Tag Archives: Spiritual gifts

Die Empty

In the opening to his book, Die Empty, author Todd Henry writes about the artist, designer, and urban planner Candy Chang who…

“…transformed an abandoned home in her new Orleans neighborhood into a living work of art. She had recently lost someone she cared for deeply, and was reflecting on the meaning of life and what truly mattered to her. She was curious to know if other people had similar thoughts about living with a sense of urgency and purpose so she created an enormous chalkboard running the height and width of one side of the abandoned home. She then stenciled the words ‘Before I Die…’ at the top of the wall, and created dozens of spaces with the words ‘Before I die, I want to _________’ in grids across the surface. Chang provided the chalk needed to fill in the blanks, and waited in anticipation to see what would happen. Would people participate? Would it be vandalized? Would anyone even notice?

“She didn’t have to wonder for long. The installation was an immediate hit, as neighborhood residents and passersby filled it with their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Some of the contributions were impersonal and matter of fact, and some more deeply personal:

  • ‘Before I die I want to… sing for millions.’
  • ‘Before I die I want to… write a book.’
  • ‘Before I die I want to… understand.’
  • ‘Before I die I want to… tell my mother I love her.’
  • ‘Before I die I want to… be someone’s cavalry.’

“Word quickly spread, and visitors began showing up from throughout the region to inscribe their dreams and creative aspirations on the wall. It wasn’t long before others were inquiring about creative installations in their own communities. At present, there have been more than 100 ‘Before I die…’ installations in cities around the globe…”

I thought of Todd Henry’s book as I considered Paul’s word to his protégé, the pastor in Ephesus, Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV)

God had given Timothy a gift, and Paul wanted him to use it, not let it waste away. If you don’t mind me saying so, Paul wanted Timothy to “die empty.” And why would someone let their gift go to waste? Why might you or I let our gift, given to us by the Spirit Himself, go to waste? Here are four reasons:

  1. Fear: We are afraid to step out in faith, risking failure, risking embarrassment, risking (fill in the blank). So we stay where we are, comfortable…sort of, but not doing what God has gifted us to do.
  2. Weakness: We reason that we just don’t have the strength, which means, I suppose, that we don’t really think we have the gift.
  3. Lack of love for others: Ultimately, the Spirit gives us a gift to serve the body of Christ, which is just the loving thing to do. Honestly, I believe that one reason people don’t use their gift is that they don’t care as much as they should about others.
  4. Lack of discipline: Some gifts especially take self-control and discipline to exercise. In these cases, without self-control, the job will never get done.

But of course, Paul’s answer to Timothy was that not only had he been given a gift by the Spirit, but that he had also been given the Spirit of God Himself, Who was not a Spirit of 1) fear, but of 2) Power, 3) Love and 4) Self-control.

And though you might not want to pay attention to everything he has written, this quote by George Bernard Shaw has always moved me…

“This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

So what is the Almighty One calling you to do? Step out in faith, take your life – your “splendid torch” – and fan your gift into FLAMES for the glory of God.


For tomorrow, Friday, September 4th: 2 Timothy 2

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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Carpe Deum, Uncategorized


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Should All Christians Speak in Tongues?

I found a book in the garage attic today: Pat Boone’s: Pray to Win: God wants you to succeed.

If not quite a classic, it was still one of the first Christian books I ever read as a new believer, and aside from teaching me about prayer, it also made me wonder if I was missing out on a practice the Bible calls “speaking in tongues.”

I was familiar with the idea long before I had come to Christ. Growing up, we spent Thanksgivings with my mom’s sister’s family in Decatur, Illinois, and they went to a church that spoke in tongues during the service: Waterstreet Christian Fellowship. In the days before any of us Knowltons were Christians, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jack Fleener and their kids, my cousins, seemed perfectly normal except for the church they went to.

My dad always bristled at visiting Waterstreet, but since we ourselves were regular churchgoers, if we were in Decatur for the weekend, we went along. When Dad walked in once, the greeter called him “brother”, and I remember hearing him grumbling about that: “Who’s he calling brother? I’m not his brother.” No, Dad, you weren’t, but your day would come.

And so it was that as a boy at Waterstreet, I was first exposed to this practice of speaking in other tongues, or glossolalia, as the theologians call it. And then, shortly after my conversion at age 18, I picked up Pat’s book, and who was I to argue with the old crooner? Pat spoke in tongues, and he said I could too. Moreover, it sure seemed biblical, at least as far as I could tell. So I’m sure that over thirty years ago, I asked the Lord to give me the gift of tongues.

He never did, but like He’s done for every other believer, He graciously gave me other gifts, and today I wouldn’t trade any of them for speaking in tongues, as wonderful as that gift undoubtedly is.

And interestingly, along my pilgrimage through the years, I have off and on heard people say that God wants all Christians to speak in tongues. Hmmm…apparently not. And then, of course, even worse is the United Pentecostal doctrine that you’re not a believer if you don’t have the gift; I ran across a student touting this teaching when I was in college, and it shook me for a brief time…and then I read the Bible. For among other places in the Scriptures, Paul made it ultra-clear in 1 Corinthians 12 that not all Christians speak in tongues…

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 (ESV)

The questions assume a negative answer. Are all apostles? (Of course not.) Are all prophets? (No.)…Do all speak with tongues (No.), etc.

This is so important to understand, because I recently heard of a wonderful long-time Christian who was disappointed not to have yet spoken in tongues. What a bummer…and what a lie. I suppose the disappointment largely stems from the idea that somehow it’s impossible to experience God in the fullest apart from this gift.

But speaking as one who along the way in life has known the heights of joyous and rapturous fellowship with our Heavenly Father, I can testify that while having this gift may indeed be a very wonderful thing, it is absolutely not necessary to a deep knowledge of God and a glorious experience of His love. In His wise providence, He gives each of His children different gifts…for His different purposes.

For Thursday, May 21st: 1 Corinthians 13

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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


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