Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Prayer Disciplines-Part 1: Breath Prayers

Hey gang!

Over the next three weeks, we are going to talk about something that is vital in the life of a Christian. It is prayer. It is not only us talking to God, but Him responding to us. It is us taking the time to connect with the One who made us. It is God having time to share with us the deep needs of our heart and His will being brought to us and through us.

God wants to connect with us and it should be our desire to want to spend time with Him and gain insight that will make our lives better and more complete. We will look at 15 different practices of prayer that will help us with that connection. You may or may not use all of these practices, but using even one or two may help you find a new and interesting way to meet with the Father of the Universe.

Today, we’ll look at breath prayers. You may think breath prayers? What is that? I breathe every day. That is something I don’t have to think about. I know how to breathe. And you are right. But I think at times that we take the things of God for granted. Yes, even the simple things like breathing. In with oxygen and out with carbon dioxide. In with the good air, out with the bad air.

It is entirely simple until the feeling that you might lose it. People who’ve had the chest pains of a heart attack or definitely understand how taking breath for granted is something that changes after the experience.

Thankfully, breath prayers are just thinking and focusing on your breathing. Defining breath prayers is that they are a form of contemplative prayer linked to the rhythms of breathing: (1) breathe in, calling on a Biblical name or image of God, then (2) breathe out a simple God-given desire. These are simple, yet intimate prayers of heartfelt desire before God.

The book, The Way of the Pilgrim, describes a breath prayer. “Take a seat in solitude and silence. Bend your head, close your eyes and breathing softly, in your imagination, look into your own heart. Let your mind, or rather, your thoughts flow from your head down to your heart and say, while breathing: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ Whisper these words gently or say them in your mind. Discard all other thoughts. Be serene, persevering and repeat them over and over again.”

I think many people have a problem becoming silent. That’s why thinking about your breathing, then focusing on the breath prayer are so important. It forces us to go outside our thought process of all we have to and think about in our normal day. One of my friends told me several years ago that this is why he starts every prayer that he speaks aloud with a name for Jesus or God. It brings him to focus on God, rather than his own thoughts or desires.

As stated in The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, the practice includes repeating a simple one-sentence prayer that begins with a biblical name of God that is meaningful to you. Follow that name with a word or phrase expressing your deep God-given desire. Calhoun then suggests to connect the prayer to your breathing and return to it throughout the day until it becomes a soul reflex. Doing it in this way also keeps that prayer fresh in your mind and heart.

Calhoun gives many simple examples of breath prayers:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
“My soul glorifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)
“My soul finds rest in God alone.” (Psalm 62:1)
“Come, holy spirit, come.”
“Abba, I belong to you.”
“Healer, speak the word and I shall be healed.”
“Shepherd, bring home my lost son.”
“Holy One, keep me true.”
“Lord, here I am.”
“Jesus, have mercy on me.”

Finally, Calhoun gives us some of the rewards that we can receive by practicing this discipline. Here are some of them:

1. “Keeping company with Jesus whether or not you feel his presence.” Have you ever had days where you don’t feel like praying or you’re feeling emotions at God. Breath prayers can help you through this.
2. “Abiding in Christ, opening yourself to constant union all day long.” How many of us pray for a few minutes, just to go along our days and totally forget connecting. This can stop the “too busies” of life.
3. “Putting into a phrase the deepest desire of your heart and praying out of that desire.” If you feel like you are droning on and on, breath prayers can help you focus or refocus.
4. “Reminding yourself that God is present in you.” The Holy Spirit lives and breathes in us. How often do we forget that? I know I do.
5. “Guarding self-talk so your thoughts, feelings and behavior flow from an ongoing dialogue with God.” How often do you pray and then drift back into your own schedules or thoughts and forget you’re praying? It happens to me more often than I’d like to admit.
6. “Regulating your imagination and fantasy life.” Breath prayers help focus on God and away from sinful thoughts.
7. “Breathing in the life of Christ and breathing out the work of Christ.”
8. “Developing a rhythm of turning to God at any time of the day.” God doesn’t have a set schedule, neither should you.
9. “Developing a constant, inner, unbroken, perpetual habit of prayer.” I think any of these disciplines over the next few weeks will help us with making that habit. Remember, it does take time to make a discipline a habit.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue with discussion on centering prayer.

I love you guys!

Try Out the New Prayer Request Gadget (over there ------>)

Hey gang!

It's Sunday morning and I am at home with two kids that are fighting through sickness. My son James has diarrhea, which is mostly water, and my little Maggie has a sore throat with green stuff coming out of her nose. My oldest daughter, Megan, hasn't caught it yet, but probably will since she is doing her Florence Nightingale impression and being Nurse Megan to the other two.

Anyhow, I wanted to write this little note to let you know of a new piece of gadgetry to join the page. It is a prayer request gadget and it lets you put in your prayer requests so people can come to the page and pray for your needs. You can also hit the left and right arrow keys and see all the prayer requests that are there. This also means that if prayer gets answered, you can also praise Jesus there as well. I really encourage that because if one person sees that prayer is answered, they are more likely to put a request up and believe in the power of prayer being answered.

Remember, tomorrow we are starting a series on prayer disciplines and we are also continuing with spiritual gifts intermingled in there too. So thanks for reading, keep responding and letting me know what you are thinking about the posts, the website and the new features.

I love you guys!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Spiritual gifts Part 12: Intercession And Discussion of February Series

Hey gang!

I know that this is the first post in a few days, but I kind of planned it this way. Tonight in the spiritual gifts series, we will continue with the next part on intercession. We’ll talk more about this in a moment.

However, I also want to tell you that I’ll be working on the spiritual gifts series, but over the next three weeks, I am also going to do a series on prayer and 15 of the prayer disciplines. This goes in line with my church’s teaching on 2010 being a call to prayer.

If you are wanting to learn more about being a prayer warrior, this 15-part series, featured Monday through Friday over the these next three weeks is for you. I may not move very far over this time with the spiritual gifts series, but I want you to know that we are finishing it before moving on to something else that will be pretty cool.

Also, we are now 90 days away from Agapefest 2010. I am going to the event and hopefully won’t have the rain and mud that we did a year ago. It was a great event, but not somewhere I was pulling out my camera often. I hope this year will be different in that aspect. It will be April 30-May 1 for those of you looking for calendar dates. I do know that ticket prices are at a reduced rate until February 14th. So now would be a great time to get them. I’ll talk more about this as the date approaches and I hope to see a lot of you there.

So, as I’ve said earlier, we’ll be talking about prayer and its disciplines. Tonight though, we move toward that series talking about a spiritual gift that can come out of following these practices, the gift of intercession. Intercession is defined as the unique, God-given ability to perceive the heart of God for nations, individuals, or specific situations and to pray fervently and strategically until God’s will comes to pass.

The first part of the definition talks about perceiving the heart of God. How do we do that? Do we do that by attending church every Sunday, working in multiple ministries, giving all our money to the poor? The list could go on. This is an emphatic NO! We perceive the heart of God the same way we perceive the hearts of our children, spouses and friends. We spend time with Him. We read His Word, but it is more than that. When we pray, we don’t just give Him the laundry list and say “Chop chop, genie.” We spend the same type of quality time getting to know Him like we did with our future husband or wife when we were dating. We talk, we let Him talk and tell us His deep desires as well. If we don’t care enough to give God the floor once in a while, we will have shallow, meaningless existences trying to get out of God all we can while doing little to express our love to Him.

Then once we perceive, then we pray fervently and strategically until God’s will comes to pass. What that means is that once we understand what God wants us to pray about, then we pray often. We don’t hand up a two-minute prayer and call it a day. One of the qualities of intercessors is that people with this gift spend hours daily praying. Bryan Carraway tells us in Spiritual Gifts, Their Purpose and Power, that this is the first quality of an intercessor. They feel the burden to pray and they do so. Prayer isn’t a burden to them. They are burdened if they feel they didn’t pray long enough.

People that are intercessors also pray strategically. They have a plan on how to pray. I don’t even consider myself even average when it comes to prayer. I pray most of the time when I think about it. For these with the gift of intercession, they plan their day around prayer. They know when they are getting up to pray, when they are praying throughout the day and how they’ll close the day in prayer. This may or may not mean that their day is systematic, but they know that they will take the time to pray.

The second trait of an intercessor is that when intercessors get a particular burden, they will not stop praying until God removes the burden from them. One of my pastor friends feels burdened to pray for areas of New England. When he does, there are times that he’ll leaf through travel brochures and other materials about the area while praying. He’s prayed for this area of the country for many years.

The third trait is that these with the gift get great clarity from God about what He wants accomplished. God tells the intercessor what He wants them to petition Him about. Televangelist Zola Levitt ends his program weekly reminding us to pray for the peace in Jerusalem. He shared a story many years ago from God telling him specifically that this was important to pray for. Zola centers a lot of his prayer life on praying for that peace. Some people with the gift of intercession won’t even pray for other things unless clearly led by or given permission to by God. Carraway even states in his book that intercessors “are held very accountable by God for what they do pray and are very sensitive to pray as they are led by the Spirit, not necessarily by the needs they see in front of them.”

Carraway ends his section on intercession suggesting that churches need to identify these people and place them as praying watchmen over the church. Intercessors will help church leaders break down strongholds of enemy territory and open your church to go full throttle for the lost and weary in your community and beyond.

One of the other interesting discussions in the book is that there have been findings that intercession is predominantly a female trait overall. C. Peter Wagner, who has also done work on spiritual gifts places the edge as high as 80-20% in favor of females as intercessors. Carraway states that he hasn’t done enough research to refute or confirm those findings, but I would guess that it might be because praying has more recently been shown in art and other parts of society as a female characteristic. Grandmas at the feet of their rockers, women in circles and more girls than boys in pictures praying at the feet of their bed are some of these things. Is that the reason? I don’t know for sure either, but as Carraway says, I am very thankful that God gives us this gift at all.

In the spiritual gift series, the next gift we will look at is the gift of hospitality. Keep in mind that we will be beginning the prayer disciplines on Monday as well.

A final reminder that the contest for NewSong’s Give Yourself Away CD ends on the Winter Jam thread on Sunday night at midnight CST. Go there to enter the contest for the CD.

I love you guys!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Jam 2010 Phenomenal, Chance to Win Here Give Yourself Away

This is NewSong's Arise My Love, a great worship song. I hope you enjoy it.

Hey gang!

It’s Sunday night, great football is on television and I am typing away. I meant to get to this when I got home from Champaign last night and then again after church this morning, but life happens and it is a whole 24 hours after the event, but I have to say Winter Jam 2010 was awesome! As I am writing tonight, the gang is finishing up a show in Des Moines, Iowa.

I left in the pouring rain here in Effingham and by the time I reached Champaign at a little before 4:30pm, the rain had stopped. I walked around the building to find the line extending way into the deep recesses of the west parking lot. I’m talking about a quarter-mile to the end of the line. A group of people I didn’t know called out to me as if we were friends and asked me if I just wanted to hang out with them since the doors had just opened. I got in the door within two minutes. That was a nice little blessing.

Next, I started walking around to find a seat. I walked to the far side, which was the right of the stage and found a seat in the first row of the bowl section. I might have been 50 feet from the stage. No obstructed view and comfortable seating. As far as my picture taking, the only obstructions would be instruments that were placed near the front of the stage, but those didn’t hurt me too bad.

I had thought the show was starting at six and I was right about that. What I didn’t realize was that there were three performances before the show and they started at 5:15. That meant I got great seating and only waited for about ten minutes.

Eddie from NewSong came out as the master of ceremonies and host for the evening. He introduced the first band named Revive. I had never heard of them before, but they were a high energy group from Australia and did three songs including the title cut from their CD, Chorus of the Saints. You could tell the original Newsboys were an influence of the group. They were good and the CD is worth a listen on Amazon to see if you like them.

Next out was Robert Pierre. In the ten minute wait, the advertising showed a video which made light of Robert catching a leprechaun and him telling us not to always believe what we hear. The guy sounded popish, but dressed more in the style of southern gospel. He was a hit with the girls, but to be honest, I liked the song he sang for the offering later in the show than I did his three song set.

Finally, to close out the pre-show was the Sidewalk Prophets. Honestly, I wanted to see these guys because of loving The Words I Would Say. I was hoping for a longer set for them than three songs. The first song of the set stunned me though. They began with a redo of Michael Jackson’s Man In the Mirror. Let me tell you, this was one of those performances that make me wish I was a rule breaker and recorded concert material. Not only was the song fantastic, lead singer Dave Frey was a dead ringer vocally for the King of Pop. I was like, “WOW!!!!!!!” They closed with The Words I Would Say and it was the first real harmonious song of the night as the crowd sang along and it sounded great.

The pre-show was over, the Winter Jam theme song started and out came Fireflight. The crowd was pumped for their entrance. The highlights of their set came as they introduced the first song, the title cut of the new CD coming out on February 9, For Those Who Wait, and closing with Unbreakable. It was sad to see them do a short set, but OK because they will be back at Agapefest in Greenville on May 1.

Then the hosts of the tour, NewSong, came out and did a great set. I didn’t realize Russ Lee had come back to the group. I’ve long been a fan of these guys right after I got saved when I heard My Heart’s Already There. Most of their performance was off the new project, Give Yourself Away. Speaking of which, we’ll talk more about giveaway at the bottom of the article, so hang around. They closed with Arise and the crowd was beginning to take a worshipful stance. I wanted more and most everyone else did too. There were so many songs they could’ve done, but they were great!

That brought out the Newsboys. I haven’t seen the group perform since Disney’s Night of Joy in either 2000 or 2002, but it was definitely different to not hear the Aussie accent of Peter Furler. Not that I minded that much. I got to see DC Talk’s Michael Tait as their front man. They had a great set that included a fantastic worship section and the highlight of that was being able to see the entire crowd of near 10,000 people worshipping to He Reigns. The view took me back to 1994 at another Newsboys performance at Creation East in Pennsylvania. There isn’t much that can top a crowd of over 50,000 worshipping in a corn field, but watching this crowd worship made me think of being around the throne in heaven and how we’ll be in eternity in praise of God. I couldn’t help but get a little teary eyed with the awe of that song.

The Newsboys ended with DC Talk’s classic hit Jesus Freak. It was pretty cool to see a new breed of teenagers knowing that song like they were actually old enough to remember it. The song was #1 on the charts in 1996, the year that many teens in the middle of the crowd age wise were born.

To conclude the first half of the show, speaker Tony Nolan took the stage and shared about being a ten year old scared into the kingdom. He spoke powerfully and many from the crowd gave their lives to Christ. Then NewSong shared the testimony of the Holt International, a worldwide ministry helping adopt children from other countries. At the end of the show, there were over 270 children helped by donations from the audience.

During the intermission, I checked out all the tables and purchased a Sidewalk Prophets shirt, the Newsboys’ pre-sale of their upcoming project Born Again and NewSong’s Give Yourself Away CD. After getting some much needed nourishment for the diabetic, I almost missed 10th Avenue North’s entire performance. I did, however, catch their last song, the former #1 song, By Your Side.

After they finished, the feature presentation artist, Third Day, hit the stage and performed several rocking songs off of their platinum CD Revelation. They also had a worship set that included the lead singer of Revive and Dawn Michelle of Fireflight. It had been since Rock the Universe in Orlando in 2001 since I had seen them and they were awesome.

For $10, I got to see eight Christian groups and artists perform. The price of admission wasn’t even close to what the show was worth. Mac Powell even said near the end of Third Day’s performance that many people came to the show with real struggles going on and needed to know that there was a Savior that was there for them. People were able to enjoy a fantastic show and forget about the world for a while. He’s right. But I think he also challenged us all to love and care for those that came with those problems and to come back to our homes and home churches and carry a stronger belief in that message.

After the performance, Eddie announced that the show had 35 more dates to do and was in Des Moines tonight. He asked that we pray for the tour. This wasn’t just for the artists and speakers, but also for all the helpers on the tour stops and for the fans that needed to receive and grow in Christ in each city. I think it’s the least we can do. This year, Winter Jam is going to 44 cities total. If 10,000 is the average (which is what showed here in Champaign), that means that the tour is delivering the message of Christ to over 440,000 people in those stops. Your prayers can change lives, so I do ask that you join in praying for the tour.

If you are looking for a great person to hook to in your journey with Christ, I encourage you to look for Tony Nolan on Facebook. You can find him in two ways. The first is by looking up his name on Facebook’s search, but the easier way is to enter the phrase enjoyingjesus. Yes, all one word. Tony will share with you not just things going on with the tour, but he is also sharing devotions to enjoy a new or growing walk with Jesus. I encourage you to give it a look.

After the show, I strolled around to meet and chat with some of the artists. I didn’t have a ton of success, but I did have two great moments. The first was finally getting to chat with Michael Tait briefly. While waiting for a group to come up for autographs, I shared with him how he and his bandmates from DC Talk were a part of my salvation walk when I met them in the Charleston Civic Center on April 1, 1994. I got a moment to thank him for being a part of that. We hand bumped as I had to keep moving and it blessed me that I actually got to share with him.

The second moment was getting to hang out with Sidewalk Prophets. These guys are my 33 Miles equivalent of 2010. I expect you to see great things of these guys. I really do. They were all great and posed for a picture with me and it was a blast to just spend a few minutes with them. I got a photo of Fireflight and of Robert Pierre as they were talking to other fans.

It was a night that reminded me why I think Christian music is so important to peoples’ walks. Music can touch a part of our soul just words miss. Sometimes the music is the key to opening the door so that the musicians and our friends can talk to us. It was the key that my friend Alvin used all those years ago to bring me closer to understanding that I needed Jesus and the salvation that only He can give. They aren’t the entire package. They are role models, but the everyday role models of our friends and family take us the rest of the way. The musicians use their gifts to help them move us closer. I can only pray that many were moved closer in Champaign and on every stop of the tour.

Tomorrow, One Man Revival gets back on the trail of talking about our spiritual gifts. Amazingly, Tony Nolan even jokingly asked for the gift, the gift of intercession. He was doing a promo for me and didn’t even know it.

Finally, I almost forgot the most important part. You can also win here. NewSong gave a second copy of Give Yourself Away to me when I bought the first copy last night, so I want some lucky reader to have it. What do you have to do. Simple. Respond to this thread telling me what you like about Winter Jam, if you get to see it, or the most influential Christian group or artist in your life and why they are. Respond in the comments between now and next Sunday night January 31, 2010, at midnight Central Standard Time. I will randomly select one winner from those responses and get that person the other copy. Remember, to win, you must respond in the comments here at

I love you guys!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spiritual Gifts Part 11: Exhortation, Not Just Another Pretty Faced Cheerleader

Hey gang!

I don’t talk about sports much here on One Man Revival, but I love them. I grew up on baseball, football and basketball. If they were on television, I was normally glued to the set. When I was in high school, I went to all the Bridgeport Indians football and basketball games, even if they were on the road. Of the two sports, I love to play basketball more. Even at 40, I still have a decent shot.

However, I love watching football. What I love most about football is the hitting. I’m not writing an article about condoning violence, but I watch football to see great plays and great hits. My friend Bill says I should be a bigger hockey fan because of the hitting. The late George Carlin once said, “The best part of sports is knowing that there are going to be some serious (expletives) injuries.”

Football purists need no reason to get excited other than knowing that the game is going to be on the tube or in their neighborhood. However, some people need encouraged to get fired up for their sports team. They need their chips and a drink. One of my female friends once asked me while watching a game on television, “Well, I’ll never understand this game. When I am supposed to cheer? There are no cheerleaders.” I just look at her and go, “WHAT?”

Sometimes people need that. No disrespect intended to cheerleaders everywhere, but when I am watching the game seriously, you are a distraction. Albeit a beautiful, dolled up distraction. You are helpful though to the novice or casual fan. You tell them when to cheer, what to say, and how excited to get. Even if our team is down 31-7, you’re right there continuing to encourage us to keep the faith. The purists may make fun of you saying, “Don’t they realize we’re down by more than three touchdowns?” Yes, yes they do.

I won’t mention this one cheerleader from our high school by name, because it might embarrass her, but I always remember that she cheered a lot based on the score. On many an occasion, if we were blasting a team, she always had this mocking in her voice that would crack me up. On the seldom occasion that we were losing, she would get all grumpy and have this almost Eeyore verbage that showed how far we were down. I wish this were a video blog just so I could demonstrate it.

But isn’t that the great part of cheerleaders? They are always encouraging us to win. It’s always better than Rob Schnieder going, “You can do it!” and a hundred times better than listening to Dick Vitale telling us that it is “Awesome, baby!”

Do you ever wish you had cheerleaders in other places in life? When you are having a bad day at work and feel like you’ll never finish, you could push a button on your phone and “BAM” cheerleaders show up telling you that you can get the job done. When you are stuck in traffic thinking you’ll never get home, you could turn to a cheer that would get those cars on down the road. When your kids want McDonald’s and you are struggling over the oven trying to make a nutritious meal, cheerleaders telling you to keep at it because you know it’s good for them. OK, maybe having cheerleaders all the time, might get a tad boring or annoying after a while, but occasionally as a change, wouldn’t that be awesome?

That is the point of today’s spiritual gift, exhortation. God wants us to win and he needs us to encourage others in the race. He makes us all different. He’s gifted people like Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, and Third Day to encourage us in song. He’s gifted Mark Lowry, Mutzie, Brad Stine, and Steve Geyer to encourage us with comical wit. He’s gifted blogs like The Church of No People, Stuff Christians Like and me to encourage you over the internet. There are many more.

Exhortation is defined as the unique, God-given ability to encourage, strengthen, and admonish others for the purpose of helping them to reach their God-given potential. We’ve talked a lot about encouragement, which is the other term usually given to this gift. I haven’t talked much about strengthening and admonishing yet. Let’s do that. The strengthening part is usually this person walking beside you giving you a stronger belief in yourself and more importantly, in God. Exhorters have no problem letting you know that God is with you and that He is also working with you in your walk. They’ll tell you that you’re not alone. Do you ever feel like you forget that? I know I do. There are days when the world and people have just whipped me (figuratively, of course) and I feel alone. I have a couple friends back in Florida who had this gift dominantly. My friend Tim would always seem to know when to call me. God gave him a sense that I needed encouraged and he called to check on me.

Some people get worried that they’ll feel like pests if they act on the exhortation gift and call you. I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me that they had given up at times because they felt no one cared. The phone didn’t ring and they stayed alone. I’m not saying that people can be irresponsible to their own well being and stay alone, but I think there are times when we as Christians need to act on God’s impulses to call on a friend. Take the chance. Most people have no problem telling you if you’ve caught them at a bad time.

My friend Shawn is even more intrusive. He won’t call people. He just likes to show up at your house to check on you. He once told me that two of his friends liked to hide from him. I asked what he meant. With the invention of caller id, some people just don’t answer their phone. Especially if they have backslidden, they are more likely to drop you to voicemail and try to make excuses. Again, I’ll stress that people sometimes do need to be responsible for themselves and pick up the phone.

My friend Shawn’s other part of the exhortation gift is what bugged people the most. He’s even confessed to me that this is the part of the gift he hates, the admonishing. Webster defines admonish as to express warning or disapproval in a gentle or earnest manner. Let’s be honest for a moment. All of us have moments of messing up. We sin, whether by omission or commission, by accident or on purpose. That makes the exhorters have to help get us back in line.

Many years ago, I had a problem buying lottery tickets. I would often use the excuse that I had the money to play with and that it was helping education. No one was really getting hurt. Shawn and I were out one evening and went to a gas station. I bought a ticket. He didn’t say anything immediately. He let me scratch and lose my money first. We started driving down the road to our destination. He quoted me a few verses on how a fool and his money are soon parted and he realized that was getting him nowhere. Then, he stepped it up. He shared with me about how doing that may cause a brother to stumble. I can gamble, so a brother struggling with sex can go out clubbing and that’s OK too. He had me and I knew it. We don’t want to sin and give the message to others that it is fine for them to do the same.

Bryan Carraway talks about Barnabas as his primary example in the Bible. Barnabas saw potential in the apostle Paul after his conversion and it was his defense of Paul that helped the Israelites accept him. With this, he encouraged Paul and admonished the Israelites for judging Paul. Barnabas used the gift again when he attempted to persuade Paul to give John Mark a second chance in Acts 15 to go with them. It so divided the two that Barnabas went off to encourage John Mark and Paul went his own way. Exhorters believe in the good in people and find it hard to turn someone down that needs a second chance or more at serving God.

The greek word used in Scripture is parakaleo and Carraway tells us that this is the same root word where paraklete, the word describing the Holy Spirit comes from. The Holy Spirit inside us does exhort us in the three ways we’ve talked about at different times, as needed. Exhorters always seem to have our best interests at heart and do their best to put us toward success in what we are called to do.

The three prominent characteristics of exhorters show us how these with the gift will act. First, they are people-persons. They are very intuitive about people. If you have an exhorter that believes you are genuine, they will give you every chance to succeed. Next, exhorters want to see people find their potential in serving God. If they see negativity in any form (apathy, half-heartedness, defeatism), they will try to change bad attitudes into good ones. Whether it is giving you a pep talk or a good kick in the pants, exhorters will fill the role. Finally, exhorters bring spiritual growth along. It is not a surprise that these people will mentor others for a season, recommend books or other materials that will result in people overcome shortcomings.
Exhorters share the same desire I do. They want you to be able to look yourself in the mirror days, months and years from now and realize that you are closer to God than you were yesterday. We are close to halfway through the series and next time, we will talk about the gift of intercession. As we close today, I give you a video of a song I will be hearing in a few hours at Winter Jam 2010 in Champaign.

I found this video on YouTube and this is a fan-made video. Pretty awesome, I have to say.

I love you guys!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Spiritual gifts part 9: The Gift of Teaching and a Geography Lesson

Hey gang!

Thanks for all the great emails of support and love over the weekend. Thanks also to you guys that actually taught me a geography lesson.

I can’t tell you whether it was my college professor Dr. Joshi, my junior high teacher Mr. Tichenor or someone else that somehow taught me that the Dominican Republic and Cuba were the same, but the truth is whoever I listened to was wrong.

If you look at the map above of the Caribbean, you will clearly see that Cuba is west of the island that contains Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I had referred to this in error on Thursday or Friday when I wrote my piece about the Haitian situation.

But this error proves a great point. One of my strongest spiritual gifts is teaching. However, as you can see by this last example, I am not perfect or above question. I strive to be clear and accurate when it comes to everything that I write. As I wrote that piece, I did not even bother to look at a map. And my teaching was wrong in that case.

This is something that needs to be stressed in teaching the Word of God. We need accuracy and clarity. Most of you are not going to get upset over the fact that my geography is not as strong as I thought, but when I teach God’s Word and give examples, it is vital for accuracy.

Why? The first is simple. People read my work. Some have come to respect it as a good Christian teaching website. To be in error with the Word can not only affect my reputation, but it can also mislead people. James 3:1 warns that I, and anyone else who teaches you about the things of God, will be judged more severely. If I cause a brother to stumble because of my teaching, I will pay for it at the mercy seat of Jesus. It may not cost me Heaven, but it might cost me some of the great rewards in Heaven. Call me selfish, but I don’t want to miss out on those rewards. Neither would you.

I taught a couple years as a substitute in West Virginia before I came to Christ. It was almost six years later when I taught my first Sunday school class. When I was teaching ABC’s and 123’s to children, it never really bothered me if I missed the mark with a few kids. Their regular teacher would have many more chances and, if they failed, there was always next year.

It was totally different that first Sunday with 7th and 8th graders teaching them about God. Honestly, I worried for days about it. First, I was worried about the fact that these kids might actually know more about God than me. I’ve been able to admit that my greatest growth was during those two years of teaching with the BBC teens. I grew along with them. I studied countless hours just in fear of not keeping up with them.

The less obvious reason was that I remembered that coma from 1992. What if today was someone’s last chance to hear about Jesus? That’s scary. I don’t want to be standing in Heaven on that day of judgment and be asked, “Frank, didn’t you know that the last chance this teen had to be saved was in your class? And what did you do? Rabbit trails and not knowing your stuff.” Those are the kind of conversations with God that used to keep me up at night.

That’s why today’s lesson about the spiritual gift of teaching is so important. That same section of James tells us that not all people should even attempt to be teachers. The prophet Hosea tells us in the fourth chapter of his book, verse six, “My people are destroyed for their lack of knowledge.”

Bryan Carraway opens up this section of his teaching in Spiritual Gifts, Their Power and Purpose talking about where a lot of Christians struggle because they don’t know or haven’t grasped important concepts from God’s Word. Many Christians struggle financially because they fail to read MalachI 3:9-11 where we are told that we live under a curse if we are not faithfully tithing. Why are so many families struggling? Because they fail to take heed of Ephesians 5:22-6:4 talking about how a family is to treat one another.

Many people spend years in the church and never hear some of the most vital information from God’s Word. Is this the faulting of pastors who stand at the front of the congregation each Sunday? Are Sunday school programs at fault because they’ve decided to tell us how The Office relates to our lives? Does the blame fall to our friends that would rather talk about sports and weather than reach in and grab nuggets from the Word? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

A lot of the blame falls upon us as individuals. We are not reading God’s Word and asking questions when we don’t understand. We are not grabbing these slices of truth and getting so excited that we can’t help but pass them on. That’s why finding good, solid teachers and people with the gift of teaching is so important.

Carraway defines the teaching gift as the unique, God-given ability to discover God’s truths and to communicate them in such a way that others can understand them and grow spiritually. Austrailian born evangelist Nick Vujicic is just like every other teacher you’ll ever see. This 26 year-old man from the land Down Under has no arms and no legs. There are times I’m very Italian with my teaching. I wave my hands and I could not imagine discussing anything without being able to use them. As I type, I realize this ministry would be crippled, no pun intended, if I could not use my hands. But this man teaches powerfully because he has been gifted of God. Below is a little of Nick’s awesome, inspiring story.

Carraway also tells us that teaching is one of only two spiritual gifts that was important enough to be listed in all three of the main passages about spiritual gifts, those being Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. The other gift, by the way, is prophecy, talked about in part 7 of this series.

There are four major characteristics of people that have the teaching gifting. The first is how high they hold the Word of God. I don’t mean that they hold it over their head here. I mean they value what God’s Word says and they get crazy when people take what the Bible says out of context or try to twist it to say what they want it to say. When I worked in Christian television, my buddy Jimmy would sit with me and watch a lot of the programs I aired. If a televangelist twisted the Word, Jimmy would get visibly upset and many times have to leave the room over the speaker’s faux paus.

The second characteristic is that they are very systematic about how they approach their study of the Word. They love bringing groups of scripture together to talk about a subject. They often will do research in commentaries and look up words in the Greek and Hebrew just to gain clearer understanding. They are thorough people when it comes to describing Bible stories and other godly information.

Thirdly, they have a strong desire and burden to see people fully informed when it comes to God’s Word. It drives people with the teaching gift absolutely bananas not to see people understand their giftings, their call, Christ and his return or anything else. They want mature Christians to have every single opportunity to grow, even when Christians don’t want to.

Lastly, and this should come as no surprise to anyone, they can communicate the gospel in easy-to-understand concepts with clear examples that relate to everyday people. Carraway brought up Kay Arthur as an example, but I also think of people like Charles Stanley, Bill Hybels and Pastor John Hagee. These people present the truths of God’s Word in such a way that unless you aren’t listening or aren’t paying attention, you will understand what they are talking about.

In my own teaching, I believe in teaching truth with the knowledge that not all of us came to Christ as a child. Some of us did stuff before we were delivered, sanctified, and cleaned by the blood of the Lamb. My friend Tim Schmidt and I had a conversation one night about how he and another friend had always been in church and didn’t get some of my comments about different subjects.

I have this way occasionally of making entire life Christians awkward because they don’t understand what it’s like to have been a heathen, so to speak. When I used to teach teens, some would come up and talk about some of the shows that they watched and I would be able to have a conversation about the show. Parents and other concerned attendees would ask how I could watch some of these shows. The truth is that the people who asked these questions had NEVER watched the shows. I would always try to give the teen something to think about as they watched the show. If they are going to watch it anyway, you try to get them to think with their mind of Christ, even if they don’t really want to use it. Once they do, they may decide that they don’t want to watch this show anyway.

Teaching melds with some of the other gifts, as well. Notice that most pastors have the gift of teaching. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 3:2 that pastors and elders must be able to teach. Why? They are in charge of a congregation. It is imperative that they be able to explain things as they shepherd the flock.

Carraway also speaks of a concern I have. This primarily happens in smaller churches, but also seems to happen in larger churches too. Not all people that are teaching possess the gift to do so. I’ve said earlier in this series that in smaller churches, responsibilities fall to the six or seven willing people to do. That means that people that don’t necessarily have the gift are teaching. If you’ve ever experienced boring, monotone, or teachers that weren’t clear with examples, odds are you have had a person without this gifting. Churches need to try to remedy that as quickly as they can. There are people out there with the gift and sometimes there is a need to search for them.

That is the end of the five-fold ministry gifts. We will move on to other ministry gifts and next time, we’ll talk about a very overlooked gift. It is the gift of faith.

I love you guys!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spiritual gifts part 8: Pastoring, It's Not Just For the Man Up Front

Hey gang!

When I say the word pastor to you, you instantly visualize a man standing at the front of the congregation speaking the word of God using witty examples to help us understand what they are saying. There are some though that believe that pastoring only happens on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and midweek services (for those of you that have them). I actually heard a man joke once (at least I hope he was joking) that pastors have the easiest schedule working only one or two days a week. The guy even added that he saw his pastor golfing more than he was teaching.

The average pastor probably wishes it was that easy. Here are just a beginning list of duties I’ve heard the average pastor has.
1, He goes to the hospitals to attend the sick. If you have ever been ill, some pastors even come to your home to pray for you to get better.
2. He goes to homes to counsel. If you have lost your way or began to have severe differences with your spouse, pastors come to visit to try to help. If you have children that are equally lost, you probably see your pastor more.
3. Unelected head of meetings. If there are only a few or no elders, pastors have to head up every meeting imaginable.
4. Business visits. The mayor may get to cut the ribbon, but many companies ask pastors to come and pray for their success.
5. Community meetings. Since pastors are usually trustworthy and are well known by the public, they usually are asked to be on committees to make the community a better place. Some are even elected to office.
6. Head accountant. When the church lacks a good financial person, the pastor has to keep the money straight.
7. Janitor. I hear this one a lot. First to arrive, last to leave the church. Even the pastor has to leave it like he found it.
8. Key person to open the building. If something happens at church, many times the pastor has to open the door.
9. Taste tester. Pastors don’t usually mind this one, unless they are trying to lose weight. The ladies of the church don’t feel like they’ve done their job unless they fatten up a pastor or two.
10. Groundskeeper. This isn’t where the pastor is his sexiest. He shows his manly side by tearing up debris and mowing the church lawn. I’ve seen many a pastor succumb to sweats and a “Kiss the chef” hand-me-down T-shirt.

So you can see that one man cannot possibly have all these giftings. That’s why he needs many people like you. I know something else that might surprise you as well. Not all pastors are gifted to pastor. Under the current college programs, if you get the degree, welcome to the license to practice. I’m not looking to get anyone fired when we talk about pastor as a spiritual gift, but it might be one that either you possess as well or your pastor may not ultimately possess. Let’s look at what God tells us about the spiritual gift of pastor.

The spiritual gift definition of pastoring is the unique, God-given ability to nurture, protect, and to help bring to maturity, a group of Christians. That’s a pretty large definition. Nurturing is usually a gift found in mothers. They have babies and then tend to them in every way to help them grow. Protecting is job usually done by the male species. Think of any father that has a teenage daughter and is meeting their young suitor for the first time. You may hear the jokes of guns in the cabinet that can be used if this suitor hurts his little girl in any way. Finally, to help bring to maturity. If you’ve ever been a parent, even once a child has left the nest of your home, you may still have feelings that the job is never complete. You’re probably right. Honestly, as long as we’re here on this earth, we are going to learn something new to mature us further every day. If you’re not, it may be time for some self-examination. I’ll leave that between you an God for today.

In the Greek, “poimen” is the word used in Ephesians, meaning “to shepherd.” Bryan Carraway even tells us in his book, Spiritual Gifts, Their Purpose and Power, that the terms “pastor” or “pastoring” come from our culture’s idea of seminary-trained professional ministers. Carraway is quick to point out that many people that are sitting in the pews that have no intention of attending seminary do indeed possess this gift. He even talks about many churches that block women from the role of pastor. Some women do possess the gift of pastoring and need spiritual outlets to demonstrate this gift.

The signs of possessing this gift include first being usually a well-developed emotionally stable person. You’ve heard the phrase, “You don’t have to be crazy to do this job, but it helps” doesn’t apply to pastoring. They give and receive love easily. They are relational people, so they usually work better cooperatively with an administrative type. My own pastor admits that he is so grateful for our executive pastor because he doesn’t have to think as often about the tasks of finances and such and can focus on people and their needs.

Carraway talks about the apostle Paul having this gift. He shares Paul’s words from 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul shares with the church to reaffirm a fallen brother because he was concerned for the man being overwhelmed with sorrow if he weren’t forgiven and reaccepted to the family of the church.

Secondly, those with the pastoring gift are always protective of those he shepherds from things that could endanger them spiritually. They want Christians to grasp concepts that will help them mature and also protect them from the trappings of the world and Satan. Finally, pastors are natural teachers or life coaches. They want the people of God to be blessed and make their marks in serving others in the faith.

In our own church, we have a program called Growing In God study groups, or GIG groups, for short. Leaders of these groups get to use their pastoring gift to nurture their friends in groups of 10-14 people and makes the work of the church staff that much easier. It’s not the pastorate trying to find others to take care of people and never be involved with them, but walking with people using their pastoral gift frees time for them to deal with others that aren’t involved. The people in these groups then tend to help each other and formulate smaller families inside the church. This isn’t making cliques, but people that can relate and care for one another. One of the goals of GIG is to raise up others in confidence to lead their own groups in time and pass the flame of the gift they have received.

In my own admission, I wish that I possessed more of this gifting. By being an internet minister, I get the opportunity to minister to many each day. Some of these people write me, friend me on Facebook and we keep in touch. But there are many that will read what I do and never say a word. As long as they are finding other ministries to help meet that relational need, I am happy though.

I have been criticized by a few for being more of a teacher than a pastor. I know this is true. I’ll talk a little more about this next time as we cover the gift of teaching.

I love you guys!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Will Pat Robertson Love the Least in Haiti? Will you?

Hey gang!

Yesterday was a thinking day. I brewed over some thoughts and I’ll share them with you. One thought goes into the other so we’ll see how this goes.

The crisis in Haiti sounds like it is really bad. The rumors are plenty, but it sounds like over 50,000 people are dead from the level 7.0 earthquake that struck Tuesday. The last time we saw devastation like this was with the tsunami in the Far East a couple years ago. As I read the reports, it just saddened me how many were lost. I think all of us hope that they knew Jesus.

I do have a friend in the aid relief. My friend Brent Gambrell was on the ground yesterday and was helping children get to higher ground. I met Brent back in 2000 when my friend Tim Schmidt introduced me at First Baptist of Orlando’s Metro service on Tuesday evenings. Brent spoke for almost a year at these services flying down from where he is headquartered in Nashville. You can keep up with his ministry efforts on his website, Brent does tell us that there is need for medical supplies and that there is a fund set up through Regions Banks through a fund called the BGM Haiti Relief Fund. You can also mail donations to his address, which you can find on his website. I think it’s important to pray for Brent and all those that are there helping in the relief effort.

At this point, I’d like to address another big story in the Haiti situation. Pat Robertson spoke on Wednesday and so that you know what I’m talking about, the clip is here.

I don’t think there is a way to take those comments out of context. Let me say this, there are many, including me, that are shaking their head, trying to figure out what is going on inside that brain of Pat’s. Now the blessing in disguise comment, I would label off as rich people thinking that it saves us the trouble of bulldozing buildings down to rebuild. That may or may not be what he meant, but that’s where I’d put it.

The bigger story is the comments about Haiti’s supposed deal with the devil. Many of you sit and probably agree with a guy I listen to on YouTube occasionally called The Young Turks, calling Robertson’s comments at best “heinous.” However, the story comes from a 1791 legend that the people in power did make this deal with the devil and upped their power using voodoo. Whether I believe that or not, let’s play “devil’s advocate” here and say that this deal was brokered in 1791.

The first question I have is “Does it explain the difference in prosperity for Haiti and Cuba (Dominican Republic)?” The facts no doubt show that Cuba has been prosperous at times including now and that Haiti is deprived and in lack. I admit that I’m no economics major, but Stevie Wonder can see that the two sides of the island have lived differently. Truthfully, that may have more to do with the people at the wheel than any pact that could’ve been made.

The next question is “Could Pat Robertson believe that he is a prophet of old like Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.?” Sure, he could believe that, but one expert on prophets would tell me that he hasn’t used the cliché of the prophets, “So sayeth the Lord!” Let’s be honest though. One thing is evident here in the words of Pat Robertson. The words that seem to come out of his mouth after tragedy are almost never popular. What I think should come out of what he says is that we should take a moment and self-examine. Instead of total outrage, maybe we should think and reflect, “Am I doing what is pleasing to God?” and “As a nation, are we trying to follow the standard that God has set for us in the Bible?”

One thing I will say right here. Pat Robertson is one of two things. Either he is totally nuts and probably never should be listened to again in times like these OR he is right and these comments should serve as a warning. The prophets weren’t popular, but they were trying to steer the nation of Israel to rightness. Yes, I know I’ve already knocked the prophet theory, but what if God has sent dear ole’ Pat to warn us. Stop laughing, I’m serious here. I think most of us would agree that these United States are not the same nation that was founded in 1776. Times have changed, but have they gone too far the wrong way. That’s up for each person to decide, but I wanted to give you something to think about.

Finally, I heard comments all over in varying degrees that Pat Robertson better stand firm to his words of caring for the hurting in Haiti. I’ll agree here. But I think that it’s something we all need to think about. I’m not saying that all of us need to pack bags and head to Haiti. But I think we are called to help.

One of my pastors is speaking on tough sayings of Jesus later this year and we talked about a set of verses from Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus speaks in verses 34-36, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

In verses 37-39, the righteous respond in wonder of when they did this. Here is Jesus’ reply in verse 40, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Verses 41-46 is Jesus telling us of those that did not do whatever was asked of him. They were sent off into punishment and eternal fire.

Does this mean that I’m asking all of you to give to Brent or to any other ministry supporting Haiti or give to ministries supporting the work of God? No. For those who can, do. You know if you feel that tug on your heart. However, some of us can’t go and can’t send the donations. Here’s what you can do. Pray for the people of Haiti. Pray for their care. Pray for them to be helped back on their feet. But also pray that those who don’t know Jesus will meet with someone who will show them Jesus and lead them to a relationship with Him. Pray for the workers that they not only get the opportunities to minister health and goodwill, but also chances to talk with the people about the Gospel.

Your prayers will touch Heaven and will launch with full strength toward those intended. Your prayers will be an advance strike of the words of those that will minister. Your prayers will defeat the powers of Satan trying to stronghold onto Haiti. That’s the difference all of us can make.

We’ll be back on spiritual gifts as soon as I can get a couple hours to churn another part out. Thanks for being patient and thanks for supporting this ministry in the ways you can.

I love you guys!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Letters To Darcy Author Tracy Ramos Joins Us

Hey gang!

Today we are joined by Tracy Ramos, author of Letters To Darcy. What is incredible about her story are several things. First, these letters were in the beginning, in blog form. They started as letters to her unborn child that were blog postings during her pregnancy. So if you are a blogger like me, there is hope if you are attempting to writing a book out of your musings. The rest of the incredible is explained in this interview with Tracy. Enjoy the reading and learning about Tracy's story with Darcy.

1. When you received Darcy’s diagnosis, did you ever feel as if you were being punished for something you had done?
The question of whether I had done something that would cause God to punish me in this way did cross my mind. Jason and I both wondered this. But I know, as evidenced by how God used this special child, that he was not using her to punish me. Of course, the Bible says that God does discipline, or train, His children to put them back on the right course, but that’s not the same as punishment. If the blessings that came with Darcy are punishment, I don’t know what punishment is.
2. Were you ever angry with God?
I’ve been asked that question a lot. In fact, many have advised me that it’s all right for me to be angry, even at God.
I’ve always considered myself a weak person. Before Darcy, I was confident that God would never give me more than I could handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). I rested on that verse and just “knew” that losing a child was something that would never happen to me. But it did happen to me, and here I am walking in the aftermath. But, no, I never became angry at God. I was angry at a lot of people, but not at God. It wasn’t because I was some super Christian with nothing but pure intentions. It was simply that I’ve never embraced that concept. God was and is the source of all the good things in my life. He has given me a wonderful husband and beautiful children. We have never been in need of anything. How could I be angry at Him because something didn‘t go my way, despite how grave it was? Get mad at him? God forbid! Are we not supposed to love God in the valleys as well as on the mountaintops? Doesn’t He bring rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous?
His ways are not our ways. So many beautiful things have come from Darcy’s life and death. Even though Darcy never said a word, her story helped stop abortions. Her life has caused many parents to love their children a little more, to worship God a little more, and in some cases, even to come back to Him. Darcy had more impact on people in her fifteen days with us than I have ever had in my lifetime. Her legacy will live on.
Was I ever angry at God? No. Who am I to question my Creator?
3. How did you hold on to your faith in God through the trials?
I don’t know how I got through. It would be easy to say that I wish I had slept through the entire thing and then woke up when it was over. But that’s not how I feel. My time with Darcy was the single most difficult series of days in my life. But I would not have gotten to know my little angel were it not for those days. I once heard that it is a beautiful experience that I would wish on no one. Been there, done that, and it’s so true.
I know one thing for sure: The Lord is the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). I had faith not because I had it in me to have faith. I had faith because He gave me just enough faith to go through this.
4. What more did you learn about your faith through your journey with Darcy?
I believe that the things I learned about my faith are only some of the blessings I mentioned above. The biggest lesson is that God will never leave us in our time of need. Another is that it relates to the second half of 1 Corinthians 10:13: that God will make a way for me to endure the testings, or trials, in my life. We should never underestimate the power of God or second-guess Him. He loves us and wants only the best for us. And even though we don’t understand how trials can be good for us, we must trust in God’s sovereignty. We need to have faith through the trials, and when we reach the other end, we can look back and see that He has been carrying us through them all.
A famous poem by Mary Stevenson, called “Footprints in the Sand,” expresses my sentiments more beautifully than I can.
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene, I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
Other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me, Lord, that if I followed you,
You would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have been only one set of footprints in the sand.
Why when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?"
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
Is when I carried you.”
5. How did you find the daily strength to go on, knowing that your baby would probably not survive long after her birth?
In the beginning, my focus was on finding a cure or anything that could save her. Eventually, my focus turned to wanting to make the most of the time God would allow me to have with her. He gave me the strength and inspiration I needed to focus, not on Darcy’s dying, but on her living.
I wanted to make sure I had no regrets after she was gone, so I made a list that was based on advice I solicited from many people who had already walked this road before me. I made sure that we did as many of the items on the list as God would allow, so that Darcy’s life—however long it might be—would have meaning for me and for everyone else who knew her. We had to make a lifetime of memories in a very short time. We didn’t know how long Darcy would live, but we went through that list as if she were going to die before the next minute came. I believe that gave me the energy and drive that helped me bear what could otherwise have been a horrific two weeks. Jason made it his goal to see to it that every item on the list was accomplished. I believe it was his shining moment.
6. What did you and Jason need to do—in your relationship—in order to persevere through the pregnancy and then after Darcy was born?
Studies have revealed that there is a high rate of divorce for parents of deceased children. We were aware of that and vowed not be a statistic. Our relationship has been tested more through the pregnancy and Darcy’s life than at any other time in our twenty years of marriage. We still struggle, but we are persevering. I believe that our relationship will eventually become unbreakable because we have a righteous multitude who continue to pray for us and provide love and support. We used to think of ourselves as independent people who do not need to rely on others for help. We were determined to meet this challenge head-on. But during that time, God revealed the pride that was the source of our independent attitude, even toward each other. He showed us in practical ways by gathering His people around us in our time of need. I guess this is where the phrases “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” from our wedding vows come in.
7. In what ways has your experience with Darcy changed the person you are now?
God has made me much more compassionate toward those who experience similar trials, especially those who have kids with any kind of trisomy condition. Also, because I survived this heart-wrenching ordeal, I know that I can survive anything and can help others do the same. Last, I have a renewed commitment to help spread a new kind of “pro-choice” message: that we must choose to help those who cannot help themselves, especially our own unborn children.
And, of course, the negative thing about the experience is that there will always be a Darcy-shaped hole in my heart, a hole that will never be filled in this life.
8. How has your experience changed your family and your life together?
It has brought us closer, and we value one another more. We now truly believe that life is a vapor and that any one of us can suddenly be taken up to heaven. Although the kids occasionally forget this and fight, the fights don’t last as long as they used to.
This is part of the silver lining in such a hard experience. Grief has a strange but powerful way of forcing us to confront the sins in our lives. And even though we have to go through more rough roads while we’re grieving, we also know that it’s the best way to deal with those sins in a lasting way.
9. What advice would you give to families going through this kind of experience—whether or not they know God?
Of course, I am not a psychologist. But because I have gone through it, I feel I have something to say about the matter. But I would give advice only if I were asked for it. The hurt of losing a child is so deep that the last thing people want is unsolicited advice. The reality is, I would much rather have my child here with me, alive and well. However, if someone asked, these are things I might tell them.
First, I would tell them that they will need to prepare for a long, hard road ahead. During the delivery, a nurse told Jason that we were about the face the deepest sorrow in our lives. She was right. In a way, this helped us brace ourselves and expect the worst. Knowing it was coming helped us deal with it better than we would have if we have not known what to expect. And, the proof is in the pudding. God does see you through, and joy does come in the morning.
Second, I would urge them to rely on one another and never forsake one another, just as God has never forsaken us. The death of a child can do irreparable damage to a marriage. Satan uses situations such as this one to split families. Husband and wives must work extra hard to keep it together both during and long after the death of their child. Do not lay guilt on the other person or blame him or her for the disease. Instead, be understanding with one another. Each person has a different way of dealing with the grief and stress. Realize that everyone in the family—not just the mother—is grieving. The grieving period will pass, but you need give family members as much time as they need.
Following that, I would encourage them to trust that the Creator has their little one in His care and that their precious child will soon be in His arms. If they want to see their child again someday, they must believe in God’s Son, Jesus. My advice would not change just because someone else doesn’t believe the way I do. I know that God’s Word always bears fruit, so I would rely on the Holy Spirit to direct what I say and to reveal His message to the hearts of those I speak with.
During Darcy’s time with us, we realized that her story is more than a message about life on earth. It is, in a more important way, a story of eternal life with our Creator. Jason called Darcy our “little evangelist.” I think we’ll see the truth of that statement once the book is released. The story of Darcy is a story of God’s grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. It was when we were in the deepest despair that we really got to know God. Our hope is that when people share our sorrow as they read about Darcy, they will come face-to-face with the Savior.
Having said all that, I would like to offer two pieces of unsolicited advice to those who desire to comfort grieving families: First, it is better to offer nonverbal support, such as giving hugs or simply sitting quietly and listening. A sweet lady at our church did that for me. Whenever she saw me, she just leaned over and gave me a long hug without saying a word. I will never forget those hugs. Second, and this is in line with the first statement, do not feel compelled to say something and end up being insensitive (for example, “at least you have other children”).
10. What were some of the supportive things that friends and family did or said that were most helpful in dealing with the pregnancy and adjusting to life after Darcy was born?
Our Family
We came together and supported one another. There was no bickering or whining. The focal point was Darcy. It was the one thing we shared. We assured one another that her condition was not a result of anything we did. We said, “I love you” a lot.
Where do I begin? Every day for several weeks, we enjoyed meals that church friends had lovingly created. Our deacon family coordinated activities during Darcy’s birth. During the delivery, several women were there to coach me. Those who had medical backgrounds were available to us 24–7. Those who knew photography took literally hundreds of pictures of Darcy and the family. Church families spent the night to help us care for Darcy. Our pastors and deacon constantly checked on us and made sure we were in need of nothing. They brought a church service to our home (one of the items on Darcy’s List was to go to church.) The list is endless, but the experience would not have been the same without the support of our church family. Our little church became a picture of how the body of Christ should act.
Friends (neighbors, doctors and nurses, and other acquaintances) were very understanding. Knowing that hundreds of these people were available to us at a drop of a hat was so reassuring.
Total Strangers
The comments posted on Darcy’s Web site from people all over the world were a source of inspiration to us. Finding out about lives saved, families reunited, and people finding their way back to God gave us a clear sense that Darcy’s life had purpose. We took comfort and strength in those numbers: Approximately four thousand people a day followed Darcy’s story!
Prayer kept us connected to God. That connection stayed strong, due in large part to the thousands of petitions people brought to the only One who could help.
It may be difficult to open the Bible in times of such intense pain, but there is so much comfort to be had in knowing what the Lord has to say about times like these. The verses I have stated above have been my inspiration.
I played several specific songs constantly during our time with Darcy. Now when I hear those songs every now and then, my thoughts return to the sweet moments I had with my little girl in my arms, her smell, her softness, her purity.

You may find out more about this book at

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spiritual Gifts, Part 7: Looking At Prophet and Prophecy

Hey gang!

Sorry that I am a week further behind than promised, however I was sick last week for the first four days of the week and saw no sense in rushing back on Friday to begin anew.

When last I wrote about the spiritual gifts, I talked about the office/spiritual gift of evangelist/evangelism. Today’s topic is as exciting. However, unlike with the evangelist/evangelism, Spiritual Gifts author Bryan Carraway gave separate writings to the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy. So, I’ll do both of those here to save time and sounding redundant later on.

Carraway defines the office of prophet as a unique, God-given ability to receive special revelations from God and to then serve as a messenger, delivering those communications to those whom God directs. The definition of prophecy is not much different; Prophecy is the unique, God-given ability to receive an inspired message from God that is then shared with others to bring encouragement, edification, or correction. Don’t those definitions sound pretty close to the same? Yes, yes they do. However, as we cover the material a little more closely, you will see differences.

Most of the examples of the office of prophet (or prophetess) that are in Carraway’s book, Spiritual Gifts, Their Purpose and Power, and most of the ones that I came up with are Biblical examples. People like Peter and Paul in the New Testament and the men that the names of the books are after in the Old Testament, which would cover every author from Isaiah to MalachI.

In the greek, prophets are described with prophetes meaning “one who proclaims.” The related verb, prophemi, means “to speak forth.” Carraway describes prophets as those that speak forth the word on behalf of the Lord. Prophecy has another related verb, propheteuo, which means “to proclaim, or to make known.”

Let’s continue looking at the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy with some scripture references.

Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
Eph 4:13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

1Co 12:10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

We’ve looked at the Ephesians reference before. These are the five-fold ministry gifts. Let’s keep in mind that there is a difference between each of these gifts. People often ask if all prophets are teachers and vice versa. Here’s a major difference between the two. While teachers disseminate information from the scripture and give examples to explain that information, prophets are primarily viewed in two camps in the Bible; as either forth tellers, men who declare God’s truth, or foretellers, declarers of the future. Prophets will declare and may or may not explain what the word means.

In forth telling, if you look at the Old Testament prophets, the men continuously told the nation of Israel how she strayed from God’s commands and used the themes of holiness, justice, and repentance from the world’s standards. The New Testament prophets were doing the same thing. Just take a look at John’s letter of Revelation in his letters to the seven churches.

The verse from 1 Corinthians, prophecy is sandwiched with miracles and tongues. In truth, these are three gifts that are challenged most as legitimate today. I think we’ve all heard of the miracles of Mary and Jesus in bread and I don’t recall the exact office within the Catholic religion that sends people out to examine and explain if these are true miracles or hoaxes. Many churches dismiss all three as being only Old Testament gifts and not for use today. We’ll examine this more when we also talk about tongues later on.

As we begin to look at the characteristics of the prophet, Carraway makes several good points with the first characteristic. Even though I think that there is a certain zealousness to share any of the spiritual gifts, Carraway tells us that most people with this gifting have a zealousness even above the average Christian. Their desire for God’s holiness, justice and mercy are high and sin even might seem more grievous to prophets. The last line from Carraway on this first characteristic deserves direct quote. “Society’s lack of respect for God’s standards deeply disturbs the heart of a prophet.”

The second characteristic is almost a normal receiving of supernatural revelation from God. These messages aren’t just for the church as a whole, but often can be for individuals or nations. The third characteristic is a divinely given authority that is recognized by the local church.

The difference in people with the gift of prophecy is that the authority is not included. People receive revelations from God and these are usually given to minister effectively for individuals. What amazed me in what Carraway says here is not that these words are usually to encourage, confirm or console, but that they also reveal danger, traps that Satan is putting out for us or outright sins that have been committed. He even mentions that a man he loves with this gifting, Charles Spurgeon, disturbs him by the way he called out people on their sins in the middle of sermons. I think in majority, I would tend to agree. However, I could think of some people who may need this type of shaking to get them to depart from sin.

Carraway tells us that the telling factor of prophecy is answering a few simple questions after a person has stepped out in using the gift. They are, “Are their predictive messages later proved to be accurate? Are their messages of comfort or confrontation effective: do they cause a change in the hearts of others?” Also, the person needs to learn the ability to share in such a way that it be received by the person it is directed at. That statement isn’t as simple as it sounds. If a name isn’t being used in the prophecy, the words need to be effective and have meaning to that person.

There are some other examples from scripture that point both of these giftings out. I’ll close by sharing a few of them.

Act 21:9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
Act 21:10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
Act 21:11 Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'"
Act 21:12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.
Act 21:13 Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."
Act 21:14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."

In the verses up to this, Paul is traveling and has landed by ship at the city of Tyre. He met up with the disciples and they began to urge him not to go to Jerusalem. However, they could sway him to stay with them and he continued the voyage and eventually reached Caesarea and stayed with Philip and his four daughters. Keep in mind, the disciples were impressed in the spirit for Paul not to continue to Jerusalem as well.

Paul went on anyway, even after this prophet spoke to him in this way. Why would Paul not listen to a prophet? It’s not for the same reason that we might not listen to one who would speak to us. We might even have an attitude of arrogance that we could the situation. However, this is not what Paul was saying. Paul had realized his gift and could not deny the people of Jerusalem an opportunity to come to Jesus. Even if it meant death, Paul was willing.

Act 2:16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Act 2:17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Act 2:18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

1Co 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1Co 14:2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.
1Co 14:3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1Co 14:4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
1Co 14:5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
1Co 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?

In Acts, Peter wanted us to understand that prophecy wasn’t just something that would die out with them at Pentecost. In the last days, all would be eligible. There would be no class breakdown. It doesn’t mean that Joyce Meyer would prophecy and the lady in the second row of your congregation couldn’t. It was a matter of receiving the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t status attainment. You don’t receive any of the gifts based on video game qualifications. Eating so many communion wafers doesn’t bring you to a level.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul also talks about tongues along with prophecy. Again, we’ll talk more about tongues later. When Paul speaks about edifying the church, he means the body not the church itself. Paul shares further how important prophecy is and is even more important that what people would consider tongues because of the fact that prophecy is more about others, tongues can be more about God and you.

1Th 5:19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire;
1Th 5:20 do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1Th 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1Th 5:22 Avoid every kind of evil.

This last set of verses is from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. I include this not as a pressure point, but more for churches that seem to want to screen away from some of the gifts. Honestly, I do think exercising caution on anything that can be deemed outside our comfort zone is wise. However, I don’t want to dismiss this pair of gifts because I think God wants us to be able to listen clearly for His voice. You can define as intuition or anything else you want, but don’t stifle these gifts because of fear. One of the notes that Carraway says several times with different gifts is that they will proven over time. Does time mean one month, one year, one decade? I don’t know for certain. But what I do know is that God has placed authority in elders, pastors, deacons to use wisdom. This probably includes prayer, discussion amongst people of wisdom and then more prayer. I think God wants our hearts and ears open. God tells us to test him in the things of heaven and earth.

The next spiritual gift that we’ll talk about is pasturing. Is it limited to the office? Find out as we explore this gift when we get together again.

I love you guys!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Hopes and Dreams: Stepping Up To Help The Lost Get Found

This is not the official song for 2010, but just a great song and video that exemplifies where I pray that One Man Revival Ministries goes in 2010. Thank you Britt Nicole for such an awesome song!

Hey gang!

The year 2009 is a memory and we’re on to a new year and a new decade. A friend of mine asked a harmless yet interesting question yesterday though. What is the big deal about New Year’s Day? All we are doing is turning a calendar.

Well, truthfully I don’t think that is all we are doing. Many people, including yours truly, did not have a banner 2009. It was OK, but there is something about new years. I related this morning to a team’s spring training or training camp. With every new season comes the hope of a winning season, the ability to celebrate at the end of the year to say that our team did something right. This is probably especially true for Chicago Cubs’ fans that haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Over 100 years and counting, each year hope springing eternal.

I think that’s the way it is with people too. They are admitting that last year wasn’t that great, but this year is going to be fantastic. All the dreams and hopes I have will come true or at the very least, progress toward coming true. That’s why the day is a big deal. Taking off the old crappy year, putting on the hope of a year that promises greatness.

We’re all guilty of it in some form or another. Why do you think resolutions are so popular? There is always something out there that we should stop doing. Each year, we make a commitment to change. This change is supposed to improve us in some facet, either emotionally, physically or spiritually. Last year was stressful for drama queens. Let’s get rid of stress and be emotionally healthier. Or maybe we couldn’t put down the bottle, the cigarette, or my personal favorite, the pizza. Lose some weight tubby and physically, you’ll be healthier. Finally, maybe you need to find a center. Most of us admit there is a greater power. Becoming more in tune with it will make us spiritually healthier.

In my confessional, I guess losing weight would be productive. I gained 40 pounds last year. Sure, I stabilized that weight, but I could get used to the idea of getting rid of some of it. My wife and I started talking about this before Christmas and agreed to try together to lose 20 pounds each. I need it worse than she does. But it is a good idea to work toward a goal together. I know she’ll buy less sweets for me than if I go to the store. I may have to decide to cook a meal rather than order out more often. All of us get lazy from time to time, but I to be a little less lazy about it.

I think you realize that this is a ministry website, especially if you look at the top of the page. So I know you realize that the spiritual center of what I do is Christianity. Believing in one God in the triune being of God the Father, Jesus the Son and Savior, and the Holy Spirit that indwells each Christian follower. From here on, I’ll be talking about the goals of the ministry and my role in that.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the story, One Man Revival is not named a such because I am the only person involved in the writing, editing and other such work of this ministry. The ministry name came from an old Bob Carlisle song off of his Shades of Grace CD from 1995. To begin a one man revival, he says, that it must begin, in me. And the ministry did begin in me, because of a longing call of the Holy Spirit from God. It was confirmed by the presenting idea of my friend Peter Brown and finally by my pastor Van Brooks in one of his sermons in early September 2008 when he began to preach that many of us in the church, not just my home at New Hope in Effingham, need to begin a new thing and reaching out for others to increase those in the faith. He didn’t reiterate Matthew 28:20 that morning, but the Great Commission is our goal once we become Christians. Keep growing and reaching others for the Gospel.

If you’ve been reading along, you realize that essentially 2009 was year one of the ministry. When I began writing for this website, I began writing over five different websites. It started at MySpace, then went on to Blogger, Livejournal, and Shoutlife. When I joined Facebook, late in 2008, I had no idea that the social community, along with the main ground of Blogger, would grow to be the area that I did all my writing. Over the Christmas holiday, I announced to my community at MySpace that everything of blog form would be moving to Blogger and there only. It was just too much to try to plant seed in five different places and try to keep communities in all of them. With Facebook and Blogger, I found the success of being able to reach back to people that knew somewhat of me and also connect with new people that I have met at New Hope and in other places during 2009.

What it helps do is make a focus point for people to know where One Man Revival is. People now know that I have a personal Facebook, a One Man Revival Facebook Fan Page (that really doesn’t do all that much), and the blog of writings on Blogger (at That’s helpful to people because they don’t have to chase everywhere after me either.

One other note that I realized in this is that at times, and in certain areas, my plate became too full. By coming to Christ at 25, I have battled the desire of trying to be Super Christian to all people. You know, fly around and do everything.

So to focus on One Man Revival, I have to cut back in some areas. I never really got work on the Cross website off the ground. I did make a neat little Facebook page for it, but the website that they wanted never seemed to fit in my schedule. I also had to make a cut in something important in my own church. I have been a member of the men’s ministry team and my wife is wanting to spend more time together on the weekends. So I have to cut going to their meetings as well.

With the ministry itself, the focus has to be in a few areas. First, I think we need to continue great discipleship teachings. I spoke about the forgiveness series and the current spiritual gifts series. These are the hallmark of the gifting of teaching that I have. I also continue to feel like God is pressing that teaching gift beyond the website. I am seeking to make dates to go and speak these and other teachings to churches that would love to have me and my ministry be part of what they are doing.

Does this mean I become a pastor of a church somewhere? I don’t know. I think God is gifting me to teach to those that hunger and thirst for His Word. That may be going and speaking at occasional conferences or other church functions that other leaderships would deem what I have to say as in line with their mission.

Does that mean I also add the ability to evangelize to the repertoire? Maybe, maybe not. I know of guys that travel the country doing that. Each week, their goal is salvations. I admire that. I really do. I do feel God working on that gift in me now. But for now, I feel much more confident in teaching. That can change. Why? Because God is in control.

The other major thing that I have to work on this year is making a salary doing this ministry. I don’t mean or want to become the next PTL Club or anything else for that matter. But I do need to help compensate household expenses, child costs and other home items along with buying books that continue to help me minister and other needs for the ministry.

In 2009, I didn’t ask for a dime. Why? A couple reasons. The first and most important is that I wanted to show people that this ministry isn’t here for the buck. My main goal is earning your desire to bless this ministry. That means I wanted to show that this ministry offered you something before I ever asked for anything. I stand by this. Your first 10% is God’s for God’s house. That means that the church you attend regularly should receive your tithe, period. My ministry is not your local church. This ministry’s desire is to walk alongside the local church to help people grow in Christ, for His kingdom.

If you give to this ministry before your local church, you are robbing God of where your finances need to be. After that, some of you cannot afford to help this ministry. For you, my biggest request is that you pray for partners and churches that can. Seriously, I don’t want anybody losing a house, food on the table or clothes to wear because you chose this ministry over necessity.

But there are some people who can help me and this ministry. These are the people and churches I am talking to. I am currently working on the paperwork to become a 501c3 organization. I need to make a salary, but I am not seeking to get rich off this ministry. My treasures are in heaven. God has given me a few treasures here. I have a great wife and three awesome children. There aren’t tons of expenses to cover. If you are considering partnering with this ministry, I will gladly tell you what they are. Most of the expenses are books, computers, internet fees, advertising and applying for the 501c3 classification itself.

But I also believe in giving back. If you do partner with this ministry, realize that 20% is going back into other ministries. The first 10% will go back into my local church, New Hope in Effingham. The second 10% is still being prayed about. What ministries need my help as much as I need yours, that’s what I am trying to discern now before the money comes.

The other expense that may come up is traveling. If God moves on churches or programs to bring me to places outside the nearby area of Effingham, Illinois, I may have to think about paying for those expenses as well. But I also know that God will provide.

I tell you about this because the goal of this ministry is to step up and step forward. God has moved on people to be missionaries all over the world. Right now, I don’t believe that is my family’s calling. God can always change that, but I don’t feel impressed that He is doing that now. However, my writing is able to touch the world at a mouse click. God has given me words to inspire people to do great things for Him.

This calling is not about me. There are days that I do struggle with that. I shared with a class last week that not even more than half of my own church realizes what I do on a daily basis. This is not about raising my ego. This is about bringing others closer to God. Those that need to know what God wants for them to improve on, that’s the discipleship part. And then there are those that need to know that God exists and that they exist to have a relationship with Him. I am not a great salvation preacher, but by my own life, I can tell you that you never know how much time you have to make that decision.

God has not filled out my dance card for 2010. He has given me a few things that I know I am going to cover over the next couple months. Beginning again on Monday, January 4, we will continue the spiritual gifts series. That may or may not take until February 1.

On February 1, I am taking Monday through Friday for the first three weeks to talk about some spiritual disciplines of prayer. Starting the day before and on the Sundays of February 7 and 14, my own pastor is sharing the goals of our church and calling us to become better in the area of prayer. As I said earlier, this is one of those opportunities to walk alongside my local church and bless the people.

After that series completes, I know that I want to take time at some point to look at a book written by Francis Chan called Crazy Love. I just took part in the last few weeks of a class at my church on the book and I feel like this book could actually impact people to look at their own walks or crawls with Jesus. There is no calendar date on this as of yet, but know that I am very interested in covering this book with you.

Beyond that, I think God is still giving me the plan. The great thing I know is that God is with me and I have been as blessed as most of you that have been reading. When I decided to say yes and begin this work, I wasn’t sure where I would end up. I still don’t know. But it has been a great journey so far and I thank each and every one of you for joining me. If you are interested in having me speak, you can contact me via email at or by phone at my home at (217)347-6697. I would love to hear from you.

I still have a lot to give to the Kingdom. The time for revival is now. Saving the lost and redirecting those who are struggling is vital. Helping those on the journey looking for a resource is equally important. The One Man Revival began in me to help the lost get found.

I love you guys!