“I have no right to gossip or slander you all in any way. And I refute and deny any claims that I have. I have purposely kept silent and will not curse you in any way with my words.”
Jane got an email from Gary with those claims the day after a mutual friend called her with a mouthful of gossip, slander and curses Gary spewed about her. In other words, Gary sent the out-of-the-blue email to “refute and deny” gossiping and slandering Jane less than 24 hours after the corrupt communication came out of his mouth. Gary was trying to cover his sin. But it was too late. And Jane’s associate wasn’t the only one who came back to her with a mouthful of Gary’s persecuting words.
See, when someone is gossiping about you, slandering you or otherwise cursing you behind your back, the devil will do everything he can to make sure those words get back to your ears. Much of the time, the gossip, slander and curses just make your accuser look like a fool. Mature, discerning Christians recognize evil speech for what it is, refuse to give an ear to it—and wouldn’t think of spreading it. But the enemy often finds less mature messengers through which to deliver his fiery darts.
Fewer Pentecostals are speaking tongues. Fewer Baptists are getting baptized. Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. But what are we to make of the decline of baptisms in water and in the Spirit? I’ll get to that in a minute.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column entitled, “Are We Pentecostals Losing Our Religion by Holding Our Tongue-Talking?.” In it I referenced an AP report about a small Assemblies of God congregation that looks just like every other Pentecostal church service—except nobody is speaking in tongues.
What I didn’t include are the stats from the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world with 66 million members. At the General Council meeting in August, the AG talked about the decline baptisms in the Spirit.
According to the denomination’s statistics, tongue talking decreased by about 3 percent to less than 82,000. That’s the lowest rate since 1995. How is that even possible, given that Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing sectors of Christianity? The Pew Research Center reports that at least 25% of the 2 billion Christians in the world are connected to the Pentecostal or charismatic movements.
Have you ever been so frustrated with your kids that you raised your voice in frustration? Have you ever yelled and screamed because you were just plain worn out after a hard day of work and fed up with the kids not submitting to your God-given authority?
Parenting experts say screaming at your kids is one of the worst parenting mistakes you can make for several reasons. First, when you resort to yelling, you’ve just demonstrated your lack of self-control—and you lose your power by losing control. Second, the kids usually tune you out when you yell. Third, children often grow more hostile toward you as you holler threats at them that you may or may not be willing or able to carry out.
Ultimately, when you scream at your kids, they lose a measure of respect for you because you’re not confident enough in your authority to handle an attack on that authority without fleshing out.
Now let’s translate that into spiritual warfare. Some spiritual warriors seem to equate volume with power. They scream at the devil as if he’s deaf, but the devil’s not deaf, and screaming doesn’t convince him to bow. When results elude them, some spiritual warriors grow louder and begin to moan and groan and make threats against the enemy they don’t have the authority to enforce.
For all the debate about whether women can be pastors or teach men—or even speak in church—there’s a bigger issue at hand this week as news of a female Baptist pastor getting married to a female quasi-Catholic bishop drives headlines across the country.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams has stepped down from Zion Progress Baptist Church. She was the first female pastor there, but apparently breaking that ground wasn’t enough. Needless to say, most Baptists are shocked at the homosexual revelation.
Abrams, 43, not only married a woman, she also crossed denominational lines to do it. Her newlywed wife is Diana Williams, a bishop emeritus with the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C. They got married in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal. Abrams has kept it a secret from the flock since March.
Is the church dying? Apparently, that depends on whom you ask. Indeed, the life or death of the church of Jesus Christ that was founded more than 2,000 years ago on the Day of Pentecost is a topic of debate in some evangelical circles.
Ed Stetzer, the president of LifeWay Research, author, speaker, pastor, church planter and missiologist, recently penned an article in Christianity Today entitled, “The State of the Church In America: Hint: It’s Not Dying.” His opening sentence makes it abundantly clear where he stands. There’s no tip toeing around the issue or trying to avoid offending anyone who disagrees.
He says, in five words: “The church is not dying.”
“Yes, the church in the West—the United States included—is in transition right now. But transitioning is not the same as dying, particularly if you hold the belief that Christianity is represented by people who live for Christ, not check ‘Christian’ on a survey form,” Stetzer writes.
“While I believe we need to understand reality inside our ranks, I don’t believe the situation is quite as dire as many are making it out to be. Actually, no serious researcher believes Christianity in America is dying. Not one.”
Whether in the world of work or the work of the ministry, everybody likes to feel appreciated for a job well done. But some strive, scratch and claw for promotion.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about hoping God notices your faithfulness, increases your territory, and gives you greater works to steward. But striving for promotion can breed all manner of discord in a church—or in our own hearts.
Nowhere does this manifest more than when someone is overlooked for a promotion they feel they deserve. Maybe it’s a management position in the marketplace or a preaching opportunity in the pulpit—or some other public recognition they’ve been working for. Regardless of the circumstance, our true character is on display when we feel like God has overlooked us for a promotion.
“We must now have the courage to take the final step and call homophobia and heterosexism what they are. They are sin. Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin. Shaming people for who they love is a sin. Only when all our churches say that clearly and boldly and courageously will our LGBT youth be free to grow up in a culture that totally embraces them as they fully are.”
These aren’t the words of an outspoken gay activist at a rally. Or, well, maybe they sort of are. These words came from the lips of Rev. Gary Hall, the dean of Washington’s National Cathedral, in a recent Sunday sermon. Hall was speaking during a weekend that honored lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and commemorated the 15th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death. Shepard was murdered in what gay rights activists call an anti-gay hate crime in 1998. Others claim it was gay propaganda.
But Hall’s sermon wasn’t an isolated instance or any sort of departure from his standard theology—and it wasn’t taken out of context. Earlier this year, Hall announced the Washington National Cathedral would start celebrating same-sex marriages.
In between a sip or two of beer, a group of men delved deeper into the Bible at a bar off Route 67 in Oxford, Conn. last week, the Associated Press reports. The story goes on to paint a picture of men digging deeper for a better understanding of themselves and a better relationship with God.
Is that biblical? The Rev. John Donnelly of Christ Church Quaker Farms thinks so. The way he sees it, a lot of men won’t go to Bible study in church—but they might be willing to listen to Jesus with a cold brewsky in hand.
That’s why he launched a group called Beer, Bible and Brotherhood. The first meeting drew 10 men who downed beer while contemplating Bible verses, the AP reports. He's hoping to build the group of suds-sipping seekers to 50.
“Downstairs in a banquet room Wednesday evening, the men gathered at long tables, with pints in front of a few of them. Donnelly had Samuel Adams Boston Lager, while some sipped Samuel Adams OctoberFest,” the AP says.
"Shall I go up?" David, a mighty warrior for God, asked Jehovah this critical question before running to the battle line—and we would be wise to do the same.
Although we war from a place of victory, rushing into spiritual warfare outside of God’s timing can lead to defeat. Although we are taught to remain on the offensive, presuming to enter a battle God has not called us to fight can be a dangerous mistake. And although we’re in a spiritual war, the battle really is the Lord’s.
"Shall I go up?" Every spiritual warrior needs to ask this question before engaging the enemy. In other words, we need to be led by the Holy Spirit into battle if we want God to lead us into triumph. If we lose a battle, it could very well be that the Holy Spirit didn’t lead us into the spiritual skirmish in the first place.
As the mother of a teenaged daughter, news that nearly 10 percent of adolescents report perpetrating some form of sexual violence in their lifetime disturbs me. The sexual violence list includes coercive sex, forced sexual contact—and even rape.
Can we blame the media? The study’s name, "Growing Up With Media," suggests media is indeed playing a role in flashing images of sexual violence across the eyes of modern youth. Considering the prince of the power of the air is working overtime to pollute our young souls with all manner of immorality and violence, I think laying the some of the blame at the media’s doorstep is appropriate. But laying blame isn’t going to solve the problem. And the problem turns my stomach.
According to the study, 3 in 4 victims were romantic partners of their perpetrators. Coercive language and emotional manipulation are more common than physical force, but let’s not underestimate the lasting impact of words. Sixty-three percent of perpetrators in the study said they used expressed anger toward their victims—or made them feel guilty—to coerce them. Five percent reported using outright threats, and 8 percent admitted using physical force to get their way with their victim.