Category Archives: Spirit-filled

Requiem for a Warrior…Russ Calvin

photo_20150609_AL0068019_0_russcalvin_20150609A requiem is a lament—the wailing of a heart broken—a song of sadness that emanates from deep within the soul. Throughout human history these songs have accompanied the death of a warrior. Russ Calvin was such a warrior—a man who battled and wrestled in spiritual realms so that we might enjoy God’s blessings in the physical one. He was my friend, Worship Pastor, and brother-in-the-faith. And today I choose to put my sadness in words to encourage others on their own journey. Perhaps it will push you farther, higher, or deeper in your own excursion through life.

Russ was a gentle giant, whose passionate pursuit of God leaves deep footprints to follow for those of us still chasing after God. Russ finally caught the Savior whom he had run after throughout his short lifetime. Thirty-seven years seems so young—so brief, yet Russ accomplished more in that limited span than most of us will in a long lifetime. He made time count, knowing that none of us is promised tomorrow.

Russ was soft-spoken, not loud and boisterous. But when he spoke, the volume, tenor, and depth of what he said often rang like a clap of thunder. When he spoke of Jesus, it was not the platitudes of a preacher or the clichés of a theologian, but rather the experience of a lover who had experienced the heart-to-heart connection of genuine intimacy with God. Russ knew God, not facts and figures about God. They were on a first name basis—a beloved Father and his treasured son. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake what it’s like to have been in the intimate presence of God. Russ knew—he’d spent long spans of precious time in that secret place.

Russ was also a man who knew and understood God’s Word. His grasp of God’s promises was not a shallow one. No, he staked his life, his marriage, and his ministry on the fact that God cannot lie. In the midst of the suffering he endured as he battled heart and kidney issues, Russ refused to let go of or give up on any of the promises God had whispered into his spirit. He tenaciously hung onto those promises like a bulldog. He stood faithful when many who were treating him gave him no hope. Russ believed God, and he acted on that faith. He spoke it. He prayed it. He shared it with doctors, nurses, technicians, strangers, and friends. He obeyed the words God had given him—he acted on the revelation whispered to him by the Holy Spirit. Obedience is the outward sign of an inward belief. Russ heard the Word—then he acted by obeying the Word—the promises given to him by the God who cannot lie!

Russ was a spiritual warrior. He understood the battlefield and his ancient foe. His calling was a simple, yet profound one. He had been commissioned to enforce the victory of Calvary, to destroy the works of the devil, and to be a vessel God could use to set the captives free. Spiritual warfare was not a theory to discuss for Russ. No! It was a daily life and death wrestling match to engage in. He knew what it took to snatch souls from the jaws of the hounds of hell and he was willing to engage those demonic mongrels if it meant freedom for another person. He was feared by hell and empowered by heaven.

Russ did what he could do with what he had to work with. His complaints were few—just a wish that he could do more, serve more, share more, or worship more. He was limited by the weakness of his heart—but not anymore! He fought through debilitating pain, weakness, discouragement, and frustration—but not anymore! He was limited, constrained, and unable to do many of the things he longed to do—but not anymore! Russ is now free—free to worship without restraint or limit. He is free to dance. He is free to lift his hands like an eagle spreading its wings to heaven. He is free to run, to jump, and to spin in utter unbounded joy. And best of all, Russ is free to sing with an unrestrained voice that cannot be silenced by disease, death, or even the devil.

I could sing a sad lament, a wretched requiem, but if I did it would have to be about someone other than Russ. Yes, we are separated from Russ for a time, but Russ is not dead. No he is more alive than he has ever been. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living according to Jesus. You see—God cannot lie! Russ is alive and he is enjoying the literal presence of the One whom he chased after so hard.

In the meantime, all of us need to get after it while we still can. Pursue God with all your strength. Russ did! Love people with all your heart. Russ did! Don’t worry about those things you can’t do—do the things you can. Russ did!  Worship the Lord with total abandonment. Russ did! Trust God’s promises, walk them out, and enjoy every one of them. Russ is!

Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice of the Church (Part 4)

Whenever God speaks he speaks truth, whether it is in Scripture or through a personal prophetic word. He cannot lie. If a revelation is from God, it is true and we can therefore put our full faith in it. God is infallible, but we are not. Therefore we must learn to test what we think we have heard.

When God speaks we can mess up what we hear if we are not careful. Every prophetic word has three parts: (1) the revelation—what is said, (2) the interpretation—what it means, and (3) the application—what we are to do about it. We can mess up revelation by not hearing correctly or adding to it. We can also mess up the interpretation by not asking God what he meant, choosing instead to go with what we know from past experience or personal knowledge. And we can mess up the interpretation by a misinterpretation of the action God expects or desires.

Let me illustrate what I mean. I love to teach. I enjoy the research and the process of putting together information to share with others through speech or in a book. Over the past few years, God has given me opportunities to teach in Romania, Germany, and Mexico. Often what I teach is new to my audience or the way in which I present it is different from what they are used to. In a sense, I am revealing something they might not have known, and in that sense, it is revelation. My purpose is for them to hear what I am teaching, understand it, and know how to apply it in their lives.

For this to happen, I have to have an interpreter to put it into the language of the people I’m speaking to. I only speak English, and I do that with a deep, slow Southern drawl. Most of my interpreters speak English as a second language. They don’t always understand the nuances, colloquialisms, and southern idioms I use. In other words, some of the things I say just does not translate well—or at all. So it is very easy to say something that is extremely vital to the message and then have it misinterpreted because my interpreter is translating word for word—not interpreting or making the proper application.

Several years ago, I was teaching a group of German students about having an intimate relationship with God. I made a statement that communicates well here in the U.S., but when they heard it, they fell apart, laughing hysterically in the aisles. It was not a humorous statement. I was confused—I didn’t know what to do. So, I look at my interpreter with that “please help me—I’m dying here” look.

The statement I had made was: “Too often we don’t share God with others, instead we keep him locked in the closet.” The pastor who was interpreting did it word for word translation, but a closet in German is not a place to hang your clothes, it is the potty—the commode—the water closet. The kids were howling—wanting to know why “my God” was in the bathroom. Needless to say, what I was attempting to communicate was missed. They missed the revelation because my interpreter did not hear what I meant, and thus the interpretation was missed and the application lost.

This happens all the time with personal prophetic words. To fully benefit we must hear the word correctly, interpret the word accurately, and apply the word appropriately. If we hit two out of three—we fail and God’s revelation is missed.

Humility and prayer are the essential tools for hearing revelation, discerning the interpretation, and implementing the application. We have to do the work. We cannot accept a word from someone without humbly asking God, “What does this mean and what am I supposed to do with it.” We must pray over the word to make sure it has been heard correctly, interpreted precisely, and the application is exact—or we miss what God is saying.

The apostle Paul, in the very first epistle he wrote, put it this way, “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise ( don’t look down on, hold it in contempt, or see it as below your status) prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NASB).

It’s Time to Stop Arguing and Act!

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The modern church can’t seem to make up its mind on what a “Spirit-filled ministry” looks like. For some, it is proclaimed through the practice of divine healing and supernatural miracles as the Bible is demonstrated. For others, it is proclaimed through the practice of obedience and growth in sanctification as the Bible is taught. One stresses experiential, while the other demands subjectivity. Yet both are required to have a genuine “Spirit-filled ministry.” It is possible to have both and still be biblical, but we must follow the example of Jesus to insure that.

According to Luke 4:14, Jesus returned from his temptation experience “in the power of the Spirit.” What he was teaching (subjective truth) and ministering (experiential truth) caused such a commotion that crowds began to gather wherever he went. Our definitions of “Spirit-filled ministry” are based more often than not in denominationalism rather than the Bible. Luke 4:18-19 gives us a concise, clear, and workable definition of what a “Spirit-filled ministry” looks like. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.”

A true “Spirit-filled ministry” will always deal with the “poor,” meaning primarily  the “poor in spirit.” The very form of this designation given by Jesus indicates this group was lacking something. These are men and women who are helpless, miserable, helpless, and hopeless. It is more than a condition; it’s an attitude of the soul toward God. It is the utter realization that one has nothing to offer and everything to gain from an encounter with God. Miracles take place in this atmosphere when the impotence of man encounters the magnificent power of God. This “poor” condition aptly describes every person Jesus met.

This “Spirit-filled ministry” also deals with liberation, which is freedom. Just as Jesus encountered the battlefield casualties of creation’s cosmic war, so do we. He saw the spiritual captives that were held at spear point as prisoners of war. He saw the “blind ones” whose prison cells were so deep in darkness that the pupils of their eyes had become darkened by the perpetual smoke of the pit they found themselves shackled in. He saw the “shattered ones” who were broken in so many pieces that wholeness and health for them was not even an option. He saw them, but do we?

Jesus saw and he acted. He liberated the prisoners of war and broke the taunting spear of slavery the enemy was dependent on. He restored the sight of the blind and broke open their prison doors revealing the brightness of his glory. He gently collected the fragile pieces of the shattered and carefully put them back together. He freed them from the crushing weight of sin and sickness. He not only liberated them, he also pardoned them, canceling their debt. Can we do any less?

The lame began to walk. The blind began to dance. The demonized began to worship. The dead began to live. Adulterers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves began to listen to the Word of God and obey it. Miracles, healings, obedience, and growth in godliness began to take place at astounding speed in the most obscure places in Israel. Jesus illustrated a “Spirit-filled ministry” for all to see.

Perhaps we need to stop arguing about how it looks and start doing what Jesus did, the way Jesus did it. Imagine for a moment—if Jesus had argued about it with the religious experts of his day, we would have no example of what it should look like—but he didn’t and we do! Yet, the world is still looking for a viable, continuous example of what a “Spirit-filled ministry” looks like. Perhaps we should follow the example of Jesus and let everyone else argue.