We have many friends who are waiting. We pray for ten couples who are more than eager to have a child. Some have waited a long time and are losing hope. One has given up. I met with one of these couples recently. Waiting can tamper with two important pictures: how we view ourselves and how we view God. I asked her if waiting had changed her outlook of herself. She answered, “Not now, but it did for a while.”

Haunting thoughts have time to germinate in a restless soul: maybe I wouldn’t be a good mother. Perhaps I don’t have what it takes. Or we transfer the shame to heaven: maybe God is not as faithful as we thought. Maybe He does have favorites, and I don’t happen to be one of them. Maybe He is testing us by not giving us children. Maybe He has disqualified us because of something we did earlier in life. Questions bombard young adults in the waiting room. We feel unprotected, and Satan opens fire. In our weaker moments, we agree with his assault.

My friend said that she has made it through the worst of it. She is now at a place of relative peace. They are thinking of foster children, still with the expectation of having their own as well.

Other friends are hopeful of being married. The clock keeps ticking, and it reminds them of the inner biological clock. Time could run out. Doesn’t God see? Doesn’t He care? Why is He singling me out? Why do five friends get married and I stay single and sad? What is wrong with me? Am I diseased? Am I not beautiful? Do I not have what it takes? I thought I did. I think I do. But no one is budging.

Delay is not denial, but it feels like it. Would it be easier to wait if we knew that the promise would be fulfilled at the end of the time period?  Yes, but what if time runs out and still no child, no husband, no job, no future. I want to believe that God sees me and cares, but in my troubled times I doubt it.

In our anxious waiting, we read the words of David and feel that he understands: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy says, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken” (Psalm 13:1-4).

We feel understood. Someone in the Bible who had a heart for God felt the way we feel. We are being validated. We are not alone and we are not crazy. Maybe we are being heard. Perhaps the answer is on the way.

David concludes his “how long” Psalm with confident words: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” With you, too!


After some dry weeks, the rain in July and August has been refreshing. The grass and the garden soaked it up. We sing, “Open the floodgates of heaven; let it rain, let it rain!” We are praying that God would answer this prayer for our church, city, state, country, and the nations of the world. He has certainly done it in the past. Think Nineveh. After the preaching of Jonah, God brought conviction upon all the people from the king on down.

Jesus said, “When he [the Spirit of truth] comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). The king knew that he and all his people were under the judgment of a holy God. How? The Spirit convinced this pagan ruler. We will meet him and his people in heaven (Matt. 11:42). God could do that in a moment in other cities of the world–Tokyo, Mexico City, Moscow, San Francisco, Dubai.

He will do His part. We have two primary responsibilities:

  1. talking to God about people, and
  2. talking to people about God.

Most have a stronger focus on one than the other. Daniel Nash was a powerful intercessor for Charles Finney. Daniel arrived two weeks early and plowed up the ground through prayer to prepare it to receive rain. Finney the preacher relied so much on Daniel the pray-er that when Daniel died, Finney left revival preaching and went back to pastoring.

Peggy and Christine didn’t talk much to people about God, but they spent long hours talking to God about people. Peggy was 84 and blind; Christine was 82 and crippled. They seldom left their little cabin home.  But they were convinced through prayer that God was bringing revival to their Hebrides Islands west of Scotland. They urged their pastor to send for Duncan Campbell. He came for two weeks–and stayed for two years. It poured down rain from 1949 to 53. Heaven credits two elderly invalids with calling faithfully on God and cooperating with Him to bring revival rain.

Two truths:


How marvelous is that. We team up with God. We do our part–prayer and proclamation, and He does His part–convicting and convincing. Persistent prayer by parents and grandparents of long-haired, pot-smoking hippies brought a powerful revival in the early 1970’s to more than 100,000 young adults in the Jesus People Revival. The epicenter of that downpour was a few miles from my home–Calvary Chapel. Meanwhile, urgent prayer by students at Asbury College in 1969 and 70 brought a sweeping revival on their campus, starting on February 3, 1970. That downpour spread around the country as they sent out teams on weekends. I remember hearing about it as a student in seminary.

So we pray, “I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds. In our day renew it“ (Habakkuk 3:2). “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6). This refrain occurs three times in Psalm 80: “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!”  The weather forecasters are calling for heavy rain. I’m praying for it and expecting it! What about you?


I find myself presently dealing with six marriages on the rocks. Some have hope, others lost it. Two have used the “d” word. I am trying to believe for them, when they are unable to believe for themselves. Rebuilding a broken marriage is no piece of cake. Takes work that some find daunting.

On the other side of the fence are single people who desperately want to be married. “Desperately” may not be a strong enough word. They look at couples enjoying life, having kids, doing the fun things families do, like going on vacations or watching a movie together. They know that they are meant to be married. Ouch. I tell singles, afraid that they may have the the gift of celibacy, “If you want to be married, you don’t have it.” Celibacy is for people who are called to it and rejoice in it (maybe).

So what I say to people on both sides of the fence: Life is not found in marriage or in the single life. People who are sad but know that once they get married all that will change could be in for a surprise. Singles who put all their marbles in the marriage basket better not leave them there if they get married. It would be too oppressive for their spouse.

I encourage engaged couples to write down their five biggest expectations for marriage, then throw them away. All too easy for an expectation to become a silent (or vocal) mandate for the partner: “You must do this for me to be happily married.” Rather than writing down expectations, try this: “Here are the five things I will do for you to make this marriage thrive.” A lifetime guarantee accompanies that posturing.

Not that I don’t understand the struggle of a single person desiring a spouse, a family, a legacy. But I still say, “Center your life on God. Be the best single person you can be. Paul regards it as a preferable station in life for people who want to have influence with others. The two most prominent people in the Bible were single. I know some single people who would make wonderful spouses but who chose to give their life away–like many missionaries have done.

They are champions, and their joy in eternity will mask any disappointment they may have felt in this life. They denied themselves, took up their cross, and followed Jesus. Instead of living in painful regret for what they didn’t have, they poured their life out and influenced many, something they probably could not have done the same way as married people. Paul writes like he understands: “Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (I Cor. 7:28).

Likewise, I understand why marriage takes work. I failed as a young married man to give proper understanding to a young mother attempting to raise children with a religious husband. She forgave me. So Karen and I fight for marriages. God is a healing God. Bottom line: wherever you are, whatever you are–center your life in God.


The strongest words on marriage in the Bible come from Jesus. He was coming under attack from leaders looking for loopholes. They didn’t find any. Here’s what Jesus said: “’Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate’” (Matthew 19:4-6).  

Haven’t you read…?  Who can know God’s thoughts and ways? Those who can read. The Pharisees were ignoring the first two chapters in the Bible. The life God offers is not meant for the spiritually elite. It’s for readers, humble enough to recognize the Creator behind the creation. Want to know how God defines marriage? Want to know the perimeters of sex? Ask someone at the U. of MN? No.  Read the Book!

At the beginning… Christ’s outlook was not some new idea. It started when God called stars into being.  “At the beginning” means that the love of a man and woman is rooted in history. It’s not the latest idea. A young couple joins countless men and women who are doing marriage God’s way. The song, “I did it my way,” has nothing to do with life in God.

The Creator made them male and female.  Jesus takes us back to Genesis 1: “Go God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (27). Every human is created to reflect the likeness of God. And because God’s image is reflected differently from a woman than a man, their union causes God’s image to shine with even greater luster.  

The Bible says that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. If that is not your understanding, God still loves you. But the creator of the human race gets to decide what marriage is.

For this cause…God works on purpose. Creation reflects intelligent design, whether examining a Minnesota dragonfly or thinking about a billion galaxies. God has purpose in keeping a man and woman together for a lifetime. It builds a strong church and impacts society. Destroy the family and annihilate the culture.

And the two will become one flesh.  Sex is God’s idea. Embrace it God’s way and enjoy. Outside of marriage sex disorients and destroys. God’s first command, “Be fruitful and multiply” (1:28), comes to a man and a woman, committed for life.  Sex is for procreation and recreation.

What God has joined together…What if love wanes?  Behind our love stands the sovereign purposes of God. He protects this first institution of the race. When half the marriages are ending, we need God’s plan. A couple is committed not until love ends but until life ends—because God stands above the marriage!

…let not man separate. God puts up His two hands at a wedding and says, “I am making them one. Stay out!”  Marriage needs to be protected from people who will use puny excuses to break it apart. We are keeping our marriage together for ourselves and for the preservation of society.



We often feel powerless. Then take a look at the power of God. He shows His power in…

HIS FREEDOM. “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3).  The Lord said to Abraham after he and his elderly wife laughed at the thought of having a baby, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Gabriel told Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke l:37).  Any impossibilities challenging you? They don’t challenge the Almighty.

CREATION. “…by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).  “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary…” (Isaiah 40:28). Good to know.

NATURE.  He is the one who “makes Lebanon to skip like a calf” [an earthquake?], whose voice “breaks the cedars,” “flashes forth flames of fire [lightning], and “shakes the wilderness.” Fireworks!

PRESERVATION.  The Son sustains “all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). God asked Job regarding His power of preservation, “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb…when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther?’” (Job 38:8-11).

COMMAND OF THE ARMY OF HEAVEN. The psalmist wrote about our warrior God: “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Ps. 24:8). Angels, powerful servants of God, join in praising His strength: “Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones [angels], ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Psalm 29:1). Attention!

SALVATION. “The Lord will lay bare his holy arm…and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10). The gospel is “the power of God for salvation…” (Romans 1:16). Impressive!

The Old Testament refers often to two great acts of power: the creation and the exodus. In the New Testament, God’s power centers in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul prays that we might know “the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).

RESTRAINT OF EVIL. Kings and rulers chafe under the divine restraint.  But “the one enthroned in heaven laughs” (Psalm 2:4).  When evil blossoms forth as a sign of the curtain call of history, twenty-four elders will say, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign” (Revelation 11:17).

JUDGMENT.  St. John of the Apocalypse continues, “The nations were angry; and your wrath has come” (11:18).  Jesus is returning in “power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30) and His name will be vindicated in his judgment of all humanity.


He never abuses it. His power has not tainted His character. Our words can carry the freight of shame or guilt. By contrast, “every word of God is flawless” (Prov. 30:5).

He gives power to the powerless. Mary praised the God who “has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Luke l:5l,52). Let us praise the power of God!


The disciples failed that much–in one chapter.  Kids make messes. That is part of what they do–naturally. Then they grow up. When the disciples got it, they really got it. So will you! Don’t be discouraged when you mess up, but grow from it. Failures are not final if you learn from them. This was their debut. Jesus “sent them out to proclaim the kingdom and to heal” (Luke 9:2). But…


Jesus had plans to feed the multitude–they didn’t. “We have no more than five loaves and two fish–unless we are to go and buy food for all these people” (Luke 9:13). Philip even got out his calculator to prove it couldn’t happen (John 6:7).They knew how much they lacked, not how much Jesus had. And even after Jesus fed the crowd, they still didn’t have faith the next time around. Jesus marveled at two things–great faith and the lack of it. Upgrade your faith monitor!


“‘Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah’–not knowing what he said” (Luke 9:33). Peter, if you don’t know what to say–don’t! He was comparing Jesus to these two great men. When they disappeared, it was time for the Father to speak, and He knew what to say: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” The Son of God dwarfs all other heroes. Listen!


Jesus didn’t say, “I understand; this is a tough one.” He said, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?” (9:41). Jesus expects a fight with the darkness and knows we can win it. Believe–and go for it!


“And they were afraid to ask him…” (45). Jesus spoke about his suffering and death many times, and it went over their heads. They were thinking glory, not gory. Peter was even bold enough to rebuke Jesus for speaking about death: “This shall never happen to you,” because Peter didn’t want it to happen to himself. But it did–and he was ready for it!


They were in the presence of greatness, and they were still trying to climb the ladder. Jesus had to remind them that “he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (48). It’s not how high you can get but how low you can go!


Call it sectarianism: our group is better than yours. “I am of Apollos.” Jesus encouraged them to be inclusive rather than exclusive. An embrace works better than a stiff-arm. “The one who is not against you is for you” (50).


Judgment is not the first thing that comes to mind for Jesus in the face of rejection. It is for some of his followers. God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…” (Ez. 33:11). Mercy wins over judgment. Sure hope you learn well when you mess up. (Thank you, Dave Heinrich, for the insights that led to this study!)


I took on my friend Luthor. Once. He was youth pastor where I served. He had been wrestling some of the high schoolers and said to me, “Let’s go.” I was a decent athlete, so I figured I had a chance against this state champion. Wrong. When I was worn out after four minutes, he decided to pin me–and it was over.

The Bible says that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” but we do wrestle. I want say two things:  whom we wrestle and how. Important. Wrestle the wrong person and lose–like me. Wrestle the right person the wrong way–still lose. Wrestle the right person the right way–have fun winning!


Whom do you think? The pastor, the partner, the government, the boss? They can be used by the enemy–they are not the enemy. The more we fight peripheral battles, the more Satan wins. The reason the people of God are often ineffective against the darkness is because they are not engaged against the darkness. They think their biggest fight is next door, or the person at church who neglects them. Listen to yourself talk. That can tell you whom you are fighting.

Now listen to Jesus and the apostles: The “thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a). Sounds like the enemy to me. Peter wrote, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). He’s bent on devouring you. I’d call that an enemy. Let me say it plain: you are wrestling Satan, not saints.


The mindfield. How you think determines winning or losing. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The mat is the mind. We are commanded to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

So how does Satan wrestle? With accusation, intimidation, temptation, and deception.

He accuses us to make us feel guilty, so we hopefully get discouraged and lose the match. He’s so bold that he even accuses God. When going after Eve, he asked cynically, “Did God really say…?” When God bragged about Job to Satan, he responded with, “Does Job worship God for nothing?”

He intimidates us to make us run. He uses fear tactics: “You’ll never get over that problem.” “You’re a wimp, and everyone knows it.” When we agree, fear and guilt control our lives, and we are neutralized in the battle.

He tempts us like he tempted Jesus. He deceptively offers us pleasures that turn out to be prisons. Short-term gain means long-term pain. Notice that Satan does not use physical force. We are not coming against raw power; we are in a thought battle.

He deceives us by offering one thing and giving another, by telling us lies hoping we will believe him. He changes the price tags. Eve bought the lie and bit the apple. Disaster. Sin weakens us and brings us into Satan’s playground. When he deceives us into getting angry, it gives him a foothold (Eph. 4:27). When he deceives us into withholding forgiveness, we are tormented (Matt. 18:34) and rendered ineffective. He fights dirty and tricky, and the naive lose. Those who know who to fight and how will win! Be a winner!


Friends make themselves easy to contact: “Call me any time, and I mean it.” We don’t want to overuse that privilege, but we believe it. It demonstrates love at both ends, our friend’s availability and our boldness in bothering in the middle of the night. We apologize—they take it as a compliment.

How humble of God to put Himself within reach. He says, “Connect anytime.” “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jer. 33:3). He loves staying in touch with us. We don’t have to go to a holy place or change clothes. We simply call. In fact, God says that “before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).  To get to the president, you’d go through guards and desks and memos and security checks. To get to the creator of the universe, you call. No office hours. He doesn’t take days off or leave for vacation.

I called Orlando, a finance manager and member of our board. I asked if we could meet up that day. He said, “That wouldn’t work; I am in Hawaii.” I said, “Orlando, why did you answer the phone?” He responded, “Because I have learned to make myself available to people.” What a humble response.

On the hill (D.C.), there are people who are known for their inaccessibility. Really hard to connect with them. Don’t return messages. Does that make them more important? It makes them one thing–hard to reach. It might be pride.   

The more important you are, the less available you are to normal people. The CEO of Apple can’t be accessible to everyone. Some people must choose their contacts because of their high-level job. The lower you are on the totem pole, the less likely you isolate yourself from common folk. You are the common folk. So where does that put Orlando? And where does it put God?

“God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of need” (Psalm 46:1). 911 is used for emergencies. So is 46:1. God has chosen to make Himself available to the needy. David wrote, “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice…” (Psalm 18:6). Thanks for listening, God!

When we see Jesus carrying a towel and basin and washing the feet of the disciples like a lowly servant would, he just put a face on God. When we see him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, we know what God is like. When we see him submitting to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the religious leaders, then submitting to death itself, we understand that God is humble. He makes Himself available–not to the high and mighty but to the low and needy.

Important people usually only make themselves available to other important people. God does the opposite: He “is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Makes me love God more. How about you?


…who believes that Pentecost affects everything. Passion and Pentecost form one inseparable whole. Pentecost does not complete the work of the cross–it personalizes it. Jesus said, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 15:14). John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). What revelation! He just summed up the Bible. Four verses later the Father said to John, about to baptize Jesus, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit showed up at Pentecost–and never left. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Was that for show? It kept happening as the Spirit was poured out (Acts 8, 10, 19). From the reading of Paul (I Cor. 12 & 14), we would assume that they continued to use this brilliant gift to build themselves up and to worship. It was not used for communication. When Peter got up to preach, it was not translated because all who gathered apparently understood his Aramaic.

I am an evangelical who believes that Pentecost can still be experienced. I speak in tongues because it is in the book. When my friend Graeme invited me to speak at his church in Arizona, the bishop Howie Wennes heard I was coming. He called Graeme and asked, “You’re not becoming charismatic, are you?” Graeme responded, “If it’s in the book, we want it. If it’s not in the book, we don’t want it.” End of discussion.

Paul writes that “he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (I Cor. 14:3). I don’t know too many people who are overdosing on encouragement, who need a little discouragement in his life. The gift of tongues was reserved for God’s New Covenant people to walk in continual encouragement as they live out their life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How do I know it is a gift that builds up the one exercising it? Because I feel better when I speak in tongues? No, because the Word of God tells me it happens. Take it on faith as you do the rest of the Bible. Evangelicals who have tolerated the gifts at best or spoken against them at worst are not as evangelical as they profess. They have managed to talk themselves out of some blessings that are meant for them and for the whole body of Christ. And remember–wrong use is not an excuse for disuse. Correct the abuse and get on board. We all need a personal Pentecost.

The book, Empowered Evangelicals, can help solid Christians who love God and His Word to step into the life of the Spirit more freely. I would like to connect with pastors who are evangelicals, because I am one. I just happen to believe that the full blessings of Pentecost belong to me and to all in the body of Christ. Did I hear an “Amen!?” I would like to pray with pastors (and all others) who are hungry for more and believe it can happen through the work of the Holy Spirit!



.Letting others run over me (but it may)

.Always talking about my weaknesses (which puts too much focus on ME)

.Inappropriate sharing of personal failure, such as sexual sins in a mixed crowd

.Self-deprecation (as if to say, “Look at how bad I’ve been,” which some take joy in)

.Being vulnerable with the wrong people at the wrong time for wrong reasons. Think Hezekiah.

.Foolish tempting of the Lord, like taking risks He has not called us to (jumping off the temple).


“The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom.8:26). That must also mean that the Spirit doesn’t help when we are trying to be strong. In my fear as a recovering Pharisee, I wanted to look strong, even though I knew I was weak. Trust me–that does not welcome the Holy Spirit.

“God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (I Cor.1:27). God has a marked predisposition toward the weak. How comforting can you get!

“I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling” (I Cor.2:3). The mighty apostle modeled weakness for all to see. He didn’t try to sound eloquent or look powerful. Impressive!

“Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (I Cor.12:22). Weakness is built into our anatomy.

“It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (I Cor.15:43). We go from great weakness to great strength. Great. The reverse is also true. Look out!

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Cor.11:29,30). Weakness helps us to identify with the weak. What kindness!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.12:9,10). Weakness is actually a weapon of war. It displays the power of God.

“He was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power”(2 Cor.13:4)). Weakness was modeled most clearly in the cross, the power of God unto salvation. Weakness goes the way of the cross, the way of self-denial.


God can turn our greatest weakness into our greatest strength. Halleluia!

Weakness brings me God’s grace; it also encourages relationship and fellowship.

Weakness overcomes the devil, who would rather see me glorying in my strength.

Christ’s time of greatest weakness demonstrated God’s greatest power. Do you suppose that works for you as well?

God uses weakness to shame proud people.

Weakness encourages dependence upon God and interdependence with others.

Weakness facilitates healing (Js. 5:16) and brings the Spirit’s help.


Fear had made me want to look strong. Confidence in God allows me to live with my weakness. I became more vulnerable as I learned to deal with my pharisaism.  Self-righteousness chokes out vulnerability, because self-righteous people are in hiding, as I was.  When I started coming out, I discovered that vulnerability was really safer than running. Welcome to weak!