Friday, October 28, 2011

It’s (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation

Long before there was an Occupy Wall Street, Martin Luther staged the most important protest in history. He was upset because Roman Catholic officials were promising people forgiveness or early escape from purgatory in exchange for money. So on October 31, 1517, Luther nailed a long list of complaints on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther’s famous 95 theses were translated from Latin into German and spread abroad. Like a medieval Jeremiah, Luther dared to ask questions that had never been asked, and he challenged a pope who was supposedly infallible. Through this brave monk, the Holy Spirit sparked the Protestant Reformation and restored the doctrine of grace to a church that had become corrupt, religious, dysfunctional, political and spiritually dead.

I’ve grown increasingly aware that the so-called ‘Spirit-filled’ church of today struggles with many of the same things the Catholic church faced in the 1500s. We don’t have ‘indulgences’—we have telethons. We don’t have popes—we have super-apostles.”

I am no Luther, but I’ve grown increasingly aware that the so-called “Spirit-filled” church of today struggles with many of the same things the Catholic church faced in the 1500s. We don’t have “indulgences”—we have telethons. We don’t have popes—we have super-apostles. We don’t support an untouchable priesthood—we throw our money at celebrity evangelists who own fleets of private jets.

In honor of Reformation Day, I’m offering my own list of needed reforms in our movement. And since I can’t hammer these on the Wittenberg door, I’ll post them online. Feel free to nail them everywhere.

1. Let’s reform our theology. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is God and He is holy. He is not an “it.” He is not a blob, a force, or an innate power. We must stop manipulating Him, commanding Him and throwing Him around.

2. Let’s return to the Bible. The Word of God is the foundation for the Christian experience. Any dramatic experience, no matter how spiritual it seems, must be tested by the Word and the Holy Spirit’s discernment. Visions, dreams, prophecies and encounters with angels must be in line with Scripture. If we don’t test them we could end up spreading deception.

3. It’s time for personal responsibility. We charismatics must stop blaming everything on demons. People are usually the problem.

4. Stop playing games. Spiritual warfare is a reality, but we are not going to win the world to Jesus just by shouting at demonic principalities. We must pray, preach and persevere to see ultimate victory.

5. Stop the foolishness. People who hit, slap or push others during prayer should be asked to sit down until they learn gentleness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

6. End all spiritual extortion now. Christian television ministries must cease and desist from all manipulative fundraising tactics. We must stop giving platforms to ministers who make outlandish claims of supernatural financial returns, especially when Scripture is twisted, deadlines are imposed and the poor are exploited.

7. No more Lone Rangers. Those who claim to be ministers of God—whether they are traveling evangelists, local pastors or heads of ministries—must be accountable to other leaders. Any who refuse to submit their lives to godly discipline should be corrected.

8. Expose the creeps. Churches should start doing background checks on traveling ministers. Preachers who have been hiding criminal records, lying about their past marriages, preying on women or refusing to pay child support should be exposed as charlatans and shunned if they do not repent.

9. Stop faking the anointing. God is God, and He does not need our “help” to manifest Himself. That means we don’t sprinkle glitter on ourselves to suggest God’s glory is with us, hide fake jewels on the floor to prove we are anointed or pull chicken feathers out of our sleeves to pretend angels are in the room. This is lying to the Holy Spirit.

10. Let’s return to purity. We’ve had enough scandals. The charismatic church must develop a system for the restoration of fallen ministers. Those who fall morally can be restored, but they must be willing to submit to a process of healing rather than rushing immediately back into the pulpit.

11. We need humility. Ministers who demand celebrity treatment, require lavish salaries, insist on titles or exhibit aloofness from others are guilty of spiritual pride.

12. No more big shots. Apostles are the bondslaves of Christ, and should be the most impeccable models of humility. True apostles do not wield top-down, hierarchical authority over the church. They serve the church from the bottom up as true servants.

13. Never promote gifts at the expense of character. Those who operate in prophecy, healing and miracles must also exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. And while we continue to encourage the gift of tongues, let’s make sure we don’t treat it like some kind of badge of superiority. The world needs to see our love, not our glossolalia.

14. Hold the prophets accountable. Those who refuse to take responsibility for inaccurate statements should not be given platforms. And “prophets” who live immoral lives don’t deserve a public voice.

15. Let’s make the main thing the main thing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is to empower us to reach others. We are at a crossroads today: Either we continue off-course, entertained by our charismatic sideshows, or we throw ourselves into evangelism, church planting, missions, discipleship, and compassionate ministry that helps the poor and fights injustice. Churches that embrace this New Reformation will focus on God’s priorities.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He expounds on these topics in his 2010 book The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale (Chosen).

CARELESS WORDS

by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 - April 27, 2011]

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). We seem to think our words simply fall to the ground and die, or vanish into
thin air and dissolve into nothingness. Not so! Our words live on—they do not die!

You may say, “But I only told this gossip to one friend and he promised never to repeat it. It will end with him.” No, it will not! Every single word you and I utter is recorded, written down in eternity, and we will hear them all repeated to us at the judgment.

I recall coming under deep conviction after sharing a vicious bit of gossip with a friend. What I said was indeed true. It was about a moral situation I had had to deal with concerning a minister. His name came up in the conversation and I said, “Don’t trust him. I know something about him!”

Even as I mouthed off, I felt condemned. The Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Stop right there! Nobody needs to know that. Don’t say more, because there’s no purpose to it. Even though it’s true, don’t repeat it!”
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What I had already said was bad enough. But then I blurted out the lurid details! I knew I should have been quiet and sure enough, I was deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit. So later I called my friend and said, “I’m sorry, that was gossip. I was out of order. Please don’t repeat it. Try not to even think about it.”

Is my sin covered by the blood of Jesus? Yes, because I fully acknowledged that I had sinned and I allowed the Holy Spirit to show me some of the legalistic pride left in me. I allowed Him to humble me and heal me! Now, whenever I begin to say something against somebody, I obey the Holy Spirit as I hear Him say, loud and clear, “Stop!”

Monday, October 24, 2011

DRY BONES CAN LIVE!

by David Wilkerson

Ezekiel 37 is all about God’s desire for us to lay hold of the promises of His new covenant—learning how to truly live by entering into the blessing of the covenant.

We have all heard the story of the “dry bones” that Ezekiel speaks of. It is important to note that these vessels lying lifeless on the ground were under the covenant. You see, the Lord had told them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (Ezekiel 37:4). They had heard God’s covenant promise: “I will
put My Spirit in you, and you shall live.”

Yet, even though these dead bones had the new covenant promise preached to them, they had not yet entered into the enjoyment of its blessings. Many believers today know of God’s new covenant—yet they can hardly believe it, because it sounds too good to be true. They say, “I know God has given us the Holy Spirit to indwell us. And I know the Spirit takes it upon Himself to cause us to obey Christ. Oh, I want that blessing badly, but how can I obtain it for my life?”

There is something we must do. Ezekiel writes that God told him to prophesy, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live’” (37:9). Then Ezekiel says he prophesied as God had commanded, “. . . and breath came into them, and they
lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army” (37:10).

Suddenly there stood before Ezekiel a great army, alive and breathing! The Holy Spirit had filled all those dead bodies with life—and now they were prepared to do battle. In an instant they had entered into the full enjoyment and blessings of the new covenant. God’s Spirit had taken His rightful place in
them—and He was bringing about all the promised changes.
 

ENLARGE MY TERRITORY

Jabez’ prayer requesting blessing and increase from the Lord might be described as:

·   A prayer of divine agitation i.e. it breaks the spiritual status quo, passivity and inactivity in our lives

·   A prayer of faith, hope and love in the goodness, power and authority of God

·   A prayer that is a choice for God in overcoming personal circumstances, problems or a past trauma and stepping into the new purposes and plans God has for each one of our lives.

When we pray for God to bless us and “enlarge our territory,” we are praying from the perspective of a lifestyle that has experienced the investment of God with the expectation of a supernatural return that releases fruit that will last for all eternity. The result of us receiving God’s blessing is (a) adoration to the Lord and (b) equipping and empowerment for effective service for God. When we ask God to bless us it releases His limitless power, goodness, love and favour. God’s blessings release His Kingdom!

It’s NOT a selfish prayer because it is a prayer that glorifies God because it is about asking God to enlarge our life so that we can make a greater impact for Him. This type of prayer will cause a paradigm shift in our thinking and appropriation of blessing as we walk with God.  It is a prayer that is released from the heart that believes in the God of miracle working power to bring transformation in the nations.

When we enter into the realm of increase and acceleration in our ministries by the grace of God, there are a few basic principles we need to understand:

1.  Resource – where our opportunities overtake our abilities - Our physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and financial resources are all stretched when we shift from the position of where we presently stand into the faith place of where we declare we hope to be. God is faithful to send us His Holy Spirit, angelic assistance, strength by grace and people and resource to enable us to fulfil the God-given assignment or mission before us. The prayer of Jabez for “enlargement” begins with acknowledging our need to decrease so that God might increase in us.

2.   Relationships – where God orchestrates divine opportunities, appointments and sovereignly ordained destiny milestones - It is important to acknowledge that Jabez’ prayer for spiritual enlargement encompasses the need for new and ongoing God-ordained relationships, strategic connections and Kingdom alliances as we interact with others both in the body of Christ and in society. There are certain people in our lives whom God has entrusted with keys to unlock destiny.

3.  Area of Influence - When God increases our “territory” for His glory, it is with the intention that we impact our sphere of influence for the Kingdom.  We will experience increased responsibilities, but we can rest in the knowledge that with the gift of “call” comes the grace to walk in the call and all that it encompasses.

4.   Surrender – surrender teaches us to trust God in a deeper way. God will not lead us where He is not willing to sustain us.  Surrender is a pre-cursor to sustenance = divine provision.

Enlarge my territory” isn’t a place where our training or past experience can take us although they may serve as a foundation for a new Kingdom building work. It is only out of the abundance of being enlarged by God’s grace that we gain the experience we did not have to fulfil the Kingdom task(s) before us. To ask God to enlarge your territory is another way of asking God, “Lord, use me  - give me more ministry opportunities to bring glory to  You!”

God teaches us how to manage the resource He has maximised in our hands.  Stewardship is the gift of wisdom and compassion in management of God-given resource for the purpose for which God intended it to be used ….. to bless and be a blessing!

In His great grace,
Catherine Brown

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don’t Let Your Pulpit Be Defiled

Visiting ministers can be a great blessing to any church. But if you don’t do your homework, you could be inviting disaster.

A friend of mine recently told me that the leaders of a ministry invited a prominent American preacher to speak at a conference. During discussions about the engagement, the preacher’s handlers explained two of the terms of his visit: (1) he was always to be addressed as “apostle” by anyone who spoke to him; and (2) he was to be ushered out of the auditorium and into a green room immediately after he delivered his sermon, to guarantee that he would not have to fraternize with the audience. He needed his privacy.

If I had been on the other end of the telephone conversation that day, I would have offered this reply: “Please tell Apostle Arrogance that since he is so concerned about being bothered by the little people, never mind. Just don’t come. We don’t need the disease he is spreading in the body of Christ. God bless you.” Click.

I have heard horror stories of ministers who required their hosts to provide shopping money, certain types of exotic bottled water, limousines and manicurists. A childish rock star might be expected to ask for these luxuries, but such behavior is reprehensible for a minister of the gospel. Don’t cater to their appetites.”

That may sound harsh, but I don’t think there’s any other way to prevent the spread of this plague. The “celebrity syndrome” is still alive in 2011, in spite of the recession, and the only way we are going to stop big-headed charlatans from corrupting churches is to boycott them. We need to hand them a pink slip. I recommend these safeguards:

1. Investigate before you invite. There are many wonderful traveling ministers who carry genuine anointings and can bring great blessing to churches and ministry events. They have been called by God as evangelists, prophets, teachers and apostolic leaders—and those who walk in the anointing of the Holy Spirit will produce fruit wherever they go.

But there are also imposters on the preaching circuit. Some of them once carried the anointing and lost it; others actually entered the ministry as fakes and learned to prey on na├»ve congregations. Don’t give anyone a platform who has a questionable record. Always find out who they are accountable to. If they have no relationships, no oversight or no reference board, you are taking a great risk by having them in your church.

2. Slam the door on egotism. The celebrity syndrome is easy to detect. Does the visiting preacher have a servant’s spirit? Or does he come across as cocky and unapproachable? Any man or woman engaged in ministry should have the attitude of Jesus, who was willing to ride a donkey into Jerusalem and wash the feet of His disciples. If you allow a prideful, unbroken preacher in your pulpit, you are giving a spirit of Lucifer the opportunity to infect your congregation.

3. Don’t feed the spirit of entitlement. Every traveling minister appreciates a gracious host. You show honor when you provide him or her with a nice hotel room, meals and transportation during their stay. But you should be alarmed if a preacher demands celebrity treatment.

I have heard horror stories of ministers who required their hosts to provide shopping money, certain types of exotic bottled water, limousines and manicurists. One preacher who recently ministered in Australia demanded a certain type of steak that had to be flown across the Pacific Ocean from the United States! A childish rock star might be expected to ask for these luxuries, but such behavior is reprehensible for a minister of the gospel. Don’t cater to their appetites.

4. Don’t tolerate financial rape. I know of an American minister who traveled to a church in Canada and insisted that the pastor rent a civic auditorium that seated more than a thousand people. The pastor couldn’t afford the hall, but the evangelist said she wouldn’t come unless a large venue was provided. In the end, the evangelist canceled the trip because not enough people registered for the conference—and the pastor was left holding the bag. His church went bankrupt.

A true minister of the gospel would never push a church to go into debt just to satisfy his or her egotistical need for a big crowd. Jesus was just as comfortable preaching to a few disciples as he was to a multitude, and He didn’t base success on numbers. If you fall into the numbers trap you will be sorry.

Also, a shepherd who cares about his or her flock will never allow a visiting preacher to manipulate a congregation financially. Visiting speakers who spend 30 to 45 minutes begging for money, or making outlandish claims of “supernatural returns” for investing in their work, are sheisters who need to leave the ministry and find a job on a home shopping network.

5. Beware of strange fire. A minister imparts his life, not just the words of his sermons. That is why it is so important for preachers of the gospel to walk in humility, sexual purity and financial integrity. If a minister has allowed compromise in any of those areas, his anointing will be hindered and he may pollute your pulpit and leave a toxic environment in your church.

I talked to one pastor in California who had invited a speaker to his annual conference. But before the speaker arrived, the pastor learned that this man often used drug imagery in his sermons and even compared the Holy Spirit to marijuana. When he asked the speaker to refrain from such references, the man arrogantly refused. Thankfully the pastor did the right thing: He politely but firmly canceled the man’s visit.

It is possible for us to “just say no” to the charlatans, shysters, con men and rock star evangelists who have never submitted their lives to the discipline of the Spirit. Please heed the warnings, inspect the fruit and be willing to disinvite.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His latest book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

THE CURE FOR UNBELIEF

by David Wilkerson
[May 19, 1931 – April 27, 2011]

I searched my reference books and found lists of ways to “cure” unbelief, but none of these dozens of things touched me. So I asked God for something simple and He gave me two thoughts on how I can rid my heart of unbelief:

1. Lay hold upon every worry, fear and burden. Take them all to Jesus and leave them on His shoulders!

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Beloved, this is God’s personal invitation to you, His request: “Put it all on Me! Do not carry it one hour longer. I care about everything that is happening to you and I am big enough to take it all for you!”

Not long ago someone in an extremely stressful situation called me seeking a word of encouragement. But I was overwhelmed that day by so many problems, I could not handle even one more, so I answered, “I’m sorry but you’ll have to call some other time. I’m too overloaded right now.” Thank God, He is never stressed out! He is never overloaded! His shoulders can carry the load of all His children! He urges us, “Lay it all on Me!”

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). Go down your list right now:

“God, I give You this, and this, and that. I give You this burden, this trouble, that relationship, that problem.” And be fully convinced that He cares!

2. Launch out in full faith on the written Word of God. Take up the Lord’s challenge to live by His Word!

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). You must be able to say, “I’m going to live and die by God’s Word to me!”

I ask you: How is it that we can trust His Word for our eternal salvation, but not for our daily needs and problems? We can believe Him for the hardest part. Why is it harder for us to believe for help, guidance and power over sin? “Now to 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). God promised this to you, so let Him take on the burden of keeping you! Go to the Lord and challenge His Word. Tell Him you are going to stake your life on it!

Show Him you trust His every word—and be blessed!
 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do You Really Know the Father’s Love? by J. Lee Grady

Many people struggle to believe God loves them because of a dysfunctional mom or dad.

This past weekend I spoke to some students at a college in New Hampshire. Knowing that many young people today come from broken homes (more than 1 million children today are the victims of divorce), I felt I needed to talk to them about the fatherly heart of God. I wasn’t surprised when several people’s eyes got misty as soon as I mentioned the word “father.”

“What about you? Do you have emotional wounds resulting from your upbringing? If so, these hurts can block your understanding of God’s unconditional love.”

What about you? Do you have emotional wounds resulting from your upbringing? If so, such hurts can block your understanding of God’s unconditional love. I encourage you to not only forgive your parents but also to renounce unhealthy mindsets you may have adopted because of trauma. Make sure you believe the following:

1. Your heavenly Father will never abandon you. Nothing is more traumatic to a child than a family breakup. Children often blame themselves for divorce—and they experience acute feelings of insecurity. They can also develop the wrong idea that if their father or mother was willing to walk away from them, God will do the same.

Believe the truth: God says, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5, NASB). Earthly parents may break promises, but God is always faithful.

2. Your heavenly Father will never verbally berate you. I recently met a girl whose parents wanted her to be a boy. As a result of their disapproval, they criticized her constantly, told her she was ugly and demanded that she stay in her room most of the time. As a result of this constant criticism she struggled to receive love and found it difficult to believe God could ever love her.

Believe the truth: The Lord is a loving Father who speaks tenderly to His children; and even when He must discipline us, it is for our good. James 5:11 says: “We … have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”

3. Your heavenly Father will never abuse you. I have an African friend, Medad, whose cruel, domineering father beat him with the same stick he used to beat his mother. Medad still has scars on his back, chest and stomach from his father’s angry outbursts. Finally, his father piled the family into a car, drove them into a rural area and ordered them to get out of the vehicle. He cursed them and left them to die. His father’s behavior made Medad angry and vengeful until he found salvation in Jesus.

Believe the truth: God is not an abuser. He is a good Shepherd who protects us. If you were abused by someone, either physically, sexually or verbally, recognize that God did not approve of that behavior and He wants to heal you from the pain of that experience.

4. Your heavenly Father will never withhold affection from you. I’ve met dozens of men whose fathers never once said to them, “I love you.” Many of these guys struggle today with addictions to alcohol, drugs and other mind-numbing substances because they don’t know how to process the lack of security they feel. And women who never received healthy, non-sexual affection from their fathers often end up trapped in a promiscuous lifestyle because they’re searching for the love they were denied.

Believe the truth: God is crazy about you and He wants to shower you with love! Isaiah described God as a Shepherd who gathers His lambs and carries them in His bosom (see Is. 40:11). As a believer in Christ you always have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit (see Eph. 2:18). He wants you to be close to Him.

5. Your heavenly Father will never abandon you financially. A loving parent, no matter how small their income, can make a child feel secure by providing food on the table, a warm bed and clothes to wear. Unfortunately, in these days of deadbeat dads and struggling one-parent families, many people grow up financially crippled. God doesn’t automatically give people Cadillacs if they tithe, but any follower of Jesus can bank on God’s promises of provision.

Believe the truth: Jesus said the Father knows we need food, clothes and shelter. “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:31-33). We serve a generous God.

6. Your heavenly Father will never act in an unstable manner. I have a friend whose father was a secret alcoholic. As a boy, my friend never understood why his father was nice one day and angry the next. He blamed himself for his dad’s erratic behavior—and to this day he still carries some of the pain of that emotional trauma.

Believe the truth: God is not unstable. He never gets drunk, high or out of control. 1 Sam. 15:29 says God “will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” Circumstances never affect God’s nature. He will always, always, always stay the same.

No matter what fatherly wounds you may have suffered, and no matter how long ago the pain entered, God can heal your heart and fill in the gaps. Reach out and receive the Father’s embrace.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter a leegrady. His most recent book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Is Revival Possible?

Perhaps the question itself sounds skeptical. After all, don't we believe that "all things are possible with God"? But our culture is drastically different from cultures that have experienced great revivals. Isn't it?

Maybe we should first define what we mean by "revival". It's not a specific event, as when you see a sign on a church building reading, "Revival - June 20". A genuine revival is when people newly discover the truth of God's Word and are filled with passionate love for Jesus. It is a fresh wind of the Spirit of God blowing upon the people of God. It is a valley of dry bones made to live again. This doesn't happen in a single church or denomination. It may start with individuals, but soon it spreads to others, crossing denominational lines, like fire jumping from field to field.

There is a growing sense among many that revival is coming, simply because it is so desperately needed. It has been during such times of departure, hopelessness and sin that revival has come to those who earnestly sought God.

In the Welsh revival of 1904, God chose a young man named Evan Roberts. Born in a Christian home, at the age of 12 he left school to work in the local coal mine to help his injured father. The following year he joined his chapel, seeking never to miss any of the meetings. He became a Sunday school teacher at an early age.

When Evan was 26 he prepared to train for Christian ministry. Warned by his mother that this would be a hard life, he replied, "I am willing to work for my Redeemer till my dying day." On September 29, 1904, while attending a meeting with fellow student Seth Joshua, Evan heard him pray, "Bend us, Oh Lord!" This gripped Evan's heart for two hours till the next meeting when he prayed, "Bend me, Oh Lord!" It was here that he received the Power (the baptism of the Holy Spirit). Following this experience Evan was consumed with a passion to evangelize. During the month of October he sought God's guidance as to how to do it. He experienced visions confirming to him that God was about to descend in revival power. This was the beginning of an awakening that would not only impact the church in Wales but also would make front page headlines all over the world.

Much has changed in the world since then. The influence of church was central to society, whereas now it is on the periphery. A reversal of the situation would likely not happen overnight. Rather it will be a constant battle to win back Kingdom ground that has been lost to the enemy. It will be a struggle both in individuals and in the corporate life of the church for God's perfect will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Are we up for the challenge? Are we willing to cry out, "Bend me, Oh Lord?" We must be bent away from our will and conformed to His before revival can come.

For more information on the Welsh revival of 1904 visit their website at welshrevival.com.