Christianity 201

March 18, 2017

Negative Thoughts May Block Healing

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.
 ~Song of Songs 2:15

In our quest to feature writers from different branches of Christianity, today we are paying a return visit to the blog Power Up! which is part of the Charisma Magazine website. This particular blog is updated weekly and features different Charismatic writers. To read this at source, explore other articles on the blog, and then migrate to one of ten other blogs on the site, click the title below; for more info on the writer, click her name below the title or the links at the bottom of today’s article.

Liberating Your Mind From ‘Destructive, Little Foxes’ That Block Your Healing

by Kathie Walters

“Why is it that when I get physically hurt, I can receive healing right away, but emotional hurts hang on for months?” my friend Jill asked me. I answered with a question: “What do you do when you need a physical healing?”

Jill thought for a while. “When my father was visiting me,” she replied, I made the mistake of mounting one of the horses while we were in the barn. The horse reared up, and I fell off. Then the horse fell on me, and the horn of the western saddle dug into my stomach.”

“What did you do, I asked?” I asked. “I immediately began to praise and thank the Lord for my healing,” Jill said. “I could feel pain, but I didn’t allow any negative thoughts to enter my mind. I kept praising Jesus and looking to Him, and within a few minutes all the pain left, and I was totally OK.”

Jill told me that she had experienced similar healings in the past, so her faith was built up in the area of physical healing. I asked her about the problem she was having with receiving inward, emotional healing.

Before she could respond, the Holy Spirit began to show me what the problem was. “You receive the inner healing when you pray, don’t you?” I asked. “But then negative thoughts come and you start to dwell on them, right?” Jill thought for a few minutes and agreed that this was what happened whenever she was hurt emotionally.

Jill’s difficulty is a widespread one in the body of Christ today. Many of us have had physical or emotional healings or even visions and words from the Lord that we received and believed at the time. Then after a while negative thoughts began to come and fight against the healing or vision. As we entertained the thoughts, they got a stronger hold, and then we became double-minded.

The apostle James tells us that a person who is double-minded is “unstable in ALL his ways” (James 1:8, emphasis added). He also says that we are to “Ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (v. 6) and is unlikely to “receive anything from the Lord” (v.7).

No wonder the devil wants us to entertain negative thoughts that war against our faith! No wonder we are told to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5)!

Thoughts can be very positive and build our faith, or they can become the means of aborting our vision. The devil doesn’t want us to prove God and fulfill our destiny, so he continually throws thoughts into our minds like arrows. If we are not on guard against them, the arrows will enter and bring unbelief, doubt, fear and even depression and defeat. Remember, God is not a yes and no God! The Bible says that “ALL the promises of God in [Christ Jesus] are YES, and in Him, AMEN, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20, emphasis added).

Our first battle is in the mind. This is why Paul instructs us to “Gird up the loins of [our] mind[s]” (1 Pet.1:13). To “gird,” according to Webster’s dictionary, means “to encircle, bind, to surround, to prepare oneself for a trial ahead, to provide, equip or invest with power.”

Paul is saying there is a preparation we need to make concerning our minds. In the book of Ephesians he tells is what it is: putting on the pieces of armor, particularly the helmet of salvation, that are given to us to equip us for battle. What is the helmet for? It covers the mind.

Sometimes we get so busy wielding the sword that we forget to put on our helmets and “gird up the loins of our minds.” Then Satan has a field day. Remember, his ministry is the same today as it was in the beginning—to plant doubt in the in mind of God’s people by asking, “Has God indeed said?” (Gen. 3:1).

When God gives you a word or a vision, or gives you direction for your life and calling, you receive it and are excited. But then Satan, that sly, old fox, sends all his little foxes out to capture your thoughts, generally before you’ve had the opportunity to lay hold of your vision. Just as in the natural foxes come to steal the farmers’ chickens, in the spiritual realm Satan’s cohorts come to steal God’s word out of your heart and mind by causing you to doubt. Many of God’s children have almost given up their “word” or the vision that God imparted because of these destructive little foxes that come in the guise of negative thoughts.

The negative thoughts are particularly destructive when they play on past disappointment. If if the enemy can get us to dwell on all the times when we didn’t receive what we hoped or believed for, he will lead us into certain defeat. Don’t allow past disappointments to affect your present faith! Instead, look to Jesus, the “author and finisher of [your] faith” (Heb. 12:2).

God wants us to walk in faith to receive the things we need to do His work. We must be filled with the Spirit and with faith in order to bring healing and deliverance and dwell in the wisdom of God, not just for our own lives but for others’ also. So put on your helmet of salvation, and when you see those foxes advancing, send them packing by taking every thought captive and trusting Jesus to increase your faith.

Prayer Power:

As you pray this week, remember God’s Word and believe what He has promised on your behalf (2 Cor.1:20). Claim the Scriptures for the salvation of your loved ones, the furtherance of the gospel, and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. Continue to pray for worldwide revival, and especially for our own nation. Remember our government and spiritual leaders and ask the Lord to give them wisdom, grace and protection (1 Tim. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 1:20; 2 Cor. 10:5).

August 29, 2016

We’re Wired for More

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Florida and would land on the moon just four days later. While the spacecraft had a very sophisticated computer navigation system, this was the 1960s after all and today, I’m told that I have more processing power and functionality in the small smartphone which fits in my pocket.

Similarly, on the day that I trusted Christ as my savior and promised to make him my Lord, I had only limited knowledge of scripture and awareness of the gifts God had given me, but today, as I endeavor to mature in Christ, hopefully I have much more potential spiritual power and ability to be his witness in the world.

Unfortunately, I will never understand everything that my phone is capable of doing. There are things wired into it (even though I realize there are no actual wires anymore) that are beyond my understanding.

Similarly, there are are things that God has wired me for, so to speak, that I can choose to apply or use, or allow those gifts to atrophy. Sometimes, only as I step out in faith will I know the resident potential that exists.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  -Ephesians 2:10 NLT

In a world before time, God “planned” us for “good things” and the resident potential within us is great.

but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. -Daniel 11:32b NASB

Other translations have

  • shall do exploits (KJV)
  • will stand strong and will act (CEB)
  • shall stand firm and take action  (ESV)
  • will act valiantly (NET)
  • stand strong and prevail (TLV)
  • carry out great exploits (NKJV)

…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him… -Ephesians 1:4 ESV

Esther 4.14The challenge of course is that few of us know exactly or entirely what God has wired into us. The story of Esther is a story of someone who finds herself suddenly placed into a position which is really the turning point for the entire nation of Israel. Should she step up and take action or act valiantly? Mordecai says to her,

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
– Esther 4:14 NIV

So she takes action, but not the way I might have done it. I would have walked into the king’s chamber and said, “We need to talk.” But instead she proposes a banquet and then another. Her nation is in peril of extinction and she throws a party! Her internal wiring and predisposition is such that she is able to devise a plan and make a difference.

We will never know what we’re wired for and what potential we have until we put ourselves out there and take action.

It’s also good to remember that we are image bearers of a creator God whose attributes we only scratch the surface of understanding.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. -Isaiah 55:9 NLT

But as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” -1 Corinthians 2:9 ISV

I don’t believe that we should start claiming a false promise that we can do what only God can do, nor should we buy into the idea of unlimited human potential, but we need to take the encouragement that we were created by a God of infinite capacity.

Are there things in your internal wiring that you haven’t discovered or haven’t used? A gift God has given you which you haven’t tapped into?

May 24, 2016

The Gift of Evangelism

EvangelismWe all know that The Great Commission is a call to evangelism, but many prefer to think in terms of the gift of Evangelism, which affords the opportunity to say, “I don’t have that gift.” If we’re all called to “Go and tell” then why is evangelism listed among gifts that not all possess?

Let’s begin at the website Spiritual Gifts Test:

All Christians are called to evangelize and reach out to the lost with the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20), but some are given an extra measure of faith and effectiveness in this area.  The spiritual gift of evangelism is found in Ephesians 4:11-12 where Paul says that Jesus “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  The Greek word for evangelists is Euaggelistes which means “one who brings good news.”  This word is only found two other places in the New Testament: Acts 21:8 and 2 Timothy 4:5.

Evangelists are given the unique ability by the Holy Spirit to clearly and effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others.  They are burdened in their hearts for the lost and will go out of their way to share the truth with them.  Evangelists are able to overcome the normal fear of rejection and engage non-believers in meaningful conversations about Jesus.  Their gift allows them to communicate with all types of people and therefore they receive a greater response to the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  They continually seek out relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to approach different people.  They love giving free treasure away for Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:7), and it brings them great joy knowing that the “feet that bring good news” are beautiful to those who believe (Isaiah 52:7).  See Ephesians 4:11, Acts 8:5-12, 26-40, 21:8, Matthew 28:18-20.

We continue at Biblical Studies:

…In the early church, the evangelists were considered the successors of the apostles. They did not think that evangelists were the same as the apostles but merely that they continued the apostles’ ministry.

The term in the Greek is related to the word “gospel.” The euangelion is the “gospel,” or the “good news.” Euangelizo (the verb form) means to announce the gospel, “to evangelize.” The euangelistes is “the one who evangelizes,” or the “evangelist.”

The term “evangelist” occurs only three times in the New Testament, none of which actually define what an evangelist is. Acts 21:8 simply tells us that Philip was an evangelist; Ephesians 4:11 teaches that evangelists are gifts to the church; and II Timothy 4:5 commands Timothy to do the work of an evangelist.

Pulling together the information available from these verses, we can come to an understanding of the term. The word itself, we know, means to announce the good news, to evangelize. Ephesians 4:11-12 teaches that the evangelist is for the purpose of equipping the saints to the work of the ministry to the edifying of the body of Christ. And with the ministry of Philip recorded in Acts 8, we have an example of what an evangelist is and does. An evangelist, then, is one who is especially effective in presenting the message of the gospel to the lost and instructing believers in the faith. His ministry is an itinerant one, ministering to believers and unbelievers alike in various locations. He is not one who announces new truth — that is a prophet. But he is one who announces truth. It seems that the New Testament evangelist more closely resembles our present day missionary. He brings the good news to an unevangelized community, disciples, establishes a church, and moves on. Our present day evangelists, as we have known them since the days of Wesley and Whitefield with their itinerant ministries, whose ministries are extremely valuable to our churches, do properly wear the title “evangelist,” but the evangelist of the New Testament, it seems from the example of Philip, had a broader work.

For a third perspective on this, I wanted to go to the site Lay Evangelism, but the article was too long here to print in full. (I hope you’ll click the link.) I did want to make sure you didn’t miss something that appears later on, regarding the difference between sowing and reaping.

… Other Christians pose the argument this way, they will say, “In our Church we feel that Evangelizing our community at this time is not right. Our community is not ripe yet for Evangelism.” What does Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit through the writer John say about this argument? Jesus said,

John 4:35-38 “Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who Reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who Sows and he who Reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One Sows, and another Reaps.’

evangelism quoteJesus asks us in this passage, “Are you saying you need to wait until your community is ripe? You are wrong. I say to you look out on your community and see that it is ripe for Evangelism now!” To help the reader, Jesus goes on to explain what he means by Evangelism and ripe for Evangelism. He explains that not all Christians are called to be Reapers but all Christians are called to be Sowers.

What is the difference between a Sower and a Reaper? In farming terms, the Sower is the farmer. The farmer goes out and plants the seed, waters and fertilizes the ground and weeds the ground. Who does the reaping? Hired labor. Is not an Evangelist someone who is hired to Reap where he did not Sow? Your community may not always be ready for an anointed Evangelist, but your community is always ripe to be Evangelized. Not all Christians are called to be Evangelists, but all Christians are called to do Evangelism. If you are not called specifically to be an Evangelist, you along with all other Christians are called to do Evangelism. You are called to be a farmer. You are called to Sow, water, fertilize and weed. You are called to go and plant the seed of the Word into the hearts of men. You are called to prepare the ground for the Evangelist. The command to do this has already been given. You do not need to wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has commanded you and I to GO THEREFORE! Behold the fields are WHITE for harvest!

Part of the problem of getting Christians involved in aggressive Evangelism is that unless they can be guaranteed to reap a harvest every time they go out, they get discouraged and won’t continue. That would be like a farmer saying that unless he can have a harvest now, he won’t sow seed, water, fertilize and weed his field. If the farmer refused to sow seed and then water, fertilize and weed his field, there would never be a crop for the Reapers to harvest. If Christians do not Sow the seed of the Word and then water, fertilize and weed the field, there won’t be a harvest when the Reaper comes. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:4 “He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.” …

(Again, here is the link for the article Evangelism is Not a Spiritual Gift.)

March 5, 2016

Having, Or Not Having, A ‘Specific’ Calling

Elsie Montgomery BlogToday we pay a return visit to the writing of Elsie Montgomery at the blog Practical Faith.

Okay, I simply copied and pasted that. And it’s easy to take the various contributing writers — some of whom never knew the first time they were contributing — for granted; but this is the tenth time we’ve used Elsie’s writing here. As someone who prepares something like this every day, even though I don’t do original writing each time, I know the work that goes into this. Take a look at Elsie’s archives in the graphic at right and note the number of posts per year. Wow! More than 10 years, and closing in on 4,000 blog posts. Faithfulness!

So today, even if you don’t normally, click on the link in the graphic or in the title below and then pick out one more blog post to read.

The work is not as important as why I do it

Some Christians are called to specific tasks, but I’ve never received a “calling” from God, or a vision from Him concerning how I’m supposed to serve Him. In several places, the Bible mentions people who have special tasks:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11–12)

However this is a list of gifted people with titles and functions, not the same as a specific vision like “preach the gospel to the Inuit” or “teach children in your local church.”

Chambers assumes it is easier to serve God without a vision because you use common sense or human logic to guide whatever ministry to be involved in, giving more opportunity for personal leisure and prosperity. He says that having a commission from Jesus Christ is like a goad to keep you from working on any other basis than sacrificial service. His comments come from this verse . . .

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

Paul’s life was precious only on the basis of fulfilling his ministry. He refused to use his energy for anything else. This is my goal too, but is a “calling” necessary toward having that attitude? Echoing in my ear is the speaker at a writers’ conference who said: “We are called to love and obey God; today He might be asking you to write, tomorrow it might be something else.”

What if Paul, bent on building churches, was asked by God to stop and take care of a Samaritan in a ditch? Would he say no, this is not within his calling? Is it more difficult to have a vision and aim at only that, or more difficult to moment by moment listen to the voice of God and do whatever He asks for that moment?

While it didn’t happen to Paul, I can imagine those who have a vision or a calling being so focused on it that it becomes an idol, a “this is my work” thing. Chambers says “practical work” (aka ‘no vision’) is based on this argument—‘Remember how useful you are here,’ or—‘Think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.’ I don’t see why a person with a vision could not fall into the same trap.

He says those who are “not gripped by Jesus Christ” will “count service dear, time given to God dear, life dear” as if having a vision makes others immune to such temptations. I am not convinced. I’ve seen those with a vision who began to count their vision dear, their time given to God dear, their life dear, all because of their calling.

John Calvin suggests that the human heart is an idol-making factory. Being gripped by God is one thing, but our fight between the flesh and His Spirit is constant. Vision or not, that sinful nature can rear its ugly face and twist motivations from glorifying Christ to glorifying self. Paul admits that he fought it just as all of us do, and shares with his readers what God did to help him stay on course . . .

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)

The danger is not in the “practical work” which Chambers say can become competition “against abandonment to God.’ Instead, it seems that the greater danger is any kind of attitude that abandons Jesus Christ as my Guide and lures me into using my own judgment.

The point is not about a life-calling or even what I am doing in day-to-day obedience, but that I must forever remember that I am not my own but His.

May 2, 2015

The Gift of Apostle

Ephesians 4:11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.    (NLT)

If you are aware of what is called “the five-fold ministry” you have run across the term apostle. Those with a pastor’s heart are easy to spot. If you have the gift of evangelist, you’re probably hitting the streets (or their online equivalent) to share the gospel. But apostle can be confusing.

At the website Spiritual Gift Test, we read:

The spiritual gift of apostleship is sometimes confused with the office of Apostle.  The office of Apostle was held by a limited number of men chosen by Jesus including the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19) and Paul (Romans 1:1).  The requirements for the office of Apostle included being a faithful eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry and His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1) and being personally called by Jesus (Galatians 1:1).  The Apostles were given authority by Jesus to do many different things to establish the church, including writing Scripture and performing miracles (John 14:26, 2 Peter 3:15-16, 2 Corinthians 12:12).

There are no more that hold the office of Apostle today, but the gift of apostleship continues in a different sense.  Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers at His ascension (Ephesians 4:7-12), and these represent a distinct category of apostles.  They do not have the authority to write Scripture as the original Apostles did.  They also have a different purpose in the sense of establishing the church – the foundation has already been set.

The mission for those with the gift of apostleship today is to plant new ministries and churches, go into places where the Gospel is not preached, reach across cultures to establish churches in challenging environments, raise up and develop leaders, call out and lead pastors and shepherds, and much more.  They often have many different gifts that allow them to fulfill their ministry.  These are leaders of leaders and ministers of ministers.  They are influencers.  They are typically entrepreneurial and are able to take risks and perform difficult tasks.  Missionaries, church planters, certain Christian scholars and institutional leaders, and those leading multiple ministries or churches often have the gift of apostleship.  See also Ephesians 4:11, I Corinthians 12:28, Acts 1:21-22, 1 Corinthians 9:1.

Still, I have concerns for those who use the term as a title, as in, “Our guest today is Apostle John Jones.” But nonetheless, the job does carry with it a certain authority.

Apostle is not synonymous with Missionary. At the website Biblical Studies we read,

Many think that the term “apostle” simply means “missionary.” The word “missionary” does come from a Latin root which means “to send,” so the inference is understandable. Paul was involved in much mission activity, as were other apostles, but it is also clear that many, if not most, of the apostles remained in Jerusalem for several years. So the function of an apostle was much more than only missions.

Their function was basically to, 1) lay the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20, Matthew 16:18), 2) give God’s revelation to men (Ephesians 3:5), and 3) demonstrate the truth of that revelation by the exercising of their sign gifts (II Corinthians 12:12).

And we need to be reminded there are more than just the ones Jesus taught. From the same website we see this list:

The Eleven

First of all, of course, there were the original twelve apostles, minus Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. They were Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew (called Nathaniel in John’s Gospel), Thomas, Matthew, James (the less), Lebbaeus (surnamed Thaddaeus, also called Judas, the brother of James the less), and Simon Zealotes. These men are listed in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, and Acts 1:13.

Matthias

In the first chapter of the book of Acts, these eleven, after much prayer and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, chose Matthias as the replacement for Judas Iscariot (verses 12-26). Some think that Matthias was not, after all, the replacement God appointed, but rather Paul. This view seems to rest more on assumption than Scriptural evidence. The fact of the matter is that Matthias was chosen, not Paul, and no hint to the contrary is ever given. Nowhere is it stated that the eleven were too hasty in their choice. In fact, verse 26 directly states that Matthias “was numbered with the eleven”; in other words, he was number twelve.

Furthermore, Paul did not meet the qualifications stipulated in Acts 1:21-22 which required that the replacement be one who companied with Christ during His earthly ministry up until His ascension. Matthias was the twelfth apostle.

James

James, the half-brother of the Lord and writer of the epistle which bears the name, was another apostle. His is an interesting biography, unbelieving until sometime after the resurrection. He is identified as an apostle equal to the others in Galatians 1:19, and in Acts 15 his high standing among the apostles is evident.

Barnabas

Barnabas (“the consoler”) was an apostle as well. He is so designated in Acts 14:4 and 14. Some today question his apostleship; however, note that he is referred to as an apostle equal to Paul.

Paul

Paul, then, was the last man to enjoy the position of apostleship. He was “one born out of due time” in that he was a later (indeed, the last) addition to the apostolic company (I Corinthians 15:8-11). Because of this, evidently, some questioned his apostolic authority, which was no small matter to the apostle. Several times he was forced to defend his own apostleship (cf., I Corinthians 9:1ff, Galatians 2, etc.). In nine of his thirteen epistles, he is careful to identify himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ” (e.g., I Corinthians 1:1). He does so most forcefully in Galatians, specifying that his apostleship is a commission of Jesus Christ Himself, not Paul or any other man (Galatians 1:1).

Unfortunately, I can’t agree with that website’s cessationist conclusion that the gift no longer exists. How you interpret this is up to you, but many respected Christian leaders believe this gift is still active, and some go so far as to say that in every church there is one person who has one of the five-fold gifts resident in them, for a minimum of five people representing the APEPT set of giftings.

 

 

 


There’s also another good article on this from a Charismatic/Pentecostal site, Spirit Filled Christian Living, hosted by Duke Taber. Duke does not anyone to use his material, so click this link to read at source.

 

December 13, 2014

Questions Arising in the matter of Spiritual Gifts

I Cor 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

Today’s thoughts appeared recently at the blog of Scot McKnight and is credited to Donald Nwankwo, Pilgrim Sense. This is rich in detail and questions that often come up when people are discussing the area of spiritual gifts. The title below takes you direct to the original post at Donald’s blog.

Five Fallacies of Spiritual Gifts

It is not that uncommon to run into a believer, sometimes already contributing to their Christian community, but who still doubts they really have what could be called a spiritual gift. 1 Cor 12-14 is indispensable in studying the subject, so I kept it in view as I pondered. It is a spiritual gift because of its source, the Holy Spirit. Thinking about this, I mused to myself as I recalled some of my own (overzealous) presumptions many years ago as a new believer.  Below are some subtle misunderstandings that sometimes prompt some well meaning church members to not step up and fully embrace functions that the Head and Body have been a long time missing from them.

1.    If it is my spiritual gift, then it must be something I find easy to do.
There has been a bit of a shift in the way some people have come to understand gifting or talents. It can sometimes be seen as the undertaken where we feel the least challenge. This has some truth to it in a general sense, but also, can leave room for a misunderstanding of how things work in real life. When an individual shows aptitude in a specific area, we tend to say that’s their strength. Well then, being strength powered by the Holy Spirit, ought we not be able to serve in those areas with little or no challenge to the human side of us? Not always. The best teachers will admit that they put much energy into understanding the matter, their audience, and even moving the material from raw to a final piece that effectively teaches their specific audience. Worship coordinators will admit no less. Even givers (everyone should be a giver – but here, specifically those for whom it is considered a special area of Christian service), will admit that they have given in spite of how difficult it felt under certain circumstances. In fact, the more likely it is your gift, the more likely tougher cases within that category will tend towards you. And because it is your passion and gifting, the more likely you are to put in what it takes to have it done efficiently. It may, therefore, be said to be easy in a different sense—it is an area in which you feel a sense of inner excitement and joy unraveling, resolving or serving. For this fallacy, do not ask yourself – is this going to be easy to do? Rather ask, is it an exciting type of challenge for me?

2.    If it is my spiritual gift, then its outworking should be inexplicable by natural reasoning.
Some of us have not fully appreciated, or embraced, our gifts because they were ones that did not appear to require some mysterious spin to their explanation. Therefore, we did not think very highly of those as spiritual gifts. So then, we tend to see how a vibrant biblical teacher could have a spiritual gift but not a skilled church administrator. The term, spiritual, can be misunderstood at times. For sure, it is endowed by the Spirit (1 Cor 12), so it is definitely a spiritual gift. Let’s not forget the purpose, however, that though distributed by the Holy Spirit, it is to practically meet all sorts of growth and development need areas of the church. For this fallacy, please do not ask if this activity has a mystical spin to it to qualify it as spiritual gift. Rather ask, “Is this a valid need area in the church for which I can bring my skill, knowledge, or even honest effort?”

3.    If it is a spiritual gift, then it should not require other formal means of enhancement.
In a group conversation once, a member asked candidly, “If the Holy Spirit gives you a gift, and you go try to pursue secular training, is that not tantamount to distrusting what the Spirit gave, or trying to help Him?” In my view, it is not tantamount to helping the Spirit. It is a way to be a better steward of the talents He gave you. Think how much a person with a natural gift for empathy and encouragement would do getting training on a related skill such as listening. A growing number of churches and church-members have realized the value of training and development for individuals that show strength in various areas of service. For this fallacy, please ask, “Will such training improve some of my human limitations, working toward more effective results in the use of my gifting?”

4.    Since it is a spiritual gift, I should confine its use to the church or else it is misappropriated.
The Spirit gives gifts for the edification of the body of Christ, so what happens when we are outside of the walls of the church? God has made us as whole beings. One who is blessed with wise counsel or sympathy does not automatically become unsympathetic or full of foolish advice when they are, say, with a colleague at workplace instead of at church. The outworking, or delivery, may be different, wisely and appropriately suiting the scenarios, but we are nonetheless instruments of the Spirit. If gifts were only usable within the church, evangelists would have little opportunity to use theirs. For this fallacy, do not try unbecoming who you are, simply because you are not in religious company. Rather ask, “does the circumstance fully permit me to help; is there some glimpse of blessing a life; and will Christ be ultimately glorified?”

5.    Spiritual gifts are simply about what we do.
Obviously, spiritual gifts require deeds to be done. But the ultimate purpose does not dead-end on doing. In the end, it is about who we are becoming. In a community where individual (and group) talents are appropriately harnessed, you soon notice that there is a becoming happening to the whole body. When we view it this way, it removes some of the undue attention and nervousness. We find that we are part of a family and that the Spirit invites our participation. Following Paul in 1Cor 12, there are two levels of the gifts’ reception: first, we are given various gifts as individuals; second, these gifts, altogether, are given to the Body. And, this is so the Body can be built into a stable, solid whole under one Head, Jesus Christ!

 

May 22, 2014

Gatekeepers

Nehemiah 7:1

After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed.

1 Chronicles 9:26

But the four principal gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God.

Ezra 2:70

The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.
The dictionary of Bible themes tells us that two primary meanings for the term gatekeepers.
Levite temple servants, responsible for protecting the palace and the temple from those who would desecrate it or steal its treasures. City gatekeepers also existed.
In other translators the words doorkeepers, porters, watchmen, and guards are used.
In modern times, especially here in the world of Christian blogs, we have many “watch” ministries who keep an eye on ministry leaders and organizations lest they fall astray.  This type of role is the theme of a lengthy article on this subject at The Christian Gazette  which begins:

Gatekeepers have three primary roles

  1. To protect the Lord’s house.  This means they defend the gospel, the truth of the Word and Protect the holiness of God’s house. Their hearts are on fire with the Fear of the Lord. They want the Lord’s house to be a house of Prayer and they are not content until they see the Lord’s will come to place. The gatekeeper protects the House. They know the scriptures well and are full of understanding. They are bold to speak out against the sins of the church- even if it means they will be mocked, hated or even kicked out of the church. They stay close to the House of the Lord
  2. They keep the Lord’s people on the right path, keeping them from drifting from the Lord. As a staff or sheepdog would keep the sheep together from straying, so the role of gatekeeper is the same. He is responsible to oversee the people, gently guide the drifter back and keep those on the threshold of evil paths from taking another step in the wrong direction. They are bold and not afraid to tell the truth of God;s word, knowing full well they are saving many from the fires of eternal hell.They are prayer warriors and intercessors for the people
  3. They keep watch for the master’s return; ready to usher in the King of Glory

There is also an interesting article at Supplication International which compares the role of gatekeepers and watchmen to the roles of apostles and prophets.

Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, they are to lay the foundation of the apostles and prophets, they are to lay the foundation of reformation, and reformation will lay the foundations for lasting revivals. –(Eph. 2:20)

Apostles are sent, and prophets are send, apostles come with divine works, and prophets come with divine messengers, apostles are call to be gatekeepers and to open the gates, and prophets are to be watchmen over the gates and to guide the people of the Lord through those gates. Apostles are leaders of leaders, and prophets are called to lead the church through divine guidance. Apostles are first, and prophets are second in the order of church government. –(1 Cor. 12:28)

Apostles and prophets are foundational ministry, revelational ministry, and impartational ministry to the church. Apostles and prophets are reformational, revival, social transformation, and harvest ministry, and restoration ministry to the church. Apostles and prophets are supernatural ministry to the body of Christ. –(Eph. 2:20,3:5)

Apostles and prophets are gate ministry to the church, the apostles are gatekeepers at the gates, and prophets are watchmen at the gates, both are called to stand together at the gates. –(Rev. 21:9-21, Matt. 16:18-19, Jn. 4:1-26,Ezek. 3:17-21)

Apostles and prophets have gate ministry, they are gate ministry of the church, they have 12-gate ministry of the church. Each of these 12 gates is apostle and prophet gate ministry, only apostles and prophets can seat at these gates, as gatekeepers and watchmen. –(Isa. 1:26)

This article then goes on to describe the specific ministry of the watchmen at each of the twelve gates in Nehemiah.

watchman-on-the-wallIn our work at the Christian bookstore, a local pastor once described us as gatekeepers. I had never really thought about our work in those terms — in the spiritual warfare metaphor I saw us more as running the supply lines — but I can see both the necessity and how we were already fulfilling the doorkeeping role in many ways and didn’t realize it.

Perhaps there is some area where, although you don’t have authoritative oversight, you can, using the gift of discernment serve as a watch-person or a gatekeeper who can alert ministry leaders in your community to situations that might be of concern.

Read more: Daily Encouragement covers this same theme today in a different way at this post.

 

 

March 12, 2014

Healing: Available But Not Promised

I like articles that really make me think. The problem is that sometimes we want to put people and ideas in a box. So if a person is not a cessationist, we think they believe in healing but sometimes that means we think they believe in our view of what that entails. That’s why I like this author’s middle-ground approach. This article was included here by permission of Jason Dulle at the blog Theo-sophical Ruminations, and I encourage you to click through to read, and then browse the rest of his writing. The article and link is: We Are Not Promised Healing.

As a continuationist, I believe God is still in the healing business.  I’ve known of several people who have experienced miraculous healings.  And yet, I can name more people who have died from diseases than those who were healed.  As a young Christian I was always confused by this.  I heard many messages in which it was proclaimed that God has promised us healing so long as we will believe.  Indeed, it’s often said that Christ’s atonement not only secured our salvation, but our healing as well.  An appeal is made to Isaiah 53:4-5 which reads:

But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. 5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. (NET)

If Jesus’ atonement secured our healing just as it secured our salvation, and both can be received by faith, then why do so many who have received salvation by faith not receive healing?  Is it because they lack faith?  Is it because they have not prayed enough?  Perhaps in some instances, but clearly not all.

I eventually came to reject the idea that we are promised healing due to the Biblical data.  Consider the following:

  • In 2 Kings 13:14 we read that Elisha had a disease from which he ultimately died.  This is the man who had the double-portion anointing and was responsible for many miraculous events.  Surely he was not a man who lacked faith, and yet he contracted a disease that God never healed him of, and from which he died.
  • Paul instructed Timothy to drink wine to help him with his digestive issues and frequent illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23).
  • Paul noted that his fellow minister, Trophimus, was so sick that he could no longer travel with Paul, but had to be left behind in the city of Miletus.  Surely Paul prayed for him, and surely Paul had faith, and yet Trophimus was not healed.

So what about Isaiah 53:5?  Isn’t healing included in the atonement?  No.  The healing spoken of by the prophet is best understood as referring to Israel’s spiritual healing, not their physical healing.  Indeed, this is how Peter understood the passage. He refers to the passage in Isaiah, writing, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed,” and then continues, “For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25, NASB). The clause preceded by “so that” tells us the purpose for the atonement, while the two clauses preceded by “for” provide supporting explanations for that purpose:

[purpose] so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness;

for by His wounds you were healed
for you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

God HealingThe first “for” clause explains how our salvation is possible, while the second “for” clause explains why it was necessary.  For Peter, being healed is equivalent to dying to sin and living to righteousness.  The healing Peter has in mind is not physical healing, but healing for our sin.

We ought to pray for healing and believe God is able to do it, but we must keep in mind that we are not promised healing by God.  We need to put our trust in God, and not in any particular outcome.  Whether we are healed or not, we need to continue to trust in the God who is able to heal.

January 27, 2014

Religious Activity versus Abiding in Christ

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Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7 reminds us here that much of what passes for spiritual activity doesn’t ultimately guarantee us standing before God. I was thinking of this today in reference to a very familiar passage in I Corinthians 13. This is often referred to as “The Love Chapter” though it falls into the middle of a larger passage on spiritual gifts. The actual “Love is patient, love is kind…” section has more affinity with Paul’s teaching on the fruit of the spirit than it does with things he says elsewhere about Christian marriage. Someday in the future, I hope to walk up to Paul and say, “Hey, you know that stuff about how ‘love is patient, love is kind…;’ did you know that used that as part of our wedding ceremonies?” And he’s gonna be like, “Weddings? Wow! I didn’t see that coming.”  But I digress.

The set-up to the classic love reading is three verses that are not as well known:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,  but do not have love, I gain nothing.

The principle here applies to many other dynamics of the Christian life. Using the second part of verse 2 as an example:

  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but lack humility, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but am prone to anger, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but ignore the marginalized, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but cause controversy and division, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have stopped hungering and thirsting after God, I am nothing.

I can be so very spiritual in so many ways but also so very lacking spiritually. It’s interesting to look at the various ways these outward manifestations of great faith are articulated in different translations:  (NIV unless indicated)

  • speak in the tongues of men or of angels
  • speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy (Message)
  • speak in different languages (NCV)
  • have the gift of prophecy
  • I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose) (Amp)
  • can fathom all mysteries
  • understood all of God’s secret plans (NLT)
  • understand all the secret things of God (NCV)
  • have the gift to speak what God has revealed (NOG*)
  • can fathom all knowledge
  • speak God’s Word … making everything plain as day (Message)
  • can move mountains
  • my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock (The Voice)
  • give all I possess to the poor
  • give over my body to hardship
  • go to the stake to be burned as a martyr (Message)

[A more complete list of the supernatural gifts can be found in I Cor. 12: 8-10.]

The Voice Bible bookends this first section of chapter 13 with this commentary:

Gifts of the Spirit, which are intended to strengthen the church body, often divide the body because members of the church elevate those who possess the more visible gifts over those whose gifts function in the background. In fact, this is the very problem facing the Corinthians. So while talking about the importance and function of these gifts in chapters 12 and 14, Paul shifts his focus to the central role love plays in a believer’s life in chapter 13. Love is essential for the body to be unified and for members to work together. Members of the body that are very different, with little in common, are able to appreciate and even enjoy others because of the love that comes when a life is submitted to God.

Paul boils it all down for the believers in Corinth. Religious people often spend their time practicing rituals, projecting dogma, and going through routines that might look like Christianity on the outside but that lack the essential ingredient that brings all of it together—love! It is a loving God who birthed creation and now pursues a broken people in the most spectacular way. That same love must guide believers, so faith doesn’t appear to be meaningless noise.

Often, non-believers look at us and merely see religious people busy doing religious things; church people running to and fro with church activities. Or, more specific to today’s passage, they hear of spectacular miracles or visions or healings, but don’t see anything tangible manifested in how we live our daily lives in the neighborhood, the workplace, at the school committee meeting, or at family occasions.

Decades ago, in a book titled The Mark of the Christian, Francis Schaeffer exhorted, “Love — and the unity it attests to — is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.”

In certain Christian quarters, we tend to treat supernatural gifts as the gold standard of faith, but without humility or love, we come up empty; and all our co-workers, neighbors, or extended family see is a preoccupation with religious things that really don’t appeal to their felt needs.

*Names of God Bible, a 2011 edition from Baker Book House just added at Bible Gateway.

January 8, 2014

The Christian and Creativity

Christians and the Arts

Today’s thoughts appeared recently at the blog, Writing Down Life. The author is Stacey Louiso. As usual, you’re encouragement to the writers we discover here can consist of clicking through to read the article at source. This one was titled It’s a New Year State of Mind.

“Your creative mind is the greatest gift God has given you and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him.” 

~Oswald Chambers, 

My Utmost for His Highest (Feb 11 devotional page)

 

…The thought above from Oswald Chambers is one that many people may wonder about but not understand completely. Even Believers or disciple of Christ Jesus, may not actually grasp the concept of becoming such a clean vessel, you desire your every thought to glorify God. I remember the first time I read the following passage in 2 Corinthians (10:5):

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 

(For short, take every thought that is impure, or ungodly, captive. Do not allow it to seep into your spirit or outwardly, into the world. The two prior passages are really important as well when in a battle but this one speaks particularly loud to those in certain areas of sin.)

For a person with a creative penchant in life, who enjoys the creativity of others (art, music, literature, et al) it can be a difficult thing to defeat. For a creative person, even more trying…yet not impossible. I had no idea that the thoughts and imaginings of my mind are controllable (i.e. that I could be rid of them); the prospect both excited and amazed me. It takes a lot of work, breaking down strongholds of the enemy and a lot of strength to accomplish but it is very possible!  (2 Cor 10:4 discusses this: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.)

Ask yourself: where exactly does your creativity come from? What does it feel like when it’s bubbling up (are thoughts/feelings healing or disturbing?) and how would God perceive the final product? Would it be pleasing to His eyes, ears and heart? If you are walking with the Lord (or even if you are not) your very goal in life should be to produce work (regardless of the type), or good fruit, that you know is pleasurable to our God. It should resemble something that would be created in His image, not wrapped in bubble wrap mind you, but also not deceptive, hateful or wicked, in spirit.

We are not to participate in the ways of “the world”, instead we are to create “heaven on earth” (or Matt 6:10, “…thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”). We are created in the image of God. Through this calling we are commissioned to create art that is beautiful and uplifting (edifying), as not to tempt ourselves, nor others, into bondage of the flesh through their participation, or admiration of, your work. By keeping your eyes and mind on Christ as you create, you will take captive any ungodly desires to produce ugly fruit.

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1) Because they do not adhere to God but instead to the darkness over this world. The most beautiful thing we have to offer as creative professionals, artists…is a mind that is sanctified; all we produce should resemble good fruit. It is very unfortunate that the dark arts have a stronghold over people today.

But there is hope…

There is no time like the present to start fighting; no time like the present to take back what God gifted to us, for His pleasure as well as the aesthetic enjoyment of all people. Works of art and words of glory, bathed in beauty and light. There is no time like the present to stop being complacent and allowing ourselves, or our work, to be used for evil rather than for good! Today is a great day to start – why not enter into this new year with a more beautiful state-of-mind?

January 1, 2014

Your Best Year, Spiritually

This is from Clay Smith at the website of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter, South Carolina and appeared there as This Could Be Your Best Year Ever, If…:

blank calendarHow will you make [this] your best year ever?

Maybe you will make an impressive list of resolutions, detailing plans for self improvement in finances, health, and relationships. Reality check: how did those resolutions work for you last year? The truth is about 92% of those resolutions won’t be kept. Why?

We don’t keep resolutions because we assume we have enough will-power to overcome our problems. We think if we just try harder we can do it. We make our problems harder because we try to tackle all our troubles at once. By the second week of January (sometimes the second day) our will power is overloaded. In a moment of stress we make an exception. That exception becomes a breach in the dike of resolve. We’re back to the same old patterns with the same old results in a matter of days – or hours.

There is a different way. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Another translation would be, “Put God in charge and follow His way of thinking, and He will take care of everything else.”

Stovall Weems expresses it like this: “This can be your best year ever if it is your best year spiritually.”

Decide to make this your best year spiritually. Talk to God about what this year could look like. Ask God for His input.

God might tell you to read the Bible through in a year – it’s a doable challenge. God might tell you go on an adventure – it may be a mission trip or it might to lead the group next door. God might tell you to experience true generosity for the first time – giving not out of guilt but out of joy!

Here’s the challenge to you and to me: Let’s make 2012 our best year spiritually – and it will be our best year ever.

Grace and Happy New Year

Go deeper with an article by Jack Wellman at Christian Crier, 5 Christian New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. The article will encourage you to:

  1. Set the Alarm Clock 10 Minutes Earlier
  2. Memorize One Bible Verse per Week
  3. Create a Prayer Journal
  4. Share the Gospel Daily With at Least One Person
  5. End Each Day with Prayer and Bible Reading

December 30, 2013

Four Things to Add to Your New Year’s Resolutions

spiritual resolutionsThe Christian blogosphere is somewhat dominated by American writers, so I’m really excited to mix things up today and introduce you to Enoch Anti from Ghana. His blog is called Truth Publication and to bless him with some blog traffic, you should click here to read at source.

The Glory of God

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelations 4:11).

To God Be The Glory. That phrase should be our marching orders for 2014. The glory of God should be top priority on our list of resolutions. All things—including you and I ―are and were created for God’s pleasure . We are on earth on His assignment. We are here on His errand. His glory. His joy. His purposes. His agenda. His plans. Everything in the end is to His glory. We are here to give glory to his name: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.“ (Isaiah 60:1-2).

This life is more than us. It is more than our dreams and visions. It’s more than the things we want to achieve for ourselves. There’s a bigger agenda, and that agenda is the glory of God. Romans 8:29 gives us very clear insight into God’s agenda for our lives: it makes us understand that conforming us to the image of Christ (character and virtues) is that agenda. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…“ Life is for “His name sake“: …he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake“ (Psalms 23:3). As we enter 2014, let‘s seek to put the glory of God ahead of everything we seek to achieve. “He must increase. [we] must decrease“ (John 3:30).

Now, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.“ (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Spirit-Controlled Living

Plans are good. Strategies are needed. Clear cut smart (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals are very necessary. But human wisdom, skill and talent is not enough to live a victorious life: “…This is the word of the LORD … Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”  (Zechariah 4:6). On top of our plans and strategies, we also need the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit.

By Spirit-controlled living, I mean a life that is controlled by the Holy Spirit. He leads and we follow. We cannot live a Spirit-controlled life and still have control over our lives so to speak. There must be a place for the leading of the Holy Spirit of God in the life of every child of God, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the [children] of God.“ (Romans 8:14).

Speaking about the Holy Spirit, I am not only speaking about church meetings, prayers, reading our bibles, living a holy life(very important), speaking in tongues, anointing, prophesy, unction and all our other repertoire of “spiritual“ cliches. I am speaking about the totality of our lives. Every other area of our lives—career, marriage, family life, finances, education, entertainment, etc ―matters to God.

A few days away, we will be walking into a new year with its uncertainties and unknown territories. But we have a guarantee of God’s guidance and direction if we will heed to His voice. “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left“ (Isaiah 30:21).

Using Your Gifts

“…he gave…to every[one] according to [their] several ability…“ (Matthew 25:14-15).

Everyone is gifted. There are no exceptions. God has endowed everyone with what they need to live a fulfilled life. However, just like the parable of the talents, it’s not enough to be gifted. It’s not enough to be talented. It’s not enough to have dreams and visions. No matter how gifted you’re, you have to step out there and get started. The only time a difference is made is when people step out to use what they have. If you read Matthew 25 further down, you will realize those who made a difference are those who stepped out to use what they received.

The problem with many of us is that we sit in the stands “spectatoring“ and cheering people who are using their gifts on without doing anything with ours. I am in no way saying it’s wrong to cheer gifted people on. We all need encouragement and a push, but while you are cheering people on, be encouraged with what others are doing and get to work with your gifts. You can also make a difference if you start using what you have.

There are I believe a number of reasons people don’t use their gifts. Top on the list will be: (i)Fear (ii) Self-doubt (iii) Waiting for the right time (iv) Waiting for inspiration from others to start. You see, it is ok to have fears and self-doubts. But those who step out despite their fears are the ones who make the difference. You have a gift—no doubts about, but step out and get things done.

Impacting your World

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5)

Life is not about us only. There are destinies tied up to our lives (beyond blood relatives). Sometimes the routines of life can get you wondering. Is this all there is to life? But life gets interesting if looked at from the perspective of assignment. In this life, we are on an assignment: A God given assignment. An assignment to fulfil God’s will in on earth, an assignment to impact other lives.For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption (Acts 13:36)” Read Genesis 45: 5 above again and note: “for God did send me before (ahead) of you to preserve life“. In other words, whatever evil was done Joseph was part of God‘s agenda to save lives. The nations Israel and Egypt would have been destroyed by famine if Joseph had jumped into bed with Potiphar (taken a shortcut route to his destiny).

Life is that simple. Every life is a life on purpose and assignment. We are on a God sent errand. Life  is a string of interdependence. Like a food chain, we all contribute to the survival of each other. For the sake of all the lives intertwined with our destinies, let’s look beyond ourselves. Our pains, temptations and challenges (I still love the old word problems) are part of God‘s grand design to change other lives. All things indeed work together for good for those who love God. Look beyond yourself, it’s not all about you. Step out into the New Year and impact your world.

December 28, 2013

Is Full-Time Ministry a Higher Calling?

Today’s article is by Paul Burleson, who has been in pastoral ministry for 54 years. It appeared at his blog under the title Is Full Time Ministry a Higher Calling Than Any Other Calling?  (You’ll also find two articles from December 2013 exploding seven specific myths associated with Christmas.)

In Ephesians 4:1 Paul says this….

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called….” [the New American Standard Bible (1995)] The King James version uses the word “vocation” but it is better understood as “calling.” It is a reference to the general calling of grace that the first three chapters have described. So all Christians have a “calling” and we’re to walk accordingly.

Roman Catholic writer Michael Novak wrote a book on ‘Business as a Calling’ in which he presented four aspects of a “calling.” [His idea was in the context of business remember.] He said a calling will have …

1) An understanding that it is a personal and unique calling to you….

2) A requirement for the talents needed for the task and a love for the drudgery that may be involved in the task to which you’re called….

3) The presence of an enjoyment for and renewed energies from the doing of the task that is your calling….

4) A period of discernment and testing for [learning all about] the task to which you’re called.

Not bad.

I would think, in the Ephesians 4 context, our calling, which is to the same “Lord” Paul said he was a prisoner of in verse one and that “Lordship” calling is for EVERY true believer, might have the same characteristics about it…

1) It IS personal and unique to each of us…

2) We HAVE been gifted for our Life in Him…

3) There IS joy unspeakable in our life in Him and strength provided for the living of life…

4) We then spend the rest of our lives learning what life is all about by “hearing Him” as commanded of the Father. As I said, not bad!

I would also add what someone else has called a “fifth aspect” of a true calling and it is..

5) An orientation away from self so our goal would be the glory of God and the good of others in all things. That makes it even better.

It is obvious from all this that I believe we as Christians have accepted the universal vocation [calling] of following Christ and Novak’s ideas can be seen as relevant to that task/life.

But… is there in life a calling to a more specific vocation for all of us through which we make a living, provide for our families and, generally, live out our days on earth?

In other words, are we “called” to a career? And if we are, how do we know what we are to do for a career or livelihood? Add to that the question… is the “calling” to “full-time ministry” [career] a GREATER calling than the calling to other careers?

It is this that concept that I’m addressing today.

Since I believe ALL of life is sacred and there is NO division in scripture between the sacred and the secular [See 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.] I think we are to view ANYTHING we choose to do in life as a “calling.” A better way of saying it is we are to see anything we choose to do as an opportunity to “life-out our Lordship calling.” Choose anything you wish, but see it as a commitment to express His life in you and understand that what you do choose is a gift from Him to you.

Someone may be saying “Wait a minute Brother Paul, it sounds like you’re saying we can choose however we wish in matters of life instead of finding God’s specific will in those matters.” I am. The only WILL God has revealed to you and me specifically is that we are to live as what we are…’Sanctified people.” [1 Thess. 4:3 the rest of the chapter shows what that looks like.]

When we are committed to Him as Lord we will reflect that in whatever we choose. Our life is not to be lived trying to find out what He wishes we would do in each decision but, rather, in celebrating who He is as our Lord and making ANY decision accordingly.

So, I say marry whomever you choose, go to whatever University you wish, get whatever degree you desire, and live doing wherever you long to live doing. But in EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE, see it as that which allows you to be effective for God in this world and bring glory to Him and good for other people. Your vocation or marriage or career or whatever, will only allow you to establish God’s order and virtue in your life and to assist other people to do the same. This is Christianity to me.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t an eternal and secret will that God is working out for us in His Divine Purposes. But it is to say that, by definition, that will is “secret” and we’ll understand in all only in “eternity.” Don’t worry. You won’t miss God in decisions. He really is in control. He’s unique that way.

By the way, as to whether a “calling to full-time ministry” is more sacred than anyone else’s, my answer is NO. It is different. It is unique to the one called. There are greater responsibilities for certain areas of life affected by that calling. But remember, all that is true of every christian’s life, as well in their unique way of living that life in employment. It’s ALL sacred and satisfying and spiritual when He is Lord.

So you obviously can see I believe every christian IS a full-time minister. Some are just placed as gifts to the Body as shepherds/pastors/elders/deacons, recognized by the body as gifts, but all Christians are gifts to and gifted for the Body of Christ in some fashion, [for ministry] and for the living of life however we live it. [Which is what ministry is.] “Whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.”

By the way, if I’m out in left field with this, don’t tell me. I’m having too much fun out here. ;)

Just kidding!

July 12, 2013

The Ministries of the Local Church

I found this outline in one of my son’s youth ministry textbooks, Four Views on Youth Ministry, published by Zondervan in 2001. This was from an article by Malan Nel of Vista University in South Africa. What I’ve done here is strip out the youth and children’s ministry references to focus on some core definitions.

First, some scripture verses to frame this discussion:

(NIV) Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…

(NIV) I Corinthians 12:28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?

(NIV) I Corinthians 12:20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Kerugma – preaching

[usually rendered as kerygma in North America] Through kerugma, God comes to the congregation….Of course, the better the preacher’s textbook delivery and dynamics, the more relevant the message will be… Modern insights in homiletics — insights that emphasize the dialogical character of the sermon — all these make the sermon that much more meaningful…

Leitourgia – worship service

The gathered congregation is the basic form of the functioning of the congregation and its ministries. Where people…enter into the presence of God.  If this mode has stagnated as a result of unchanging liturgical agendas, the fault is not in the leitourgia mode itself, the fault should be identified and corrected in a practical theological way in the subdiscipline of liturgy.

Didache – teaching

[Joining] on the road to Yahweh. Initiation into, guidance along, and wise choices for living on the way are part of the congregational ministry…  Like other modes of ministry, didache seldom if ever occurs in isolation. It emphasizes that the congregational didache becomes part of the edification… and training… of the people of God to ably represent him as his people in this world.

Paraklesis – pastoral care

God is with us in all circumstances and situations — in anxiety, pain, sin, doubt, error, weakness, loneliness and success.  …God is with us to free us from the constraints of brokenness that threaten us. Paraklesis wants to lead us out of a life of imperfection and into a life of wholeness in spite of and in the midst of all the brokenness within and around us.

Koinonia – mutuality

Closely related to paraklesis, the mode of God’s coming to people through others is built on this truth: God is with people by means of each other, because in Jesus he came to us in flesh. Through the indwelling of the Spirit, people can live and discover their humanity through one another.  About this there is little doubt: Christians are people for one another and are the people of God in their togetherness.

Diakonia – service

…In scripture… the term is used to show that individuals find the fulfillment of their calling in service. Diakonia, therefore, is the umbrella term for all that the congregation does, for all its ministries. …The term refers to an activity performed out of love of God for the sake of one’s fellow man — so much so that it is called a service of love. It is easy to understand how the term changed to refer mainly to the ministry of care; in acts of caring and deeds of mercy the diakonia finds special expression.

Marturia – witness

The church is to be understood in missionary perspective, not because it is the primary activity of the church, but because we know that God is constantly involved in bringing wholeness — that is, salvation — to his  creation. The missio Dei includes the missio ecclesia. The congregation participates and is involved in the missio Dei, and in this way: The church is not the one who sends, but rather the one who is sent. This sentness is therefore not one of the results of being a church, but a prerequisite. It is the character of a true church.

Kubernesis – administration

The ministry of the management and administration of the congregation is usually explained with a helmsman [ie. nautical] term, cybernesis. The early church was often contemporarily described as a ship with Christ himself as the helmsman. This cybernesis ministry is related to a strongly pastoral term for leadership, used in Romans 12. It connotes a pastoral ministry of care and empathy, which was the duty of the leading members of the early church. This ministry is about caring guidance in the name of the Helmsman, and implies an orderly and appropriate journey toward a destination (I Corinthians 14). The unity and the edification of the congregation should be served in this way.

January 25, 2013

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit Continue Today

One of the joys of producing this rather unique approach to devotional reading is that we get to include material from a broad range of doctrinal viewpoints while at the same time insuring that our readers don’t get liberal theology mixed in Evangelical teaching.  Today is no exception.  The view expressed here on the continuing work of the Holy Spirit — the side to which I am somewhat inclined — stands in contrast to the cessationist view that says the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased at the end of the apostolic age.

I encourage you to read this at source. You’re somewhat on your own today for scripture look-ups; I recommend Bible Gateway.  The post is from Scott at The Prodigal Thought and is titled Seven Reasons The Gifts of the Holy Spirit Continue Today.

I am one who unashamedly believes that God still speaks today. You can call me charismatic. Or you can identify me by the more politically-correct theological term known as continuationism. But I believe God still speaks-reveals-communicates today, as he always has done and will continue into the age to come.

Why would I believe such?

I list 7 reasons below:

1) God is an actual living, personal being

Almost every Christian would uphold this statement. And, so, one would only expect a living, personal being to be a communicator, a speaker. I am not sure I need to quote a lot of proof texts (though I could). But it is simply a theological deduction from reading the entirety of Scripture.

Living, personal beings are communicators in so many ways. And so, why would we expect anything less from the eternal personal being? Thus, he will continue to communicate, speak, reveal, unveil, illuminate, until all things are completed. Well, and then he will keep speaking even after all things have been renewed in Christ!

2) Christ is the charismatic prophet and his body is to follow

When I use the word charismatic, I mean it in the sense that Roger Stronstad defined it in his work, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke:

I use the term “charismatic” in a functional and dynamic sense. By “charismatic” I mean God’s gift of His Spirit to His servants, either individually or collectively, to anoint, empower, or inspire them for divine service. (p13)

And, as the living Word, Christ was the greatest prophet to ever exist. Yes, greater than Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah. There has been none like him who spoke and revealed the Father as he did.

Therefore, if Christ is the great charismatic prophet, then by nature, his body is to follow in those same footsteps. The body follows the head. It’s part and parcel to our calling in Christ. It doesn’t mean that everyone is particularly marked out as a prophet today. Of course not. But, via the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and empowering, Christ expects his body to get on with completing that which he initiated. Christ is still continuing that which he began to do and teach (Acts 1:1). Thus, we are now not only a priesthood of all believers, but also a prophethood of all believers.

3) The Spirit continues the same work of Christ

This really connects with the former point, but it’s the Spirit who continues the work of Christ. It is he that comes to empower the people of God, all that we might be vehicles by which Christ continues his work. I know this sounds like the A, B, C’s of pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit), but the charismatic Christ sent the charismatic Spirit to gift the charismatic ekklesia-church. One cannot get away from the reality that the work Christ began so long ago was to continue through the current age.

4) The positive affirmation in Scripture that such gifts would continue

I share much more here, but suffice it to say that there are actual Scripture passages that teach such works and gifts would continue. In the article I have linked to, I specifically take time to look at four positive Scriptural affirmations: John 14:12; Acts 2:17-18; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; and Ephesians 4:11-16. There are plenty more one could look at and consider, but those are a very solid starting point as to specific passages.

5) Inaccurate interpretation from cessationists

There are the ‘usual suspects’ passages brought up by cessationists. These passages become pointers as to why certain gifts (or ‘sign gifts’) would cease once the full testimony of Christ and the gospel was completed in the New Testament canon. But that’s just it – Scripture actually doesn’t tell us to expect some gifts to cease.

Four very often quoted passages are 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 1:1-2; and Hebrews 2:3-4. I have spent some time considering these passages in this article, which you can click to read more thoughts if you’d like.

As a side point, it is also quite interesting to note that phrases like ‘word of the Lord’‘word of God’, or ‘word’ do not usually refer to the graphe or written Scripture. It can refer to such, but not normally. God’s word – not just that in the text of Scripture – was always being spoken, even if it wasn’t recorded in the canon of Scripture (e.g., 1 Sam 10:10-13 and 1 Tim 1:18-19). Again, it’s part and parcel to be a living, personal being that desires to communicate. Here are some other examples below where the above phrases do not refer to the written Scripture:

  • Word of God – Luke 3:2
  • Word of God – Acts 4:31
  • Word of God – Acts 6:7
  • Word of God – Acts 12:24
  • Word of the Lord – Acts 13:44, 48-49
  • Word of the Lord – Acts 19:20
  • Word of the Lord – 1 Thess 1:8
  • The are countless times the word ‘word’ arises and does not refer to Scripture

6) God spoke through those who were not prophets or apostles

Even if one wants to argue that apostles and prophets do not exist today, there are still plenty of examples of others who were used to speak forth prophecy or used in other extraordinary gifts. Here is a smattering from the New Testament:

  • Stephen (Acts 6:8)
  • Philip (Acts 8:4-7)
  • Ananias (Acts 9:17-18)
  • The 120 believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:4)
  • Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:46)
  • Agabus (Acts 11:37-38; 21:10-11) – he was not an apostle, but was a prophet
  • The Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:6)
  • The Galatian believers (Gal 3:5)
  • The Corinthian believers (1 Cor 14)

This should give courage to those of us who are not actually apostles or prophets (most of us!). God wants to utilise his people in such ‘charismatic’ activities since he has been doing such from the beginning.

7) The great testimony of the charismata in church history

I have already written on this topic before, which you can find here. But suffice it to say, there are plenty of examples of God, by his Spirit, speaking and acting out the charismata as found in 1 Corinthians 12.

And, a great resource to look at would be The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal by Vinson Synan. He takes time to chronicle what has happened over the past 100 years or so with the rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. In today’s world, it is estimated that there are some 500 million believers associating themselves within the Pentecostal, charismatic or neo-charismatic branches of the church. And the accounts of God’s activity by his Spirit continue on into the 21st century.

Also, another book I have been made aware of, but have not yet been able to read, is Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church by Ronald Kydd.

So, suffice it to say, I find it extremely hard to argue for the cessation, or ceasing, of certain gifts of the Spirit. For me, there is an overwhelming biblical, theological and historical positive case for the continuation of such.

~Scott Lencke

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