Rick Warren – One Of The Top Ten Most Influential Leaders Of All Time

To say that Rick Warren is an influential leader at this juncture in history would be a profound understatement. He has consulted with presidents and with paupers. His books have sold over 30 million copies and his Saddleback Church in California sees about 20 000 weekly attendees. Over 400 000 pastors and church leaders have completed his courses and he has more than 1 million followers on twitter.
No stranger to criticism…
Yet despite the fanfare and celebrity, Rick is surprisingly unaffected and extremely candid in his interviews and online communication. And perhaps he has to be, as Rick is watched by Christian critics and secular media closely. He is no stranger to public scrutiny, having been accused of “being a free mason”,  “a new ager” and “the founder of Chrislam” (a religion that blends Christian and Islamic beliefs).
Living under the microscope
For several years now, JOY! has been following Rick’s ministry and evaluating his teachings. We have investigated the claims mentioned above (all mostly based on rumour, malice and ignorance) and found Rick to be a compassionate Christian leader committed to spreading the Gospel through word and deed. He is endorsed by his peers (who include noted theologians such as John Piper) and the Christian community at large.
Tactical faith
Interestingly, despite Rick’s responses to the accusations against him, the detractors refuse to accept the answers. It is almost as if they want to “demonise” him and the way in which he lives out his calling.
Perhaps this stems from a misunderstanding of leadership at that global level – what often seems like a “seeker sensitive” approach by Rick Warren and Co, could possibly be a strategic plan to build bridges and unite on issues of common interest (eg: joining with people of other faiths to take a stand against abortion and protect  the traditional definition of marriage, working toward global peace etc.)
For Rick, this strategy strives to grow the Kingdom of God and advance Biblical values, albeit in a different (tactical) way to how one would work at a grass-roots level.
Answering the detractors
Tackling one of the most persistent rumours, Rick asserts: “The Chrislam [allegation] is 100% false. If the guy who started this libelous myth, or anyone else who passed it on, had obeyed our Lord’s command (Matt. 18:18-20) to come directly to me, and asked what I actually believed – they would have been embarrassed to learn that I believe the exact opposite.
As a 4th generation Christian pastor, my life and ministry is built on the truth that Jesus is the only way, and our inerrant Bible is our only true authority.”
The truth…
“As an evangelist, I spend much of my time speaking to non-Christian groups. You cannot win your enemies to Christ; only your friends, so we must build bridges of friendship and love to those who believe differently so Jesus can walk across that bridge into their hearts.
[We are] commanded by Jesus to love our enemies. In the past ten years, Saddleback Church has baptised over 22 000 new adult believers – simply because we express love to those who don’t know Christ yet.
It is nonsense to believe that you must compromise your beliefs, or water down your convictions in order to love someone, or even just treat them with dignity. Jesus was called “the friend of sinners” by the legalistic Pharisees because he hung out with (and loved) unbelievers. I hope you will:
(1)  Always believe that everyone needs Jesus as their Lord and Saviour
(2)  Have the courage to associate with nonbelievers in order to love them and bring them to Christ
(3)  Consider being called “a friend of sinners” a Christ-like compliment
(4)  Refuse to pass on rumours until you’ve checked for the truth with the person accused. The false statements above should be removed [from the public space, websites and internet blogs].”
Reflecting Christ in the valley
Earlier this year we set up an exclusive interview with Rick and Kay to discuss some of the critiques against their theology, but unfortunately the interview was put on ice after Matthew’s death.
The Warren’s have handled this tragedy with remarkable tenacity and grace. They have tried to remain positive, whilst at the same time working through their grief. The couple have slowed down on their commitments, but have continued to work on their respective projects.
Moving forward in His strength
For Kay, this involves her extensive charity work, for Rick the launch of his new book (‘What On Earth Am I Here For’ an updated version of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’). The two are also passionate about global missions and “attacking the five global giants” of poverty, disease, spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, and illiteracy.  
For Rick, this takes form through ‘The PEACE Plan’ an initiative that mobilises Christians around the world in an outreach effort to demolish these five pillars by promoting reconciliation, equipping servant leaders, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation.
To date they have achieved a phenomenal success rate, helping millions of people and also spreading the Gospel. We wish the Warren’s well and pray for them to always stay true to the Word of God no matter what public pressure is imposed upon them. May they live a life worthy of the calling of the Lord (Ephesians 4:1).
By Jackie Georgiou

Dealing With A Critical Spouse

It has been said that what we focus on becomes larger in our lives. This truism seems applicable not only to the goals and dreams we have (and this can be a good thing), but also for the little annoyances that interrupt our marriage.
Living the dream
Consider Jeremy who is a 45 year old successful banker. He has achieved essentially all of the goals he set for himself twenty years earlier.
He has a thriving law practice, a lovely home and a marriage of 22 years with three vigorous teenage child-
ren. Jeremy is also active in church, where he has filled a number of leadership positions. He loves his church family and the friendships he has made there.
A critical issue
But, Jeremy has a growing problem. He has become more critical as time has gone by on some of his wife’s foibles.
He notices, and comments upon, the house being in disarray during any particularly busy week. He criticises the few extra pounds she has gained over the years. He shows his displeasure in his children’s misbehaviours and less than perfect grades. Jeremy has become critical and vocal about his complaints.
Mountains out of molehills
You might already guess the impact of his negativity on his marriage and relationship to his children. While his perfectionism has helped him thrive financially, it is driving a wedge between him and his wife and children. Furthermore, it seems the more he focuses on these issues, the larger they become to him. He has become miserable over time.
The effect on those around you
To be fair, Jeremy has some awareness that his critical nature isn’t serving him well. He can feel the rift grow in his marriage. He wonders if he is too critical, if he should “let some things go.” But, he doesn’t, and they become a wedge in his relationships.
“I have this feeling that I should cut everybody more slack, but I can’t seem to help it. I see the problems and I want to solve them. I think my wife should lose weight. I think my kids are capable of better grades.
I think our home can be kept neater and my kids can do a better job of helping out around the house.”
“What effect, Jeremy, is your critical attitude having on your relationships?” I asked.
Is criticism helpful?
“Well,” he said bashfully, “you don’t really need to ask that question. My wife doesn’t like me nagging her. My kids run when they see me coming. Even my
colleagues seem to be stepping away from me. It’s not working for me.”
Monitor your behaviour
I applauded Jeremy for setting up this counselling session, and coming to talk to me was taking the first step toward change. He was doing what we call
active monitoring of his behaviour, seeing that if he continued to be critical,
especially in the absence of encouragement, he would lose the respect and closeness with those he cares about. We outlined these additional steps:

Focus on the positive
Like many others, Jeremy has become
obsessed with the negative. As a result, these issues have grown in his mind. What we focus on becomes larger in our minds and so he must find things to compliment his wife and children on. He must have a counter-balance to his destructive tendencies.
Scripture offers this advice: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…think about such things.”
Phil 4:8. Applying this Scripture isn’t just good for our relationships, it’s good for our soul. As we hide Scriptures such as these in our hearts, we find our attitudes changing for the better.

Keep things in perspective
While Jeremy may have justified issues of concern, they must be kept in balance with the larger picture. Is his wife’s weight gain really that significant? Are his children’s grades really that concerning? Is the house really that messy? Often when we focus on a problem, it seems larger than it is in reality.
Talk things through with a friend
Jeremy would do well to find someone to whom he can externalise his concerns. Keeping them bottled up will often only amplify a concern.
Airing them out with a trusted friend will help him gain a healthier perspective.

Positive encouragement
Jeremy may have legitimate concerns, but an obsessive focus on them erodes his well-being and causes a rift between him and those he loves. Criticism rarely changes the issues that concern us. Positive encouragement and support are the factors that often lead to effective change.  

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Centre and has been helping couples in crisis restore their relationships for over 30 years www.marriagerecoverycenter.com

Bishop Denouces The Apostle Paul

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church told listeners, in a sermon she delivered recently, that the Apostle Paul betrayed his understanding of the faith he had been given and was guilty of bigotry in handling a case of demonic possession in a slave girl.
The account in Acts 16 reads thus: “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days.“
The reaction from Apostle Paul
“But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them…to the authorities.” Acts 16:16-19.
A warped interpretation
Mrs Jefferts Schori interprets the story of Paul and the slave girl by accusing the Apostle of spiritual blindness and bigotry. She also includes the issue of same sex relationships that the great Apostle doesn’t even hint at in this passage.
Jefferts Schori opined: “We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the Divine, and instead use other people as means to an end.We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognise that ‘different’ is not the same thing as wrong.
For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected.”
The possessed slave girl
She continued: “There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it. Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves.”
Demon possession – a gift?
Schori insists that: “…Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognise that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so.
The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cell mates spend the night praying and singing hymns.”
Violating the text
The Presiding Bishop totally emasculates the text, making it mean what she wants it to mean, not what it implies or even says.
First of all, the text says nothing about same sex relationships. Nothing. Schori gratuitously throws that in just to let her listeners know where she stands. This is a complete abuse of the text and violates every hermeneutical principle in theology.
Spiritual warfare
Secondly, the Apostle waged spiritual warfare against the slave girl. While he recognised that what she said was true, the source of her authority came from Satan, not from Jesus. Paul, unhesitatingly commands, “in the Name of Jesus” that the “spirit of divination” come out of her. This happened. Paul let the possessed girl follow him around for several days before he cast out the spirit.
Paul’s ministry was being compromised and her cries were in fact counter-productive because he knew she was possessed by something evil, not something good. Paul heals the girl, freeing her from possession. In actual fact, it is not Paul doing the healing, but Jesus Christ whom Paul rightly invokes.
Colossal statements
The Presiding Bishop will have none of that. She says: “Paul is annoyed perhaps for being put in his place”. What? She is making the assumption that somehow it is Paul who is spiritually blind, culture-bound, and bigoted in not seeing “the gift of spiritual awareness” in her. She paints Paul as an intolerant, confused misogynist who needs to be put in his place from a latter day post Christian revisionist like Jefferts Schori.
She then makes the colossal statement that “She (the demon-possessed girl), too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so.” She says that Paul responds “by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.”
A doctrine of diversity
This is sheer spiritual lunacy and a totally invalid interpretation of this Scripture. In fact, she turns Scripture totally on its head abusing the text and context to fit the Procrustean bed of her own “doctrines” of inclusion and diversity.
One orthodox theologian wrote: “Paul is on his missionary journey reaching out to Jews and God-fearers, when he is accosted by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She is twice bound, spiritually and economically, for her masters are making quite a profit by exploiting her occult powers. Yet what engages Paul with her is her spiritual opposition to his mission. Day after day she follows Paul and his team, shouting:  “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you [a way of salvation].”
Compromising the mission
“This announcement both helps and hinders the Mission. To Jewish ears, it rings of truth, using terminology (“Most High God,” El-Elyon) that they considered the Gentile way of referring to the one true God (Gen 14:18-20, Num 24:16, Dan 3:26). But to polytheistic pagans, who were henotheists as opposed to monotheists, there were many “highest gods”, the title had been attached to Zeus, Isis (the mother-goddess of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia), and Baal.”
Reading in context
“A pagan hearer would understand the term to refer to whatever deity he or she considered supreme. And “a way of salvation” – for the pagan, it was release from the powers governing the fate of humankind and the material world. So though initially this declaration may seem to be a help to Paul as it attracts crowds and provides a good starting point for discussing the Gospel with pagans, it has to be corrected each time and thus soon it becomes an annoyance (compare Acts 4:2).
Such Satanic tactics have not changed in two thousand years. To counter them, the message of salvation must always be proclaimed in clarity and fullness, with its Divine source unambiguously credited.”
Residing in the spirit of darkness
Paul’s exorcism occurred via direct confrontation. He turned around and authoritatively commanded the spirit: “In the Name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her.” The results are immediate: at that moment the spirit left.
What the text also concludes is that the extension of God’s Kingdom can only be achieved through liberation of those under Satan’s authority (Acts 26:18). What must I do to be saved? Experience the liberating power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only opens but also cleanses hearts (Acts 15:9).
We see parallels in Jesus’s own ministry in the casting out of demons. Jesus brings release to the captives (Luke 4:18). Jefferts Schori in fact denies that very aspect of truth that advances the Gospel. It is she, not Paul, who is living in spiritual darkness. Her endorsement of the slave girl puts her closer in spirit to her than to Paul the Apostle.
Accusations and assumptions
Paul’s authority and ours is christocentric and derived. Jefferts Schori authority comes from General Convention and whatever crazy resolution is passed that the Episcopal Church wants, or needs to embrace, to fit a small coterie of pansexualists.
One must ask of Jefferts Schori: “Does God’s nature really include demon possession?” For the Presiding Bishop, “The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail, Paul remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cell mates spend the night praying and singing hymns.”
The implication of Schori’s question is that Paul may have forgotten to take his amnesia medication or that somehow he had forgotten God in the first place. One blogger cynically observed that the Presiding Bishop had identified the earliest recorded case of Transient global amnesia.
Schori goes on to cite from the lectionary Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21 where she falsely interprets the Scripture to say: “That the reading from Revelation pushes us in the same direction, outward and away from our own self-righteousness, inviting us to look harder for God’s gift and presence all around us.
Jesus says He’s looking for everybody, anyone who’s looking for good news, anybody who is thirsty. There are no obstacles or barriers – just come. God is at work everywhere, even if we can’t or won’t see it immediately.”
Censoring the Bible
The Presiding Bishop omitted Verse 15 (left out by the lectionary editors) which reads, thusly, “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
Ashamed of the Gospel
Saint John is clearly in sync with the Apostle Paul in identifying evil and demon possession while Jefferts Schori twists it to make the text mean what she wants it to mean, in fact reversing it. Perhaps she was ashamed by the words “the sexually immoral” which would apply to a goodly number of bishops and clergy.
Redefining the Kingdom
Later in her sermon, the PB reveals her deepest need to push the church’s pansexual agenda in just the gentlest way when she says: “Looking for the reflection of God’s glory all around us means changing our lenses, or letting the scales on our eyes fall away. That kind of change isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s the only road to the Kingdom of God.”
Her hope, of course, is that we would see Gene and Mary and Louie and Ernest [all homosexual Anglican clergy] as the true sons of God that the rest of us need to catch up with and ultimately
worship and adore. 
By David W. Virtue DD: a theologically trained journalist. Virtue online is  his site, the world’s largest Anglican news network. Article from:  ww.virtueonline.org

When Christians Die Of Cancer

Doctors confirmed that my friend Benny Benson had a malignant tumour in his spine. He underwent treatment, but in the end more tumours appeared. Nothing could stop the spread of the disease – not radiation, chemotherapy or surgery.
He died ten months later, and I spoke at his memorial service. I still can’t believe Benny is gone.
Losing those we love
More than 500 people attended his funeral. Many of them were college students who had been discipled through Benny’s campus outreach, which he carried out with his wife, Cindy. Like so many of Benny’s other friends and family members, these students had prayed for Benny to be miraculously healed of the cancer.
But in the end, Benny got the ultimate healing – by stepping into eternity.
The big questions
Whenever loved ones are taken from us we ask hard questions. Why does God allow cancer to ravage people’s bodies? Why doesn’t He always heal when we pray? Why would He let a guy like Benny, who was only 58, get sick with cancer when he was seeing amazing results in his campus ministry?
Those of us who wear the charismatic label don’t do well when people die of sickness.We’ve been taught that God “always” heals, especially if we pray according to the latest ‘1-2-3 formula’, if we break every generational curse, and if we bind every demonic power that might be lurking behind the surface.

Your wish is not God’s command, even when it seems important
Miraculous healings do happen sometimes. But when they don’t, we assume we said the wrong prayer, didn’t exert enough faith or harboured some secret sin in our hearts. We trivialise the Lord by turning Him into a genie in a bottle.
We think He exists to perform miracles for us – as long as we rub the lamp the right way and say the right magic words. But that is a silly and immature way to approach an omnipotent God.
We cannot avoid suffering
I didn’t have the answers to such heavy theological questions when I spoke at Benny’s funeral. I prefaced my remarks by admitting that I have never been a fan of the book of Job.
I don’t like reading about a righteous man who lost everything – including his health. I don’t like reading about bad things happening to good people, mainly because I don’t want to face suffering myself. But the book of Job is in the Bible. And it is near the middle of the Bible for a reason.
Praise and trust God
The book of Psalms reminds us that praise will get us through the hard times, Job reminds us that we must keep eternity in mind when we walk through trials. Job had to learn to see life, and death, from God’s wide perspective instead of his puny human viewpoint.
Look upward, do not lose hope
Job’s faith was tested like gold. After he experienced incredible loss, he was able to say: “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.” Job 19:25-26.
Job made that ultimate faith confession in his darkest moment. He stared poverty, hardship, sickness and death in the face and declared that regardless of his circumstances, he would be resurrected and would live eternally with the Lord. He was so secure in his personal relationship with God that the assaults and accusations of Satan did not shake him. He persevered. He held on to faith. And instead of focusing on his bleak circumstances he looked at his bright future in Heaven.
Do not discredit your prayers
That’s how I decided to approach Benny’s death. I refused to ask whether we prayed and fasted enough, whether the healing anointing was strong enough or whether we strained enough in our faith to produce a miracle. The greatest miracle occurred when Benny stepped from this life into the next and began an eternity with Christ.
He now fully understands the words of Jesus in John 11:26: “And whoever lives and believes in Me will
never die.”
Rest in God
Of course we want our loved ones to be healed. Of course we should pray for miracles. But if God does not answer us the way we insist He should, we must rest in His all-knowing sovereignty and rejoice in the fact that Jesus has conquered death.
The power of Christ’s resurrection
Please don’t minimise the wonder of Christ’s resurrection power. Yes, cancer happens. Sometimes it kills people. But cancer doesn’t win when the suffering
person is a Christian.
If the victim of a terminal illness knows Jesus, they will experience the most powerful of all of God’s miracles when they die. We will know the power of that resurrection, too, and we will join them one day in Paradise. 

J. LEE GRADY  is an author, award-winning journalist, ordained minister and ex-editor of Charisma Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady