Standing Shoulder To Shoulder Together As We Fight the Good Fight of Faith A personal letter of encouragement to you, written solely to "lift up hands that hang down". TO SUBSCRIBE send a blank message to shoulders-subscribe@... . TO UNSUBSCRIBE send a blank message to shoulders-unsubscribe@... . IN EACH CASE you will receive an automated request for confirmation which you must answer. FOR BACK COPIES go to www.associate.com/digests/shoulders . Click on "Read Messages" SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #201 ---- 11/05/01 TITLE: "A New Thing Is Happening" My Dear Friend and Co-Laborer in Kingdom Adventures: It is hard to believe I am quickly closing on my fourth year of writing "Shoulder To Shoulder". Nearly 250 letters have gone out (even though this is officially #201), and I marvel that God continues blessing me with such a privilege. This past week while attending a large regional conference there were literally dozens of people, some whom I knew and some whom I didn't, who came up to thank me for the letters. However, I must say that I'm the one who should thank them and you for allowing me this special blessing. I can't imagine life without the several hours each week sitting at my computer asking God to give me something that will help lighten the load of at least one fellow pilgrim in the journey. So, Lord, thank You again for entrusting this joy to me. ODDS AND ENDS: 1. We still have a significant "irresponsible carelessness" about us when it comes to hoaxes and urban legends. Recently I've received a significant number of "re-runs" and "new" hoaxes and inaccurate claims, particularly regarding missing persons (the most recent is Debbie Brown), mass conversions, terrorists activities, and the like. Apparently the September 11th events have provided opportunity for nuts and screwballs to loosen an avalanche of such stuff, and those of us who receive the material are apparently still too busy to check it out before we pass it on. So . . . . In an effort to give you some handy and easily navigated sites to check stuff out *before* you send it on, I'm listing these for your benefit. www.snopes2.com/ www.truthorfiction.com/ These seem to be some of the most comprehensive and reliable. The Debbie Brown "missing person" report is found at www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/debbiebrown.htm. 2. While we are experiencing the terrible aftermath of actions by Muslim extremists, it is heartening to know God is touching the lives of thousands of other Muslims in many Muslim countries. Read the following reports I received from Bob Hall and His "Friday Fax". --------------- F R I D A Y F @ X: Issue 43, November 2, 2001 MIDDLE EAST: + Over 500 new churches planted through Christian radio ---- Experts estimate that the Arabic-speaking nations in the Middle East, with a total of around 280 million inhabitants, have a total or around 1,500 Evangelical churches. That is a strong contrast to Switzerland, with its 1,200 Evangelical churches for 8 million inhabitants, or Houston, Texas, with 3,000 churches for 4 million inhabitants. The number of Evangelical churches in the Middle East remained approximately constant for a long time, because various factors made it difficult to plant new churches. In early 1997, Swedish radio mission IBRA-Radio began programmes specifically for church planting: "The Church without Walls" and "The Church in My House". These programmes are very different from traditional evangelistic radio programmes, because they are targeted not only at single listeners, but provide instruction in planting house churches, and include recordings of Arabic-speaking house churches. Staff at the station report dramatic developments: in the last 4 years, some 500 churches have begun, mainly house churches. The number is based on letters from listeners who report the planting of a house church. We may assume that a not insignificant number of additional house churches have been planted, which have not announced their presence for security reasons; Christians are repressed and brutally persecuted in some nations. One member of staff estimates that there could be another 500 house churches in addition to the known number. "Statistically, this is the most significant missionary development in the Middle East in the last 5 years," says one observer. + Healings and dreams ---- A programme titled "Signs and Wonders" has almost as many listeners as "The Church in My House". Arabic-speaking moderators explain supernatural experiences such as dreams, visions and healings through prayer to Jesus. "This is a hot topic in our region. People from all over the Middle East call us, telling how they were healed through prayer in Jesus' name," says a staff member. "Muslim listeners often call to tell us about dreams and visions of Jesus, wanting to know what that means for them," according to one of the producers. + Muslims increasingly open for the Gospel ---- In one North African village, the entire population meets regularly for church services. In another North African nation, only 20 Christians were known until 1996. In 1997, however, various factors initiated completely unexpected developments; we have received reports that some 200 people have turned to Jesus in the last two years, increasing the number of Christians tenfold in a very short period. Christian radio played a significant role here too. + Fearless on TV ---- Recent research in 180,000 households in another nation revealed that over 25% of the Muslim population were interested in talking about Christianity ---- if Christians were prepared to visit them. Societal and religious pressure hinders many Muslims from entering a Christian church, and many Christians are reluctant to speak with Muslims, because of past attempts to infiltrate Christian churches. "The simplest way for the Gospel to reach into Muslim households is via radio," says one member of staff. The strategic approach of using radio to plant Christian churches in the Middle East is currently so effective that the mission agency plans to use more powerful transmitters as soon as the finances are available. They recently also started broadcasting Arabic-language house church planting programmes on satellite TV; 26 programmes have been broadcast so far. "That was no easy step, and cost much prayer and inner turmoil," says a Christian Arab actor. "We can never be certain what will happen to us when our faces are known throughout the Middle East. But it was clear to us that someone would have to pay the price of publicly showing their face in the region. Why not us? We realised that Jesus Christ is the ultimate political and religious authority, and in that sense, we are just doing what the 'authorities' permit." Source: Ibra Radio; Fax: (+357)-5-332940; e-mail: bob@.... Nations, names and further details omitted for security reasons. ______________________________________________________ F R I D A Y F @ X is produced by DAWN Europe, part of the DAWN International Network. It is distributed with permission by the Centre for Mission Direction, New Zealand. To subscribe send an email message to fridayfax-subscribe@.... To unsubscribe send a message to fridayfax-unsubscribe@.... FridayFax archive: http://www.cmd.org.nz/fridayfax --------------- 3. Acts of Kindness: One thing this shows us is that people of the Islamic religion are open to the Gospel. But, how do we establish a base from which to share the Gospel. I believe it is with acts of kindness. Here are some reports I received several weeks ago and had saved for an appropriate time. Maybe this is the time. ********************************************************* MUSLIMS AWED BY U.S. KINDNESS ********************************************************* Many Americans reach out By Caryle Murphy THE WASHINGTON POST WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 - Shortly after last month's terrorist attacks, two bricks ferried handwritten notes with crude, racist remarks through the front window of the Old Town Islamic Bookstore in Alexandria, VA. Store manager Hazim Barakat was angry and frazzled. The Palestinian immigrant also was unprepared for what happened next. ABOUT 15 bouquets of flowers and more than 50 cards - some with money - arrived at his store. People from as far away as Tennessee and Nebraska called with condolences. A local businessman, who would not give Barakat his name, paid for a new window. Christian ministers and a rabbi dropped by to express their support. "The people in the neighborhood were so nice you don't believe," said Barakat, 44, who runs the store for the American Muslim Foundation. "This is like another family I have. This is my big family. I want to thank everybody." Terrorism and bigotry, it seems, can have unintended consequences. AN 'OVERWHELMING' RESPONSE Across the Washington area and the nation, many Muslims say that since Sept. 11, they have been encouraged and comforted by unexpected acts of kindness from communities and individuals. In subdivisions, stores, restaurants and offices, non-Muslims have approached them with hugs, handshakes, moral support - even the sanctuary of their own homes - as well as apologies for attacks by others. "The love and support we got from the community was overwhelming," said Mohamed Magid, 36, imam of All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Herndon, describing the response after someone spray-painted anti-Muslim obscenities in the hallway outside the mosque's prayer room. Neighboring churches wanted to pay for the damage. Members of Shorshim, a Jewish congregation in Reston, hand-delivered a poster of support. Local women volunteered to shop for Muslim women too afraid to go out. Magid was invited to speak at nearby churches. "My appreciation for my neighbors, my country and people of faith has increased," said Magid, who is from Sudan. "I think we came out of this stronger, more caring, more appreciative of one another, and even more tolerant." 'FROM ONE AMERICAN TO ANOTHER' Many reports have suggested that tolerance was a casualty in the devastation at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Middle Eastern-looking men have been ejected from airliners on concerns by nervous pilots and passengers, and Muslim women wearing Islamic head scarves have been forced off roads by other drivers. The U.S. Department of Justice has opened about 100 criminal investigations into "ethnically motivated" acts of violence - including three deaths - since Sept. 11, a spokesman said. Still, a steady stream of e-mail to the D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations reveals another kind of story. Nada Hamoui, who lives near Tampa, wrote that two days after the attacks, she found a red rose on her office desk with a card that said, "From one American to another." It came from a patient of her physician husband. "I held it," she wrote, "and I cried." The Islamic Center in Athens, Ohio, reported being mailed a $100 check from a non-Muslim couple who wrote that "we are all one people." In San Diego, the Islamic Center said it was "flooded with letters and cards of support." And Olga Benedetto, a 27-year-old student at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, e-mailed an offer of "help for those in the Chicago area needing groceries or other needs. ... I understand that some of you are afraid to leave your homes." Similar sentiments have been evident around Washington. Egyptian-born Ahmed Heshmat, a doctor who lives near Rockville, said that his wife, Jenane, was shopping recently with their two young daughters when "the manager came running up to her and gave the girls a gift. It turned out to be pencils and papers. He said it was just to show support." In Manassas, a local interfaith group contacted Prince William County 's Muslim Association of Virginia with an offer to guard its mosque, said association President Yaqub Zargarpur, a businessman who came from Afghanistan 20 years ago. "They said they had families offering their homes to anyone who did not feel safe," Zargarpur added. "I am so proud of Prince William County." KINDESSES RECOUNTED Four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Adisra Jittipun, a Muslim woman who wears a head scarf, stopped at Chason's Country Buffet in Winchester, Va., with two non-Muslim girlfriends. About 10 minutes after they began eating, a waitress came over. "It was kind of our first assumption that she was possibly going to kick us out," recalled Jittipun, a 23-year-old senior at George Mason University. Instead, she handed them the $30 they had paid for their food, saying the restaurant wanted to give them a free meal. "She knelt by our table and was very sympathetic ... saying that she didn't want us to go to war," Jittipun recalled. The waitress also "said she was very proud that I had the strength to wear the Islamic attire. ... I was very happy about that," Jittipun added. "And once she left, she was actually in tears. She just walked away in tears. And everybody was silent." Patricia Morris, of Falls Church, said it was a walk with her son the day after the attacks that got her wondering about her Muslim neighbors. As they passed Dar al-Hijrah mosque, "it was the first time I ever saw the iron gates closed, and I wondered what kind of threats they were feeling," she recalled. Morris called a Palestinian neighbor. "She told me, 'We're not doing too well. We're all very scared,'" said Morris, 48. So when President Bush declared the Friday after the attacks a day of mourning, Morris went into action, leafleting her subdivision of Lee Boulevard Heights with invitations to a 7 p.m. candlelight vigil of solidarity outside the mosque. More than 30 people attended. In appreciation, a few Muslims who had been at evening prayers there emerged and distributed white roses to the vigil's participants. 'WE WELCOME YOU' Anwar Al-Awlaki, imam of Dar al-Hijrah, said the mosque has had other "very positive" responses from neighbors. Eighty tenants of the nearby Woodlake Towers apartment building sent a statement: "We want your congregation to know that we welcome you in this community ... and wish you health, security and prosperity." And George Chiplock, principal of Corpus Christi, a Catholic elementary school three blocks from the mosque, brought it more than 450 cards made by students. "We teach respect, tolerance and love of neighbor here," Chiplock said, "and we thought it would be a good idea to contact our neighbors and let them know we are thinking of them." Linda Jasper, an English teacher at Rockville's Magruder High School, also was spurred to reach out. She and some friends decided that they would stand guard at night for a week outside the nearby Islamic Center of Maryland to make sure it was left undisturbed. "The idea of someone being afraid to pray," said Jasper, "is crazy to me." When the Muslim Student Association at Magruder found out, they sent Jasper a thank-you note. "Not only were you protecting a mosque that many Muslims consider another home," they wrote, "but you were doing it at a time when it is a dangerous and hazardous situation." Magruder senior Karim Baz, 17, whose parents emigrated from Egypt, said that his friends at school "came up to me and said, 'Karim, if anyone is saying anything to you, you just come to us.' To feel that, after all this, I'm being accepted, it's great." His feelings are shared by Pakistani-born doctor Abid Khan, 41, who said he was nervous about going to pray at his Richmond mosque the Friday after the attacks. But then he found about 50 people from a Presbyterian church there, holding up banners extolling unity. "Seeing these gestures gave us a feeling of comfort and peace," Khan said. "You have to give the credit to the people who are keeping a positive, friendly attitude. That's what makes America great. It's not its military or its advances in science. It's the kindness, affection, helpfulness and tolerance which is found in the large majority of people here. That's really what makes America great." İ 2001 The Washington Post Company When I read these accounts I am reminded of two things . . . . first, it is exactly what Jesus would have done and, second, why is it that the world is spontaneously and automatically doing what every Christian should be doing with any hesitation? I pray that those who are kind without a message will discover Jesus, and that those who already know Him will use the opportunities to share Him with these Muslim folks. 4. Praying for Muslims: Not long ago someone handed me an excellent prayer guide to aid in praying for Muslims specifically during Ramadan, their most holy month. While I think it is put out by Southern Baptists, it will be helpful for everyone. Ramadan is from November 16 to December 15 of this year; it changes every year. The guide consists not only of helpful information about Muhammed, Islam, and fasting, but it also gives you daily prayer targets throughout the Muslim world. If you want to order these helpful guides, you can call 1-800-866-3621 at the IMB Resource Center, or you can email them at resource.center@.... You could also go to the IMB website at www.IMB.org . Sorry I don't know cost. 5. We have eleven grand children, five of whom are adopted from Russia. Consequently, our "First" grandchild is not our "Oldest". However, she is our first ---- Abby Christine. As such, she'll always have a very special spot in our hearts. Abby (from the root "Abba") means "Father's girl". Christine means "like Christ". As a young teen, she is all of that and more. We don't get to see her often, but she's always sending me neat little quotes and articles via e-mail. Here's a fantastic one she sent me last week. It sure seems appropriate for the day. Small but Powerful Message: "If God brings you to it -- He will bring you through it." Thanks, Abby! Your Grandpa's girl, too! 6. More Great Pictures ---- I'm still getting some inspiring and thrilling pictures of encouragement as an aftermath to the September 11th events. All of these are powerful. I especially like the ones done by young people and children. It says something about their hearts. Check this out: http://www.wnd.com/images2/germanship.jpg. A picture taken by a young American sailor on his own ship enroute to the Arabian Sea. This German ship honored them by hoisting an American flag, and standing at attention in dress blues. A couple of interesting pictures came as attachments rather than websites. I'd love for you to see them, but don't want to clutter up my letter by pasting them or adding attachments. In addition, many of my subscribers have limited sizes on their e-mail sizes. So . . . . if you'd like to see an artist's rendition of the Statue of Liberty kneeling in prayer, or a NYC fireman passing the baton to an American soldier, drop a personal note directly to me at lifeunlimited@myexcel. I'll be happy to send either or both to you. 7. Many wrote in response to last week's meeting of a particular regional denomination which had the possibilities of explosive divisiveness. I heard from as far away as the Balkans, Africa, and Asia. I wanted you to know that your prayers were answered in wonderful ways. Although the disagreements still remain, the proceedings were courteous, tolerant, and characterized by Christ-like dignity. Obviously some who were there went home greatly disappointed and perhaps even angered because their particular preferences were not realized. However, I must say that it appeared the massive intercessory prayer that took place both around the world and actually on site in the prayer room caused people to be conscious of the greater cause of Christ. While there will very probably be some denominational defections still to come, I believe God was honored in the way the various representatives of all positions conducted themselves. In spite of terrible inconveniences pertaining to lodging and the limitations of the meeting place itself, it was a healthy convention. Thanks for your prayer. 8. Here is a specialized ministry opportunity I recently learned about through the Southern Baptist work in Kansas and Nebraska. I pass it on for your consideration. "URGENT NEED: 8 child care workers to travel to Istanbul, Turkey departing December 2 and returning December 13th or 14th. Participants would be working with children from birth to 15 years of age. Estimated cost for the trip would be $1,000 to $1,100. This would include airfare. Participants should have a current passport to travel. Anyone interested in being part of this event should contact Tim Boyd at timothy2@... or 316-777-4700." 9. Maybe you've seen this recent list of terrorists who have been ravaging the Church for a number of years. Thanks to Dr. Bernard Holmes for sending this warning. TERRORIST LIST Recently the following has been circulating around our office: "We've been notified by building security that there have been 4 suspected terrorists working at our office. Three of the four have been apprehended. Bin Sleepin, Bin Loafin, and Bin Drinkin have been taken into custody. Security advised us that they could find no one fitting the description of the fourth cell member, Bin Workin, in the office. Police are confident that any who looks like he's Bin Workin will be very easy to spot" I've been doing some research and found other terrorists doing equal damage. Keep your eyes open for Bin Slakin, Bin Hidin, Bin Lyin, Bin Gripin, Bin Missin, and Bin Dodgin. They're all very dangerous and need to be stopped immediately. However, if you run across Bin Prayin, Bin Lovin, Bin Givin, and Bin Servin, leave them alone at all costs. They should not be bothered in any way. Whatever they do will be unbelievably effective. 10. I've had this story for more than a month, but have been unable to send it. In spite of lengthening my letter to you, I think it will be of such encouragement that you'll be glad to read it in today's letter. From: "Steve Loopstra" <paststeve@...> Everyone in America, and around the world will remember the date of September 11, 2001, and where they were on that day. That day has another very special significance for the metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota because that was the day God made an appointment with His Church! As the horrific scenes of destruction were being carried out in New York City and Washington D. C., in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a small group of people was gathered in the Nehemiah Center to pray. To John Mayer, Executive Director of Religion Information Resources, Dan Thompson, pastor of First Covenant Church, Steve Loopstra, Carol Madison and Kathryn Redding of Prayer Transformation Ministries, it soon became clear as they prayed that this was a defining moment for the Church. This was the time for the Church to put aside labels and tear down walls and come together as the people of God. "How about Sunday night?" John exclaimed. Someone else said: "How about the Metrodome?" There was a slight chuckle among the group. The thought of even getting the Metrodome, the home of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins seemed preposterous. Kathryn had attended several downtown council meetings where the director of the Metrodome had spoken. She came up with his phone number. Steve was soon making a cell phone call to the Dome with the request. The answer was not hopeful. It would be nearly impossible to do such a turn-around with a Twins game in the afternoon and a softball game that evening, but the director said, he would call back. The group decided to go and pray at the Dome, which was just across the street. There on the sidewalk, outside the offices of the Metrodome, the group held hands, got on their knees and prayed for God to open the door. Simple prayers, but with a deep sense of destiny and anointing from God. In fact, one of the things God spoke to Steve was, "keep it simple." As the group stood to their feet, "I just felt as we got up, that I should go in there and try to talk to them," Steve remembers. Little did he know that on his voice mail back at the office, there were two messages from the Director of the Dome asking him to come over and talk about it. "I was amazed that I was able to be led right into his office." Steve relates. "They were all waiting for me!" Steve shared that all they really needed was a place to sit and a microphone. Within twenty minutes, Steve walked out of the Metrodome offices with the use of the facility, a stage, sound setup, and security guards at no cost! This was indeed the Hand of God. That was Tuesday. By Friday, most major churches in the area were canceling their evening services to come. Denominational district leaders were encouraging their pastors to suspend evening services and join for prayer. Churches that had never been involved in citywide events were canceling events planned months ahead of time to come to pray with the rest of the Church in the city. The Salvation Army brought water to give away, and Minneapolis policemen volunteered their time to help. God was up to something big. Sunday night, 24,000 people came together from all different denominations across the metro and celebrated a "solemn assembly." There were no names announced, no titles given, no churches or organizations mentioned. The purpose was to focus on Jesus, and not people or groups. It was not about "who" was there, but that "we all were there." The service began with the opening words from the Robin Mark song, "Revival" ---- "I hear the voice of one crying, prepare ye, the way of the Lord." Joel 2 was then read, calling for blowing the trumpet and a solemn assembly. After a brief explanation of a solemn assembly, Steve Loopstra said to the 24,000 people gathered: "Look around, I want to introduce you to the Church in the Twin Cities." What cheer went up from the crowd as they gave praise to God for what He had done. The prayer time began with allowing a time of expression of emotions to God in prayer. Next came an extended time of repentance, led by Charlie Bench, of Native American heritage. It was felt strongly that repentance needed to be a key part of the churches coming together in such a solemn assembly. There were a number of leaders who were ready to read scripture and pray, but all realizing and understanding that they may not be called upon, depending upon how the Spirit led. Although there was an informal program, a "listening team" consulted all through the evening to sense what was the right time for such segments as "seeking Godıs Face," "Inviting Christ to come and make His presence known," "Intercession, which included praying for our enemies, our government leaders, and the victims of the Sept. 11th attacks," and thanksgiving for Godıs mercy and help, prayed in Spanish and translated into English. The evening ended with Minnesota Senator, Michelle Bachman asking those to stand who were government officials, serving in the military, or who had lost a loved one in the tragedy, and inviting the crowd to close by singing God Bless America as a blessing over those groups, and over our country. Plans are already underway for another meeting of the Church of the Twin Cities, on May 19, 2002. On Pentecost Sunday, the Church of the Twin Cities will gather together for "The Invitation." That will be a time of worship, prayer, and celebration after the phrase in the Transformations II video, where the question is asked: "Why did God come in such power to these particular regions?" "Because He was invited." God moved in a powerful way in that gathering. "This city will never be the same!" exclaimed Steve Loopstra. "God has done something here that man could have never conceived of." "God made an appointment with His people, they responded to his invitation, and they met together on Sunday night in the Metrodome." A NEW THING: There is no doubt, my dear friend, that God is indeed doing a new thing. As in the days of Joshua, we have not walked this way before. Not only all across America, but around the world God is doing a new work. What are some elements that you see as to God's new thing? Sometimes I see so much it makes my head swim and I find words useless in trying to describe what I see. However, here are some things I see which encourage me a great deal. It seems to me that this new move of God can be described with perhaps three categories ---- God's activities, the Church's response, and the world's reaction. 1. As far as God's activities, I sense He is at work in several areas, including the following: + First, I see the presence and power of God overriding man's agenda. And, this is the way it should be. By definition, true revival was described by Arthur Wallis in his classic "In The Day Of Thy Power" as God taking center stage and man being pushed to the background. All around the world God is manifesting His presence and His power. It is particularly exciting to see how such activity is really putting man's puny efforts in their proper place. More and more God is reminding us that it is all about Him and not about us. + Then, I also see God manifesting and validating His Word, both to the Church and to the world. The Word of God is becoming more alive and more relevant than ever. We, in many respects, are not only seeing prophecies fulfilled but also fundamental truths verified. His instructions concerning righteousness and holiness are being validated by His promised responses to such acknowledgements. His promises concerning brokenness, repentance, and faith are being honored right before our eyes. + I also see God pouring out His power and anointing in extraordinary measure, just as He promised He would do in the days prior to Christ's return. We, in many respects, are indeed watching Joel's prophecies fulfilled in our very midst. My e-mail folders are filled with reports from all around the world of God's power being manifested not only in miracles, but in the greatest miracle of all, the salvation of thousands of people. And, as has been predicted by many missiologists and revivalists, such an ingathering is growing and expanding nearly daily. It is as if we are about to enter the realm of exponential growth where the momentum cannot be stopped. + One of the more exciting phenomena I see right now is how God is raising up a new generation of young men and women for these days of harvest. It may well be that we are seeing before our very eyes the assembling of Joel's "last days army". Last week-end we had our Kiev2002 team in our home for an overnighter and training week-end. Jo Ann and I sat in wonder as we watched those university students react to one of the "Transformations" video we showed them. There was no hesitation to be found; they were ready to pray, and ready to go . . . . immediately. 2. When it pertains to the Church's response, I am seeing many things happening, including these: + There continues to be an ever enlarging wave of prayer which in my heart I believe will sweep the Church into a new level of power, authority, ministry, and harvest. I have never seen a time when so many believers were so interested in both understanding and engaging in passionate, strategic, prevailing prayer. For several weeks I have been teaching on that subject in the church where I am interim pastor. The people are soaking it up like dry sponges. After the services there will always be a number of people remain to ask questions and talk about what I've taught. There is no doubt that God is moving in such a way that He is causing the Church to finally recognize the primacy of prayer for the nations. + Another exciting trend I see is the calling out of "laity" into aggressive ministry. I think the message is finally being heard that all believers are ministers, and there is no such thing as a professional minister. It is exciting to see that many of these godly men and women are no longer satisfied to fit into somebody's pre-conceived slot, but are courageously willing to launch out into uncharted waters simply to minister God's grace and love to a hurting world. Volunteerism appears to be at an all time high in the Body of Christ these days. + There is also a deepening hunger for God's Word. As God continues manifesting and validating His Word as described above, the Church is responding to it. I am finding more and more people who are following some type of Bible reading regimen, and others who are memorizing scripture, and still others who are ordering their personal lives to the principles and instructions of the Bible. And, it's not only new believers or younger believers. My father will be 97 years old next January, and he told me last week that he's doubled his daily Bible reading from 50 pages a day to now 100 pages a day. For the past several months he's been reading it through monthly. Now he's reading the Bible entirely through twice a month. You'd think a man who has been a preacher for over 68 years would have had his fill of the Word by now. But that's not the case. + One of the most exciting things I see in the Church is its willingness to lower the bars and tear down the walls that have kept the Church fragmented before the world's eyes. The Church seems to be learning the difference between unity and uniformity. I love what one group of churches in a major city said about itself ---- "One Church, many congregations". You know, of course, that the concept of the city-wide church is very close to my heart. Reports such as the one I included above from Minneapolis just send chills up and down my back as I anticipate what God is about. And, it's not happening only in America, but all over the world. I cannot thank God enough for setting me free to accept, respect, and love my brethren who may have a different label sewn in their church garb than I have. This may be one of the most significant developments in recent church history . . . . the idea of the Church being more territorial than it is denominational. + Finally, another exciting trend is to watch the Church reach new levels of giving and sending. Not only are para-church organizations and denominations giving and sending, but individual congregations are as well. I know of one small church in the Midwest that runs fewer than 100 people, and yet they currently have four of their own members serving as missionaries in a Balkan country. Giving of time, talent, and treasure are rapidly increasing. Sending people out to the inner cities of America, to the war ravaged lands of Africa or the Balkans, to the poverty stricken regions of the world is becoming more commonplace by the month. It appears to me that the Church is finally responding enthusiastically to the commands in the Gospels and in Acts to proclaim the good news everywhere. 3. Needless to say, the world is also reacting to all of this in a variety of ways, both receptively and in hostility. + Right now much of the world is reacting in puzzlement. They can't figure out this new Church they see. They don't know why ordinary people would care and love enough to sacrifice their resources and their comfort in order to minister to people they don't even know. They are also puzzled because they're perhaps seeing genuine compassion and servanthood in its purest form for the first time; in the past it has often been for the glory of man or for human motives. Today, however, that is changing. And, it's taking some adjusting on the world's part to figure it out. + More and more of the world population is also reacting in open embracing of Biblical truth . . . . even in areas previously closed to the Gospel. Even, as you read above, in the Muslim regions of the world there is an openness to the Gospel. While places such as Saudia Arabia, Sudan, Indonesia, increase in violent hostility, there are those within even those most hardened regions still hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Hindu's in India, Muslims in Kosovo, . . . . people like this by the thousands are expressing genuine interest in the claims of Christ and the Gospel message. + But, of course, the world is also filled with people who have a violent hatred toward Jesus and His message of love, forgiveness, and redemption. I suppose we will always have that. There will always be people who are so deceived and brain washed that they will never understand the truth about Jesus, much less accept Him. Interestingly, I find that this hostility in itself is an exciting sign . . . . if the truth were not being told and it were not being understood, the opposition would not raise its ugly head up with such violent reaction. So, my friend, . . . . there is a new thing happening, perhaps like never before. In spite of continuing shallowness and carnality in much of the Church, there is ongoing evidences of a greater work taking place. I believe we are beginning to see with our own eyes the fulfillment of the statement made by Dr. Jack Deere about ten years ago when he said, "There is a day coming when in one generation God is going to change the way the Church expresses and the world perceives the Gospel." I believe we are seeing that before our very eyes. It is indeed an exciting time to be alive, and to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In spite of the horrors of recent weeks, and the new threats and dangers to our own personal safety, and in spite of the fact that many countries are having to learn a new way of living in light of that, I still believe this is the most exciting time in history to be alive. And for the Christian leader, it is by far the most thrilling and opportune time to be involved in serving the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope you feel the same way. Have a great week, dear friend. Take full advantage of the opportunities God places before you this week. Go ahead and take the road less traveled; be a risk taker; be one who will forsake all in order to follow Him. There is indeed a new thing happening, and we must not let it pass us by! In His Bond of Mercy and Grace, Bob Tolliver -- Rom 1:11-12 Copyright November, 2001 Life Unlimited Ministries lifeunlimited@... Do You Get "Shoulder To Shoulder"? If this letter has blessed you, feel free to forward it, with proper credits, to any and all you wish.