A Message From Pope Francis To All Born-Again Christians

Following the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, a papal conclave elected Argentine Jorge Bergoglio as his successor. He chose Francis as his papal name in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit pope and a few months after his election, the newly elected Pope met with Jesuit students of all ages.
A new pope, with a new approach
In a brief Q&A session, a little girl asked Francis if he wanted to be the Pope. He made a few jokes before getting serious and flatly saying, “I didn’t want to be pope.”
Ever since his election, Pope Francis has taken a series of actions that seem to be very, well, un-popelike: He used public transportation as a cardinal, lives in smaller quarters than he could and he humbles himself to ask others for their blessing and prayers.
The people’s pope
Never before has a pope become so widely accepted by Protestants and Evangelicals. As you look at the stories surrounding the new pope, it’s very difficult to dislike him. Through his actions and profound, visible humility, Pope Francis has demonstrated not only Christ-like rhetoric, but also exemplary Christian behaviour. This has brought him respect across the spectrum of Christianity.
Demonstrating Christ-likeness
Before delivering his message at the Holy Thursday Mass last year, Pope Francis spent time on his knees, washing the feet of young women incarcerated at a nearby prison. This was the first time a pope has ever washed the feet of women – not to mention that one of them was a Serbian Muslim, which is another break in papal tradition.
This type of servant leadership is precisely what has connected the new pope to our younger, more cynical generation. He is breaking the rules in the right places: where they shouldn’t exist.
Embracing humility, rejecting pomp
As Pope Francis accepts his role, a new generation of Evangelicals accepts theirs. As young Evangelicals have rejected the megachurch and the televangelist and embraced a more rugged, grassroots Christianity, these actions by the Pope fit perfectly. He has refused to live in the massive papal quarters in Rome and has chosen to live in the guesthouse, instead.
The youth’s choice
These small things go beyond his radical, public acts of humility and reveal his dedication to simplicity. As Pope Francis leads in simplicity and continues to dedicate himself to living in this way, it will only increase his popularity.
The Pontiff’s simplicity carries over to his language, too. Catholics have always had trouble connecting their message to young people. Many who grew up in the Catholic Church struggled to connect with its liturgy and message. To a newcomer, it’s often overwhelming. But Pope Francis’ language is accessible and concise, which works perfectly with the Twitter-speak of young Christians. His quotes are simple, yet profound: “The Church is a love story, not an institution” and “War is madness. It is the suicide of humanity.”
A contrast to evangelical excess
As we scour the landscape of Evangelical leadership (authors, speakers, mega-church pastors), it is difficult to find a man like Francis. In the age of best-selling books and church auditoriums, we do not see many leaders take the route of Pope Francis. And perhaps this is why the people appreciate him so much: he is leading us in a way we are not leading ourselves right now.
For Catholics and Protestants alike, Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air. He did not see the office of Pope as something to be grasped, but instead made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, which is an imitation of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).
A servant leader
This adoption of servanthood has turned critics into followers. Because it’s difficult to be critical of someone who serves the poor and spends time with the victims of the world’s worst violence. Pope Francis knows what
Jesus knows and what many so often forget: True power comes from true humility, and true leadership comes out of true service. 1
So who is this pope?
For many born-again Christians who have never specifically been interested in the Catholic Church or the Pope, Francis has been a figure of curiosity and commendation. Born in 1936 in Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario
Bergoglio, worked briefly as a chemical technician and nightclub bouncer, before beginning seminary studies.
He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, and became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998 and later a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.
Throughout his public life, both as an individual and as a religious leader, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths. He is known for having a simpler and less formal approach to the papacy.
His position on key Biblical issues
The Pontiff has affirmed Biblical doctrine on abortion and homosexuality. Whilst maintaining the Church’s teaching against homosexual acts, he has said that gay people should not be marginalised. As a cardinal, he opposed same-sex marriage in Argentina. Furthermore, he has emphasised the Christian obligation to assist the poor and the needy. To the disdain of some Christians, he has promoted interfaith dialogue, though merit can be made for his role in furthering peace negotiations in the fractious Middle East battles. Not one to shy away from criticism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has also announced a zero-tolerance policy towards sex abuse in the Church.
Building bridges amongst all men
Bergoglio’s approach to relationships with Evangelicals are one of “building bridges and showing respect, knowing the differences, but majoring on what we can agree on: on the divinity of Jesus, His virgin birth, His Resurrection, and the Second Coming.
Recently the Pope made a video which is essentially a message to all Christians who identify themselves as born-again. This would include Charismatics, Evangelicals, Traditionals as well as general “Bible Christians.”
A ground breaking video
In his video (which was shown at a Kenneth Copeland conference), Pope Francis makes a heartfelt plea for Born Again Christians to recognise Catholic Christians as spiritual “brethren” and thus embrace each other as such. It is an appeal to recognise and acknowledge Catholics as Christians, and work together in the years ahead, to try to bring unity between the groups. There are no calls for conferences, or meetings, or ecumenical synods.
In the video, the Pope promises to pray for born-again Christians and sends them his blessing. Likewise he asks for the same prayer and blessing in return. Some of the content covered in the video is as follows:
Affirming what Catholics believe
“For those of you who are born-again Christ-ians, there are some common questions you may have about Catholic Christians. Perhaps some of these facts below will be of help…

We Catholics are Christians. We are very ancient Christians from a very ancient Church.
We Catholics only worship God as the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We do not worship anyone or anything else. We do not worship Mary. We do not worship the pope. We Catholics trust in Jesus Christ as our one and only Saviour and Lord. We regularly ask Jesus to live inside of us every week at holy mass.
We Catholics confess our sins to priests, but we ask for forgiveness from God.
We Catholics do not believe we are saved by our good works apart from God’s grace.We believe God’s grace is present in everything, both our faith and our works, and that it is the Lord alone who saves us through Jesus.
We Catholics do pray to Mary and the Saints, but when we do, we do so through the Holy Spirit, because we know that to the Christian “death has no sting” and that means the dead in Christ are not dead at all. They are just as connected to the Holy Spirit as we are, if not more so. Protestants may not agree with it, and that is fine, but there is nothing in the Bible against it.
We Catholics acknowledge, as a matter of faith, that Protestants (those baptised in the name of the Trinity) are our spiritual brethren in Christ. This is written into our Catechism and the most important documents of the Church.” 2

Attempting to foster unity
Pope Francis became the first pope to make an official visit to a Pentecostal church, after he recently spoke at the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in the southern city of Caserta, Italy. The Pontiff apologised for persecution of Pentecostals the Roman Catholic Church was involved with in the past, and reached out with friendship to Evangelicals.
“Among those who persecuted and denounced Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazy people trying to ruin the race, there were also Catholics,” Francis said, referring to Italy’s fascist regime when the Pentecostal practice was forbidden.
“I am the pastor of Catholics, and I ask your forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who didn’t know and were tempted by the devil.” Francis spoke before 350 worshippers at the church and met privately with the Pentecostal preacher Giovanni Traettino.
Acceptance by some in Evangelical quarters
Traettino returned the sentiment, and called Francis “my beloved brother” when welcoming him to the church. He added that there is “great affection” for Francis even among Evangelicals, and said that many pray for the Pope every day. “Many of us, in fact, believe your election as Bishop of Rome was the work of the Holy Spirit,” the Pentecostal pastor added.
Francis and Traettino first met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1990s, where the pastor was establishing ties between Charismatic Catholics and Pentecostal Protestants.
Francis has reached out to other Christian denominations as well with a message of Christian unity, and in June told Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a meeting, that their division is a hindrance to preaching the Gospel.  “We cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world,” Francis told the Anglican head. Pope Francis urged Christians to celebrate their unity and their diversity, the latest in a string of ecumenical overtures toward Protestants.
Reticence and warning from other Evangelical leaders 
Despite Pope Francis’s unprecedented visit to a Pentecostal church and apology for past treatment of Pentecostals by Catholics, many Italian Evangelical leaders remain concerned about how Evangelicals in the United States (and other nations) are cosying up to the popular pontiff.
“There is much naiveté and superficiality,” wrote Italian church planter Leonardo De Chirico. “Some analysis is based on personal impressions or the seemingly Evangelical language of the Pope, or on truncated bits of information that fall short of taking notice of the complexity of Roman Catholicism.”
An overwhelming majority of Italy’s Evangelical churches and organisations – including leaders for the Italian Evangelical Alliance (IEA), the Federation of Pentecostal Churches, and the Assemblies of God in Italy – agree with De Chirico (or at least did so before the Pope’s apology). The statement stresses that “it is incompatible with the teaching of Scripture to have a church that operates as mediator of salvation and that presents other figures as mediators of grace since God’s grace comes to us by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8) and without the agency of other mediators (1 Timothy 2:5).”
Church leaders also note that “What appear to be similarities with the Evangelical faith and spirituality of sectors of Roman Catholicism are not, in themselves, reasons for hope in a true change.”
United we stand, divided we fall…? 
Brian Stiller, the World Evangelical Alliance’s global ambassador, explained the rationale behind building bridges with the papacy: “I know some will wonder if we lack discernment, dining as we did with the head of a church many see as heretical…No one is interested in rewinding the clock. Such plans do not lead us to fulfil Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that we be one in Christ. My counter argument to those who might dismiss friendship with the Pope, is this: for Evangelicals and Protestants, of all shapes and sizes, the state and condition of the Roman Catholic Church matters. Of the over 2 billion Christians, one-half are linked to the Vatican. In places where Evangelicals are marginalised, having this official connection allows us to raise issues and ask for responses we would never otherwise get.”3
With Catholic Church membership in 2011 at 1.214 billion (17.5% of the world population), it seems Stiller has a valid point. With the rise of extremist Islamic terrorists, liberal Western governments, and increasingly apathetic young people, perhaps the time has come for Christians to find common ground with their Catholic counterparts, and, following the Pope’s example, reach out to a lost and dying world. 
By Jackie Georgiou

Gap Year

Every year, multitudes of scholars write their matric exams and face the prospect of going out into the big wide world. Yet, there are such vast arrays of career choices available, that many are bewildered and unsure of which direction to follow. Gap-Year Programmes offer an ideal environment in which to find clear direction for the future, while having fun and being trained in many short-term qualifications.

In this year’s Gap year issue, you can read about the following exciting programmes:
– What To Study?
– South African Music Institute: Live Your Dream
– 13th FLOOR: Where Stories Belong
– Beyond Adventure: A Year Of Living Adventurously
– Metamorpho: Discover Your Personal Significance
– Wortelgat: Find Your Purpose In God
– Treverton G.A.P. Year: A Multifaceted Launch Pad For Life
– Victory Gap Year
– 3D Outreach: Where Will You Leave Your Mark?
– Hatfield Worship Academy and Gap Year

Sexual Atheism

The guy sitting across from me is a professing and practising Christian. He drops by my office unannounced to talk to me about his new online dating life. Specifically, he wants to talk about the over-willingness of Christian women he has encountered on several of his dates who want to jump right from a very public conversation and vanilla latte at Starbucks to very private whispers and physical exchanges between the sheets back at his place.
Entering a sexual fog
Usually this gender scenario is reversed, but the sex, love and dating landscape continues to move in a progressively liberal direction among Christians without any solid indicators that it will change anytime soon. Both sexes today, across all ages and Christian demographics, are prone to compartmentalise their faith away from their sexual life.
While Christian singles report praying and church attendance are highly desirable qualities in the dating matrix, a troubling and confusing dichotomy arises when the issue of sex before marriage presents itself.
Specifically, single Christians enter a sexual fog. That fog clouds and hides the reality that an identity rooted in Christ should manifest itself in intelligent and hope-filled sexual restraint based on God’s promises and instead replaces it with fear and pride-filled choices based on some other promise they believe more.
Identity versus activity
In a recent study, Christian singles between the ages of 18 to 59 were asked, “Would you have sex before marriage?” The response? 63% of the single Christian respondents indicated “yes”. In my 30 years of youth and adult ministry experience, this is as unfiltered, direct and honest as a question and answer can be. It is equally honest to say that nearly nine out of ten self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists. In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least, anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct. It is the ultimate oxymoron.
A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot, or will not, inform their thinking or living sexually. It reminds me of those famous words in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46. There is a disconnection between identity and activity.
A morally corrupt trend
If you let the paint mentally dry on the statistic above and the perception about God it reflects for a moment, perhaps my contention of sexual atheism won’t seem so far-fetched. No amount of hand-wringing at the morally corrupt entertainment world or raucous deploring of immoral political philosophies invading our nation can explain this one.
No, our life in Christ and for our Lord reflects our real view of God. These are the adults who populate our weekend services, attend our Bible studies, download our podcast messages, pray regularly and who have Jesus Culture, Hillsong and Maroon 5 in their playlists.
Having tracked this trend among youth for decades, it is no surprise to me that the broad spectrum of single adults – yesterday’s youth – both feel and act this way. We should really make an effort to not be too shocked or surprised. Jesus Himself said it would trend this way.
Self-styled Christianity
The Apostle Paul forewarned the very single, very godly Timothy that there would be times in his ministry when clear and sound doctrine in Scripture would be defeated by broken culture teaming up with the ever-present and self-serving nature within every Christian.
He accurately forecasted a self-styled Christianity that reflected culture over the character of Christ in personal moral spaces and practice. And nothing, from any frame of reference, is more personal and more moral than our choices regarding sexual expression. It’s where the spiritual rubber really hits the road. But interestingly, Paul’s counsel to Timothy for that time when he saw these trends manifesting on a grand scale was this: “Be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.” 2 Tim 4:5. Solid, timely and reliable advice like this was needed then and is really needed now.
Be serious
As God’s men and women, as fathers and mothers, as pastors and lay ministers and as loving brothers and sisters, we too must keep our heads clear. We must do our work in the midst of this attack on the Body of Christ and fulfil our ministries in the midst of this spiritual battle. We must faithfully and directly speak into the relevant spiritual and practical themes that are at the root of the issue instead of wasting our time bemoaning the symptoms these statistics represent.
Discipline before marriage
We must graciously but prophetically call out the short-sightedness of Christians who are borrowing trouble sexually and sinning against God and others in the process through our messaging and ministries.
We must confront ourselves and our brothers and sisters with the veracity, authority and loving transparency of Scripture, which reflects God’s love and wisdom in life-saving and marriage-saving ways. That is, we must point out the truth that if I am undisciplined sexually before marriage and willing to compromise my convictions before marriage, a wedding ring will not make me disciplined after marriage. But most importantly and practically, we must avail ourselves of the ministries, tools and resources that are speaking into this clearly massive hole of spiritual life and practice among our single brothers and sisters.
Liberal sexuality
The love, sex and dating forecast among adult single believers for the foreseeable future is this: cloudy with a chance of fear and pride. Instead of believing that God knows better, Christian adults will believe they know how to meet their needs better or, on the more arrogant end, that they know better when it comes to sex and dating, period.
To say that professing or self-described Christians are becoming more liberal means that their reference point for assessing and practicing sexuality is more cultural and personal rather than Biblical or spiritual. It means that they possess a low view of God and Scripture and a high view of self and culture as the key drivers of their moral and sexual behaviour.
Don’t take the bait
Practical sexual atheism among Christians says that God can speak into some areas of their lives, but not sex. This ultimate expression of self-deception and loss of mind goes all the way back to the garden, when a certain character asked Adam and Eve: “Did God really say that?” They took the bait and, apparently, so are the majority of single Christians in the garden of love, sex and dating. They are listening to the voice that says, “Eat and have your eyes opened.” Like the first couple, God’s single men and women are letting fear win over faith and curiosity win over Christ with inevitable and untold prices to pay.
Engage the culture and teach them
It is not a time to act high and mighty. It is time to act graciously, but truthfully, with our single brothers and sisters. For they, along with us, will have that moment in front of the living Christ, and we want that moment to be the best it can possibly be.
To realise such an epic and eternal moment, we not only have to pray for them, but we also have to equip them practically with the best possible teachings and tools that serve to restore a vision of God that transforms them in their context. We have to engage the culture, not run. 
KENNY LUCK  is the founder of Every Man Ministries and the men’s pastor at Saddleback Church. For more info: www.everymanministries.com

7 Warning Signs

As the backslidden grandson of a fiery tent-preaching revivalist, I had spent a great deal of my life in the church by the age of 19.  I was a talented hypocrite, playing the part on Sunday but living as I wished when Monday came.
Apparently I had enough people fooled to be chosen as a leader in the church. I didn’t know if this said more about my skillful
deception or their level of desperation. The warning signs were present if only someone had exercised enough discernment to see them.

The doctor’s visit
I was dying spiritually and needed help. Thankfully this came in 1996, when revival broke out  in our little church during an ice storm. Jesus, the great physician, presented me with a diagnosis and prescription for my spiritual condition. It was painful but also initiated healing!
There are seven questions for self-discovery posed by the great theologian A.W. Tozer. These questions, if answered honestly, speak volumes about our spiritual health. They are:
-What do we want most?
-What do we think about most?
-How do we use our money?
-What do we do with our leisure time?
-What kind of company do we enjoy?
-Who and what do we admire?
-What do we laugh at?
I make it a point to frequently ask these questions of myself. With these in mind, I want to describe seven signs indicating a need for revival in your own life:

1. You are entertained by things that once grieved you
When I got saved, I cleaned up my life and cleaned out my house. I filled up several garbage cans with worldly items that I had collected over the years. No one told me to do this. I simply had such a pure love for the Lord and I didn’t want anything to come between me and Him. I was breaking up with the devil and no longer had a need for any of these articles of worldly affection.
However, any home that has been swept clean will once again become dirty if it’s not maintained daily. Over time, it’s easy to drop our guard and let things back into our lives that we once shook off.
Are you turning on TV programmes that once you would have turned off? When is the last time you walked out of a movie because you were grieved that they profaned the Name of your God? Are peers comfortable sharing obscene jokes in your presence, or do they change their tone when you’re around?

2 You are silent where you  once spoke out
Asking a Spirit-filled man to be silent is as futile as asking a lit candle not to shine. Jesus said, “You will receive power when My Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses.” Acts 1:8. The truest evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a tongue that has been set free and set on fire with the Gospel.
Remember when you were first saved and  you wanted to share the experience with your friends and family. Do you still have that boldness, or has your voice grown still? Your silence may be the sign of a backslidden heart.
When is the last time you shared your faith? Do you speak up when a wrong must be made right? Are you silent where you should speak? It is time to once again find your voice!

3 Your prayer closet has  cobwebs and your Bible is dusty
No man is greater than his own prayer life. The believer that doesn’t spend time on his face before the Lord and reading the Word is  telling the Lord, “I can do this on my own.” 
Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matt 4:4. He didn’t say ‘proceeded’, but ‘proceeds’. It’s not just important what has God spoken to you in the past, but what He says to you today!
When life throws a problem your way, is prayer the first place you turn, or the last? What did God show you in His Word today? When is the last time you spent quality time with the Lord? If you were as lukewarm in your vocation as you are in your devotion, how long would it be until you were out of work?

4 You’re more likely to criticise your pastor than to contemplate his message
When you walk out of church, are you thinking about what you disagreed with in the message, or do you take it to heart? Criticism is a sure symptom of a heart that is becoming hard.
I’ve learned in my own life that when I am criticising another person, it says more about me than it does about them. Why not attend church this weekend and ask the Lord to speak to your heart and change your life through the words spoken from your pastor?

5 You excuse sin
Sin is anything Jesus wouldn’t do. I like this simple and straightforward definition. If Jesus wouldn’t go there, do that, drink that, smoke that, say that, listen to that or watch that, then it is sin and has no place in the life of a son or daughter of God.
Jesus set the standard pretty high. He said, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” Matt 5:48. The writer of Hebrews tells us to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord,” Heb 12:14. This is impossible to achieve if you attempt to do it in your own strength.
Are you tolerating habits and addictions? What are the hidden things in your life which you are excusing but wouldn’t want anyone else to find out about? If you have sin in your life, don’t excuse it. Confess it!

6 You’re looking for the “dislike” button on this article
Solomon wrote, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful,” Prov 27:6.
If I’m sick, I want a doctor to diagnose the problem, not tell me how great I am. If I’m unhealthy, I want a good friend to care enough to confront me about my eating habits. If I’m swimming in a mountain of debt, I don’t need a friend offering me another loan; I need a true friend to cut up my credit cards.
Yes, it hurts the ego or pride to be told that something is off. But those wounds are faithful if they come from a friend who loves us. If someone is always telling me how great I am and how blessed God wants me to be but never steps on my toes in areas where I’m falling short, do they really care about me? Sometimes caring means confronting!
If this message seems offensive to you, don’t criticise the writer. Cross-examine the reader!

7 You have a deep hunger for something more!
Tozer said, “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.”  How true that is.
It’s almost been twenty years since I found God at the altar of a church, yet I still pursue Him every single day. After all these years, I still hunger for more. Here are the experiences of some saints who inspire me to press in deeper:
-Enoch walked with God (Gen 5:24)
-Moses spoke with God face to face as a friend (Ex 33:11)
-Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up (Is 6:1)
-Peter watched as Jesus pulled back His humanity and exposed His Divinity (Matt 17:4)
-Paul was taught by Christ (Gal 1:12)
-John was called up to Heaven, where he saw Jesus upon His throne (Rev 20:11)
-Edwards and Wesley awakened a nation
-Charles Finney was baptised in waves and waves of liquid love
-William Seymore lived in the glory cloud for four years at Azusa
-Smith Wigglesworth raised the dead back to life.

I am jealous of their God encounters and will not be denied my own!  The Lord is no respector of persons and will satisfy us to the depth of our hunger for Him. My friend, if you’ve slowed or even stopped your pursuit of God, let these words stir you. There is more! If you see that you are in need of revival, be encouraged. It is not far from you. “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8. 
DANIEL K. NORRIS is an evangelist who worked alongside Steve Hill bringing the message of revival and repentance to the nations. For more info: