . . . and evident it was!

The 12 hours reserved for the operating room turned out to be unnecessary, as the surgery only lasted four hours! The large tumor was removed in a very uncharacteristic single piece without any need for the vascular team to fish for any fragments. Incredibly, there was no damage to my heart. The tumor clots were easily taken from the pulmonary arteries, and there was no evidence of any cancer spread to any other organs or nearby tissue. Rather than keeping me sedated for 24 to 48 hours after surgery as planned, I was awakened the next morning. Within a day after surgery, I was moved out of ICU. By Sunday, I was discharged with no pain medicines needed. Three weeks later, I started attending weekly worship services at our church, and was able to preach for the first time on September 15.

As of this writing, all scans and tests continue to show no evidence of further cancer! For the next several years, I will continue to be checked regularly for any possible recurrence. For now, I’m not on any medicine, have had no type of treatment, and am finding out how easy it is to live with just one kidney. And, yes, what I knew before is now clearer than ever no matter the future:

God is our rock and strong tower!

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Preaching Is God’s Plan https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/preaching-is-gods-plan/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/preaching-is-gods-plan/#respond Thu, 18 Apr 2019 08:00:15 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4309

The call of God can best be described as an unmistakable, inescapable, irresistible, inner compulsion and constraint; a sense of absolute urgency and necessity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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he heartfelt cry of the believer and the secular person alike in the 21st century is for a presentation of truth that will make a profound difference in life.

In spiritual terms, that means a message from someone who knows what the Bible says and who shares it in the power of the Holy Spirit. The sharp rebuke of Jesus to the would-be preachers and teachers of His day was, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power
of God” (Matt. 22:29 NKJV). As in His times, the need of the hour is for preachers who know the Word and who deliver its eternal and unchanging truths under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

That kind of preaching is relevant and life-changing in today’s world.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said:

I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Savior, and the magnificence of the gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.

    Called to Preach

How do you know if you are called to preach? For me, the call of God can best be described as an unmistakable, inescapable, irresistible, inner compulsion and constraint; a sense of absolute urgency and necessity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripturally, it is probably best expressed by Paul: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

The call of God came to me on Sunday night, November 23, 1983, at the Conn Center on the Lee University campus. I had transferred to Lee the University of Denver as a premed major on an academic scholarship, hoping to complete my studies, continue to medical school, and become a cardiovascular surgeon. But God had other plans for me.

On the surface, things were going great for me, but inwardly I was miserable and dying. That Sunday night in chapel, Lee president Dr. Ray H. Hughes preached a sermon on Calvary, “What Does the Cross Mean to You?” As the Holy Spirit brought me face-to-face with the Cross,
I saw Jesus in all the glory of His passion. I saw myself and all my pitiful attempts to direct my own life. But I also saw a world that was lost and hopelessly dying. In broken repentance I cried out, “God, why do you need me? You have Ray Hughes, T. L. Lowery, Billy Graham, Steve Brock, and all those other preachers. I have no talent, nothing to offer You. But if You will help me to hide Your Word in my heart, I will go where You want me to go, I will be what You want me to be, I will say what You want me to say.”

With simplicity and sincerity, I accepted God’s call and that vivid experience—as real to me as my conversion-has served as a point of reassurance through years of ministry.

In my understanding, the call to preach follows a Trinitarian formula: The authority to preach comes from God the Father (“As the Father has sent me, I also send you” [John 20:21]); the message preached is Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; and the power for preaching is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This frames a theology of preaching that encompasses the God who speaks, the Son who saves, and the Spirit who empowers.

    No Better Way

Voices arise from time to time suggesting there ought to be a better way to communicate the gospel than preaching. Surely with all the new technology that exists, they say, someone should come up with a new way for the church to maintain itself and proclaim its message. But, according to Scripture, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Preaching is God’s plan. Those who look for an alternative are usually young believers who do not know better or old believers with poor memories.

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How My Mom Found Christ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/how-my-mom-found-christ/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/how-my-mom-found-christ/#respond Wed, 17 Apr 2019 08:00:16 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4300

However, Jesus had set me free from drugs and alcohol, and I had confidence knowing I would spend eternity in heaven.

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y mom was trapped in a prison of alcoholism. I knew she couldn’t escape alone, because I had spent time in that same place.

However, Jesus had set me free from drugs and alcohol, and I had confidence knowing I would spend eternity in heaven.

With my newfound assurance and freedom, I was determined to help my mom receive Christ. I joined a Bible study at my church so I could learn the “right way” to share the gospel with her. I learned how to present the salvation message using five Bible verses and a little dialogue.

I tried this with my mom, who let me know she was not interested. I tried to explain how full life could be with Christ at the center, but I could not get through to her.

After months of trying to make her see, I gave up. I told God, “If You want her saved, then it’s up to You! I can’t make her understand!”

A few days later, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She promised God, “If You give me one more chance, I’ll stop drinking and start going to church.” But she still didn’t ask Christ to forgive her and make her whole.

She focused on what she would do for God instead of what He had already done for her.

One night we were both having trouble sleeping, so we stayed up late talking. I silently prayed, “Lord, if You want to use me tonight to share the gospel with me mom, please put the right words in my mouth.”

Then I explained again how none of us can earn our salvation, but how the death of Christ paid our debt for us. All we can do is accept this gift as the payment for our sins.

She looked thoughtful. She said, “Vicki, there is one thing I have never understood. Why did God make Jesus die?”

“God didn’t cause Jesus’ death; we did,” I explained.

“No, I mean, why didn’t God just forgive us automatically? If God is so good and loving, why did He require His Son’s death?”

I didn’t know how to answer; I hadn’t been taught this at the Bible study. I felt panicky, but then a quiet voice told me,

Just be honest. Tell her you don’t understand it all, then explain what you do understand. Trust Me to guide you for the rest.

“Mom, I don’t understand all of the ‘whys,’” I admitted, “but I do know it has always been this way. Blood has always been the only acceptable payment for sin.” I then talked about the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament, and how Jesus became the final sacrifice.

My mom pursed her lips, furrowed her brow, and pulled her blankets up around her. “Well, I’m tired,” she said. “I think I’ll go to sleep now.”

“Yeah, me too,” I said, hiding my disappointment.

Why wasn’t she ready to accept Christ? Maybe she would never be ready.

I went to bed feeling frustrated. The next morning, Mom called me into her room.

“Vicki, guess what! . . . After you went to bed last night, I asked Jesus to come into my heart.”

I felt like leaping into the air and shouting, “Hallelujah!”

My mom’s life changed dramatically. Before, she had been so unhappy, spending most of her time in a drunken stupor. Now the fragments of her life started coming together, and she was at peace.

Meanwhile, she underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, followed by a year of chemotherapy “just in case.”

Mom began living each day to its fullest. She started walking for exercise, soon covering almost five miles most days. She was active in church, enjoyed taking care of her yard, and generally loved life.

Mom experienced two or three years of good health before it was discovered the chemotherapy she had endured “just in case” had destroyed her bone marrow, causing her to develop leukemia. She fought with all of her heart, but in the end it finally stopped beating.

Through my mother’s coming to Christ, I learned the Holy Spirit works through people like me to reveal the gospel to those who are unsaved. God can use anyone or anything to show salvation comes only through His Son, Jesus Christ.

I thank God that my mom isn’t trapped anymore—not by alcohol, sickness, or old age. She is forever free.

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Trading In Our filthy Rags https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/trading-in-our-filthy-rags/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/trading-in-our-filthy-rags/#respond Tue, 16 Apr 2019 08:00:30 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4295

The Lord Our Righteousness

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he expression “The Lord Our Righteousness” is found only in two verses in the Bible. Both are in the Book of Jeremiah:

•“In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (23:6).*
• “In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (33:16).

Both of these verses refer to the reign of Jesus Christ when He returns to the earth as “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev.17:14). At that time, the Jewish people will be gathered from all the countries where they have been scattered and once again dwell in their own land.

The beginning of this reality was seen in May 1948, when the nation of Israel was reborn in their ancient homeland. It will be completed when the Jewish people “in their own land shall dwell safely under a ‘Christ-ocracy,’ far more privileged than the old theocracy” (Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown Commentary).

    The Lord Our Righteousness

The Jewish people can look forward to a time when they will dwell in peace and safety in their homeland during the reign of the Messiah . . . but how does this apply to Christians?

Although Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16 are promises to God’s chosen people, Christ is also “The Lord Our Righteousness” to Gentiles who accept Him. The apostle Paul declared, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

In the Old testament, righteousness often was associated with deeds. “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us” (Deut. 6:25). However, under the new covenant, righteousness is associated with a relationship with the Lord.

It is in Christ and through Him alone that we obtain righteousness before God. The apostle Peter said we “have obtained like precious faith . . . by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ . . . as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:1, 3).

The Bible sets forth the inadequacy of our righteousness: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous- nesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).

    The Lord My Righteousness

I first attended a Pentecostal church more than 52 years ago, shortly before Wilma and I married. Six weeks after our wedding, I attended my second Pentecostal service on Valentine’s Day 1962. That night, kneeling side by side in the altar, Wilma and I accepted the Lord’s righteous- ness into our lives.

We discovered the truth if Paul’s words” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). We had no works of righteousness, but that night we “became heir of the righteousness which is accord- ing to faith” (Heb. 11:7).

    The Promise of Righteousness

Although our righteousness is inadequate, we have the promise of receiving the righteousness that comes through faith in The Lord Our Righteous- ness. “You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).

The Lord Jesus Christ “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

His obedience unto death is the justifying righteousness of believers, and their title to heavenly happiness. . . . “The Lord Our Righteousness” is a sweet name to a convinced sinner; to one that has felt the guilt of sin in his conscience; seen his need of that righteousness, and the worth of it (Matthew Henry Commentary).

Yes, Jesus Christ our Savior, the Lord of lords and King of kings, is The Lord Our Righteousness—not only to the Jewish nation, “but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

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He Is In Control https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/he-is-in-control/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/he-is-in-control/#respond Mon, 15 Apr 2019 08:00:01 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4290

The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev 21:6 NIV)

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t had been raining all day in Seluck, Turkey. The clouds were scattered consistently along the dark tapestry beneath the sloping hills of Ayasoluk, near the ancient ruins of Ephesus.

As the rain receded, my emotions were like the tossing of the nearby sea of Ionia. For the second time this year, I was with archaeologists and professors of ancient church history leading me through ruins from the first 300 years of the Christian church.

I was in a midlife crisis, looking for some answers for “my” troubling world. I never imagined I would be alive to see the world in such a troubling position or the Christian church in such a persecuted posture.

As the sun began to break through the clouds, I stood over the remains of the baptismal tank in the Basilica of Saint John, just a few feet from his grave site. John died a martyr, and now Christians living in the Middle East are facing severe persecution.

During the past three years, I have eaten many dinners with members of the persecuted church—the underground heroes of faith. To my surprise, I have found them to be just like you and me. They are not superstars or superheroes. No, they fear death, and are often troubled for their family’s safety. They lament the loss of jobs due to their faith in Christ, and they bleed when touched by the sword.

Ironically, in the midst of their trouble, they possess an uncommon strength to believe God is in control. Yet, I sometimes struggle with this issue even as I preach the gospel without fear of persecution.

However, even my “peaceful” world is a troubling place where the lukewarm church is masquerading as a warring army . . . the boldness of sin penetrates family systems . . . we witness child abductions, violence against the weak, and cruelty toward the elderly.

The unkindness of men propelled my spirit to ask,

God, where are You, and why don’t You do something? Have You left this world? Are You simply watching us from afar?

I pleaded for God to “get involved” in my life and in this world, for it can seem like man is in control of history instead of God.

As I was pouring my heart out to God, I noticed a rainbow forming directly over the church. To my surprise, it was a double rainbow. It seemed to begin at the baptismal tank and flowed like paint strokes over the skies that covered the apostle’s tomb.

There, near the burial place of the writer of the Book of Revelation, I began to understand the peace of Christ in a troubled world and the impact of Jesus’ declaration, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

    The Name ‘I AM’

When you call someone by name, you attract his or her attention. In the Mediterranean world, names tell you about a person’s identity, beliefs, and character.

Emanuel Swedenborg said the divine name of “I AM,” revealed in the Old Testament, signifies “the being and coming forth of all things in the universe.” Life starts with God.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I am . . .

• “the bread of life” (6:35)
• “the light of the world” (8:12)
• “the door” (10:9)
• “the good shepherd” (10:11)
• “the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
• “the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6) • “the vine” (15:1).

I have grown to realize during my troubled days that Jesus is the sustenance I need to live. He is the light that shines in my dark hours, and the doorway to a conversation with God. He is kind, caring, and protecting like a good shepherd. He renews my life because He is truth and life. Without Him, I would not bear fruit, but would die. Through Him, I will live forever.

    The Alpha and the Omega

You probably know alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, and omega is the last. However, when Christ calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega,” what does it mean to those of us who seek an answer for our troubled times?

Christ is lifting up two opposites to emphasize the totality of all that lies in between. He is expressing His sovereignty over human history. He will bring it to an end by salvation and judgment. God is the beginning and the end of all things. He transcends time and therefore guides the entire course of history. Vladimir Putin and Barrack Obama can do nothing unless God allows it.

“Alpha and Omega” is Christ’s double signature declaring that God’s presence surrounds your beginning, middle, and end. Nothing that has happened or will happen can change that fact.

Take heart. Be encouraged today. Christ stands alone as the Creator and Ruler of everything. Nothing you will face is outside the realm of His retina.

As the Alpha and the Omega . . .

• Christ controls not only the beginning but also the outcome. He will bless you in due time.
• Christ is never caught by surprise. He is in control of your enemies and your friends. His name encompasses all of history; therefore, He is faithful throughout all time.
• Christ controls not only the beginning and the end, but everything in between.

As I rested against the column of the ancient remains of Saint John’s baptismal pool, I could not help but sense that God is in control. His names recorded by John were screaming the fact that He is sovereign.

On that day, my head let my heart take over in the territory of the unknown as I smiled at the internal realization that the Alpha and the Omega is faithful in the beginning, the middle, and the end. Amen.

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Because I Said So! https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/because-i-said-so/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/because-i-said-so/#respond Fri, 12 Apr 2019 08:00:33 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4265

When I was growing up, I hated hearing "Because I said so," which seemed to be every adult's favorite line.

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hen I was growing up, I hated hearing ” Because I said so,” which seemed to be every adult’s favorite line.

I was a curious kid, which kept me in trouble. I wanted to know and do everything, and if I was told “No,” I wanted to know why. After one such because-I-said-so lecture, I promised myself never to use this excuse with my children.

Throughout my adolescence and into adulthood, it seemed God was just another authority figure refusing to give me real answers. When my prayers seemed unheard or unanswered, why didn’t God just tell me why? I loved God and served Him . . . but sometimes resented Him.

It wasn’t until I became a mother to my own kids, as well as to a multitude of foster children, that I finally listened to what God had been saying all along.

The answer came through a precious 4-year-old who lived with us for a year, and whom we loved as one of our own. She had sandy blonde hair, and when she first joined our family, she did not even know how to smile for a photograph. We have tons of pictures of everyone else smiling beautifully, but there she is with one eye closed, scrunching her nose and baring her teeth. It was precious and heartbreaking at the same time.

“Sandy” made it clear she had her own mother and father, and we were not them. She called me by my first name, and when it was time for a visit with her family, she sang and danced around the house in excitement.

Her story has a happy ending, for her parents worked hard and she was eventually able to go home, but it was a long road. We hung photos of her family around the house, drew pictures for them, and prayed for them every night—anything we could do to make her time away easier.

I’ll never forget the day she padded into the kitchen, her favorite teddy bear tucked safely under her arm. In a matter-of-fact tone, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Holly, Id on’t want to live at your house anymore.”

This was an important moment. She had come to me with her heart on her sleeve and deserved a real answer to all the unsaid questions:

How much longer do I have to be here…why can’t I be with my family . . . why can’t I just go home?

I wrapped her in my arms and said, “I know you want to go home, and I’m sorry you have to go through this. But I am here for you, and we will get through this together.”’

I felt like I had just given her a fancy version of “because I said so.”

The truth is, that’s exactly what she needed to hear. Her 4-year-old mind could not understand the complexities of her situation, and laying out the plan to get her home would only frustrate her and seem like an eternity. The most loving thing I could say was, “I know this is hard and you don’t understand, but I love you and I am here for you.”

There are time we walk hard roads as well, wishing we could fast-forward to a happy ending. Facing difficulties with no directional signs in sight can be frustrating…but we must not forget that just because we don’t see God working, doesn’t mean He’s not.

In the second chapter of Ruth, we find Ruth elbow-deep in grain in the field of her kinsman Boaz. She had lost the love of her life, the promise of children, the comfort and security of the home she once knew. The future laid out before her was anything but a dream. Everything she saw, heard, and felt said her current road was permanent—there was no evidence that her situation would ever change. Ruth had no way of knowing that she was only days away from “happily ever after.” God had not forsaken her; He was carrying out the plan that had always been in place. All she had to do was stay on the road He had called her to walk.

When you feel abandoned, it is normal to be tempted to take things into your own hands. In those moments, remember God will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5 NKJV). Why? Because He said so.

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¿Por qué Dios Nos Pregunta? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/por-que-dios-nos-pregunta/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/por-que-dios-nos-pregunta/#respond Thu, 11 Apr 2019 17:56:08 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4277

El preguntar es un arte.

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l preguntar es un arte. Los grandes maestros de la historia han sido aquellos que basan su pedagogía en los cuestionamientos; no precisamente porque no conocen las respuestas, sino, porque a través de ellas los aprendices interiorizan sus necesidades, temores, aspiraciones, sueños y se confrontan con su realidad.

El diccionario define el término “pregunta” como: una interpelación que se realiza con la intención de obtener algún tipo de información. Al pronunciar esta interrogación, se espera recibir una respuesta que incluya los datos buscados.

Desde muy pequeños, preguntamos y preguntamos: ¿para qué sirve esto? ¿cómo funciona este juguete? ¿qué pasa si presiono aquí?, un conocimiento que se construye con interrogantes.

Conforme el tiempo avanza, no son ajenas esas preguntas exitenciales que tarde o temprano nos planteamos: ¿quién soy? ¿para qué estoy aquí? ¿hacia dónde voy? Seguramente todos, sin excepcion hemos tratado de colocar a Dios en la silla de los interrogados: ¿por qué a mí?, ¿dònde estabas?, ¿por cuánto tiempo más? y exigimos respuestas, mientras más rápido mejor.

Pero, qué sucede, cuando las respuestas que esperamos son contestadas con preguntas del mismo Dios omnisapiente, por aquel que tiene el conocimiento absoluto de todo, y al igual que a Job nos dice:

“Pórtate como hombre, y prepárate; yo te voy a preguntar, y tú me vas a responder” (Job 38:3 RVC).

Imborrables momentos, experiencias y emociones, cuando escuchaba en labios de mi padre, ¡Carlos! Tengo que hablar contigo, hay una serie de preguntas que tengo que hacerte. Yo sabía que tenía que ceñirme los pantalones y prepararme para lo que estaba por venir. Sin embargo, mi padre, nunca tenía una actitud de juez, mucho menos de tirano y acusador. Eso sí, cada pregunta pronunciada y emitida por sus labios, esperaban una respuesta sin ambiguedades y rodeos; al fín y al cabo lo que más anhelaba él, era ayudarme, enseñarme, corregirme para que yo tomara la decision correcta.

¿Es posible que Dios nos pregunte algo? ¿estará Él interesado en escuchar nuestras respuestas? ¿por qué Dios nos pregunta? La Biblia esta plagada de muchas preguntas que Dios hace a los seres humanos. Basta con leer el libro de Job, y observar que en tres de sus capítulos aparecen más de cincuenta cuestionamientos que forman parte de  la interpelación divina en los capítulos 38 al 40.

Sin lugar a dudas, muchas de las preguntas que Dios nos hace, son en momentos específicos y dependiendo de la circunstancia en la que nos encontremos. Sin embargo, esa primera pregunta que Dios hizo en la Escritura en el libro de Génesis 3:9 ¿Dónde estas tú?, sigue teniendo vigencia, y nos confronta a evaluar y conocer nuestra realidad.

Seguramente, Dios conoce dónde nos encontramos; pero cuando Él pregunta, es porque nosotros mismos necesitamos la respuesta. Al igual que Adán, despues de haber desobedecido y tratado de esconderse de Dios, la pregunta es una vez más, ¿Dónde estás tù? No el vecino, no el amigo, ni el hermano, o el cónyuge, sino, “tù”. Esta pregunta que perfora la conciencia de inmediato y nos llama a meditar en la condición en qué nos encontramos. ¿Es este el lugar y la condición en la que Dios me quiere?

Veamos el cuestionario de Dios; y no olvidemos que para responder nos demanda lo mismo que a Job, “Pórtate como hombre, y prepárate. Yo te voy a preguntar, y tú me vas a responder” (Job 40:7).

Ante la indiferencia, quejas, apatías, inconformidades y reniegos constantes, Dios nos pregunta ¿Qué te he hecho, en qué te he molestado? (Miqueas 3:6). Una pregunta para reaccionar. Recordemos las maravillas que Él ha hecho con nosotros.

En un momento en el cual pudieron habernos fallado amistades, familia, aún la misma iglesia, Dios nos pregunta ¿qué mal te he hecho?, en gran número, las cosas adversas que atravesamos son fruto de nuestras malas decisiones y consecuencias de la misma desobediencia. Traigamos a la memoria de dónde Dios nos rescató, cómo vivíamos antes de conocerle, y lo grande que Él ha sido en nuestro peregrinaje por la vida.

Amararemos los cinturones, y recordaremos que nuestras respuestas deben ser realistas, sinceras, sin fingimientos, no aparentando una falsa religiosidad. Por tal razòn, contestemos aquello que le preguntó a Caín en el principio de los tiempos: ¿Dónde está tu hermano? Génesis 4:9. Curiosamente la respuesta de la gran mayoría sigue siendo esquiva: ¿acaso soy yo el guardián de mi hermano?

Dios, ¡estoy vivo! ¡me encuentro bien! ¡no me falta nada!, la vida de mi hermano, es cuestión de él. Esta es una de esas preguntas que incomodan. Probablemente pensemos: ¡suficientes problemas tengo! ¡yo debo dar cuenta de mi familia! ¡los demás no son mi responsabilidad!

¿Dónde está tu hermano? Es un recordatorio, evocando que debemos compartir con los demás, abriendo las ventanas de nuestras casas, observando el dolor ajeno, con el fín de llevar esperanza, justicia y verdad. Yo conozco de Jesùs, soy salvo y amo a Dios con todo mi corazón, pero . . . ¿Dónde está mi hermano?

Las preguntas que Dios nos hace, no tienen fecha de caducidad, siguen resonando en la mente de aquellos que le aman. ¿Qué tienes, qué te pasa? una interrogante del Padre Eterno a una mujer  marginada, desechada y abandonada en el desierto. El llanto agonizante de esa madre en medio de la soledad. Pero Aquel que conocía aún su nombre y veía las lágrimas que se mezclaban con la arena y el viento frio, ¿Qué te pasa? Génesis 21:17. Una pregunta, que va más allá  de un simple formalismo, y que denota un verdadero interés. El Dios que conoce nuestro andar y presta atención a cada circunstancia y nos recuerda con su pregunta, “yo cumpliré, lo que te prometí”.

Cuando Él pregunta, es porque nosotros mismos necesitamos conocer la respuesta. Abramos nuestros oídos y escuchemos lo que Dios nos está preguntando: ¿dónde estás? ¿qué te he hecho? ¿dónde está tu hermano? ¿Qué te pasa? No dudo que hay otras interrogantes que Dios nos plantea, con el objetivo de llevarnos de la mano en su pedagogía divina para seguir acompañándonos en el día a día.

por Carlos Jiménez
Director Latinoamericano de Generación Emergente

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“I AM Has Sent Me To You” https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/i-am-has-sent-me-to-you/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/i-am-has-sent-me-to-you/#respond Thu, 11 Apr 2019 08:00:41 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4260

No Need For Fear Or Intimidation

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ighty-year-old Moses is tending sheep in the Midian desert, where he has been living since killing an Egyptian four decades earlier. On the backside of nowhere, Moses sees something extraordinary—a bush on fire but not being burned up.

God calls to Moses from the midst of that fiery bush, refers to the hot desert floor as “holy ground,” and calls Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.

Aware that idolatry and superstition were the norm, and knowing that many believed in regional and local gods, Moses does the unthinkable—he asks Almighty God to identify Himself.

“When I . . . say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13).*

God replies, “I AM WHO I AM. . . . Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ’’ (v. 14).

The name I AM is related to the Hebrew verb meaning “to be,” and it speaks of the absolute existence of God. God exists . . . period. No debate; no defense. This name takes us back to words written by this same Moses, who simply pronounced, “In the beginning God . . . ” (Gen. 1:1), and to the profound message of the apostle John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

It was from this understanding of God that the writer to the Hebrews said, “He who comes to God must believe that He is” (11:6), and “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8).

By calling Himself I AM, God announces to us His eternality. He was not created; He has no beginning, and He has no progenitor. The triune God existed before the mountains were born, and His existence spans “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90:2). As mortals, our time is chronological and linear, but God is timeless. He is not I WAS, nor is He I WILL BE. He is God of the ever-present now—I AM.

The name I AM also signifies God’s all-sufficiency. To arrogant Israel, God said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness” (Ps. 50:12). David proclaimed, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (24:1).

The prophet Isaiah also declared the Lord’s self-sufficiency: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (40:28). Since God is self-sufficient, He has no lack, no want, and no need.

Jesus boldly identified Himself with I AM of the Old Testament, thus announcing His deity. As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus set all of Judaism on its heels when He declared, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). They fully grasped He was declaring Himself to be God, and thus, according to their law, a blasphemer, so “they took up stones to throw at Him” (v. 59).

The apostle John identified Jesus with I AM when he stated that Jesus (the Word) was with God in the beginning. He further proclaimed that not only was He with God, but He was God (1:1); all created things were made by Him (v. 3); and that He was the revelation of that I AM whom no one had seen (v. 18).

Jesus identified Himself with I AM in response to an inquiry from Philip, who said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8). The response of Christ was to ask why the disciples had not already beheld the Father through the Son. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (v. 9), said Jesus to Philip. “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me [and] the words that I speak to you I do not speak
of My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (v. 10).

No less than eight times, Jesus introduced Himself with the words I AM. He proclaimed, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “I am the bread of life” (6:35), “I am the door” (10:7), “I am the good shep- herd” (v. 11), “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6), and “I am the true vine” (15:1).

Most astonishing of all, the resurrected Christ declared, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End . . . who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).

As believers in Christ, we have been called to serve the ever-present, all-sufficient I AM. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5), and He has assured us that He will supply our needs (Phil. 4:19).

As Moses was called to liberate the people of Israel, so we are called to proclaim liberty to those who are spiritually captive (Luke 4:18). Our message is unlike the message of any other religion or so-called faith. We are called to go and proclaim the gospel, making disciples for Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20).

Do not be afraid. Do not be intimidated. When they ask who sent you, say, “I AM has sent me to you.”

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The God Who Hears https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/the-god-who-hears/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/the-god-who-hears/#respond Wed, 10 Apr 2019 08:00:45 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4255

While believing God will hear and act, we need additional categories of prayer.

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he ancient Israelites were formed by their songs to recognize God as the One who hears their prayers, supplications, and cries, and were exhorted to put this recognition to the test through prayer.

In the New Testament, the disciples never ask whether God hears. Such a belief is already entrenched in their mind-set. However, they do ask Jesus how to pray.

The Gospels portray Jesus both as a person who prays often and extensively, and as a teacher who criticizes the prayers of Pharisees as hypocritical and ineffectual. Jesus is, therefore, both model and critic, and His disciples want to pray in ways that conform to Him and also keep them from falling under His critique. While we have heard it said, “Everyone knows how to pray, so just do it,” we can follow the disciples’ example and seek instruction.

This was brought home to me in March 2008 at the Society for Pentecostal Studies conference. The presidential address by David Daniels was on the “Sounds of Pentecost,” wherein he argued that Pentecostal services were distinctive not only because of the theology preached, but because of the sounds heard during the meetings.

Daniels played a recording of a Pentecostal at prayer. There was something familiar about the earnestness of the man’s tone, the rhythm of his speech, and the trust of his declarations. But what really transported me back into time, enabling me to imagine being a kid again at the Canton Temple Church of God, was the audacious, bold manner of address to God. There was no tempered emotionalism, no pious intonation of voice. This man roared at God in a manner akin to what Lee University’s Rickie Moore called “raw prayer” that “speaks straight to God.”

Such prayer to the God who hears brought a smile to my face. Then a tear came to my eye, so to speak, as I asked myself, Why did this recording “take me back” rather than remind me of “now”?

I have spent the last few years reflecting on that presentation and my response to that recording. I certainly would not advocate a return to something just because of nostalgia, nor would I assume that such “roaring” was a sign of a time when the church was more attuned to God than now. Perhaps that Pentecostal forbearer believed similarly to the Israelite psalmists before him—namely, that confessing God hears entails a belief that God acts, too. The two are sides of the same coin. I suspect this is the import of Elijah’s scorn of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel: the inaction of Baal means Baal is a deity that cannot hear, and therefore is no god at all.

Understanding God as the hearing-acting God, however, can lead to an exhausting prayer life and a frustrated life of discipleship, the quality of both determined by the success one has at getting God to adopt one’s action plan. If prayer to the God who hears and acts always seems like making a case for action, then there is hardly any relationship to God beyond that of lawyer to judge or middle-management to the CEO. Our time and energy is used up trying to hone a good argument—that God is simply the supplier of needs, and prayer gets reduced to petition and intercession.

The solution to this challenge, I believe, is not capitulating to the doctrine of divine sovereignty, where we simply wait for God’s will to transpire—as if it were some abstract plan disconnected from our personal histories of desire, trouble, mis- sion, and active cooperation. Rather, while believing God will hear and act, we need additional categories of prayer.

Two things happened during the 2011-12 academic year that helped crystallize this idea for me. The first was praying every morning with a group of male students
at Lee University. How could we four pray every morning without it becoming inanely repetitious? The second was during a “Theology of Prayer” graduate class I taught at Lee. In that class, we read books, essays, devotionals, and treatises on prayer that spanned 1,800 years.

Out of these two experiences, a liturgy of prayer developed that forms the structure of my own prayers and that of those students I still pray with every morning. This liturgy of prayer follows a precise pattern of prayer-forms (confession, adoration, lament, thanksgiving, petition and intercession, and benediction with blessing).

Confession

puts us in our proper position before God; that is, a fallible creature before the infallibly holy Creator. However, we only begin here because to tarry in confession too long would necessarily bring despondency.

Adoration

opens us beyond our insufficiencies to the super-abundance of divine love and gives us the opportunity to declare to God and to one another God’s greatness.

Lament,

which follows the style of many of the Psalms, is complaint to God because of the unjust condition of the world and God’s unresponsiveness. This third form is never to stand alone; otherwise, we would fall into cynicism. It is to be surrounded by both adoration and the fourth form,

Thanksgiving

, whereby we express gratitude for what God has already done and is doing.

Such grateful recognition naturally leads to the fifth prayer-form,

Petition and Intercession

, which involves requesting God to do new things and meet new needs. The benediction recapitulates the themes of the prayer session. It also pronounces God’s blessings for the day and requests that we might leave the place of prayer under the power and with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

What would make this pattern a Pentecostal liturgy of prayer? While one prayer partner offers the respective prayer form, the others are invited to quietly and simultaneously pray in the Spirit.

The incorporation of various prayer-forms during prayer sessions enables Pentecostals to strive with God while also recognizing His action toward us in ways that are not reduced to meeting petitions. The God who hears, then, is the God . . .

• who acts in forgiveness and mercy to the confessors
• whose magnificence and extravagance is recognized through worship
• who responds with comfort and strength in the time of trouble
• whose bountiful gifts are recounted by thanksgiving
• who is implored to intervene with petitions
• whose presence is requested to be with us in our lives
• who speaks to us and through us while praying in the Spirit.

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Our Indescribable God https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/our-indescribable-god/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/our-indescribable-god/#respond Tue, 09 Apr 2019 08:00:59 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4248

God reveals himself through His spoken Work, the written Word, and ultimately through the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

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owhere in scripture do we find a writer that tried to prove the existence of God. As far as the Bible is concerned, the existence of God is an indisputable fact. The opening phrase of Genesis, “In the beginning God,” sets forth the basic assumption of the Bible—God is. The fact of a “living God” (Ps. 42:2; Rev. 7:2) is so indelibly impressed on virtually every page of the Bible that to consent to its teaching is to brand atheism a sheer heresy.

That God exists is evidenced in nature: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1 NKJV). “His eternal power and divine nature” can be seen in the things He has made (Rom. 1:20 NASB). The design, harmony, and purpose of the universe offer a glimpse of the wisdom and intelligence of a sovereign Creator. Man—made in God’s image, positioned “a little lower than the angels” and “crowned . . . with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5 NKJV) reflects “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

Although evidence can be seen and arguments made for the existence of God, “the depths of God” and “the limits of the Almighty” are higher than the heights above and deeper than the depths below (Job 11:7-8 NASB). His judgments are “unsearchable” and His “paths beyond tracing out” (Rom. 11:33 NIV). Nature alone cannot reveal the depths of His riches or the height of His love. Thus, God has chosen to more completely reveal Himself through His spoken word, the written Word, and ultimately through the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

Through Jesus Christ, we come to understand that God is personal. More than mere energy, a blind force, or the sum total of all that is, God is a Spirit who speaks, loves, reveals, and longs to have fellowship with His creation. He is not like an idol, with hands that cannot reach or eyes that cannot see (Ps. 115:4-8). “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers”(1 Peter 3:12 NKJV). God invites us to call upon Him and promises to answer us with “great and unsearchable things [we] do not know” (Jer. 33:3 NIV).

God is infinite in His existence.

He is eternal—the God who is, was, and is to come. Men and angels are immortal, but only God is eternal. Men and women have a past, a present, and a future; but with God, the past and the future are now! He is the great “I AM,” the absolute present tense.

God is also immutable and unchanging.

He is unaffected by the changes of space and time, for He exceeds both to the infinite degree. He neither increases nor decreases. He is not subject to development or self-evolution. God cannot be wiser or holier. He cannot be more or less righteous. He cannot be less or more merciful. God is absolutely above all laws that govern time and change. He is unchanging in His Word and His will. In Malachi 3:6, He declares, “I am the Lord, I change not.”

God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present.

There are no bounds or limits to His knowledge, presence, or power. While the devil has power, he is far from almighty. Only God reigns supreme. He is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, and performs wonders (Ex. 15:11). He remains the “great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:3).

John Piper said, “It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about Himself.”

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This Thing Called Sin https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/this-thing-called-sin/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/this-thing-called-sin/#respond Tue, 09 Apr 2019 08:00:11 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4241

If You Sin, You Will Suffer. All Sin Carries A Price

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hatever happened to old-fashioned moral decency? The rage these days is reality TV. Am I the only one, or does anybody else think reality TV is just raunchy TV? Did the Ten Commandments suddenly expire and no one let me know?

At the age of 80, Karl Menninger, the world-renowned mental-health worker and founder of the Menninger Clinic, wrote a book titled Whatever Became of Sin? Good question. We need a wake-up call concerning this thing called sin.

    All Sin Has a Consequence

Reality check: No sin is inconsequential. God’s Word says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Matt. 10:26 NIV). And every sin has a consequence.

1. Sin will humble you. Your sin will find you out, and when it does, you will be humbled.

• Many whose names were once revered are no longer revered because of sin.
• Churches are humbled by the sin of its members.
• Wives are humiliated and humbled by the sin of their husbands.
• Husbands are humbled by the sin of their wives.
• Parents are humbled by the sin of their children.

Your sin will find you out, and when it does, it will humble you and those around you.

2. Sin will do more than humble you- it will ruin you. Sin will ruin a marriage, destroy a life, and devastate a church. The person who says sin is no big deal will find out that it is. One act of rebellion can, and often has, ruined an otherwise promising life. If you sin, you will suffer. All sin carries a price.

    No Exceptions to the Rule

Reality check: You are not the exception to the rule. Our natural tendency is to assume that, though something may be wrong for everyone else, we are the exception.
We human beings are remarkable in our ability to rationalize behavior. Two teenagers in the backseat of a car . . .a businessman cheating on his taxes . . .
a corrupt politician . . . an adulterous wife . . . a cheating husband—all think they are the exception to the rule.
If I said I have heard every excuse, that would not be true. There are as many excuses as there are sins. But I have heard my share of them. Here are a few:

• “But I love him.”
• “The government takes so much of my money. I don’t think it is cheating.”
• “If my boss had paid me what I’m really worth, I would never have done what I did.”
• “If you had to live with the wife I live with, you’d cheat on her too.”

I counseled a man who had decided to leave his wife. He was already having an affair with another woman. When I asked, “Don’t you know what you’re doing is wrong?” His response was, “I have prayed about it. And I have come to the believe God wants me to be happy.” In other words, “I am the exception to the rule.”

Let me make this very clear: I am not the exception to the rule. You are not the exception to the rule. If you sin, you suffer. There are no exceptions to the rule.

She was 19 years old, a beautiful student at Tulane University. At the insistence of her mother, she came to my office. With a rather smug attitude, she recited an entire litany of sins: the men she had slept with, the drugs she was currently taking, the parties she had recently attended. This went on for quite some time, until finally she said, “And I don’t have to feel guilty about any of this.”

Being more than a little concerned, I asked, “Why shouldn’t you feel guilty?” to which she replied, “Because my therapist tells me that I am a product of my environment and not responsible for my behavior; therefore, I need not feel guilty.”

Not knowing what to say to her at that point, I just stared at her for a while. Finally I asked, “I know what your therapist has said, but how do you really feel?” I have never forgotten her response. She paused for a moment, then her lips began to tremble, and her eyes began to moisten. She hung her head in her hands and said, “Oh God, I feel so guilty. I feel so terribly, terribly dirty.”

There are no inconsequential sins. And there are no exceptions to the rule.

    Grace Is Sufficient

Reality check: Grace is sufficient when repentance is forthcoming. Let me repeat: all sins have consequences. You are not the exception to the rule . . . but grace is sufficient when repentance is forthcoming.

Our God is the God of the clean slate, who takes every sin and places it as far away as “the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). He buries your iniquities in the depth of the sea and remembers them no more (see Mic. 7:19; Jer. 31:34). He takes sins that are as scarlet and makes them as white as snow (Isa. 1:18). “If we [will] confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Grace is sufficient to forgive you and give you a second chance and, if need be, a brand-new life. If the life you have lived is too far gone to restore, He will start all over with you and build a new one.

I heard of a man who had a warehouse to sell. It had been empty for years and had not been kept up. Finally a buyer expressed interest in the property. The owner met the prospective buyer at the warehouse. When he saw the condition of his property, he was embarrassed. The doors were off the hinges and the glass was broken out of the windows. The entire place was full of trash, with rats running everywhere. Afraid he might lose the sell, the owner assured the potential buyer, “If you buy this property, I promise to put the doors back on the hinges, fix the windows, clean up the trash, and get rid of the rats.”

“Don’t bother,” the buyer replied, “I don’t want the building. I just want the lot it sits on. I’m going to build something brand-new on it.”

When I think about it, that is precisely what God does. We worry so much about fixing our lives because they’re such a mess, but God says, “I don’t want your life. I want your heart. I plan to build a new life on it.”

Grace is always sufficient.

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Once Saved Always Saved? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/once-saved-always-saved/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/once-saved-always-saved/#respond Fri, 05 Apr 2019 08:00:41 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4235

The message of unconditional eternal security-"once saved, always saved"-is appealing because the doctrine is so comforting.

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he message of unconditional eternal security-“once saved, always saved”-is appealing because the doctrine is so comforting. To think that if we (or our loved ones) fall into sin, our salvation remains secure has a strong appeal to us. With the growing sense of uneasiness and insecurity in our world, the assurance that nothing—including sinning and unbelief—can separate us from God appeals to the postmodern generation.

We live in a world of the haunting realities of nuclear bombs, earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, kidnappings, school shootings, and other crimes against people. Growing out of this is a real need of security at the human level, to say nothing about our need of security in Jesus Christ. God, however, gives us great assurance about our eternal salvation on the condition that we continue to abide in Christ after becoming children of God. Therefore, salvation is conditional, not automatically inevitable. A person is free to “get in” . . . or, as a believer, free to “stay in” or to “get out.”

    Four Major Problems

Let’s consider four major problems in regard to the teaching that it is impossible for Christians to fall away from God and finally be lost.

First is the view that the Christian is guaranteed salvation, regardless of whether he or she lives a godly life.

It is true that from the moment of conversion, the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but is this absolute assurance that under no circumstances will the Holy Spirit withdraw His presence from one who has accepted Christ? The biblical warnings against dangers of falling away are not to be taken lightly. These warnings indicate that a believer, an heir of eternal life, is to grow in the Christian graces and resist temptations by trusting in Christ. To do otherwise places one’s relationship with Christ in spiritual jeopardy. The final end of the process of falling away is apostasy—the complete abandonment of faith and surrender to temptation and carnal desires. As a result, the Holy Spirit withdraws His presence from the life of the individual.

The Bible clearly teaches that the security of the believer depends on a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ (John 15:6) and on godly living by the help of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26).

A second problem with the idea of unconditional security is that it gives people a false sense of assurance.

The Bible calls our attention to the dangers of turning away from God and, thereby, forfeiting the gift of salvation. The warning of such dangers may appear to be contrary to popular Christian assurance. After all, the Bible repeatedly reminds us of our spiritual rights and possessions in Christ. God’s Word breathes an atmosphere of confidence and promises that God is able to keep us from falling into sin and unbelief (Jude 24-25).

The intent of this article is not to undercut the believer’s assurance of salvation in Christ, but to undercut a false sense of assurance, indeed a presumption that a Christian can live a sinful lifestyle and remain a Christian. The doctrine of unconditional eternal security appears in Genesis 3:4, where the serpent said to Eve, “You surely will not die!” (NASB). As an agent of Satan, the serpent gave Adam and Eve a false sense of security, making them willing to sin. They proved the error of this doctrine when they sinned and forfeited eternal life on the earth.

There is no doubt that Christ gives the assurance of eternal life to those who love and serve Him. The Bible clearly teaches that believers who walk in obedience to Christ are kept eternally safe. He holds them securely. Nevertheless, believers must never think of themselves as absolutely perfect (Phil. 3:12-15). Their security depends on being grounded in the truth and living in obedience to it. “If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard . . .” (Col. 1:23 NASB). Genuine faith is seen in steadfast, day-by- day Christian living, but Christians who choose a sinful lifestyle place their salvation in jeopardy.

The third problem with unconditional eternal security is that it fails to agree with the biblical view of salvation.

Scriptures teach that personal salvation is a process—from conversion to glorification—but “once saved, always saved” makes glorification inevitable, regardless of the quality of the character of the believer. This teaching has wide appeal among many Evangelical believers because it offers a false sense of assurance that everyone who has ever trusted in Christ will finally be saved. Salvation, however, does not depend simply on the gift of life we receive at the moment of conversion, but on a continual relationship with God in which we appropriate the blessings of God by faith.

The Christian life is a process, but it is a process that can be ended at any stage before our death or before we are completely transformed at the coming again of Christ. When the result is transformation, also called glorification, it is accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit. In short, believers become more Christlike as they respond and cooperate with the grace that God provides through the Holy Spirit. The final out- come is the full realization of salvation.

Final transformation is promised to all Christians, but it is not easily attained. There is a constant need of spiritual disciplines to enhance Christian growth and maturity. “Once in grace, always in grace” not only breeds a false sense of security, but this doctrine also sabotages the responsibility of the believer to make use of the grace God gives for further growth. The culminating feature of God’s grace is that at first sight of Christ, believers “will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2 NASB). The whole of the Christian life is the pressing on to that future goal. Consequently, salvation involves character formation, a dynamic process working itself out in godliness and holiness. Believers put themselves on shaky ground in assuming that security in Christ is unconditional and that by continuing in sin there is no possibility of falling away from the grace of God. Nowhere does the Bible teach that kind of assurance.

A fourth problem created by unconditional security is that it diminishes the importance of discipleship.

Once a person is saved, the perilous doctrine of unconditional security can contribute to moral and spiritual laxity. It casts a shadow on the importance of Christian discipleship and endangers believers’ spiritual welfare, making them think they can live in sin and remain saved. This teaching fits whatever lifestyle a person may wish to live. It may contribute to a person’s thinking there are no ethical demands or requirements to bear the fruit of the Spirit and reach full Christian maturity. Such a doctrine assures all believers they will go to heaven regardless of their lifestyles. Jesus saves us from sin, but not to live in it.

Paul insists that continuing in sin is impossible for the Christian. He raises the rhetorical question: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” To indicate the absurdity of such a practice, he asserts, “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom.6:1-2 NIV). Habitual sinning is incompatible with salvation. The two do not mix any better than oil and water.

Therefore, eternal security can be seen as providing a license for careless Christian living; but the nature of saving grace is such that instead of encouraging sin, it breaks sin’s fatal grip so that we may live as Christians. We are to live in accordance to who we are in Christ. That is done as we live in faith and obedience, which is the condition
for our security in Christ. W. T. Purkiser said, “No one objects to the perseverance of saints. It is to the ‘perseverance of sinners’ we oppose.” Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient for our deliverance from sin, but that deliverance requires
an ongoing appropriation of the saving benefits of Christ’s death through faith and discipleship.

    Security in Christ

Christians must be urged to maintain their faith and to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Exhortations through preaching and teaching, and encouragement of one another strengthen believers in their confidence and hope in the life of faith. Meeting together in worship and other spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and the study of God’s Word provide avenues through which the Holy Spirit strengthens believers in their commitment to Christ.

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The Potter’s Loving Hand https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/the-potters-loving-hand/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/the-potters-loving-hand/#respond Thu, 04 Apr 2019 08:00:21 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4229

Reshaping lives in Santa Cruz, California

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ne night, I received a grandfather in Arkansas whose teenage granddaughter had run away to Santa Cruz. He asked me if I knew where she was. I sadly said, “No, but I will pray and look for her.” He thanked me and gave me his number.

The next morning I received a call from the runaway girl! She had heard about our ministry and asked how she could reach me! This was the Lord at work.

I went directly to where she was. Her clothes were dirty and wet from rain; she was hungry; and, most of all, she was so young to be alone. I bought her dry clothes, lunch, and a bus ticket back to Arkansas. I also gave the bus driver money so she would have food as she traveled. She made it home safely.

    The Call to Santa Cruz

When my wife, Kathy, and I moved to Santa Cruz, California, to plant a Church of God congregation in 2001, we did not know we would reach runaway teens, war veterans, unwed mothers, foster children, widows, and mentally challenged individuals. We just knew the Lord had called us to the city where I had accepted Christ 14 years earlier.

We started the “Potter’s Hand” mission, and one morning the Lord gave me this clear word:

Forget everything I had ever learned in ministry, and just do two things—obey God and love people.

This startled me, because I had always obeyed God, and I really love people. I listened and continued with the church plant.

In May 2003, the Lord impressed me that if Kathy and I would pray, fast, and consistently share His Word everywhere in the city, we would reap a harvest for His kingdom. I began praying about how to reach a city that proudly brandishes the slogan “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” . . . where a Church of God had never been planted. . . and where in its recent centennial celebration, there was no mention of God.

Later that year, God gave me a dream—something that never happens to me. In the dream, the Lord instructed me to create a nonprofit foundation called “Acts of Love,” through which He would show mercy to the city. It was time to do acts that were undeniably from the Lord—loving acts that would draw the lost to Christ.

God showed much favor to us from the beginning. We began ministering in the streets and parks of Santa Cruz while also meeting in our mission church. We accepted people as they were, sharing the gospel of Christ in word and action. The Potter’s Hand grew beyond the capacity of our building, so we moved our church services to the parks and streets.

The city became so aware of our church that I was asked to meet with the mayor. When I went to the City Council Chambers, most of the city leaders were present. To my surprise and anguish, they said we had to stop what we were doing!

I explained we were being successful in helping clean up the city and getting people off the streets and to their families. The mayor responded, “Yes, your success is your problem and ours. You are too big for our city! There is no room here to do what you do.”

The Lord gave me the peace I needed as I left the meeting, although I was feeling like death had come to what was once alive through His promises to me. We decided to continue to pray for God to open the door the city leadership had closed.

The next morning, I received a phone call from a City Council member asking Kathy and me to meet him at the Family Shelter in Santa Cruz. The council member and the shelter director offered to let us use the building as a place for our benevolent ministries. I reminded them I was a pastor and that I bring the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever I go to serve. The director responded, “I know, and that is fine with us.”

I was almost in tears! Two city leaders had invited us to share Jesus with disadvantaged people! Kathy and I quickly realized we had not witnessed a death but a miracle! We have now served for 13 years in Santa Cruz, and the civic leaders and other faith-based leaders show us great favor. We serve 350 people each week, bringing a message of hope and encouragement, helping meet physical needs, and providing counseling. We have helped countless hurting people get on a positive path.

    Changed Lives

Recently, a man working for the Salvation Army said to me, “You may not remember me, but eight years ago you preached a message at the Clock Tower in Santa Cruz called ‘Keep On Keeping On.’ Because of that message, I am now in my own home, and I have a car. I am wearing clean clothes, and I have self-respect again.”

After hearing that testimony, I praised God all the way home!

A few weeks ago, a man came to the Family Shelter during our worship service to say “thank you.” He stated that because of our help, encouragement, and message of hope, he now has a great job and owns a car. He and his wife and three children are living in their own home.

One day when we were ministering at the city center, a woman approached me with three little children. I could see fear in her eyes. She said she had been hiding in a hotel because her husband beat her all the time! After quickly researching the matter, we were able to immediately get plane tickets for her and the children. They flew out the next day to her family back east, finding safety in the home where she had been brought up.

    Thanksgiving Dinner

This past Thanksgiving, we invited the whole county to dinner at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. The city supervisors of Santa Cruz paid for the auditorium rental, and an insurance company covered the insurance expense.

Through the Acts of Love Foundation, we raised $4,700 of the $9,700 needed, and we had 250 volunteers. We fed 1,175 people a beautiful Thanksgiving meal cooked by Michelin star chefs, who volunteered their time. It was our largest Thanksgiving event ever, and for the first time Jesus Christ was publicly honored at the meal. We prayed for the United States in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior!

God has been true to His promise: the Potter’s Hand Church of God is touching all of Santa Cruz.

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Love The Wounded https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/love-the-wounded/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/love-the-wounded/#respond Wed, 03 Apr 2019 08:00:17 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4222

The church is a place for the weary, the broken, and the hurting...but is it a place for those in recovery?

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he church is a place for the weary, the broken, and the hurting…but is it a place for those in recovery?

Sadly, the church has often rejected and condemned people who profess to know Christ but are dealing with some form of addiction or compulsion.

We in the Church of God know Galatians 5:19-23 says Christians will bear the fruit of the Spirit and not the works of the flesh. We believe in the sanctification and wholeness offered in the redemptive work of Jesus. We have seen miraculous conversions, healings, and deliverances. However, we who have witnessed such miracles have sometimes looked down our religious noses and doubted the salvation of believers who struggle with an addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral issue resulting from something horrific in their life.

While 1 John 2:1 says we should “not sin,” the writer adds, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (NIV).

Why does the church have reservations about those who come into the congregation from a life that most of us have never lived? Is it lack of knowledge or understanding? Is it that we have kept our secrets hidden so we will not be rejected or judged by others?

From talking with many people inside and outside the church, I hear the same misconception—the church is a place for perfect people. The church is not seen as the place for individuals who need ongoing support. Has the church so often shot its wounded that even secular society has come to understand the church is only for those who don’t need healing and deliverance?

During the last decade or so, the church as a whole has begun realizing we have been remiss in dealing with churchgoers struggling with issues from their past life. What can we as individual Christians do to help those who love Jesus and are truly repentant, but are struggling with issues from their past life?

1. Love the person unconditionally.

Jesus accepted you as you were, so don’t make yourself greater than Jesus by rejecting someone who does not live up to your convictions or beliefs.

2. Don’t enable.

Sometimes when trying to help someone, it is easy to say things that actually help keep him or her in a vicious cycle of repeating and repenting, falling down and getting up, with nothing of substance being communicated to help break the cycle. Do not condone the wrong.

3. Get educated.

Some churches continue to reject anything to do with psychotherapy or counseling outside the church walls. While sin is often the person’s problem, sometimes it is not. In some situations, a medical or mental issue is affecting a person, and professional help outside of the pastor or church counselor’s office is needed.

4. Initiate a ministry.

There are good programs a local church can use to help bring healing to those who are struggling. One ministry—“Celebrate Recovery”—is active in 20,000 churches to help individuals with “hurts, hang-ups, and habits.” Talk with your pastor about what your church can do. Consult medical and mental-health workers in your congregation. Learn from another church’s effective recovery ministry.

We who are in the body of Christ must not expect perfection from those who profess Jesus and then “shoot our wounded” when they fall and cry out for help. Instead, let us embrace them with the love of Jesus, help them bear their burden, and carry them (if need be) back to the throne of grace.

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Starting Over https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/starting-over/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/starting-over/#respond Tue, 02 Apr 2019 08:00:24 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4217

You do not have to continue living the way you are living right now.

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read about a man who picked up his local newspaper one morning . . . and found his own name in the obituaries! There in bold type was his full name, his correct birth date, a date reported to be his death, and the announcement that funeral arrangements were pending.

Flabbergasted, he hurried to the editor’s office. “This is going to cause me no end of embarrassment and humiliation, and might even cost me my business!” the man yelled.

The editor apologized profusely, but the man continued to rant and rave, demanding that something be done immediately to correct the mistake. At last, the editor said, “If it will make you feel any better, I will put your name in the birth announcements tomorrow. That way you can have a new beginning!”

There is One who can give you a new beginning—Jesus Christ can revolutionize your life. He can say to you, “Your past is over, your present is secure, and your future is bright and glorious.” He can set right what is so wrong.

Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came so we “might have life . . . and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He came “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18), and “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (v. 19 NIV).

“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43 NIV). “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

You do not have to continue to live the way you are living right now. You do not have to continue to carry guilt and a tormenting, embarrassing, incarcerating sense of shame. You do not have to continue to live without hope or without God in this world. You can have peace you never knew existed and joy that is inexpressible. You can be changed, transformed, and recreated! You can be set free! “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

My dad, William Fenton Williams, was born on March 11, 1931, in Olcott, West Virginia. Olcott was a mining camp owned by Black Diamond Coal Company. Dad’s father, Ernest, like most other miners of that day, was paid in script, which was used to rent a company house and purchase goods at the company store.

In 1938, when a job opportunity as a plant superintendent opened for Ernest at a chemical company in South Charleston, he and his wife, Ruth, moved there, eventually settling in a three-room house at 4802 Floyd Street in Spring Hill. It was here, “the old home place,” that so many memories were made.

Though guided by a loving father and mother, one thing was glaringly absent from the Williams family—faith. Alcoholism had Ernest in its grip. Some of my father’s earliest memories are of riding in a car with a drunken dad or trying to assist him to his room after a drinking binge. Ruth had red hair and a temper to match. The only time the name of God was ever mentioned was in a swear word. All of that changed, however, when my father (Bill) met Rose Marie Underwood.

After playing basketball with Paul and Raymond, these brothers invited Bill to their home, where he met one of their sisters, Rose Marie. Dad was smitten.

Though he was shy, it did not take him long to ask her out for a date. To his surprise, he learned that Rose Marie, Dora Lee, Nora Vee, Raymond, and Paul were all children of a Church of God preacher, Reverend R. B. Underwood; and the only place Rose Marie would go with Bill was to church. Cheap date, Dad said to himself. The time was set, and the plans were made.

It was a storefront Assemblies of God mission in St. Albans, West Virginia, where my father, Bill Williams, first heard about Christ. As the altar invitation was given, a layman, Mr. Burnside, walked back to where Bill was and asked him to come forward to pray. “Sir,” he said, “I do not know how to pray.”

Assured of his help, Dad accepted that invitation, and together they walked forward to the altar. Mr. Burnside showed my father 1 John 1:9—about Christ’s readiness to forgive sins—and led him, step-by-step, in a prayer to receive Christ. Though Bill knew absolutely nothing about God, church, or the Bible, he was gloriously saved.

The same glorious gift of salvation and new life is available to you. Today is the day; now is the time. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31 NIV).

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God Encounters on City Streets https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/god-encounters-on-city-streets/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/04/god-encounters-on-city-streets/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2019 08:00:15 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4205

“There’s a burnin’ in my chest— what have ya done? Make it go away!”

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n Scotland, 93 percent of the population does not attend church. People generally do not believe in God, the Bible, heaven, or hell. Over the last 30 years, over 550 Church of Scotland buildings have been closed, auctioned, or sold.

After arriving here in 2002, I soon realized my missions degree and Bible-school training were not enough to make an impact. As a Spirit-filled minister, what was I to do? Could the power of Pentecost make a difference in Scotland?

    Jesus, Nice to Meet You!

Bob had shoulder-length, curly, bluish hair. After my wife, Joanie, prayed for him on the streets of Glasgow, he demanded that she meet all of his friends. So Joanie and an elder from our church were brought into a circle of 25 Goth kids. Bob said to his first friend, “Ian, I want you to meet Jesus.”

One by one, the kids said, “Hi, Jesus, nice to meet you!”

Isn’t that what it means to be Pentecostal—to be Jesus to everyone we meet?

There is an aroma, a beauty, and a power in the presence of God that bypasses the mind. Our ministry is called “God Encounter,” and our church, “Encounter Church Edinburgh.” You get the idea. Pentecost has enabled us to be filled and to flow with the Holy Spirit. We have seen time and time again His power change lives.

Following a short prayer, Greg, a 27-year-old heroin addict, asked if I was a witch. A witch! Greg said, “There’s a burnin’ in my chest—what have ya done? Make it go away!”

“Greg, that’s Jesus,” I said. “He is a consuming fire. He is alive!”

Paul wept for five minutes, not knowing what was happening as the power of God came upon him. We led this man, broken by sin, into eternal life!

Bobbi, another Goth girl who comes to our weekly Saturday outreach in Edinburgh, finally realized God was real. She said, “I can see Him in your eyes. I hear Him through your voice and smile.” She too came to the Savior.

A university student said to us, “I can tell you have had an encounter with God. . . . I would give anything to have one.” Following the amazed look of discovering the name of our ministry, we asked her, “Would you like a God encounter right now?” Smiling tentatively, she said, “Yes,” and, standing on the street, met Jesus!

    ‘Open Your Mouth and the Presence of God Will Fill This Place!’

I spoke those words to my wife as her fingernails gripped my hand following this announcement: “Our American friends are here, and Joanie is a singer. We want her to sing us a song!” Joanie sang “He Looked Beyond My Fault” to the tune of “Danny Boy.” This small pub where over 75 people had gathered to dance, drink, and forget about their sorrows was soon filled with the presence of God! They clapped and shouted, “Sing us another, sing us another!”

Immediately after her second anointed song, several men lined up behind the small two-seat table where we were sitting and asked me to pray for them. I glanced over to Joanie’s side, where women in tears were confiding in her, asking for prayer.

One gentleman, eyes wet with tears, said to me, “Please forgive me, Son. I used to be a godly man, but the drink has gotten the best of me. Please pray for me.”

    God’s Answer in Us

God invades people’s lives in supermarkets, restaurants, homes, streets, trains, subways, taxicabs, libraries, and coffee shops. When 93 percent of a nation’s population does not go to church, we must reach them wherever we can.

Jesus Christ has sent the blessed Holy Spirit to earth to fill us, His followers, so we can bring the nations to Him. Yes, Jesus is the answer, but He has put that answer in you and me! We are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19 NKJV)—the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. We are the carriers of His presence . . . let us also be the releasers of His presence!

    The Tron

Every Saturday we perform in song, dance, drama, and preaching in the heart of Edinburgh at the Tron—a church built in 1641 where the Wesley brothers, D. L. Moody, and other greats once preached. At one time, over 10,000 people would gather for prayer at this spot. Today it is empty and being used on and off as a bar.

Pray for us as we try to buy this building for more “God encounters” in the capital.

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The Holy Spirit Deserves Our Respect https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-holy-spirit-deserves-our-respect/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-holy-spirit-deserves-our-respect/#respond Fri, 29 Mar 2019 08:00:30 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4203 Born-again Christians should not joke, imitate, or laugh about speaking in tongues, spiritual manifestations, or spiritual worship.

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ome of my favorite moments growing up in the Church of God have been “Holy Ghost services.” In these sacred meetings, I have found a sense of freedom to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Such services are often punctuated with anointed singing, fervent prayer, dynamic preaching, and inspiring testimonies, followed by a miraculous altar service. At
the altar, I have witnessed people “saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8), healed and delivered, receiving miracles, and filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit are manifold when the altar service is filled with people led by the Spirit.

The Church of God was born of the Spirit during the Holiness Movement in the late 19th century, followed by a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Since then, the Church of God has been a singing church (Eph. 5:19), a praying church (1 Tim. 2:8), a preaching church (2 Tim. 4:2), and a worshiping church (Acts 2:47). Through the years, all of our effectiveness in ministry has been predicated on the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Yet now, as a Church of God pastor, I am observing how the mood in our worship services is shifting away from the move and operation of the Holy Spirit. Much to
my chagrin, disrespect to the Holy Spirit is displayed in worship services when there is . . .

• truancy rather than punctuality
• routine rather than renewal
• conversation rather than conversions
• looking around rather than looking up
• distractions rather than discernment
• recession rather than intercession
• hastiness rather than holiness.

Born-again Christians should not joke, imitate, or laugh about speaking in tongues, spiritual manifestations, or spiritual worship. To refer to the incoherent speech of an individual or the illegible handwriting of another as if one should pray for the interpretation thereof is a disgrace to the Holy Spirit. I am afraid too many people in too many Pentecostal churches have grown accustomed or familiar to the demonstration of the Holy Spirit to the extent they remain seated in their pews engaging in text-messaging, reading a church bulletin, or conversing with their neighbor.

During an altar service in a church I once pastored, several people were sincerely seeking the Lord while two men chose to get up from their pews, walk to the back of the sanctuary, and stand against the wall in order to talk while looking on at what was happening at the altar. In their attitude and action, the church service was reduced to no more than a mere spectacle or show. The Holy Spirit is not in this world to entertain us but to draw us to the Father (1 Cor. 2:10-13).

After preaching one night in a church revival, I gave the altar call, and many came forward to seek the Lord. However, several men chose to promptly walk out of the church to smoke cigarettes. An individual at this same church once told my father that he was “not interested in the Holy Ghost.” In both instances, these men were spiritually bankrupt, if not altogether spiritually dead. These men evidenced qualities of “carnal” Christians (3:1-3).

In a distant church several years later, the Holy Spirit began to move mightily in leading us in worship. Worship was both vocal and demonstrative as the Spirit moved across the congregation like a wave of the sea. At that time, a young woman who had been standing up during the worship service quickly sat down, pulled out a mirror, and began frantically putting on makeup. Such things “ought not so to be,” as James wrote about “blessing and cursing” coming out of the same mouth (James 3:10). There is a “more excellent way”—the way of sincere love (1 Cor. 12:31).

It would be wise for all of us to show respect to the Holy Spirit by following these practices:

• Arrive early for prayer, fellowship, and worship. Peter and John arrived at the Temple “at the hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1).
• Be attentive to the music and message of the church service (see Luke 8:18). We should be good listeners who “receive with meekness the engrafted word” (James 1:21).
• Listen intently to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church (Rev. 1:10; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
• Know how to behave in church(1Tim. 3:15). This admonition is applicable not only to bishops and deacons but to all who attend our church services.
• “Receive ye the HolyGhost”(John 20:22). This commandment comes from the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit—Jesus Christ our Lord. Later, the apostle Paul
inquired of disciples at Ephesus if they had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-2). When they said no, Paul “laid his hands upon them” in prayer, and they each received (v. 6).

May we welcome the Person, the presence, and the power of the Holy Spirit in all that we do. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

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The Rewards Of A Heritage Sunday https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-rewards-of-a-heritage-sunday/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-rewards-of-a-heritage-sunday/#respond Thu, 28 Mar 2019 08:00:20 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4198

REFLECT, REJOICE, AND RESPOND

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f done right, holding a church heritage Sunday has rich rewards. It is like a family reunion—sharing experiences of the past, renewing old acquaintances, rejoicing for God’s multiple blessings, and looking ahead in unity.

Whether your congregation is one hundred or one decade old, there is value in having a heritage Sunday as everyone reflects, rejoices, and responds.

    Reflect on the Past
“Look at what God has done!”

Reviewing the past provides a path to the future. If you do not know where you have been, you cannot outline accurately where you want to go. Reflecting on the past includes telling how the church began, stories of peaks and valleys, outreach achievements, community service projects, building projects, and pastoral and lay leaders.

“We have a glorious history; we will praise God for what He has done.”

As Moses told the Israelites: “Remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out” (Deut. 7:18-19 NKJV).

Promotional ideas. Prepare displays (pictures, artifacts), a historical video, and a church scrapbook, and feature uplifting testimonies.

    Rejoice for Blessings Today
“Look at what God is doing in our church family!”

Focus on the spirit of unity that exists, the spiritual blessings taking place, current testimonies, and the impact of the church on community life. “We have glorious blessings; we will praise God for what He is doing!”

Jesus said, “He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:36 NKJV).

Promotional ideas. Feature an article in the local newspaper, invite city officials to
speak or send appreciation letters, prepare a progress brochure and video, give away a commemorative keepsake to everyone.

    Respond to the Opportunities of the Future
“Look at what God wants to do!”

Heritage Sunday is an ideal time to present plans for the future—intentional discipleship focus, mission trip, a new worship format, planting a church, a building project. “A glorious future is before us; we will respond to what God wants to do!”

In his prophetic book, Habakkuk wrote, “Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it’” (2:2 NKJV).

Promotional ideas. Form an “achieving our possibilities” creative team. The team can suggest and plan projects advancing the mission of the church

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Mentoring Students To Find Their Calling https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/mentoring-students-to-find-their-calling/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/mentoring-students-to-find-their-calling/#respond Wed, 27 Mar 2019 08:00:51 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4191

Exposing Some Youth Ministry Myths Will Speed the Process

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ne of the greatest challenges of youth ministry in a post-Christian era is weaving culture and Christ into the same conversation. The church has made enormous strides and some mistakes in this journey, and we will continue to do so as long as we attempt to engage young people where they are. Helping them understand and embrace “calling” has been and will be no less challenging.

    There’s an App for That

Calling has never been a discussion of convenience . . . and our society begs for convenience. Consider your cell phone. Lost and need directions? There is an app for that. Looking for a specific type of restaurant? There is an app for that. Need to purchase something on the fly? Well, there is an app for that too.

Just like downloading an app to our phones, we must assess needs, investigate options, and apply choices to lead youth into their callings. Each person and each ministry context is responsible for communicating with Christ and coordinating with the Holy Spirit to gain the information needed to make the decision God wants.

Years spent leading and investing in the lives of youth has led me to two general conclusions about mentoring them. First, without the trust that comes with investment, I have no voice; second, young Christians continue to pay a heavy price for their faith.

    In or Out

For the last two years, I have been blessed to lead the Church of God Winterfest event for Southern California. One of the most encouraging outcomes is seeing youth crowd the altars not just for salvation and deliverance, but also to find their calling. They are hungry to be used by God. In one altar service alone, more than 100 youth came forward with a confirmed call to ministry.

There seems to be a genuine resurgence of passionate young people who are serious about Jesus, His calling on their lives, and their commitment to discipleship. Culture has sharpened the edge of choice—either you are in or you are out. Christian American youth are conviction-driven.

It’s a costly choice, and youth want to know what they are giving up their lives for. Religion in America, especially among youth, is not passive. The status quo is unacceptable. Our summer church camps and youth retreats may not be as popular as they once were, but those who come do so with reason—to be used of God.

    Sacred Calling

To mentor and train, we must understand as Christians we are all called in two fundamental ways—vocation and our highest/ best use. The secularization of America is pressing for the polarization of these two realities. In Christ, there is no distinction between sacred and secular calling. We do not work in factories and corporations by day and become Christian superheroes by night. Being a high school student is sacred. Playing sports is sacred. Working at a fast-food restaurant is sacred. Going to church is sacred. This is the call.

Our calling has always been to love God and love our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). Our calling has always been to serve with integrity, passion, and faith. Nehemiah, Joseph, and Esther all had to serve masters who could have eliminated them with the snap of a finger. Our calling has
always been to our highest and best use in every capacity (1 Cor. 10:31).

God is relentless in His pursuit of us. The billboard of society may scream that youth are abandoning faith; but to the contrary, they are abandoning dead-weight mechanisms that are too heavy to carry with so much at stake. They want an “app” that meets their needs, navigates them through life, and ushers them into the full purpose of God. God has not changed one degree to the left or right. He is always calling. He is always leading. He is always searching for the next generation of willing vessels. As leaders, we must have the passion and commitment to help our youth find and develop the calling God has for them.

    Ministry Myths

The worth of an app is found in its ability to meet the needs of the person who is using it. The app needed for your church or student ministry must be built exactly that way. There are many highly beneficial materials that exist to help leaders train and mentor students. Yet, a copy-and-paste approach to discipleship and training is rarely effective. Take in all the information you can, process the information through your ministry framework, apply what fits, and discard what doesn’t. This takes hard work, prayer, wisdom, and commitment. Exposing a few myths will speed the process.

• Myth 1: You have to have a large group of students.
• Myth 2: You have to have the perfect facilities.
• Myth 3: Only experts can train and mentor.
• Myth 4: It is expensive to mentor and train youth.
• Myth 5: Whistles and buttons are better.

Jesus took 12 men who had virtually none of these things and changed the world.

    Intentional Process

Our student ministry has 18 leaders who are in ministerial training (CAMS or MIP) or are licensed ministers. We have more who cannot wait until they are old enough to begin the process. How have we done it? We have built apps that work for our student ministry. We have made it an intentional part of our church, leadership, and vision to train youth for ministry. From children to college, we train students for ministry, and apply that training in legitimate ministry contexts.

• Education:

We offer courses on everything from teacher training to sermon preparation. Students also have access to online, DVD, and face-to-face formats for learning basic doctrine and statements of faith.

• Community Outreach:

At Easter, one of our main focuses is a children’s ministry outreach. Over 600 nonchurched children came to our outreach last year that is nearly 100 percent led and staffed by youth. In addition, each year the students play a large role in our “Hope Fulfilled” ministry to single moms and their families. Students translate, serve food, perform skits, lead worship, and load cars with groceries for the families.

• Evangelism:

In Texas, Ecuador, and in many other venues we have sent as many as 50 students and leaders to train, witness, and preach on their own funding. There is possibly no better opportunity to help youth discover their calling than missions work, domestic or abroad.

• Worship:

Every age group of our student ministry has an age-specific opportunity for worship. This is their time to connect with God and define their callings. This is where students learn to worship with their peers, pray for their peers, and serve with their peers.

    The Fundamentals

Here are five fundamentals for building the student ministry app you need.

1. While money is important, it does not drive ministry. Passionate people drive ministry. No amount of funding will be enough to cause youth to want to discover and develop their calling. The app that works is connecting young people with their passion.

2. Investment comes with a price called opportunity. Training does not always yield the immediate results we desire. Mentors take risks and make mistakes. Youth will do the same when given the chance to practice and develop their calling. However, the investment of heart and skill training will yield results.

3. Environment is everything for development. We must create an atmosphere where leaders train leaders. My pastoral team has one job: find, recruit, and train others to do ministry. We must become facilitators of a volunteer force. Empower and equip others to serve, and they will.

4. Potential is most often seen in glimmers. An act of compassion, eagerness to serve, or a glimpse of influence is sometimes the only clues you will get to discover a goldmine of ministry in a young person. It’s not the tons of dirt you dig through that makes one wealthy; it’s the few flakes of gold found in the midst of it. We must keep our eyes open for every possibility to develop our students.

5. Open doors and open minds will generate energy and build momentum. Allowing your students to create and work within their own ministry context is a huge paradigm shift. Remember, the app is designed to support them, not us. Our job is to help them establish the boundaries, understand the potential hazards, give them the tools they need, and support them every way we can.

Remember, we are all called of God to do a work for Him, which requires a willing heart and an obedient spirit. As leaders, our call is not to get more people; it’s getting the people we have to get more people. There is an app for that, but we have to be willing to build it.

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Will The Church Experience Revival or Decline? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/will-the-church-experience-revival-or-decline/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/will-the-church-experience-revival-or-decline/#respond Tue, 26 Mar 2019 08:00:12 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4184

Despite Apostasies, Christ Is Building His Church

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have often been asked a question that goes something like this:

As we move toward the end of the age, will the Church experience revival or will it experience decline?

Usually, the questioner is, in effect, asking whether there will be an increase or a decrease in the number of believers in Christ as we near the end of the age.

Certain scriptures in the New Testament lead people to think there will be a decline in the number of believers in Christ as His second coming draws nearer. Nevertheless, my answer to this always is,

Revival and decline will occur at the same time.

It will not be an either/or situation, but both at the same time—an increase in the number of believers in Christ while, at the same time, there will be a falling away from right doctrine by some professing Christians.

    Scriptures That Suggest a Falling Away

Without question, the most prominent of the New Testament scriptures that speak of a falling away before Christ comes again is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The well-known King James Version of this text reads, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [“the day of Christ,” v. 2] shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” This statement alone has caused many to conclude there will be a decline in the number of believers in Christ before He comes again and, working from this supposition, there are other scriptures that seem to affirm this.

For example, in Luke 18:8, Jesus asked this amazing question, to which He
gave no answer: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” This question followed a parable in which Jesus taught perseverance in prayer, with confidence that God will speedily “avenge his own elect” (v. 7). Jesus’ question implies that the waiting for His second coming might be so long, some will lose faith that God will avenge His own. Later, in His Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned the Twelve, “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity [lawlessness] shall abound, the love of many shall wax [grow] cold” (Matt. 24:11-12).

    Numbers or Apostasy?

Do the scriptures that speak of a falling away, a loss of faith, and a loss of love mean there will be a decline in the number of believers in Christ? Or do these scriptures allow for the possibility that, while the gospel is being proclaimed to all the nations, the number of believers in Christ will continue increasing until He comes again? Jesus plainly stated, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). However, only God can judge when this goal has been met, and Jesus gave no clue as to how long after this goal has been met that the end will come.

When we read of “a falling away,” our first thought is that this means a decrease in the number of believers in Christ. However, it appears this was not what the apostle Paul had in mind. Instead, he was speaking of a falling away from right doctrine. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the Greek term for “falling away” is apostasia (apostasy); that is, defection from ortho- dox Christian belief. Also, this was what Paul had in mind when he wrote to Timo- thy: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1); and when he wrote, “In the last days perilous times shall come. . . . Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:1, 13).

    Apostasies and Church Growth

A review of the 20-centuries-long history of the Church reveals that, in spite of apostasies that have occurred in every century, the number of believers in Christ has continued growing. Thirteen years ago when we were entering the 21st century, articles published in both Christian and secular periodicals pointed out that, numerically, Christianity was stronger than it had ever been. Today, as in previous times, while there are apostasies occurring within the ranks of nominal Christianity, and the number of Christians has been in steep decline in Europe for several decades,
that decline is now spreading to North America. Meanwhile, in Africa, Asia, and South America, the number of Christians is rapidly increasing. The fact is, apostasies and church growth occur side by side, as in Jesus’ parable about the wheat and tares growing together until the harvest comes (see sidebar).

    We Must Continue Making Disciples

Apostasies will continue until Christ comes again, but it is also true that Christ is building His church, and the counsels of hell will “not prevail against it” (Matt.
16:18). Also, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is promised to all generations, as many as the Lord our God shall call to faith in Christ (see Acts 2:17, 39). James counsels us to expect that, just as the early rain of the Holy Spirit was given to the Church, the latter rain of the Holy Spirit will be given to the Church. Therefore, we are to patiently persevere in serving the Lord Jesus, knowing that His coming is drawing ever nearer (see James 5:7-8).

In consideration of these scriptures and the long history of the Church, let us be encouraged to keep on making disciples for Christ. We must not surrender to the thought that, because the end of the age is drawing nearer, there will be an inevitable decline in the number of believers in Christ. Worldwide, the number of Christians is growing; and even in Europe and North America, many churches are experiencing significant growth, adding believers.

Until Christ comes, we must continue doing all we can to fulfill the Great Commission, regardless of apostasies and the adverse circumstances in which we may find ourselves. As we continue doing the ministry of Jesus in the power of His Spirit—preaching, teaching, healing, evangelizing, and making disciples—He will build His church, adding to it those He will save (see Acts 2:47). Those He will save will be, finally, “a great multitude, which no man [can] number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (Rev. 7:9).

    So, Will There Be Revival?

As we move toward the end of the age, will the Church experience revival? Yes! God will continue pouring out His Holy Spirit on the Church, Christ will keep on building the Church, the counsels of hell will not prevail against it, and many believers in Christ will continue to be added to the Church.

Will the Church experience decline? Yes, there will be apostasies. Jesus said many will be deceived; and as Jude warned, some will abandon the faith once delivered to the saints, “denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 4). In spite of this, the Church will experience revival and growth until Christ comes again.

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God’s Grace Is Not Cheap https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/gods-grace-is-not-cheap/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/gods-grace-is-not-cheap/#respond Mon, 25 Mar 2019 08:00:57 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4180

WE CANNOT RELEGATE GOD TO A DIMINUTIVE ROLE WITHOUT DREADFUL CONSEQUENCES.

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I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of God to make me…pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

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ilbur Rees wrote those words some years ago to illustrate the unspoken sentiment some have as it relates to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Just enough to get by. Just enough to escape the flames. Just enough to keep guilt below the threshold of pain.

Not enough to bring conviction or repentance. Not enough to transform attitudes. Not enough to create a hunger for holiness. Just three dollars’ worth of God.

Jesus made no such offer. Instead, He said:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you (Matt. 7:21-23).

We cannot relegate God to a diminutive role without dreadful consequences. God will be Lord of all or He will not embrace the relationship at all. He did not create us to live out our years fulfilling every whim of our corrupt nature, and then give Him only the dregs of a wasted life. We are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (22:37).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who was martyred for his opposition to the Nazis. He considered taking refuge in the United States, where he was teaching, but he returned to Germany to continue his work in the resistance. He was arrested April 5, 1943, and imprisoned in Berlin.

Three days later, two men came to his cell with a chilling order: “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.”

He said to a fellow prisoner, “This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.”
The next day, April 9, he was hanged.

In his famous book The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer writes:, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. . . . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Three dollars’ worth of God may bring temporary ecstasy, but it will not produce inward transformation or eternal security. Jesus calls for total surrender. A casual acquaintance is not enough. In His own words:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34-37 NASB).

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Crosses, Communion, and Candles https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/crosses-communion-and-candles/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/crosses-communion-and-candles/#respond Fri, 22 Mar 2019 08:00:36 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4175

A Move Toward Liturgical Worship

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very day we are surrounded, even bombarded, with symbols. They are on clothes, vehicles, and grocery items. They pop up on our computer and television screens. We recognize brands without even seeing their names. Local church signs frequently include the symbol of their denominational alliance, even though the written name emphasizes some dimension of their mission.

Symbols both advertise and inform. They may also remind us of company slogans. For example, the checkmark on Nike shoes seems to shout their slogan, “Just do it.” The Coca-Cola symbol might bring to mind a slogan from the past (“It’s the Real Thing”) as well as a current one.

    Christian Symbols

The history of Christianity includes the use of symbols in the earliest centuries. The fish became an identification for believers during the first few centuries of the Church, when persecution was common.

Ever since the fourth century, Christians have used the cross as their public symbol. It not only speaks of suffering and sacrifice but also of the hope of all believers due to Christ’s resurrection.

A casual survey of most church sanctuaries, even those rented for a few hours each Sunday, have some Christian symbols. The most obvious is a cross of varying size and presentation. If there is a Communion table, it may be represented by grain stalks and a cluster of grapes, or a cup and a small loaf of bread. Some churches have a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, imprinted on the church bulletins or inserted in the window above the baptistery. Occasionally one may see a shepherd’s crook utilized to emphasize Christ as the Good Shepherd. Or, if an actual stick is placed in the nave, it represents the pastoral authority of the local pastor. Candles and candlesticks are common.

    Symbolism Revisited

There is a revived interest in symbolism as evidenced in the emerging worship forms of some churches. People want to experience God sensually, not just cognitively. They want to encounter the divine, not just hear a great sermon.

One reason for this special interest in symbolism stems from a previous generation’s neglecting the traditions and symbols of the faith. Now the pendulum is swinging back. Young people are desiring a visual and symbolic experience as part of their worship and faith commitment. Alt worship (alternative worship), which originated in the United Kingdom with the approval of the Anglican bishop, is also evident in the United States. It has arrived with a new appetite for imagery in worship and with new media for displaying it.

This interest has resulted in a mix of the historic symbols with the most advanced media technology and techniques. A survey of this scene reveals multiple flat screens, backdrops with changing colored lights and symbols, candles, incense, alternating darkness with light, labyrinths, ancient liturgies, and art productions from within the artistic community. Spotlights, fog machines, and black ceilings are also common.

Many of these forms of imagery are used outside of a church sanctuary in the confines of small groups. It may involve moving from station to station. Some start with a person washing his or her feet at the beginning, then moving to a place where a specific Scripture passage is read and meditated upon as to how it relates to life. This may be followed with writing a note of thanksgiving to God and posting it on a message board. I once saw a note listing thanksgiving for parents and various siblings. It ended with “I thank You for my little sister even though she. . . .”

There are a great many other stations which can be developed to help provide an experiential encounter with God and still be biblically correct. Some youth organiza- tions and new emerging congregations are using an excellent balance of freestyle and liturgical style in their worship encounters.

    Worship Styles

Prior to the worship renewal of the 1960s, worship tended to be described in terms of two styles—liturgical and freestyle. However, in the decades following, a variety of styles have developed. They have designations such as blended, charismatic, hymn-based, and contemporary. Regardless of the label attached, it appears that all of them still spawn and adapt from the basic two—liturgical and freestyle.

Liturgical worship

is formal with wording, phraseology, and body language predetermined. It also includes a variety of symbols and symbolic actions in the process of the worship service.

Freestyle worship

isn’t free from planning but rather places planning and organization subject to the spontaneous moving of the Holy Spirit and to the particular situation. It also allows for greater flexibility in one’s personal response.

The Bible does not dictate a particular style. It does, however, indicate attitudes which must be present for genuine worship and provides means by which to express our worship. This enables worship to reflect truth, personality, and culture.

    An Evaluation

Moving toward more liturgical worship contains inherent weaknesses. (1) The symbols—rather than what they represent—may become the emphasis. At that point, a form of idolatry arises. (2) A person may become so enamored with the beauty of the process that the purpose is given a secondary emphasis. (3) There is always the possibility of going through the actions and saying the prescribed words without allowing them to be the expression of one’s heart.

I believe the potential positives of this move toward liturgical worship far outweigh the possible negatives. First, it becomes a tangible means leading toward filling a spiritual void. The symbols enable individuals to have a better grasp of God. From the Mount Sinai development of Israel as a nation, He provided symbols as a representation of His presence. Symbols point to the existence of a living God whom we can know and whose presence we can feel, even though we have not yet seen Him.

Second, this move ties the contemporary Christian to historic Christianity through using the litanies and prayers of the saints from the early centuries of the Church.

Third, for many individuals this move provides a fresh approach to worship different from what they perceive to be current stagnant approaches.

Since the vast majority of Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations utilize various freestyle forms of worship, how should we respond to this trend? To begin with, we must remember that style isn’t the issue when it comes to genuine worship. What really matters is our willingness to come before God with pure hearts open to however the Holy Spirit chooses to move in order to meet the needs of people in their cultural setting. Also, since some individuals are visual learners while others experience a greater impact through hearing, it seems logical for us to be open to a variety of worship styles in an attempt to reach a generation which the church in general has been losing.

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A Hedge of Spiritual Protection https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/a-hedge-of-spiritual-protection/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/a-hedge-of-spiritual-protection/#respond Thu, 21 Mar 2019 08:00:46 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4164

"Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord” (Ezek. 13:5).

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“HEDGE” in Bible times was a special barrier or fence placed around grape vineyards. Depending on its design, it was placed to keep insects, bugs, rodents, thieves, or birds from coming in and stealing the harvest.

Spiritually, a hedge is God’s wall of protection promised for all those who believe on Him, walk with Him, and trust in His name. As Christians believing in His promises, it is time that we declared, “I’ve come to get back what Satan stole! I want God’s protective barrier around my life and that of my family.”

God longs for churches and individuals to have the faith to stand in the broken-down gaps so the Enemy will have no right to plunder what God has given.

    Hedge of Prayer

So many parents feel lost when their children go off to college or move away from home. It is easy to fall into deep worry and fear about what they are doing at any time of day or night. But here is a practical, tangible way to help them: Pray a hedge around them. “Lasso” them with the Holy Ghost!

Years ago, as a young preacher learning lessons from God, I was visiting in Natchez, Mississippi. A family put me up for a night, and the mama was a sweet saint of God. This dear woman had a faithful 14-year-old girl and an unfaithful 21-year- old son.

About 4:30 in the morning, I was returning from getting a drink of water when I heard something that sounded like a wounded animal in an adjacent room. Concerned, I stopped to listen and just caught the broken voice of the saintly mama say,

“O God, please save him. If You have to take my life, Lord, don’t let him go to hell. Lord, protect him tonight. I don’t know where he is tonight, Lord, but please protect him.”

Deeply moved, I went on to bed, but sleep didn’t come quickly as I thought of this mother’s burden.

The next morning at breakfast, sitting there with her family, I gently said, “I heard you praying last night.”

She apologized quickly, “Oh, I’m sorry, Brother Ron. I hope I didn’t disturb you.”
I said, “No ma’am, it didn’t wake me up, but it sure disturbed me in my own complacent spirit.”

She said, “I’ve been praying for seven years for my son to come out of drugs and alcohol and to come home.”

I think back to that story and shake my head to think how many times we pray five minutes about a worry or a need, and when our answer doesn’t come, we throw in the towel and give up our intercession. But this saintly mama was like Job. She didn’t give up. And her faithfulness was rewarded, for the next night her boy staggered into a church and gave his heart to Jesus Christ!

    Hedge of Spiritual Leadership

If you have placed yourself under the authority of a local, Bible-believing church led by a pastor who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit, there is protection in that place. Living under the ministry of a man of God will put a hedge around you. The Lord told Ezekiel, “I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land” (Ezek. 22:30).

Too many ministries take up the familiar motto, “We don’t want to offend anybody.” But God places blessing upon church families who stand for the truth of the Word of God.

    Hedge of Unity

A people in unity can build a hedge. You may recall the story of Abraham pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham asked, “Would You spare it for 50 righteous people found there?” God said, “I will spare it for 50.” Abraham bargained all the way down to 10 (see Gen. 18:20-33). It is sobering to think that 10 righteous, praying people would have spared those evil cities!

Amazing things could happen if we began to seriously pray about the governmental issues that are harming families and churches today. What if we began to pray in unity? If 10 righteous people living in purity would have spared Sodom, what could a group of interceding Christians today accomplish in our nation?

    Hedge of Angelic Protection

Holy angels will help you hedge in your family. Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (NKJV). Imagine the grounds around your home, with the angels of the Lord encamped all around! Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (NKJV).

The prophet Daniel once prayed for two weeks over a request. God sent His answer on day one, but Daniel didn’t see the evidence of the answer until an angel arrived. The angelic creature identified himself and then said, “I would have gotten here sooner, but I’ve been wrestling with a demon over Persia. I was on my way with your answer” (see Dan. 10:11-14).

Some of you give up too quickly. You are praying . . . the angels are at work . . . demons are fighting them . . . but God is on His way with the answer. The angels could be bringing your wayward child home even now, protecting him or her all the way.

    Hedge of Revival

Revival builds a hedge. Psalm 80:14 says, “Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine” (NKJV). Again in verse 18 is the plea, “We will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (NKJV).

When revival comes, it puts a hedge around everything going on in the house.

Recall again the picture of a grape vineyard. Those who raised grapes in Bible times valued their vines, protecting them at all costs. The protection around their precious crop was multilayered. Often, they would first put a stone wall around it. Then they would follow that with a thick hedge of thorns. Finally, right before the harvest, they would build a fire to keep the flying insects and birds away.

What a thrilling picture for us! First, that stone wall is a symbol of God the Father—eternal, unchanging, a solid foundation! With our families firmly planted on the Rock of Ages, we can find peace and security in the Father’s strength and guidance.

Next, the hedge of thorns is Jesus, whose blood provides everlasting protection for our souls. I think of the lines from the poem by G. A. Studdert Kennedy:

They crowned Him with a crown of thorns.
Red were His wounds and deep.
But those were crude and cruel days
And human flesh was cheap.

Finally, think of the symbolism of the wall of fire—we arrive at harvest time, when the grapes are ripe, following the long season through which we have waited and waited. The Father has watched over us and the blood has taken care of us, but now the fruit is ripe and the fragrance is wafting. It is when we are at the point of reaping the greatest blessings in our lives that every demon of hell, every insect and fowl bird wants to lodge in the branches! But God says, “I’m sending Holy Ghost fire.” And when that fire begins to burn, the smoke of His glory rises and nothing can come and get our harvest.

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Don’t Be Left Behind https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/dont-be-left-behind/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/dont-be-left-behind/#respond Wed, 20 Mar 2019 08:00:47 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4168

There will be millions of people who will never die and if we are living for Christ when He returns, we will be among them.

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illions of people were glued to their television sets on Monday morning, July 26, 1971, when, at 9:34, three astronauts blasted off from Cape Kennedy. A nation excitedly watched the prodigious spaceship slowly lift from the earth, then gain ever-increasing speed and quickly streak out of sight.

As the astronauts sped toward the moon, news reporters, searching for comparisons, made the incredible statement that the energy expended to lift the gigantic ship from the launching pad equaled the power of all rivers of our nation, if harnessed.

What a technological achievement for science, and what an exhilarating experience for those astronauts as they raced to the moon! However, the energy of the spaceship was anemic compared to the awesome power Christ will expend when He bursts forth at the Rapture.

Multiplied millions from around the globe will suddenly be empowered to ascend to meet the Lord in the air. What a fabulous day that will be when we meet our Lord and millions of fellow believers!

The Bible is clear as it differentiates between the rapture of the Church and the second coming of our Lord. The Rapture will be secret and instantaneous (1 Cor. 15:51-52), while the Second Coming will be public (Rev. 19:11-14; Zech. 14:4).

Here is a synopsis of the Bible’s teaching of the future:

• The Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-17), which could happen today
• The following Tribulation period (Dan. 9:24-27; Rev. 12:6)
• The following Second Coming (Matt. 24:30)
• The following Millennium (Rev. 20:1-6)
• The following White Throne Judgment (vv. 11-15)
• The following new heaven and new earth (21:1)

    The Imminent Rapture

The Rapture, or the translation of the Church, could take place at any moment. His coming will be secret and unannounced, and we who are His followers will be whisked away forever to be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17).

Though you and I get excited about this truth, it must surely sound preposterous to people who hear it for the first time. Yet, the Bible clearly and emphatically teaches the doctrine of the Rapture:

Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the [sound of the] last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed) (1 Cor. 15:51-52 Amp.).

There will be millions of people who will never die, and if we are living for Christ when He returns, we will be among them. We will take a “plain air” trip through the sky, past the moon, the stars, the sun, and into heaven.

We will be changed suddenly, as quickly as we blink our eye, and we do that in 11/100th of a second! Jesus said, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (Matt. 24:41-42 NIV).

The Lord will return and secretly sweep us from this world. We will vanish into thin air—think of it! Those left will not even be aware of the event until it is over.

Christ wants you to know He is coming back, and He wants to take you with Him to heaven. The most startling phenomenon since the resurrection of Christ could happen any hour, and that is the rapture of believers.

Are you ready?

Bow before Him as Lord. Confess your sins. Accept Him into your life. Now you are ready!

Otherwise, you will find your surroundings quite different. You will call a Christian friend without getting an answer until the voice mail responds. You will pull into a driveway and note that lights are on inside, but you will find no Christian family members at home.

Wife and baby aren’t there. The playing television tells you that people are missing everywhere. Then it hits you: you have missed the Rapture! You ask yourself, Why didn’t I listen when they told me Christ was coming again?

    The Great Tribulation

In 2012, 11 different weather and climate disasters causing losses exceeding $1 billion each took place in the U.S., reported the National Climate Data Center. More than 300 people died. This made 2012 the second-costliest year since 1980. These disasters included seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclones, and a yearlong drought with its associated wildfires. In 2011, billion-dollar disasters totaled 14 events—the most ever.

Meanwhile, large earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude struck the earth at a record high rate from 2004 to 2011, reported the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Philip Stark (University of California), who examined the global frequency of large-magnitude earthquakes from 1900 to 2011.

Interestingly, the Bible describes mammoth natural disasters occurring during the Tribulation period, which will follow the Rapture. French Arrington wrote:

Jesus predicted this period when He said, “There will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time,
no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21 NKJV). . . . Many believe it will last seven years—the Seventieth Week of Daniel’s vision (Dan. 9:24). However, it is difficult to determine the exact duration of the Tribulation, since it is not specifically indicated in the New Testament (Christian Doctrine, Vol. 3).

Horrendous upheavals will come during the Tribulation, including scorching heat followed by thick darkness (Rev. 16:8-10), hailstones weighing up to 100 pounds (v. 21), and an earthquake so severe that islands disappear and mountains are shaken down (v. 20).

During the horrid Tribulation, Antichrist, a ruthless world dictator, will rule the world and millions will die (see 6:8; 9:15). Human nature says, “Such unspeakable things can’t happen.” But they can . . . and they will.

Any day God’s judgment can come, when He will declare, “That’s enough! It is over.” Then His wrath will fall upon all who have rejected His Son.

“Oh,” but you say, “surely not! God is loving and gentle! He wouldn’t do that!”

What about Noah’s day? What about Sodom and Gomorrah? Remember, Jehovah is a just God as surely as He is merciful and loving. The apostle Paul warned, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1 NIV).

“What depressing news,” you say. “The gospel is supposed to be good news!” We all like good news; we all prefer upbeat talk and writing, but there isn’t much of that in the Tribulation. Jesus said, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive” (Matt. 24:21-22 NIV).

    The Second Coming

At the Second Coming, Christ will touch ground first on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4). The Bible says, “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30 NIV), and His followers will be with Him (Jude 14).

So, our Lord will come back to earth and immediately end the Battle of Armageddon. When He comes, He will find the earth wet with tears and soaked with blood, but He will immediately bring wonderful, worldwide peace.

For a thousand years (the Millennium), Christ will rule the world from Jerusalem in blessed peace and tranquility.

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The Changing Face of American Evangelism https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-changing-face-of-american-evangelism/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-changing-face-of-american-evangelism/#respond Tue, 19 Mar 2019 08:00:33 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4154

The United States is considered the third-largest pre-Christian HARVEST FIELD in the world.

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hen the Church of God was birthed in 1886, America was a land of pioneers. The German engineer Karl Benz built his first car that year (the forerunner of the Mercedes Benz), but the automobile had not yet been introduced to America, which had less than 100 miles of paved roads. Westward migration was prevalent, and 12 territories (all west of the Mississippi) were yet to achieve statehood. Total U.S. population was just over 75 million (compared to 315 million today).

Evangelism and church planting was rather simplistic back then because, early on, the appeal was primarily to the singular culture of the region of the church’s origin. It was primarily the economic-induced migration of Southern converts to the major cities that moved the Church of God into a multicultural setting. For many years it was often said that a given congregation was “a Southern church up “North” or “out West.” That changed, of course, as subsequent generations became more indigenous to their parents’ adopted homes, and as World Missions expanded, moving the church farther from its Appalachian roots.

Today, the Church of God finds itself staring into the face (or faces) of an America that would be unimagined by our founding fathers. Such an America may either perplex us or propel us into a renewed sense of our call to fulfill the Great Commission. Regardless of one’s position on current political discussions, immigration will continue to be a major force in U.S. life.

One need not be a demographics expert to realize that our approach to evangelism in America’s future will be strikingly different to its past. In the next 40 years, America’s Hispanic population will double from its present 53 million to over 100 million. The black population will grow from 41 million to over 61 million, while Asian-American numbers will swell from 16 million to 34 million. Meanwhile, the non-Hispanic white population is expected to peak within 10 years at slightly less than 200 million and then slowly decline. By the year 2050, there will be no clear majority population, but non-Hispanic whites will comprise the largest minority. The United Nations estimates that 2 million people a year will move from poorer to developed nations over the next 40 years, and more than half of those will come to the United States—the world’s preferred destination for educated, skilled migrants.

Just over a hundred years ago, the Church of God launched its foreign missions ministry when the team of Edmund and Rebecca Barr (December 1909) and R.M. and Ida Evans (January 1910) went to the Bahamas. The fruit of our global endeavors is evidenced by our presence today in more than 170 nations with almost 7 million members (and at least that many additional adherents).

Further fruit from our international investment has been realized over the past several decades as scores of Church of God members from other nations immigrate from their homelands to make the United States their adopted home. Sadly, in some instances, contact with these individuals has been lost, but in many regions of the country, local Church of God congregations have been almost immediately established with the unique cultural and language distinctive of the immigrant group. Still others have been assimilated into already existing American congregations.

Of our 6,448 currently organized congregations in the United States and Canada, 1,803 (29.6%) are from ethnicities not classified as Anglo-white. The largest Church of God minority group is Hispanic, with 925 congregations, including Mexican, Puerto Rican, and congregations of several other Hispanic cultures. Hispanic immigration has brought with it ministers, members, and new church plants as Church of God members come here from Latin nations where the Church of God has long been established. Just as American Southerners transplanted the Church of God to Northern industrial cities in the post-World War II years, so Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Latin American members are bringing the Church of God to U.S. communities where Hispanic immigrants are establishing their new homes.

Our second-largest minority demographic consists of 654 congregations of African descent, including black Americans, West Indians, Jamaicans, and Haitians. Other ethnicities where a growing Church of God presence is felt include Native Americans, Romanian-Americans, Asian Indians, and Filipino-Americans.

The United States is considered the third-largest pre-Christian harvest field in the world. The Church of God recently enunciated this with the establishment of the “Global Church Planting Initiative,” by which the World Missions Department has joined forces with the North American Church to develop aggressive ministries of training, developing, and deploying church planters for the entire world—including North America. Additionally, the Office of Multicultural Ministries in USA Missions is developing aggressive plans for church planting and evangelistic impact in major cities and among various people groups in North America.

There are 168 hours in a week. Most American churches effectively use their church building for somewhere between four and eight hours per week. What could be accomplished if the remaining 160-plus hours, as well as any unused space, was utilized for the expansion of the Kingdom? What if a share arrangement (not just a rental agreement) could be developed with a minority group? What could happen if we could change from a “this is our church” mentality to a “this is God’s church” mind-set?

Not only are share arrangements logical and practical, in many instances, a pastor can employ an associate pastor from a people group that is prevalent in his community and begin a satellite congregation—often without having to acquire additional building facilities. Demographers say that one of the trends of the future (and it has already begun) is that young Anglo-white suburbanites will move back to the cities. Perhaps then, instead of selling and moving to the suburbs, existing Anglo-majority congregations may want to consider remaining where they are, but broadening their ministry by developing an “in-reach” (into their existing facility) to other people groups.

Local pastors will find an abundance of data available to assist in evaluating the possible demographic shifts in the community. Local chambers of commerce, libraries, and even the Internet often provide such resources free of charge. Our country is changing. To fail to plan is to plan to fail!

As members and ministers of all backgrounds, we would also do well to develop intentional relationships with people of other ethnicities. What a tragedy to spend our dollars eating in Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian restaurants, enjoying the cuisine, but never having personal relationships! An even greater tragedy is to send our mission dollars (as we should) to reach people groups in other lands with whom we seek no common ground here at home.

A popular auto commercial a few years ago declared, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile!” Ironically, today the Oldsmobile has gone the way of the Hudson, Nash, Rambler, and Studebaker. This is not your father and mother’s America! The complexion of the future will be a stark contrast to today—in the nation and in the church.

Like a seasoned mariner, we must adjust our sails and prepare ourselves for a relevant ministry. The future will belong to those who recognize the changing faces of the American church.

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The Ruined Painting https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-ruined-painting-2/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-ruined-painting-2/#respond Mon, 18 Mar 2019 08:00:24 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4149

Those Who Mourn Will Be Comforted

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ompany’s coming” yelled one of my brothers one summer day. Peering down the road we could see Aunt Bess and our cousins, Albert and Roberta, quickly nearing our farmhouse. Excitement swept through the rooms like the handmade broom that had swept the floors hours before. Anxiously, we ran to meet them as they emerged from the car.

“Give them room to walk!” dad called from the front porch, a wide grin across his face.

Following a scrumptious meal topped with molasses and biscuits, Albert performed some of his renowned handstands. “More! More!” we squealed.

It wasn’t long, however, before my attention was diverted to Roberta. Just a young girl, I admired her because she could draw and paint. The whole idea fascinated me. There, in front of her, proudly displayed, was a marvelous painting she was working on.

“It’s almost finished,” she told me. I watched her intently as she carefully made her final strokes, and the end result was beautiful.

Hmm, I think I can do that, I foolishly thought.

A little while later, Roberta and the family went back into the house, but I stayed behind, still admiring her masterpiece. Ultimately, temptation got the best of me. Picking up a brush, I began to dab it into the red, yellow, and blue paints. I made aimless strokes across the painting. In just a few short moments, Roberta’s painting was ruined! Horrified, I stepped back and stared at the mess I had created.

What have I done? How could I have done this to Roberta? I exclaimed to myself. In that moment of panic, all I could think about was finding a place to hide. Eyeing the barn a few yards away, I headed for it as quickly as my feet would take me, and crouched beneath the prickly bales of hay. And then came the tears—uncontrollable tears. Would they ever stop?

My guilt weighed so heavily on my mind and body, it felt like I was lying under those bales of hay. Will Roberta ever forgive me? I wondered. Will my family turn against me? Will I ever be happy again? My grief was quickly turning into total despair.

Hours passed. I heard my brothers and sisters calling my name, but I dared not move. That is, until darkness fell like a cloak over the farm and the fear of the night became almost as intense as the weight of my guilt. It was then that I headed for the house to face Roberta and, of course, my consequences.

Upon entering the door, I found the family gathered in the living room trying to surmise where I could have gone, my mother fidgeting with her apron and wiping her brow. For a few glorious moments, after they noticed me at the door, I was hugged and pampered and given full attention, but the glory was short-lived. My deserved punishment would be forthcoming, I was told.

I could not look at Roberta, but I repeatedly apologized and begged her forgiveness. She took me by the hand and said, “I want to show you something.” Trembling from head to foot, I soon found myself standing directly in front of her painting, not believing my eyes. Miraculously, with meticulous strokes of her brushes, she had deleted all of my blunders and restored her painting.

It was a moment of joy I will never forget! More importantly, as if she had wrapped a comfort blanket around my shoulders, I’ll always remember the compassionate look on Roberta’s face which spoke loud and clear,

“I forgive you.”

My mourning station in the barn was just that—a place to cry and grieve over my guilt. But there is a place under the wingspan of God where we can mourn and be comforted. It is a place where we grieve for the needs of others or for our own guilt, and where the Comforter assures us that He is with us. Roberta showed me that place a long time ago.

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What Is Right With The Church? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/what-is-right-with-the-church/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/what-is-right-with-the-church/#respond Fri, 15 Mar 2019 08:00:55 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4146 Becoming part of Christ’s body is more fulfilling than anything else we could join.

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he title is not a misprint . . . even though it is natural for us to think about what’s wrong before we think about what’s right. As long as there are people in the church, it will never be a perfect place. However, many things are right with the church.

The early church was founded on simple truths that have been misinterpreted, debated, and tested throughout the ages. Yet, these truths remain the foundation of what is right with the church today.

    The Right Message (Acts 2:40-42)

The church’s first leaders spoke the Word of God instead of the calamity of human philosophy (2 Tim. 4:1-5). They believed in the doctrine of Christ (John 7:16-17).

Prior to the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ, prophetic voices had been silent for 400 years. During His ministry, Christ’s words were life-giving, forgiving, loving, and kind. No one else had ever spoken like He spoke.

The apostles adopted the language of Him who called them to become fishers of men (1 Peter 4:11). The words they spoke were powerful, life-giving, and provocative; thus people asked, “What must we do to be saved?” (see Acts 2:37; 16:3).

The perseverance of sound doctrine is essential in a postmodern culture that no longer believes in absolute truth. People’s ears are itching to hear what they want to hear. With nearly 300 religions in America today, people are being tossed around like waves of the sea (Eph. 4:14).

It is important that biblical doctrine be taught to every age. The earlier we root people in a solid belief system, the greater our success of keeping children, youth, and young adults grounded in the church. French Arrington proclaims four main reasons we must adhere to and declare sound doctrine:

1. Many doctrinal currents and cross- currents are present today.
2. The set of beliefs is vital to our identity as a denomination and people of God who follow the Bible as our guide for living.
3. It helps us to focus our ministry on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
4. It has a global application.

    The Right Motive (Acts 2:42)

The first Christians went from house to house “breaking bread.” Not only is bread a physical food; it also represents the Word of God (John 6:33-35).

The idea of “fellowship” comes from the word koinonia—a uniting of kindred spirits between one another. True Christianity is reflected in how we treat each other. Jesus said people will know we are His disciples by our love one for another (John 13:35). In our fast-paced postmodern culture, we easily become more consumed with
the business of church in the 21st century rather than being the church God has called us to be since the first century.

In parallel with the first century, our secular culture breeds discord, confusion, and self-centeredness. As the world sees a genuine move of God in the church, the spirit and mind-set of another world can invade their chaos.

    The Right Method (Acts 2:43)

The first Christians, perplexed with life’s circumstances, countered with the supernatural activity of heaven—the fire of God. The apostles did signs and wonders. Once they left the encounter of the Upper Room, where the power of God was witnessed and experienced, the power was evidenced in the church through the apostles. As Jesus promised in Mark 16:17-18, signs followed the believers.

A hurting world is still in search of the supernatural. We are bombarded with sights and sounds from the entertainment industry promoting magic and mysticism. Popular culture glamorizes vampires by placing attractive celebrities in the role. With man-made religions based on false philosophies and phony prophets—along with the popularity of palm readers, tarot cards, crystal balls, and horoscopes—the world needs a church that understands our need for the power and methods of the Holy Spirit.

A world in crisis deserves a church in revival. Real revival is a relevant relation- ship with God. The Holy Spirit does not encourage a relationship of power among us just so we can boast about being Pentecostal. The Holy Spirit came that we might share Christ with others (Acts 1:8), bring comfort to the comfortless (John 15:26), healing to the broken (Luke 4:18), and produce the fruit of a Spirit-filled life (Gal. 5:22-23) among a hungry, curious world. Christ poured miraculous gifts and influences upon His disciples, and the world witnessed the effects.

My wife and I are living examples of the healing fire of God. Twenty-two years ago, the doctors pronounced Jackie—nine months pregnant with our third child—dead on arrival at the Humana Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. Exactly one hour after arriving at the hospital with zero lives . . . God gave us two lives!

I have learned miracles do not only come for those waiting and trusting in Him but as testimonies enabling others to see and believe. God continues to heal today, which causes me to believe the fire of God is still the right method for His church.

    The Right Manifestation (Acts 2:47)

The early believers worshiped God and enjoyed the “favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (NIV). Their worship was reflective of their newfound joy in God. Their countenance was visibly changed. Jesus Christ had brought everlasting life into their lost, dying, empty, and hateful world (John 3:16-17).

The word favor means the church was something good and it appeared to others like something good. Combined with their message of hope and faith, the motive behind their treatment of one another, and their method of operation, the church manifested the presence of a loving, peaceful, powerful God. The church was a manifestation of heaven on earth.

Today, as we refer to God “adding to the church,” we think of membership. Membership in the body of Christ should mean more than the numerical addition of people to a group or statistics on a report. Although numbers are one measure of a church’s accomplishments, people are more than mere numbers. Membership reflects our identity and the One we represent (Eph. 1:22-23).

While we anticipate that great and glorious day when we shall be like Christ, it is possible to be a reflection of Him right now through His church. Becoming part of the body of Christ is more fulfilling than anything else we could join.

The first church is indicative of all we should strive to become in a world that needs the realities of the kingdom of God. A church complete with the message of Christian faith and doctrine; full of godly motives, fellowship, and behavior; and empowered with the fire of God and its benefits as its method will be a healthy church, manifesting the heart of God.

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Beyond The Sacred Page https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/beyond-the-sacred-page/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/beyond-the-sacred-page/#respond Thu, 14 Mar 2019 08:00:50 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4140

Getting God's Word Into Our Heart

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here is no ambiguity in the Evangelical community regarding the authority of Scripture, its place in the believer’s life, and the need for every believer to be one “who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NIV). Yet, reading the Bible is said to be one of the least practiced of all Christian disciplines.

Do we satisfy ourselves with just a casual acquaintance with God, accepting by faith our salvation but receiving spiritual truths only through what we hear from others?

Could it be that all day, every day, we are saturated with so much information that the thought of reading and studying seems like a mental overkill?

Could it be that in taking care of the necessities of life, our daily schedules push us, squeezing out our time for reading the sacred Scriptures?

Could it be that approaching a book with hundreds of pages sandwiched between black leather is not only intimidating but also unappealing because we have never been taught how to study and learn the Bible?

We are often challenged to read and memorize God’s Word, but when was the last time we heard of a class being taught on how to personalize or cultivate these disciplines?

Here are five simple steps in lifting God’s principles off the printed page and placing them in our hearts.

1. Pursue.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God” (Ps. 42:1 NKJV). God takes delight with such fervency. Know that cultivating an intimate relationship with God is a lifetime process, “precept upon precept . . . line upon line” (Isa. 28:10 NKJV).

2. Participate.

Millions of individuals are engrossed in reality shows, soap operas, and sports events on television. We have become spectators to other people’s lives and activities. If you want your Bible study to come alive, do not be a spectator, but participate in every reading. Immerse yourself in the text. Be there!

3. Prioritize.

People make time for that which is important to them. The Word of God must again become the Christian’s passion. Just do it!

4. Perceive.

Approach God’s Word without preconceived ideas or assumptions. Be open to the wooing of the Holy Spirit to interpret the truth.

5. Plan.

With so many methods of study available, simply choose one and get started. One easy approach is the “vowel method.”

A: Analyze what you are reading. Ask who, what, when, where, how, and why.

E: Emphasize key words by exploring their meanings and origins.

I: Interpret, restate, or paraphrase the passage. State it as simply as possible, as if teaching a child.

O: Observe other passages through cross-references, concordances, and different translations for clarification.

U: Use what you are reading and learning. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how you can apply what you have read to your daily living.

It is a privilege to be able to hold the Sacred Page in our hands and have the author, the Holy Spirit, be our personal teacher.

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The Serpent of Porn https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-serpent-of-porn/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-serpent-of-porn/#respond Wed, 13 Mar 2019 08:00:44 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4135

Behind the beautiful illusion of pleasure, there is a snake-coiled and ready to strike.

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olomon intimately understood how powerful sexual temptation can be for a young man. It was with him in mind that he wrote the fifth chapter of proverbs:

“My son, give attention to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding. . . . For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech” (vv. 1-3 NASB).

Those two sentences perfectly describe both the power of sexual temptation and its antidote. The wise king understood that if a young man is to successfully withstand the charms of the temptress, he must be prepared ahead of time. Time spent in the Word every day builds up a man’s immune system against the poison of pornography. The Scriptures are simply the thinking and perspectives of the Lord. As a man continually immerses himself in the Bible, he will gradually take on God’s mind-set toward life, people, and, yes, even sexuality. A man who devotes daily time to the Word is given spiritual insight into the power of temptation and how it works.

Notice again what Solomon says about sexual sin. He personifies it as an adulteress whose “lips of honey” represent promised fulfillment. The temptation seems irresistible because it is laced with deception—namely, that the act of sin will bring about tremendous pleasure and satisfaction. The tantalizing thought is presented and all thoughts of resistance are forgotten. The act of sexual sin looks absolutely intoxicating and therefore irresistible. The “smooth oil” represents the craftiness of Satan. Fully camouflaged and extremely calculating, he presents the perfect illusion, timing each consecutive attack “to steal and kill and destroy” God’s property (John 10:10 NIV). The wise man, whose heart has been fortified with the Word of God, sees the devil behind that intoxicating temptation. In the Garden, Satan exposed himself as the crafty serpent he is.

I imagine him being very much like a cobra. Known for the hideous hood it extends when preparing to attack, it actually spits into the eyes of its victim before striking. With its target blinded and helpless, the serpent could easily squirm away into the brush. But this viper is not content with escape; it enjoys killing. With bared fangs, it lunges, injecting its deadly poison into its victim’s body.

This is a fitting picture of the man lured into viewing pornography. The temptation usually begins when he comes across a glimpse of flesh and/or a sexually suggestive hyperlink. It is just enough venom to temporarily blind him to the impending danger. The initial presentation is stimulating, creating a sensual atmosphere which spiritually incapacitates him.

Now the serpent moves in for the kill. That one glimpse of porn unleashes a poison that rockets into the man’s soul and instantly spreads throughout his being. Just like a snakebite victim, he enters a catatonic state of mind: a sexual trance where all reason seems to abandon him. Lust rushes through his body; his face flushes with excitement; his palms get sweaty.

Solomon described this spiritual stupor this way:

“With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life” (prov. 7:21-23 NASB).

Conversely, the man who receives “with meekness the engrafted word” (James 1:21) discerns the source of temptation that comes his way. He understands that, behind the beautiful illusion of pleasure, there is a snake—coiled and ready to strike. He has been bitten by it before and has learned the hard way the price that is paid for every indulgence. He has the heart-knowledge (much different from head knowledge) to “be a doer of the Word” (see v. 22) and turn away from the temptation.

Continuing in proverbs 5, Solomon went on to speak of the “end” (acharit) of sexual sin: “But in the end she is bitter as worm- wood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of hell” (vv. 4-5 NKJV). This Hebraic term describes the inevitable consequences of all sin. He would later write, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end [acharit] is the way of death” (prov. 14:12 NASB). Once a snake bites, its victim then becomes vulnerable to other predators.

Some time ago, I watched a National Geographic special that showed a lioness who had been bitten by a cobra. For days, she suffered under the effects of its venom. Weakened to the point of collapse, she faced great danger from a roving pack of ravenous hyenas. She was helpless to defend herself from their savage attacks.

This is certainly true of the man who views pornography. Its poison, rather than dissipating after he has completed his act of lust, continues to contaminate his heart over the coming days. Its toxin remains in his system, altering his perspectives, polluting his mind, and spreading darkness over his soul. The lust it initially appealed to is now inflamed into burning desire. Rather than satisfying the man’s sexual passion, it only serves to further ignite it.

Not only must the infected man deal with the aftereffects of the bite, but now he is even more weakened spiritually against the enemies of his soul. He attempts to go about his daily routines, but lascivious memories continue to haunt him. These images are like desperate beggars crowding around him, clamoring for another handout. No matter how much you give them, they’re never satisfied. Indeed, every gift only emboldens them demand more.

No wonder Solomon warned:

“Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house, or you will give your vigor to others and your years to the cruel one” (prov. 5:8-9 NASB).

The house of the adulteress—much like an X-rated website—is nothing more than a den of writhing vipers. It would be wise to avoid such a place!

The poisoned victim’s only hope for freedom is to go “cold turkey.” Just as a heroin addict must lock himself up until the drug gradually works its way out of his body, so too it takes time for the venom of pornography to lose its power. Every tick of the clock could be harboring a voluptuous temptress, ready to lure him back into sin. Yet, every minute that passes without failure delivers the man that much farther out of her reach. When it comes to porn addiction, the longer he stays away, the better his chances are of escaping her evil clutches for good.

Just as the Word of God prepares a man to face temptation, it is also the only antidote for the man once he has been bitten by the serpent of lust. Regular doses of Scripture are needed to be built up spiritually and thus counteract the effects of the poison of pornography. “precept upon precept; line upon line . . . ; here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:10). Every word, verse, and chapter he meditates upon serves to strengthen him.

Christian men must do everything within their power to avoid the “house” of the adulteress. Two practical measures a man should take would be to use an internet filter on his computer and controlling his television viewing. However, the fact remains that we live in a snake-infested world. In our day and age, it is almost inevitable that men will face this temptation at some point.

The wise believer will prepare himself for that day with the Word of God. It is the “sword of the Spirit” that can sever the head of the serpent of porn.

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Will Faith Make Me Richer? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/will-faith-make-me-richer/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/will-faith-make-me-richer/#respond Tue, 12 Mar 2019 08:00:53 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4130

Faith is no magic wand we use to get what we want but, rather, a power God has put within us to help us become what He wants.

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ive long and prosper.”
Star Trek’s Mr. Spock spoke this salutation accompanied by one raised hand with a trademark set of divided fingers. The Jewish tradition and greeting for ages has been shalom—a Hebrew word rich in meaning that connotes peace, completeness, prosperity, and welfare; also used as an idiom for “hello” and “goodbye.”

The dictionary defines prosperity as “a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune.” When it comes to prosperity and how it is taught in the church, we risk (by overuse or misuse) missing an important component of our faith and our community-life experience. Prosperity is an important concept and a promise not to be missed; the term needs to be reexamined.

    No Magic Wand

Some leaders have misused or perhaps overused the term prosperity, making Christianity sound like nothing more than a get-rich-quick scheme. The “health-and-wealth gospel” has too often tried to turn faith into a magic wand we use to get whatever we want. This is not the kind of faith taught by Christ or the apostles.

Unbalanced ideas of prosperity can be confusing and harmful, especially to young believers. I will never forget what an older lady in our church said to me years ago when I was a brand-new believer.

“Pray for me,” she said. “I need a new car and I am asking God to help me get one.”
“Sure, I’ll pray,” I promised.

She added, “And pray that I will have ‘Cadillac faith’ and not just ‘Ford faith.’” I was puzzled. My idea of faith was not tied to the kind of car one drove, but rather the kind of life one lived.

One great mistake some Christians make is assuming that popular economic theories are synonymous with biblical principles of stewardship. I recall one “Christian” television program not long ago in which the host interviewed a multimillionaire on the subject, “Why God Wants You Rich.” The host repeatedly implied and stated that financial prosperity is always assured to the Christian who “follows my proven formula.” This smacks of materialism and does not mesh with the whole of the biblical record.

    Prosperity in the Old Testament

What does the Bible say about prosperity? The word’s first appearance in the Old Testament is in the story of a servant’s search for a wife for Isaac. Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, not among the Canaanites but among his relatives. When the servant first saw Rebekah, who would ultimately become Isaac’s wife, he “gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not” (Gen. 24:21).* Here, prospered meant that his journey was “successful” or “profitable”—that he would find the wife God had chosen.

In Deuteronomy 27:11-13, God instructed Moses to build an altar at Mount Ebal, and then to divide all of the Israelites— half of them standing on the side of Mount Ebal, the other half on Mount Gerizim. Picture it: hundreds of thousands standing in the world’s largest “stadium.” Once gathered, they were to shout from one side the blessings promised for obedience to God and from the other side the curses that would come for disobedience to His Word.

The promises of prosperity for obedience (ch. 28) are astounding. Here are a few of them:

• “God will set you high above all the nations of the earth” (v. 1).

• “The Lord will make you abound in prosperity” (v. 11).

• “The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens” (v. 12).

These powerful promises were directed to Israel as she became a nation. While we can use them to help us understand the gracious and good heart of God, and to inspire our trust in Him, they are specific and prophetic in nature to a particular time and people.

One of the most beautiful passages on prosperity is in Psalm 1. In this chapter, the promise is connected to the practices of the person whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” and who “meditates” on it “day and night” (v. 2). Such a person is assured that “in all that he does, he prospers” (v. 3). However, it is important to realize this promise is not some vending machine that pops out a blessing when we hurriedly toss a scripture into our minds or on our lips. No, the writer here is talk- ing about the prosperity that flows from a life steeped in the Word of God.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its sea- son, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (v. 3).

The Bible does not teach us only how to be prosperous; it also teaches us how we are to trust God during difficult times of lack and loss. So much of God’s Word is about helping people overcome difficulty, struggle, need, and even envy. King David, who knew times of both great wealth and utter desperation, said to “fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way” (Ps. 37:7).

    Principles on Prosperity

Paul told the Philippian church that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). The same apostle told his protégé, Timothy, that those “who have been robbed of the truth” are those who “think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim. 6:5 NIV). Faith is no magic wand we use to get what we want but, rather,

a power God has put within us to help us become what He wants.

With this in mind, here are a few biblical principles of prosperity:

• It is God and not ourselves who gives us the “ability to produce wealth” and “so confirms his covenant” (Deut. 8:18 NIV).
• Financial prosperity is not always synonymous with spiritual blessing and favor (Rev. 3:17).

• The Christian faith is not about a life full of possessions, but one full of God’s presence and acts of service (1 Tim. 6:5).

• An increased prosperity in the lives of Christ-followers should be matched with a growing generosity to God’s work and to those in need (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

• Investing our lives and resources in a variety of ways is wise and can lead to prosperity. “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening, . . . for you do not know which will prosper” (Eccl. 11:6).

    Two Big Mistakes

I believe there are two major mistakes Christians tend to make in this area of prosperity. One, is to place too much focus on financial prosperity. Two, some are so opposed to the term prosperity that they overlook an undeniably prominent theme in Scripture.

“Live long and prosper,” as it turns out, is an appropriate and even biblical blessing to extend to others. In the balance of passages on the subject, it is good and godly to seek prosperity for both God’s people and for our lives; in that sense, our faith helps us trust the God who “will supply all [our] needs” (Phil. 4:19 NASB). However, it is also godly to trust God when times are tough financially. In those times, our faith helps us to trust God’s heart even when for the moment His hand may appear empty.

The right balance on prosperity is struck by the man best known for his God-given wisdom, King Solomon: “He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor” (Prov. 21:21 NIV).

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Bonsai Believers https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/bonsai-believers/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/bonsai-believers/#respond Mon, 11 Mar 2019 08:00:13 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4124

Why do so many Christians live as spiritual dwarfs?

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hile I agree bonsai trees are both beautiful and treasured, I also find them to be profoundly sad. Trees are designed to be big! You climb in them, swing on their branches, or rest in the shade of their bushy canopies. Bonsai trees are too small for any of those activities. Mature trees will reach heights of 50 to 150 feet, but a mature bonsai tree will only reach 12 to 14 inches.

Bonsai trees are not dwarfed by genetics; they are miniature by deliberate design. The blueprint locked inside the DNA of the young seedling promises a mighty giant, but that destiny is deliberately altered to create a bonsai. To grow a bonsai, the taproot is clipped, and the branches are pruned. Then, the developing seedling is planted in a shallow container. The bonsai reaches maturity, but it never reaches its potential. The miniature lives in a shallow dish, while its giant relative grows unconstrained outside. Locked inside every bonsai is the unfulfilled potential to kiss the sky.

The reality that there are “bonsai Christians” goes beyond sad to heartbreaking. A bonsai Christian is the result of unrealized potential—God-implanted potential. God’s incorruptible seed was destined to produce believers who would be called “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isa. 61:3 NKJV).

You are called to be like a tall, magnificent tree, displaying the nature of God. You are called to be like a giant sequoia, a tree of righteousness, so God can receive glory from your life. He does not get glory when you live chained and defeated by sin or stunted with tiny faith and miniature results. Too many believers live satisfied and content as bonsai believers instead of being the giants God intended.

The giant sequoias that grow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are among the oldest and largest living things on earth. The bark on these towering wonders is over 12 inches thick. A picture doesn’t capture the enormity of the sequoia. They are spectacular, reaching height of 250 feet. When I stood at the base of the General Sherman tree, named for its exceptional stature, I commented to my husband, “Look how small the branches are.”

My husband read the sign to me, explaining that the lowest limb was so high that it appeared to be very small; yet, it was 6 feet 8 inches in diameter—more than the average man’s height. I felt like a tiny bug in comparison to that tree’s towering majesty.

Although God put the seed of potential in every believer to live supersized Christian lives, too often we live like a bonsai with bonsai results. Something is missing. That something is actually Someone. We are missing the precious Holy Spirit.

The early church was born in the fire and power of the Holy Spirit. If the early church needed power, don’t we? God did not intend for the church to be born in a dynamic fire only to fizzle out. We must not let anything keep us from expecting and experiencing the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

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The Caleb Generation https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-caleb-generation/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/the-caleb-generation/#respond Fri, 08 Mar 2019 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4117

Senior Adults Have Much To Give

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or years, the church has placed a strong emphasis on caring for its older members. Rightfully, attention has been given to the homebound, the hospitalized, and the immobile.

However, if this is the extent of the church’s involvement with seniors, we are failing. After all, only 5 percent of seniors are in institutions. Many senior adults are able and willing to serve the church in the area of their calling. Putting these people on the shelf is a gross error.

Billy Graham says the calling of God is not “until retirement” but for a lifetime. This observation is true for all people, not just ministers. Few older people are happy doing nothing.

Senior adults are the fastest-growing age group in America. One out of every eight Americans—some 40 million people—is 65 or older. Every day, 6,000 Americans reach age 65.

This is an army of people who are able-bodied, gifted, and usually willing to give themselves to service. Many of these people have spent their entire lives working to support their families and have talent. They simply need a place to serve. Pastors who label these people as “outdated old fogeys” or “a generation of time past” are missing out in giving the church experienced disciples who can be a giant force for church growth.

Simply sponsoring a meal once a month for the seniors won’t do the job. While that promotes fellowship and is certainly not to be discouraged, it does not provide a vehicle to utilize stored talent and God-given gifts.

Our senior citizens grew up in a culture that showed respect for authority, respect for age, and honor for God. But when the senior arrives at the golden age of retirement, he or she finds con- temporary values have changed radically.

American society glamorizes youth and chases after youthfulness, while there is a breakdown of customs, morals, and general respect for the elderly. Perhaps this is a reason some aged persons feel forgotten and resentful. The church must turn this around and recognize the potential that lies deeply (sometimes too deeply) within the heart of the senior.

In a world of stress that can easily take its toll on senior citizens in the church, we need to encourage all ages to regard older people as useful, available, and productive. Proper utilization of these precious saints is the answer.

Shakespeare said, “Youth is full of pleasure, age is full of care.” The Bible speaks of how God confided in and gave responsibilities to older people who were leaders. Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were among that number. Another man of great faith was Caleb, who said:

I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now (Josh. 14:10-11).

Can you imagine Jesus instructing His disciples, “I am sending you forth to evangelize . . . you work hard, be loyal, and give it your best until you are 65”? No, the calling was for life.

Often church leaders complain of a lack of teachers and other workers. Sunday schools in the Church of God have been suspended because of a lack of teachers . . . church buildings have overlooked needed repair because they did not have the necessary finances to update facilities. Why not look for workers among the elderly? Retired schoolteachers and former teacher aides could fill the teaching roles. Retired men and women who have worked with their hands for years can serve as maintenance and janitorial workers. Senior choirs can spark activity in the music offerings of the church. The greatest homemakers in the world are seniors who prepare meals for the underprivileged and shut-ins. Smiling seniors make wonderful greeters.

The typical senior will not openly volunteer his or her services unless they feel needed or wanted. The church should take the reins and organize efforts to find older people who are gifted and assist in assimilating them into the church’s activities. The pastor, or someone appointed, should begin the process by finding talent, encouraging its use, and placing these good people into roles of ministry where they feel comfortable and fulfilled.

Katherine Scarborough taught Sunday school for 61 years. She began teaching preschoolers in her early 30s and taught the same age in one church for three generations until she recently passed away.

Ed Brooke, age 82, is currently ministering in Muslim-dominated Turkey. After 12 years of evangelizing, he has recently had a breakthrough that appears to be the making of the first Church of God congregation in that country.

A church in Kannapolis, North Carolina, is working with a home for children that sponsors lodging and care for pregnant girls and assists in baby care. Senior ladies serve as “rockers” for the babies, thus assisting mothers when they go to work.

Margaret Gaines, 80, after spending almost a lifetime in Israel birthing a church in Jerusalem and a school in Aboud, was forced to return to America because of her failing health. A church near her home in Anniston, Alabama, was scheduled to close because no pastor was available. The state overseer asked Sister Gaines to pastor the small congregation in Wattsville. She is now averaging 20 to 30 in church. Wattsville is reaching out to a group of boys who need special training.

Ruth Souders is a staff member of the North Cleveland (Tennessee) Church of God, who recruits volunteers. She quizzes older people about their passion to work for God. Sometimes, says Ruth, seniors want to work in an area where they are not familiar—taking on a new challenge. Ruth has 60 committees of volunteers; a third of them consist of older people. North Cleveland would not be the strong church it is today had it not been for the tremendous number of senior adults who support the church with their skills, talent, hands, heart, and finances.

The church is the logical place to provide seniors with opportunities. This not only blesses the church, it honors God.

The greatest days of a senior’s life are when he or she is fulfilled in helping a neighbor.

I encourage every church to survey its membership. See the corporate potential. Give attention to utilizing people, regardless of their age, if they possess the gifts needed.

God has given certain individuals long life for a reason; it may be to help your church in filling a void. Respect the senior who is capable and willing. Hear that person say, “Use me.”

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Missionary to the Poor https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/missionary-to-the-poor/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/missionary-to-the-poor/#respond Thu, 07 Mar 2019 08:00:57 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4110

Most Churches Have A Ministry To The Poor, But Your Ministry To The Poor Has A Church

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omehow, I am able to see Christ in the roughest of criminals, the nastiest of the homeless, and the craziest of the mentally ill. I understand that every person is created in the image of God.

In 1992, God called us to serve the poor of Norfolk, Virginia. My beautiful wife and 3-year-old boy moved with me from a nice life in the suburbs into the inner city. The Church of God provided an opportunity through a pilot program, and thus we started the Mission American Urban Outreach Center. Beginning from the trunk of our car, we fed the poor on the street corner and played games with children in the projects, networking and referring the poor to available services. We provided food, clothing, coats, blankets, socks, and hygiene packets, and preached from a milk crate.

The original idea was to win these people to Christ and transition them into local churches to become tithe-paying members—giving the denomination and donors a return on their investment. Well, they would “get saved,” but we could not assimilate them. A church van would pick them up, the church would feed them breakfast, and they would sit together in the sanctuary. Everyone was very friendly—too friendly—going out of their way to greet and welcome them every Sunday.

The church tried, but it was always the church folks and the poor or homeless people. They were always being prayed for, but never asked to pray. They were always being taught, but never asked to teach. They were always being served, but never asked to serve. They were always going to someone else’s church. The church members did a wonderful job—they really cared; but the poor felt although they were welcome, they could never fit.

Imagine having to carefully plan your baptismal service to ensure that HIV patients are baptized last. Then after that careful planning, still losing your largest tithe payer because their son accepted Christ and his family was too afraid for him to be baptized. Or church members not wanting to share a pew with an unbathed homeless person. Outreach to the poor and mentally ill was fine, but worshiping and fellowshipping with them was too much for many people. So we started a church for the poor, Sanctuary of Hope, in Portsmouth.

    Ready to Quit

I remember one man who lost his job, then his wife and daughter; he found himself addicted and homeless. In and out of jail for petty larceny, vagrancy, using illegal substances, and public intoxication, he aggravated us and stole from us. Yet he attended church every week. His repentance would only last for a few days at a time.

After we spent 10 years wrestling with him, he died, not even 50 years old. While preparing for his funeral, I knew that his wife, daughter, and brother would be there. Over the years, I had called them time and time again, asking them to give him one more chance. How could I, as a minister of the gospel—a gospel that did not work for this man or his family—face them? What could I say?

I brought the man a suit from the clothing closet, coordinated the funeral, and begged for the services of the funeral home, including a free casket so his daughter’s last memory of her daddy was of him clean and neatly dressed . . . though I knew it would end with a cheap cremation and his ashes being discarded.

While preparing for his funeral, I decided to end my ministry among the poor. This dead drug addict proved my ineffectiveness and failure as an inner-city missionary. He was one of hundreds of men, women, and families whose lives had not changed.

As I walked into the funeral service, a drug-addicted prostitute came to me crying. Between her sobs, she said she was with this man when he died, and his last words were,

“Lord Jesus, please have mercy on me. I believe You are the Son of God and that You love me. I have failed as a man, a husband, and a father, and I need You to save me!”

At that moment, I believe the Lord revealed to me that because of the disappointments and traumas of life, this man was not able to accept the grace from God to change his life and live for Christ, but because of our faithfulness, he was able to die right with God. This gave me a peace and confidence about my work among the poor.

There was another drunkard with a long list of problems. He had lost his license and could not legally drive, owing a lot in court costs and fines. Now he works a public job every day, takes care of the church’s lawn, drives the ministry’s box truck, and handles the weekly food distribution. He is not as groomed as most church members in the suburbs, nor does he have all of his teeth. His language can still be colorful and occasionally we will smell alcohol on him, but he is coming to our church, reading his Bible, and praying. He has a long way to go, but he has come much further than most of us. I can now trust him with money and other resources.

    Multifaceted Ministry

Early in my ministry, my first full-time staff member was a young adult with fetal-narcotic syndrome. He was emotionally and intellectually limited, with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. My family and our ministry took him in. Everyone called him my associate pastor. The work of our inner-city mission was conducted with this young man, nine retirees, and a sailor who gave his time and pickup truck every evening and on weekends until we bought our first box truck. I was able to load a truck and set up a tent in the day and preach at night. Now my body is worn out, and I have to seek God more and develop others to do the work of the ministry.

Even though our current paid staff has been depleted by this economy and we face many challenges, we still continue our programs for the poor. Our missionary staff, along with a host of volunteers from area churches, the military, and business, makes many sacrifices to serve our church and the elderly, mentally ill, homeless, addicted, and otherwise poor. Our church has less than 100 in attendance, and few of the people we reach have a job. When necessary, my salary is the first item to be cut. As the chief executive officer, I could demand a certain salary and my board of directors would pay me well. But knowing that receiving my full salary would cut programs for poor children, it is not a hard decision.

Through our Urban Outreach Center in Portsmouth, we serve meals to some 70 poor children every evening in our after-school program. We tutor them in reading and math, help them with homework, and engage them with computer labs. Our mentors help build their character and teach necessary life skills. They learn about Jesus Christ in our chapel. Their confidence and culture is expanded as they engage in performing arts department and take field trips.

During the summer, we serve breakfast and lunch to about 150 children every day. Mission teams come from across the United States and Canada to help provide chapel services, academic refreshers, field trips, mentoring, performing arts, and sports and recreation for these overlooked children. We not only change the lives of poor children, but of the mission team members as well.

Our soup kitchen serves up to 150 people per meal, and we present the gospel to them.

Our outreach team distributes groceries, clothing, household goods, and school supplies to more than 300 families each month. Also, medical, dental, and social/ psychological services are provided for the poor.

Through our charitable warehouse and supply chain (Hope Charitable Services), we receive, sort, store, distribute, and ship truckloads of life-essential relief goods to inner cities, rural poverty pockets, Appalachia, Native American reservations, and immigrant camps across the U.S. We also ship resources to 26 poor countries around the world.

We partner with churches, providing goods to assist them in their ministries to the poor.

My philosophy is, “If I can do what others feel they can’t, shouldn’t I do it?”

In 2000, I led our inner-city church on a mission trip to Jamaica. I thought this might unite the divide in our urban congregation (the “drive-ins” and those that live in the neighborhood). Our theme was, “From the Guttermost to the Uttermost!” We carried a team of 14 members from the Sanctuary of Hope to deep rural Jamaica.

We prayed and fasted for resources, and we were able to purchase 40,000 pounds of rice, 10,000 pounds each of beans, flour, and cornmeal. We provided 4,000 families with a month’s supply of groceries, treated people in our medical clinics, conducted children’s crusades daily and gospel crusades nightly.

Since those early days, I have made 33 mission trips to Jamaica with more than 1,000 short-term missionaries. We have constructed medical clinics, dental clinics, repaired and remodeled orphanages, schools, and nursing homes. We have built 72 homes for poor families. In our clinics, we have treated the sick and provided dental care for thousands.

    ‘The Least of These’

My heart still breaks and I feel great failure in reaching the “the least of these”—the worst and most hardened of the criminals; those maddened by mental illness; the smelly ones who have been stripped naked by drug addiction and alcohol. These are the ones Christ associated Himself with in Matthew 25, and His mandate rings in our hearts: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (v. 40).

In the eyes of a hungry, filthy child wearing a soiled diaper, I have seen Mary’s sinless babe, helpless and dependent. In the homeless mentally ill, I see the broken Christ looking at me, crying from despair. When I become weary with an addict, I see our Lord in their eyes and hear Him calling out to me. When the poor line up for help and I want to quit, I hear Him say, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

As a missionary to the poor, on behalf of the poor that we serve, I thank our supporters and partners. Their faithful generosity allows us to serve the Lord by serving the least of these.

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Membership Matters https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/membership-matters/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/membership-matters/#respond Wed, 06 Mar 2019 08:00:56 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4106

Grocery stores want your commitment...as does your church!

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o you have any plastic cards attached to your key ring? I remember going to a grocery store several years ago and seeing these wonderful deals . . . but they all came with a catch—I had to have their reward card. It wasn’t a big deal to get one—it just took a little time and some information—but I fought doing it for the longest time. I figured if the store could offer the discount to someone because he or she had the card, then they could offer it for everyone. In fact, I would shop at places that did not have their own card just to avoid the matter.

What was the motivation behind the store wanting me to get a card? Commitment. They wanted me to commit to their store, and they were willing to reward me for doing so. By my being loyal to them, they would give me great deals on products that I needed.

The idea of commitment might sound a little silly because we do not marry a grocery store. It is not as if we are cheating on our local supermarket if we go across town and shop at another store. However, it does bring up a valid point about, of all things, church membership.

What are the benefits of joining a local church? After all, by accepting Christ as Savior, I am a member of the body of Christ, right? And I may even be more faithful in attendance and giving than some who are church members. In some congregations, I might even be allowed to serve in a leadership role without being a member. So, why should I pledge allegiance to the Church of God?

    Membership in the Early Church

Both Jesus and the New Testament writers spoke of the importance of church membership in ways that assumed its importance. They dealt with such issues as fellowship, exhortation, discipline, and government so carefully that it is inferred, if not directly stated, that membership in local congregations was expected. Even upon moving from one city to another, a letter of recommendation (or, in our words, “transfer”) would be sent for the relocated members.

As the newly formed church was finding herself, there seems to be a shift in the process of how one became a member, though the characteristics and importance of membership seen in Acts 2 did not change.

Membership for Jewish Christians did not seem to be a major issue for the early church because Jews already had a religious heritage. For them, it was a matter of accepting Jesus as the Messiah they had so long heard was coming.

Gentiles, on the other hand, were more of a challenge and therefore required more of a process. The beliefs and practices of the Gentiles were in direct opposition to the ways of God and required a lot of adjustment. Over time, the church would require those interested in membership to go through a process of discipleship that would culminate in water baptism. Only then could they be fully accepted into the full life of the church’s fellowship, including participation in the Lord’s Supper, which heretofore they were excluded from.

So we see from the beginning that membership was not only expected but was considered a privilege that came with certain advantages.

1. Members were publicly confirmed as followers of Christ through baptism.
2. Members were surrounded with people of like faith who loved, affirmed, and accepted them.
3. Members continued to grow in Christ through His Spirit and by His Word.
4. Members were able to give back to those who had loved them by serving in various positions, arguably the most important of which was the privilege of helping disciple newer believers.

    Advantages of Membership

In our day, when church membership is often not prioritized, what better time to reestablish its proper role in the life of the church? Membership provides a number of advantages for believers today:

• A place of service
• A place to belong
• A place of commitment
• A place of fellowship
• A place of covering

In the end, I gave up the fight, and now am happy to be a card-carrying member of a local grocery store. Every time I come to the checkout line, I can’t wait to see how much I am saving. It wasn’t what I wanted at first, but it is best for my family.

Maybe you have felt the same way about church membership. Perhaps you have questioned its relevance and importance. Maybe it’s time to take the plunge and become a “card-carrying” member of your local church. The blessings and advantages are worth it.

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Digging Out The Wells Of Truth https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/digging-out-the-wells-of-truth/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/digging-out-the-wells-of-truth/#respond Tue, 05 Mar 2019 08:00:37 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4102

For more than 1,400 years, millions of Muslims have walked the dry, dusty path of hopelessness, the wells of truth stopped up and inaccessible to them.

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saac was A prosperous man with a great household and many herds of goats and flocks of sheep. The Philistines were envious of his wealth and spitefully stopped up the wells that had been dug by his father, Abraham. Isaac’s enemies sought to deny him water—the very thing so crucial for life in the arid desert—by undoing the work of his father.

Islam, much like the Philistines in Genesis 26, has tried to undo the work of our heavenly Father by stopping up the wells from which “living water” (John 4:10) is drawn. On the surface there are a number of similarities between Islam and Christianity, but a closer look shows the corruption and purposeful confusing of the necessary precepts of the gospel and the Christian faith. At every essential point, Islamic doctrine stands opposed to biblical doctrine.

    The Well of God’s Nature

Many Muslims profess to follow the same God as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sadly, many Christians have bought into this falsehood. Islamic doctrine presents a god very different from the God of the Bible. Allah, the Arabic name for “God” favored by most Muslims, has revealed himself to be unknowable, unreachable, and indescribable. Yet, paradoxically, Allah is described in Islamic sources. He is a hater of his enemies. He is capricious and unreliable. He is called the best deceiver. He has no associates or partners. He does not exist as a trinity. The god of Islam is hyper-monotheistic.

The God of the Bible has revealed Himself as one God, eternally existing in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has revealed Himself to His creation in a personal way. He is approachable and touchable. God is love. He cannot deny His nature and, as a result, is utterly reliable. He cannot lie. He is our peace, our healer, our banner, our shepherd, and our righteousness. He is a covenantal God. He is unchanging—“the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8 NKJV).

    The Well of Christ’s Person and Work

Islamic theology is inherently anti-Christ. The Koran, Islam’s “holy” book, declares that Christ was created in the same manner as Adam. His eternity is denied, as is His deity. The doctrine of Islam states that Allah neither begets, nor is he begotten. Christ, therefore, is not the distinct Son of God. According to Islam, Christ did not die on a cross. Jesus was simply a messenger of Allah—nothing more.

This Jesus, declared by Muslims to be a Muslim himself, is not the Jesus of the Bible. According to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is the “only begotten” Son of God (John 3:16). He is the unique Son of God, born of a virgin—100 percent man; but at the same time, 100 percent God— through the Incarnation (Matt. 1:23). He lived a sinless life (Heb. 4:15) to take on the sins of the world, and went to a cruel death on the cross so humanity’s sin could be forgiven (Eph. 1:7).

Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb, and on the third day He rose again, vindicating His word and validating the many prophecies declaring Him “Lord” (1 Cor. 15:4; Phil. 2:9-11). He is still active in the lives of His people, sitting at the right hand of God and making intercession for them (Rom. 8:34). Islamic theology has sought to fill in the well from which flows the water that quenches all thirst—the living water found in the person of Jesus Christ (John 7:38).

    The Well of Truth About Humanity

According to Islamic teaching, man is born sinless and without a natural sinful nature. He is weak, but not a sinner. The Koran is not clear on the creation of man, declaring him as alternatively created from dust, from water, from clay, from a blood clot, and from gushing fluid between the loins and ribs. Man was created to serve Allah as a slave.

When we understand who we are, as revealed in the Bible, the water of life can begin to flow. Though created in the image of God (a thought abhorrent to Islam), the Bible reveals humans as sinners, by nature, from birth. Humanity is not good, has no righteousness, and is driven to corruption by the sin nature inherited from Adam. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

We are sinners in need of a Savior and salvation, but we were created for the glory of God (5:1-2). We were created for relationship with God, to enjoy His presence forever (John 14:1-3). In Christ, we are not only servants of God, but also followers of God and friends of God (15:15).

    The Well of Salvation

Islam is a works-based faith. By reciting the Islamic creed (“There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet”), praying five times a day, fasting during the month of Ramadan, giving alms, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca, a Muslim hopes to buy Allah’s favor and admission to paradise. Dying in jihad, or in the cause of Islam, provides greater opportunity for paradise, but still carries no guarantee.

Ask a Muslim if he will go to paradise when he dies, and the reply will probably be “I hope so” or “I am working on it,” but “Inshalah [only God knows].” There is no hope found in Islam because no one can keep the Islamic law and do enough good works to qualify.

Thank the Lord for salvation as revealed in the Word of God—the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. “By grace. . . through faith” we are saved by Jesus Christ, and “not of works” (Eph. 2:8-9). He took our sins upon Himself and clothed us with His righteousness (Rom. 5:17). He paid the penalty for our sins, thus freeing us from death—the wages of sin (6:23). He gives us life, and that in abundance (John 10:10). We have been redeemed because of what He has done on our behalf, made clean by the word He has spoken (Eph. 5:26).

    The Well of God’s Word

Muslims proclaim the Koran to be the revealed word of Allah, delivered by an angel to Muhammad, founder of Islam. It is the Koran that has poured much of the sand of falsehood into the wells of Christian theology. Islam denies the legitimacy of the Bible, declaring it to be a corrupted book, changed through the years and completely unreliable and untrustworthy. We know better. The Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is complete, inerrant, and infallible. It is truth, life, and light.

Every tenet of the Christian faith is denied or distorted by Islam. For more than 1,400 years, millions of Muslims have walked the dry, dusty path of hopelessness, the wells of truth stopped up and inaccessible to them. They are thirsty, longing for the hope that is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us keep the wells open, and carry water that Muslims might drink and never thirst again.

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Sound Teaching https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/sound-teaching/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/sound-teaching/#respond Mon, 04 Mar 2019 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4095

When a doctrine is sound, the words and the behavior of the teacher and the effects of the teaching will all agree.

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uring Jesus’ ministry on earth, He was known by many titles: Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, Lord, and more. But the title most often used to address Him was “Teacher.” He was the “teacher come from God” (John 3:2).

Just before His death, Jesus promised His disciples He would send them another Comforter who would continue to teach them all the things He wanted them to know (14:26). Then, just before He ascended to heaven, He gave His followers the Great Commission, which centered on making disciples: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20 NIV).

After His ascension, He gave pastors and teachers to the church as gifts for the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16). These teachers were key officers in the early church (Acts 13:1; 1 Cor. 12:28-29; 2 Tim. 1:11). Clearly, the first Christians understood their identity and their mission to be centered in communicating the teachings of Christ.

The apostle Paul especially embraced teaching as the heartbeat of the life and mission of Christ’s church. When he entered a city to start a church, he would teach “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). When he moved on to new fields of labor, he left behind elders who were to continue this ministry.

This theme of missional teaching is especially present in the pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus. Woven into these letters are recurring instructions for younger ministers to teach and to appoint others who were prepared to teach the faith. Four times in these three letters, Paul makes reference to the importance of “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). From these references we gain insight into the doctrinal mission of the church.

    “Sound Doctrine” Defined

The English word doctrine is derived from the same Latin word as “doctor.” In the 20th century, “doctor” came to most often serve as an abbreviated reference to “medical doctor.” This specialized use of the word has led to the loss of its historic significance. That is, the original meaning for doctor was “teacher” and not “physician.”

In a similar fashion, the Latin word for doctrine simply meant “teaching”— either the act of teaching or the content that was being taught. The same is true for the Greek word that lies behind doctrine. Doctrine is teaching, both in the sense of the activity and in the sense of the message being taught. In the New Testament, it may also convey the collective character of what a teacher teaches. Thus, the “teaching” of Jesus, or of Paul, may refer to the whole intended effect of his ministry as well as the specific content of his instruction.

The New Testament uses two closely related words for teaching. The more basic word is the more common one, and it places emphasis on the act of teaching. Some scholars believe the root image behind this word is the extension of the hand; thus, the core concept behind teaching is to give something to another. The more technical word for teaching is the one translated in these texts as sound “doctrine.” This stronger word places emphasis on the desired outcome of the teaching.

The Greek word behind the adjective sound conveys soundness in the sense of “healthy” or “fit.” Because teaching (doctrine) refers both to the act and to the content, this descriptive adjective may be applied to both. There is soundness to the content being taught—it is fit, sturdy, and reliable. Sound teaching also makes the learner healthy and fit as the learner conforms to the doctrines being learned.

What is the nature of these teachings that are sound and produce soundness in believers? What is their collective character and effect? Answers to these questions lie in the relationships and uses of the phrase “sound doctrine” in Paul’s epistles.

    “Sound Doctrine” and False Teachers

In Paul’s epistles, the concept of “sound doctrine” exists as a charge for teachers in the church and as a corrective for the destructive effects of false teachers. The first use of the term by Paul is in the opening chapter of 1 Timothy. The apostle reminds Timothy that he was left behind in Ephesus to ensure that those who wanted believers to return to the bondage of the Law did not counter Paul’s doctrine. For Paul, the Law is good and produces love and a good conscience. It functions to expose sin and lifestyles that are contrary to sound doctrine.

By implication, the Law is sound doctrine, but perversions of the Law do not produce fruit consistent with the Law. Sound doctrine flows from the glorious gospel entrusted to Paul (1 Tim. 1:3-11). It produces and describes human life pat- terns that conform to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sound doctrine accomplishes the purposes of the Law.

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul makes a summary challenge to Timothy to “preach the word” (v. 2). The character of the desired preaching is prescribed: “Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (NASB). There is an urgency to this commandment—the time is coming when believers will not “endure sound doctrine” (v. 3). Instead of learning from godly teachers, they will gather for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, turn away from the truth, and turn to myths (vv. 3-4).

“Sound doctrine” appears again in the opening chapter of Paul’s epistle to Titus. As with Timothy, Paul reminds Titus of his assignment; he was left in Crete to establish order in the church and appoint elders in every surrounding city. The elders were to be above reproach in character and in relationships. Their lives were to be marked by piety. They were to hold fast to the faithful Word so they might “be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (1:9 NASB). Like good shepherds, godly teachers build up believers with sound doctrine and guard them from false teachers.

Paul’s final use of the phrase “sound doctrine” appears a few verses later as he continues his instructions on confronting false teachers. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (1:16 NASB). In contrast, Titus is to “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (2:1 NASB). When a doctrine is sound, the words and the behavior of the teacher and the effects of the teaching will all agree.

Paul did use another phrase that is sometimes translated as “sound doctrine.” In 1 Timothy 4:6, doctrine comes from the same Greek word as before, but sound comes from a different Greek word—one that conveys “goodness” and “beauty.” Paul is again responding to false teachers who, in this case, are teaching a negative message that condemns as evil those things which God created as good (v. 4).

Timothy will prove himself to be a “good” servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of faith and the sound/good doctrines he has been following, if he teaches these good things.

In 6:3, the apostle uses a similar phrase—“sound words”—which he contrasts with the “different doctrine” being advocated by the false teachers. Sound words are “those of our Lord Jesus Christ” and the “doctrine conforming to godliness” (NASB).

    What Is “Sound Doctrine”?

For the apostle Paul, sound doctrine is teaching that produces godly living. His emphasis is on practical Christian living. However, his concern was not for a simple set of rules or principles that Christians had to learn in order to apply them. All sound doctrine flows out of the Word of God variously described as “truth” and “the gospel.” Godliness cannot be reduced to rules and regulations.

Likewise, it would be a grave error to conclude from this study that Paul was only concerned with behavior and not beliefs. He devoted his life to making Jesus known among the Gentiles. The proclamation of the gospel is a theological task. Much of the apostle’s writings are theological instructions. His concern for sound doctrine suggests he was fully aware that knowing and living the truth are very different from merely knowing about the truth.

For Paul, there could be no division between faith in Christ as Son of God and a life lived in obedience to that revelation.

Words of truth accurately describe and portray the story of salvation and the person of Christ. Those same words lay claim to all dimensions of human existence. In brief, sound doctrine describes life in the kingdom of God. It is “sound” because it is fit and appropriate for life in the presence of God. In contrast, teaching that binds people to the world is demonically inspired and utterly false.

Sound teaching is the doctrinal mission of the church. By it, disciples are made and believers are formed, truth is proclaimed, and the Law of God is written on human hearts.

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A Loud Light in the Darkness https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/a-loud-light-in-the-darkness/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/03/a-loud-light-in-the-darkness/#respond Fri, 01 Mar 2019 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4090

The name "Bloodline Served" is based on Hebrews 9:22: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" (NKJV). Salvation comes by being cut off from the Adam bloodline. This happens through the cross, where God's son paid the price of salvation.

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wo years ago, our band, Bloodline Severed, was invited to play at a large Christian festival known as “Cornerstone.” We were signed to a small record label at the time and had the opportunity to play shows under different tents in front of hundreds of people. To us this was a huge deal. We hoped this would be a breakout event for our band . . . but we could not have anticipated what actually happened.

On June 20, 2009, our band members gathered in Hamptonville, North Carolina, to drive to Cornerstone in Bushnell, Illinois. Every year, this festival plays host to renowned Christian artists past, present, and future. Crowds come to worship together without the ties and boundaries of race or denomination.

After an almost 18-hour drive, we finally arrived, and as soon as we got there we checked in, got our security passes, and hit the ground running. We passed out flyers and talked to anyone and everyone we could stop. Throughout the first few days, we met so many people and knew this was going to be the event that put our band on the map.

As the week progressed, our adrenaline faded and the lack of sleep crept in. Yet, when the time came each night to hit the stage, we would feel rejuvenated . . . if only for the hour we were performing. Most nights we performed in front of what we thought were subpar crowds and, because of our high expectations, discouragement set in.

On Thursday night, we were not scheduled to play, so we decided to check out our favorite Christian artist. One of the other artists on the docket was a band called Sleeping Giant. We had heard many positive things about them but wanted to see evidence of what we had heard for ourselves. Growing up as a Church of God minister’s son, I had always known what it was like to be in a Spirit-filled church and see spiritual gifts in action. On the other hand, given my taste in music, I had always wondered if there could be a place for the Holy Spirit to move in a heavy-metal show.

The show started like many others, with the guys from the band all over the stage and the crowd going crazy. In the back of my mind, I didn’t think I would be seeing any move of the Spirit with the way these kids were going at it. Then, about midway through the set, the tone changed—I could feel a stirring in the tent. The lead vocalist, Tom Green, started speaking almost as if he were preaching from a pulpit. The guitars only played a few chords for several minutes, allowing the words of his message to permeate through the packed-out tent of a couple thousand listeners. Then the band started singing one of their well-known anthems, “Oh Praise Him,” and the audience started singing as well. They got louder and more people joined in. Soon everyone was sing- ing those three small words with so much emotion.

I started to cry as if a billowing river was overflowing with joy. I got so lost in praise that I didn’t realize the same phenomenon was happening all over the tent. At one point I did open my eyes long enough to see there were kids facedown on their knees in dirt and tall grass crying out to God for salvation of their friends and family. They were praying for miracles and healings. I heard some speaking in tongues, and it flowed from their lips like honey. Then God spoke to me as if He were standing right beside me, saying, “This is where it’s at!” I asked God, “What do You mean?” His words kept repeating in my mind, This is where it’s at!

After the show, my band members and I went back to our campsite. Unlike anytime in the existence of our band, no one had a word to say. We went for minutes under the darkness of night in complete silence. Finally, the silence was broken. One by one we spoke of what we had felt and the awesomeness of being a part of such an inspirational movement. The same message that God had placed in my spirit for the direction of our band was confirmed by everyone else! Bloodline Severed was destined to do more than perform shows. We were called to be ministers of the gospel—light in the darkness and a new hope to those who had fallen away! The next question was, After years of doing things our way, how would we adapt to this calling?

After hearing God’s calling in the summer of 2009, the band slowly started evolving. We endured a few line-up changes and tweaked our sound. In the last year, we have finally started to scratch the surface of what this band is called to do.

In early 2011, we started venturing out of our comfort zone. In joint efforts with our local churches, we have fed the homeless. We have partnered with Billy Graham Ministries to raise funds for the rebuilding efforts of those who were affected by the tsunami in Japan.

Bloodline Severed has continued to play in secular settings, but the Lord led us to also play in Sunday-morning church services to expose more believers to our style of worship. We want to help bridge the gap between Christians like us and the mainstream church, while continuing to minister to the world. By helping church- goers see our heart, connections are being made that only God could forge.

I can recall the first time we practiced our praise-and-worship set. We were all like, Wow . . . not sure if we can do this. It is quite different playing guitars in “drop tuning” with the gain/volume turned to the midway point and then playing a song on the clean channel and actually singing instead of screaming the words. It took us all a while to feel comfortable, which led us to our next valuable learning lesson:

No matter what kind of ministry God calls us to, He asks us to step out of our com- fort zone and have faith.

After a few months of practice, we played our first praise-and-worship set in front of a group of mixed ages. Admittedly, it was scary! For the first time we had many in attendance who were over the age of 65. Before the set, we prayed that God’s Spirit would rain and that He would allow us to feel His presence while playing. We also felt led to play one of our hard-core songs at the end of our set to reach out to the youth.

Since that day, Bloodline Severed has been blessed to play in many Sunday morning worship services after spending a couple of nights ministering in secular settings of the town we are visiting. We have witnessed healings, deliverances, and salvation inside and outside churches.

A few months ago, Bloodline Severed signed a record deal that allows our music the opportunity to go worldwide. Our new album is fittingly titled Letters to Decapolis.

Seeing the doors God has opened for us, I say to anyone who has struggled to find their place in society, “Rely on God.” He has all the answers and can bring a light to your life even in the darkest of nights.

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Fired-Up Entertainment and Watered-Down Gospel https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/fired-up-entertainment-and-watered-down-gospel/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/fired-up-entertainment-and-watered-down-gospel/#respond Thu, 28 Feb 2019 08:00:13 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4078

Youth ministries are often heavy on fun and light on faith.

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few years ago I volunteered at an event put on by a national youth ministry.

The evening was fun but grueling. We bobbed for apples, captured flags, and raced eggs across the floor using only our noses. The games culminated with a frigid indignity: I laid on my back and let three giggling teenagers make an ice cream sundae on my face.

As I toweled chocolate syrup from my chin, a leader ordered the teens into a semicircle. It was time for the devotional, which included a gospel presentation—but it was a gospel presentation that made me want to stand up and scream.

“Being a Christian is not hard,” he told the group. “You won’t lose your friends or be unpopular at school. Nothing will change. Your life will be the same, just better.”
Maybe his words would have slipped by me if they hadn’t been such blatant reversals of Jesus’ own warnings about the offensiveness of His message or the inevitable hardships of following Him.

I glanced at the teens. One was flicking Doritos chips at a friend. Others whispered to each other or stared at the floor. None of them seemed to be listening. And why should they? I wondered. Who cares about something that involves no adventure, no sacrifice, and no risk?

Unfortunately, what I witnessed that night is hardly unique. Often ministries, especially youth ministries, are heavy on fun and light on faith.

It’s fired-up entertainment and watered-down gospel.
    Amused to Death

The entertainment emphasis can be traced at least a generation, and perhaps nowhere was the impact felt more profoundly than in youth programs. Instead of stressing confirmation of faith—youth ministry’s original reason for being—the focus shifted to attracting more and more kids to the ministry (which inevitably involved entertaining them). Not necessarily bad goals, but there were some ugly unintended consequences.

Today some youth ministries are almost devoid of religious education. They are “holding tanks with pizza,” as church researcher Ed Stetzer has called them. Some use violent video-game parties to attract students through the church doors on Friday nights.

Over the past year I’ve conducted dozens of interviews with 20-somethings who have walked away from their Christian faith. Among the most surprising findings was this: nearly all of these “leavers” reported having positive experiences in youth group. I recall my conversation with one young man who described his journey from evangelical to atheist. He had nothing but vitriol for the Christian beliefs of his childhood, but when I asked him about youth group, his voice lifted: “Oh, youth group was a blast! My youth pastor was a great guy.”

I was confused. I asked Josh Riebock, a former youth pastor and author of mY Generation, to solve the riddle: If these young people had such a good time in youth group, why did they ditch their faith shortly after heading to college?

His response was simple. “Let’s face it,” he said. “There are a lot more fun things to do at college than eat pizza.”

Good point.

If our strategy is to win young people’s allegiance to church by offering better
entertainment than the world, then we’ve picked a losing battle. Entertainment might get kids to church in their teens, but it certainly won’t keep them there through their twenties.

And recent studies confirm that they’re leaving in droves. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29. Barna Group president David Kinnaman describes the reality in stark terms:

“Imagine a group photo of all the students who come to your church in a typical year. Take a big fat marker and cross out three out of every four faces. That’s the probable toll of spiritual disengagement as students navigate the next two decades.”

Most of us don’t need a “big fat marker” to see this phenomenon play out. We’ve had a front-row seat to the exodus.

    Failure to Form

In his book UnChristian, Kinnaman says 65 percent of all American young people report making a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in their lives. Yet based on his surveys, Kinnaman concludes that only about 3 percent of these young adults have a biblical worldview.

Whether or not we accept Kinnaman’s definition of what constitutes a biblical worldview, few would argue that anywhere near 65 percent of young adults in the U.S. could be described as active followers of Jesus. We may have done a good job of getting young people to sign a pledge or mutter a prayer, but a poor job of forming them into devoted disciples.

Perhaps we’ve settled for entertaining rather than developing followers of Jesus.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with pizza and video games. The real problem is when they displace spiritual formation and teaching the Bible. And ultimately that’s the greatest danger of being overly reliant on an entertainment model. It’s not just that we can’t compete with the world’s amusements. It’s not only that we get locked into a cycle of serving up ever-increasing measures of fun. Rather, it’s that we’re distracted from doing the real work of youth ministry—fostering robust faith.

Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, liked to say, “It’s a sin to bore a kid with the gospel.” A generation later, that philosophy morphed into an entertainment-based gospel that has actually produced entertainment numbness and an avoidance of the gospel’s harder teachings. Somehow we thought we could sweeten the gospel message for young people to make it easier for them to swallow, but it turns out that they’re choking on our concoction.

In the end, pizza and video games don’t transform lives. Young people are transformed by truth clearly presented. They’re drawn to a cause to live and die for. In other words, they want the unvarnished gospel. When we present that gospel, with all its hard demands and radical implications, we’ll be speaking the language they long to, and need to, hear.

    Signs of Life

I don’t want to be too hard on youth pastors. I was one. I know how tough it is. Teenage attention spans are short. Pressure to get numbers up is constant. But it’s possible to instill a more dynamic faith if we change our focus, even if that decision comes at the expense of our conventional metrics of “success.”

Thankfully there are youth ministries trying to turn the tide. Faithbridge Church in Houston, Texas, is one example. “We don’t pour much effort into planning big hoorah events,” says lead student pastor Dylan Lucas. “We’re really focused on the Word and leadership training.”

The ministry pairs small groups of five to seven teens with adult leaders, and then provides those leaders with intensive training. “We equip these leaders to teach. The youth pastor can’t do it all,” says Lucas.

Follow-up is another focus. “Our job doesn’t end at graduation,” Lucas says. “We call that ‘Day One.’” Each graduate leaving for college receives a $10 Starbucks gift card with the following instructions: Go find a spiritual mentor on campus to take out for coffee.

“We keep tabs on them,” Lucas says. “We have relationships with their families, and we bring them back to help lead the next generation.”

Of course, not all graduates stay on the straight and narrow. “When we see someone go off, we don’t ignore it,” Lucas says. “You have to pick up the phone and make that awkward call.”

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Witnessing For Christ Through The Holy Spirit https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/witnessing-for-christ-through-the-holy-spirit/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/witnessing-for-christ-through-the-holy-spirit/#respond Wed, 27 Feb 2019 08:00:17 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4075

It is a divine experience to have God direct you to someone who needs a word from Him.

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ave you ever felt impressed or directed by the Lord to speak or act toward another person on God’s behalf? By obeying such a leading, you witness “in the Spirit.” All effective evangelism is done in the power of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote to some of his converts, “We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:4-5 ESV).

It is a divine experience to have God direct you to someone who needs a word from Him. Our job is to be ready to be used. Here are three principles that have guided me for many years as a personal evangelist.

    1. BE OPEN TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

Being led by the Spirit begins by inviting Him to control and empower you to lead a holy life and be a fruitful witness by faith.

It does take a bit of boldness. I saw this on a T-shirt recently: “I am a wide- eyed, sanctified, blood-bought, Spirit- taught, Bible-totin’, Scripture-quotin’, Satan-blastin’, sin-trashin’, Christ-followin’, pride-swallowin’, hard-prayin’, truth-conveyin’, faith-walkin’, gospel-talkin’, bonafide big-time believer! And proud of it! (Romans 1:16).”

Whew! I’ve never been quite that bold, but I do believe God will lead us to people who need to hear the gospel if we are open to being used by Him.

What does it take to be used of God?

First, it takes submission.

God has chosen submissive believers as a receptacle for His power and blessing. God has set up lines of authority through which He sends His power, blessings, and resources. Submission means “to be arranged under.” It is connected with humility. If we humble ourselves and submit to God’s authority, He will lead us to people who are hurting. There is power in submission.

Second, it takes obedience.

God will never force us to be obedient to witness, just as He never forces us to any other form of obedience. However, when we are faithful, He will overcome any barriers in our way.

Satan is a subtle deceiver who tries to discourage us, but nothing he can do is powerful enough to make our witness a failure when we are faithful to do what God has called us to do. Success is simply living as Christian witnesses, sharing the gospel whenever we can, and trusting God for the results. A Christian who resists or neglects the Holy Spirit is like a lamp that’s not plugged in—the power is there but not being used.

God is in control of any situation, and we cannot fail if we speak up. Did you hear about the guy who hardly ever showed up at church? He finally attended a service and the preacher said to him, “You need to join the army of the Lord!”

The man replied, “I’m already in the army of the Lord, Preacher.”

The preacher questioned, “How come I don’t see you except for Christmas and Easter?”

He whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

That’s not us! We’re called to be Christ’s ambassadors. God does not want us to be “spiritual knickknacks”—people who look good but do nothing. Let’s be ready to be mightily used of God.

    2. BE SENSITIVE TO THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

As we witness for the Lord, learning to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit is very profitable. Most Christians care about people who don’t know Christ, and long to share the good news of salvation with them. But our approach can drive non-Christians away instead of drawing them in. People want to know that you genuinely care about them and their situations.

Not long ago I returned a rental car at the airport. The car lot was a few miles from the air terminal, and when I got on the van to return to the airport, I was the sole passenger.

The sign above the rearview mirror read, “Your driver today is DANNY.” He asked which airline I was traveling on. I said, “To Delta, Danny. I’m drawn to Delta today.”

I continued, “Danny, have you ever noticed how some people are drawn to their own destruction? How is it that a man can have two sons—one is obedient and stays home and works, while the other one is rebellious, runs away, and spends his life in immorality and loose living?”

Danny said, “Are you a preacher? I’ve got goose bumps all over my arms.”

It then occurred to me that God was dealing with this young man. I said, “Danny, you’re that son who left home, aren’t you?”

He said, “Yes sir—that’s me.”

I said, “Now is the time for you to come back home.”

As we pulled up to the airport parking spot, Danny gave his life back to Christ.

God is at work in the life of the believer and the unbeliever to bring them together. We must be sensitive to His leading.

    3. WITNESS THROUGH THE SPIRIT’S POWER

Years ago, the Merv Griffin Show had a guest who was a body builder. During the interview, Merv asked, “Why do you develop those particular muscles?”

The body builder simply stepped for- ward and flexed a series of muscles from chest to calf. The audience applauded.

“What do you use all those muscles for?” Merv asked.

Again, the muscular specimen flexed; biceps and triceps sprouted to impressive proportions.

“But what do you use those muscles for?” Merv persisted.

There was a moment of confused embarrassment as the body builder sat down in bewilderment. He didn’t have an answer for the use of all his muscles other than to display his well-developed frame.

Let’s not be like him! Jesus said in Acts 1:8 that the power of the Holy Spirit is for us to be witnesses for Him everywhere we go. God’s power is bestowed upon us for a divine purpose—not just to flex our “spiritual muscles.”

    WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

Write down the names of at least three people to whom you believe God would have you speak about Christ within the week. Ask the Holy Spirit to prepare these individuals, freeing their minds so they can make a logical, intelligent choice to receive Christ as Savior. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to these individuals at the proper time, and to speak through you in giving them the message of Christ.

As you witness, remember it is the Holy Spirit who penetrates the mind of the other person, revealing spiritual truth. As Paul said, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6).

You will either be sowing the seed or watering what has already been planted, but rest assured . . . the Lord will give the increase.

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Walking In The Spirit When It’s An Uphill Climb https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/walking-in-the-spirit-when-its-an-uphill-climb/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/walking-in-the-spirit-when-its-an-uphill-climb/#respond Tue, 26 Feb 2019 08:00:26 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4068

To walk in the Spirit means to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. When He speaks, we obey.

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ave you ever asked yourself, Why is my Christian life a struggle? Growing spiritually is often an uphill climb.

The greatest struggle we all face is an inner battle—a conflict between our old sin nature and our new nature in Christ. This is why Paul said we need to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16a). If we walk (or live) in the Spirit, we will “not gratify the desires of [our] sinful nature” (v. 16b NIV). Paul goes on to describe this conflict:

“The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (v. 17 NIV).

The reason we often don’t live up to our potential is because we are pulled down by our sinful nature. We say yes to temptation when we should say no. We are mean to others when we should be kind. We hold a grudge when we should forgive.

What does it mean to walk in the Spirit? Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (NIV). To walk in the Spirit means to order our steps and to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. When He speaks, we obey. Where He leads, we follow.

    WALKING-NOT RUNNING

I like the picture the word walk gives us. Personally, I enjoy running—I like to move fast. But God moves at His own pace. Going for a walk with God means to enjoy a close relationship with Him. You can carry on a conversation with someone if you walk with them, but not if you run. You can walk with someone at the same pace, but everyone runs at their own pace.

The close relationship Enoch had with God is described in Genesis 5:24: “Enoch walked with God.” Abraham was called the “friend of God” (James 2:23 NKJV). Moses spoke with God “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11 NKJV). Jesus told His disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). So, walking in the Spirit means we practice His presence, carry on a conversation with Him throughout the day, and obey His directions as He orders our lives.

Walking in the Spirit means we are in agreement with Him for His will in our lives. Amos asked, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (3:3 NIV). We submit to God’s will for our lives. We don’t argue with God and resist His Spirit. That was the problem with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and why they did not recognize Him as the Messiah. They held on to their tradition instead of accepting the truth Jesus preached. Stephen later said of the religious leaders, “You always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51 NKJV).

    ENVISIONING-NOT DREAMING

The seven letters to seven churches in Revelation end with the challenge, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (3:22 NLT). Notice the phrase “is saying.” It is present tense, not past tense. When we walk in the Spirit, we are open to new directions and revelations from God; we are not stuck in the past. When Christians constantly talk about going back to the way things used to be, it makes me wonder if they are walking in the Spirit or living in tradition.

If our vision for the future looks anything like the past, it’s not really a vision but a dream! We dream of what’s behind us in our past, but we envision what is ahead of us in our future.

When we walk, we go forward . . . not backward. Walking takes us to new places. When we walk in the Spirit we have new ideas and take a new direction. Dreams are great, but when we stop dreaming, we’ve got to wake up and get on with a new day. We dream when we are asleep. We have visions when we are awake and alert.

    MOVING ON-NOT STAYING PUT

Walking in the Spirit is about moving on. As we walk, we get further away from our beginning point and closer to our destination. The Christian life is a process, a journey.

We all have had problems and failures, but we don’t have to stay at that place. We can walk in the Spirit and go on to victory over our sins and mistakes. Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind . . . I press toward the goal” (Phil. 3:13-14 NKJV).

When we start walking, God starts working. There is a story in the Old Testament of four lepers outside the city of Samaria (2 Kings 7:3-11). Lepers suffered great rejection in the ancient world. Their appearance in a public place brought great fear. They lived outside the city in a leper colony.

These four particular leprous men were sitting outside the gates of Samaria while it was being besieged by the Syrian army. The food supply had run out and the people were starving. All hope was lost. The Syrian forces were camping a few miles away awaiting the city’s surrender.

Finally, the four lepers decided to take action. They asked themselves, “Why stay here until we die?” (v. 3 NIV). At dusk, they got up and walked toward the Syrian encampment.

When they took action, God got involved in the equation. We forget that sometimes miracles are the combination of God working with us. When they started walking, God started working.

They took the risk of faith. As soon as they started walking, God multiplied the sound waves of their footsteps so that it sounded like a great army with horses on the march. The Syrians heard the sound and panicked. They said, “The king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian
kings to attack us!” (v. 6 NIV). They fled the camp, leaving everything behind.

When the lepers arrived, they were stunned. They ate and drank, and then carried off some plunder and hid it. Realizing they were being selfish, they said, “This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. . . . Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace” (v. 9 NIV).

You don’t have to stay where you are; you can move on today in faith.

You don’t have to argue with God; instead, you can walk with Him and go the direction His Spirit leads you, discovering the blessings of obedience.

You never have to walk alone in this life—you can walk with God, even when it’s an uphill climb.

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Crossroads https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/crossroads/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/crossroads/#respond Mon, 25 Feb 2019 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4064

As the preacher gave the altar call, I knew this was my last chance.

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he choir’s singing is soothing to my weary body. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. Why did I come? What did I hope to accomplish? The preacher is talking now; he speaks with such authority; yet, his words are gentle.

I shouldn’t have come. Surely, by now, it’s too late for me. I have been drifting through this life without stopping to see what’s happening around me. I have been making life-altering decisions without ever thinking of the consequences.

How did I get here?I had a good upbringing—my father was one of the best pastors in town. He was a strict yet loving father with a heart as big as all outdoors. My dear, sweet mother raised us with a firm hand and a loving heart. She made sure we were polite, mannerly, well-versed in Scripture, and lived by the Golden Rule. Despite my rebellious nature, they did all they could to bring me up right.

We lived in a tough neighborhood, but I was not a victim of my environment. Everything that happened to me was a result of the decisions I made.

Our neighborhood was nicknamed the “cardboard jungle.” This was due to the 1940s-era siding that was on most every duplex apartment and the wild happenings on the street. The complex was built during World War II for barracks of enlisted men working at an ammunition plant, but it devolved far from the disciplined place it once was. It became home for low-income families and attractive to a variety of delinquents.

This jungle was overrun with unruly animals—drug dealers who weaved a web of lies, promising pleasure and freedom . . . but all I found was pain and constraints. The more drugs I used, the more I had to have. The harder I tried to break free, the tighter the vines wrapped around me. I made this choice. No one forced it on me. This is where I began to slip deeper into the jungle.

Being alone in the jungle at night is a scary place. I needed allies. I chose to join one of the “wolfpacks” that patrolled the streets. I was again made promises. There was the allusion of camaraderie. I needed someone, something to fill this emptiness. Later, I began to see them as a treacherous pack of hyenas. There was no brotherhood; there was only the survival of the fittest. Yet, I chose to stay. I chose to conform to their standards. I slipped deeper still.

The darkness loomed at every turn, and I managed to fit in with that unruly crowd. The years passed quickly while I wasn’t watching. Briars thickened, roots thrust deeply into the earth, and weeds grew strong. I became a shell of a man—a soulless animal, strong on the outside but empty on the inside. I was lost, lonely, and confused. How did it go wrong so fast? I had only made a couple of bad decisions.

I grew tired of fighting, tired of drugs, and tired of the path I had chosen. I was hungry for something of substance— something that would stop the pangs and truly satisfy.

I remembered the words of my father. I remembered the Scriptures my mother instilled into us at the dinner table each night. I had a choice.

I knew what I had to do—I knew where I needed to go. With the stench of alcohol on my breath and the smell of smoke on my tattered clothes, I stumbled into this old church and sat down in the back.

The preacher is giving an altar call. Every part of my body wants to run out the back—back to what I know. Then the words of my parents resonate through my mind. It’s all I can focus on. I have to know if this will work—if God can set me free. This is my last chance.

I pull my white-knuckle grip off the pew in front of me and head down the aisle. As I draw closer to the front, my feet become a little lighter and something is stirring inside of me. I fall over the wooden altar and begin to pour out my heart. I am sorry for the choices I have made—sorry for the unspeakable things I have done.

As I kneel praying, a beam of intense light illuminates through the darkness of my life. Refreshing waves of love, joy, and peace pour over me, and I soak it up. I can’t tell if I am in the river or if the river is in me! I sob uncontrollably. It’s the first time I have shed a tear in over 15 years! The words of my parents ring true: “When you look up, love reaches down.”

Christ is setting me free! I am no longer lonely or confused—no longer sinking in a pit of despair.

Twenty years later, I am still free of alcoholism and drug addiction. The deci- sion to lay down my life, allowing Jesus to mend the broken pieces, was the best decision of my life. I continue to face crossroads in my life, but I never face them alone.

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Amazing Answers to Quiet Prayers https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/amazing-answers-to-quiet-prayers/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/amazing-answers-to-quiet-prayers/#respond Fri, 22 Feb 2019 08:00:21 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4059

A Witchdoctor's Salvation and a Chained Woman's Deliverance

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y husband, Glen Anniskette, has served as an international missionary evangelist for the Church of God for 35 years, ministering in 63 nations.

Many miracles have taken place in Glen’s ministry because of the healing stripes of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:24). He has seen God open blind eyes, heal cancer-devastated bodies, restore ministries, and so much more.

In the 1990s, my husband felt led to go to Africa for a few weeks of ministry. He prepared for these meetings with much prayer and fasting. He wanted to see the hand of God move in a powerful way.

One week of meetings were held in Kisoro. Normally a building would have been rented, but funds were low, so an open-air meeting was planned. Kisoro is a mountainous region located in the southwestern corner of Uganda, which boarders the countries of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bishop Anniskette traveled close to 300 miles from Kampala on a bus ride unlike any he had ever experienced. He remembers someone holding a chicken in the seat ahead of him, while a goat was on the seat behind him. A man was carrying an open container of gasoline, which made one of the passengers very ill. Besides the uncomfortable conditions inside the bus, the road was treacherous. On one of the curves, a bus wheel spun in the air over the edge of a cliff. A wrecked bus could be seen in the ravine below. It was a long trip.

When the bus arrived in Kisoro, the local pastor greeted the evangelist. Since there were no inns in the area, he was taken to the local Church of God, which was made of mud and cow manure and topped with a thatched roof. The floors were dirt but swept clean.

Glen’s bedroom was the stage of the church. A cloth divider was hung for him to have a little privacy because other visitors slept in the main part of the church. He slept on a twin-size mattress with no covers because of the heat.

When he spotted a foot-long lizard on the wall, he mentioned to one of the locals that he’d like to have it removed. They told him it wouldn’t hurt him, and that it was good because it ate insects. But he insisted, and they took the lizard outside.

The church was too small for the large crowds expected to attend the crusade, so the meetings were held in an open field. When Glen showed up for the meeting, the only person present was a man with a large drum made of cow leather. The man began to beat his drum and sing loudly with much joy. People came from miles around until there were hundreds present.

Since there were no chairs, the congregation sat on the grass and waited for the service to begin. It wasn’t long before the audience began their energetic singing along with the man and his cowhide drum. My husband preached the Word of God and gave an altar call. Among those responding were a witchdoctor and a young woman with metal shackles on her ankles.

The prayers that Glen and his workers prayed for the witchdoctor and the young woman were rather quiet ones, but God did an incredible work that night.

After he was prayed for, the unkempt witchdoctor began to tug on my husband’s coattail and pled with him to come to his house. With the translator’s help, Glen said he wasn’t finished praying for those in the altar but that one of the other ministers would go home with him.

The witchdoctor quickly took another minister with him and began to destroy the tools of his trade. He pushed down the idol he had erected and watched it break into many pieces. Next he threw the chicken bones and other occult tools into the fire. He wanted a witness to see that he was serious about his new commitment to God. The ex-witchdoctor returned for every worship service that week.

My husband walked right passed the witchdoctor on the last night of the meet- ing without recognizing him. Not only was he clean on the inside, but the outside reflected his transformation. He is now a minister of the gospel winning others to Christ! Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), and this man was set free indeed!

As for the woman who came to the meeting wearing shackles, she was in her 20s. She was violent, and would attack Worshipers at the Kisoro crusade the locals. The police told her parents that she was to be chained or sent to prison because of her physical abuse of others.

She was prayed for the same night as the witchdoctor. After the service, her parents took her away from the crowd, sat her down on a tree stump, and by faith removed the chains. Deliverance had come to this young woman!

For the remainder of the crusade, she walked miles every night to receive everything she could from God. Bishop Anniskette saw her at the door on the last Sunday service with a big smile on her face. She glowed with her newfound faith in God! She now owns her own shop and testifies to her customers about what God has done for her.

Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Nothing is impossible with God. It doesn’t matter who you are—a sincere prayer to Jesus Christ will deliver you from sin.

Joseph Kagarama was the overseer of the Church of God in Uganda at that time these miracles took place. Now the superintendent of eastern Africa, he has testified about them in many nations because he saw firsthand what the power of God can do when people surrender their lives to Him.

According to Compassion.com, this region is predominately Christian today. Praise God for those who have gone into this area of Africa to spread the good news. All glory and power to our most holy Lord, who saves, heals, and delivers.

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Multiplication of the Teddy Bears https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/multiplication-of-the-teddy-bears/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/multiplication-of-the-teddy-bears/#respond Thu, 21 Feb 2019 08:00:55 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4043

God took the three teddy bears in my hands and they became many more once I decided to give them away.

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hen the missionary came to speak to our kids church, I could hardly believe what he told us. He said children in Third World countries don’t have toy store. No toy store means no toys.

He said that in Haiti, the children play with parts of buildings that crashed down during the earthquake. Some kids play with parts of old cars.

I thought about it all day. That night I looked around my room at all the toys I had. I didn’t even play with some of them anymore. I wondered, What if I had to play with bricks instead of a soft teddy bear?

I wished there was a way I could take all the toys I didn’t need and give them to the kids the missionary spoke about. I felt God speak to my heart. He wanted me to do something. I shared the idea with my mom, and then my dad.

“What if I sent my toys to Haiti? What if I collected toys from some of my friends at school? What if I collected them from the entire school?” I asked.

Mom encouraged me to write my principal for help with my idea.

While I was writing it, I started to feel silly. The idea seemed too big and there were too many things I didn’t know how to do. How would I collect the toys? Where would I store them? How would I get them to kids in Haiti? Would anyone care? What if no one helped me? I was only 10 years old—who cared what I thought?

I remembered something my dad told me: “The devil is a liar.” I felt like Satan was trying
to stop God from working this plan in my life. I wrote the letter and gave it to my teacher to give to Ms. Parks, our principal.

No one said anything at first, but the next week I got called into the principal’s office… in a good way!

She declared the next Monday, “Stuffed Animals for Haiti Day.” I was so excited! God had prepared her heart, an d now I wasn’t alone. I had help. She announced it in our school newsletter, The Panther Prowl. Now everyone would know. Even the town newspaper called to see if they could come to our school and take pictures.

My parents started freaking out when the stuffed animals started coming on. First, there was one bad…then two…then huge boxes full! We cleaned all the toys. Then the school kept calling saying there was more and more. Our garage was full! I kept thinking about how the toys would soon be in the hands of needy kids my age who never held a stuffed animal before. Maybe they could even use it as a pillow!

Mom started investigating how we could get the animals to Haiti. Some groups said they did not have room to send them. Others said they didn’t want to transport them due to the cholera outbreak. Mom called everyone we could think about, but no one could help.

Someone suggested that we send them to Africa instead because it was easier. But that did not feel right. I felt God put Haiti on my heart, so we waited. When the article was published in the newspaper, a man called us. His name was Bret, and he had read about everything we had done. He wondered if we had found someone to deliver the stuffed animals. He supported a missionary in Haiti named Megan. She was in town collecting supplies.

My parents said that was not a coincidence. I thought about how the principal had not answered my letter right away. If she had answered it sooner or later, we might have missed Megan. God knew how to time this adventure. It was a relief to know God was in control of every detail.
“We have to do what we can in the natural and let God take care of the supernatural,” my dad had said. Now, it made more sense than ever.

Megan’s cargo container was full of medicine, clothes, and food supplies. There was just enough room for our boxes of stuffed animals. I got to meet Megan and Bret. She went back to Haiti with the container because she was starting a school for the orphans there. Today, the school is one year old and doing wonderful things. My principal liked her so much that she let her speak at a school assembly, where she told all the kids about the needs of Haitian orphans.

Mom kept all the newspaper clippings about my story. My nana was so excited, she wrote about it in a magazine. Someone read the article and wrote my mom. They wanted to know if they could help send toys to Haiti too. We put them in touch with Megan, and now their church is collecting toys for the kids there.

When that happened, it made me think about the boy who had five fish and two loaves of bread. I thought about how Jesus multiplied it once the boy decided to give it away. That’s what I feel like happened to me. He took the three teddy bears in my hands and they became many more once I decided to give them away. Now hundreds of kids are playing with toys they would have never had.

Since the word is spreading, maybe there will be hundreds more. Maybe God will lay it on your heart to do something bigger than you think you can. Don’t be afraid.

Remember, the devil is a liar. It doesn’t matter how old you are—God’s timing is perfect and if He put the desire in your heart, He will make a way.
I had lots of obstacles:

• I was only 10—it didn’t matter.
• I only had three teddy bears—God multiplied them.
• I was scared to ask my principal for help— God gave me courage.
• I didn’t know anyone from Haiti— God did.
• I couldn’t afford to mail the toys—it was never my problem.

I just kept saying yes to God, and He kept making a way for me. What seemed impossible became easy. If God could use me—a 10-year-old with no money—to reach another country, what can He do with you in your neighborhood? In your church? In your city? Ask Him. Then, just keep saying yes.

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The Cross in the Stone https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-cross-in-the-stone/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-cross-in-the-stone/#respond Wed, 20 Feb 2019 08:00:10 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4037

Are Signs and Wonders Happening Around Us Every Day?

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he first time Nan told me the story of the cross in the stone, I smiled and thought her quaint.

Angry at her family and desperate to change herself, my friend cried in the gray drizzle on a beach in Nova Scotia and looked heavenward: “Please just show Yourself to me.” Seating herself on a large rock, she dug with her hands and found a stone. “There was a perfect cross on both sides. I held it. It held me. We went together to find my husband. I asked his forgiveness for my stony heart. . . . His response: ‘Let’s all go out for a nice hot lobster dinner.’”

I have really had only one question in the last 40 years: How involved does God mean to be in our lives before Christ’s return? What is His way with us?

Letter from a Texas inmate:

“Dear Andrée….The other night I…was getting ready for bed. My cellie was in his bed with his headphones on and couldn’t hear a thing I said, or just barely, because when I said goodnight he removed one side of his headset and asked what I said. I repeated the goodnight and climbed into my bunk. I went into prayer and asked the Lord if He could, if He would, let me know sometime that He loves me, like He does Kenneth Copeland and Jessie Duplantis. I had no sooner made the request and my roommate said these words, ‘You don’t know what it’s like, you don’t know what it’s like, to love somebody, to love somebody, the way I love you.’

“I thanked the Lord for His mercy and grace as the tears streamed from my eyes, telling Him how much I love Him too. After I recovered my composure, I looked down at my cellie and motioned for him to remove his headphones. He did as I requested and I asked him if he knew what he had just said. He didn’t remember, I suppose because he was simply singing along with the tunes on his radio. So I repeated the words he said, and then told him what I had asked from the Lord, and how the Lord had used him to answer my petition.”

Was God in Nan’s stone? Was He in Nathan’s radio coincidence? Some Christians will say flat-out no. Others will say yes, but will mean it like a psychologist means it—that there was an “event” in Nan’s mind and in Nathan’s mind, a subjective reality that we may poetically call God.

I am not interested in gobbledygook. Either let me be a clean deist and say that God wed us to Himself and then ditched us in the parking lot of the church to fend for ourselves, or let me declare that it is really the Lord who sends the cardinals I love when I need cheering up. I want to mean by the question about Nan and the stone what a child means before we fill his head with college essays. Is our life full of ongoing encounters with God? Are signs and wonders happening around us a regular part of Christian experience?

The apostle Paul asks the Galatian church, “He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (3:5 NKJV). The apostle is talking to an ordinary and settled church when he says that (albeit a congregation with problems). He thinks it an ordinary thing in the church of God that there should be miracles. Even Christians who say signs and wonders have ceased deny their own position whenever they ask for the healing of Uncle Bob’s cancer.

Our God is “the living God.” He placed stones to be found by women weeping on beaches in Nova Scotia, and Bee Gees songs for the prisoner hungry for reassurance of His love. It is important that we thank Him when He does because a spiritual principle is involved: To the one who has, more will be given; to the one who does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

Nan ends her account like this: “The stone now holds a prominent place on our bedroom bureau. It is a reminder of the One broken for me.”

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The Church’s Answer to Un-Aborted Children https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-churchs-answer-to-un-aborted-children/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-churchs-answer-to-un-aborted-children/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2019 08:00:24 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4031

Voting Pro-Life Is Not Enough

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t is one thing to sign a petition, stand in a protest line, hold a sign saying “Thou shalt not kill!” or vote for a candidate who espouses a right-to-life platform; it is another to help provide care and shelter for an unwanted child. The difference is the church’s becoming a solution for the un-aborted but unwanted child.

The apostle James wrote, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (1:27 NKJV). The Greek word translated as orphans means “being without, bereft, or bereaved.” It represents children who have lost parents as a result of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or death. Thus, the difference between the kind of worship that God desires and worship that is “defiled” is how we care for the unwanted child.

It is not enough for the Church of God to cry out against abuse and abortion—we must open our hearts, homes, and finances to hurting and unwanted children. Godly mercy is more than recognizing those in misery; it is alleviating the despair.

Eighteen years ago, a woman faced the decision to abort or continue her pregnancy. She was incapable of adequately caring for her toddler son, and another child would just add to the problem. For whatever reason, she decided against abortion. We could all stand and applaud that this child did not become a statistic. Yet for the mother, things only got worse. Unable or unwilling to care for Sharon, she finally abandoned her. One societal evil was replaced with another, and Sharon was truly “without.”

Frightened and grieving, Sharon was brought to the Church of God Smoky Mountain Children’s Home. There, houseparents became her parents and cottage mates her sisters—she became part of the Home’s family. Sharon excelled in school, became part of a vibrant youth group at Parkway Church of God, and grew into a beautiful young woman with many talents and gifts. She eventually graduated high school with honors. Today, Sharon is a freshman at Lee University on academic scholarship. What a difference the church made for Sharon!

Another girl, Katy, was raped! As if the trauma of the violation and violence were not enough, a constant reminder of that awful event was the child growing inside her. She was pregnant, and as an immigrant worker she had no hope of raising a child. Health-care workers recommended an abortion, but Katy refused. The Children’s Home received the call about Katy, and one of the shining moments for my life will always be the moment Katy placed her child in the arms of an adoptive mother. A Church of God pastor and wife had a newborn child, and the child had a forever family.

A speaker at one of our Children’s Home staff meetings commented, “When God shows the church a problem, He will show us how to be part of the solution.”

Wherever we cry out against wrong, our message must be tempered with mercy that responds with an answer of hope and healing. There is no greater example of this in every community than the church not only crying out against abortion, but also opening our heart, homes, and finances to make a life for the un-aborted but unwanted children around us.

In every sermon exposing the evil of abortion, half of the message should challenge the Christian community to become a place of hope and healing for unwanted children.

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When God Sees A Soul https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/when-god-sees-a-soul/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/when-god-sees-a-soul/#respond Mon, 18 Feb 2019 08:00:29 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4026

Jesus saw more than 'a woman caught in adultery' that day. He saw a soul in desperate need of Grace and Truth.

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hat was Jesus Christ’s POV? How did He view the places, people, and things around Him? If you could see the world now the way Jesus saw it then, what would it look like, how would the people appear, and what would you look like?

POV is a literary and theatrical abbreviation for “point of view.” It is the angle or spectrum through which someone observes settings, situations, and people. In movies and television, stories are usually seen through the “lens” of one specific character at a time. In novel writing, the story is told through one main character’s POV at a time. POV is critical to viewing and understanding the story.

One thing is certain: Jesus has a POV altogether different from ours. He does not see people the same way that we do—not at all. The Gospel narratives bear this out repeatedly, but no story does so any more than that of the “woman caught in adultery” (John 8:3).*

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them (vv. 1-2).

The conflict in the ministry of Jesus on this particular day occurred in a familiar place (the Temple), amid a familiar environment (a crowd gathered around Him), and while engaged in a familiar practice (Jesus teaching). Jesus was in His element, but the crowd was in for a surprise.

Three main characters show up in this story, and three perspectives emerge—the POVs of Jesus, the Pharisees, and the woman caught in an adulterous act. Each POV brings out some of the dimensions and dynamics of this important narrative. Three things were happening:

1. Jesus was teaching the people.

While in the middle of the crowd, He was doing what He loved and was sent to do—teaching people God’s truth. He was engaging souls with the Word of God.

2. The religious leaders were tossing another sinner into the ring.

The legal experts and Pharisees suddenly burst onto the teaching scene with a harlot in hand. They were determined to turn Jesus’ classroom into a courtroom.

3. One soul found itself precariously caught between judgment and Jesus.

The woman caught in the act was seized by the self-proclaimed “saints” and assumed guilty as charged. She found herself under the glare of the Pharisees and then, suddenly, under the altogether different view of Jesus himself.

    The Pharisees’ POV

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him (vv. 3-6a).

The Pharisees’ view of this woman was connected closely to the condition of their heart. They saw her as they had seen so many others like her.

The Pharisees saw only “a woman.” The phraseology suggests they viewed her as just another woman—of no account, no first name cited, no family name, no personal information. The Pharisees looked at people with a cold, calculated POV.

The Pharisees saw someone “caught” red- handed. This self-righteous “police force” had apprehended yet another person committing a sinful act. They felt justified indicting her, considering it God’s work.

    Jesus’ POV

One of the most-pondered mysteries of the Bible was the moment that day when Jesus, in response to pharisaical accusations, bent down and wrote on the ground with His finger. The questions continue to be considered: What did Jesus pen with His index finger into the soil that day? Did He list the Pharisees’ sins, the names of their girlfriends, or did He write something else? After all, just how did these leaders know where to find the woman committing adultery?

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his fin- ger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (vv. 6b-11).

Jesus was aware of dynamics and dimensions of this confrontation that flew past everyone else present. He saw things no one else saw and heard what no one else heard.

Jesus saw a soul accused, but also saw the accusing souls (“If any one of you is without sin . . .”). When the leaders threw this woman into the middle of Jesus’ classroom, He seemed more alarmed by the audacity of their hypocrisies than by the depth of her depravity.

Jesus spoke directly to the soul accused and freed it from sin (“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”). If the leaders had thrown her at the feet of Jesus the Judge, then He addressed her as had no other judge in history. Instead of, “What do you have to say for yourself?” Jesus inquired something more along the lines of “What can your accusers say about you now?” It appears that He extended mercy without her even asking for it . . . or was it because He had already heard every cry of her humiliated heart? “Neither do I condemn you,” He declared (v. 11).

Jesus challenged that same soul to certain life change (“Go now and leave your life of sin.”). On the heels of great grace extend- ed came an unwavering truth demanded. While one sentence had said “No condemnation,” the next one said, “Clear expectation!”: “Go, and sin no more” (v. 11 KJV). While Jesus loves the soul and cleanses the soul, He also knows how to stretch and challenge the soul to grow.

    The Soul God Sees

God does not look at us in the same way we see each other. His view is altogether different. We know this from the Bible. He told Samuel, “God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7 CEB).

Jesus saw more than “a woman caught in adultery” that day. He saw a soul in desperate need of grace and truth. He saw a soul that needed to be loved, cleansed, and challenged to the core. These actions in the words and ministry of Jesus reveal the importance of the soul in the eyes of God. A closer look reveals His POV from Scripture:

God attaches an inestimable value to a soul. “What good will it be for a man if
he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).

God calls us to love Him from the depths of our soul. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (22:37).

The Word of God is uniquely able to penetrate our very soul. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Growth in Christ involves an increasing value for and recognition of the souls of people. “From now on we estimate and regard no one from a [purely] human point of view [in terms of natural standards of value]” (2 Cor. 5:16 Amp.).

Some say only three things last forever: the Lord God, the Word of God, and the souls of people. The Word keeps coaxing our POV back to God, His worthiness, and His holiness. And His Word keeps reminding us of the great and underestimated value of one human soul.

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The Invisible Scar https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-invisible-scar/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-invisible-scar/#respond Fri, 15 Feb 2019 08:00:47 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4021

I HAVE NEVER BEEN ONE TO HOLD TO THE BELIEF THAT ‘TIME HEALS ALL THINGS.’ I BELIEVE THAT TRUE HEALING RESTS IN THE HANDS OF GOD, NOT IN THE HANDS OF A CLOCK.

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ecember 29, 1966, was a very cold and frosty morning in Birchwood, Tennessee. We were enjoying the Christmas holidays, and my brother and I wanted to go hunting with Dad. Against Mom’s advice (it was really cold), Dad woke up Randy and me to go rabbit hunting. Who would have known that the events of that day would forever change our lives?

Once Randy and I had thawed out in our warm car, we grabbed our shotguns and began walking back to the field where our beagles—Frank, Jack, and Jill—were catching the scent of a rabbit. It was then that I noticed that the hammer on my .410 shotgun was pulled back and ready to fire. Without hesitation, I did what Dad had taught us to do in order to release it back to safety without firing. However, in the process of that action, my thumb slipped off the hammer and fired. The barrel of the gun happened to be pointed directly at Randy, and the blast killed him instantly.

I was 8 years old and the youngest of three siblings. Randy was only 10. Immediately, I frantically screamed for Dad. I saw him step out from a wooded area and into a sage grass field. Once he caught a glimpse of what had happened, Dad ran to me and took me away from the scene. Albert Wilson, a friend of Dad’s, was hunting with us that day. Dad asked him to cover Randy’s body and wait for the ambulance. We buried Randy on December 31, 1966.

I have never been one to hold to the belief that “time heals all things.” I believe that true healing rests in the hands of God, not in the hands of a clock. My scar is deep, large, heavy, and invisible to the human eye. This message is to anyone who, like me, must walk through life with an invisible scar.

    My scar teaches me that I am imperfect and in desperate need of forgiveness.

The hardest person you will ever have to forgive is yourself! You see, the sixth-grade class at Meadowview Elementary lost a classmate; my sister, Teresa, lost a brother; and my parents lost a son—all because of me. Satan likes to remind me of that from time to time, and he uses something I call “triggers” to do so. Some of my triggers are cold frosty mornings, beagles, sage grass fields, .410 shotguns, and the song “Winchester Cathedral.”

My loving family never needed my apology nor placed any blame on me. They immediately moved in to protection mode and loved me through this tragedy. However, I had to forgive myself.

Guilt and shame are two terrible bur- dens to carry, and they will rob us of joy. Thank God, there is One who is capable of carrying the burdens of our past! In Christ, we can “lay aside every weight” (Heb. 12:1), “casting all [our] care upon Him, for He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7 NKJV).

    My scar is a sign that I have the ability to be healed.

We have our limits. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.” Yet, where the skill of humanity ends, God is just getting started. When a beloved woman named Tabitha died (see Acts 9:36-41), Peter knew God could pick up where humanity left off. When he prayed the prayer of faith, Tabitha arose! There is nothing that can come your way too difficult for God to heal.

A physical scar is our body’s way of telling us that the wound has been closed and healing has transpired. Whether our wounds are physical or emotional, we have the ability to heal.

    My scar does not have the final say on my future.

Scars cannot dictate to me where I am going; they can only tell me where I have been. Even after all of these years, I still recall that terrible day in 1966. Healing does not equate to a loss of memory. No matter where I go or what I do, there is the scar to remind me of the path that I once traveled.

In many ways, scars are like a diary of our life—a reminder of the accident, miscarriage, or abuse that we once suffered.

None of us can completely escape our past violations, mistakes, setbacks, and tragedies. They are part of our story . . . part of who we are today. What Satan wants to use to destroy us, God will use to work out for our good (Rom. 8:28).

    My scar is a testimony to others.

It is all right to allow others to see our scars, for our scars tell them we have made it through the storm. When Jesus rose from the dead, there was joy among Mary and the disciples; but there was one who needed to see the scars of Jesus for himself. Thomas could not believe Jesus was alive until he saw the scars in the risen Jesus’ hands and side (John 20:24- 29).

Like Thomas, there are people today who need to see the scars. They need to hear your testimony because it is proof that God is real and actively involved in caring for His children. Thank God for those who can believe without seeing, but there are some who won’t believe until they hear your story and see your scars.

You need to redeem your pain, using your experiences to help other people. That’s called ministry. If you will allow Him, God can use your pain for good. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul said that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (NLT).

Divine healing covers all aspects of hurt. For God not to be able to heal both physical and emotional wounds would disqualify Him from being God. Divine purpose can come from the most difficult times in your life.

Paul wrote, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17 NKJV). There must have been hundreds of scars on Paul’s body, for he was beaten three times with rods, stoned by an angry mob, and suffered three shipwrecks, yet none of these scars detoured his destiny (see 2 Cor. 11:25). His scars only prepared him for the work God had called him to do.

Today, I am happy to testify that I am healed and can use my story as a message of hope to those who are hurting. You, too, can be set free today. Thank God I am free!

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Epa’s Choice https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/epas-choice/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/epas-choice/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 08:00:31 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4018

In the jungles of Ecuador, a mother has to make an impossible decision.

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he was forced to make a decision that a mother should never have to make-which child would live, and which would die. Would it be the little girl who resembled her mother but had her father’s temper? Or would it be the baby boy-her only son? The decision must be made, and quickly.

How could a woman that gave birth to both children decide which one lives and which one dies? In making the choice, she couldn’t have known that it would one day affect her entire tribe. But God did.

For Epa, the moment of decision was brought on by both a brutal, demanding husband and a bizarre tribal superstition. Her husband, Naenkiwi, was one of the most vicious men in the Auca tribe. Several years before, he had purposely misled the tribe, resulting in the killing of five young missionaries who had come to share the gospel with the Auca Indians of eastern Ecuador.

Against the wishes of many family members, he had wanted to take another wife—a younger woman. A hunting party discovered them in the jungle, but he convinced them they were not there by design but had been attacked by the missionaries. A subsequent raiding party ended the missionaries’ lives—an act, unknown to them, that would have historical ramifications. (The story is told in the 2005 movie End of the Spear.)

But the past would eventually catch up with Naenkiwi. Several years later, the truth surfaced when it was revealed that Naenkiwi, the girl, and an older woman spent an entire afternoon eating, drinking, and communicating with the missionaries. Upon discovering this, the men of the tribe determined that Naenkiwi must be executed for his part in the deception.

Late one moonless night, two men were dispatched to find Naenkiwi and spear him. After an initial spearing, he escaped into the jungle only to be found the next day lying, half-dead, in a pool of blood. After yielding to his request that he not be left to die in the jungle, he was brought back home to be buried by his sisters. Epa could only watch.

For the Aucas, there are a variety of superstitions and traditions surrounding death. For instance, it is imperative that burial occur-even if the person is not yet dead. Otherwise, tradition says there is no closure to life and one’s spirit will wander the earth for eternity. Also, it was customary for one or more of the children to be placed in the grave so the individual would not enter the next life alone.

So as Naenkiwi lay dying in the newly dug grave, he demanded both children be thrown in with him . . . but Epa refused to give up both of them. Hence, the choice.

According to eyewitnesses, with tears in her eyes, Epa grabbed her little girl and with her own hands strangled her to death before placing her in the grave with her husband. She apparently knew the dreadful death awaiting her precious daughter if she buried her alive, and wanted to spare her that horror.

So the choice was made—not out of a greater love for the boy, but simply out of the basic need for survival. Upon growing up, Epa’s son, Taementa, would be able to hunt and fish for her. He would be able to take care of her. Especially now that she was about to become a widow.

Four decades later, Taementa is still caring for his mother. Although she remarried, her son still watches out for her. He also watches out for his own wife, Nemontae, and their seven children. And he watches out for a congregation of Christians because he is their pastor.

I first met Taementa on my arrival in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. He accompanied our tour leader, and I couldn’t help but notice how uncomfortable he seemed. Like a fish out of water. A small, demure man with jet-black hair and a thin-but-strong build, wherever we went, Taementa always walked behind us. That all changed once we left the city and reached the jungle, where he felt at home. The change was astonishing.

When Taementa was about 5 years old, Rachel Saint came to the Aucas and began to share the same message that the missionaries had hoped to bring two years earlier. He recalled the impact:

“Dayumae, the first convert, helped translate the Bible with ‘Aunt Rachel,’ and she told them it was wrong to kill. That’s when they threw away the spears and stopped killing.”

Asked how he was introduced to Christ, he replied, “When I was 16, Aunt Rachel explained to me what it means to be a Christian. She asked me if I wanted to live that way, and I said yes.”

Taementa was baptized and began to grow in the faith. During that period, he felt a call on his life. He said, “The more I learned about the Bible, the more I began to preach and teach others.”

Taementa became a fellow minister and best friend to Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint—one of the martyred missionaries. Steve and his family helped Taementa establish a firm foundation for their indigeneous church.

Taementa is well aware of the sacrifice made by the missionaries. He told me, “Since Nate and the others came to preach and teach about God, that’s what I am doing. I’m doing it because they came to do it but could not.”

Asked about his future plans, Taementa responded, “The Tagaeeidi are still living the old way. They are a small group and I want to take the gospel to them because they are still killing.”

And so, God used Epa’s impossible choice to provide leadership for a small group of formerly unreached people in the Amazon jungles of Ecuador. The choice that likely broke her heart has been instrumental in turning other hearts to God.

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Looking Back to Find the Future https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/looking-back-to-find-the-future/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/looking-back-to-find-the-future/#respond Wed, 13 Feb 2019 08:00:14 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4012

“The prospects are as bright as the promises of God.”—Adoniram Judson (1788–1850)

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he first American effort to evangelize unreached people groups came 200 years ago in February 1812. The commemoration of the North American missions bicentennial is being celebrated in Salem and Boston, Massachusetts, in February 2012. The theme, “Commemorating the Past—Envisioning the Future,” will provide missions leaders with an opportunity for an introspective reflection upon U.S. and Canadian missions history and a visionary projection into our missions future with the launching of a new North American missions network.

The first missionaries sent from the United States were commissioned from Tabernacle Church in Salem, Massachusetts, on February 6, 1812. The team members were Adoniram and Ann “Nancy” Judson, Samuel and Harriet Newell, Samuel and Rosanna Nott, Gordon Hall, and Luther Rice. Within days, the missionaries set sail for India, where they were to join the legendary British missionary pioneer William Carey. The Judsons would eventually move to Burma (now known as Myanmar), where they introduced the good news of the gospel to unreached tribal groups.

    Prayer and God’s Word

Judson had recently graduated from Andover Theological Seminary, where he distinguished himself as a bright, globally aware, and disciplined student. One of his seminary friends, Samuel Mills, is remembered for his own college days at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he and other students regularly gathered on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons for Bible study and prayer along the banks of the Hoosac River. On one of those afternoons in August 1806, Mills and his friends were caught in a thunderstorm and took refuge under the eaves of a haystack. Their prayer focus for that day was for the awakening of foreign missionary interest among students.

While waiting out the storm under the haystack, they prayed and considered their own missions obligation. What became known as the “Haystack Prayer Meeting” was one of the notable beginning points in American student activism in world missions. With the determined resolution “We can do this if we will,” the young visionaries turned their prayer meeting that afternoon toward a vision for the creation of a missions-sending structure. The North American missions movement had begun with students committed to Bible study and prayer.

    Public Discourse on Missions

At seminary, Judson and Mills were active in organizing a “Society of Inquiry”— a student prayer-study group on world missions. In June 1810, the group presented a petition to the annual meeting of the General Association of Congregational Churches, requesting the formation of a foreign mission society. Within two years, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was organized as the first missions agency in the United States.

In recalling the amazing work of the Holy Spirit in recruiting university and seminary students, David M. Howard states, “Within four years of the Haystack Prayer Meeting, these students had been influential in the formation of the first North American missionary society, and a year and a half later, the first volunteers were on their way to Asia.”

    Perseverance for Life

The missionary service of the Judson team and their young colleagues could be characterized by perseverance. Judson had that perseverance, and was remembered for stating, “The motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be ‘Devoted for life.’”

This devotion to Christ kept Judson through false accusation, persecution, and imprisonment. He was charged with being an English spy and was imprisoned in June 1824. For almost two years of incarceration during the Anglo-Burmese war, he suffered from fever and malnutrition and underwent a forced march. Judson’s steadfast obedience and sufferings were remembered by Samuel Zwemer, renowned missionary to the Muslim world.

When Judson was lying loaded with chains in a Burmese dungeon, a fellow prisoner asked with a sneer about the prospect for the conversion of the heathen.

Judson calmly answered,

“The prospects are as bright as the promises of God.”

Missionary statesman Donald A. McGavran, whose writings (along with Ralph D. Winter) gave rise to much of the current focus on unreached people groups, paid tribute to the sacrifice and fruitful labor of the Judsons. In 1955, he recalled how they had won converts from among the Karen tribe, one of the most backward and animistic unreached people groups of Burma. “Today,” McGavran stated, “there is a mighty Christian movement among the Karens and their related tribes in Burma, numbering hundreds and thousands of souls.”

The 2010 edition of the Operation World information and global prayer manual indicates a deeply rooted Christian movement in Myanmar. Amid the great suffering and repression of the last decade, the church of Jesus Christ is estimated to have more than 4.5 million believers. In addition, the interdenominational missionary vision among the Karen and other national churches has resulted in many intercultural missionaries to additional unreached and tribal groups within the country.

    Prospects for the Future

Until recently, two associations of missions agencies and denominations have operated in the United States and Canada: CrossGlobal Link (formerly IFMA) and The Mission Exchange (formerly EFMA). Church of God World Missions is a founding member of the former EFMA. In October 2010, the executive leadership and member agencies of both associations voted to merge, thus uniting into one association that will represent 35,000 North American evangelical missionaries globally.

The official launch of the new association and the announcement of the newly branded network name comes in February 2012 during the North American missions bicentennial celebration.

As we move forward in our own 21st-century efforts toward reaching unreached and unengaged people groups, may our missionaries and our missionary recruiting be characterized with the same elements that marked the Judsons and their colleagues—prayer for the nations, pursuit of God’s Word, public discourse (among the churches, the agencies/denominational missions departments, laity in the marketplace, and the emerging generation in our training systems), and a “devoted for life” perseverance in reaching the lost. Our prospects in reaching unreached and unengaged people groups with the gospel are “as bright as the promises of God.”

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No Place For Prejudice https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/no-place-for-prejudice/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/no-place-for-prejudice/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 08:00:24 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4004

However we try to hide it or whatever we call it, prejudice is sinful.

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was raised in a Christian family, but those Christian beliefs didn’t extend to everyone. My aunt made the “mistake” of marrying someone outside her race—at least her brother (my father) saw it as such.

Every Sunday when the extended family got together at my grandmother’s
house to visit, this man was ostracized. No one spoke to him. No one got near him. No one acknowledged he was even there.

At age 8, I found this not only strange but wrong. And if I could see that it was wrong, why couldn’t they?

My family said they were Christians, but their treatment of this family member
brought nothing but confusion to my young life. Their beliefs and actions did not coincide.

Nonetheless, I grew up to love people of all races and nationalities. While many people who grow up in a racist family tend to carry on the pattern, I am so thankful that I did not.

Prejudice comes in many forms; racism is just one of them. I would venture to say that prejudice of one kind or another poisons the heart of every one of us at some point, and perhaps more than we know.

Religious prejudice occurs not only between various religions or the religious versus the nonreligious, but also among the different denominations of Christianity. But in the early church, there were no denominational titles or divisions. There was just one body of believers.

Civil wars based on race and religion have filled history because people have a deep-seated prejudice against others who are different. Hate crimes happen for the same reason.

The issue of male-female prejudice touches nearly everyone. Class prejudice is universal. There is even prejudice between mothers who work and moms who stay at home.

Prejudice is so varied and widespread that there does not appear to be anyone who can escape all of its forms. Therefore, to some degree, we are all part of the problem.

Basically, prejudice is magnifying a particular experience into a universal principle—for instance, deciding that all women are poor drivers because one woman ran a stop sign and crashed into me.

We could endlessly describe how people—ourselves included—tend to make universals out of particulars. But when we look at Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, we find that He did no such thing (John 4:1-29). The Jews were very prejudiced against the Samaritans, but Jesus was different. He gave her more than the time of day; He gave her the water of life. Jesus treated her as an individual with as much value as any other individual.

The encounter at the well demonstrated that Jesus was free from the prejudice that dominated Jewish society. In this instance, Jesus rejected racial, religious, and sexual prejudice to reach out to a woman in need.

Jesus had to address prejudice in His disciples. They wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-54) and even had issues with little children (Mark 10:13).

The Pharisees were the worst; they belittled everyone who did not follow their impossibly long list of religious regulations. They especially criticized Jesus and His disciples. Jesus told them, “On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt. 23:28 NIV).

One of Simon Peter’s greatest spiritual battles was letting go of his prejudice against Gentiles. Even after Pentecost, Peter could not bring himself to eat with Gentiles. Only after God spoke to him in a vision did Peter visit and eat with the Gentile Cornelius (see Acts 10).

Peter’s battle indicates that prejudice is not easy to eliminate. For starters, we have to be aware of it, and often we’re not. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us.

If we are mindful of prejudice, we have a tendency to justify it and keep it under wraps so it does no obvious damage. We may even call it by another name so that it doesn’t seem so ugly. But however we try to hide it or whatever we call it, prejudice is sinful.

Prejudice creeps into our lives easily and is often linked to unforgiveness. For instance, if you have been mistreated by a person of another race, sex, class, or religion, you may hold all people in that category accountable—that’s prejudice.

If, however, you are hurt by that same person but forgive him or her immediately, prejudice will not take root. You will not stereotype every person of that same class, race, or culture.

Jesus had absolute, deep-seated convictions, yet He was able to accept all people regardless of how they were different from Him.

It’s pretty basic, really. A prejudice-free person believes that everybody is worth respect. It doesn’t mean you agree with everything about a person, but you don’t let it hinder you from treating him or her properly.

Jesus went against the grain of His culture and dared to love all people equally. As His followers, shouldn’t we strive to do the same?

Jesus was free of prejudice; He never closed the door on any individual. Because our goal is to be like Him, we cannot let the values of our culture control our lives.

In God’s kingdom, there is no place for prejudice of any kind. It goes against the very nature of God.

No one race is loved more by God than another. No denomination is more anticipated in heaven than another. No government, economic class, or educated group is more favored than another.

We all need a Savior—the Savior who loves all of us without prejudice.

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Prophetic Words Then…and Now https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/prophetic-words-then-and-now/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/prophetic-words-then-and-now/#respond Mon, 11 Feb 2019 08:00:05 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3996

A Gift We Should Desire

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hat comes to mind when you hear the word prophet?
• An important role in biblical times that is not needed today

• A greedy huckster who promises to send people a special message if they will donate to his or her “ministry”

• A soft-spoken Christian speaking inspired words to a hurting person

• A boisterous preacher shouting, “Thus saith the Lord”

Biblically speaking, a prophet is someone who delivers a message from God. The message might reveal a present reality or predict a future event. If the message is
untrue or does not come to pass, it is not a genuine prophecy . . . and the person who delivered it is not a genuine prophet (see Deut. 18:21-22).

A prophetic message might be a loud declaration to a group or even a nation, or it can be a quiet word spoken from one individual to another.

God used individuals to speak prophetic messages in Old Testament and New Testament times, and He is still sending prophetic messages today.

    Old Testament Prophets

In the Old Testament, prophets did some bizarre things:

• Ezekiel lay on his left side for 390 days, and then on his right side for 40 days.
• Jeremiah built a yoke and wore it around his neck.
• Isaiah and his prophetess wife gave birth to a son and named him “Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Booty” (Maher- Shalal-Hash-Baz).

These actions were not signs of mental illness. Instead, each deed was a God-inspired symbolic warning of impending judgment.

But the prophets of old did not just deliver warnings to God’s people. Over and over, God inspired them to prophesy the most important message of all: A Savior was coming to rescue the world from sin. Here is one of hundreds of examples:

“You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah, yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past” (Mic. 5:2 NLT).

    John, Anna, and Simeon

Prophecies did not end with the Old Testament, but occur again from the beginning of the Gospels. In Luke 1, we meet Zacharias and Elizabeth, who had no children “because Elizabeth was barren, and now they were both very old” (v. 7 NLT). Suddenly, an angel appeared to Zacharias and prophesied, “God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! And you are to name him John. . . . And he will persuade many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God” (vv. 13, 16 NLT).

When John began his ministry, he preached out in the Judean wilderness, yet throngs came to hear him (Matt. 3:1, 5). No matter who showed up, his message was the same: “Repent!” (v. 2). When the religious leaders came, he called them “snakes” and “firewood” (see vv. 7, 10).

Most importantly, John prophesied about the Savior:

“He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (vv. 11-12 NASB).

John’s preaching took place just before Jesus launched His earthly ministry. Three decades earlier, just after Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit inspired two godly individuals with prophetic words about the Savior.

When Jesus was six weeks old, Mary and Joseph brought Him to the Temple to present Him to God. At that moment, a devout elderly man named Simeon, “inspired by the Spirit,” also entered the Temple (Luke 2:27 RSV). God had promised Simeon he would not die before he saw the Savior, and he immediately realized who this Baby was.

Simeon picked up Jesus and declared, “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (vv. 30-32 NASB).

Simeon then prophesied to Mary, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (vv. 34-35 NASB).

The prophetic words did not stop with Simeon. Immediately, a prophetess named Anna, who was at least 84 years old, “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38 NIV).

The prophecies of Anna, Simeon, and John were fulfilled perfectly in Jesus Christ.

    Prophetic Words Today

Early during my wife’s first pregnancy, I flew north to Chicago for a meeting while Sharon drove east to visit her family in Virginia. The morning after my arrival, I received a phone call saying Sharon had been hospitalized. By the time I reached that little hospital in Wytheville, Virginia, late that night, Sharon was miscarrying.

One Sunday night a few months later, Sharon and I went to the church altar to pray together. Our pastor knelt beside us and whispered, “Sharon, may I ask if you are pregnant?”

We thought she might be pregnant again, but had not mentioned it to anyone. Pastor Riley told us, “I feel led to pray for your unborn child. May I?” We said yes, and he prayed.

When we found out Sharon was indeed with child, our pastor’s prayer was an encouragement to us anytime we were tempted to worry about another miscarriage. The pregnancy went full-term, and April Lauren was born a healthy girl.

While our pastor’s prophetic prayer did not have the global implications of the prophecies concerning baby Jesus, it was a word from God concerning a baby—our baby—nonetheless. And we were thrilled when we presented our firstborn to the Lord in a worship service.

First Corinthians 14:31 declares that God’s people can “learn” and “be encouraged” through the gift of prophecy (NKJV), and I have experienced that firsthand more than once.

Several years ago while attending Focus— the Church of God international childen’s ministries conference—the Lord spoke to my heart that He was calling Allison, our youngest daughter, into children’s ministry. She was not on my mind when that word came to me, and I knew it was from the Lord.

Allison was a teenager who regularly served with me on summer children’s ministry trips, but I did not feel I should pass on that message to her then. Instead, I “treasured” that prophetic word, “pondering” it in my heart as Mary did when angels spoke to her regarding her newborn Son (Luke 2:19 NASB).

A few years later, on the day Allison, then a Lee University student, announced she had decided to become a schoolteacher, I told her what the Lord had spoken to me, affirming her decision. She is now a second-year teacher, and her husband, Kevin, is a youth ministry leader.

    Something to Desire

The Bible urges us, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1 NIV).

This does not mean we should chase after self-proclaimed prophets and attend “prophetic conferences” in a never-ending effort to hear something fresh. Instead, we should pray for the gift of prophecy to operate in our churches as a source of divine encouragement, affirmation, and education.

As you pray for this gift to function, be ready . . . the Holy Spirit might use you to speak a timely word to a fellow believer or to your church. Just as He spoke through Jeremiah and Anna, God’s Spirit can speak through any devoted believer who is sensitive to His voice.

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Pray the Bible https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/pray-the-bible/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/pray-the-bible/#respond Fri, 08 Feb 2019 08:00:09 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3987

Life-Transforming Scripture Study: Don't just read the Word; pray it until the Word becomes alive in you!

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ietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “In the Incarnation we learn of the love of God for His creation; and in the Crucifixion we learn of the judgment of God upon all flesh; and in the Resurrection we learn of God’s will for a new world” (Seize the Day).

God, at diverse times and in differ- ent epochs, spoke through the prophets; but in one most definitive way, He spoke through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). The Old Testament gives us bits and pieces of the puzzle revealing God, but in the New Testament we see God revealing Himself in one glorious picture.

So the Bible is not read the same way as other books. Bonhoeffer noted, “One must be prepared to really question it. Only then will it open itself up. Only when we await the final answer from the Bible will it be given to us” (Meditating on the Word).

We engage this living Book as if in a dialogue. The Bible is not so much meant to be “read” as to be “prayed.” Read it; then pray it. Pray it; and let it read you.

    1. Read the Bible.

Read a bite-size section or short chapter in several versions. Who are the players, people, and places? What is said and done? Get a grasp on the main idea(s).

    2. Reflect on the passage.

Mentally walk through the passage again with your Bible open. This is about your heart exploring the narrative. You are inside the passage, walking with the biblical writer. Ask yourself, What one verse, phrase, or one word captures my attention?

    3. Reason and wrestle.

Let the Word come alive, whether you are in the “heavenly places” of Ephesians or in Psalm 23’s mountain pass; whether you and David are a few feet away from the towering Goliath, or you are on Patmos with John. What does this passage say to you at this moment on this day?
Dialogue with God in the context of the passage. Meditate. Listen with your heart. Pray. Use the Bible’s language and connect your situation to the narrative. Question—yes, question. Gasp! Stand in awe. Wonder! Ideas may explode in your heart. Light will come, not just about facts and actions, but motives and character.

    4. Rest and listen.

Get still and quiet. Let God read you! Let Him talk. Don’t hide doubts or fears. Be authentic. Slow down the inner dialogue. God may lift a passage off its hinges and burn into your heart. The Scripture speaks—logos does become rhema.

Let the Holy Spirit speak. His words are consistent with Scripture. Quiet yourself to hear His voice. Is there an attitude or action to be changed? A promise to be claimed? A blessing to be received?

    5. Renew and become.

Christianity is not merely a matter of the will. It is not seeing a biblical principle and by volition applying it to our lives. It is not simply new information, but transformation by the Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit renew your heart, giving the power to flesh out and live the Word of God.

This is the second “incarnation”— Christ in us, the hope of glory! Don’t just read the Word; pray it until the Word becomes alive in you.

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Fortify the City https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/fortify-the-city/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/fortify-the-city/#respond Thu, 07 Feb 2019 08:00:40 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3984

We often fail to comprehend our role in spiritually defending the places where we live.

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hat is the population of your city? In London, Kentucky, where I live, the city and surrounding area amounts to around 70,000 people. Yours may be much less or much more.

How many churches are in your city? A handful? Hundreds? The real question is, How many of them are life-giving churches? Do the life-giving congregations make up 10 percent of the total number, or is the number less? Is your community so blessed that the percentage is higher?

When Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms (Israel and Judah), the Bible gives us some intriguing details about the actions of King Rehoboam and the role that specific, strategic cities were asked to play (2 Chron. 11:5-12). Places not well known—like Etam, Sochoh, and Beth Zur—became instrumental. Rehoboam knew that Judah faced the threats of Israel to the north and Egypt to the south. If his nation were to survive, he had to fortify the cities.

The word fortify means “to strengthen” or “to build up.” These were not necessarily the largest cities, but they were strategic to the defense of the nation. They controlled mountain passes that allowed access into the interior. If an enemy acquired them, the whole country could be under threat. This was seen centuries earlier when Israel took the fortified city of Jericho first in the conquest of Canaan. Jericho wasn’t necessarily the largest city in the land, but was militarily strategic.

May I offer a spiritual application? I believe some cities are strategic for specific geographical regions. They may not always be the biggest spots on the map, but for some reason, it seems that whatever happens there, whether good or bad, carries influence for a much wider surrounding area.

We would certainly say that what happens in New York City or Los Angeles has repercussions for the whole nation and possibly the world. But could it also be that on some level, your place of ministry could be used of God for wider influence?

In your city, there are some “gate churches.” The leadership they give, or fail to give, often determines the direction of most other churches in the city, as well as the course of the city itself. Perhaps your church is one of them. These congregations have a bearing on the spiritual climate and future of the city.

Gatekeepers control access. They determine what comes in and what goes out. It is a vital role, and much of it is done through prayer and worship.

We often fail to comprehend our role in defending the places where we live. It is one of the reasons that a commitment to a local church is vital. What other entity will stand to keep evil out of the city? Community-service agencies may do some good, but they are not going to take the church’s place in keeping the devil at bay.

My church needs to be faithful and stay strong so we can defend our city in the spiritual battle that is waged for the hearts of the people who live around us.

Satan wants free access to our homes, schools, and lives. There must be fortified houses of worship. Without them, the city lies defenseless. Gate churches stand as fortified cities that turn back the tide of evil.

In the Book of Lamentations, we read about the destruction of Jerusalem resulting from God’s people not taking a righteous stand:

Her gates have sunk into the ground; He has destroyed and broken her bars. Her king and her princes are among the nations; the Law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the Lord. . . . The elders have ceased gathering at the gate, and the young men from their music (2:9; 5:14 NKJV).

The root problem, though, lies on a personal level. It is described in the Song of Solomon: “They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept” (1:6 NKJV). We lack the power to walk in spiritual authority for our cities because we have failed to maintain victory in our personal lives. We live enslaved to our lusts, appetites, and rage. When we cannot walk in victory in those areas, it is no wonder that we find ourselves powerless for our towns and cities. That certainly applies to pastors and leaders, but it also applies to any of us who have a heart for the city and intercede for it. Every land has a harvest, but it will only yield its harvest to one who loves the land and walks in victory in his or her own life.

The cities that Rehoboam fortified were located on the edge of the kingdom. They provided the first line of defense, so they had to be strong.

God does not call everyone to this place. Some are happy back in the center of the camp, providing supplies. But there are those congregations, preachers, ministries, and individuals that are summoned to the edge. There is something about their spiritual DNA. No matter how hard they try, they find it impossible to just blend in. God calls them to live on the edge. Then they turn back to others, calling and encouraging them to dare to move forward. It can be a dangerous place, and it is often a more difficult place to live.

Some of us have to be a little “edgy” in order to be at peace with God’s dealings with us, and others are not always able to understand that. To some, God says, “Come join Me on the edge. The lives and future of others depend on it.”

Please notice the most fundamental reason for these fortified cities. Jeroboam would lead the northern kingdom into centuries of idol worship, as they bowed down to the golden calves he had crafted. Judah, on the other hand, would certainly have her ups and downs. But if one was going to worship Jehovah, Judah was the only option. Most people would bow down to the idols, but for a remnant of priests and pure worshipers, it meant moving to Judah. Nothing else would suffice.

There are multitudes in our day satisfied to kneel at the altar of the spirit of the age. But there is a remnant who hunger for the living God. We must provide them a place to come. For those who long for undiluted worship, a strong gatekeeping church is their only hope.

We never want to cultivate an elitist mind-set, but we do want to be numbered among those congregations which help to turn back the Enemy and protect so many who are blind to imminent danger. It is time to fortify the city. Will you be a part of that movement?

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Why Is Ministry So Difficult? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/why-is-ministry-so-difficult/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/why-is-ministry-so-difficult/#respond Wed, 06 Feb 2019 08:00:21 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3977

The difficult side of serving God- the discouragement, the opposition, and resistance we will encounter- is not against you or me personally. The opposition is against the work.

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love serving God in the area to which He has called me-children’s ministry. It is a great work to bring the gospel on a child’s level and to see kids’ lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

However, this great work is not easy. If you are involved in ministry, no doubt you have discovered the same truth. Along with the joy of serving, there is opposition and resistance to the work God has called you to do. Satan does not want you to be successful in completing the great work to which you have been called.

God’s calling comes out of a burden. When Nehemiah heard how the wall around Jerusalem had been destroyed, it burdened him (Neh. 1:3-4). Out of that burden came his calling to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah left his plush palace job for his dangerous construction job, calling it a “great work” (6:3).

His job was building a wall, while my calling is building children’s lives. What has God burdened and called you to do? From the call of God, you have a great work to do. That’s where your assignment begins.

The difficult side of serving God—the discouragement, the opposition, and resistance we will encounter—is not against you or me personally. The opposition is against the work.

The Enemy is not concerned . . .
• when we have a burden to do ministry
• when we have a vision for ministry and tell others about it
• if we have the opportunity to do a great work for God.

Satan’s concern and the ensuing opposition comes when we begin the work.

Nehemiah experienced several attacks against the work of rebuilding the wall. All these attacks had one objective—to stop the work of God. His response to the attacks is an example for us to follow. He told his enemies, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (6:3 NASB). In other words, Nehemiah recognized the source of the opposition and had already determined in his heart that the resistance would not stop him from fulfilling the call of God on his life.

    Opposition Through Ridicule or Lack of Understanding

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews” (4:1 NASB).

Recently, my husband and I were at a dinner event at our church. It so happened that we were seated at a table with couples we didn’t know. As we all went around the table introducing ourselves and telling a bit about our families and our work, I mentioned that I direct the church’s children’s ministry. There was dead silence as everyone considered that fact. I could almost read their thoughts:

She directs the children’s ministry? What does that mean? Is she a Sunday school teacher? Is that some kind of weekday preschool program?

After a longer-than-normal pause, one of our dinner companions finally asked, “Is that a paid position?”

Situations of misunderstanding like this small incident used to cause me grief. Now I recognize the hand of the Enemy trying to discourage the work to which God has called me.

After my husband and I got in the car after the dinner, we had a good laugh.

Regardless of your area of ministry, expect ridicule and questioning to come. Satan will bring negative and condemning thoughts to discourage you from your work. Just as Sanballat made fun of Nehemiah’s workers and their building materials, Satan will remind you of your failures and weaknesses. Like Nehemiah, you must say, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.” You must decide in advance that you will not quit when mockers and questioners arise.

    Opposition Through Fear

“When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it” (vv. 7-8 NASB).

Nehemiah’s enemies tried to scare him from continuing the work. They did not want those walls repaired or built. His response was not to cower or run, but to pray and to put guards on duty day and night as he and his team continued the work. What a great example when things begin to go wrong in our own ministries.

On a recent Sunday in children’s worship, we were teaching from Acts 1 and 2. We talked about the unity of the early believers. We observed their evident love for one another. The kids marveled at the story of Pentecost. Everything was going great. Good teaching, children’s pastor! And then, I stepped over the line as far as the Enemy was concerned. I began to read Acts 2:2: “Suddenly a sound came from heaven. It was like a strong wind blowing. It filled the whole house where they were sitting” (NIRV).

At that moment, our sound system began to make terribly loud screeching noises. Kids were screaming and putting their hands over their ears. Several kids called out—some a little fearfully—“Is that the sound from heaven?” Our sound person got the situation settled down, but then annoying clicking sounds started coming from the microphone of a worship leader who was getting ready to sing. Next, my microphone had no sound. Someone handed me another. I continued to speak, and suddenly, it quit too.

We began singing, and both worship leaders lost their microphone sound during the first song. I picked up a corded microphone to speak between songs—no sound. The Enemy was burning with anger at the thought of children seeking the Holy Spirit and worshiping Jesus. He began to oppose us through fear and confusion.

I asked all the adults in the room to pray (stand guard) as we continued to minister to the kids. As we prayed and sang and prayed some more—with no amplification—it did not stop Jesus from doing His great work around our altars that day!

We must say with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.” We must continue our work and our calling regardless of what our eyes see or our ears hear.

    Opposition Through Discouragement

The next attack against Nehemiah and the Jews was a double attack in that the workers became discouraged and weary (Neh. 4:10).

This sounds familiar. Sometimes there are not enough workers for the children’s ministry, and the workers we have are disheartened and weary.

While Nehemiah’s workers were discouraged, weary, and in confusion, the enemy threatened to rush in and kill them (v. 11). At this point we see the strength of Nehemiah’s leadership. In the face of threats and fatigue, Nehemiah did two things:

    1. He organized the people (v. 13).
    2. He spoke encouraging words, telling his workers to trust in the Lord (v. 14).

Our elementary-age children’s church supports a missionary with work all over the world. When I initially met with him, I told him our kids would pray for his family and their ministry and take a special monthly offering for them. I didn’t promise that the funds would be large, and I knew the children’s prayers would be simple. I told him our main ministry to him would be encouragement.

Our typical children’s church offering is around $10. It’s an opportunity for kids to worship God through giving, but it’s not going to make much of a dent in a missionary’s financial needs. However, each month we set aside a special Sunday to pray for and collect money for our missionary. Only once in more than a year has this offering been under $100! It’s an amazing occurrence each month, for we barely mention when the missionary offering is scheduled in our packed calendar of events.

Somehow, as we have organized our kids to give, spoken encouraging words to our missionary, and we’ve all trusted God, He has made our efforts succeed.

    Mark of Valor

Remember that the Enemy will not oppose you unless you are engaged in the work of God. I consider his opposition a badge of honor—a mark of valor.

The Enemy wants to discourage me? I must be a valuable worker on God’s team!

If you stay on the wall and do not come down, you will see the hand of God at work in your life, and God will be glorified. When discouragement, ridicule, or fear comes, tell the Enemy: “I am doing a great work. I cannot and will not quit.”

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Can I Live Holy in a Sinful World? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/can-i-live-holy-in-a-sinful-world/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/can-i-live-holy-in-a-sinful-world/#respond Tue, 05 Feb 2019 08:00:35 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3970

Beyond "Sinners Saved by Grace"

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holy person is beautiful. Such a person seems to have an inner light that radiates through her countenance. She has a power of attraction, drawing others into the presence of God and magnifying the beauty of holiness.

At the same time, holy people reflect an otherness that can be somewhat disconcerting.
By their nature they expose the profane as a contrast to the holy.Their light reveals the ugliness of the darkness that permeates a sinful world.

I know such people. They come from a variety of callings and traditions: a missionary to the Arabs in the Middle East; a Franciscan monk; prayer warriors in my church; my mother-in-law, known for her healing prayers. We do not reserve this type of enchanted life, however, for a few saints or superhero Christians. Scripture is clear that holiness is normative for all Christians, for without holiness “no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14 NKJV).

In spite of the biblical admonitions toward holiness, much of Protestant theology, with its overemphasis on forensic justification and imputed righteousness, has created a Christian culture of sinful people. This arises from failure to see the full gospel—one that brings about actual transformation. Such failure causes many Christians—even Spirit-filled ones—to believe that holiness is not necessary. They are content to remain “sinners saved by grace” but not transformed by that grace. The popular bumper sticker “Christians are not perfect—just forgiven” sums up this concept.

Because of this truncated understanding of salvation, too many believers do not see a life of holiness as necessary for their Christian journey. They are content to live in the shadow lands of a profane culture, making excuses for besetting sins.

Profane Christians are not beautiful. Their bumper stickers do not attract others to the light of God. Rather, they hinder the message that Jesus came to save, heal, and deliver all creation from its bondage to sin.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus made it possible for humankind to rejoin fellowship with the Creator. Jesus came to deliver us from evil, not merely to give us a “Get out of hell” card. In other words, salvation is the healing of broken creation. That which sin marred can once again flourish. Lives broken by addictions can become beautiful vessels of holy presence. Such is the power of the gospel.

However, in a sinful world, how is it possible to lead a life of personal holiness? Be forewarned: the journey into holiness is not easy, but it is wonderful and beautiful.

    The Core of Holiness: The Affections

Affections are the core of who we are. They involve our mind as well as our emotions. They are deep and abiding dispositions that determine the direction of our lives. Through our affections we show who and what we love.

The journey into holiness is thus a journey of our affections. It is our journey
into desiring God. We learn to love as God loves and to desire what is holy. The more we abide in and with a holy God, the more we are transformed into His likeness. Holiness is about having a heart on fire with godly love.

    Cultivating Holiness: Crisis

The heart is not easily set on fire with godly love because the affections of our heart are deceitful. Indeed, sin has wounded the core of our being. As a consequence, we often desire those things that are contrary to the kingdom of God. These things wound our affections, distorting them toward the profane. Our wounded desire must be healed and restored toward godly love, and this restoration requires costly grace. It demands a death.

Jesus, in discipling the Twelve, made it clear that life in the Kingdom involved not only His death, but also the death of His followers. The journey into personal holiness begins with death of self. It involves purging our claims to self-gratification, self-glory, and self-direction. Crisis, then, is the necessary starting point for cultivating a life of holiness. It involves what John Wesley called the “circumcision of the heart,” cutting away those affections that are not godly. Crisis both begins the journey into holiness and is an ongoing part of the journey.

People do not easily receive this message, for everywhere we turn we hear that it is “all about us.” Our culture of narcissism tells us we deserve only the best this world has to offer. Even Christians have bought this message, thinking that the beautiful life offered by the world is the same as the wondrous beauty of a sanctified life.

One clear message of the Azusa Street Revival was that the power of the Holy Spirit came only to those who were willing to die to self. In the course of seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, many came into the fires of sanctification. Consider the testimony of Adolph Rosa, an evangelist from the Cape Verde Islands who came to Azusa Street: “The power of God came upon me until I dropped to the floor. I was under the power of God for about an hour and a half, and it was there that all pride, and self, and conceit disappeared, and I was really dead to the world, for I had Christ within in His fullness” (William Seymour, The Pentecostal Baptism Restored).

The type of crisis experience is the beginning of the holiness journey. Crisis breaks things open so the Holy Spirit can show us our true selves, the world, and God in a new way. We are able to receive both the judging and healing aspects of God’s grace. We can say, then, that crisis is necessary and good for us.

    Cultivating Holiness: Development

While crisis is necessary for sanctification, there is the need to weave crisis experiences into a patterned and disciplined life. The development of holiness takes shape by abiding in Scripture, living in Christian community, and practicing Christian disciplines.

Abiding in Scripture

. The reason some Christians neglect Bible study is that they have not placed the Scriptures at the center of their affections. Eugene Peterson observes that the “text” of the “sovereign self” is the one most read by Americans. This “text” is ruled by what he calls a “new trinity” of “needs, wants, and feelings,” and it competes with the biblical text for control in the lives of Christians. This new trinity produces the fruit of consumption and acquisition (Eat This Book). More and more Christians live by this text, and consequently, cheap substitutes replace holiness.

The Bible takes us into another realm. It reveals the life of a triune God who makes known His presence through His Word. When the Scriptures become the center of our affection, they transform us because God’s Spirit is present in His Word.

To read the Bible is to enter into sacred space where God speaks with authority. His Word convicts, comforts, and transforms. We are to live in the Word, making it our food for daily living. As we eat this Word, it transforms us. We begin to radiate its message, not merely apply its message.

Christian Community.

Holiness is not a solitary experience. It is forged within the grace of community. Many only attend a worship service once a week, but this is not enough. We need to form connections with believers who will love us, hold us accountable, pray for us, and journey with us into deeper holiness.

John Wesley understood the need for discipleship. Because of his concern that many of his converts “grew cold, and gave way to the sins which had long easily beset them,” he created class meetings, bands, and other forms of discipleship (Wesley’s Letters, 1748). These groups enabled believers to bear one another’s burdens, exhort one another, and hold each other accountable.

Practicing the Disciplines.

The disciplines are structured means whereby we pattern transformation into our daily lives. Pentecostals have found that prayer, fasting, service, and worship are especially effective in cultivating a heart of holiness. Prayer takes believers into the presence of God. It is the means of developing intimate communion with Him.

Holy people are people of prayer

. Richard Foster observes that prayer “is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives” (Prayer).

Forms of prayer include adoration, intercession, thanksgiving, healing, and confession, to name a few. Whatever form, prayer shapes the affections toward godly love. Each form of prayer uniquely transforms our affections. Confessional prayer keeps believers in a posture of ongoing repentance and submission. To live a life of penitent prayer is to live with the door of our affections always open to hearing and responding to the Word of God.

Fasting

is a powerful discipline that exposes the inner desires of our heart. These desires are often hidden, but through fasting we are able to see more clearly. We can see how much we crave food, things, and pleasures of this world, and how little we hunger for eternal things.

While fasting from food is the most common practice, there are other types of fasts. During Lent (the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter) I try, as much as possible, to fast from media. This journey into Lenten silence calls me to give up TV, radio, Facebook, and so on. I try to go deeper into the stillness of God’s presence. I am addicted to the sights and sounds of technology. But as the days go by, I find delight in free space created by unplugging. There is rest from the tyranny of technology, and here I find rest in the presence of God.

Service

is a necessary discipline toward a life of holiness. We cannot be holy without serving others. William Law, whose life and writings greatly impacted 18th-century England, wrote in his book, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, a beautiful description of true service:

Condescend to all the weaknesses and infirmities of your fellow creatures, cover their frailties, love their excellencies, encourage their virtues, relieve their wants, rejoice in their prosperities, compassionate their distress, receive their friendship, overlook their unkindness, forgive their malice, be a servant of servants, and condescend to do the lowest offices to the lowest of mankind.

Self-righteous service, on the other hand, promotes pride. In this type of service, there is a focus on honor and external rewards. Ministers are especially prone to the temptation toward self-righteous service. Frequently, people praise their good works. If they are not diligent, they begin to believe the reports of others. Egos become inflated and the good works that are done become counterproductive toward a heart of holiness. Cultivating a life of holiness means that laity and ministers alike serve out of hearts aflame with godly love. Holy affections produce a missional heart.

The discipline of worship

has been central to Pentecostal spirituality. It has shaped our affections with passion for the King- dom. As believers participate in this sacred space, they taste the wonder and beauty of the age to come. They are transformed more into the likeness of this glory. They are filled with passion for the Kingdom.

    Conclusion: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

The postmodern world is hungry for the authentic and real. People long to see a profoundly beautiful life that images the genuine over against the fake. Such lives are possible if we are willing to pay the price. We pay that price in the fires of death to self. We cultivate it through the practices of abiding in Scripture and living faithfully in community. We further shape it through the disciplines of prayer, fasting, worship, and service. This is the life that is to come when the glory of the Lord shall fill the whole earth. We are now in the ready room for that time. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to dress us as the beautiful bride so when our Lord appears we will not be found wanting.

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The Enigma of ‘Knowing’ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-enigma-of-knowing/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/the-enigma-of-knowing/#respond Mon, 04 Feb 2019 08:00:27 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3962

Our Questions and God's Mercy

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nowing” is one of life’s two-sided coins. It brings joy, happiness, and success. It brings sorrow, disappointment, and pain. Viewed from either side, it remains a perplexity, a mystery. For Christian believers, both sides speak of grace.

    We Are All Seeking to Know

We spend most of our lives seeking to know. This search is often referred to as education, which has to be defined as “life learning” rather than formal schooling. Very early, children know things from their parents, their siblings, and their peers. Parents watch this process closely, observing and commenting on when a child starts walking, first speaks, responds to a smile or a voice command. Hours are spent making sure the child knows—when to respond, how to behave, where to sit, and why to be quiet.

Children seek to know dress codes, etiquette, acceptable behavior. With time, for most children, this search becomes organized into formal education through elementary, middle, high school, and beyond. Those who opt out, or drop out, of formal schooling still seek to know— how to earn money…how to use their hands, their minds, their physical skills . . . how to survive.

Society still debates the best way to help the next generation to know. Positive affirmation seems to be the first choice. Every parent tries it. The school system
adopts it. For the most part, it works— but not always. Negative recrimination is necessary for some to know.

We learn through good experiences, and we learn through bad experiences. Only the omnipotent God could design such a system. One individual comes to know through advice and example; another comes to know through pain and sorrow. Both learn.

Schooling ends, but our search to know goes on . . .

• Businesspeople wish to know economic cycles, customer response, tomorrow’s opportunities.
• Investors wish to know the next “Apple,” “Google,” or “Facebook” IPO (initial public offering).
• Politicians wish to know what cataclysmic event, cultural trend, or geo- graphical hot spot will influence voters at the polls.
• Voters wish to know which leaders will try (or even if they truly can) to har- ness inflation, find compromise, and make decisions for the common good.
• Parents seek to know what is best for their children.
• Children seek to know what is best for their parents.

So long as there is life, there will be new and exciting things to know. So long as there is life, we will be seeking to know. It is our search, our wishing, our desire to know that puts sparkle into our days and gives meaning to the ordinary, the repetitious, the humdrum of life. This innate yearning to know—whether it be the scientist seeking solution to a new formula, or the nursing-home patient seeking to know whose heels are clicking down the corridor—is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity.

    We Are at Times Wishing Not to Know

Even while we are seeking to know, we confront the opposite side of the coin—those life-moments when we would rather not know.

We would rather not know pain, sorrow, heartache, failure, disappointment, depression, illness, even death.

We would rather not know children can break our hearts, marriages can go bad, friends can forsake, businesses can fail, savings can evaporate, health can sour, and age can creep in without fanfare.

Nevertheless, day in and day out, week by week, we continue to know—experiencing both sides of the coin.

    Strangely, We Find Ourselves Wanting to Know More

We want to know the future . . . but cannot. We want to understand the why of our past . . . and cannot. We would like to unravel those intricate personality threads that make those we love act the way they do . . . and we cannot.

A neighbor dies suddenly while mowing the lawn. Umm, could that happen to us?
Four people are listed in the paper’s obituary column . . . all younger than us. When will our time come?

Daily and repeatedly, there are hundreds of things we would like to know but cannot, and speculation is useless.

Such is the human dilemma, the law of life, the great mystery.

    We Find Ourselves Dependent on God’s Grace

God’s grace is set forth most beautifully in Paul’s words:

“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons [and daughters]” (Gal. 4:4-5).

It is God’s love, mercy, and grace that permits us to know some things. God’s grace instills in us the desire to know more, to seek, to search. It is also God’s grace that hides from us that which we need not know, should not know, and must not know in this life.

For example, what kind of life would we have if God permitted us to know
the precise moment of our death? How distorted and tortured would be our
days! How fretful our nights! God is too merciful for that. He in His wisdom has designed this universe and our lives precisely right—we live with the enigma of “knowing” some things, not “knowing” others, struggling to distinguish between the two, and learning through His grace to accept both.

Thus, we wait in faith:

“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22-23).

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Why Aren’t My Prayers Getting Answered? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/why-arent-my-prayers-getting-answered/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/02/why-arent-my-prayers-getting-answered/#respond Fri, 01 Feb 2019 08:00:16 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3956

Believing In and Trusting God

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t was 2:00 A.M. when our phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Mr. Baker, we need you to come to the hospital. Your son is in trouble.” My heart sank and my mind raced to try to figure out what was going on. Patty and I had just left the hospital four hours before with news that our firstborn had a 98 percent chance of surviving.

When I arrived at the hospital, the nursing staff was waiting for me and quickly ushered me into a room to meet with the doctor. I knew what that meant. The doctor came in and said, “Mr. Baker, we did everything that we could, but your son died of a heart attack.” I sat there stunned, wondering what I was going to say to my wife and wondering what life would be like now.

It had been a tough season for us. We knew that this pregnancy was at risk. The doctors had predicted there would be complications, but we believed in the power of prayer and we stood on God’s Word. When little Marty was born, we spoke the words of the Bible over him and placed Scripture songs in his crib. It was clear to us that the prayers being prayed in our local church and throughout the Church of God were being answered. With each passing day, the issues that surrounded this little baby, our little baby, were less and less. In fact, we looked forward to the day that we could take him home. Then, the phone rang.

Maybe you have been there. Have you ever prayed and prayed for a loved one to be healed only to see your prayers go unanswered? Or, have you ever prayed for a spouse to be saved and join the church only to see him or her drift further and further away from faith? Or, what about the young person that has prayed to over- come temptation only to fall into the fire time and time again? In frustration we cry out,

“God, why? Why aren’t our prayers answered?”

There could be a number of reasons why a prayer goes unanswered, some of which we may never know. We can, however, open the pages of the Bible and find insight about prayer and specifically what to do when a prayer goes unanswered. The Bible describes several barriers that hinder the work of God in our lives.

    Barriers That Hinder Prayer

Unconfessed sin. The prophet Isaiah confronted the people of Israel with these words: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2 NKJV). As you begin to pray, begin with a request for forgiveness. Ask God to cleanse your soul and remove anything that would hinder His work in you.

People problems. Take a look at your relationship with your family, friends, and coworkers. Relational issues can become barriers to God’s activity in your life. Jesus talked about this, saying, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother [or sister] has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24 NIV). Broken relationships can affect your prayer life. Seek to make peace as you prevail in prayer.

Lack of faith. On a broad scale we believe God can answer prayer, but on a personal level we often do not believe He will. God responds to faith. Jesus asked
two blind men who came to Him for healing, “‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you’; and their sight was restored” (9:28-30 NIV).

When a person sincerely believes Jesus can and will answer their prayers, the barriers of doubt begin to crumble. Faith unlocks the door to deliverance.

    The Plan of God

There are other barriers that can hinder our spiritual lives, but unanswered prayers are not always a result of obstacles we have created. Sometimes we ask God for something we really believe is best for us, but God does not give it to us. God loves us enough to not give us everything we ask for. Some of our prayers go unanswered because God has a different plan. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9).

Some of God’s delays are not necessarily His denials. God is preparing me for what He has already prepared for me. I must let Him complete His work. I have to trust that God knows what is best for my life.

Through the years, I have learned that our prayers are not always answered.

I have come to know that God can do more through us by not answering our prayers than He can by answering them.

So the real question may not be, “How can I get my prayers answered?” but, “What will it take to draw me closer to God?”

When the phone rang at 2:00 a.m. that morning, some may have considered it to be a clear indication that God did not answer our prayers. What they may not know was that four hours prior to our son’s passing, Patty and I stood in that hospital room with our baby in our arms and prayed, “God, we give this child to You. Please heal Him.” Four hours later, little Marty was healed as he passed from this life to the next.

God had a different plan. Since that time, we have gained strength from Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

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Changing the Roots https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/changing-the-roots/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/changing-the-roots/#respond Thu, 31 Jan 2019 10:00:21 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4054

Evangel Interview with Timothy Kaomi Gbo (a regional superintendent of 15 African countries for the Church of God. He also pastors a church in Lomé, Togo, where he is the national overseer. Lomé is one of World Mission’s City of Light projects.)

The post Changing the Roots appeared first on Evangel Magazine.

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    Discuss your spiritual upbringing.

My father went to a Catholic primary school, but he did not give his life to Christ. When he started working, he faced some demonic attacks and nearly died. So his mother turned to idol worship, trying to protect the family. That is why I grew up in an idol-worshiping family.

When one of my mother’s brothers became very sick, she took him to a witch doctor for three months, but he kept getting worse. Someone told her, “Why don’t you take him to church? Church people also can heal.” So she took her brother to an Assemblies of God church.

An evangelist from the United States was preaching. My mother stood up while he was still preaching and started walking to the altar. The ushers stopped her and asked her where she was going. She told them, “I want to give my life to Christ.” They told her to wait; he would make the call. She told them, “No. I want to give my life to Christ now.”

Her brother was not healed, but my mother was a different person when she came back home. She was very happy. She was singing the songs she had heard. She was totally different. The following day, she was singing as she was sweeping, and a voice spoke to her: Why don’t you check yourself? Don’t you know that you’ve been healed? She was seriously sick herself, but she realized she had been healed.

    How old were you when this happened?

I was 12. So we now had a Christian at home. Everybody persecuted her, starting with my father, and including me. We didn’t want a Christian. My grandmother from my father’s side felt like my mother meant to destroy our family’s foundation of idol worship. We were going to be vulnerable, in her thinking.

One of my younger brothers became very sick. It was mid-day, and he collapsed. We wanted to get a taxi to take him to the hospital, but my mother took him to her room and locked the door. We were all knocking on the door, thinking this crazy woman was going to kill our brother. She started praying seriously in the room, and after a while she was rejoicing and singing songs to thank God. Then she opened the door and our brother was perfect. That day my mind changed. I realized this woman had found something serious.

My mother began to take my eleven brothers and sisters to church, one after another. That year when she gave her life to Christ, Reinhard Bonnke held a crusade in Togo. That was a big event. Bonnke was doing something I had done in my dreams; many times I had seen it, but I never understood that it had anything to do with church. I was thinking I would become a prominent politician someday. Only politicians were talking to the crowds. But when I saw Bonnke preaching that day, I understood what I had been seeing in my dreams. But I became nervous and confused. I didn’t give my life to Christ.

My mother would try to take me to church, but my father and I would not go. I was involving myself in things that were not good for me. I learned martial arts and I became very violent. I would go to school with a knife to protect myself. I was not doing well in school anymore. I had some bad friends.

Someone at school invited me to a Bible study. The preacher gave a strong word on who is a Christian. That day it became clear that I was going to hell. That message was preached in 1992, but it is still in my mind today.

    How did you become a Christian?

Later in 1992, during school vacation, my father was in the north of the country doing some work. My mother had gone to Ghana to visit family, and my brothers and sisters had scattered to different places and family members. But I stayed home.

I became seriously sick with malaria on August 7. I prayed, “God of my mother, if You heal me, I will give my life to You. I will serve You.” The next morning, I was fine.

On Wednesday, August 12, I walked to a church five miles from my house. The pastor was my uncle on my mother’s side. He was surprised to see me. He gave me a chair and some water and wanted to know why I was there. I said, “I am here to give my life to Christ.”

He instantly ran to his room and got his Bible. It was like, I better hurry before this guy changes his mind. So he went through the Gospel with me and asked if I was willing to give my life to Christ. I already knew what I should do because of that message I heard in school. Together we prayed, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I was 16 years old.

My uncle gave me a Bible and a notebook. That day I read the Book of Matthew and started reading Mark. I made notes about the verses that were very interesting to me.

That Sunday there was church service. After the preaching, everybody was praying. Suddenly I started praying too, and I was not able to stop. I don’t know what I was saying. The pastor and an elderly woman finally called me aside and asked me what happened. I said, “I don’t know.”

They said, “Were you trying to copy what others were saying?”

“What were they saying?” I asked.

They finally told me, “You’ve got something that people have been looking for; some of them for years. You’ve got something very precious.

I asked, “What is it?”

“The baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

I didn’t know what they were talking about.

I stayed with my uncle because it was vacation time. One day he sent me out to buy something for him. I ran into one of my friends from school. This was a month after I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Before I got close to him, he started asking, “What happened to you? Where have you been? Why have you changed like this?”

I said, “Well, I’ve started going to church.”

He said, “You’ve started going to church, and the church changed you like this? Other people have been going to church but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

That same week my father came back from the north and was told that I went to the church and had stayed there for a month now. So he came for me on his motorbike. He came angry to the church and knocked at the gate. When he saw me open the gate, he was very surprised. I welcomed him, but he couldn’t answer. My father is like my best friend, and I knew he wouldn’t be happy that I went to church.

I called my pastor. He tried to speak to my father, but he would not answer; he concentrated on me. Then he asked, “Is that my son?”

The pastor said, “Yes.”

“How can one month in church change somebody like that?” my father asked. “Church is a good thing; it is good for him.”

He then said, “Pastor, I am giving him to you. Take care of him.”

I stayed there for three years.

    Describe your call into ministry.

One Sunday, somebody preached on the call of God. The message was, “If God calls you, don’t fear it. Go! He will be with you. But if He hasn’t called you, don’t dare.”

I went back to my room after the service and said, God, I want to serve You. I want to be a pastor. If You call me, I will do it.

One night in a dream, it was very clear God was calling me. I got confirmation from my pastor and my church; and even at school, people were calling me “pastor.”

When I first started attending church, my uncle told me I would have to stop playing football (soccer). He said God doesn’t want people to play football, and I believed him. But when I was 19 years old preparing to leave him, he said, “I have to make a confession. God never hated football. If you play football, God will not prevent you from going to heaven. I was concerned about what impact your friends would have on you. But now you understand the Word of God. You have made your choice, and I know you will make it in life. If you want to play football, then play.”

I began training myself seriously to play football. Most of the guys who played on Togo’s national team were friends of mine. They knew how I could play, and they wanted me on the team.

I joined a football league, and the national team was watching me. The last game I played in, I was a midfielder. I got the ball, dribbled past three defenders, and passed the ball to a forward. No one touched me, but I fell down and couldn’t stand up. People helped me get up and took me off the field. I was told, “In two weeks, you’ll be fine.” Two weeks, six months, and then one year later, I was not fine.

The message became clear—God did not want me to play football. It was difficult for me to accept because my childhood dream was to help Togo win the World Cup. But God wanted me in ministry. Finally, one night at church, I knelt down and said, God, today I give You my life; I give You everything. You make the decision, and I will follow.

I went to see Bishop Francis, the overseer of the Church of God in Togo. He told me they were looking for students at a Bible school in Ghana, and he was sending me there.

At the Bible school, some students played football. At first I would not follow them, because of my injury. One day I did play with them, and I realized the pain was gone. I asked myself, Could it be that God healed me because I had obeyed Him by coming to the Bible school?

After the first year of Bible school, I came back home at vacation time. I was going to Bishop Francis’ church, but it was 10 miles from my house, and I didn’t have any means of transportation. I asked myself, Why don’t I start a church?

I began to pray about it. My bishop said, “No, you can’t, because there is no money to do that.”

Well, I was convinced that God was on my side. We started in a small office. The first day we were in that office, a man gave his life to Christ. He came back two hours later and said, “Pastor, I have found a place for you.” It was a school classroom. The school’s director said yes, we could come. That’s how I became a pastor.

I was still in Bible school. Every Friday I traveled from school to the church to minister over the weekend. On Sunday evening, I would go back to the school.

    Let’s talk about your roles as pastor, national overseer, and regional superintendent. What is your passion and vision for Western Africa?

After nine years of pastoring, I also became overseer of Togo in 2011. In 2018, I became regional superintendent. At the beginning, I was thinking this was too much for me. But then I understood this was actually God’s calling.

I don’t want to stop pastoring; it is my passion. If I stop pastoring and am doing only administrative work, the fire would be quenched. My passion is the presence of God. As a pastor, an overseer, a superintendent—the passion is one.
I want to see the fire of God falling, burning. I want to devote myself to God so He can use me.

God has given us a passion for children’s ministry. This developed because we have seen the church in Africa is very wide but the Bible knowledge is not there. God spoke to us that we should teach the kids. The church that will grow from these children will be a different church than we have now.

We are doing what we are calling “Changing the Roots.” That means we are taking children’s ministry into communities that have nothing to do with church or Christ. There we are starting children’s clubs. We gather groups of children once or twice a week to train them in the Bible. We will also have an annual children’s rally. At that rally we will have a Bible competition.

There is a club we started under a tree that today is reaching 2,000 kids. When we began, people were trying to bring suit against us because the kids were no longer accepting the idol-worshiping practices. People went to the voodoo priest to stop the children’s ministry under the tree. The priest said, “Haven’t you seen any transformation in the lives of your children?”

They said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “Well, my kids have stopped lying. They have stopped stealing. They have stopped misbehaving since they have been going to that tree. I think it is better that we help them instead of stop them.”

That village where it is difficult for someone to give you a dollar gave us $8,000 to buy land for the children’s ministry. In that place, the roots will change. They are changing already.

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Jesus: A Name to Be Reckoned With https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/jesus-a-name-to-be-reckoned-with/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/jesus-a-name-to-be-reckoned-with/#respond Thu, 31 Jan 2019 08:00:42 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3951

“At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10 NASB).

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rowing up in the rural South in the 1950s, I had cousins named Betty Jean, Barbara Jean, and Shirley Jean (thankfully they too were cousins to each other and not sisters!). In our community, there was also a Bobbie Jean and a Billie Jean.

Obviously, “Jean” was a common name then, and families would often call their children by both their first and middle names. My mother named me “James” after a former pastor, with “Edwin” as a middle name, and then nicknamed me “Eddie” after Eddy Arnold—a famous country crooner of that time. Certain names and combination of names come and go, while others remain common.

The name “Jesus” has been bestowed on many male children—both before and since the birth of Jesus Christ. Even today in many cultures, devout families name their sons “Jesus,” thus making it a somewhat common name.

So what is in a name anyway? Isn’t the difference to be made by the person and not so much by the name? After all, both Wesley and Dillinger were named “John.” Both Livingstone and Koresh were named “David.” If many have been named Jesus, what then is special about that name? Two factors stand out: (1) What does the name mean? and (2) Who bestowed the name?

The name Jesus is rendered from Yeshua, meaning “salvation”; or Yehoshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation.” Consequently, the angel who announced
His birth called Him the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 NKJV). The angel intended this announcement of His name to be a prophetic proclamation of His mission to “seek and to save that which was lost” (9:10). His name has meaning!

When a child is born, he or she is given a name. Perhaps the child is named after an ancestor, a parent, or a popular personality. Whether chosen from tradition or by random selection, names are chosen because of their significance or because of a parent’s anticipation for the child. Children of adoptive parents may have been given one name at birth, only to have another name bestowed on them at the time of adoption. Either way, the parent bestows the name.

Unlike most mothers, Mary was not privileged to choose the name of her Son—an angel told her what to name Him (Luke 1:31)—yet Paul declared that “God . . . bestowed on Him the name” (Phil. 2:9 NASB).

While parents before the birth of Christ may have named their sons “Jesus” in anticipation of the coming Savior, and others afterward named theirs the same in commemoration, God named His Son “Jesus” because of who He was and what He came to earth to do. His name did not become special because of its nuance, commonness, or historicity. Rather, it was because of who bestowed the name that is “above every name” (v. 9) when applied exclusively to the Son of God.

In this passage, Paul previously acknowledged the deity of Christ, “who, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (v. 6 NIV). This passage tells us in unmistakable terms that Jesus Christ is God! The name given to Him bears that out, as attested to by the apostle Peter: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NASB).

While most parents name their children with anticipation as to who they might become, the Father of our Lord gave Him the name “Jesus” not just because of what He would do, but also because of who He already was!

It is, then, no stretch to understand why “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil. 2:10). He is God! As theologians have said, “He is not God apart from the Father and the Holy Spirit,” but Jesus is God—holy, sovereign, Almighty God! Sooner or later, all of creation must acknowledge Him! Every Voltaire, O’Hair, and Dawkins will bow to Him. Every angel in heaven, every human on earth, and every demon in hell will come to know and ultimately be required to declare that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 11).

The pressing question for each of us is not if we will acknowledge Him, but when. The appropriate choice is to do so now by confessing our sins and being purified by His forgiving grace (1 John 1:9). Jesus’ promise to us is, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32 NIV). Conversely, He warns, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38 NIV).

Procrastination in acknowledging Christ is like refusing to purchase a burial plot—it is merely a postponement of the inevitable. Each of us will die, and each of us will bow before Christ and declare His glory. Better to do it sooner than later.

For those who gladly choose to accept Him as Lord now, the reward is peace (Rom. 5:1), forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and eternal life (John 3:16). One is never so blessed and wise than when he or she bows before the Master and proclaims that He is Lord. There is also no lifestyle comparable to one that regularly and deliberately demonstrates love for the Lord.

Those who procrastinate in their deci- sion and those who blatantly refuse to acknowledge Jesus do so to their own peril. Persistently, the Holy Spirit seeks to draw them to Christ, and Jesus stands ready to open the door for their entrance into His fellowship (Rev. 3:20). Desiring that none be ashamed or perish, and waiting with inexplicable patience (2 Peter 3:9), a loving Savior reaches out to those who are lost.

We should all be motivated by the fact that all of God’s creation will one day stand before Him in judgment. Believers will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those appearing there will not be judged as “saved” or “lost” (for only
the saved will be judged there). Instead, believers will give an account of their deeds and be rewarded for their service to Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). What challenge this should be for us to bow our knees and openly confess Him now in preparation to gladly do so then!

The sad end of those who procrastinate or reject Him is the Great White Throne Judgment, described in Revelation 20:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. . . . And they were judged, each one according to his works. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (vv. 11-13, 15 NKJV).

Jesus is Lord! He has been given the name above all names. To speak His name is a privilege. To bow in His name is a humble honor. Let us do so now, for one day everybody will—whether they want to bow or not.

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My Mom Chose Life https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/my-mom-chose-life/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/my-mom-chose-life/#respond Wed, 30 Jan 2019 20:00:05 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=4048

My mother came face-to-face with a life-changing decision that, for anyone, would have been an overwhelming weight to bear.

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e can all remember times we were face-to-face with a decision we knew would affect the rest of our lives. Decisions like where to go to college, who to marry, and which job offer to take.

When you’ve had to make a life-shaping decision, did you consider how your choice might affect other people?

Every choice you make affects not only you but also everyone who is connected to that choice. When you consider others in your decision-making, the weight of responsibility can feel overwhelming.

Many young women have faced this dilemma:

I am pregnant, but i feel unprepared and unable to provide for a baby. What will I do?

My mother came face-to-face with a life-changing decision that, for anyone, would have been an overwhelming weight to bear. It happened during what began as a normal night out with friends. She only remembers waking up unable to move with a man on top of her. She was 18, unmarried, 1,200 miles from home, and alone.

My mother not only had to deal with the trauma of being assaulted; she then was faced with a pregnancy as a result of the assault.

I have often tried to understand how she may have felt lying there helpless under the complete control of someone else. I have replayed the story of that night in my mind a hundred times, trying to understand how someone could have the strength to make the choice my mother made when she learned she was pregnant.

She was faced with a moment of decision. The world would say “Every time you look at that baby you will see him“; but the truth is, every time she looks at me she sees Him-the God who can take a heinous crime and turn it into someone’s greatest joy.

My mother chose life. When I have asked her about it, she has never been able to tell me exactly why. She has simply replied, “I just loved you.”

I have never known my father’s name and have never seen his face. All I’ve known is what my father did to my mother.

It wasn’t until I was older that I began processing how this affected me. After years of confusion and failed attempts to understand all that this has meant for me, at times feeling like an orphan, I came to the conclusion that I am not made in the likeness of my earthly father. Instead, I am here to share the hope of what choosing life looks like.

I don’t believe in coincidences. Because of my Christian faith, I am always ready to share my story. I realize God may be purposefully drawing my attention to a moment when I might help a woman see the hope in choosing life.

I want to be a voice for those who were never given the chance to cry out from the first breath they never took. I want to be the face of hope that women see when their doctor tells them it’s “just a fetus.”

When people look at me and my children, I want them to see what can be if they choose life. My mother may have been faced with the choice because of a horrible assault, but the hope of life also can be for the teenager who feels like she has no way to take care of the child, or the mother who was told the baby will be malformed, or the woman who has had an affair.

The hope of the value of every life is available to anyone in any situation. The matter of pro-life or pro-choice isn’t a fight simply held in the political and religious arenas. In this fight—one of our nation’s and world’s most aggressively debated topics—sheer morality is at stake. In a world where women becoming “liberated” has devalued the miraculous ability we have to bear children, we’ve minimized it to a “choice.”

I am not a scientist, a researcher, or a theologian, but I know that 1.5 billion more Kailenes could have been born in the world since 1980 were it not for abortion. There are countless paintings we’ll never see, songs we’ll never hear, and discoveries that will never be made because of the world deducing the beautiful complexities of human life to a simple choice.

What breaks my heart the most because of abortion is what could have been. There are no memorials, no names remembered, no faces for us to reflect on for lives that have never been.

Choosing life promises a new beginning. In Jeremiah 1:5, God told the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as
a prophet to the nations” (NIV). These words were intended to encourage young Jeremiah to be and do what the Lord had created him for, but this verse also encourages us in the same way.

Before we were born, in all stages of pre-birth life, we were formed and set apart for a purpose.

Jeremiah’s purpose was to be a voice to the world. When I was growing in my mother’s womb, my purpose was to change the world.

“Change the world?” you ask.

It may seem cliché, but consider this:

Because my mother chose life, I am alive today. Because I am alive today, I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a friend. Just try to tell my husband, my children, my mother, and my friends that my life did not matter when my mother made her choice!

I am not what my father did. And every unborn child today is meant to be a son or daughter, a friend, and a family member who will change the world.

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Spanning the ‘GOD GAP’ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/spanning-the-god-gap/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/spanning-the-god-gap/#respond Wed, 30 Jan 2019 08:00:47 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3947

Many preachers don't want anyone to stir up controversy, so they are silent about our country's moral decline.

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ur American culture has had many social gaps. One is the gender gap, which is still wide in some Eastern countries, though more narrow in the United States.

Then, there is the generation gap. It has always been with us, to varying degrees. In many cases, the younger generation doesn’t want to hear what older people have to say. They would rather do their own thing—make their own mistakes.

Another gap that has been with us since the dawn of civilization is the God gap—the divide between those who trust God and those who do not. It’s still with us, and it’s growing wider. Many people just don’t want to hear what God has to say, or what His messengers, the clergy, are saying.

Child Trends, a research group in Washington, DC, printed an article in November 2011 with some alarming statistics:

Between 1970 and 2009, the percentage of all births that took place outside of marriage (the nonmarital birth ratio) increased from 11 to 41 percent. Nonmarital births to teens rose from 30 percent in 1970 to 67 percent in 1990, to 87 percent in 2009. Nonmarital births to women ages 20-24 rose from 9 percent in 1970 to 37 percent in 1990, to 62 percent in 2009 (Wildsmith, Streng, and Manlove).

As disturbing as these numbers are, it is just as disturbing that the clergy is doing practically nothing about it.

Not too many years ago, a report of such fast-growing numbers of out-of-wedlock births would have sparked multiple sermons calling for repentance and right living. It would also have ignited revival fires in churches throughout the land. As Cal Thomas of the New York Tribune said in his article, “Our Society’s ‘God Gap,’” as printed in the Fresno Bee on February 28: “Today, there’s only the sound of silence.”

The clergy can do something about that silence.

Of course, the fault does not lie completely with the clergy. Fewer people
are listening to the voice of God. Fewer people are reading the Bible. Fewer are listening to ministers of the gospel. Also, we hear our political leaders quoting Scripture out of context to justify their political agenda.

The increase in nonmarital births leads to an increase in the number of children living in poverty. Another Child Trends article, “Trend Lines,” stated, “No matter what the exact percentage is, the research is very clear that children living in poverty suffer a variety of negative outcomes: poorer educational outcomes, poorer health, less positive social and emotional development, and more problem behaviors” (Dec. 14, 2011).

The silence of the clergy concerning the God gap reminds me of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:19. When Isaiah confronted him about his proud and haughty spirit in showing his treasures to the Babylonian envoy, King Hezekiah thought, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime” (NLT). Many preachers don’t want anyone to stir up controversy during their ministry—so they are silent.

How is this God gap to be spanned? It cannot be as long as older Christians speak a spiritual language and promote a biblical belief system using words that are foreign to many young people. Many don’t understand it, and many don’t want to hear it. Many young adults were taken to church services as children but now feel they no longer have to tolerate faith or conform to a standard they did not promote. Others have grown up in a secular environment and are spiritually deaf and biblically illiterate. Biblical morality is disappearing and the God gap is growing.

What can be done about the God gap?

First, Christians need to pray earnestly for the Spirit of God to touch people where they are, and to woo them back to the old paths—the paths less traveled. As James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (NKJV). This is not just for the clergy—every Christian must pray. Prayer meetings should be called, with an emphasis on asking God to help reverse this trend.

Second, ministers need to preach God-given sermons designed to steer the younger set back to the scriptural tradition of marriage. These sermons need to stress true husband-and-wife love and commitment to each other. The biblical institution of marriage is a lifetime devotion to one spouse. This can never be accomplished as long as a “me first” attitude prevails. This attitude needs to be changed, and ministers can lead the way.

Third, we need to resurrect the concept of old-fashioned revivals in churches throughout the land. We desperately need God-ordained and Spirit-led revivals. We don’t need just a series of church services. We need true renewal, with life-changing decisions.

Fourth, we need Spirit-led teaching in our churches that will help people return to the old paths. We need lessons designed to steer people away from materialism and pleasure. We need lessons that will teach people how to live a Christian life. We need to understand that the twin gods of materialism and pleasure lead to social decay and spiritual decline.

May we—clergy and laity alike—strive to bring back godly living and help to narrow the God gap.

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Is It Real? https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/is-it-real-2/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/is-it-real-2/#respond Tue, 29 Jan 2019 08:00:18 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3943

Discerning the Truthworthiness of a 'Pentecostal Experience'

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walked in and sat down. The 20 or so other men in the room, from various parts of the world, were unfamiliar to me. The room was large and we sat two to a table. We were all pastors who had been invited to the West Coast to spend a few days with a well-loved and respected Pentecostal leader.

The leader walked into the room and quickly announced he would like for us to take a moment and pray for the man standing next to us. In hesitant obedience, I prayed for Andrew from England, whom I had never met, and he prayed for me.

At the end of our brief prayer time, Andrew turned to me and with a British accent quietly inquired, “Can I tell you what I feel the Holy Spirit is telling me to say to you?”

Having heard lots of generic “prophetic words,” I remember cynically thinking, Yeah, go ahead and tell me about a “new sea- son” or some coming blessing. I reluctantly said, “Sure.” Andrew then began to tell me of specific things going on in my life he could not have otherwise known. Then he shared comforting words pertaining to the crisis in my life at the time. The words ministered to my brokenness. I will never forget that private moment when the Holy Spirit spoke. It was unexpected, unprovoked, and undeniably real.

How can we know if a Pentecostal experience is real? So much of what is associated with the Pentecostal church is based on outward expression. While there is undeniable passion connected with Pentecost, the manifestations do not have to be strange. In fact, a Spirit-filled experience should be about the Spirit’s overflowing into our everyday existence. Unfortunately, sometimes there is abusive and unaccountable behavior associated with Pentecostal worship.

Apparent abuses caused Paul to approach the use of tongues from a corrective posture in 1 Corinthians 12—14. It is troublesome to think Pentecostal believers are often thought of in a negative way to those outside our fellowship. The benefits of the Spirit-filled life are far too great for us to be unwilling to measure the validity of the Spirit’s activity in our lives. While desperately attempting to keep this sensitive topic from becoming another “faith formula,” I do strongly believe there should be responsibility and accountability when it comes to the activity associated with spiritual experiences.

    Start With the Scriptures

The starting place must always be the Word of God. When we experience something deemed supernatural, we must ask if the experience harmonizes with the Scriptures. No matter how overwhelming the emotion, if it does not agree with the Bible it cannot be genuine.

In The Glossolalia Phenomenon, Charles W. Conn wrote, “With the Pentecostal believer, final authority for all spiritual inquiry rests in the Word of God. The Scriptures are the court of highest and final appeal.”

Ray H. Hughes Sr. stated in the same book, “No visions or revelations supersede God’s Word, regardless of how ecstatic, zealous, or enthusiastic one may appear to be.”

The Bible is the highest authority in determining the genuineness of any spiritual experience.

Most Pentecostal believers have observed actions that raised questions. The temptation is to excuse behavior that appears to be out of order for the sake of good manners and the sheer awkwardness of the moment, but often a spirit of confusion follows when someone steps out of line in overzealousness.

I know of a family who moved across the country because someone “prophesied” they should. The result was disastrous! Both the giver of the word and the family who received it were likely sincere in their quest for God . . . but both were sincerely wrong. Had they applied Scripture and sought godly counsel (see Prov. 11:14; 2 Cor. 13:1), pain could have been avoided and the prophetic word dismissed as misguided.

    Test the Experience

Regardless of the manifestation, when the emotion of the moment has died down and time has passed, does the integrity of the experience hold up?

While I was pastoring, a visiting minister told my congregation in a supposed word of prophecy that they would all have extra money in their checking accounts by the next day. I sat on the front row and cringed. Since by the next day the word proved to be false, the following Sunday I stood before my congregation and declared the word untrue. His so-called prophecy did not hold up.

On another occasion I observed as the speaker at a large Pentecostal gathering gave a “word” over another minister. Specifically, he told of a coming increase in his ministry and stated his greatest days were ahead of him. As of this writing, the one to whom the word was spoken has divorced his wife and is out of the ministry. The message would have been a timely prayer, but apparently was not prophetic. If a Pentecostal experience is to be labeled genuine, it must be tested after the initial experience. God does not make mistakes.

    Consider the Messenger

Can the messenger be trusted? Being judgmental is wrong and lends itself to legalism and negativism. However, the life of the believer cannot go unmeasured, especially those who operate in spiritual gifts. Anyone who claims to have a Pentecostal experience should not only lead a holy life but, in my opinion, should live a joyful and contagious life as well. The fruit of Galatians 5 comes from the same Holy Spirit who administers the gifts of 1 Corinthians 12.

I’ve known of individuals who prophesied, spoke in tongues, and interpreted messages in tongues only to find they were living in sin. This is most confusing. Was the Holy Spirit speaking? I can only conclude that a counterfeit spirit was at work. Perhaps years of hearing spiritual language had allowed them to mimic words that seemed to be godly.

I have known others who could “raise the roof” in church with spiritual language, but who could also burn your ears with gossip and inappropriate words. The lifestyle of such messengers disqualifies them.

    Is Jesus Lifted Up?

A genuine Pentecostal experience will never draw attention to any man or woman, but will point people to Jesus. Ray H. Hughes wrote:

Any religious experience which focuses the attention upon the individual and tends to exalt man bears investigation. The true Holy Spirit seeks to draw attention to Jesus, and anything which does not glorify, testify of Christ, or point people to Christ is not in harmony with Scripture.

Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father . . . He will testify of Me” (John 15:26 NKJV). While the Spirit uses humans as messengers, the messenger should never be the focus and we should be cautious when we see otherwise.

Sometimes individuals will make themselves the center of attention. While such behavior might lead to notoriety and promotion, it should cause us concern. The Holy Spirit puts our hearts at ease, and we should only want to exalt Christ. John the Baptist stated, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).

Writing about the work of the Spirit in Encountering the Holy Spirit, French Arrington stated:

We begin to find true peace—peace with others, peace with ourselves, and peace with God. We start to accept His unique call in our lives and stop comparing ourselves to others and being envious of them. We realize God is turning our small acts of service into work that has eternal dimensions. We become grateful for what we have and where God has placed us.

In Acts 10, Simon Peter’s message to the household of Cornelius was Jesus. While he preached, the Holy Spirit filled the group and they began to speak in tongues. Peter preached Jesus, and the Holy Spirit did the rest. There was no need to work up anything or manipulate the crowd. When spiritual activity is used to manipulate for personal gain or notoriety, it reeks of dishonesty and is contrary to Christ’s message in Matthew 20:26-28.

    Is It Helpful?

Throughout 1 Corinthians 14, Paul makes the point that spiritual gifts are to edify the Church. If the experience does not in some way improve who and what I am, but instead causes fear, confusion, or anxiety, I should question its validity.

More than once I’ve observed someone “beat up” a congregation while claiming to be used of the Spirit. While the Holy Spirit does bring conviction and correction, Paul admonished, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (v. 33). In verse 40, he added, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

The Holy Spirit is a Helper, a Comforter, an Encourager, and a Teacher. He is not a bully, a manipulator, or an abuser. An encounter with Him should make us better, and nicer, people.

    A Pentecostal Heritage

Because I cherish my Pentecostal heritage and want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the blessings of Spirit-filled living, I attempt to follow five guidelines regarding the operation of spiritual gifts: Can it be traced to Scripture? Can it be tested? Can the messenger be trusted? Does it testify of Jesus? Does it truly help?

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Enoch Walking to Please God https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/enoch-walking-to-please-god/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/enoch-walking-to-please-god/#respond Mon, 28 Jan 2019 08:00:26 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3941

We Need Trustworthy Prophets

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n a day of shallow characters and forgotten integrity, Enoch was a welcome sight. Living seven generations from Adam, Enoch descended from Adam through the line of Seth. He is the first man after Cain about whom the Bible makes a comment. That comment is so significant that it reverberates throughout Scripture.

Enoch rose quickly from a company of obscure early humans to become a patriarch and prophet of renown. This man left such an impact that he is named by three different writers in the New Testament (Luke 3:37; Heb. 11:5; Jude 14).

Some of the words of his eternal prophecy are quoted in Jude 14-15; and there is strong prophetical speculation that he will be one of the two witnesses during the Great Tribulation period mentioned in Revelation 11:1-12.

Genesis 5:24 is a concise yet powerful biography. It seems impossible for a single sentence to describe 365 years adequately, but this verse does exactly that.

    Enoch Experienced God

“Enoch walked with God” (Gen. 5:24). This refers to a conversant walk with a companion.

The Bible first mentions Enoch’s walk with God after the birth of his son Methuselah (v. 22). Some scholars say the name Methuselah is prophetic, meaning “when he is dead it shall come.” It is likely that the birth of Methuselah and the giving of his name was the result of a profound experience with God that Enoch received. Methuselah was the grandfather of Noah and died the year the Flood came.

Enoch must have been given a glimpse of the impending deluge of judgment that would come in Noah’s day. Perhaps he saw around him the godless atmosphere that was developing so rapidly. The sin of Eden was deep in the fertile ground of the human heart, and Enoch knew no cure could be found outside of a relationship with Jehovah.

    Enoch Walked With the Living God

The Hebrew word for God in Genesis 5:24 is Elohim, meaning “the Supreme God.” Perhaps idolatry had become rampant, and it was necessary to point out that Enoch walked with the one and only God.

His walk was a solitary walk, but not a lonely one. Others might casually stroll with false deities, but not Enoch. He walked with the God of heaven. Oh, for such men and women in this hour!

Although they are extremely popular, the idol gods of luxury and affluence offer
no solace for the child of God. True believers do not waste their steps and spend their days conversing with the gods and goddesses of the flesh, for they know their God “is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14).

This was the conviction of Enoch. The trends of the time cannot move a man or woman who walks with God. Enoch had a prophetic encounter with God at age 65 (Gen. 5:21), and he was never the same again.

Enoch was not the only person to have such a life-changing encounter, however. One day, an 80-year-old-shepherd saw a bush that burned yet was not consumed. . . and he was never the same after that. Shoeless, Moses stood in the presence of the same God that Enoch walked with. He offered both his staff and his life to this matchless God (see Ex. 3:1-6).

A statesman-prophet and dignified orator of renown, Isaiah stood in the Temple at Jerusalem in a time of profound national grief and saw the Lord “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). The Lord was surrounded by sacred seraphim, and the smoke of God’s glory filled the house. While the posts of the doors trembled at the sound of God’s voice, Isaiah poured out a cry of submission that echoes down the centuries: “Here am I; send me” (v. 8).

Enoch, Moses, and Isaiah all encountered the presence of God and walked willingly thereafter in His continuous presence. Walking with God was their very lives. They lived to walk, and their talk never conflicted with their walk.

    Enoch Pleased God

The writer of Hebrews described Enoch’s life beautifully: “He had this testimony, that he pleased God” (11:5).

Others may live to please people or the rules of the surrounding culture, but not the child of God.

When men and women live to climb into the higher echelons of their culture, regardless of what that culture is, then they do what the culture requires. Hence, the world is filled with dishonest politicians.

Our society is a sea of refuse and debauchery, and those who live to please the world are adrift in it. Hear the apostle John’s warning:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15-17).

Enoch knew he could not please God and please the world at the same time, so he walked before God to please Him alone.

The writer of Hebrews gives us more insight into the depth of Enoch’s character when he tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (11:6). Enoch had faith. He could never have pleased God otherwise.

Enoch had a prophetic faith. Jude wrote:

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him (vv. 14-15).

Here a prophet of God who lived millennia before Christ’s first coming prophesied of His second return! He also spoke of divine justice that will take place at this return as God deals with sin and rebellion.

This prophecy was from a man who walked before God and pleased God by faith. He received this word of prophecy by faith and proclaimed it by faith.

We need such men and women in this stage of the Church’s sojourn on earth. Heroes of the faith are now at a premium. We need prophets who will prophesy under the anointed unction of the Holy Spirit, and who fear not the consequences of rejection by a carnal society or church.
Has the church culture of the last days become so “Laodicean” in its attitude that it is declaring, “We have need of nothing” (see Rev. 3:14-18)?

Do we despise “prophesying” and laugh with disdain at “words from the Lord”?

Are we so concerned with denominational structure and positions of power within the church that we no longer yearn for burning bushes and the cry of the seraphim?

Positions of human manufacture can never replace the offices of evangelist, pastor, prophet, apostle, and teacher that God ordained for His church. These are offices of and by faith. The holders of these positions do what they do to please God and God alone. They are not of this world nor do they fit here comfortably.

Enoch prophesied as he was commanded, for His purpose was to please the Lord in everything he did.

    Enoch Was Translated

“[Enoch] was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). Enoch escaped the pain of death. God chose to translate him—God raptured Enoch into His presence.

For thousands of years now, Enoch has been in the presence of God. His life provides a picture of the kind of people who will be ready for the rapture of the Church:

• They are people of faith (Heb. 11:6). • They live to please God (v. 5).
• They proclaim the truth (Jude
14-15).
• They seek an encounter with God
(Gen. 5:24).
• They believe in the reality of God
(Heb. 11:6).
• They diligently seek Him (v. 6).
Enoch completed his walk with God.
Yet, as he departed this world for the splendors of eternity, he left something behind—his testimony.

Some leave great fortunes of wealth and others leave volumes of heady writing. Still others leave legendary stories of their feats of skill and heroic strength. Enoch, however, left more than any of these—he left an unblemished and powerful testimony. “He had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5).
May that be our testimony. May God forbid us to settle for less.

And He walks with me,
and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.
—C. Austin Miles

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The Backside of Trust https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/the-backside-of-trust/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/the-backside-of-trust/#respond Fri, 25 Jan 2019 08:00:11 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3938

Living by Faith is Ever Relevant!

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV).

I

have spent more than half a century preaching, teaching, and emphasizing this wonderful Scripture passage. “Trust in the Lord” has been a favorite theme for my addresses to young people at high school commencements, youth camps, and retreats, along with personal chats with my children and grandchildren.

Hopefully I have reflected some of the comfort and assurance this passage brings to daily living.

I was about halfway into this life journey of mine when a good friend and older ministerial colleague, Frank Lemons, attempted to focus my attention on a different perspective. Frank mentioned that “time and experience, contrary to popular opinion, does not smooth life’s pathway, nor make one’s need for faith any less than when bubbling with youth and vitality.” In other words, the often-repeated scriptural maxim “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) is ever relevant; and Frank put the emphasis on “live,” making it an ever-present demand.

In retrospect, I now see how poorly I grasped Frank’s meaning, something I shall attempt to highlight with this theme, “The Backside of Trust.”

Early in my ministry, both as an evangelist and a pastor, I met men and women of all ages who were disillusioned and disappointed with God. When I invited one young father to revival services, he shocked me by saying, “No, Preacher. I won’t be coming to church. How can I trust or believe in a God who let my little 3-year-old be run over by a train?”

I have met others with similar attitude brought on by differing circumstances: children impaired by physical and sexual abuse, young people disappointed in a romantic relationship, mothers struggling with mentally and physically handicapped children, fathers fired from jobs into which they had given years of faithful service, ordinary people who stepped without warning into extraordinary circumstances and found themselves overwhelmed. These are the people and the problems pastors face week after week, and it is to these that pastors prayerfully and powerfully present Holy Spirit comfort found in the backside of trust.

The bedrock of Christian faith remains “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Therefore, the backside of trust requires acknowledgment and acceptance of His will even in life’s dark moments of mystery.
We often confront this paradox of Christian testimony:

• Family number one: “Just when all hope seemed gone . . . when the physicians had given up . . . when there seemed no way out . . . God mercifully intervened and we received a miracle.”
• Family number two: “We prayed so hard, and Mother had such faith. Every- one in the church was praying . . . we were so sure God would heal . . . but now she is gone.”

Our natural tendency, our human nature, is to relate easily and to rejoice with family number one (rightfully we should, for God is good). It is more difficult but equally important—perhaps we should say necessary—that we relate to family number two (God is still good) within the backside of trust.

Unfortunately, we Pentecostals too often are prone to misuse or to misapply Paul’s admonition to the Romans, “For there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom. 2:11). The words are themselves beautiful. God loves everyone—all races, creeds, nationalities, young and old. When it comes to God’s eternal, all-surpassing love, grace, and mercy, He is no respecter of persons; but that in no way changes the fact that God wills and providentially directs each individual on a unique and personal path through life. In some lives the backside of trust may seem more glaringly displayed.

The New Testament gives graphic example of this in the contrast between Peter and James, the brothers of John. Both were apostles. It is even implied that Peter, James, and John were favorites of the Lord, pulled aside by Him for prayer and on the Mount of Transfiguration. James was active in the early church, as recorded in Acts—the Day of Pentecost, those first revivals, and the rapidly growing church. Then we come to chapter 12, and read that Herod “killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also” (vv. 2-3).

James was summarily executed, his life ended—what we would humanly call “cut short.” Peter was arrested and placed in jail. The church prayed and God sent
an angel to deliver him—one of the most beautiful and miraculous stories of the early church. Through faith and trust we easily rejoice, as did the saints in Acts, upon the deliverance of Peter, but we understand and accept the brutal killing of James only through the backside of trust.

God did not love Peter more than James, but He had a different plan for each of their lives.

I have enjoyed well over 50 years of ministry—the last 10 years, retired—and unquestionably, my latter years have differed from the early, middle, and so-called most productive ones. Like many, there are times when I yearn and dream and relish the past. Still, it remains just that— the past.

Many tasks are yet unfinished. I hear some good things about my past, see a few notable markers, but know in my heart that things have changed, some of my works have tarnished, and many of my footprints have totally disappeared.

Example: A church I helped build with my own youthful hands has been torn down. It’s gone. A small congregation is still there, but few remember my name. I thought I left some markers—as a youth director, an evangelism director, a pastor, a writer, and church administrator . . . but there is little for human eyes. Things change. Time obliterates, leaving only God’s records.

So here I sit, my thoughts traveling back to Frank Lemons, and my heart thrilling from the backside of trust.

God forbid that I worry about the markers, the earthly tracks of my life, when I can still trust the Lord and Savior of my life. It is now so obvious that those good decisions of my life were made by Him anyway, through His providence; and those avoided bad decisions of my life were stopped by His providential care.

In short, I now live daily with the backside of trust, seeing through faith His hand upon my life past—the victories, the defeats, the changes, the disappointments, the excitement—just as I trusted Him step-by-step in the midst of the conflicts.

What a wonderful truth it is!

The final chapter yet to be . . . home-going . . . “well done” from the One who matters.
Even on the backside of trust, His presence is warm and comforting.

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Cooperating With Other Religions https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/cooperating-with-other-religions/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/cooperating-with-other-religions/#respond Thu, 24 Jan 2019 08:00:46 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3935 Church divided

Collaboration Without Compromise- How Far Can Christians Go?

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Church divided

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was recently invited to serve on the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children (WDPAC) advisory council. Celebrated on Universal Children’s Day (Nov. 20), this event connects people and organizations to protect boys and girls.

Helping needy children of the world is a good work, such as Christians are strongly exhorted to do (2 Cor. 9:8; Col. 1:10; 2 Tim. 2:21; 3:17). However, working with varied religious and nonreligious organizations raises significant issues. How (and how not) are we to serve with others in interfaith work or in secular organizations? What are the theological and practical concerns? How can Christians balance meeting needs without either compromising or being offensive? How can one be a Christian witness in such a situation?

    Constructing Checks and Balances

Scripture is no stranger to complex cooperative relationships. Abraham and the Philistine ruler Abimelech established a treaty together to safeguard their mutual interests (Gen. 21:22-34). Joseph and Daniel (Gen. 41:39-45; Dan. 2:48-49), as well as Mordecai and Esther (Est. 10:1- 3), were high-ranking officials in pagan governments, serving for the benefit
and well-being of all. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, was a Midianite priest who advised him in political and practical matters (Ex. 18:1-27).

Yet ancient Israel was repeatedly warned against inappropriate alliances with other nations (Josh. 23:12-13; Isa. 30:1-5). Even within Israel, the reign of Jehoshaphat, a righteous Judean ruler, was marred by disastrous alliances with an evil Samaritan despot, Ahab (2 Chron. 18:1-3; 20:35-37). Additionally, the apostle Paul sternly prohibited believers being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). Clearly, entering into ill-advised alliances or inappropriate partnerships is cause for concern among God’s people.

However, the Lord himself commanded Israel to cooperate with the Babylonian government of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27:1-22) and described the Persian monarch Cyrus as “the Lord’s chosen ally” (Isa. 48:14-15 NIV). Paul admitted that it is impossible to avoid societal associations as long as we are in this world (1 Cor. 5:9-10). Indeed, he built his missionary strategy on relating well to others in different cultural contexts (9:19-23), but believers must not be drawn into wrongdoing (Eph. 5:11).

Christians in working relationships with others should assiduously avoid moral and spiritual compromise or co-option by an adverse agenda. Paul’s “unequally yoked” instructions arise out of the Torah prohibition against yoking an ox and a donkey together when plowing (Deut. 22:10). Implied is that God’s people establish and protect a distinctive moral and spiritual identity. In this sense, Christ’s followers are called to be “special” people (Ex. 19:5; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9 NKJV). Yet our Lord himself was criticized for closely associating with “tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 9:11; 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30; 15:1-2 NKJV).

If we explore the symbolism a bit more, we see that Moses’ prohibition against mismatches does not preclude oxen and donkeys plowing on the same farm or in the same field so long as they are not yoked together! Practically speaking, cooperative association should not be an insurmountable problem.

    Cooperating With Others as Christian Witness

Witnessing to the world of Jesus Christ highlights the heart of Christian mission (Acts 1:8). Paul enjoins us, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5 NIV), “so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders” (1 Thess. 4:12 NIV). He required that Christian leaders “have a good reputation with outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:7 NIV). Obviously, Christians can be separatists without becoming isolationists. In fact,

effective witness builds on relationships of mutual respect.

At a WDPAC planning meeting in New York City, I was treated hospitably by everyone. One of the most pleasant experiences for me was eating together. The food was good and conversation was friendly. One day I was seated with a Hindu I’ve known for several years, two secularists who were new to me, and a young Brazilian man I’d not met before either but who joked that his “religion” was soccer.

I could not resist teasing Stephen about his soccer. He took it well, and asked me about Pentecostals and speaking in tongues. For more than half an hour we carried on a spontaneous and provocative conversation about my faith. Later, some asked me to speak more on this matter. I am thankful for that opportunity to share. In all likelihood, it would have never happened elsewhere.

    Working Together for a Cause

There’s no reason Christians cannot work together with secular organizations and other religions in common cause, so long as we are not expected to compromise our core beliefs and values or pressured to co-opt our essential mission.

One of the earliest acts the Church of God undertook as an organized movement was to make provision for suffering children. It established what is now known as the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home in 1919. This outreach to children has continued to be a central element in our efforts to live out our faith in the gospel of Christ. As the Church of God has grown, we have expanded this care. Reaching out to suffering children is one of the best things we do as a church.

Improving the welfare of children is an urgent global challenge. By working with the world’s diverse faith communities, social agencies, and governments, we can accelerate and magnify efforts to help children worldwide on issues including poverty, children’s rights, child protection, education, and discrimination.

Today is a complicated time. Demands are intense. Resources are scarce. Helping children is a gargantuan task requiring global cooperation. The WDPAC is one such important initiative. For the sake of suffering children, I can cooperate with those with whom I have deep and enduring differences.

    Following Biblical Principles

When we serve with non-Christian groups for a common cause, let us be . . .
• consistent—express our love in words and deeds (1 John 3:18)
• Christian—act always in the name of our Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17)
• confident—count on divine strength for goodness’ sake (2 Thess. 2:16-17)
• comprehensive—“do good to all peo- ple” (Gal. 6:10 NIV)
• circumspect—wisely “make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5 NIV).

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Walking in the Spirit on the Streets https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/walking-in-the-spirit-on-the-streets/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/walking-in-the-spirit-on-the-streets/#respond Wed, 23 Jan 2019 08:00:49 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3930

Embracing a Hispanic Community

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was a businessman for a custom-doors factory in Tucson, Arizona, when the Lord called me into the ministry. For six months, my wife, Gabriella, and I prayed every day at 5 o’clock in the morning because the Lord told us we were going to be part of a group of people who would take the Hispanic Church of God to the next level for the next generation.

We did not understand. We had never been pastors, although we had been in the Church of God all of our lives. One day, Brother Fidencio Burgueno (then the overseer of the Southwest Hispanic Region) told us about an opening at the Oasis Retreat Center. Somebody was needed
to clean the bathrooms and wash the dishes for weekend retreats, and we sold everything to make that step of faith. We worked there for a year in the middle of the desert near Palm Springs, California.

For those 12 months, we had the opportunity to be by ourselves, praying at night, just looking at the stars. It sounds kind of romantic, but it was that way. That’s how the Lord prepared us spiritually. We were ready to go and do anything for Him.

In November 2006, the Lord brought us to Cleveland, Tennessee, to attend the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. Three months later, Brother Fidencio (then serving as Hispanic Ministries director) told me, “There is an Anglo Church in Athens (30 miles from Cleveland) that is looking for a pastor for the Hispanic ministry. Would you be interested?”

When I showed up for the interview, Pastor Clifford Waters told me, “You’re the guy.” I was surprised. The Lord had everything prepared for every step of the way. That’s how we started leading the Woodward Avenue Church of God Hispanic Ministries. Five years later, we are pastoring a church that is heavily involved in the community.

    Pastoral Challenges

As a Hispanic pastor in the United States, my challenge starts with my kids—Amy, 17, and Alphonso, 15. They are Americans who speak Spanish, but they also speak English. They have the Hispanic heritage, but they also are part of the American culture. Every day
they go to school. They have iPods and iPhones. At home, they have computers and television. However, sometimes our Hispanic churches are like a time machine, going back 50 years.

So, our church is investing in technology and in young people. Because Hispanics are family-oriented, we have good connection with our youth. The problem is keeping them when they are 18 years or older because of technology, language, and cultural issues.

Another matter is how to integrate Hispanics into the American church. I thank God for putting me under the leadership of Pastor Clifford Waters. He has a heart for Hispanics. He understands the challenge we have as a church.

Because our congregation is part of the Woodward Avenue Church of God,
I do not have to worry about paying the utility bill and paying rent at the end of the month. Instead, I can concentrate on working in the school district and doing chaplaincy ministry, which makes a big impact in the community.

    Community Ministry

Because of my involvement in the McMinn County schools as a community service chaplain, one day I received a call about a student named Noah. He was going to be expelled because he had 25 absences without justification, along with many other problems. His mother, who does not speak English, did not know about all this. Finally, this situation reached court, where I was asked to be the interpreter.

After the hearing, the mother asked to speak with me. Noah did not have a father at home. I began meeting with this young man and his family, and in three months, they started attending our church. They were born again!

The older sister is now working in the media ministry. The youngest child is heavily involved, and the mother is there. Noah is singing in the choir. His school- teachers are saying a lot of good things about him. He is making good grades. This did not begin at the church, but at the courthouse.

We need ministers to stop being the pastor of the church and start being the pastor of the community. We need to walk in the Holy Spirit on the streets of our city. In Athens, we are developing a mentoring program for Hispanic kids with no father figure.

    National Chaplaincy

When the Church of God Chaplains Commission was looking for a Hispanic coordinator, I showed up at the office to meet with Brother Jack Popejoy. He had a lot of well-qualified applicants from everywhere (even outside the U.S.), yet once again I heard, “You’re the man.”

This position began in 2010, and now the Chaplains Commission also has a bilingual secretary—Deanna Cordova. She is doing an awesome job.

We have Spanish-language chaplaincy-training seminars taking place all around the nation. As a pastor, I schedule my traveling around the country between Wednesday and Sunday because, even though we are still a small church, I want to be there.

I recently came back from Chicago, where the Hispanic chaplaincy ministry is under the coordination of Alberto Arias. He is doing a great job. Since the last General Assembly, we have 250 new Hispanic chaplains in Chicago doing all kinds of work. It is amazing.

Hispanics who want to get involved in chaplaincy have to understand things are different in the U.S. than in their country of origin. In my home country of Mexico, for example, ministers can go into the hospital freely, but not in the United States. That’s where chaplaincy training comes along.

Chaplaincy ministry starts with the pastor. After the pastor becomes a certified community service chaplain, he can start his own chaplaincy chapter in his church.
Individuals can have a very effective ministry in hospitals, jails, schools, and private industries when they are trained, certified, and recognized as chaplains. If you want to know the social needs in the Hispanic community, get involved with the schools, because that is where the kids are. It’s a gold mine! I believe every pastor in the Church of God needs to be a chaplain.

    A Willing Spirit

I wish I had better preparation as a pastor and a leader, and I know the Lord is going to give me that opportunity some- day. So, I use myself as an encouragement for others: Don’t look at whether you’re ready or not; just be willing, and the Lord is going to help you with the rest.

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Children of the World https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/children-of-the-world/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/children-of-the-world/#respond Tue, 22 Jan 2019 08:00:49 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3922

Helping Kids on Five Continents

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aby Zoe no longer has her parents with her, but love is lavished on the perky 14-month-old by those who care for her at Thailand’s House of Hope orphanage.

The child was the daughter of a teenage couple from the Karen people of Myanmar, who fled as refugees from the armed conflict on the border of Myanmar and Thailand. The penniless and homeless couple dropped Zoe at the Church of God orphanage in Sangkaburi, Thailand. At the time, she did not yet have a name. The orphanage caregivers gave her the name Zoe, which means “life.”

Shortly after her arrival, she was tested for HIV, and the test came back positive. “We know what the doctors have told us,” the women at the orphanage declare, “but we are asking God to restore her to complete health.” Zoe has taken her place among 33 adopted brothers and sisters. She is now wrapped in love and care that give her a life where she will not have to suffer hunger and abandonment.

House of Hope is one of 27 orphanages assisted by Children of the World Ministries Inc. of Bristol, Tennessee. We know of 131 homes for children around the world initiated and carried on by Church of God entities—local churches, districts, territories, national offices, and so on. Seventy-six have received help at one time or another from the international church or from the Lazarus Foundation, a charity founded by Dr. John Gregory and his family.

Children of the World was born in 1998 at the impetus of Gene D. Rice, then World Missions director; the late John D. Nichols, then Care Department director; and John Gregory. It was funded by an offering at the 2000 General Assembly, generously added to by the Lazarus Foundation. More than $5 million was expended by a Finance Committee of Action, primarily for capital expenditures—property, buildings, vehicles, furnishings, and so forth. Fifty-seven percent went to foreign ministries and 43 percent was spent on U.S. children’s ministries.

Following the 2000 children’s emphasis, the movement languished. Needs were taken care of principally by the Lazarus Foundation, as well as by local churches that individually offered monetary help to homes. By 2008, the global economic crisis began taking its toll on children’s care facilities, and the decision was made to ramp up a durable program of assistance. This financial crisis came at a time when more orphans were in need than ever; global estimates range from 143 million to 148 million children living on the street.

The children’s ministry was reinvigorated at the 2010 General Assembly, largely at the behest of Gregory, whose passion for the care of children has been forefront in the family foundation’s priorities. Another offering was targeted for orphans and matched by Gregory, and
a permanent organization was put into place with an office set up in Bristol.

General Overseer Raymond Culpepper convened a meeting of interested parties, at which a 16-member board, comprised primarily of Church of God departmental leaders, was named to govern the activities of the organization, led by John Gregory, chairman; Darrell Rice, chief financial officer; and Richard Baker, chief field officer. The board members provide operational funding, so that all donations to Children of the World go directly to children’s homes. Whether donations are sent to the Bristol office or World Missions, all gifts receive Church of God World Missions giving credit.

The aims of Children of the World include praying and soliciting prayers on behalf of the children and those who care for them; evaluating the ministries in terms of effective and efficient physical and spiritual fulfillment of their mission; providing training and resources for caregivers; conducting visits to encourage directors and staff in their ministries; and sending financial help, based on an analysis of needs and a continuing covenantal relationship.

Children of the World initially undertook the partial sponsorship of 15 homes scattered on five continents. At a subsequent board meeting, additional institutions were adopted. At the present time, 27 orphanages are being assisted, and more will be added in the future as avail- able donations make it possible.

Gene Rice, one of the early leaders of the movement for children, has recruited a group of ministerial couples who visit churches and talk with pastors and laity to raise funds for the children.

Once a home is accepted for assistance, it enters a covenantal relationship with Children of the World, agreeing to use a care manual that spells out requirements relating to physical, fiscal, and spiritual matters. Richard Baker, the chief field officer, typically visits each home and inspects its operation.

One of the sponsored homes is City of Hope in Sri Lanka, where a little boy named Isura, 4 years old, was recently brought for care. This youngster never knew his father, and his mother and grandmother were alcoholics. Neglected, he wandered the streets to forage for food and slept in ditches. Isura was caught at night by men who sexually abused him, beat him, and threatened him with death if he told anyone.

“Now I live with Sister Naomi and Brother Ranga Aiya, and they care for me,” he told Baker on one of his visits. “I have food to eat every day, and I have shoes to wear for the first time. I’m even getting to go to school this year!”

Necessary care that Americans usually consider normal is rare in many lands. Children of the World will continue its ministry and ensure that little boys like Isura and little girls like Zoe will always be loved, protected, and cared for.

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Reflections on Preaching and Teaching https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/reflections-on-preaching-and-teaching/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/reflections-on-preaching-and-teaching/#respond Mon, 21 Jan 2019 08:00:26 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3915

Next time you see a preacher or teacher who has influenced your life, thank him or her on behalf of the countless people they touch who never look back.

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esterday I talked with a friend, Clayton Watson, a Lee University graduate and successful young pastor in Florida. After catching him up on the juicy talk around campus, we moved on to the fun and games in his line of work. People don’t generally know it, but pastoring is difficult work. In fact, on my list of favorite jobs, I would rank it only slightly ahead of stuffing fertilizer into burlap bags on my Uncle Major’s chicken farm.

In the late ’70s, when we were all crazy (there are photos to prove it), I accepted the pastorate of a small church in Orlando to supplement my day job as teacher in an alternative program at Union Park Junior High School. My thinking was, How hard can it be? It’s only for a year, and all I have to do is show up with a oral book report once a week.

I was dead wrong! After about 20 minutes on that first Sunday, the 14 hard- headed people left in the congregation and I knew it was not my calling. Once, after a particularly brutal Sunday, I looked up the word preach in the dictionary, hoping to get a better handle on what it was I was supposed to do, and I found it. Honest to goodness, Webster suggested that to preach is “to urge the acceptance or abandonment of an idea especially in an officious or tiresome manner.” That’s it—a description of preaching that I seemed to fit!

As I think about it now, that concept could describe most of the stuff I do in the classroom. Maybe teaching and preaching have more in common than a rhyming scheme. Both require subject knowledge and speaking skills, but also patience, caring, and commitment. Good preachers and teachers always know their work is more than just an exercise from the neck up. Indeed, they must know a lot about themselves and understand how to build, structure, and nurture relationships with messy human beings—activities that are best understood at the gut level.

As a pastor, I found out most of the real work is done behind the scenes. Without the hard and often chaotic work done during the week, Sunday morning show is at best just a show—full of sound and fury signifying nothing. On the good days, the congregation sees a finished product of a week well spent. Teaching works about the same. The magic that happens in the classroom is usually in direct proportion to the hard work poured into lonely hours of preparation.

However, teachers and preachers are never fully aware of the impact of their hard work. Personally, I can recall only a few of the literally thousands of sermons and lectures I’ve heard, but the kind faces behind the words are hard to forget.

The influential preachers and teachers walking the halls of my brains may not have always had perfect lesson plans or sermon outlines, but they thought that I mattered. In tough times, I can still hear them whisper advice and occasionally even drop a hint or two to the “Final Jeopardy question.”

Unfortunately, these powerful preachers and teachers are often not even aware of their influence. I have never properly thanked Miss Dunnaway, my sixth-grade teacher, or Brother Wakefield, my pastor in some rough teen years. Like all good teachers and preachers, they were aware that it takes more to get through life than just being able to recite the parts of speech or the books of the Bible. Trust me, they would be shocked to find their names in this essay. That little Riggins boy did grow up (at least he got a lot older)!

This week, there will be thousands of hardworking preachers and teachers delivering sermons and lessons to nearsighted people like me. For most hearers, it will be just a pleasing collection of words. But for a few, a phrase here and there may bounce around in a brain and eventually shape some of life’s most important decisions. Sermon outlines or lesson plans never indicate what the result will be.

So the next time you see a preacher or teacher who has influenced your life, thank him or her on behalf of the countless people they touch who never look back.

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‘Your Story’ Evangelism https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/your-story-evangelism/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/your-story-evangelism/#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 08:00:58 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3911

Taking yourself as the starting point, share God’s message without embellishment, bullying, or a bunch of rational proofs.

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hen I was in elementary school, a Christian comedian named Mike Warnke was
all the rage in the church scene. He commanded thousands of dollars for performing his routine in large churches and conferences around the country. He sold tons of albums and videos. People loved him.

He used his comedy, so he said, as a tool to share his story in order to lead others to Christ. After he did an hour of comedy, he would give his testimony. And it was the most dramatic story of conversion to Christianity that you can imagine.

Warnke claimed to be a former high priest in a satanic cult. He told stories that kept me awake at night in paralyzing fear about how he used to worship the devil—telling about child sacrifice, cutting out the beating hearts of newborn babies like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He was such an amazing communicator that he could spellbind the masses with his dramatic story of conversion to Christ.

The problem was that none of his story was true.

At the height of his career, an article questioned the historicity of his story, and everything unraveled from there. Yes, he may have shown up at some sort of cult gathering once, but that’s the closest he got to devil worship. He made all the other stuff up out of thin air. He was never a Satanist priest. There were never any child sacrifices. Nobody ever drank blood. It was just a story he made up for a good cause—he wanted people to turn to Christ. How sad that Mike Warnke thought he needed such fiction to lead people to Christ!

Mike Warnke’s debacle teaches us a big lesson: Sharing your story of finding faith in God is good enough to lead people to God. It doesn’t matter how boring you think your story of finding faith in God is, it’s good enough. It doesn’t need embellishment. God wants to use your true story of conversion to lead people to Him.

Unfortunately, Christians have been botching up that truth for centuries in a thousand different ways.

I will never forget accidentally running into a large street demonstration outside of Atlanta. On one side were gay-rights activists, and on the other were a group of Christians protesting gay rights. How is this any different than the medieval crusades, except that swords have been traded for signs? Intimidation tactics

This approach reminds me of a quote from the 1999 film The Big Kahuna:

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or ‘How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down’ . . . because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not in the conversation anymore; it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being; you’re a marketing rep.”

You don’t need a strategy to witness to someone else about your faith. You don’t need a sales pitch. You just need your story of finding faith in God—it is enough to lead someone else to God.

In the second century, martyr Hippolytus of Rome said, “Abandon the search for God. Instead, take yourself as the starting point.” When you learn to simply share God’s message, taking yourself as the starting point, without embellishment or bullying or a bunch of rational proofs—that’s enough to lead others to God.

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Employment Transition https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/employment-transition/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/employment-transition/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 08:00:37 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3908

A Great Opportunity to Share the Gospel

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ife transitions present great opportunities to share the gospel. A lengthy or chronic illness, the death of a loved one, or a relational crisis challenges one’s sense of self-sufficiency, making him or her open to receiving help.

Perhaps nothing undermines a person’s feeling that he or she is master of their fate than the financial and self-esteem stresses that come through unemployment, especially when it is prolonged, as many have experienced over the past few years. The recessive economy “out there” gets very personal “in here” when an individual loses retirement benefits or cannot make house payments, clothe family members, buy enough groceries, or repair the car.

In such times a person becomes aware or reminded how small and dependent they are and that they need to be connected to something and someone greater than themselves if they are going to make it. When confronted with the attractive and embraceable reality of a God who loves them and has a plan for their well-being, as outlined in Jeremiah 29:11-13, they take a look. There are no atheists in foxholes, and there are few in the economic tough times of employment change who do not contemplate the need of a caring God.

They just need someone to show them and tell them that He is real for them.

We who believe in the caring God can offer the hurting unemployed or misemployed the person of Jesus Christ as their way, truth, and life in their period of change. We can show them love by helping them in practical ways. As we do, we can tell them with the authority of God’s love that He has a plan for their life in Jesus Christ. They can learn from us that God owns all the jobs (Ps. 24:1-2). He has the right job at the right time for the person He wants them to become.

We do a lot of caring for such folks in our church’s employment transition ministry. Each day, week, and month we encounter those who have no job, no good prospects, and no career transition skills, and we become their companions to walk with them to help them find their next right job. It is our privilege to make the journey with them and share who the Lord is to us.

As a pastor, I learned that people experiencing sickness appreciate the courage someone exercises by not shying away from their illness but instead talk with them about it. Such engagement addresses, meets, and helps overcome the loneliness and depression the suffering person is experiencing. They feel better because someone has taken a risk to get involved with them in their life situations.

The same is true for those in employment transition. They are relieved because you or I take the chance to get involved with them in their joblessness. We may not do something as dramatic as take a homeless man from the streets and give him a fantastic job overnight because of his God-given gift of a voice; yet, we can offer something to help people get from point A to point B. In the process, they might come to know Christ for the first time and for all time.

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Prayers and Giggles https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/prayers-and-giggles/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/prayers-and-giggles/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3904

My sons’ prayers included family members, pets, grandparents, and pressing issues like broken toys and broken hearts.

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he nightly get-ready-for-bed routine was almost always the same. After changing into pajamas and brushing their teeth, my sons would jump in the bed, pull up the covers, and wait for me to help them say their prayers. I would sit on the edge of the bed and have them repeat simple prayers that usually included family members, pets, grandparents, and pressing issues like broken toys and broken hearts.

Amy would usually read to them, but prayers were my job. Night after night we prayed together, and then I would kiss them and turn out the light. It was sad when they grew old enough to no longer need me to pray. Big boys can pray their own prayers.

I always looked forward to the nightly prayers. I enjoyed hearing my sons pray in their innocence. Although I was probably a little too rigid in the routine, I can recall wondering if these prayers might make any difference in their young lives. At least I knew it was a good habit for them-one I hoped would last throughout their lives.

My three sons have now grown up. My youngest just graduated from college. Two of them are married, and my oldest has blessed Amy and me with three grandchildren. Recently I was visiting his home, and to my great delight, he has a nightly ritual—he leads his children in bedtime prayers. It was like going back in time. I listened in as Mike led his sons in prayer. Through their giggles I heard my grandsons pray for family members, grandparents, and various topics pertaining to little-boy life. There’s no way to describe how it made me feel.

Parenting is hard work. I was not a perfect dad—I am flawed just like every other human being. But I’m thrilled that some of the good rubbed off, and hoping the other stuff will be overlooked or forgotten. I also pray that my son gets to experience hearing his children lead their children in bedtime prayers. I can testify it will warm his heart, and maybe cause a few tears.

I always loved to hear my sons laugh-well, most of the time I loved it. Sometimes the laughter meant I better come running before the house burned down! But that’s normal life for the dad of three boys. As I recall my grandsons trying to repeat their father’s words while snickering at whatever they thought was funny, it occurs to me that perhaps God likes to hear His children laugh as well.

True, prayer is serious business . . . but joy is a necessary ingredient in life. In the world of preschool boys, prayers and giggles are just fine. Come to think of it, I think it’s just fine in my world too. Happy praying!

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Until We Meet Again https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/until-we-meet-again-2/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/until-we-meet-again-2/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:00:18 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3901

Will we recognize our loved ones in heaven?

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s the years pass, this question looms larger in my thinking. Last year, I attended three funeral services of godly saints who had passed away. One was my 85-year-old father-in-law, whose exemplary life and witness is now just a cherished memory. For my wife, who loved her father dearly, this question is thus no idle theological speculation. Fortunately, the Bible speaks clearly to it.

The simple answer—yes—rests on two pillars of Christian belief. One is the “blessed hope” that we will see Jesus again (Titus 2:13). The other is the assurance that our present bodies will be raised from the dead, immortal (1 Cor. 15:12-57). Together, these pillars provide a basis for believing we will recognize our loved ones in heaven. After all, if we can recognize the Lord Jesus, possessing the perfectly restored and glorified bodies to do so,
it follows that we will recognize other believers, including our loved ones.

To give more biblical shape and substance to this answer, we must distinguish between our temporary dwelling in heaven (our “intermediate state”) and our eternal home in the new heaven and new earth (our ultimate destiny). Consider the following two propositions.

First, when we die, we are consciously and immediately in the presence of our Savior in heaven.

The Bible is clear that after death, two literal destinies await all humanity: eternal life and eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ receive everlasting life. When a believer dies, her body remains in the grave, but her soul is consciously and immediately taken into the presence of Jesus. Our soul’s immediate destiny is heaven, since Jesus himself ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11) and is presently there preparing dwelling places for us (John 14:1-3).

One passage that makes it clear we are conscious with Jesus after we die is Revelation 6:9-11. There the souls of tribulation martyrs in heaven ask the Lord how long it will be until their righteous blood is avenged. Apparently without resurrected bodies yet, they are still fully conscious, having speech and recollection.
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That we are immediately with Jesus after death is implicit in at least two passages: Jesus’ words to the dying thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV), and Paul’s conviction that “we . . . would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5: 8 NIV). Neither Jesus nor the apostle foresaw centuries of separation while our bodies lay in graves, awaiting the final resurrection. Rather, they anticipated an immediate reunion!

We can anticipate that as well. Though without our physical bodies, we will be able to commune with Jesus, with Abraham, and with believing loved ones who have preceded us to heaven.

Second, when Jesus returns, we will receive our resurrected bodies and live with Him forever in the new heaven and new earth.

The cornerstone of all eschatological hope is the second coming of Jesus Christ. At that moment, not before, believers in Jesus will receive their resurrected, immortal bodies: The dead in Christ will be raised and living saints will be “caught up” (raptured) to meet Christ (1 Thess. 4:15-17). All who see Christ face-to-face shall, in that moment, become like Him (1 John 3:2).

Our resurrection bodies are not merely immortal duplicates of our present ones. Consider Paul’s analogy of the wheat seed (1 Cor. 15:35-38). A mortal body is like the seed, while an immortal body is like the full-grown plant. Both are physical, with an intrinsic continuity between the two. But what a difference between the seed and the plant in appearance, in attribute, and in potential! If we presently have the capacity to recognize our loved ones, that ability will be magnified, not lessened, in the immortal state.

It is in these extraordinary bodies that we will dwell together with Christ for all eternity in the new earth (Rev. 21:3-6). There, we will commune not only with the exalted Christ, but also with all those who are numbered among His children, including our believing loved ones.

Of course, there are many unanswerable questions about our glorified bodies and the life to come. How old will we appear? Will we all be equally strong or smart? How can we possibly be happy without marriage?

However, the answer to whether we will recognize our departed loved ones now residing in heaven is as certain as our assurance of seeing our Savior.

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Out of the Fire https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/out-of-the-fire/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/out-of-the-fire/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 08:00:56 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3895

On December 31, 2010, I drove my husband to Shands Emergency in Jacksonville, Florida, where they had to stop and restart his heart twice to get it back in rhythm.

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n December 31, 2010, I drove my husband to Shands Emergency in Jacksonville, Florida, where they had to
stop and restart his heart twice to get it back in rhythm. I was allowed to stay with him overnight in the Coronary Care Unit.

At about 5:00 New Year’s morning, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter, Missy. She cried,

“Mama, Rescue is taking Aaron to Shands. . . . He shot himself!”
“I’ll meet you there in the ER,” I said.
“Pray, Mama, pray!”
“I will, baby; I will.”

The next few hours were heart-wrenching and nerve-racking. The doctors talked all around what to expect, saying they were doing all they could. Then I asked point-blank, “Is he going to die?” I felt we, as his family—Missy, his mother; me, his grandmother—had a right to know.

The doctors said, “He is on an extremely thin thread, and we are doing all we can.”

The doctors said we could go in and see him. I waited so Missy and his dad could go in first, but an overpowering urge surged through my being. In my spirit, I already knew that Aaron would die, and I wanted to make sure that he accepted the Lord as his Savior.

When my sister, Rachel, was finally permitted to come into the trauma waiting room, I asked her to go in with me to see Aaron. She stood on one side of him just praying with her whole heart, while I was on the other side of him. I bent down and spoke in his ear.

All of his life, Aaron had loved going to church with me. As a kid, he dearly loved the Bible stories, always asking to hear more and more. I taught him how the Scriptures applied to our lives. I taught him that God loved us so much that He gave us His Son so we could go to heaven and be saved from hell.

Aaron was no longer a little boy but a young man accountable for his own sins . . . and he was not saved.

Aaron was 20 years old and had been living with his girlfriend. They had a sweet baby girl, born three days before Christmas. Aaron had been in legal trouble, was on probation, and had broken his probation by being out too late one night. On New Year’s Eve he started drinking, and somehow things went dreadfully wrong.

Some say it was suicide; others, an accident. There was no suicide note left behind, and there were no previous signs of depression, no threats, and no behavioral changes. He loved life and his baby. But now, this unmarried father of a 10-day-old daughter lay dying, with his soul in the balance.

Jude 22 says,

“Of some have compassion, making a difference.”

My urgent compassion for the state of Aaron’s soul, driven by the Holy Spirit, could make a difference in his eternal destiny.

Verse 23 states,

“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

Aaron knew better than to live in adultery, break the law, neglect his spiritual life, and harm himself. His garments were stained with sin; he had to be pulled from the fire of eternal hell.

God still loved Aaron, stained as he was. Jesus could wash away the sin stains with His blood, shed on Calvary’s cross.

With Rachel on one side of the Emergency Room gurney praying with all her heart, I whispered, “Aaron, this is Nanny, and I know you can hear me. Aaron, you are in very critical condition; they say you are going to die. Son, you just cannot leave this world without God. You have got to get saved; you must ask Jesus to forgive you of all your sins.

“Aaron, I know you cannot speak with your mouth, but you can speak with your mind and heart. Let God know you want to be saved. Ask Jesus to come into your heart. Jesus will save you; He loves you very much.”

I saw his shoulder rise and fall. Then the second time, rise and fall. When his shoulder fell the second time, it was as if a load had lifted from his soul, as if in total surrender. I knew he had accepted Jesus as his Savior.

Aaron was transferred from the ER to a trauma unit, where he died at 8:40 p.m. To deal with a tragedy like this is more than heartbreaking, but somehow God had given us peace. Peace not as the world gives, but His peace. We had peace knowing that Aaron had accepted the Lord and was now in heaven. We had prayed for Aaron’s salvation so many times through the years, and God kept Aaron alive long enough for me to reach into the fire and pull him out.

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Luis Rodriguez, Wounded Warrior https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/luis-rodriguez-wounded-warrior/ https://www.evangelmagazine.com/2019/01/luis-rodriguez-wounded-warrior/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 08:00:38 +0000 http://www.evangelmagazine.com/?p=3890

Overcoming his own battlefield loss inspires an Army veteran to build up others.

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uis Rodrigues says he was an “Army recruiter’s dream” when he readily signed up in 1990 to pursue a military career.

Reared in a Catholic family in Puerto Rico, Luis married Lilliam, whom he calls “a woman of great faith,” before they left the island. However, because she was an Evangelical, their marriage caused a “brouhaha” in the Rodriguez family. He said his religious life to that point was one filled with “candles and images—a life of religious rhythms, but not of relationship.”

In 2003, when deployed to Mosul in northern Iraq, his life forever changed. On November 24, Sergeant First Class Rodriguez and his medical convoy were scheduled to bring supplies to a local hospital. He said, “I woke up with butterflies that day, even though I had battle experience and knew this was a peaceful mission.”

Meanwhile, unknown to Luis, something unusual had happened 6,800 miles away at the Clarksville, Tennessee, Church of God just hours before. While church members were pray- ing for their loved ones, a woman came to Lilliam and said,

“Your husband will be coming home alive, and God will do things you cannot imagine.”

Lilliam thought, Of course he’s coming home; he’s supposed to be back in two months.

On their way to the hospital, Rodriguez’s convoy was hit by an IED (improvised explosive device). He said, “I was very scared—terrified. My right leg was gone. There was nothing I could do for myself. I closed my eyes and prayed, thinking, This is it.” Luis admits, “I was not sure of where I was going if I died.”

Another medic pulled Luis from his vehicle and placed a tourniquet around his right leg. Even though the convoy was under fire, they escaped and got their leader to a field hospital in Mosul. He said, “This was where I always brought the wounded for help. It shook up the staff to see I was the one injured.”

Luis underwent 17 surgeries—two in Iraq, two in Germany, and 13 at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. There, on Christmas Eve, his two little girls saw their dad for the first time since his injury. Melanie, age 5, kissed her dad’s stump as a sign of affection.

    Remaining in Active Duty

As Luis lay in the hospital recovering, he was angry with God for letting him leave his comrades; he worried about them. “They were my family,” he said. After his injury, those soldiers had sent Lilliam a note saying they had never left Luis alone during his near-death experience, and that they had given blood for him. Luis also had to begin dealing with the psychological effects of losing a leg. He said, “I did not want pity.”

Instead, Luis did something that never happened—he continued as an active-duty soldier even though he only had one leg. He was assigned to train medics to help wounded soldiers in a quickly changing war zone like Iraq, where it is difficult to identify the enemy. He developed methods for working through tactical problems to deal with medical emergencies.

    Experiencing a Makeover

While home one day in 2005, Luis received a phone call from someone who
said his family was a candidate for the TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Having never heard of this program, Luis said he was not interested. When they called back, he hung up on them! The third time, they talked with Lilliam, who sent them a video of their house and family.

When Extreme Makeover called again, they asked Luis what kind of changes he would like to see in their house. He said he would like wood flooring instead of carpeting, which would make it easier for him to get around; also, a larger bathroom would help. He added that Lilliam would like to have new kitchen cabinets, but that was all they needed.

When the Rodriguezes were chosen, everyone else in the neighborhood knew it before they did. They were sent away, and on the day they returned and heard the cry, “Move that bus!” they saw their 1,400-square-foot home had been replaced by a 2,800-square-foot house with lots of open space. Luis said, “I was happy to represent military families on the show to help people understand what we go through.” In response, Luis received emails from across the nation.

    Challenging Others

Rodriguez retired from the military as a master sergeant in September 2007, but he has not slowed down. He is founder and president of RMI, which provides a variety of services to the Department of Defense, including combat training with the use of simulation, information-technology services and support, and general professional services. RMI employs service-disabled and other combat veterans. “They still want to serve,” Luis said.

When Luis speaks with wounded soldiers and veterans, he gives them the same advice he lives by: “Don’t feel sorry for yourself; you must not let your injury shape your life.”

In October 2009, when Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built a new house in Woodlawn, Tennessee, for the family of Scott Santiago—a Clarksville police officer who was killed in the line of duty— Luis provided behind-the-scenes help.

When the Roxboro, North Carolina, home of Bobby Isaacs—who lost both of his legs in an Iraq explosion—was remodeled, Luis Rodriguez climbed a 16-foot-ladder and operated a Bobcat dozer to help.

On October 30 and 31, 2010, Luis—with the help of PRI Tactics and Training and a few sponsors-conducted the first Wounded Warrior Combat Shoot handgun training in west Tennessee, specifically tailored for combat wounded soldiers with physical disabilities.

    Growing Spiritually

Paul Nolan, pastor of the Clarksville Church of God, called Luis Rodriguez a church member who “helps others who need help. He reaches people on a level others cannot reach.” For instance, the pastor credited Luis with recently giving direction to a nonmilitary amputee.

“Luis receives my sermons from a different viewpoint than others,” Nolan added. Luis said, “We see things from a different perspective. He accepts my advice, letting me help at church behind the scenes.”

Because God was working behind the scenes in Mosul, Iraq, more than seven years ago, Luis’ life was spared, and many other wounded warriors have been encouraged and pointed in the right direction.

The post Luis Rodriguez, Wounded Warrior appeared first on Evangel Magazine.

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