Defining the Gift

Day Two

This is my 2nd day of a 21 day fast for understanding the things to come.  Like Daniel in chapter 10, I have “set [my] mind to gain understanding and to humble [myself] before God,” (Daniel 10:12).  Most Christians agree that we are living in the End Times.  Jesus is coming soon to Rapture His Church, and many terrible things will follow, including the final war, usually called Armageddon (although in the Bible, the name actually refers to a place, not an event).  However, there are probably things that we need to do to prepare for those terrible times.

I want to make it very clear that I am not asking God to reveal to me when the Rapture will be.  Jesus said that only the Father knows the day and the hour.  The angels don’t know, and even Jesus, Himself, doesn’t know (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32).  If the Father isn’t revealing that to Jesus, then it’s for sure that He won’t tell me.

What I want is to understand what is coming and how to help God’s people prepare for it.

This morning as I was praying and contemplating my role, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my main spiritual gift: Encouragements.  In the King James Version, the gift is called Exhortation.  The Spirit urged me to consider the difference between the 2 words: encouragement and exhortation.

So I looked it up in the online dictionary.


  1. to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : hearten
  2. to attempt to persuade : urge
    1. to spur on : stimulate
  3. to give help or patronage to : foster


  1. to incite by argument or advice : urge strongly
  2. to give warnings or advice : make urgent appeals

Then I got curious about the original language: Greek.  In the Greek, the word is paraklesis.  Paraklesis is from the root parakletos, the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit, and translated as comforter.  That discovery is very encouraging to me.  I love the thought that my spiritual gift is much like the Holy Spirit, Himself.


  1. a calling near, summons (esp. for help), importation, supplication, entreaty
  2. exhortation, admonition, encouragement
  3. consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment—thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
  4. persuasive discourse, stirring address, instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

In contrasting these definitions, it seems that encouragement is too soft.  It seems to imply jollying-along someone who is depressed or unhappy.  But exhortation seems too hard and cold, almost like how a teacher talks to a lazy student.  Paraklesis is precisely what I do, which includes both encouraging and exhorting, and also refreshing and comforting.

C. Peter Wagner defines the spiritual gift of exhortation as frequently being part of the pastor’s gift mix:

The gift of exhortation is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement, and counsel to other members of the Body in such a way that they feel helped and healed.  “Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow” © 1979, 1994 C. Peter Wagner, Regal Books.

Now, having defined and contrasted the definitions, I understand at least 1 thing: this time of fasting and praying for understanding is important for helping the missionaries and pastors of Europe that God puts into my path (and others who will read it on my blog or in my next book).  God is good!

Surprised by Love and Kindness

I have the best job in the world, and I can say that because I have the best Boss in the world.  I’m a missionary, and my Boss is God.  I have never felt like my job was thankless or the work difficult.  Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:29-30).  And I can attest to the fact that it’s true—it’s truer than I had ever imagined possible.  How can it be that I spend my days pleasantly, doing what I love to do: meet missionaries, pray for them, and help them whenever and however I’m able?  It sure doesn’t seem like work, but I have a benefits program that’s unbelievable.  God provides for all my needs, He’s the Great Physician of my health plan, whenever I need legal help He’s my Advocate and the Judge, and the retirement program can’t be beat.

Me teaching the children to do the “Hokey-Pokey.”


I am in southern Hungary, staying in a nice house with a sweet family.  I came here at the invitation of a friend to help in a children’s summer Day Camp/Vacation Bible School.  I’ve been helping this week with various aspects of their program, but honestly, I’m somewhat limited as to how much I can do because I don’t speak Hungarian.  What I’ve done is teach the children some songs and games in English, help with the afternoon snacks, and basically just be available for anyone wanting to practice their English.  To be honest, it has just been fun.  Nothing I’ve done all week felt like work, and the family is very pleasant to stay with, despite the language difference.  The oldest son speaks English fluently, while the rest of the family’s language skills vary from almost fluency to practically no English at all.

Tonight they asked me (through the oldest son): “What does Hungarian sound like to your ears?”  Without hesitation I responded that it sounds like tongues.  When this was translated, the family screamed with laughter.  But I have noticed that after spending all week hearing Hungarian all day every day, I am beginning to be able to distinguish familiar words.  OK, most of the words I recognize are the numbers (one to ten) that I learned last year.  But I’ve also intuited a few words from the way they are spoken or the subject matter (when I know it).  And I know that if I’m able to pick up a few Hungarian words without really trying, then my advice to students wanting to learn English is good: listen to English every day.

Today was the last day of the camp, and they wanted me to speak briefly to the audience of children and their parents, and to lead them in a simple English song (“Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes”).  So I just told them how very grateful I am to have had the privilege of getting to know them and their children.  I had seen firsthand how big-hearted and generous the Hungarian people are, but that didn’t prepare me for what came when my part of the program ended.  The Camp Director came to the front with a basket of goodies for me, and he spoke about how much they all love me, and how they hope that I will someday return to visit their town again.  That’s when I lost it.  I was so touched by their kindness that my emotion flowed out of my eyes.  I doubt that any queen has been treated as royally as I have been treated here.



Long-Distance Counselor

I believe that God allows each of us to go through some terrible stuff for a reason.  And that reason is so that we can help others find their way.  Recently three friends from across the globe contacted me to ask for advice.

Without going into detail, Christian marriages are a big target for the enemy.  Just because you’ve married a Christian doesn’t mean that your marriage is immune from his attacks.  The devil is an expert tempter, and he knows just what bait to dangle in front of each of us.  And even if it’s not an extra-marital affair with a three-dimensional human being, pornography has become so easily accessible that even if you’re not looking for it, it often finds you on the internet.  Innocent searches sometimes result in an accidental visit to a pornographic website.  In a twist that would have the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves, these people claim that pornography is “free speech.”  Really?  If you read the writings of Thomas Jefferson, for example, you’ll find that he was a very moral man (despite being a slave owner).  He would have been horrified to find his words used to defend and protect pornography.

My advice to these friends is the same:  focus on Jesus.  It’s not easy to do, but in a nutshell that’s what it will take to get through this very difficult time.

When I was going through the summer of my divorce I did exactly that.  And I went to church every week even though I felt like pulling the covers over my head and sleeping my life away.  I was suffering from depression, so I chose a spot down front, right behind the pastors.  I had two reasons for sitting down front:

  1. If you sit down front and bow your head, people won’t come talk to you because they think you’re praying.  (I wasn’t because at that time, I was having a lot of trouble praying, but more about that in a moment.)  I didn’t know anybody there yet, and didn’t really want to.  I didn’t want to socialize because . . .
  2. I desperately needed to hear from God, and I didn’t want anything to distract me from hearing Him.  I know that if I sat even just a few rows back, I would be distracted by what people were doing, how they were dressed, etc.  The worst would be to see couples with their arms around each other.  For decades I had prayed for my husband to come to church with me again and put his arm around me (something I took for granted in the early years of our marriage).  It never happened.  And for years, every time I saw couples with their arms around each other in church, I broke-down and cried.

From that place down front in a church where I was unknown, I found the freedom to worship God with everything I had.  And that’s not because I felt like worshiping.  What I felt like doing, as I said, was pulling the covers over my head.  But I worshiped with complete abandon because He is worthy, no matter how I feel or what I’m going through.  (That’s the advantage of having been a Christian for over 40 years.)  I held nothing back.  I poured out every shard of my broken heart in worship.  God loves brokenness.  Not because God enjoys our pain, but it’s from a place of brokenness where we find that we can truly surrender.  Think about it:  if you’ve come to the end of yourself, it’s so much easier to go ahead and surrender because you feel like you don’t have anything worthwhile left anyway.

Praying was difficult in the midst and immediate aftermath of divorce.  Every time I tried to pray my mind would go back to all that mess like a dog working on a bone.  But I knew that prayer was important.  Even if I couldn’t manage to hear God’s voice with all the interior interference, I at least had to talk to Him.  So what I did was start writing my prayers in a journal.  It helped a lot!  In fact, God eventually used that prayer journal to show me my ministry.  And little by little, I was able to start praying without pen and paper.  Now I easily pass a pleasant hour or more in prayer each day.

I Surrender All

God wants it all.  He wants everything you are, everything you have—everything.  Even when I had nothing left, it wasn’t easy to surrender it all.  But I did.  Again, this is the advantage of being a mature Christian.  Once I took that step and surrendered it all, nothing was taken away (though I was ready for that to happen).  Instead, He gave me something so unbelievably precious that I’m still in shock over it.  He gave me a life.  And not just any life, but the life of my dreams!  I’ve always loved three things:  Europe, travel, and missionaries.  Now my ministry is traveling throughout Europe, visiting missionaries, and praying for them.  God supplies all my needs, and I lack for absolutely nothing.  Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:28-30).  And the things I used to fear (speaking in public and flying) have actually become fun.

At 56, I feel like my life has finally begun.  God is good!