Preaching to the Back Row

When he stands in a pulpit on a Sunday morning to kick off a prayer seminar at a church where he’s been invited, Assemblies of God ordained evangelist Kevin Senapatiratne sometimes wears a “superhero” T-shirt under his sports coat, displaying the logo to the congregation.

“Prayer is not just for ‘Super Christians,’ ” says Senapatiratne, who runs a ministry called Christ Connection. “It’s for those in the back row who think prayer is not for them.”

Whether it’s inertia, fear, or some other factor, it’s not unusual for as many as 90 percent of a given congregation to be uninvolved in corporate prayer. Most pastors need, and want, prayer support, but sometimes the band of prayer warriors upholding a leader in prayer is small.

Changing those numbers is one reason why Senapatiratne, based in Blaine, Minnesota, 18 miles north of Minneapolis, starts his “Enjoying Prayer” workshops on Sunday mornings. That’s when the greatest number of people is at church. He also uses social media, particularly Twitter, to share encouragement about praying with over 100,000 followers in 140 countries.

“Those who think prayer is intimidating aren’t going to show up on a Saturday,” he says.

Senapatiratne’s motivation to involve more people in prayer stems from his own experience serving as a pastor of an AG church plant in 2005.

“Sometimes people think prayer is kind of overwhelming to them, and so we try and engage them so they can discover prayer is something they get to do, rather than something they have to do,” Senapatiratne says.

It’s not a matter of addressing God in letter-perfect King James English, he says.

“People think prayer is overwhelming because maybe they’ve gone to a prayer service and they’ve heard someone pray an eloquent prayer,” Senapatiratne says. “They think, I can’t pray like that, so then why even bother, rather than viewing it as a conversation with a Father who loves them.”

AG Minnesota District Superintendent Clarence St. John says a spiritual awakening is happening across the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“I’m really thankful for every church and every person that highlights prayer,” St. John says. “Kevin has raised the level of prayer and expectancy just by the work he’s done.”

St. John, who also is on the Christ Connection advisory council, says he has noticed an impact in the areas Senapatiratne has visited.

“He’s not self-serving at all, and he gets a great response,” St. John says. He notes that Senapatiratne often receives commitments from 20 to 30 percent of local congregants to pray for their pastor.

“Any time you get that percentage of your church praying, you’re going to have a spiritual awakening happen,” St. John says.

Senapatiratne believes when the percentage of congregants praying for their pastor exceeds 10 percent, a church begins to see God move. He maintains that conveying prayer as an enjoyable experience can flip a switch for many members.

While hoping to expand his speaking and seminar ministry beyond the Midwest, Senapatiratne is already achieving global reach for the Christ Connection ministry via Twitter.

“We try to do daily stuff with social media,” he says. “Multiple times a week we’ll do either a video training or a written training of some fashion or form, and monthly, there’s some type of email-type training we send out to people who are signed up for that.”

He says 250 pastors around the world have signed up for email training focused on their needs.

“It’s amazing to see someone in some closed country reply and say, ‘thank you for your tweets, your encouragement,’ ” Senapatiratne says. “We’ll post a Scripture verse or a classic quote on prayer, and see a pastor in a remote village who doesn’t have a lot of resources give that kind of response.”

Photo credit: Maija Photography

Source: AG News

California Bill Threatens Christian Higher Education

Religious liberty in our country is in dire peril. The latest example of this is a legislative act currently before the California legislature. Please read the following letter from the president of Vanguard University, Dr. Mike Beals. I appeal to the Assemblies of God family to lift up this matter in prayer.  I also appeal to all of our California ministers and constituents to call the state legislators in your district of residence and express your deep concern over this piece of legislation, along with a request that they oppose this legislation.

-George O. Wood, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God (USA)


Dear Vanguard Community,

I am reaching out to inform you of a bill currently before the California State Legislature. This is a call to action. California Senate Bill 1146 would significantly challenge Vanguard University’s right to continue in our Christ-centered mission of 96 years.

Vanguard and other faith-based colleges and universities across the State continue to work in good faith with California lawmakers to find an agreeable compromise on the language of this legislation. If passed without amendment however, SB 1146 would have the devastating impact of eliminating faith-based higher education in California.

As the president of Vanguard University, I am asking for your partnership on this critical issue. If you are a California resident, I am asking that you contact your California State Assembly Member to voice your concern regarding SB 1146, and urge your Member to preserve Vanguard’s founding and guiding mission based upon our religious beliefs and convictions.

In its current form, SB 1146, authored by State Senator Ricardo Lara (D – Bell Gardens), seeks to restrict the state religious exemption that allows Vanguard and other faith-based institutions the right to operate according to our religious mission and identity. SB 1146 erodes the religious liberty of all California faith-based universities that integrate faith and learning throughout the entire campus educational experience. This means that mission-based aspects of religious colleges and universities, which include prayer in classes, chapel services, spiritual formation activities and faith-infused curriculum, as well as requiring a statement of faith for admission and requiring ministry-based service experiences  would be at risk if SB 1146 is passed as is.

SB 1146 represents a fundamental shift away from the State’s historic commitment to provide “educational access for all.” The choice of, and access to, a faith-based education for tens of thousands of California students would disappear.

Since 1920, our faith-based mission has driven Vanguard to prepare students for effective service in our communities, country, and the world. Faith-based institutions of higher education across our state and the nation make a profound contribution to the intellectual quality and common good of our society. These contributions are possible because of our deeply held religious convictions. Our presence in society enriches it. We provide economic vitality to our communities. A Vanguard education cultivates seeds of greatness in the lives of students who graduate to pursue their vocations with excellence, strong character, and global perspective.


SB 1146 seeks to divest us of our religious distinctives. Right now the bill is waiting to be heard by the California Assembly Higher Education Committee. It has already passed the California Senate. Action on the bill is expected as early as the week of June 20. If approved, the bill will then move to two other Assembly committees – perhaps by June 27. If passed through these committees, it will then go to a full vote before the California State Assembly, most likely in August. The best chance to stop or amend it is now, before it reaches the Assembly floor for final debate and vote.


Step #1 — Spread the Word.

Forward this e-mail. Send it to parents, students or alumni of faith-based colleges and universities, churches or others who value religious freedom for faith-based institutions. Anyone who has an affinity for faith-based higher education should know about this threatening bill.

Post on social media. Express your concerns about the bill on social media using the hashtag #SB1146.

Step #2 — Contact Your State Legislators.

Many legislators do not understand the impacts SB 1146 would have on faith-based Higher Education in California. Click here to find your Assembly Member.

Make a phone call to your legislator. This is the most impactful point of contact with any legislative office. When you call, simply state your name and that you reside in the Assembly Members district (you can share your city), and that you have strong concerns about SB 1146. Feel free to offer your reason (please stick to the points above) or no reason at all. The important message is to express your concerns about the restriction of religious freedom that SB 1146 would impose on Vanguard and all of California’s faith-based colleges and universities.

Step #3 — Pray.

Pray for this moment in California history when religious liberty is being threatened. Pray for clarity and favor for those legislators who are standing for faith-based higher education. Pray for faith-based colleges and universities in California. Pray for Vanguard.  Our mission will remain unchanged: to pursue knowledge, cultivate character, deepen faith, and equip each student for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.

In closing I assure you that, although this law is intended to alter the mission of institutions like Vanguard University, we will be relentless in our advocacy for religious liberty and Christ-centered higher education. If this bill is passed and signed into law by the governor, we will join other California religious institutions in exercising our constitutional rights including legal action. We would prefer, however, that this bill be stopped or amended now rather than resorting to litigation later. So please help us and the tens of thousands of students at faith-based colleges and universities across California by contacting your State Assembly Member now to express your concern.

We will provide regular updates on the status of SB 1146 on the Vanguard University website at

For more information, contact Vanguard’s Office of Strategic Partnerships at (714) 966-5467.

Thank you for your prayer, support and action on this critical issue.


The Lord is Faithful!

Dr. Mike Beals

President, Vanguard University


Image Source: Steven Pavlov / / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Source: AG News

30 for Freedom

Turning 30 is a pivotal event for many people. For Brent Silkey, May 28 proved to be an especially memorable milestone. Donning running shoes and enlisting other Christians, Silky logged long miles along Minnesota roads to raise funds to fight against sex trafficking.

The U.S. Missions Chi Alpha Campus Ministries director at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, earlier met with a former student for breakfast. Silkey shared his 30th birthday dream with the former student, now U.S. Marine Yoel Oliva, and it resulted in an on-the-spot $100 donation. That served as a catalytic moment for Silkey and the birthing of 30 for Freedom.

Silkey sought sponsorships to run a mile for every year of his life — and donate the funds to anti-sex trafficking campaigns launched by the AG’s Speed the Light, AG World Missions’ Project Rescue and F.R.E.E. International, another U.S. Missions outreach.   

He invited friends, youth pastors, other Chi Alpha pastors, and students to do the same. Together they have raised over $65,000.

Silkey first learned about sex-trafficking victims a decade ago while a student at the AG’s North Central University.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening in this day and age, and it horrified me,” recalls Silkey, a former Assemblies of God youth pastor.

The United Nations International Labor Organization estimates there are at least 4.5 million people, mostly young women and children, who are victims of forced sexual exploitation worldwide. A U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report adds that in this country alone, an estimated 100,000 children are forced into prostitution every year.

As the father of two daughters, Silkey says he is more committed than ever to fighting the illicit trade.

“The majority of these victims are little girls, average ages 12 to 14,” Silkey says. “As a dad, with the heart of protector, I have to be a part of halting sex-trafficking.”

As the result of that first birthday run, the ongoing “30 for Freedom campaign has spread beyond Minnesota to other states.

The run Silkey organized in the Twin Cities — with more than 100 people participating at distances from five kilometers to 30 miles — raised $62,000. Runners in multiple others states are participating in similar events.

The growing grassroots movement also excites Heath Adamson, AG’s senior director of National Youth Ministries.

“In Acts 2, God exclaims that young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams,” Adamson says. “The 30 for Freedom concept is the tangible result of men dreaming dreams, coupled with the Holy Spirit, to bring justice and light to the dark world of sex-trafficking.”

Silkey already has made plans to participate with like-minded anti-sex trafficking athletes in upcoming events through the remainder of the year, including a triathlon and a marathon.

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — June 11, 1921

What did early Pentecostals teach about the theology of work? Some observers have claimed that early Pentecostals were so focused on the spiritual life that they neglected careful reflection about other aspects of daily life. However, early issues of the Pentecostal Evangel tell a different story. In a 1921 article, D. W. Kerr, an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God, wrote an insightful article titled, “A Pentecostal Businessman.”  

Kerr explained at length why Pentecostals should be well-equipped to serve in all areas of life, including in business. Kerr wrote that “the Lord will pour His Spirit in such fullness” in order to equip believers “for life and for service in all the varied spheres and the diversified forms of human toil and labour under the sun.” According to Kerr, spirituality should not be divorced from work. Pentecostal spirituality should be so all-encompassing that it makes a positive impact upon the labors of the faithful.

Kerr was an influential theologian and church leader. Five years earlier, Kerr served as the primary drafter of the Assemblies of God’s “Statement of Fundamental Truths.” In this article, Kerr disagreed with the notion that religion should be separate from “social, domestic, or business affairs.”    

Drawing heavily from Scripture, Kerr identified character qualities that should describe all Pentecostals: “prompt and punctual, courteous and obliging, tender and affectionate, affable and sober, devoted and self-sacrificing.” A Pentecostal engaged in business, according to Kerr, should also be full of “vision, action, and determination,” and also demonstrate humility and dependence upon God.

Pentecostal businesspeople should exhibit these qualities, Kerr wrote, wherever they go.  He wrote, “whether in the home, or society; or on the busy thoroughfares, and commercial centers; whether at the accountant’s desk, or on the board of exchange; or in the places of barter, buying and selling and getting gain; that in all these places of business activities, a Pentecostal business man can adorn himself and his calling.”

Importantly, Kerr suggested that the Pentecostal businessperson can effectively witness his or her faith by living out these character qualities in the marketplace. A person’s inner spiritual life, he suggested, is revealed by outward actions, habits, and character. Kerr’s admonitions continue to encourage Pentecostals to cultivate biblical values in all spheres of life.

 Read the entire article by D. W. Kerr, “A Pentecostal Businessman,” on pages 8 and 11 of the June 11, 1921, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Pruning of the Vine,” by Alice E. Luce

• “A Plea for our Missionaries,” by Frank Lindblad

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Pictured: D. W. Kerr (back row, center) with a group of executive presbyters, 1919

Source: AG News

A Long, Slow Recovery

Sarah Lawton’s life took an irreversible turn as she drove down a back road in Cobleskill, New York, on Dec. 29, 2010.

While en route to visit friends, she lost control of her car and crashed into a building on the side of the road. An obstruction in front of the building swung the car sideways, preventing a head-on collision.

Daughter Kaylee, then 3, sustained only a bruised lip. Younger daughter Kiera, 10 months, miraculously escaped unscathed.

However, the impact of the wreck caused major head trauma to Sarah. 

After being transported to a small local hospital, Sarah then went by ambulance to Albany Medical Center, where she underwent emergency surgery. 

Doctors told her husband, Sean, then family life pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in Cobleskill, New York, that his wife might not survive the operation. 

Overwhelmed, Sean clung to 1 Peter 1:7, which speaks of faith through life’s trials. He resolved to give God glory no matter the outcome.

“We live in a fallen world and bad things happen in a fallen world,” he says. “It’s up to us whether we will bring God glory through the situation.”

Following the surgery, Sarah spent 10 days in a medically induced coma at the medical center’s intensive care unit.

Once transferred to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in nearby Schenectady, Sarah spent five weeks beginning to learn how to walk, talk, and live again. Sean spent almost every night at his wife’s bedside during her recovery period.

Returning home, Sarah continued outpatient rehabilitation at a nearby facility. Meanwhile, the family adjusted to the new reality of a wife and mother who had been much different than the one last in the house 10 weeks earlier.

The family moved in with Lawton’s parents, who took care of the children throughout the week, as Sarah continued her recovery.

“Who my wife was died in that accident,” Sean says. “Everything is different.”

Sarah had good and bad days, and often forgot how to perform simple functions she had learned the day before.

She struggled with making decisions and controlling her emotions.

A year after the crash, Sean joined the staff of Bethel Full Gospel AG in Schenectady. He spent about three years there, preparing to plant a church in Scotia, New York.

“You can’t wait for a perfect situation to do what God calls you to do,” he says. “When God says go, you’ve got to go.”

During this time Sean says God remained faithful through the many trials the family faced.

Sarah gave birth to the couple’s third daughter, Katherine. A friend paid the mortgage on their home for a year when the Lawtons couldn’t make ends meet.

“This is a story of faith ­­­– not faith in us, but faith in God,” says Sean, now lead pastor of Converge Community Church in Scotia, New York. “God is good, and He’s not going to stop just because we face a tough time.”

Last year, Sarah gained acceptance into a day program for people with traumatic brain injuries as well as a secondary program called Neuropsychologic Rehabilitation Services, which is a therapeutic intervention designed to assist retraining thinking skills.

Sarah has made much progress because of the programs, Sean says, and her verbal skills are quite good. Yet Sarah still struggles to recollect her identity. Memories from before the accident are limited, and she doesn’t recognize many past events.

Sean’s parents continue to assist in caring for the three Lawton children during the week. Sean says communication with Sarah is difficult at times due to her disability. At times she is laden with a flood of emotions, and she doesn’t always respond properly to situations.

Nevertheless, Sean has renewed hope. He clings to a promise that he says God made to him early on that his wife would be fully healed one day.

“I’m waiting for the moment when God revives her and she starts living her life again,” Sean says. “To look at it five years later, it’s not where I want to be, but God hasn’t left me through it. I wanted to give up several times, but God is too good to give up on me. I can’t let go of Him.”

Source: AG News

Why Attend an AG College?<br>

Dr. Jim Heugel is the provost at Northwest University (AG) in Kirkland, Washington. In the following editorial, he provides insights to the specific benefits student enjoy when they choose to attend a college or university that is not just Christian by name, but where the community is made up of fellow believers — such as found on the campuses of Assemblies of God endorsed colleges and universities.

In United States higher education, May 1 is known as College Commitment Day. Each year around that date, the news media generates scores of stories about the college application process, how to be selected for your first choice school, the intense competition for acceptance at a handful of prestige universities, and the pain of not being admitted to one’s first-choice college. My heart goes out to these hopeful high school students. I honor their hard work, and I completely understand their intense desire to be admitted to the best and most esteemed school.

The problem is that these two ideas — best and prestigious — are often at odds. Prestige has to do with generally acknowledged status or rank. The prestigious school is the one most people think is best. But, in reality, the best school is the one that’s best for you.

For many Christian students who are serious about their commitment to follow Jesus and want an education that prepares them for a life that makes a difference in this world for God’s kingdom, a private Christian university should be considered the most prestigious and best.

There are many reasons to suggest this, but I’ll just list a few.

The magic of education in a faith-based community

A college education doesn’t happen in isolation — it is a group process involving students, faculty, campus ministries, and student development personnel. Indeed, a large part of the learning happens outside the classroom. So the community one chooses to be part of during this process is critical to the quality of both the experience and the outcome. When this community is made up of fellow believers — sisters and brothers in Christ who share beliefs and purposes at the deepest levels — something supernatural hand utterly joyful takes place.

The power of relating academics to faith

Many Christian live compartmentalized lives. They know that Jesus cares about their education and that biblical truth should inform how they approach their studies and career, but they are frustrated at the lack of opportunity to integrate their lives of faith with their professional lives. The faculty at faith-based universities devote much of their thought and effort giving students the intellectual and theological tools to pull together every aspect of life — personal and public, worship and scholarship, family and work — into a unified whole. It is only in the Christian university that every aspect of every subject, including faith, can be fully explored. The outcome is life changing.

The joy of getting to be your authentic self

College is an incredible time of growth, discovery, and identity-building — not to mention it’s a time when we create many of our lifelong friendships. In secular schools, Christian students often feel like outsiders because their faith leads them to take an approach to identity development that is at odds with their professors or peers. At faith-based universities, students are free to fully live out God’s calling and to bring their whole person to every aspect of their education.

Excellence is in our spiritual DNA

There is a new generation of scholars of faith who have experienced the rigors of academic excellence and then have blazed new trails as Christian scholars. These scholars are driven by academic curiosity and excellence as a part of the Christian call. In Christian Universities, they are able to explore their academic pursuits, connect with human need, and pass on the passion for their field to the next generation of faithful scholars.

So for Christian students who are committed to becoming difference-makers for God’s kingdom, a private Christian college is the best and most prestigious option. Christian universities are committed to being a place of spiritual vitality and academic excellence. Additionally, the campus communities are dedicated to the holistic development of every student, so not just academic, but also spiritual, emotional, social, and even physical growth. We believe in our students and believe that they will be world-changers who powerfully engage with human need.

Source: AG News

Feed My Sheep

In the early 2000s, the high desert city of Victorville was booming. Neighborhoods of beautiful, affordable homes sprang up, quickly bought by those who had sold their houses in the greater Los Angeles area for top dollar. These homeowners’ plans to start fresh with their families flowed with the American dream: buy a new home that costs half the market average of nearby Riverside County and live comfortably. 


But in Southern California’s boom-and-bust cycle, what went up came crashing down. Jobs evaporated in the economic recession that started in 2008. New employment that offered comparable salaries proved scarce; in Victorville, which lacks local industry, virtually no new good-paying employment came along. Homes went into foreclosure, pushing many into a rising population of the dispossessed. Most of the newly disenfranchised never expected to find commonality with the homeless, undocumented immigrants, newly released prisoners, and those living in government-subsidized housing.


Even today, unemployment across the area remains high. Rampant crime, methamphetamine addiction, and street gangs add to the city’s woes.


Week to week, Victorville First Assembly of God, a six-campus church with a presence in five surrounding communities and attendance of 3,100, helps meet the needs and break the cycle of poverty and misery by serving the metroplex population of 400,000. Twice a month, residents can receive protein, produce, and bread through the food pantry Victorville AG founded nine years ago called Feed My Sheep. As a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved food bank and the largest in the high desert of Southern California, three times each week in rotation at its Victorville, Hesperia, and Apple Valley campuses, Feed My Sheep distributes pallets of commodities it receives from the government food program as well as the nonprofit organization Second Harvest, plus national chain stores and restaurants.


Around three-dozen church volunteers keep the operation running, distributing the goods, praying with people in line, and inviting them to church Bible studies, events, and ministries. The outreach feeds more than 700 families per week.


“The biggest word is hope,” says Wayne Boyd, outreach pastor and director of Feed My Sheep. “This is a helping hand, coming alongside what they’re doing in their own lives, helping them make their ends meet. We want to provide the physical needs, but also the spiritual and social needs in a time of difficulty. Hopefully, we can meet all three of those needs.”


Many recipients, he notes, are regulars; most don’t attend Victorville First Assembly, which allows the church to build relationships with members of the community at large.


In addition, anyone can receive eight items of clothing from the church closet. The church offers a full-time counseling ministry to the public. To help equip those who come out of prison and other difficult situations with life skills, the church has launched an anti-recidivism ministry.


These ministries provide a means to engage church members, Boyd notes. It’s also been a bridge to join the congregation.


“Some were needing help 10 years ago,” he says. “Now they’re able to sit across the table to help pay it forward.”


John C. Martin, 53, lead pastor of Victorville First AG, says that despite the social problems plaguing the area, there is a positive side.


“Amid the darkness, and there is darkness on the high desert, the light shines brightly,” Martin says. “The Lord has given us the ability to touch people, one life at a time.”


Last year, the church planted a new campus in Palmdale; next year, the church plans to start a new church in Adelanto.


Source: AG News

A Deaf Church Sees God Speak

Little Tom Jackson says when the Holy Spirit began impressing the need to learn sign language upon him, he didn’t know why. Out of obedience, Jackson bought some books and learned as many words as possible. Then he says the Holy Spirit nudged him to go back to college, and he enrolled in an American Sign Language (ASL) English interpretation program. He still didn’t understand the reason.


After he became the pastor of Oak Brook Community Deaf Church in Illinois in 2011, Jackson says he realized why God wanted him to learn about deaf culture. Ministering to the deaf required understanding a cultural minority as distinct as those of different ethnic groups.


According to Jackson, in a deaf church, communication is key. For example, Jackson says deaf people raise their hands in church when they need clarity.


An attendee of Oak Brook Community Deaf Church since 2009, Marlene Clemens says she appreciates Jackson’s ability to communicate using ASL. Her husband, Kyle, agrees, saying having a pastor who knows sign language helps them stay focused on God’s Word. The small congregation of about 30 also benefits from PowerPoint presentations.

Originally a deaf person at church taught Jackson’s wife, Jenna, to sign. The church’s ongoing sign language class also has helped, but Jenna said she is still learning. A communications coach and administrator, Jenna usually works behind the scenes responding to God’s personal call “to help people see themselves as God sees them.”


For many of the deaf, finding a job that reinforces this positive self-image isn’t easy.


“The majority of the deaf community only have a fifth-grade education,” Jackson says. Hearing parents tend to shelter deaf children and may not teach them important life concepts, he says.


That’s why — in addition to his day job with the Chicago Public Schools system teaching educators how to help young children learn to read — Jackson works nights teaching the deaf. Using Scriptures, Jackson coaches church members on their responsibilities, encouraging them to become leaders.


Those raised in institutions are often taught to be suspicious of hearing people. Before they can receive the Holy Spirit, they may need to break free from that prejudice, according to Jackson. In addition, Jackson says the deaf often are taught that if they sign ASL, they shouldn’t speak out loud.


“But the Word of God says to make a joyful noise,” he says.


Jenna has been delighted to hear the deaf use their voices while speaking in tongues.


We’re all so much alike,” she says.


The Clemens thinks so, too. They want hearing believers to join them.


“We treat each other like brothers and sisters in Christ,” Kyle says. “Deaf believers can fellowship with and help teach sign language to hearing believers.”


Pictured: Jenna and Little Tom Jackson

Source: AG News

NAE Urges Churches to "Pray Together" Sunday, July 10<br>

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), of which the Assemblies of God is a member, is urging churches to commit to a time of prayer for “our hearts and the nation” during their worship services on Sunday, July 10, 2016.

“What if we all asked Jesus to change our hearts and our nation?” asked Leith Anderson, president of the NAE. “[Our] country faces many challenges. Now is the time for evangelicals to join together in prayer.”

Called Pray Together Sunday, the NAE call to prayer kicks off the week leading up to Together 2016 — a national campaign, endorsed by the Assemblies of God, to bring 1 million people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for a day of worship and prayer on Saturday, July 16.

In order to highlight Pray Together Sunday, the NAE has created a free bulletin insert that features six specific points of prayer. The NAE Pray Together page also offers radio spots that can be downloaded, a podcast conversation featuring Anderson and Together 2016 organizer Nick Hall, and a link to Together 2016 resources.

“Bringing together one million people at the National Mall for prayer makes a statement,” observes AG General Superintendent George O. Wood. “But imagine the exponential impact if millions more paved the way by lifting this event up to the Lord in prayer, that He would do the miraculous at and through Together 2016! I encourage every church to set aside time to seek God on behalf of ‘our hearts and the nation’ on July 10.”

Source: AG News

Living at the Crossroads

Marc Turnage, the executive director of the Assemblies of God Center for Holy Lands Studies, provides a regular column to PE News that offers deep and sometimes surprising insight into the Word of God through close examination of the culture of the day, biblical sites, and archaeological records. In this article, he reveals how God’s positioning of the land of Israel was by strategic design.

“Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). Have you ever wondered why God led Abraham and his descendants to the land of Israel and settled them there? Why there? Why not somewhere else, like, say, Hawaii or Switzerland? While this might seem a deeply theological question to some, it really isn’t. It’s simply a question of geography. Look at a map of the ancient Near East and notice the two great river civilizations. In the north between the Tigris and Euphrates, you see the area known as Mesopotamia (“the land between the rivers”), where the great civilizations of Sumer, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia resided. To the south, along the Nile River, lay the great civilization of Egypt, the land of Pharaohs. In the west of your map is the Mediterranean Sea, and south of Mesopotamia is the great Arabian Desert. Now, find the land of Israel on your map, and ask the question again: Why this land?

Quite simply, the land of Israel provides the best navigable land bridge between the continents of Asia and Africa. It sits at the juncture of the two great river civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, the land between the crossroads of the ancient world. Whoever controlled the land of Israel controlled international travel, communication, and commerce. Israel has never lived in isolation. It was a highly coveted piece of real estate in the ancient world. By virtue of its location, Israel’s flora, fauna, and wildlife blend together the species and habitats of Africa and Asia. In a similar manner, the cultures of the major civilizations of the ancient world blended in the land of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, this provided a challenge for the people of Israel.

So why this land? If you owned a business and wanted to let others know about it, where would you locate your advertisement? You would place it at the crossroads where the most people would see it. God placed Israel at the crossroads of the ancient world where they could be His greatest advertisement. The children of Israel didn’t live in an isolated backwater, but at the place where cultures convened and collided. This provided Israel with incredible challenges because their ability to remain in the land depended upon their obedience to God (Deut. 8:7-20). Their ability to hold onto the land required their trust in God to sustain them at the crossroads.

Besides its strategic geographical significance, the land provided a classroom for God to reveal Himself to the children of Israel. The two great river civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia possessed developed cultures and religions. There was no place in those cultures for God to reveal Himself and teach Abraham and his descendants His ways. The land of Canaan didn’t have such developed cultures and religions, and by taking Abraham and his children into this land — the crossroads — God had a better environment to teach them about trusting Him and to help them understand His uniqueness among all of the deities of the ancient Near East. Israel struggled at the crossroads; it wasn’t easy. The outside influences affected Israel’s trust in and obedience to God, yet He didn’t let them isolate themselves. He wanted to reveal Himself to the world through the descendants of Abraham and His relationship with them.

When the Adversary came before God at the beginning of Job, God thrust Job into the arena to be seen by all. God put Job on display. In the land of Israel, Abraham and his descendants were on display, just as you and I are on display to our world today. God doesn’t want us to isolate ourselves from the world. Yes, sometimes it’s tough to live at the crossroads, but God still desires to reveal Himself to people and to teach them about Himself. Living at the crossroads requires that we trust God to sustain us. It also requires that we obey Him in order to demonstrate to the world who He is: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Excerpted from A Pilgrim’s Journey by Marc Turnage. Copyright © 2016 by Marc Turnage. Used with permission.

Pictured: Jerusalem at the Center of the World, published in 1581 by the German Heinrich Bünting. The map shows Jerusalem as the crossroads of the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, underscoring its role as the “Land Between.”
Source: AG News