God Has Pushed a Great Big Reset Button - Politics, Power and Pride - The Freedom I Have For You - Spiritual Gifts Are Not Bound by Prejudice - Holy War - Remain in Me - War Is Sin
God Has Pushed a Great Big Reset Button
By Lee Grady
Put on your seat belt. What we are experiencing is so much more than an economic recession.
Unless you are Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for years, I'm sure you feel the daily convulsions that are rocking our world. Change is hitting America right between the eyes. Everything that can be shaken is being shakenfrom banks and insurance companies to car manufacturers and media empires.
Trusted brands, including Chrysler and United Airlines, may go out of business within months. Newspapers are laying off employees in droves as readers go digital; bookstores like Borders can't compete with Amazon.com. Pontiac is officially dead, and the city of Detroitonce the proud global headquarters of the auto industryis rusting and jobless.
"Please don't fight the changes God wants to bring in your life. As you hold on to His unchangeable love, allow Him to push the reset button." What we are experiencing today is more than an economic recession. The upheaval is affecting us politically, socially, technologically and spiritually. It feels as if God has pushed a giant red reset button in heaven. Change is being forced on us.
Meanwhile there is a big problem in the church: We Christians don't have a great track record when it comes to embracing change. We are slow adapters. Often we insist on doing church exactly like Grandpa did, and then when we realize we are outdated it's too late.
For a few months I've been pondering the changes happening in charismatic churches and praying about our future as a movement. I've been asking hard questions and wrestling with my own fears of change. And I've reached some uncomfortable conclusions:
1. The charismatic movement as we know it has ended. I celebrate what God did in recent years to bring the Holy Spirit's renewal to the church. My life was totally changed by it. But the cloud is moving, and we cannot pitch our tents around the revivals of the past. While we embrace the eternal things He gave us in those days, we must discard the styles and methods that are no longer fruitful so we can advance.
That doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater. We cling to what is good. But we must leave behind the excesses, extremes and flaky doctrines that give us a bad name. The one-man show is over. The prosperity circus was a failure. We must abandon the deceptive hype of the past. People today are craving authenticitynot shallow words and empty promises.
2. A "new generation" church is emerging. I visit two or three churches every month in this country. Those that are healthy and growing have developed new paradigms. Though they embrace the power of the Holy Spirit, they also place high value on evangelism, small-group discipleship, social justice and world missions. They are extravagant in giving to outreach. They are relational, not event-driven. And they demand character from leaders rather than simply celebrating a man or woman's spiritual anointing.
No one has coined a term for this movement yet, but it is growingand it represents the future of Christianity in our country. These new generation churches embrace healthy leadership and don't tolerate the kind of ministry monkey business that has embarrassed us in recent years. These churches love sinners and preach grace, but they draw the lines necessary to enforce biblical standards.
New generation churches are also connected in a healthy, relational way to other churches, yet they are not denominational in a restrictive sense. They refuse labels. Rather than wearing the cumbersome armor of a religious structure, they are free to pray, dream and be creative about how they should reach the children, high school students, business leaders, drug addicts, immigrants, homeless people, twenty-somethings and church dropouts in their communities.
3. God is tearing down the walls that divide us. For too long we've been content to congregate in our comfortable tribal groups. But the essence of Pentecost involves the Holy Spirit's outpouring "on all mankind" (Acts 2:17, NASB). This means true Pentecostals cannot harbor racism.
God's agenda in this next season of revival will involve tearing down racist structuresand this will occur not only in white churches but in black and Hispanic ones as well. It also means that church leaders from China, India, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America will have a greater platform to speak into our lives here in the United States. Western Christians must accept the fact that we don't have all the answers!
4. We face an unprecedented global opportunity for evangelism. I've never been the first to try new gadgets. I still like to hold my newspaper and read it on the back porchand I don't watch TV shows on an iPhone. But regardless of my creature habits, I can't stand in the way of today's technological revolution.
Jesus commanded us to preach the gospel to the ends of the earthand that requires us to use every means possible. God is in a hurry to reach places like Uzbekistan, Niger and Yemenand He will likely use podcasts, Blackberries and Facebook to do it. We should claim all new media so that every person on this planet can hear that Jesus died to save us.
Please don't fight the changes God wants to bring in your life. As you hold on to His unchangeable love, allow Him to push the reset button. Then buckle your seat belt and hold on. We are in for the ride of our lives!
Politics, Power and Pride:
How U.S Evangelicals Lost the Culture War and the Way Forward.
-by Eddie Hyatt.
Evangelicals may finally be realizing that political activism is not the path to preserving the Christian character and culture of America. After 30 years of the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition and the religious right, America, last November, elected what are probably the most liberal president and congress in its history. Since that time 5 states have legalized homosexual marriage and others are poised to follow suit. Chuck Schumer, the influential, liberal senator from New York, gleefully declared that, All this talk about family and traditional values is a thing of the past.’ In the midst of all this, Dr. James Dobson, whom many would consider the most prominent voice of the religious right, solemnly announced, We (evangelical Christians) have lost the culture war.’
Although this turn of events is disturbing for evangelical Christians, this could be the starting point for a national awakening unto God; but only if we admit our failures and turn from the notion that we can change America by our own efforts, political or otherwise.
We (Evangelicals) Have Been Wrong
Please understand that I am not suggesting that we should not be good citizens and participate in the political process; nor am I suggesting that God does not call some to civil service and statesmanship. But I am convinced that evangelical Christians in America crossed the line in trying to change America through political activism. We thought that if we could get enough Christians elected to Congress and elect a Christian president that we would preserve our Christian culture and heritage. Instead, politics, power and pride became characteristic of American evangelicalism, rather than prayer, compassion, humility and spiritual power. We forgot that America has a history of Spiritual awakenings and that this revival heritage’ has been the preserving force of our Christian culture.
God Will Not Ride in on Either an Elephant or a Donkey
Hopefully, some are beginning to realize that God´s purposes for America will not be realized through a political process or political party. As Dr. Tony Evans once said, God will not ride into our midst on either an elephant (symbol of the Democrat party) or a donkey (symbol of the Republican party).’
In seeking a political solution to our spiritual problems we, as evangelical Christians, identified ourselves with a particular political party and, thereby, alienated ourselves from over half of the American populace. This is not good! Neither Jesus nor the earliest Christians identified themselves with any of the many political parties that were operative in their day; but, instead, preached a transcendent government or kingdom of God that would transform individuals (and thereby society) from within. We need to take a closer look at the New Testament in this area and adjust our thinking accordingly.
Let´s Remember Our Revival Heritage
Spiritual awakenings are an intrinsic part of American history. They are a vital part of who we are as a people. Perry Miller, the late professor of church history at Harvard University, said that the Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelists of the First Great Awakening. Awakenings such as the First Great Awakening (1726-1750), the Second Great Awakening (1801-1840) and the great Prayer Revival of 1858 have preserved the Christian character of American culture at crucial times in our history. These were not religious excitements generated by the fleshly machinations of professional revivalists, but divine visitations in answer to the fervent, faith-filled prayers of God´s people.
It´s Time For Repentance & Change in the Church
America is in dire need of another national awakening. Such an awakening cannot be organized or strategized by skillful religious marketeers. Such awakenings are conceived in the womb of prayer and given birth through the absolute trust and simple obedience of God´s people. If evangelical Christians are ready to admit that political activism is not the way to change America, this could be the beginning of our finest hour. If we will repent for our politics, for seeking power and for pride and call out to God with all our hearts, there is no reason why God will not answer with another national Spiritual awakening.
A Prayer For Spiritual Awakening
Here is a prayer that I offer for Spiritual awakening in this hour; and I pray that individuals and groups throughout America will begin to pray prayers such as this.
Oh LORD God, we come to You in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that we have missed the mark in all our efforts to save this nation. We repent of self-reliance and pride, and for imagining that we could make a difference in this nation by our own human efforts and through a mere political process. Oh LORD, we acknowledge that only you can change the heart of this nation and restore to it the fear and honor that belongs to You alone. We pray today that you will turn our hearts to you. Send the fire of your presence, power and love once again to this nation. We pray for another Great Awakening!
The Freedom I Have For You
Rise up; become relevant. I am releasing My glory. I am feeding My children. Do not be shy or ashamed, come closer. Life flows from Me. I have broken the chains; do not willingly pick them up.
Allow Me to open your eyes. Your destiny is in Me. Eat at My table; partake of My living Word. You shall be free as you experience My presence.
It is My will that you experience Me; live out the freedom I have for you.
Spiritual Gifts Are Not Bound by Prejudice
by Mimi Haddad
Many of you have attended a class at church designed to help you discern your spiritual gifts. Thankfully, over the years, excellent biblical resources have been produced that equip believers to discover and develop the gifts God has given each of us for service. But what Scripture has revealed about our service in God´s covenant community was as counter-cultural in the ancient world as it is for some people today. Why?
From Genesis to Revelation, some of the most unlikely people possessed some of the most extraordinary gifts. From elderly Sarah, whom God equipped to give birth to God's covenant people; to David, a young shepherd who rescued Israel; to Deborah who served as prophet and judge, God gives enormous capacity to people, not according to human standards or expectations, but according to God´s purposes.
Scripture explains that every person who comes to faith receives from God spiritual gifts or abilities. These gifts are a sign of God´s presence or power in our lives equipping us for service. Because the gifts come from God´s Spirit, they are supernatural and an extension of God´s power active in our lives.
The gifts he gave are these: some are to be apostles; some prophets; some evangelists; some pastors and teachers. These gifts are to make God´s
people better able to do their work for him and to make the body of Christ become stronger (Eph. 4:11-12, Worldwide English New Testament).
Because it is God who provides the spiritual gifts, we do not choose which gift we receive. The spiritual gifts are chosen for us by our all-knowing and loving Creator. Because of this, we may receive from God a spiritual gift which is unexpected and also challenging, given human prejudice. However, Scripture is quite clear that our spiritual gifts are accompanied by a responsibility to God. We are to fan into flames the gift within us,’ according to 2 Timothy 1:4-7, recognizing that our spiritual gifts are to be developed and used for God´s glory (1 Pet. 4:7-11, Rom. 12:3-8, Eph. 4:7-16, 1 Cor. 12:1-31.)
When Paul addresses the spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:7-11, Eph. 4:11-12) he does not indicate that these gifts are given according to gender, ethnicity, or class. If leadership and authority were limited to males or people of a specific ethnic background (as has been argued by some Christians throughout history) would not Paul make that known in these passages addressing spiritual gifts? Is this not the most likely place to make clear the gender limitations of leadership? Yet, where Paul addresses the spiritual gifts, he omits any limitations of leadership based on gender. Furthermore, the Bible tells us of women whose spiritual gifts enabled them to serve beside Paul as evangelists, prophets, pastors, teachers, and apostles (Eph. 4:11-12, I Cor. 12:28a).
If Scripture is intended to inform Scripture, then what is unclear must be understood through what is clear. It is clear that Junia was a female apostle (Rom. 16:7) and that women served as prophets who spoke in the churches (Luke 36 & ff, Acts 2:17, Acts 21:9, 1 Cor. 11:5). Women were evangelists (Mark 7:24-30, John 4:5-42, John 20:17); deacons (Rom. 16:1-2); teachers (Acts 18:24-26, Col. 3:16) and leaders of house churches (Acts 16:13-15, 40; Acts 18: 1-3, 18, 24-26; Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:15; Phil. 1-2; and 2 John 1:1). Paul said that women like Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis worked hard in the Lord’ (Rom. 16:12). To work hard in the Lord’ is how Paul describes his own missionary work. Euodia and Syntyche are said to have served as evangelists or coworkers in the church in Philippi (Phil. 4:2-3).
Countering the patriarchy and ethnic prejudice of the ancient world, Scripture makes clear that gender does not limit service in Christ´s new covenant community. The spiritual gifts are given to us, not according to cultural expectations, but according to God´s divine purposes for building up the church. We exclude the gifts of women at our own peril.
I Am Greater Than The Greatest Need
Come to Me and drink in My glory. Let My substance meet your greatest need. I will absorb your worries and your fears as you come near. Come and sup with Me. You will find everything you need in My presence.
Come, eat your fill, and then fill you your pockets and your bags and carry as much as you can to My people who are sitting in darkness. There is meat in My house when you do as I desire. There is love in My house when you allow Me to flow through you to meet the needs of others. Make My presence known. Allow yourself to flow with my Spirit. There is more than enough... more than enough... more than enough to meet every need.
By James Brett
Pogo keeps coming up. The message that "we have met the enemy and he is us" is so well-worn these days that it rolls off the tongue too swiftly and off the back making scarcely a mark. But, the truth is that in so many ways we become too much like that enemy who won't go away. On playgrounds bullies threaten mayhem, deliver it occasionally for future effect, and they do not go away. We have to learn to live with them, and hopefully we do not become bullies ourselves. Or do we?
We take on the role of victim first and receive a lot attention that way. This angers the bully, and he attacks again ... and again. We learn to dodge the assaults and our victimhood takes on new characteristics. We learn the essential psychology of bullying, but learn to control our environments in different ways from his. In some parts of America this takes on the vestments of an aggressive and proselytizing Christianity. Some become quite adept at disguising the underlying playground angst (and other affronts to the emerging being, which propel them) and these emerge as self-righteous zealotry, the victim lashing back in passive aggressive behaviors designed to neutralize the enemy, to bring him to see the light, to "lay off," in other words.
No evangelical person will accept the foregoing paragraph as having any truth value whatsoever. Evangelists are convinced they are delivering "good news" and do not see their activities as being born out of humiliation or pain or antagonism. They see themselves as enlightened and, ipse dixit, morally secure and ... yet ... they are clearly in the tradition of all victims and martyrs, struggling against bogeys of the imagination that will not rest.
James Carroll, a former Catholic priest, son of a significant personage of the Pentagon many years ago, has resumed his Monday op-ed column in the Globe and on this recent Memorial Day chose to write about the unacceptable Christian zealotry now manifesting itself in the armed forces. I have written on this subject for years, too, and was not amused to hear that George W. Bush received National Intelligence Summaries in Sunday school wrappings. We are not sure what the intent was, but if it were only Rumsfeld pandering to the born-again George, it were still too much. If it were the Air Force General from whose aegis this report emerges, then it were way too much, for the Air Force is implicated up to its Academy halo in pompous right wing evangelizing Christian zealotry.
You should read the Carroll piece, if you have not already. It is not merely a complaint. It is a call to arms. The problem is not limited to cynical bastards like Rummy or zealous Air Force personnel, it is a huge problem in all the armed forces, and frankly the Commander in Chief needs to do something about it ... and soon.
My own experience with the problem came from a dinner conversation with the brother-in-law of my step-sister, he a Naval officer who was then in command of an amphibious force assault ship, one of those fairly large, hollow, vessels that carried large landing craft in its well deck and support helicopters on the deck above the well. He was a Bible-thumping brother of a southern Maryland evangelical minister, but lacked nothing of his brother's talent for fundamentalist reasoning processes. In fact, he was somewhat alarmed that he was sitting at dinner with a known atheist, but you will not be surprised to know that he thought he might be able to convert me then and there. I asked him point blank if he saw any conflict between his beliefs and his rank, any moral dilemma, any reason to resist evangelizing the crew of his ship, which you understand, of course, did not sign on for a Bible study cruise. He said that he did not. He said, in fact, that he believed his command of the ship came from God via the Chief of Naval Operations and that it was no coincidence that he was chosen to command, rather than some irreligious scoundrel like myself.
Carroll alludes finally to the problem of zealotry in the military, and he clearly notes that it is not just that hapless soldiers, sailors, and airmen are subjected to the voices and wills of evangelizing, proselytizing senior personnel. Carroll makes the connection that these military personnel are answerable specifically to a higher power, not just the military chain of command. They are, like "Dr. Strangelove's" George C. Scott version of General "Buck" Turgidson or Keenan Wynn's Colonel "Bat" Guano ultimately dangerous people whose motivations are born in the mysteries of youthful victimhood, or like Sterling Hayden's General Jack D. Ripper whose ideas about contemporary history (and End Times) are more than just relevant, and whom like Slim Pickens's Major T.J. Kong will follow arrogance into hell itself. Clearly, we cannot afford a jihadist branch of the Department of Defense, and just as clearly the Secretary of Defense and the President as Commander-in-Chief needs to cleanse the military of these people by new rules absolutely prohibiting evangelism within the armed forces. This is no more difficult than the existing prohibition against politicking in uniform. The armed forces are deliberately not a level playing field and justice demands that opinions and beliefs not be foisted off with misplaced authority.
Yes, I know this plays to the underlying victimhood and martyrdom of the evangelicals, but I would rather rout them out summarily than drive them underground within the services to rise again during some very ugly emergency.
Remain in Me
Ian Ross"As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love." -- John 15:9
I keep you and provide for you, My children, according to My love and My favor. I provide all that you need because I am able, and because you have found favor in My sight. My mercy toward you is great and I will in no means cast out anyone who calls on My name.
Today I call to you to trust Me and give yourself to Me, for I am your life and hope. You will find life in no other, hope in no other, and truth in no other. I am the Eternal One - I will keep you, even as I promise, so long as you trust Me and give your love to Me.
Remain in Me and in My promises!
War Is Sin
By Chris Hedges
The crisis faced by combat veterans returning from war is not simply a profound struggle with trauma and alienation. It is often, for those who can slice through the suffering to self-awareness, an existential crisis. War exposes the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves. It rips open the hypocrisy of our religions and secular institutions. Those who return from war have learned something which is often incomprehensible to those who have stayed home. We are not a virtuous nation. God and fate have not blessed us above others. Victory is not assured. War is neither glorious nor noble. And we carry within us the capacity for evil we ascribe to those we fight.
Those who return to speak this truth, such as members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, are our contemporary prophets. But like all prophets they are condemned and ignored for their courage. They struggle, in a culture awash in lies, to tell what few have the fortitude to digest. They know that what we are taught in school, in worship, by the press, through the entertainment industry and at home, that the melding of the state´s rhetoric with the rhetoric of religion, is empty and false.
The words these prophets speak are painful. We, as a nation, prefer to listen to those who speak from the patriotic script. We prefer to hear ourselves exalted. If veterans speak of terrible wounds visible and invisible, of lies told to make them kill, of evil committed in our name, we fill our ears with wax. Not our boys, we say, not them, bred in our homes, endowed with goodness and decency. For if it is easy for them to murder, what about us? And so it is simpler and more comfortable not to hear. We do not listen to the angry words that cascade forth from their lips, wishing only that they would calm down, be reasonable, get some help, and go away. We, the deformed, brand our prophets as madmen. We cast them into the desert. And this is why so many veterans are estranged and enraged. This is why so many succumb to suicide or addictions.
War comes wrapped in patriotic slogans, calls for sacrifice, honor and heroism and promises of glory. It comes wrapped in the claims of divine providence. It is what a grateful nation asks of its children. It is what is right and just. It is waged to make the nation and the world a better place, to cleanse evil. War is touted as the ultimate test of manhood, where the young can find out what they are made of. War, from a distance, seems noble. It gives us comrades and power and a chance to play a small bit in the great drama of history. It promises to give us an identity as a warrior, a patriot, as long as we go along with the myth, the one the war-makers need to wage wars and the defense contractors need to increase their profits.
But up close war is a soulless void. War is about barbarity, perversion and pain, an unchecked orgy of death. Human decency and tenderness are crushed. Those who make war work overtime to reduce love to smut, and all human beings become objects, pawns to use or kill. The noise, the stench, the fear, the scenes of eviscerated bodies and bloated corpses, the cries of the wounded, all combine to spin those in combat into another universe. In this moral void, naively blessed by secular and religious institutions at home, the hypocrisy of our social conventions, our strict adherence to moral precepts, come unglued. War, for all its horror, has the power to strip away the trivial and the banal, the empty chatter and foolish obsessions that fill our days. It lets us see, although the cost is tremendous.
The Rev. William P. Mahedy, who was a Catholic chaplain in Vietnam, tells of a soldier, a former altar boy, in his book Out of the Night: The Spiritual Journey of Vietnam Vets,’ who says to him: Hey, Chaplain ... how come it´s a sin to hop into bed with a mama-san but it´s okay to blow away gooks out in the bush?’
Consider the question that he and I were forced to confront on that day in a jungle clearing,’ Mahedy writes. How is it that a Christian can, with a clear conscience, spend a year in a war zone killing people and yet place his soul in jeopardy by spending a few minutes with a prostitute? If the New Testament prohibitions of sexual misconduct are to be stringently interpreted, why, then, are Jesus´ injunctions against violence not binding in the same way? In other words, what does the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill´ really mean?’
Military chaplains, a majority of whom are evangelical Christians, defend the life of the unborn, tout America as a Christian nation and eagerly bless the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as holy crusades. The hollowness of their morality, the staggering disconnect between the values they claim to promote, is ripped open in war.
There is a difference between killing someone who is trying to kill you and taking the life of someone who does not have the power to harm you. The first is killing. The second is murder. But in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy is elusive and rarely seen, murder occurs far more often than killing. Families are massacred in airstrikes. Children are gunned down in blistering suppressing fire laid down in neighborhoods after an improvised explosive device goes off near a convoy. Artillery shells obliterate homes. And no one stops to look. The dead and maimed are left behind.
The utter failure of nearly all our religious institutionswhose texts are unequivocal about murderto address the essence of war has rendered them useless. These institutions have little or nothing to say in wartime because the god they worship is a false god, one that promises victory to those who obey the law and believe in the manifest destiny of the nation.
We all have the capacity to commit evil. It takes little to unleash it. For those of us who have been to war this is the awful knowledge that is hardest to digest, the knowledge that the line between the victims and the victimizers is razor-thin, that human beings find a perverse delight in destruction and death, and that few can resist the pull. At best, most of us become silent accomplices.
Wars may have to be fought to ensure survival, but they are always tragic. They always bring to the surface the worst elements of any society, those who have a penchant for violence and a lust for absolute power. They turn the moral order upside down. It was the criminal class that first organized the defense of Sarajevo. When these goons were not manning roadblocks to hold off the besieging Bosnian Serb army they were looting, raping and killing the Serb residents in the city. And those politicians who speak of war as an instrument of power, those who wage war but do not know its reality, those powerful statesmenthe Henry Kissingers, Robert McNamaras, Donald Rumsfelds, the Dick Cheneysthose who treat war as part of the great game of nations, are as amoral as the religious stooges who assist them. And when the wars are over what they have to say to us in their thick memoirs about war is also hollow, vacant and useless.
In theological terms, war is sin,’ writes Mahedy. This has nothing to do with whether a particular war is justified or whether isolated incidents in a soldier´s war were right or wrong. The point is that war as a human enterprise is a matter of sin. It is a form of hatred for one´s fellow human beings. It produces alienation from others and nihilism, and it ultimately represents a turning away from God.’
The young soldiers and Marines do not plan or organize the war. They do not seek to justify it or explain its causes. They are taught to believe. The symbols of the nation and religion are interwoven. The will of God becomes the will of the nation. This trust is forever shattered for many in war. Soldiers in combat see the myth used to send them to war implode. They see that war is not clean or neat or noble, but venal and frightening. They see into war´s essence, which is death.
War is always about betrayal. It is about betrayal of the young by the old, of cynics by idealists, and of soldiers and Marines by politicians. Society´s institutions, including our religious institutions, which mold us into compliant citizens, are unmasked. This betrayal is so deep that many never find their way back to faith in the nation or in any god. They nurse a self-destructive anger and resentment, understandable and justified, but also crippling. Ask a combat veteran struggling to piece his or her life together about God and watch the raw vitriol and pain pour out. They have seen into the corrupt heart of America, into the emptiness of its most sacred institutions, into our staggering hypocrisy, and those of us who refuse to heed their words become complicit in the evil they denounce.
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