Friday, April 27, 2012

C. T. Studd Gave Huge Inheritance Away

C. T. Studd Gave Huge Inheritance Away
Dan Graves, MSL

"Some wish to live within
the sound of Church or Chapel bell;
I want to run a Rescue Shop
within a yard of hell."

That saying was characteristic of C. T. Studd. In 1878, a visiting preacher asked the young man, a well-known cricket player, if he was a Christian. When Studd knelt and thanked God for salvation, peace and joy flooded his soul. Unfortunately, he did not share his faith with others. As a consequence, he became spiritually cold. For six years he lived a life which he described as "backslidden." The love of the world crept in.

In 1883, Studd went to hear Dwight L. Moody speak. His soul was stirred afresh. Immediately, he began to tell others about Christ. Studd would later say that he had tasted all the pleasures of the world, but none gave him so much pleasure as bringing his first soul to trust in Jesus.

Two years later, C. T. Studd sailed for China to join Hudson Taylor as a missionary. He dressed like a Chinese, ate Chinese food, and learned the Chinese language. While in China, he turned twenty-five. Under his father's will, that is when he would inherit a large sum of money. Reading the Bible and praying, he felt convinced he should give his fortune away to show the world that he relied not on money but on a living Lord. The Lord, he was sure, would bless him a hundred-fold in non-monetary ways and provide him sufficient money to live on. "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him," he argued.

On this day, January 13, 1887, before he even knew the amount he was to inherit, he wrote several large checks for George Muller's orphan work and for missions. It turned out there was still some money left. Studd gave it away. He gave the final £3,400 to the woman he was about to marry as a wedding gift. But Priscilla Livingstone Stewart was as sure of God as her husband. She determined to "start clear" at her wedding and gave that sum away, too

Naturally, they ran short of money often after that. Yet they found God faithfully supplied them. "Funds are low again, hallelujah! That means God trusts us and is willing to leave His reputation in our hands," said C. T. Studd on one such occasion.

The Studds served in China and India and toured in behalf of the Student Volunteer Movement. Leaving his invalid wife in England, C. T. sailed to Africa to open mission work in Sudan, the largest unreached area in the world. In spite of heart attacks, he worked there to the end of his life. Priscilla was able to rejoin him for only one year before she died. Studd became an autocrat who would brook no opposition.

C. T. Studd's answer to critics who said he went overboard in his zeal was simple. "How could I spend the best years of my life in living for the honors of this world, when thousands of souls are perishing every day?"


Grubb, Norman. C. T. Studd, Cricketeer and Pioneer. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade 1933
Pollock, J. C. The Cambridge Seven. London: InterVarsity Fellowship, 1956.
"Report on the Cambridge Seven." Wholesome Words.
"View of C. T. Studd."
Various encyclopedia and internet sources.

Last updated May, 2007.
Find this article at:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Congo Martyr Bill McChesney

Congo Martyr Bill McChesney

Dan Graves, MSL During the 1960s, Zaire (formerly the Belgian Congo), was in turmoil. Just a few years before, Belgium had granted the nation its independence after years of corrupt colonial rule. The Belgians had not trained Africans to run the new country. Compounding the problems of running the large nation were age-old differences between rival African ethnic groups and the ambitions of European settlers in the Katanga province.

Then as now, the central government could not control the rebel groups who roamed the countryside. The Simba rebels committed numerous atrocities. Several Christian missionaries died or were brutalized during this violent period.

Bill McChesney was one of them. Bill was born on this day, July 21, 1936. Just five feet two inches tall, he was a wiry young man with a sunny heart. In fact, everyone who knew him called him "Smiling Bill," and the one word which best described him was "exuberant." He became a missionary with the Worldwide Evangelical Crusade.

Before he left as a missionary to the Republic of Congo (as Zaire was then named), he wrote a poem which he titled "My Choice." His poem was not a masterpiece of English literature; great poets might sneer at it as doggerel; but it was the sublime submission of a Christ-centered soul. In it Bill described the comfort he would like to live in. Then he hung his head in shame, remembering all that Christ had done for him. He concluded by saying,

If He be God, and died for me, no sacrifice too great can be
For me, a mortal man, to make; I'll do it all for Jesus' sake.
Yes, I will tread the path He trod; no other way will please my God;
So, henceforth, this my choice shall be, my choice for all eternity."

The Simba held a number of missionaries captive with Bill McChesney. Several times, they made terrifying visits in which they rehearsed killing Bill and the other missionaries. But each time, the rebels left them unharmed.

On November 24, 1964, the rebels took Bill McChesney to prison. His friend Jim Rodgers, a solemn British missionary, would not be parted from Bill and leaped into the truck with him. Bill was seriously ill with Malaria and needed someone to help him. Even so, the rebel soldiers beat him mercilessly the whole way. Jim had to carry him into the prison.

The next morning, when Bill acknowledged that he was American, a rebel colonel ordered him killed. Jim stood beside him. "If you must die, brother, I'll die with you." Attacking Bill mercilessly with clubs and fists, the rebel mob quickly killed him. He was just 28 years old. Jim laid his body gently to the floor. The rebels then knocked Jim down and trampled him to death.


McChesney, Bill. "The Choice." various web sites.
"Walk of Repentance."
Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

[Bill's story was told by Audine McChesney in the book Through Congo Shadows, Story of the Life and Martyrdom of Bill McChesney in the Congo, 1968. Many accounts are based on this.] Last updated July, 2007 Find this article at:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Eye Of The Storm

“Fear not that the whirlwind shall carry thee hence,
Nor wait for its onslaught in breathless suspense,
Nor shrink from the whips of the terrible hail,
But pass through the edge to the heart of the gale,
For there is a shelter, sunlighted and warm,
And Faith sees her God through the eye of the storm.
“The passionate tempest with rush and wild roar
And threatenings of evil may beat on the shore,
The waves may be mountains, the fields battle plains,
And the earth be immersed in a deluge of rains,
Yet, the soul, stayed on God, may sing bravely its psalm,
For the heart of the storm is the center of calm.
“Let hope be not quenched in the blackness of night,
Though the cyclone awhile may have blotted the light,
For behind the great darkness the stars ever shine,
And the light of God’s heavens, His love shall make thine,
Let no gloom dim thine eyes, but uplift them on high
To the face of thy God and the blue of His sky.
“The storm is thy shelter from danger and sin,
And God Himself takes thee for safety within;
The tempest with Him passeth into deep calm,
And the roar of the winds is the sound of a psalm.
Be glad and serene when the tempest clouds form;
God smiles on His child in the eye of the Storm”.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The 80/20 Christian

by Patrick Morley of Man in the Mirror
Excerpted from The Rest of Your Life (Zondervan)

Remember the 80/20 rule? Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, first noted the principle that 20 percent of our efforts produces 80 percent of our results, and vice versa. And the rule (which is actually not a rule at all but a useful working generalization) extends into every nook and cranny of life. You know. Twenty percent of the people do 80 percent of the work, 20 percent of the people give 80 percent of the money, 20 percent of the people accumulate 80 percent of the wealth, and so on.

Robert was an 80/20 man who lived an 80/20 life. He was the kind of man you could always count on to give a full 80 percent to everything he undertook. Well, actually not always, but at least 80 percent of the time.

One day this 80/20 man decided he would like to become a Christian or, should we say, 80 percent of him did. For Robert could only bring himself to believe about 80 percent of the what the Bible says about the historical life of Jesus. You know, the virgin birth (“I mean, Come on”), the atonement for the sins of people not even born yet, the human incarnation of the unseen God (“Give me a break”). And then there is that part about rising from the dead (“Puh…lleezze!”).

But Robert was highly motivated (to the 80th percentile) to see his faith change his life. He secretly hoped for an 80 percent improvement. That would meet 100 percent of my expectations, he thought.

He began attending church (four out of every five Sundays – a splendid record, indeed) which he thoroughly enjoyed or, should we say, at least 80 percent of the time. When he went he stayed for the whole service (a remarkable achievement in itself), but could only bring himself to listen to about 80 percent of the sermon. He sang 80 percent of the hymns with 80 percent enthusiasm, and prayed 80 percent of the prayers with four-fifths of his heart.

One day Robert said to a friend, “You know, I really like this Christianity stuff, at least 80 percent of it. About twenty percent of it, though, is pretty hard to swallow.” He added, “I’ve decided about 80 percent of the Bible is true.” The Bible carried a lot of weight with him, about 3 pounds. He was an 80/20 Christian.

But the 80/20 rule has a downside as well. And so Robert’s brand of Christianity relieved only 20 percent of his fears, removed a mere 20 percent of his angry outbursts, and he found just 20 percent of the sense of purpose and meaning for which he longed. This is a lot of work for a little result, he thought.

Eighty percent of the time he found himself in a surly mood, criticizing his wife, yelling at his kids, disagreeing with his pastor, hating his boss, angry at the hand fate had dealt him, exhausted beyond words, paralyzed with fears, anxious about the future, teetering on the brink of financial disaster, and otherwise generally frustrated with his life.

One day he was reading his Bible (which he did 20 percent of the time). He usually skipped over about 80 percent of the verses looking for something visceral, something that would invigorate his emotions. He was paying about 80 percent attention to the verses he was reading when, lo and behold, these razor-edged words thundered off the page, sending shivering echoes down the halls of his mind (80 percent of which were empty):

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which is described in this book (Revelation 22:18, 19).

The 80/20 man was quite astonished…astonished that these words were the last words of the Bible…surprised that he had made it that far – past the first 80 percent. He figured the chances of that happening were even less than one in five.

If this is how God decided to summarize the Bible, then these must be very important words, indeed: Don’t add to His words. Neither subtract anything away. Uh, oh.

Yes, yes. I want to share in the tree of life. I want to walk along the avenues of the holy city. I want to stand ankle deep in the river of life and feel the cool, refreshing waters swirl around my feet.

Suddenly it occurred to the 80/20 man that he was either for God or against Him. Instantly his eyes were opened and he clearly saw that 80 percent “in” is still “out.” His body convulsed and he shrieked as a jagged, white-hot saber of pain lanced the throbbing, festered 20 percent of his unyielded soul.


He fell on his knees with 100 percent of his weight, he cried out to God with 100 percent of his heart, he wept 100 percent of the tears within him, he repented 100 percent of his spiritual blindness and sin, he surrendered 100 percent of his life, he pledged 100 percent loyalty, he dedicated 100 percent of his time and money, he committed to seek after 100 percent obedience, and he submitted 100 percent of his being to 100 percent of the authority of 100 percent of the Bible. It was the first 100 percent moment of his 80 percent life. It was supremely beyond all he had dared ask or imagine.

When 80 percent of the euphoria had worn off he noticed he had only lost 20 percent of the glow. From deep inside he remembered a verse of a hymn, “Something’s happened, and now I know. He touched me and made me whole.”


In the days that followed he found an enigma. Eighty percent of the time he rode the crests of the waves. But 20 percent of the time his circumstances seemed insurmountable, unconquerable, unsolvable. Yet, even in the midst of grueling anguish, pain, and tears he found welling up within him springs of living water, peace, and joy. Yes, he experienced the same veneer of mortal emotions he did before, but beneath that shallow facade immortal joy audibly but softly hummed like a giant, powerful turbine with unending reserves of power.

During those storms – those 20 percenters – as the tiny ship of his circumstances was buffeted to and fro by life’s high seas, Robert noticed that the anchor of God’s immovable, sovereign, authoritative, infallible, holy Word held him fast in the hollow between the waves as though in the very hand of the living God. And it happened 100 percent of the time.

Are you living an 80/20 life? Prayerfully answer the following questions…

1. What percentage of these areas have you submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Rate yourself from 0 to 100% on the following scale.

Your Time

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Money

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Future

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Worship

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Hope for Significance

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Faith and Trust

0% ——————————————————– 100%

2. What is the next step that you need to take to become a 100% Christian?

Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A History of Darkness

A History of Darkness

The struggles of these spiritual giants yielded unexpected blessings.

Chris R. Armstrong
November 7, 2011

Christian faith is built on presence. Whether in the pillar of fire, the still small voice, or the incarnate Son, God has been Emmanuel, "with us." He has promised never to leave or forsake us. In thousands of hymns, we have sung of an experienced intimacy with God in Christ. We have prayed, wept, and rested in his presence.

For a committed Christian, then, nothing is more devastating than divine absence, spiritual loneliness, the experience of our prayers hitting a ceiling of brass.

Yet when the sixteenth-century mystic John of the Cross identified a similar phenomenon—this spiritual desolation called the "dark night of the soul"—he insisted that it is an important spiritual discipline. The dark night, said John, is a tortuous but fruitful path to union with God. For the great Carmelite, the dark night was just one part of an elaborate theology that penetrated beyond the realm of our senses and reason to come before God as The Awesome Unknown.

Today few subscribe to John's view. Instead, we have taken his phrase "dark night of the soul" to describe a subjective experience of the loss of a sense of God's loving presence. Without understanding its place in St. John's larger theology, we are not always sure what to do with it. It seems a decidedly unpleasant episode, often associated with doubt. We're mainly interested in one question: when will it pass?

One good reason for giving the dark night a second look is because of who undergoes it. Among the sufferers are some of the church's most faithful leaders: people such as C. S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther. Perhaps the best way to begin to understand this experience of darkness is to listen in as they struggle to find meaning in the midst of their nights.

Lewis's night came after the death of his wife, Joy. Mother Teresa's came at the very founding of her Missionaries of Charity and lasted to the end of her life. Luther's plagued him as a young monk, but also later as a Reformer. Each story illustrates a different kind of dark night, and bestowed its sufferer with unique blessings.
Lewis: A Path to True Faith

In his late 50s, C. S. Lewis finally found and married his true love: American writer Joy Davidman Gresham. But four years later, after an agonizing battle with cancer, Joy died. During the period of intense grieving, Lewis filled four notebooks—first, with words of anguish and rage, then with an introspective record of the changes that this loss worked in his character. The notebooks were published one year after Joy's death as A Grief Observed, at first under a pseudonym.

Some have guessed that Lewis resorted to an assumed name because his grief took him to the precipice of doubt. He asked the same sorts of questions that the grieving often ask: Was God, after all, a cosmic sadist? Did he even exist? Lewis experienced, in other words, the absence not only of his late wife, but of God himself.

His pain leaps from the page: "Meanwhile, where is God? When you are happy … if you … turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence."

What disturbed Lewis most was not the thought that God does not exist. Rather, it was the thought that he does exist, but that he may inflict pain for reasons we do not recognize as positive or even ethical: "What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, 'good'? Doesn't all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite?"

Upon reflection, Lewis decided that the pain he was experiencing must have some redemptive purpose. We see the first glimmer not far into the book: "It doesn't really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist's chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on." But of course the dentist isn't malevolent; the painful work is undertaken for the good of the patient. Lewis concluded that experiences of divine absence, like those of grief at the death of a loved one, can help to heal and sanctify us.

One thing that Lewis believed needs sanctifying is the sort of notional beliefs that pass for genuine faith. God has to "knock us silly" he wrote, to shake us out of "merely verbal thinking." Thinking of this kind is as a useless as a "house of cards," according to Lewis. "The sooner it was knocked down the better. And only suffering could do it."

But why must a faithful Christian undergo such pain? Lewis's answer was simple: because we seem incapable of hearing God properly in any other way.

He admitted this of himself: "Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them—never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?"

Worse, some of our conceptions of God may hurt more than they help. We may start thinking of them as divine in themselves. So God must come and shatter our ideas about himself. "He is the great iconoclast," Lewis wrote. Ultimately Lewis learned to want "not my idea of God, but God."

If his own faith turned out to be a house of cards, he was willing to have God "knock it down as often as proves necessary." As St. John of the Cross taught—and as Lewis discovered—we may need to undergo the dark night of the soul if we are to break through our preconceptions and into God's true light.
Mother Teresa: Solidarity with Jesus

The Christian world drew a collective breath of shock when, in 2007, we discovered through a posthumously published book that Mother Teresa of Calcutta had undergone a severe, intense dark night that persisted through almost her entire ministry. It didn't seem to make sense. Why on earth would such a saintly person suffer such painful darkness?

Born in Albania in 1910, Teresa joined the Sisters of Loreto at 18 as a missionary. In 1942, she made an exceptional vow to God: "Not to refuse Him anything." Later this commitment led her to leave her teaching position at a convent school in Calcutta and found a new female missionary order—the "Missionaries of Charity," dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor.

Mother Teresa's posthumously published letters reveal that her spiritual trial started soon after that remarkable vow. Though not telling even her close friends of her vow nor of her subsequent experience of darkness, she wrote to Archbishop Périer, describing her painful experience in devastating detail: "He has destroyed everything in me. The only thing that keeps me on the surface—is obedience."

Périer counseled her that the dark night was sent by God "as purification and protection against pride in the face of the remarkable fruitfulness of her work." But he seems to have misunderstood her experience. Aside from her willingness to live in absolute obedience and self-denial, she also impressed those who met her with her complete humility. No, this prolonged experience of spiritual dryness seemed to have had some other purpose.

A more helpful response came to Mother Teresa from a later confessor, Father Neuner. To him she wrote of "this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart." The place in her soul where, as a young nun, she had experienced God's intimate presence was now just a blank. "I just long and long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there."

Neuner's response was wise and to the point: this dryness had not come from any sin or failure on Teresa's part. "It was simply the dark night of which all masters of spiritual life know." It could not be fixed or dispelled by any human action. She must just remember that God is present with her, if hidden, and that she is united with the same Jesus "who in His passion had to bear the burden and darkness of the sinful world for our salvation."

How could she know God was still with her? "The sure sign of God's hidden presence in this darkness is the thirst for God, the craving for at least a ray of His light. No one can long for God unless God is present in his/her heart."

With Neuner's help, Teresa finally concluded that her dark night was not only a real sharing in Christ's redemptive suffering, but also a way she could come to identify more deeply with "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone."

From the moment of this new understanding, Teresa began to view the darkness as "an integral part of her call."

Some of her critics have said Mother Teresa taught and lived a twisted theology of suffering. It certainly can seem that way from the outside. In reading her letters I wondered if she sometimes veered beyond devotion into the realm of masochism.

Teresa's vocation, however, brought solace to tens of thousands and inspired millions. Her dark path was lighted, at last, with consolations. Beneath the pain of divine absence ran a deeper river of joy—a sense that she was in the center of her Lord's will in her service to the poorest of the poor. If she didn't feel Christ's presence as an intimate embrace, Teresa had no doubt that when she and her sisters were with those who felt unloved, they were in fact with Jesus.

She often said, "We are not social workers. We are contemplatives in the heart of the world. We are 24 hours a day with Jesus."
Luther: "The Backside of God"

Most of us know how, as a young monk, Martin Luther struggled mightily with a sense of his own sinfulness and inability to please God. This struggle ended when he realized that righteousness is not within our ability to achieve; God himself freely gives it. Problem solved, right? Not exactly.

Again and again throughout his life Luther descended into severe spiritual anxiety, starting with a particularly long and intense depression a few years after the Reformation's onset, in 1527.

During that period, says Luther scholar David Steinmetz, the Reformer was terrified that "God had turned his back on him once and for all," abandoning him "to suffer the pains of hell." Feeling "alone in the universe," Luther "doubted his own faith, his own mission, and the goodness of God—doubts which, because they verged on blasphemy, drove him deeper and deeper" into despair.

His prayers met a "wall of indifferent silence." He experienced heart palpitations, crying spells, and profuse sweating. He was convinced that he would die soon and go straight to hell. "For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God.'"

This Anfechtungen (his term for the experience) returned repeatedly, forcing the Reformer to develop a theology of spiritual darkness. He concluded that without the trials of Anfechtungen, "no person is able to know Holy Scripture, nor faith, the fear and love of God … indeed such a trial is the very best sign of God's grace and love for man."

For Luther as for Lewis, such darkness is a way that God strips us of the narrow self-interests that cloud our view of him. Yes, God is revealed in Christ and in Scripture. But we often fail to see or sense him, confusing his transcendence with absence.

In his early lectures on Romans, Luther used the example of a patient and a physician. The hospitalized patient feels his fever, nausea, headaches, and stiff joints, and is convinced by that he is getting worse and, in fact, will soon die. A doctor, says Luther, tells this man that, against all the evidence of his senses, he is in fact getting better. What is required here is a simple act of faith.

Steinmetz paraphrases Luther, "The fact of your beginning recovery is hidden under the contrary appearance of your virulent fever. You can grasp it now by closing your eyes to your symptoms and opening your ears to the word of your physician, who contradicts by his prognosis your immediate experience of pain."

Luther loved to say that in our times of darkness, we are seeing "the view of God from behind," wording based in Exodus 33:23, where Moses asks to see God's face, and God tells him that he couldn't handle such an encounter, but he would show him his back. Luther saw this same dynamic in the story of the Syrophoenician woman pleading with Jesus to be allowed to eat "the bread that falls from the table" of God's children. All Christ's answers to this woman, said Luther, "sounded like no, but he did not mean no. He had not said that she was not of the house of Israel. He had not said that she was a dog. He had not said no. Yet all his answers were more like no than yes."

Luther saw a parallel in our experiences of darkness: "This shows how our heart feels in despondency. It seems nothing but a plain no. Therefore it must turn to the deep hidden yes under the no and hold with a firm faith to God's Word."

"That there may be room for faith," Luther insisted, "everything which is believed must be concealed. Thus when God brings to life, he does it by killing; when he justifies, he does it by making guilty; when he exalts to heaven, he does it by leading to hell." This paradoxical vision comes most powerfully in the story of the Savior who is born into poverty, rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and ends up being judicially murdered.

Thus, experiences of Anfechtungen not only "make 'room' for faith," they also "help teach total dependence upon the promises of God."

How redemptive did Luther really find these experiences of darkness? It was during his prolonged crisis of 1527, so intense and agonizing that his friend Melanchthon felt Luther actually came near to death, that the Reformer composed that great hymn of faith, "A Mighty Fortress is our God." How many since his day have discovered in that single song a bulwark against darkness and doubt?

Chris R. Armstrong is professor of church history at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.

Utterly abandoned

Utterly abandoned
To the Holy Ghost!
Seeking all His fulness
At whatever cost;
Cutting all the shorelines,
Launching in the deep
Of His mighty power,
Strong to save and keep.
Utterly abandoned
To the Lord of all,
Seeking all His fulness,
Answ'ring His dear call.
Utterly abandoned
To the Holy Ghost!
Oh! the sinking, sinking,
Till the self is lost!
Till the vessel's emptied
Broken at His feet;
Waiting till His filling
Makes the work complete.
Utterly abandoned
To the will of God;
Walking in the pathway
That my Master trod;
Leaving ease and pleasure;
Making Him my choice,
Waiting for His guidance,
Listening for His voice.
Utterly abandoned!
Through eternity;
My will never choosing,
His it e'er shall be;
All my plans and longings
Lost in His sweet will,
Having nothing, owning
All things in Him still.
Utterly abandoned!
'Tis so sweet to be
Captive in His love-bonds,
Yet so wondrous free;
Free from sin's dominion,
Free from doubt and fear,
Free from every worry,
Burden, grief or care.
Utterly abandoned!
Oh, the rest is sweet,
Waiting in His presence
At His blessed feet;
Waiting for the filling
Of the Host divine,
Who my inward parts shall
Perfectly refine.
Lo! His Spirit fills me,
With His presence sweet!
I, in Him, am blessed!
I, in Him, complete!
Now the light within me
Never shall grow dim
While abandoned ever,
Living unto Him!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ten Myths about Biblical Prosperity – JOSEPH MATTERA

There has been much written in recent years about the Christian’s role in producing wealth on the earth. The following are common misconceptions in the church regarding prosperity and wealth creation that need adjustment for us to have biblical balance & integrity, and experience transformation in our families, communities, and nations.

I. Prosperity is automatic for all Christians

Although God desires prosperity for all His children (3 John 2) nowhere in the Bible does it say that saints are automatically blessed financially because they are saved. The Book of Proverbs is replete with principles of wealth creation which deal with activating the laws of sowing and reaping, wisdom, and integrity to produce financial wealth--principles redeemed people do not necessarily practice after their conversion to Christ (read Proverbs 6:6-8; 10:4-5; Galatians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 9:6).

II. God only claims ten percent of our finances

There is a common misconception that God claims only 10% of our finances and that we can do what we want with the remaining 90% of our money. The truth of the matter is, God claims all of our money; the tithe is simply a minimum of 10% that should go directly to the ecclesial realm for the spread of the Gospel.

Luke 14:33 teaches that disciples of Christ are to relinquish ownership of 100% of their possessions because we are merely His stewards of what we own when we make Him our Lord. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1).

The Bible not only teaches us to tithe, but to get out of burdensome debt (Proverbs 22:7; debt that causes a depreciation of our wealth), to invest wisely (Matthew 25:27), to be shrewd in our business dealings (Luke 16:8), to save for our future generations (Proverbs 13:22), and to create business plans (Luke 14:28). The Bible also teaches us against co-signing for those you do not know well (Proverbs 11:15) and to deal honestly with others (Proverbs 11:1).

So you see, how we steward 100% of our money will determine how wealthy we will become, not just how we steward 10% of our money.

III. God wants us prosperous so we can be happy

God tells us clearly in Deuteronomy 8:18 that the primary purpose of wealth is so that we can finance the spread of His covenant on the earth. The deal is this: If we seek first His kingdom with our finances, then He will give us what we desire anyway (read Matthew 6:33; Psalm 37:4). Biblical prosperity has more to do with pleasing the Lord and making Him happy than obtaining wealth so we can experience personal happiness.

IV. All Christians are called to be very wealthy

Although God has called the corporate Body of Christ to leverage great wealth, not all individual Christians or even pastors can handle large amounts of money. God will only give a people that which they are able to properly manage and administrate (read Deuteronomy 7:22).

Taking it a step further, some pastors and churches could even be damaged if certain billionaires came into their churches and gave them their tithes. The tithe on a billion dollars is $100 million. How many small to mid-sized churches can properly steward that kind of wealth? Also, how many people who have won the lotto have kept their wealth, health, and family?

Jesus came to give every person an abundant life (John 10:10) but not every person has been given the same amount of talents (Matthew 25:14-15). Some have been given five talents, some two, and some one, all according to their God-given ability and assignment. Hence, not everyone in your local church is called to be a multimillionaire.

V. All pastors are called to be in business

Because Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) many pastors think they are called to be entrepreneurs and wheeler-dealers in the marketplace (real estate, the stock market, venture capital, etc.) and many of them have had disastrous results and lost their shirts! It is one thing for a pastor to be bi-vocational because their church cannot afford a full salary. It is another thing for a pastor to think they are called to create much wealth by starting their own business because they think Scripture makes it normative.

The context regarding Paul is this: Since he was receiving many accusations because people were trying to insinuate that he was an inferior apostle, Paul preached the Gospel without receiving an offering from the Corinthian Church to silence his critics (read 2 Corinthians 11:7-15; 1 Corinthians 9:18) even though he had the full right to make a living from the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:9-14). Also, he came to an area that was filled with clergy corruption because the temple priests in Corinth peddled religion and sex for money. So Paul did his best to distance himself from any semblance of clergy greed and vice (1 Corinthians 4:12).

In light of this, I believe that only some pastors are called to have their own lucrative business; not every pastor has the grace to multitask between marketplace and ecclesial business and be successful. Only some are hyphenated ministers with calls to both the business and ecclesial realms.

VI. Prosperity is the right of all those in Christ

It is high time we in the Body of Christ go from a “rights-centered” Gospel, which has its historical roots in the American fight for independence and Jeffersonian preaching, to a “stewardship-centered” Gospel, in which we view our gifts, calling, and resources as a responsibility to serve and bless others, not something handed to us because we have the “right” to it as a Christian.

Matthew 25 shows the great balance in this because it talks both about the command to properly invest our talents for an appreciation of assets that results in multiplication, and then illustrates that the reason for the talents is so that we can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the prisoners, and be hospitable to the strangers and aliens (Matthew 25:14-46). This and other passages clearly show that the primary purpose of wealth is a matter of stewardship to serve humanity, not a matter of our “right” because we are Christians.

VII. Wealth creation is the key to breaking the spirit of poverty

Creating more money has never been the main key to breaking poverty. According to Genesis 1:27-28 the church must produce strong and stable marriages and biblically trained children, which is the first key to replenishing the earth, subduing our enemies, and having dominion (great influence).

True prosperity is never only about money. Wealth creation is merely one of the by-products for people who walk in their assignment with integrity, humility, focus, and diligence, all of which should be modeled at home by parents before a person reaches adulthood.

VIII. The only way to take a city is to buy it

Although amassing great wealth and real estate holdings is something that will leverage great influence (for example, Robert Moses was the main powerbroker of New York because of real estate and other assets), one size does not fit all for every community and city. Something like this is much easier to accomplish in poverty-stricken areas where the civil government and community boards want to give or sell property to local churches so the neighborhood can be redeemed. (Some churches purchase whole blocks and open up numerous businesses in impoverished or needy areas.) But in high-end areas something like this can take a church multiple generations to accomplish.

For example, my local church in New York City sits on only a quarter of an acre of land that is worth $4-5 million!

The easiest way for a local church to leverage great power, influence, and transform a community is by loving and serving their community and city. When a local church has an army of paid and unpaid volunteers who educate at-risk children, help young people excel in the arts, sports, and life skills, provide much-needed services for the poor, the fatherless, and aliens, and minister to community leaders and elected officials, then God’s favor rests on that church, which opens up more doors and buildings than money could buy! Community and business leaders will do whatever it takes to allow that church to have any facility and resource they need to further bless their community.

This was the primary method the early church used to spread the Gospel. Instead of purchasing buildings, they filled everyone else’s buildings (except the pagan temples) with loving, sacrificial Christians who risked their lives to care for the diseased, nurse abandoned babies, and bury rotting corpses left in the town garbage dumps. Truly, when the church goes after those nobody wants, God will give them those everybody wants! Taking a city does not just happen with a top-down approach of amassing wealth and speaking to power; it also involves a bottom-up approach with effective compassionate ministries.

IX. It only takes faith to release prosperity

Those of us who “named and claimed” prosperity found out the hard way that we not only have to speak faith and think positively, we also have to read books on wealth creation, work hard, and receive proper coaching from those who have already gone financially where we feel called to go. It is not just about faith and it is not just about sowing money; it is about working hard and learning how to get, how to manage what we get, how to save, how to invest money where it appreciates and multiplies the most, and how to disciple and empower others so they can also learn how to produce wealth for the kingdom.

X. Prosperity only relates to our present

Most preaching today regarding prosperity only has an “I,” “me,” “my” emphasis which is a one-generation approach. God revealed Himself not only as the God of Abraham, but also the God of Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:6) because He has called us to plan for at least three generations in everything we do. I pray that the days will come to an end when the preaching is only on individualistic topics like “How you can write your own ticket with God” or “How you can receive your miracle”! Those of us maturing in the faith message and prosperity realize that God has called us to corporately think in terms of our present and future the same way He does (Exodus 20:5-6; 1 Chronicles 16:15). We realize that God will transfer the wealth of the wicked only to those righteous who leave an inheritance for their grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22).

After all, most of the money today is in “old” money, not “new” money (with the exception of Bill Gates and some others who have blazed the technological trail in this present information age), which means that wealth was accumulated over the course of multiple generations and kept in families (think of the Rockefellers for example). This is one reason why the Fifth Commandment (Ephesians 6:3) tells us that if we honor our father and mother it will go well for us and we will live long on the earth.

Those who only think in terms of their present life are no better than economist John Maynard Keynes, who influenced the present American economic strategy with debt financing. He and those like him were not thinking of future generations but only about indulging their lust for the temporal present. May God deliver the church from such a mindset!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Did you wave the lamp?

Dwight L. Moody used to tell the story of the terrible train crash outside of the small town in the Colorado Rockies. It seems that the railroad trestle at the bottom of a long grade had washed away in a storm.

One night, the railroad company telegraphed the station manager of the station farther up the hill to tell him about the washout, and told him to flash a red lantern to stop the train there so that the passengers could spend the night there. It was the job of the station manager to wave a lamp to warn locomotive engineers of danger ahead on the railroad tracks.

So that night, for some reason the train did not stop, but continued down the hill and off the tracks, into a ravine with great loss of lives.

Of course an investigation was convened as to the cause of the crash, and the station manager was called to the stand to be interrogated.

The judge started, “Did you wave the lamp?”

The watchman responded,“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp.”

So why didn’t the train stop?”

“You’ll have to ask the engineer.”

“We can’t ask him, he is dead! Did you wave the lamp?”

“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp.”

The judged asked the watchman the same question several more times with increasing intensity, “Did you wave the lamp?”

Each time the watchman’s answer was the same,“Yes, Sir. I waved the lamp”, but the watchman seemed less and less convincing.

After the inquest was over, the watchman and a friend were talking. The friend asked, “You seemed upset when the judge asked you that question, and each time he asked, you seemd less and less sure of your answer. You did wave the lamp, didn’t you?”
The watchman replied, “Yes, I waved the lamp.”
The friend said, “Then your answer should have been the same no matter how many times the judge asked you.”

The watchman said, “Yes, but you see, there was a problem. I was doing some paperwork when I heard the train coming. I thought I could finish the paperwork and still have time to warn the train. But the train came faster than I thought, so I grabbed the lamp, ran out, and waved it. I waved the lamp just fine… but I didn’t have time to light it, and the engineer of that train didn’t see the lamp, and he drove on to disaster.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What is A Real Christian?

What is a Real Christian?
By Luis Palau

Many people consider themselves to be Christians. Why not? We enjoy a rich Christian heritage. But suppose you conducted an informal opinion poll near where you live, and asked ten people to explain what it takes to make someone a real Christian. Most likely, you would get ten different answers!

I'm convinced that most people are as confused about this crucial issue as I was. Even though I grew up attending church, and knew a lot of songs and Bible stories, for years I wasn't a Christian.

Oh, if someone had asked me, I could stand up and quote a few Bible verses. I could even say a prayer if you asked me do so. But for several years I went through a lot of empty religious motions until someone helped me settle the question of whether I was really a Christian.

God wants each of us to know where we stand in His eyes. That's why I believe it isn't mere chance that you have this book in your hands.

Ask yourself, "Am I a real Christian?" You can know for sure!

What Is a Real Christian?

"Don't worry about me," my grandfather insisted as he lay dying in a Buenos Aires hospital. I sat at his bedside, urging him to put his trust in God.

My grandfather put me off, insisting, "I’m all right. After all, I'm Scotch-Presbyterian." He had been born near Edinburgh, Scotland, but since moving to Argentina had definitely preferred scotch to Presbyterian. He loved scotch on the rocks, but the Presbyterian thing he didn't care for much at all.

He died later that same day, believing one of the many popular myths about what makes someone a real Christian.

Maybe you were raised in a Catholic or Protestant home. Or maybe you were brought up in some other religion. And you tell yourself, 'Well, I think I'm all right. Don't worry about me." No matter what your background, I encourage you to take an honest look-beyond the myths-about what makes someone a Christian.

To begin, let's explore what you think makes a real Christian. Below are some common ideas about that. Pick one and read the surprising answer

• Being born in a Christian nation
• Thinking positively
• Living a good life
• Going to church
• Giving to others
• Receiving a sacrament
• Believing in God
• Talking about Jesus Christ
• Praying
• Reading the Bible

Myth #1 Being Born in a Christian Nation Makes You a Christian

I've met people who have told me, "I was born in Christian nation, so of course I am a Christian. What do you take me to be, a heathen?" The truth is that they could be a lot of things.

Others have said: "I've been a Christian all my life; I was born in a Christian home" or "in the church." But since when does where you're born determine what you are? As one of my friends quipped, someone may be born in a stable, but that doesn't make him a horse. Nor does being born in an airport make someone an aeroplane.

Be thankful for where you were born and for the family and church in which you were reared. But don't assume that automatically makes you a Christian. God has no grandchildren.

Myth #2 Thinking Positively Makes You a Christian

Some people also think that if you give a hearty handshake, pat others on the back, smile, and ask, "How are you doing?" that you're somehow a Christian.

Now, normally a Christian is cheerful and excited about life and genuinely cares about others. A Christian also understands that he or she is valuable in God's eyes because He made us and loves us deeply.

But you could develop a certain sense of well-being and self-worth apart from knowing what God's Word, the Bible, teaches us about thinking right in an unright world. So thinking positively about life in general and about yourself in particular doesn't automatically make you a Christian.

Myth #3 Living a Good Life Makes You a Christian

And, then, living a dean and moral life doesn't make anyone a Christian. Many atheists live a decent, straight life. Anyway, how good is "good"? That is the real issue. Most people have a warped idea of the true standard against which our goodness should be measured.

Compared to a mass murderer, you may feel that you're ready for sainthood. Even compared with your family and friends, you may come out okay.

But God's standard of goodness is very different. He puts you up against His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived an absolutely perfect life here on earth. Compared with this level of perfection, our own goodness looks pretty shabby.

Remember, the world has always had plenty of "good" people. So if goodness were enough, God need not have sent Jesus. The fact that Jesus had to come to die on the cross to make our forgiveness possible shows that goodness doesn't make someone a Christian.

Myth #4 Going to Church Makes You a Christian

Last Sunday four out of ten Americans went to church. But does that mean that all these people are Christians? Of course not. Even some thieves go to church.

Some people go to church because its a social habit. Others attend because their family makes them go. At the encouragement of a minister, they may even go to special classes for confirmation or membership. It is true that Christians go to church and take an active part in church life. But attending church doesn't make you a Christian.

Myth #5 Giving to Others -Makes You a Christian

Many of us were taught since childhood to give a portion of our income to charity or to the church. Whether rich or poor, we feel its our "Christian" duty.

Even Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, says he feels a "duty to do something" so that "in some way I can make life a little less stinking for some people." So he donates part of his wealth to worthy causes. And that's commendable. But that's not what makes somebody a Christian.

Yes, Christians give to others. More than anyone else, they help the needy and less fortunate. But you can give away everything you own and still not be a Christian.

Myth #6 Receiving a Sacrament Makes You a Christian

Maybe you were baptised as a child or young adult That doesn't necessarily mean you're a Christian. Many violent inmates in penitentiaries were baptised years ago. But few people would consider these inmates Christians.

Or maybe you take Communion every Sunday. If you're a Christian, that's great. But I've had someone tell me, "Mr. Palau, I'm confused. I take Communion every week, but I don't know what it means to be a Christian."

You see, both baptism and Communion are biblical. God commands Christians to observe these ordinances. But receiving either one won't make you a Christian.

Myth #7 Believing in God Makes You a Christian

Eight out of ten people in America say they believe God exists. But are they all Christians? Colonel James Irwin, remembered for his Apollo 15 moon mission, told me that while he was in the Middle East, a Muslim leader said to him, "You talk about God so much-why aren't you a Muslim?"

Do you see my point? If you can be a Muslim and believe in God, then it is not "believing in God" that makes you a Christian.

I have a good friend who believes in exercise. But he never does any. He is forty-five pounds overweight and hopelessly out of shape. I know countless small boys who believe in soap. But they are not a shade cleaner in spite of their belief. Belief, on its own, makes no difference. That is why belief, by itself, doesn't make someone a Christian.

Myth #8 Talking about Jesus Christ Makes You a Christian

Many people talk about Jesus Christ and even speak well of Him. They may be teachers, ministers, church leaders, or "just plain folk" But they may not even believe that the Bible's message about Jesus is true.

Some actually have a distorted view of Jesus that fits their own way of thinking, rather than seeing the Jesus of history and the Bible. And that disqualifies them from calling themselves real Christians.

Myth #9 Praying Makes You a Christian

Certainly Christians pray. But someone can pray and still not be a Christian. Hindus pray all the time. Muslims pray five times a day.

When travelling abroad, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat carried a little prayer rug on which to kneel five times daily. But he was a Muslim, not a Christian. So praying in itself doesn't make someone a Christian

Myth #10 Reading the Bible Makes You a Christian

Of course Christians love the Bible. Some of us read it daily. But just reading the Bible doesn't mean you are a Christian.

When Karl Marx was seventeen years old, he wrote a fantastic explanation of part of John's Gospel in the New Testament portion of the Bible. Great theologians agree with much of what he said. But Karl Marx eventually rejected the Bible's authority, and during his adult life he called himself an atheist, a communist-anything but a Christian.

Nikita Khrushchev, the former premier of the USSR, read the Bible when he was a boy. Yet later he made it his ambition to bury the church in the Soviet Union by 1965. Instead, he is buried, and the Russian church continues to grow.

Read the Bible all you can. It explains how to settle this issue once and for all. Since it's God's Word, not man's, we can trust it completely. But remember, just reading the Bible won't make you a Christian

What Makes You a Real Christian?

"Luis," you may be wondering by now, "if I can't be born a Christian, and if thinking positively, living morally, going to church, giving to others, receiving a sacrament, believing in God, talking about Jesus, praying, and reading the Bible doesn't make me a Christian, then what does? What is a real Christian?" Let me mention three basic principles from God's Word that describe a real Christian. Then I'll explain how today you can become a real Christian.

First of all, the Bible says that a Christian is someone who walks in the way of life rather than the way of death. That way to life is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Notice that Jesus does not say he will show you the way. He says, "I am the way!"
Jesus also spoke of a narrow road and a wide road. Many walk on that wide road, which in the end is the way of death (see Matthew 7:13).

Do you sometimes feel as though you are lost and don't know where you are going? When you become a Christian, you have found the way of life.

You ask, 'What kind of way is this way of life?"

It is the way of peace. God's peace fills your heart when you walk in the way of Christ. Jesus said to His followers, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (John 14:27). God's peace is a gift available to each of us.

When you walk in the way of Christ, you experience an inner peace-tremendous quiet in your heart. The broken pieces in your life are put together again. Oh, the psychiatrist can analyze you. The psychologist can pinpoint some of the problems in your past. But only God can give you lasting peace.

The way of life is also the way of purity. The Bible says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew 5:8).

If you are fooling around with sin; if you are playing with immorality; if you are not being truthful in your business; if you are dishonest in your school, in your work, in your play, in your home-then you know nothing of the way of life.

You may consider yourself a nice person, perhaps the life and soul of the party. But you are not a Christian, because the way of Christ is the way of purity.

When you come to Christ, He forgives your sins and purifies your heart. That doesn't mean you suddenly become holier than everyone else. On the contrary, you become more conscious of your shortcomings. But God gives you the power to live a righteous life.
The way of life in Christ is also the way of love. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another," Jesus said (John 13:35). The Bible adds, 'We know that we have passed from death - to life, because we love our brothers" (1 John 3:14).

Today, the word love has been robbed of meaning. Its used to describe a person exploiting the emotions of another for his own satisfaction and selfishness. But that is not love. True love wants the very best for someone no matter what it may cost us.

The way of life is also the way of obedience. The way of the Christian is to serve only one master-Jesus. The Bible describes Him as "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14). The Christian lives as though this is true. Jesus becomes your Lord, your Master, your King. What He says goes. The servant of a king waits for the slightest hint of a command, then rushes to obey. A soldier following the leadership of a great commander willingly obeys every order.

Similarly, real Christians give God complete authority over their lives. We will go wherever He wants us to go, do whatever He wants us to do. And we do not care what it may cost in terms of comfort or reputation. Jesus has every right to rule like that. Remember, He is not supreme because He inherited authority from His ancestors like an earthly king or lord. Nor does He rule like a corrupt military dictator, by using great power to destroy.

Jesus is Lord and King because He made us, He gave His life for us and our sins, and He always does what is best for us.

Second, a Christian is someone who enjoys eternal life. He has a more full and complete life. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

Life with Christ was not only God's original design for us; it is the way He intends for us to live today. That is what makes life with Christ abundant.

And eternal life never ends. It goes beyond physical death-forever and ever. Do you have eternal life? You may say, 'Well, I'm not sure."

If I asked if you were married, would you say, "I think so'"? Or suppose I asked if you are pregnant. Would you say, "A little bit`"? Of course not! These are things you can be absolutely sure about.

Do you know that you have eternal life? If you're already a Christian, you know it. Jesus said concerning those who follow him in faith: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28). Do you have that triple security?

First He says, "I give them eternal life."

Second He says, 'They shall never perish." Third, "No one can snatch them out of My hand."

What more could you want? A Christian is someone who discovers these three things to be true.
The Bible also says, "He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:12). In other words, eternal life is Christ in your heart. Can you say, "Yes, I know I have eternal life. I can remember when Christ came into my heart"?

Furthermore, a Christian is someone who has been born into God's family and therefore has become one of God's children. You say, "Luis, I thought everyone was a child of God. Isn't God the Father of all mankind?"

According to the Bible, God is the Creator of all people but not the Father of all people. Many people don't even want him to be their Father.

You become a member of God's family by being born into it. The Lord Jesus said, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). What does that mean? When you and I were born into the human family, we had no choice about the matter. That's physical birth.
But to become a child of the heavenly Father, you must have a spiritual birth. This happens when we repent of our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Every year we celebrate our physical birth with parties and gifts. But do you remember your second birth? If not, you must make a decision. Do you want to become a part of God's family by receiving Christ? The Bible says, 'To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

"But My Life Is So Bad!"

A few years ago, while visiting a South American country, I spoke privately with the president, a military man. "Mr. President," I asked, "do you know Jesus Christ'?"

The president smiled and said, "Palau, I've led such a hard life that I don't think God wants to know me very much."

"Mr. President, no matter what you've done, Christ died on the cross for you, and He loves you. If you want to know Him, you can meet Him right now."

As we continued to talk, I explained what Christ had done on the cross, how He died to receive the punishment that should be ours for the wrong we have done. I said, "Sir, would you like to receive Christ now?"

He paused and quite seriously said, "If Christ will receive me, I want to become a real Christian."
Right then we bowed our heads and prayed together. This general opened his heart to the Son of God and received Christ into his life.

He thought God would never receive him because of his past. But when we finished praying, he stood and in typical Latin fashion gave me a tremendous hug. “Thank you," he said. "Now I know that Christ has really received me and forgiven me."

What About You?

Have you decided to trust Christ yet? Would you like to know that you have eternal life? Would you like to start walking in the way of Jesus Christ, knowing that you are a child of God and that you are going to heaven?

Let me tell you how you can become a real Christian-right now, before you finish reading this book.

Joining God's Family

First, the Bible teaches that you must admit that your sins have separated you from God. That's what I liked about that South American president. He readily admitted he was a sinner. In fact, he was so convinced of the evil and rebellion in his life that he felt God would never receive him.

Have you ever owned up to God about those things in your life that hurt Him-selfishness, pride, greed, immorality, and all the rest? Have you ever admitted that you've been walking in the way of death? You see, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

The Bible also says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). That includes you and me. Is it time to own up to God and to receive the forgiveness that He wants to give you?

Second, you must believe what Christ has done for you on the cross. The Bible says, "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

When Jesus died on the cross, He conquered death so that each of us may be forgiven. We deserve to be punished for the wrong we have done in Gods eyes. But God sent His Son to receive our punishment in His body on the cross (see 1 Peter 2:24).

It is like a judge finding a prisoner guilty, taking the prisoner's place, and receiving the sentence himself. What magnificent love!

"But I Don't Understand!"

You may not completely understand how God places the penalty for your sin on His Son. But you do not need to understand everything all at once. God only asks you to believe.

I have been told that no one totally understands electricity. Scientists talk about it as a fundamental element of all matter. They can create electrical charges and harness electricity. But as a Stanford University scientist once told me, "Electricity in its essence is quite unexplainable."

When you become a real Christian, you may not understand it all at the beginning. But as you read the Bible and allow God to teach you, your understanding will grow.

The final step you must take is to confess Jesus Christ as your Lord. You cannot inherit faith. It's not enough to say, "My father was a fine Christian, and I was brought up in a fine Christian home." That will not make you one of God's children.

Experience Christ for yourself! All of us who belong to Christ had to come for ourselves. Have you come to Him yet? Have you ever made that decision?

You ask, "How'?" The Bible says: "tf you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (Romans 10:9-10).

The best way I know to make Jesus the Lord of your life is to simply bow your head in prayer, confess your sins to God, by faith open your heart to Christ, believe in Him, and receive Him.

If that's your decision, then tell God now-silently if you wish-right where you are. You may wish to use this prayer:
"Heavenly Father, I want to be a real Christian. I realize that my sins have separated me from You. Please forgive me. I believe in what Christ did for me on the cross. I don't completely understand it, but I accept it by faith. I do want to be a child of Yours. Please come into my life, Lord Jesus, and make me Your child right now. I'll follow You and obey You forever. Amen."

After You Become a Real Christian
Have you decided to receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior? If so, you've made the most important decision of your life!

You now belong to God's family, and of course you will want to get to know God better. The best way is to read His Word. I suggest you begin with Luke's Gospel in the New Testament. Remember that God speaks to us through the Bible. So as you read, look for examples to follow or instructions to obey.

Saturate yourself with the Bible. Your thoughts and emotions will begin to change as you read the Word of God daily.

Second, meet with other Christians. Find a church that believes the Bible, honors Christ, and teaches what a real Christian is. Go to church and talk to the minister. Say, "1 received Christ," and see what happens. If the minister doesn't seem interested in helping you grow spiritually, then find some church that can help you.

Third, begin to pray. You talked to the Lord just now. He answered your prayer. He loves you; He's your Father. Since communication is the key to any relationship, your relationship with God can grow only as you talk to Him in prayer.

If you have truly asked the Lord Jesus to become your Savior, you have taken the most important step in your life. You've begun an exciting journey that only gets better!

And now, as your Christian brother, I want to be the first to say, 'Welcome to God's family!"

After you believe, what is the next step?

To any inquirer I would say, "Just do the next thing you know you should do to carry out the will of the Lord. If there is sin in your life, quit it instantly. Put away lying, gossiping, dishonesty, or whatever your sin may be. Forsake worldly pleasures, extravagance in spending, vanity in dress, in your car, in your home. Get right with any person you may have wronged. Forgive everyone who may have wronged you. Begin to use your money to help the poor and advance the cause of Christ. Take up.the Cross and live sacrificially. Pray, attend the Lord's services. Witness for Christ, not only when it is convenient but when you know you should. Look to no cost and fear no consequences. Study the Bible to learn the will of God and then do His will as you understand it. Start now by doing the next thing, and then go on from there" – AW Tozer, Paths to Power.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pentecostals, Charismatics, and the Third Wave

Pentecostals, Charismatics, and the Third Wave
by Michael R. Ramos

Michael Ramos has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1987. Prior to that time, he spent 8 years in military service as an Army Ranger. Michael has traveled to many countries as a Campus Crusade International Representative for overseas evangelistic concert events and strategic planning. He has helped organize international outreaches for the Campus Crusade Campus Ministry, Athletes In Action, Student Venture, and Josh McDowell. Michael is currently pursuing an M.Div. from the International School of Theology while continuing his international ministry with CCC.

Some contemporary scholars have described an aspect of Twentieth Century church history as consisting of three waves. The first wave being the Pentecostal movement, the second wave; the Charismatic movement and the third wave characterized by the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. To understand the progression of the "Waves", it is important to briefly discuss both the history and doctrine of each movement.

The First Wave: The Pentecostal Movement

The Pentecostal movement began under the leadership of Charles F. Parham, a Holiness evangelist and faith healer. While serving as the superintendent of a Bible school in Kansas, Parham lead his students to reading the book of Acts and to search for the "Bible Evidence " of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One of Parham's students, Agnes Ozman, became the catalyst to introduce the school to speaking in tongues. On New Years day in 1901, Ozman had Parham convinced that the experience of speaking in tongues was the initial, physical evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. This belief later became the doctrinal signature of the Pentecostal Movement.

Parham began preaching this new understanding of baptism of the Holy Spirit eventually establishing what was known as the "Apostolic Faith Movement." During this time, while traveling through Houston, Texas, a young African- American Holiness minister by the name of William J. Seymor was touched as well with this new understanding. After working with Parham for a short time in Texas, Seymor moved on to Los Angeles, California where he established the beginning foundation of the movement. Seymor was based in the Azusa Street Mission which became known as the center of Pentecostalism and its main location of growth and expansion [1].

Although Pentecostalism can be traced back into the 1800's, it's emergence can be considered to begin with the Holiness Movement. It was through Holiness churches that Pentecostalism spread and developed it's leaders. The significant difference between the Holiness movement and Pentecostal movement was the insistence on Glossolalia as the necessary evidence of a person's spirit baptism. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit or the ability to speak in tongues was familiar to both groups, but it was the standard for Pentecostalism.

Though most people would state that the use of "tongues" was the main defining feature of the Pentecostal movement, they would be wrong. Tongues is viewed as a sign of the movement's main emphasis in God's plan. Pentecostals believe they are called to achieve two principles. The first is that they are the announcers to Christ's Second Coming. The second is that they are to be witnesses to the events to come in the last days [2].
The doctrine of the Pentecostal movement formed around a term know as the "Four-Square Gospel". This is a term alluding to the city in Revelation 21:16. The four cornerstones of this gospel were:

Personal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ,
Divine Healing,
Second Coming of Christ, and
Spirit baptism with evidence of tongues.

The first article, salvation through faith in Jesus, is the theological center of the movement [3].

From an outsiders viewpoint, a early Pentecostal worship service could have been a very unusual experience. With the expressiveness that occurred within a service, (emotionalism was not discouraged as it was in many other denominations), it was understood that "the Holy Spirit alone should direct the order and conduct of a service [4]." Any type of formality or preparedness hindered the Spirit from freely operating within the congregation. "The ideal service was that which moved from start to finish with no visible sign of any human leadership [5]." Pentecostal's rejected any type of structure or formality believing that they were developing a fresh, unencumbered expression of apostolic Christianity that would restore the faith to it's original unity.
Though intention may have been sincere regarding the freedom of theological expression, conflict arouse concerning doctrinal irregularity. Clashes over interpretation of scripture caused groups to divide. The founder himself, Parham, of the "old" Apostolic faith, and William J. Seymour of the "new" Apostolic faith disagreed with regards to the emotionalism and freedom that should be allowed within a service. Parham considered Seymours church undisciplined, whereas Seymour saw Parham as simply jealous.

Two other areas that have caused division within the body of the Pentecostal movement are the doctrine of sanctification and the doctrine of the Trinity. Sanctification was thought of as a second distinct work of grace subsequent to conversion. Conversion brought justification, but sanctification completed the salvation process by ridding a person of the old sin nature. Pentecostals added the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Later, William H. Durham, argued that Christ's atoning work on the cross had done everything necessary for salvation. Sanctification was now a progressive work, in which "a believer learned to express outwardly what was already an inward reality [6]."

The doctrine of the Trinity brought up another issue regarding baptism. Initially it was understood that baptism was in the "name" of the Father, Son and Spirit. But during a conference to bring unity to the Pentecostal movement, it was noted that the apostles baptized in "Jesus' name" only [7].
Several legalistic distinctives that may or may not still identify Pentecostal's are the banning of chewing gum, neckties, soft drinks, short- sleeved dresses, tobacco, alcohol and movies.

The Second Wave: The Charismatic Movement

Pentecostalism spread into the mainline denominations, and became known as the Charismatic renewal (or movement) It's benchmark organization was the formation of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship, International, in 1951. The president of FGBMFI was Demos Shakarian who was the catalyst for integrating the Pentecostal experience into both mainline Protestant as well as Catholic churches. He and Oral Roberts brought together mainline clergy and laity to interact in a non-threatening setting with white-collar Pentecostal [8]. Initially , the stereotype of Pentecostal's was that they were poor and uneducated. This changed with the integration of the two groups, and the introduction of the Pentecostal experience to Protestant denominations.

What might be understood as the beginning of the charismatic movement was the baptism in the Spirit of Dennis Bennett, rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California. Under the influence of a local group of charismatic laypeople, Bennett led 100 others towards receiving baptism and speaking in tongues. Though he was forced to resign his parish, his case brought national attention surfaced other Protestant Charismatics who had predated him in their experience [9].

Among Protestant Charismatics, the primary doctrinal views of mainline churches are normally maintained. Change more often occurs among non- denominationally-aligned ministries. Arminianism is strongly held in many groups, and the study of the return of Christ is a foundational principle. There is the classical belief in the Trinity, and worship services are focused on praise and blessing. Since their doctrinal centerpiece is still baptism in the Spirit, contemporary Charismatics often encourage individuals to "move up higher" spiritually and are often not satisfied until a person has spoken in tongues [10].

The Third Wave: The Signs and Wonders Movement

What is understood in today's time as the new movement of the Holy Spirit, can be said to be appropriately titled the "Third Wave" or the "Signs and Wonders" movement. Many evangelicals who do not wish to be labeled as charismatic or Pentecostal, yet seek to claim the Holy Spirit's power within, gladly accept this name. Major institutions and figures identified with the expansion of the Third Wave would be Peter Wagner, the Vineyard Church, and it's founder John Wimber.

Peter Wagner

C. Peter Wagner, recognized as a church growth scholar, was originally extremely skeptical of any type of Pentecostal style teaching. While in India doing research, he was miraculously healed of a runny sore on his neck during a healing service. From this point on his opinion changed and he began to research more the Charismatic practices [11].

After taking over his mentor, Donald McGavran's, chair at the Fuller Seminary School of World Missions, he wrote a book entitled Look out! The Pentecostal's are Coming [12]. In it he documented the rise of the Pentecostalism as a major force in missions and his own growing interest in the style and theology of the movement.

Wagner met John Wimber during a time in Wimber's life when he was dissatisfied and confused. He joined Wagner as a church growth consultant with the Fuller Evangelistic Association and the two of them traveled for the next three years consulting with churches throughout the United States. Initially, none of the churches they visited were Pentecostal or charismatic [13].

In continuous prayer, Wimber was still seeking some sort of answer from God. His thoughts were focused on why healing and other miracles were happening in third world countries, but not in North America. He continued to grow disillusioned with the church, especially in the area of the work of the Holy Spirit. Wimber claimed, "There was a lot of action that was called the work of the Holy Spirit, but it was nothing more than human effort in which the Holy Spirit was asked to tag along. I felt that it turned the stomach of God. It certainly did mine and it wore me out [14]."

Eventually, Wimber left Fuller to begin pastoring a church of 50 which had begun as a prayer group led by his wife. This was the genesis of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship

John Wimber

John Wimber was a keyboard musician who played jazz and rock and roll until he came to Christ at the age of 29. When he left the music industry to attend Bible College, he was already recognized as a successful promoter and businessman. His first ministry position saw considerable growth, but after a time, Wimber decided to move on and began working with Wagner at the Fuller Evangelistic Association.

The turning point for Wimber came in 1977 when his wife Carol was dramatically healed of what she called a "personality meltdown." While asleep she dreamed that she was filled with the Holy Spirit and then woke up speaking in tongues. This produced a change in Wimber's attitude from skepticism to openness concerning divine healing [15].

It was 10 months before Wimber saw his first physical healing. He believed that it is possible to heal and exorcise demons just a Jesus did. After repeated alter calls and a minor exodus of some of his congregation, Wimber witnessed and rejoiced when a woman was healed of a fever.

The continued friendship and association with Wagner lead to the opportunity for Wimber to teach a class on "Signs and Wonders" at Fuller Seminary. It dealt with divine healing and became the most popular course at Fuller until it was canceled in 1985 due to some theological and academic questions raised by faculty members.

Wimber wrote a book known as "Power Evangelism" which defines the concept of Kingdom power and it's relationship to evangelism. Power Evangelism is a presentation of the gospel that is rational but that also transcends the rational. The Gospel is related to a person accompanied by a demonstration of God's power through signs and wonders. Power Evangelism is a spontaneous, Spirit-inspired and empowered presentation of the gospel. Power evangelism is evangelism that is preceded and undergirded by supernatural demonstrations of God's presence [16].

In this book, Wimber relates an evangelistic opportunity where God gave him the name of a woman and the word "adultery" printed on the name of a man he met on an airplane. When he confronted the man, the truth of an affair came out and the man accepted Christ on the spot [17].

Within each of the three "waves" there has been a similar desire to draw on a deeper and more person relationship with the Holy Spirit through the spiritual gifts or manifestations. And in the history of each of the waves, conflict or disagreement has caused some type of split or separation. Recently the Vineyard has experienced just this type of separation.

Within the Vineyard movement, several phenomena, which have been called, "manifestations of the spirit," have raised questions not only in the evangelical world, but within the body of the third wave as well. Three of these phenomena are known as: hilarious laughter, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit which causes uncontrollable outburst of laughter during a service; roaring in the Spirit, a "prophetic roar" which is viewed as an announcement of God's intention to take back territory; and animal noises (other than roaring) which at this time has no clear definition, but has been accepted by some churches. Recently, the issue of roaring has been addressed by Wimber, who has requested that it no longer be accepted within the Vineyard Fellowship Churches.

An influential church with regard to the manifestations is the Airport Vineyard Church in Toronto Canada. It is here, through the influence of evangelist Rodney Howard Brown, that hilarious laughter, roaring, and other manifestations of the Spirit were introduced into the Vineyard movement. Wimber and his board, adamant that there be biblical mandate for these types of occurrences, have separated themselves from the Airport Vineyard.


Each of the three "waves" have been characterized by sincere seeking for God's power, rapid growth, and also doctrinal and/or ecclesiastical differences which have led to splintering of the movements. What can we conclude from an observation of these three waves of the Twentieth Century? Are these evidence of an outpouring of God's Spirit? Or are they evidence of human sinfulness and immaturity. Perhaps they are evidence of both.


End Notes
Daniel G Reid, ed Dictionary of Christianity in America. (Downers Grov,IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990,) S.v. "Pentecostalsim," by R. G. Robins.


Ibid, 886.

Ibid, 887.


Ibid 888.

Walter J. Chantry, J. Signs of the Apostles. (Edinburgh:The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 45.

Dictionary of Christianity in America. "Pentecostalsim," 890.

Erling Jorstad, ed. A Charismatic Reader: The Holy Spirit in Today's Church. (New York, New York :Religious Book Club, 1974).

Edward D. O'Connor , Charismatic Renewal. ( London:University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), 113-130.
Ken L. Sarles, "An Appraisal of the Signs and Wonders Movement," Bibliotheca Sacra . (January-March 1988):58.
Gifford, Guy, 1993. "The History and Controversy of Wimbers Signs and Wonders Movement" Class paper, International School of Theology.
Stafford, 17.
Stafford, 19.
Martin Phillip Schoenleber Jr., "John Wimber and the Signs and Wonders Movement: Is Doctrine Prescriptive or Descriptive?", Class Paper, International School of Theology., 5.
John Wimber, Power Evangelism. (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986) 35.
Tim Stafford, "Testing the Wine from John Wimber's Vineyard," Christianity Today (August 8,1986): 21.
Chantry, Walter J. Signs of the Apostles. Edinburgh:The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973.
Gifford, Guy, 1993. The History and Controversy of Wimbers Signs and Wonders Movement, Class paper, International School of Theology.
Horton, Stanley M. Five View on Sanctification. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987.
Jorstad, Erling, A Charismatic Reader: The Holy Spirit in Today's Church. New York: Religious Book Club, 1974.
Reid, Daniel G. ed. Dictionary of Christianity in America . Downers Grov,IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990. S.v. "Pentecostalsim," by R. G. Robins
_______. Dictionary of Christianity in America . Downers Grov, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990. S.v. "Charismatic," by H.D. Hunter
Sarles, Ken L. "An Appraisal of the Signs and Wonders Movement, "Bibliotheca Sacra. (January-March 1988): 57-82.
Schoenleber, Martin Phillip Jr., John Wimber and the Signs and Wonders Movement: Is Doctrine Prescriptive or Descriptive?, Class Paper, International School of Theology.
Stafford, Tim. "Testing the Wine from John Wimber's Vineyard," Christianity Today. (August 8, 1986): 17-22.
Wagner, C. Peter. The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit. Ann Arbor:Vine Books, 1988.
Wimber, John. Power Evangelism. San Francisco:Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.