It’s half-way through summer, which means kids and moms are fretting. Kids because the summer is ALREADY half done and moms because it’s ONLY half done.
If you’re looking for an idea to jumpstart your kids for the rest of the summer, try this, which we’re doing in our home. We’re calling it Summer Son and it’s based on Luke 2:52:

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”

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Someone recently asked me what forces have helped me mature. That is, what factors were responsible for my personal growth? Although several causes came to mind eventually, my first thought surprised me—it was trials.

According to Webster’s, a trial is, “a test of the quality, value, or usefulness of something.” Usually we like to avoid trials because trials are painful. When we propose a personal or professional development plan, we don’t propose the deliberate inclusion of trials. When trials come, we want to walk the other way.

But trials can be powerful forces for good in your life. Here are five ways that trials can benefit you:

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Although he was the Son of God, Jesus had a clear vision for prayer. The book of Luke gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ prayer life. One particular night after he started his public ministry, Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of people. But he went alone up the mountain and spent the whole night in prayer. The next morning, he acted upon the result of his prayer time—he chose twelve from among the multitude to be his close disciples (Luke 6:12).

Luke 9:18 says Jesus prayed in private. Luke 9:28 says that Jesus took three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—up a mountain in order to pray. And in Luke 11:1, Jesus was praying near his disciples and after he finished, one of them said, “LORD, teach us to pray.” This disciple had observed Jesus’ vision for prayer and wanted to grow in prayer.

In his classic book about spiritual disciplines called Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives.” Do you have a vision for prayer? Would you be the one disciple who says, “LORD, teach us to pray?”

Learning to pray begins with a clear vision for prayer. Here are four helpful ways to think about prayer:

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The other night I did something I had been putting off for months. Once I got the idea, I sat on it for a while, but then in a rare flash of courage, I acted on it.

My idea was to invite a group of men to my house to tell them they were important to me, and to tell them why. I would, one by one, look each in the eye and give word to our relationship—review the history of our friendship, name what I admire about them, and give them a personalized gift.

I wanted to celebrate men who were important to me.

But what guy would willingly come to something like this?

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Although spiritual gifts are one of God’s ways to build a healthy Church, many Christians aren’t operating in them.

-They don’t know what a spiritual gift is.
-They don’t know what a spiritual gift is not.
-They don’t know what their spiritual gift is.

And consequently, the Church isn’t benefiting from their gift nor are Christians experiencing joy from operating in their gift. The Body is dismembered.

But the Bible exhorts us to pursue spiritual gifts because we form one body. As a reminder, here’s my preferred definition of a spiritual gift (C. Peter Wagner):

“A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.”

Here are five reasons we don’t pursue them:

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We discussed the crisis of spiritual gifts in the Church and what a spiritual gift is. Now we discuss what a spiritual gift is not.

This is important because of the confusion regarding the definition of a spiritual gift. For example, in the spiritual gift survey we previously referenced, 20% of the respondents claimed they had spiritual gifts that aren’t actually spiritual gifts: “sense of humor, singing, health, life, happiness, patience, a job, a house, premonition, creativity, and clairvoyance.”

And since starting this spiritual gift series, questions have risen from readers and confirmed the confusion—some people don’t know what a spiritual gift is and what’s it’s not. For example, Are spiritual gifts different from the fruits of the Spirit? Patience appeared in the survey as a spiritual gift, but according to Galatians 5:22, patience is a fruit of the Spirit as well. Is patience both a gift and a fruit?

Or the question, Are talents the same as spiritual gifts? Creativity also appeared in the survey as a spiritual gift, but is creativity more of a natural talent? What’s the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift? Are they the same?

These kinds of questions signify curiosity and confusion, so let’s jump in. To start, here’s my preferred definition of a spiritual gift (C. Peter Wagner):

“A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.”

Now let’s discuss four things a spiritual gift is not, from Wagner’s book on the topic:

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Here’s a directory of free online tools to help you pray with more purpose, passion, and consistency. There are guides, downloads, videos, live streaming, and more.

As the list grows, we’ll post them at Do you know of a free online tool that should be included? Just fill out the form at the bottom of

If you want to grow in prayer or encourage others to grow, please visit

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Last week we shared a statistic in the Church. Although spiritual gifts are vital to the health of Christ’s Body on earth, a survey revealed that the majority of respondents (63%) didn’t have a biblical understanding and/or a practical application of spiritual gifts.

This is troubling because not only are spiritual gifts part of God’s strategy to build the Church, but they’re also central to experiencing joy as a Christian. According to Pastor Ray Stedman, “The value of your life as a Christian will be determined by the degree to which you use the gift God has given you.”

This week we look at what a spiritual gift is.

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When I discovered different ways to pray, I was really excited. Prayer had become stale and stagnant to me, an obligation not an inspiration.

This discovery opened up the heavens. I don’t know if I so much found them as they found me. They were in the Bible the entire time. I just needed eyes to see them.

What does this mean?

-There are lots of possibilities for prayer.
-We don’t have to pray like other people.
-We can find the prayer types that work best for us.
-We can pray our own prayers.

This is what I saw.

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A few years ago, the Barna Group released results from a multiple year survey involving 3,000 self-described Christians. When I read the results, I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help it—some of the responses were funny to me. But as I thought more, the hilarity faded. Here was a glimpse into the Church and I lamented what I saw.

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