Category Archives: revival

Marijuana-smoking Shiva devotee could only get free from weed through Jesus

IMG_6354From a very young age, Nepal-born Surya Bhandari had a fervent desire to please the Hindu god Shiva. Because Shiva smoked marijuana, Surya sought to please him by smoking weed himself — starting at age 8.

Then in the sixth grade he learned about the dangers of tuberculosis and cancer from smoking and began to question the wisdom of the god. Also, kids at school started pointing at him as a “bad kid” for his cannabis consumption.

“In my little mind, I started thinking, ‘Why do they call me bad?’” Surya remembers. “‘This great god Shiva smokes marijuana. Why would they call me bad? Is it really bad? If I am bad, then this god Shiva is bad. If he is bad, is he really a god?’”

Surya's as a boy

Surya as a young man

He belonged to the priestly Brahman class, but he turned his back on Hinduism, called himself an “atheist,” started using other drugs and alcohol.

“This Shiva destroyed my life,” he reasoned. “I’m not able to quit smoking marijuana. Someday I’m going to get TB or cancer and I’m going to die, and this god is responsible.

“I became so angry.”

One day he had a dream of being chased by a tall figure clad in a white gown. He thought it was a ghost. It scared him so badly that he didn’t want to go to his usual taekwondo that morning and instead decided to distract himself by reading one of his older brother’s books.

His older brother had either left home or been kicked out — he wasn’t really sure — because he had secretly become a Christian and was attending underground meetings somewhere downtown.

As Surya thumbed through the volumes on the bookcase, he happened to pull out a slim volume, opened it and saw — to his utter surprise — a picture of the same white-clad figure. Suddenly his fear abated, and he continued to read eagerly. “It was God, not a ghost,” he concluded.

Nepalese refugees

Surya with his family today in Los Angeles

From that moment on, he wanted to become a Christian. But attending a church was no easy matter in those days in Nepal. Carrying a Bible was a crime worse than drug trafficking.

But Surya was determined. He begged an old friend of his brother to tell him where he could find the underground church that his brother attended. The young man was backslidden at the time and didn’t want to say anything. But after days of begging, Surya got him to relent and give him some rough directions.

The first chance he got he went eight miles away from his village to Pokhara. He liked the songs and listened intently without understanding much of the sermon. To his surprise after the service, nobody approached him or talked to him to explain things, and he was too shy to ask.

christianity nepal

Revival in Nepal

Maybe people were afraid of the strict anti-proselytizing laws. They could get into a lot of trouble if they were perceived as trying to convert someone. Also, some may have been cautious, because a newcomer might be a spy from the police.

But Surya didn’t understand all of this at the time. It seemed to him that God’s people were indifferent. The next time Surya went to church it was the same. Nobody talked to him. So he quit going.

Then he did something that brought great shame on his family. He flunked out of school. His parents scolded him constantly and his brothers beat him.

So he took to the streets. He would leave before anybody woke up. He would come home, entering through the window, after everybody was in bed. HIs grandmother always saved him some food.

He tried but found that he couldn’t quit drugs. Everybody in town called him a bad kid. Even the principal of the school saw fit to take him aside and rebuke him for bringing shame on his family.

All this was too much for Suryam and he began to contemplate suicide.

“I loved my father so much. I did not want to bring shame on my father,” he says, reasoning to himself at the time: “If I can’t bring a good name for him, I have no right to live.”

He decided to throw himself off a cliff and into a river near his town. Read the rest of Chrisitanity in Nepal

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You can still prosper under pastoral abuse

surviving pastoral abuseFor seven years, Juan Pablo Cardo was stymied in his ministerial call by another pastor in Buenos Aires who envied his charisma.

“He felt like I was a threat and didn’t let me do anything,” the Argentinian says in a Bible conference video. During those years of imposed inactivity, “God taught me patience and humility, just being there, sit down and deal with my pride and many things in my life.”

He didn’t bolt, and his perseverance paid off. Unexpectedly one day, his pastor asked if he want to launch a startup church on his own in Munro, a suburb of Buenos Aires. He offered no financial support. He would get Juan Pablo out of his hair.

juan pablo cardo buenos airesTo weigh and consider this monumental life-altering decision, it took Juan Pablo a full fraction of a nano-second to say yes.

Juan Pablo started a house church with 17 people. They began to tithe and he rented a small store front 9’ by 51’ — all at the time of Argentina’s worse economic crunch.

The work grew, and they rented a bigger building for 120 people on the main avenue in the Munro neighborhood.

revival in argentinaJuan Pablo’s story is one of flourishing under shortsighted leadership. You have to keep your heart from becoming bitter, he says.

“It was a difficult time because it was seven years practically not having a pastor, not having someone to go to who could guide you,” says his wife, Silvina. “I asked God, ‘How long? Where are You?’ I wasn’t complaining but asking God for help. I saw that everyone else had a pastor they could share with. And I didn’t have that for seven years.” Read more about surviving pastoral abuse.

Padina found God in Islamic Iran when her mom had MS

converts from islam iranGrowing up in Iran, Padina memorized the Quran before she started school. She faithfully recited her prayers every day.

“I hated Christians and I became very happy when I found out that they were being persecuted. They always told us that if they killed a Christian, we had a one way ticket to heaven,” she told Hormoz Shariat, president of Iran Alive Ministries.

She was fastidious about applying the Quran to her life. If she forgot the ceremonial washing before prayer, she would stop mid-prayer, go back and wash correctly and start all over again.

Christianity in Iran

“I was a very strong Islamic believer,” she affirmed.

But all her religious piety was in vain. She grew depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide.

“I felt so distant from Allah,” she confided to Hormoz.

Meanwhile, her mother, afflicted by multiple sclerosis, grew deathly ill.

Padina confided to her mother about her suicidal tendencies. Instead of discouraging her, she shocked Padina by asking her to kill her also — a double suicide!

“I will do this for you, and we will both die,” she told her.

But then one day, mom in her deathbed tuned in to the satellite broadcast of Hormoz Shariat, who has been called the “Billy Graham of Iran.”

Hormoz Shariat“If you are hopeless, if you are oppressed, if you are planning to commit suicide, the Lord says, ‘Stop.’ He has a hope and a future for you,” Hormoz said on the broadcast. “If you’re planning to kill yourself, stop and call me right now.”

Padina’s mother was so desperate that she didn’t care that Islam punishes with death those who convert to Christianity. She didn’t care that the Koran dooms all “apostates” to hell. She didn’t care, so she dialed.

After conversing for half an hour with Hormoz, she repented of her sins and received Jesus into her heart with the prayer of faith.

Meanwhile, her daughter was watching from the kitchen with alarm. Read the rest of how Christianity revival in Iran.

At long last revival comes to Spain

559662fb0e300_557effad207e6_marcha9There was a time, during the reign of Franco, when Spain was arguably more Catholic than Italy. Evangelicals were forbidden to evangelize, meet outside their homes or print religious materials. Nevertheless a small band of fervent faith grew mostly in the independent region of Barcelona.

But now, the country – technically and symbolically part of the so-called 10-40 window most resistant to the Gospel – is experiencing unprecedented revival. Two new churches open every three weeks, and there are now 4,045 houses of worship, according to a new survey.

franco persecution of christians

Franco

More than 80 new places of worship opened in the last six months of 2017, according to the bi-annual report of the Observatory of Religious Pluralism of Spain’s Justice Ministry.

The growth is being consistently sustained, according to Maximo Alvarez, head of In Depth Evangelism in Spain.

“The figures keep growing thanks to initiatives of church planting that are being carried out by churches and denominations,” Alvarez told Christian Today.

Spain had been slow to catch on to the trend in Latin America, its former colonies, where the Gospel has spread like wildfire. From 1900 to 1960, 90 percent of Latin Americans identified as Catholics, but according to Pew Research the number has fallen to 69 percent. One in five Latin Americans consider himself Protestant.

marcos vidal

Marcos Vidal, Spanish Christian singer

Meanwhile, Muslim houses of worship also grew to nearly 1700 in Spain.

Historically, Spain was hostile to the Gospel. While England, Germany, France and Switzerland experienced the Protestant Reformation, Spain sponsored the Inquisition to stamp out similar movements with appalling tortures and lynchings.

Then, Francisco Franco took over in 1939. While officially neutral in World War 2, the dictator was fascist friendly. Political opposition was squelched mercilessly.

Franco was also deeply Catholic and actively repressed evangelical movements. It was said, “Franco was more Catholic than the Pope himself.” Religious “freedom” under Franco meant Christian evangelicals were only allowed to conduct church services in their homes, even with their own families. No visitors were allowed. Read the rest of revival in Spain.

God in Gotham: Finally revival comes

statue-of-liberty-new-york-cityNew York City – never considered the spiritual heartbeat of America — is now experiencing revival, especially among millennials flocking to upbeat services with vibrant faith communities.

“A lot of people told us, ‘this is the graveyard of churches. Don’t go there. All the hipsters won’t want to come to church.’ We felt that’s the best place to be, where no one wants to go to church,” said Josh Kelsey, senior pastor of C3 Brooklyn Church.

In 1989, less than 1% of city residents attended church, according to CBN. But now about 5% goes to church, and there are hundreds of churches, big and small, scattered throughout the city.

c3-brooklyn

The C3 Church in Brooklyn

“New York has reached the tipping point,” CBN concluded. If current trends continue, it could become a majority Christian city by the year 2026, according to CBN.

It turns out that Batman is not going to save Gotham City. Jesus is.

The formula for success has been to revive the unchanging elements like prayer and Bible study while changing the liturgy and relational dynamics to fit the multi-cultural, educated population of the city, pastors say.

“Church for me was a place where I always felt I had to be perfect,” said one church-goer. “C3 allows me to embrace my imperfections and know that God still loves me regardless. So it’s changed my perspective because I know I can still be a human and still beloved by God, which is not an idea I had before.”

josh-kelsey

Pastor Josh Kelsey

A 2013 Barna survey found 32% of residents of the Big Apple considered themselves born-again, up from 20% in the 1990s, Religion News Service reported

“New York City is not known as a particularly religious place,” the RNS article stated. “But it is more spiritually active today than even 2001 in the wake of 9/11.”

The Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed Churches were strong in New York City in the early 1800s but began to misfire as the city grew and changed its ethnic makeup, according to Pastor Tim Keller, a prominent minister in NYC.

When Catholic immigrants flooded Lower Manhattan in the 1880s, churches found themselves with fewer and fewer members. Restaurants, stores and theaters burgeoned, supplanting churches as a social gathering place. Many churches moved out of the ethnic downtown, and others built houses of worships in a fruitless effort to attract congregations, Keller said.

With numbers dwindling, churches grasped for fixes. Charles Briggs of Union Theological Seminary tried modernizing the message, teaching that much of scripture contains error. This gave rise to liberal Chrstianity, and instead of attracting followers with a more “intellectually reasonable” message, it finished off local churches, Keller said. Read the rest of the article.

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revival

Not sure why we are obsessed with mega-church pastors. Not even Jesus did that.

No, Jesus prepared for revival after His departure. He sent out 12 with full power, then again 70. He was training and equipping followers for when He would no longer be with them.

I must confess I fell into the nobody-can-do-it-as-good-as-me trap once. God slapped me across the face for my selfish pride. I would do everything: teach, preach, sing, evangelize. Then He allowed my voice to get damaged. I had to relinquish singing.

Others could rise up and get ready for ministry. They could practice with live experience and do start-ups with confidence. Why had I been so blind?

A key to revival? Don’t be a ball hog.

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