National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer. 
All around the nation today, people will be gathering in churches and at flagpoles to pray for our nation. Click here to find a list of observances near you.

I will be taking part in the Longmont-area noon observance, which is open to all. It will be held at 737 Bross St. in Longmont from 12:00-1:00 PM.

Wherever you are today, set aside your time today to pray for our nation.

Pray for All People First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (1 Timothy 2:1-3 ESV)

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I Believe in Miracles; Here’s Why.

I believe in miracles because I have one walking around in my house. Here’s our story:

In January of 2010, my wife Rosemary was in her final month of pregnancy with our second child, a girl whom we had decided to name Felicia, which means “happy”. It has been a pretty smooth pregnancy, with one exception: in the last trimester she experienced intense itchiness in her skin, like it was on fire. It was so unbearable that she was unable to sleep and sometimes resorted to standing outside in the cold to numb her skin. We now know that this was caused by a condition called cholestasis, in which the liver stops functioning, and isn’t cleaning the blood. This condition went undiagnosed, and led to what happened next.

Rosemary went into labor naturally, and was quietly getting ready to go to the hospital, but at one point her contractions suddenly went from being 9 minutes apart to being 2 minutes apart. She had a sense that something was wrong with the baby, so she told me that we needed to leave immediately, and left our 2 year old son with our neighbors and we rushed to the hospital.

We arrived at Markhót Ferenc Megyei Kórház, the hospital in Eger, Hungary which was about a 10 minute car ride from our home, just a minute or two after 8 o’clock that morning. The nurses took Rosemary into the room to measure her vital signs, while I waited outside in the hallway. At this point I assumed that everything was fine, and that I would be welcomed into the birthing room shortly, as I had been with our first child who was born in that same hospital. I started emailing my parents on my phone, letting them know that the baby was on her way.

Only a few minutes later, the door to the birthing ward was flung open, not by a nurse inviting me in as I had expected, but by the doctor, who came running into the hallway, nervously yelling to others down the hall to come immediately. He then turned to me and said, “There’s a problem with the baby”, and disappeared back behind the door of the birthing unit.

Over the next few minutes, 20 or so doctors and nurses ran past me into the room where my wife was. I didn’t know anything, and when I asked the nurses what was going on, they told me they couldn’t tell me anything — only the doctor was allowed to do that, but they privately said that it was bad and the baby may not survive. At one point a nurse ran into the birthing ward carrying a plastic tube of some kind, and a few minutes later 3 nurses ran out holding a little body wrapped in towels, while one of them pumped frantically on that same plastic device as they transported her to another area of the hospital.  After about an hour of nervously waiting for any news, I saw our doctor, who knew I was a pastor, and as he ran past me in the hall, simply said: “Pray!”.

Three hours passed as I waited for the doctor to call me in and tell me what had happened. I was called into the office of Dr. Kovács Krisztina, the head of the neonatal department. She explained that when they had first called Rosemary in for examination, they were not able to find the baby’s heartbeat, and they had to do an emergency caesarian. She explained that they didn’t know why, but that our daughter had gone without oxygen for quite a long period of time. At this point I asked the question which had been on my mind for hours: “Is my baby alive?” “Yes, she’s alive, but there is a good chance she will not live through the next 24 hours. And if she does, then you can be sure that she will have life-long serious disabilities, because she went so long without oxygen, that she has suffered serious brain damage.” Her APGAR score was a 1, the lowest score possible. She was not breathing at all, and the only reason she got an APGAR of 1 was because she did have a faint heartbeat.

Dr. Kovács explained to me that there is only one treatment for babies in this condition, but it is very experimental, and so I would need to sign a consent form. The treatment involved putting the newborn baby into a morphine induced coma and then subjecting them to hypothermia to try to salvage what was left of their brain and other vital organs which had started to die due to the lack of oxygen. I signed the papers, and then was taken into a room, where Felicia—whose body was completely grey and lifeless except for the fact that a respirator violently caused her chest to rise and fall—was in an incubator, and she was wheeled in to where Rosemary was. Rosemary had been put under during the emergency surgery and was just coming to—and they made her reach in the incubator and touch Felicia. Basically, they were making sure she got the chance to meet her baby and say goodbye.

Right after that, Felicia was wheeled outside, where she was taken by a special ambulance from the Peter Cerny foundation, which helps babies get to the Semmelweis university hospital neonatal intensive care unit in Budapest. Semmelweis is the best equipped hospital in the country for neonatal ICU, but they have limited space—room for 10 or so babies at a time, so they only take the worst of the worst. When Felicia arrived, we were told that she was in the worst condition of any of the babies in that unit.

I went home and packed up my son to go to Budapest to be with Felicia—and I quickly wrote a blog post asking people to pray for a miracle. I would continue writing posts about Felicia, which were then shared on social media and sent around the world. Thousands upon thousands of people began praying for Felicia’s healing from every corner of the globe, and messages began filling my inbox from places like India and Africa, from people I had never met, telling me they were praying for God to heal our little girl for His glory.

For the next 2 weeks, Felicia was unconscious. She had wires and tubes sicking out of every part of her little body and she was on a respirator, because she was not able to breathe on her own. During that time the doctors conducted a blood test and found an enzyme in her blood that indicated brain damage. A normal level of this enzyme would be 25 count – Felicia’s level was 1500 count; very disheartening news. The doctors told us to prepare for the worst. They were unsure if she would ever wake up from the coma, and even if she did, it was unsure if she would ever breathe on her own, not to mention whether her nervous system or vital organs would function properly. Not only had she gone without oxygen, but she had inhaled meconium, which filled her lungs and throat, which had developed into pneumonia. She had also inhaled meconium, which had then infected her digestive tract. We were told there was a good chance she would be in a vegetative state for her whole life.

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In the NICU during the coma

All we could do was pray. And so we asked everyone we possibly could to pray for her – churches around Hungary and throughout the world began praying for her. People I had never met began approaching me and telling me, “I’ve been praying for your daughter!” Our church in Eger came together to support our family; the community of Calvary Chapels in Hungary rallied around us, praying for us and encouraging us constantly.

After 7 days of being in the coma, Felicia woke up. Rosemary got to see her that day for the first time, but it was bittersweet. Although Felicia was alive and awake, she showed signs of being handicapped. Her eyes were crossed, she could not focus on anything, she could not swallow, and did not move. We left that night with a sense of heaviness, but once again wrote a blog post asking people to pray for Felicia to be fully healed.

The next day we walked into the ICU to find a different baby in Felicia’s bed; it was her, but she was so different than the night before, that we hardly recognized her! That night, her condition had changed completely. She made eye contact, was moving, had started swallowing milk and making noises!

After another week in that unit, Felicia was transferred to intermediate care, and then to Developmental Neurology at a different hospital in Budapest. She had suffered brain damage; even though seemed to be doing better, she was still very sick; she basically had no reflexes. Rosemary spent a week in the Developmental Neurology department being trained by doctors to do reflex therapy with Felicia at home in order to create new pathways in her brain, taking advantage of the abundance of stem cells that babies have. During this time we continued to pray for her healing.

For 8 months, we spent 6 hours a day doing therapy with Felicia. At times we had people come live with us to help cook and clean, so we would be free to care for our little girl. At one of our regular visits to the neurology department, after 8 months of therapy, we were told that Felicia was healed. She now had all the normal reflexes that a baby her age should have; reflexes being a key indicator of healthy brain function.

All the doctors and the nurses who witnessed Felicia’s recovery told us that it was a true miracle—that they had never seen a baby who was in that bad of a condition – the worst in the entire country when she arrived – get better, and not just get better, but to the point of having no symptoms!  Felicia had 5 different doctors who treated her, and each of them told us that surely God must have healed her.

On Felicia’s first birthday we had a party. To this 1 year old girl’s party, people came from all over Hungary and even from the United States. Most notably, the head doctor of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Semmelweis, who had personally attended to Felicia during her time there, Dr. Szabó Miklós, as well as Dr. Kovács Krisztina came to the party, and Dr. Szabó spoke, and told everyone that as a doctor, he can attest to them, that Felicia’s healing was a genuine miracle. He said that he never accepts invitations from the families of his former patients, but he drove up to Eger from Budapest for Felicia, because her story was so special and remarkable to him.

God healed Felicia. When Felicia was 18 months old, we were told that she would no longer need a neurologist. She was given a completely clean bill of health!

In 1 Chronicles 16, David says:
[8] Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
[9] Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
[10] Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
[11] Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
[12] Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
[23] Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.
[24] Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
[25a] For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
[28] Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
[29] Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
[31] Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”

Again and again in this song of David – he says “tell” of his wondrous works. Remember the miracles he has done, and bring glory to God by declaring those things to the nations, so that all will see that He indeed is Lord of heaven and Earth!

Today Felicia turned 4 years old, and she is completely healthy in every way!  She is a true miracle.

We will never forget, and we will continue to faithfully tell our story for His glory.

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A Message from Ukraine

Maybe you have heard about what’s happening in Ukraine – where upwards of 25,000 people have taken to the streets in anti-government protests. 

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A friend of mine who is a pastor in Ukraine spoke at our church here in Longmont a few months ago (click here to watch that video), and today I asked him to write a brief synopsis on what is going on in Ukraine and how we can be praying for them. Here is what he wrote:

“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” 1 Cor. 12:26

You may have seen in the news recently that Ukraine, a former Soviet republic sandwiched between Russia and the European Union, is in the middle of massive street protests.  These protests were originally in reaction to the president breaking his promise to sign an association agreement with the EU.  People were angry and began to protest on the main square of the capital, Kiev.  After a few days on Nov. 30th, the president tried to end the protest with a massive show of violence, sending out special forces and riot police to beat peaceful protesters with batons.  They struck in the middle of the night when the fewest number of protesters were there to resist.  They beat both men and women indiscriminately and savagely, though the protesters posed no threat.  The president hoped that he would be able to put a stop to the people calling him to accountability for his broken promises.  He was wrong.  The reaction was the opposite and the next day many more people joined the protest.  This became no longer primarily a question of economics or which countries to build alliances with, but an outcry against human rights abuses, violence and oppression.  
Last night the president sent in troops and police again to try to clear the main square, though with more restraint as far as violence goes.  They attack began around 1:30am local time, again when there were less protesters to resist.  Many believers across Ukraine began praying.  We called each other, sent texts, waking one another up to stand before our mighty God and Savior and ask for Him to intervene.  It looked like this was the end of the protest and there was a thin line of protesters holding back a flood of riot police.  But then little by little people flocked to the square from all over Kiev in the middle of the night.  Soon the numbers were even.  Then the protesters were the majority.  By a miracle of the grace of God and in response to the prayers of His people, the protesters endured through the night and are still there.  The morning found a renewed protest and masses flocked to rebuild the barricades the police and special forces had torn down during the night.  
But the conflict is not over.  Tonight promises to be an important and difficult night on Independence Square in Kiev.  The protesters are more organized now, talking about organizing shifts for the night watch, but even then it will not be easy.  Also, the temperatures dipped down to almost 5F during the night last night.  Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, including many pastors, are on the main square and will spend the night there ministering to the people and praying for God’s protection and peace and that His justice would triumph.  Near the beginning of the protests, some pastors set up an inter-denominational prayer tent on the square and people are coming to pray and even receiving Christ during this difficult time!  
The Word of God calls us to stand in unity and solidarity with both our brothers and sisters in Christ and with the oppressed and weak.  In this case, there is great overlap in those two categories.  I would beg you to stand together with the church in Ukraine before God and intercede at this pivotal moment in the nation’s history.  

Please pray for the following points:
1. Not against any party or person per se, but for the nation of Ukraine, that God would pour out His blessing and mercy on this people.

2. That God, who is not a God of disorder, but of peace (1 Cor 14:33) would establish His peace, order and justice in this land.

3. That God, who hates the hands that shed innocent blood (Pr. 6:17) would protect the people from violence and bloodshed, regardless of political affiliation.

4. That God would bless those currently in power by bringing them to repentance and the knowledge of Him and that they would rule in submission to God and turn from their wickedness, that we might live quietly and peaceably. (2 Tim. 2:2)

5. That the people would not be cursed in turning their hope to yet another man or political party in this time of trouble, but would be blessed by putting their hope in the Lord. (Jer. 17:5-7)

6. That the true enemy of man, Satan, who desires to steal, kill and destroy, would be cast down and that his plots would not prevail. (Eph. 6:12)

7. That, as our Lord Himself taught us to pray, the kingdom of God would come and His will be done on earth as in heaven. (Mt. 6:10)

Thank you for standing together as one body with your brothers and sisters in Ukraine.  God bless you and God bless the people of Ukraine!