By Donna Marable
First Baptist Gulf Shores is hopping with excitement this month. The leaders of the 13-week upcoming Grief Share session have been busy training in anticipation of a great fall and winter! Director Barb Hough, with the support of the church, has acquired Grief Share National’s all new video products, materials, and tools.
Most everyone has experienced the death of someone – it could be a spouse, child, family member, or friend. The weight of grief from the loss of a loved one lightens with sharing. All individuals and their situations are unique, but with sharing in a comfort zone, a common bond and spirit of camaraderie are formed that encourages hope and promotes healing of hearts – – the goal of the program. The complete materials are available and may be reviewed on Grief Share National’s website: www.griefshare.org, BUT there is a proven benefit of these small group sessions led by trained facilitators who debrief after each session cooperatively discussing their efforts, feedback, and other details to develop ideas to apply to better help attendees in future meetings.
The last two fall and spring sessions produced participants who claim “they are ALWAYS going to be coming back” . . . they state they love the sessions and many want to give back in various ways – participating, helping where needed, bringing snacks, etc. There’s an excitement in the air while working together toward a common goal, and many have expressed no notion to give up the weekly meeting.
This seminar is 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. each Thursday at the church, 2200 West 1st Street, Gulf Shores, Alabama, 36542beginning August 31, 2023, skipping Thanksgiving, and ending November 30th. For questions or more information, you may phone the church at (251) 968-7369. Following this session, there will be another one that runs from January – April 2024 and a fall, 2024 session. Easy sign-up is available at www.griefshare.org/groups/168158. The titles of the 13 weeks of videos are at the bottom of this website. Please consider coming if you wish your heart and hope restored, Director Barb Hough and the crew will be there to welcome you!
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs16:18)
By: Sam Waddell
ISAIAH 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.
COMMENTS: Isaiah compares the PROUD King of Babylon to the FALLEN ANGEL Lucifer. In these verses is the description of Lucifer’s ORIGINAL SIN of PRIDE. 5 times Lucifer says ” I will ” 1. Ascend into heaven, 2. will exalt my throne above the stars of God. 3 Sit on the mount of the congregation, where GOD sits. 4 will ascend above the heights of the clouds. 5 Be like the Most High GOD. Yet HELL is prepared for him and all who follow His ways. TODAY, we see our society in full proud rebellion against GOD. People demand sexual perversion, men with men, women with women, and even pedophilia. They now demand to change their, GOD given, sex. Now we might think of these with mercy because they are deceived by Lucifer the original proud rebel. But we see the devil destroying many lives thru his lies. Many destroy themselves thru suicide and drugs and sexual diseases and other sins. The END OF SIN IS ALWAYS DEATH and this Proud rebellion, we see, will come to an end, it is written in the book of Revelation and 2 Thessalonians, with the Final beast, anti-christ, that JESUS WILL DESTROY WITH THE BREATH OF HIS MOUTH AND THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS COMING, as predicted in Scripture. So now what can be done? ONLY PRAYER AND EVANGELISM. We must preach the GOSPEL of CHRIST to the Lost and give them every opportunity to REPENT, RECEIVE CHRIST and FOLLOW HIM. This is lost mankind’s only hope and we who know CHRIST must share it.
By: LeeAnn Witzigman
I started my day with a call from my daughter who’s spending a few weeks with her father in another state. It maybe lasted 30 seconds, but that was more than enough time to understand and capture all the things she didn’t get to say. For the rest of the morning, something about that phone call haunted me and as the hours ticked away, a slow dark cloud began to move into my heart. By lunchtime, I could sense a very old trap of the enemy being set before me, so I began to pray.
I felt the powerful surge of God’s love move into the room and override my refusal to recall every word my daughter had said earlier. Soon, I thought I heard her strained voice again inside my soul as the Holy Spirit started to translate her words back to me, but this time it was spoken with my own voice from 12 years ago. A swell of tremendous pain swept over me instantly, even though I knew I was held in my Father’s arms of mercy and deliverance. I clutched onto His embrace as the words began to swirl around me and it was getting harder to breathe. Then a rush of memories of the young woman in the dark closet making phone calls in hushed voices, void of all emotion, and desperate for someone to rescue me surfaced next. I could actually smell the fear and hopelessness again and braced myself for the buried tragedies that were getting ready to emerge. The next few minutes were a mix of weeping, head shaking, purging, and exhaustion. Jesus was sweeping every corner of that dark closet and leaving no unspoken word behind. For every moment of past terror and fright, He exchanged for grace and laughter. For every confession of forgiveness and repentance, He extended joy and freedom. He undressed my hidden shame and didn’t cause a scene about it. Then He took my guilt and cast it as far as the east is from the west. And from all the suppressed pain and sharp stabs of remembrance, He brought forth beauty from those dusty ashes.
The trap is to believe the lie that I am the cause of suffering for my daughters at the hands of my ex-husband. I hate to admit that I carried that ugly and heavy burden for too long. Sometimes the enemy changes the wording or makes the timeframe of that lie seem like forever. He even eavesdrops on all my precious phone conversations that I deeply savor and tries to fill in the blanks when we say goodbye with speculation and suspicion. I should know better by now, because his tactics are weak and transparent, but a mind that momentarily forgets the truth of God’s word combined with a heart that sits anywhere else except at the victorious right hand of Jesus, can’t be trusted.
In the Lord’s gracious timing, I discovered this quote from C.S. Lewis that perfectly describes the revelation and healing I experienced today:
“God, who forsaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
So, I’ve changed my prayers of pain into praise for the One who has removed EVERY stain. Hallelujah!
1 Corinthians 6:11 – “But now you have had every stain washed off; now you have been set apart as holy; now you have been pronounced free from guilt; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.”
Ephesians 5:27 – “So that He may present the church to Himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.”
1 Timothy 6:14 – “That you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
By: Stuart Kellogg
It was my first seminary class. I was jumping into part of the Bible I’d studied least and rarely heard taught from the pulpit or any Sunday School class. Not only was my first class on the book of Isaiah, the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament, but my teacher was one of the world’s foremost experts. In fact, he would later publish the NIV Commentary on Isaiah. It was the fall of 1999, and it was like my first time in the deep end of a pool; thrown in with fear and trepidation! The scales quickly fell from my eyes. It was as if the doors at the previously closed giant wing of a building were finally opened. I realized that now I was experiencing all that the architect meant for me to see. Why didn’t I hear more about Isaiah and all the books that make up 70% of the Christian Bible?
Well, for one thing, there is a lot of disturbing material in the Old Testament. It’s easier to ignore than learn and explain. Yet, here is God telling us we are so important that He is creating a relationship with us. It’s explaining why we are called to follow Him. Why He promised to send the Messiah. It’s an object lesson in cause and effect, disobedience and consequences, hope and judgment and, of course, love that never dies. If we don’t understand the Old Testament, we really don’t understand God.
Dr. John Oswalt has taught in seminaries for more than half a century, and is currently the visiting distinguished professor of Old Testament as Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. Dr. Oswalt has authored or edited 16 books, including three commentaries on Isaiah and one on Exodus. At 82 he continues to travel around the world teaching and lecturing. He’s also still writing. His latest book, a commentary on Kings, will be published soon. Next up: commentaries on Amon and Ezekiel. Not only was he my Old Testament professor more than two decades ago at Wesley Biblical Seminary, I also was blessed to be part of the small group he led.
He is fighting a very tough battle, as he patiently and passionately shares the joy of God’s gift to us through the Old Testament. Far too many leaders in the evangelical church are downplaying the Old Testament in a misguided attempt to make the Christian faith more accessible, easier to defend and appealing. The fruit of this endeavor is clear to see, as study after study shows the disturbing rate of biblical illiteracy within the church.
Dr. Oswalt likens the Bible to a two story house. If you don’t have the Old Testament basement and first story, there is nothing upon which the second story, the New Testament, can sit. “Very clearly, I believe, in the Old Testament we have the revelation of God’s character,” he told me during a recent stop in Baldwin County. “We have the revelation of the character God wants us to share, and then the hint of how that’s going to be possible. The New Testament is going to make it possible. The Old Testament and New Testament fit right together and you cannot separate them. If you do, you will in fact short circuit the New Testament.”
“Too often we try to defend and incorporate the Old Testament into Christian faith, and we simply don’t need to do that today.” — Andy Stanley/Pastor North Point Ministries
One of the more recent dust ups came from megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. He leads the multi-site nondenominational North Point Ministries in suburban Atlanta. Not too long ago he advocated that Christians “unhitch” from the Old Testament. He claimed that since Jesus is the Messiah, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, there really isn’t any reason to fool with this part of the Bible. The only thing that mattered was Jesus resurrected. He said it took the apostles 20 years to “break that habit” of mixing Jesus and Moses. “Too often we try to defend and incorporate the Old Testament into Christian faith, and we simply don’t need to do that today,” he writes in his book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World.”
Stanley’s concern is that the Old Testament is hard to understand and explain. He says confusion has made people lose their faith because they can’t accept as fact all that is included in the books. He claims that relying on the Old Testament undermines the credibility of the Christian faith. “Too often we try to defend and incorporate the Old Testament into Christian faith, and we simply don’t need to do that today,” he said during a sermon series several years ago.
The problem with this thinking is that Jesus is not only prophesied throughout the Old Testament (scholarly estimates are between 200-300 times) but He also, of course, knew the scriptures and frequently quoted them. In other words, these ancient sacred scriptures were important then, as they are now.
“If you don’t have the Old Testament, you don’t have the God to whom Jesus is reconciling.” -Dr. John Oswalt/Biblical Scholar
Dr. Oswalt says we need the Old Testament to understand the goal of the Christian life and the reality and importance of this world. It also “ gives us the full orbed picture of who God is. Who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? He is not a little god living under our bed to answer our prayers, which is the case for many New Testament Christians. So if you don’t have the Old Testament, you don’t have the God to whom Jesus is reconciling.”
Now, one of Pastor Stanley’s points is certainly fair: there is disturbing material in the Old Testament that skeptics love to bring out as they depict God as this immoral monster. I faced that onslaught recently when I was the guest on Michael’s Wiseman’s The Bible Says WHAT!? podcast. He constantly interrupted as I patiently tried to explain why God’s chosen people had to destroy the enemies who wanted to keep Israel from fulfilling God’s ultimate promise.
Dr. Oswalt says this common critique of the Old Testament must be answered. “The Hebrew people are former slaves….They are going to be very, very susceptible to the sophisticated, elegant Canaanite culture. If they are not going to be protected from that, the world is going to be lost. So, again I say first of all, this isn’t going to be, ‘well we’re going to wipe out the Canaanites because we want to put the Hebrew people in there.’ It’s an act of justice and of love for the world.”
There are plenty of other disturbing, hard to understand examples of what seems to us needless violence, as there are plenty of examples of God’s people acting immorally. There are plenty of examples of just plain confusing scripture. The answer is not to forget or ignore 70% of the Bible. It is to delve in, ask questions, get answers and stand firmly behind all of scripture. As Dr. Oswalt pointed out to me, any Bible story book for children is filled with Old Testament stories. “So it’s not difficult to teach the Old Testament, but it does mean you have to spend time learning it, discovering what it’s saying and that’s not easy. I’m a seminary professor, I’ve spent my life in the theological education racket. This is too easy to say but I still believe it with all my heart. Seminaries have to do a better job teaching the Bible so pastors will indeed be the Biblical theologians they are called to be.”
The burden is on those in the pulpit. And those in the pews. The Old Testament is a powerful reminder of who God is. It can’t just be ignored.
Stuart Kellogg, is author of The Post Covid Church: An Action Plan to Thrive Not Just Survive, available at amazon.com He is host of What Now? The Post Covid Church Podcast, available at
Richard Rohr’s Version of the Enneagram
By: Rev. Clete Hux
For many in evangelicalism, the contemplative movement is enhanced by the growing practice of the Enneagram in the church. I know it sounds anti-Catholic, but it is from such background that the contemplative movement has come, and Richard Rohr with the Enneagram is no exception. Rohr has said that “Until someone has had some level of mystical inner spiritual experience, there is no point in asking them to follow in any life changing way the ethical ideas of Jesus or the mystery of the Christian doctrines like the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, Salvation, or Incarnation. We simply don’t have the power to really understand or follow any of Jesus’ ideals such as loving others, forgiving enemies, nonviolence or the humble use of power except in and through a mystical union with God.” 5
To many young evangelical Christians, Rohr has become the new Merton. One of his publishers told Rohr that his single biggest demographic is young evangelicals. Rohr himself was amazed because some of his books were philosophically heavier than that which is typical of young evangelicals! 6
As with other contemplatives, Rohr appears to embrace religious pluralism by championing the idea of a global religion that would unify the world. Basically calling for a religion that needs a new language, he would advocate a one-world religion of mysticism. Using some of the same verbiage of emergent leaders such as Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, Rohr stated “Right now is an emergence…it’s coming from so many different traditions and sources and parts of the world. Maybe it’s an example of the globalization of spirituality.”7
Rohr has promoted new agers such as Marianne Williamson who wrote the very well-known New Age text, A Course in Miracles. This is very understandable because the New Age Movement embraces the same non-dualistic worldview as Rohr. As is pointed out by Peter Jones, this is the same worldview that mystics of all religions embrace and is Eastern in origin, promoting a one is all/all is one worldview. Jones further points out that Rohr, in the fall of 2010, taught a course, “SP761: Action and Contemplation” in the D. Min program at Fuller Theological Seminary.8 Since that time, further penetration of Rohr’s teachings has flooded evangelicalism.
Last year Sean McDowell did an interview with Dr. Chris Berg, a graduate of the Biola/Talbot Apologetics program, who did his doctoral dissertation on the Enneagram. Berg dismissed the belief that the Enneagram came from Christian mystic sources. Instead, he, like others such as Marcia Montenegro, an expert on the occult, show its roots originate with early founders of the New Age Movement which is both pantheistic and panentheistic. In comparing it to the New Age, Berg told McDowell that the advice the Enneagram gives is virtually indistinguishable from advice given by horoscopes, astrology, and numerology. In addition, Berg also shared that Rohr denies a number of essential Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, and of Jesus as the unique Messiah, instead asserting that all people can attain Christ-consciousness (recognition of one’s own status as being a Christ).9
I mentioned earlier that the biggest danger one is exposed to in mysticism is the subtle erosion of the Creator/creature distinction. Consequently, God is viewed as the oneness of all things and synonymous with or dwelling in all things. This is pantheistic, panentheistic, and pagan, not Christian. Doug Groothuis points out Rohr’s panentheistic error as Rohr takes Col. 3:11 out of context as saying “There Is only Christ. He is everything and he is in everything.” Groothuis corrects Rohr’s error by sharing the biblical text in context saying, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” As Groothuis points out, the text refers to the unity that all believers have in Christ, not their deity, because believers are not divine. To assert we are divine would mean that one does not need the wisdom of a transcendent Creator who exists apart from His creation, because you have all the divinity you will ever need already within you. 10
Rohr, like others promoting the Enneagram, presents that there are nine ways people get lost and nine ways back to God. However, in looking at Rohr’s theological and Christological views, one would have to say that Rohr’s view of God and his Cosmic Christ is not that of true Christianity. In her blog, Alisa Childers has recorded Rohr saying that the universe is the body of Christ, that it is the second person of the Trinity in material form.11 Rohr’s views about God and Christ are perhaps the reason he authored books such as Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer and Falling Upward.
Consistent with his panentheism, it would mean that everything exists in God and God exists in everything. As if discounting original sin, his book, Falling Upward, takes on new meaning because he seems to imply that we (humanity) are all an “immaculate conception”.12
What Shall We Say About All This/How Shall We Then Live?
If the teachers of the contemplative movement are consistent with their pantheistic/panentheistic worldview, then there is no need for God or Christ, because we’re all the manifestation of the same. Furthermore, the Enneagram, in being a “road back to God” would become a “road to yourself.” This is mysticism and nothing more than “do it yourself divinity.” It has been said that in the beginning God created man in His image and ever since the fall man has attempted to return the favor. Sometimes the hiss of the serpent from the garden, “thou shall be like God” is loud and becoming louder.
In contradiction to what is being taught in the contemplative movement, the biblical worldview of God’s relationship to man and creation is clearly defined by separation, distinction, and duality. We see this from the start: “In the beginning God…”, not in the beginning all is one or all is divine, or all things (good or bad) fit together as one. Furthermore in scripture there is a clearly taught separation of the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the righteous from the unrighteous, and those saved and from those not saved. This is so because of the separation of Creator and the creature. In the beginning God created us and yes, we’re made in His image. So, by His grace, let us run toward Him. Let us heed His admonition to come reason with Him!
Perhaps those who are drawn to the contemplative movement ought to listen to what A. W. Tozer, who has been looked at as a mystic, had to say: “Some of my friends good-humoredly–and some a little bit severely–have called me ‘mystic.’ Well I’d like to say this about any mysticism I may suppose to have. If an archangel from heaven were to come, and were to start giving me, telling me, teaching me, and giving instruction, I’d ask him for the text. I’d say, ‘Where’s it say that in the Bible? I want to know.’ And I would insist that it was according to the scriptures because I do not believe in any extra-scriptural teachings, nor any anti-scriptural teachings, or any sub-scriptural teachings”. 13
Tony Campolo, Speaking My Mind (Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group, 2004), p. 72
- Basil Pennington, Thomas Merton, My Brother (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996), pp. 199-200
See: Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (New Directions Books, 1975), pp.234-236.
See: Contemplative Prayer or the Holy Spirit—It Can’t Be Both! – Lighthouse Trails Project
Kristen Hobby, “What Happens When Religion isn’t Doing it’s Job: an interview with Richard Rohr, OFM” (Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Directions, Vol. 20, No. 1, March 2014), pp. 6-11.
See: “Christians and the Enneagram”(An Interview with Dr. Chris Berg) by Sean McDowell, 4/10/2021.
See: A Heretic’s Christ, a False Salvation: A Review of the Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See. By Doug Groothuis
Richard Rohr, Falling Upward (San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 2011), p.1x.
By: Dawn Hill – The Lovesick Scribe
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. Malachi 3:8,10
It is hard telling how many times I heard offering messages referring to this passage in the Old Testament. You may possibly relate to this. The verses in Malachi would be applied to us today in not bringing our ten percent or tithe into the church. I remember being taught that you were to give your tithe based on your gross income, and that once you stopped robbing God of the tithe, He would open up the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing that you could not contain. We were to test God and see if He would not bless us with abundant wealth. We were given multiple opportunities in a single service to give above and beyond the tithe in conferences and when guest speakers came to minister. We even had envelopes with Seed Assignment at the bottom so that you could decree in writing what your money would do as you brought it to the Lord. Leaders would regale the crowd with anecdotal stories of giving and reaping a multiplied harvest of finances and material possessions. I also remember that those who did not tithe or give consistently to the church were not invited to minister the offering message.
Tithing is a hot topic for people, depending on who you ask. Some churches do not have a separate offering message, but those who attend understand the importance of giving to the local church and to others in need. It is not done out of obligation, but out of love for God and love for others. People have done what Scripture says to do, purposing in their hearts what to give and doing so with joy (2 Corinthians 9:7). It is not to say that God does not care for His people. We see in Scripture that He does this very thing and that we are to give. The question arises today as to whether we are commanded to tithe under the New Covenant and if we are promised material blessings.
Additionally, there are teachings out there that are frankly manipulative and abusive in belief and practice. One such teaching was stated in late 2021 during a discussion on The Elijah Streams between Steve Schultz and Robin Bullock. Bullock stated that when someone gives the tithe, this money becomes circumcised. He went on to use the analogy of an individual going into a tire store, stating that angels were in the tire store and were sent on assignment for that covenant person who had circumcised their money, getting them the best deal and the best price on a tire. He said the angels would exclaim, “Heads up, boys! Tithe money just walked in the house!” He went on to say that the man working on your car would be led by the angel to choose a tire without a blemish so that you would not be devoured by the enemy in a car accident. This is the power of the tithe, according to Robin Bullock.
When individuals such as atheists and Ex evangelicals caught wind of this video, they shared it and mocked it, with good reason. Some even noted that the person who did not tithe would get the blemished tire and would essentially suffer because of this. What this teaching seems to omit is the sovereignty of God, and it creates an abusive system where people believe they must give in order to be blessed financially and to even avoid calamity. The focus is on temporal blessing, which the world also enjoys, while ignoring spiritual blessings that a believer reaps in giving, such as joy in helping others in need, furthering the ministering of the gospel, and above all, glorifying God.
Should we give of our finances as believers in Christ? Yes, we should. Are we obligated to give ten percent under the New Covenant? No, we are not. Is there anything wrong with giving ten percent? No, some people may even give more, depending on their income. We are instructed to give sacrificially and unbegrudgingly. We are to give with the welfare of others at the forefront while understanding and trusting that God will take care of us. We should certainly use wisdom in our giving and not have greater burdens placed upon us if our family is already burdened in the area of finances. At the same time, we rejoice in the opportunity to give, no matter the amount. Every area of our lives as a believer comes down to a matter of the heart and the transformation God has done in changing our hearts in the things we love. Our affections change, and rather than giving to get something in return, we give out of love for God and love for others.
We are not promised abundant material wealth, but we are rich in spiritual blessings because of Jesus Christ, and that is sufficient. The gospel can be ministered all over the world with the same results: the salvation of souls. This type of message of tithing and circumcising your money to get better material possessions cannot be ministered globally with the same result. It is sad when messages such as Bullock’s bring reproach on the name of Christ and on His Word, but we are presented with opportunities to speak the truth in love and to demonstrate that we understand the value of giving to others so that Christ may be glorified in our conduct and that others may be served. May each of us live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, and may we rejoice at the opportunity to give what we have purposed in our hearts while honoring God and serving others.
A few weeks ago, Rick and I were visiting family and attended an evening service at their church. Prior to the service, we’d learned that the music director was leaving the area as a result of recent life decisions which were born from months of pondering and the consideration of various options. We’ve been around this lovely man for many years, and have enjoyed his open, friendly manner and the easiness of his personality. Rick had worked with him several times; joining him on the stage with his guitar for special worship sessions whenever we happened to be in town through the weekend. But, as I watched him, I could feel a heavy spirit weighing on him as he led the congregation in song. I leaned over to Rick and whispered that I strongly felt we needed to pray over him after the service.
We waited for everyone to clear out and approached him while he was winding up audio cords. When I asked if we could pray for him, he let out a long sigh, closed his eyes, and said, “Yes!” We stood in a tight group, holding each other’s hands and I don’t remember everything I prayed, but I know that I spoke all that the Holy Spirit placed on my heart. I prayed out specific blessings over him. I asked God to pour out favor upon him and make a way for him. I asked the Holy Spirit to go before him and prepare hearts to receive him and prepare him to find joy in the discovery of new relationships and in the reconciliation of troubled, established relationships. I asked the Father to cover him with grace and to help him leave all his baggage from the past and move forward with only the positive expectation of a fulfilling future. And I called the spirits of doubt, dread, and fear out of him in the name of Jesus Christ. Rick followed with a sweet prayer of encouragement and endorsement. During the prayer session, he was fully engaged and uttered words of agreement and praise. His heart was so open to receive, and anxiety and tension seemed to leave him like a fine mist coming off his skin. When the prayers ended, he looked at us with teary eyes, thanked us, and said, “No one has ever done that for me before.”
That simply crushed my soul.
I thought about that statement for days, trying to wrap my head around how a believer – a worship leader – could make it into his seventies without ever having been the beneficiary of a Spirit-filled, authentic prayer meant only for him.
While I wrestled with that thought, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I had once been very aware of that truth by bringing up a relevant memory.
Several years ago, I was teaching a women’s Bible study class – I don’t even remember the exact topic – and I put our pastor on the spot and asked her what percentage of churches did she think openly embraced manifestations of the Holy Spirit and prophecy? After thinking for a few seconds, she said that it was maybe 50%. I countered her projection and said that I believed a very generous estimate was 3-5%, but I really felt like it was probably below 1%. She seemed a little shocked but knew me well enough to trust my gut. At this point, I was in my mid-fifties and had lived in several states, two European countries, and Puerto Rico. I’d been in churches that were Catholic, protestant, denominational, non-denominational, conservative, contemporary, large, small, country, and city – all kinds of Christian churches. All kinds of Christian people. All kinds of beautiful Christian love.
But it wasn’t until my 52nd year that I found myself guided by the Holy Spirit to a church plant that met in the YMCA in my neighborhood – and it was there that I learned how to become comfortable with how He moved, and how He empowered, and how He wanted me to pray. But because of the prior 52 years, and my intensely studious nature, it took several years for God to reteach me how to communicate with Him. Let me tell you – I had my religion on! There were so many rules and so much dignity that had to be undone.
My pastor’s experience, on the other hand, had been very different. She became a believer in her late teens and then a few years later, completely emersed herself in the revival movement in Toronto. She was surrounded by anointed people who fully embraced all the offerings of the Holy Spirit, and she has kept their company to this day. So, for her, “normal” was a supernatural place where about half of the Christian world lived and played. It pains me to confess that at the time of that particular Bible study session, her shock gave me a bit of gratification; it was nice to be the Queen of Understanding for a few minutes.
However, it pains me even more to admit that the Holy Spirit, now, had to put me in my place and reveal to me that I’ve been operating with my own set of blinders on. I’ve been running down a path into the Father’s heart and basking in signs, visions, and revelations. I’ve been rejoicing over healings and victories in Jesus. I’ve been teaching, and writing, and working for the glory of the kingdom and I’ve been building a wonderful community of believers with whom I can engage. Looks good on paper, right?
The problem is, in recent years, I have let my zeal for the Lord and my personal journey of sanctification distort my perspective of the condition of the Church – and of the world. I have neglected to focus on the incredible need for prayer in those beyond my reach. And, in the quest to develop a truly meaningful approach to prayer through intimate partnering with the Holy Spirit, I have made the unfortunate assumption that all believers are doing the same.
My friends, God hears all prayers, and all are good. But not all prayers carry the power to transform a life. Not all prayers make an investment that will last a lifetime. So, when you offer a prayer, I encourage you to stand close to the Holy Spirit and have the courage to be clear and direct. Have the confidence to make it personal and don’t take cover in politeness or platitudes. Take a risk and be vulnerable as you pray a prayer that can only fit one soul. Pray like Jesus prayed – with authority and compassion and unconditional love. There are hearts waiting that have never received a bold prayer that opened up the flood gates of hope. That have never stood before someone that was willing to get personal and make them feel known. There are people desperate for someone to notice their need and to acknowledge their worth in the Kingdom. Be that prayer warrior.
Father, help us to look up from our lives and see the world with the eyes of Jesus. Help us to drop fear and pretense as we step into our purpose and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit while reaching out to minister and bless others in prayer. Let us speak Your words of life with Your breath from Your heart. And show us the way to Your starving, broken children. Amen.
Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Psalm 138:3 When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.
Ephesians 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.