Friday, December 30, 2011

Resolutions for 2012

Here are a couple resoutions that I am prayerfully considering.
   1. To develop a more intensive prayer life
   2. To refuse to compromise my character or my soul
   3. To develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle
   4. To honor my wife- she deserves it for living with me!
   5. To love the unloveable and God's difficult children
   6. To Challenge myself on leadership through reading and relationships
   7. To Persevere in tough times
   8. To Speak truth- even when it will not be well received
   9. To lead from internal conviction and yet to listen to those around me
   10. To increase savings and giving to others

Spiritual Gifts #2

We continue on to discuss the gift of knowledge. There are those who seem to feel as if this is a residential gift in the mind-heart of an individual. As if God places an occasional smarty pants in the body of Christ who knows things. Now, I want to thank God for the hundreds of people who are smarter than me in the church where I serve. They have been a resource to the church and to myself in confusing times. But though they are operating in knowledge they are not operating in the gift of the Word of knowledge. The Word of Knowledge is a revelation based gift- much like the Word of Wisdom that we wrote about earlier. The Word of Knowledge comes usually in a time of prayer although, occasionally it just shows up in our minds while we are about the business of ministry. It isn't, as one author writes " the ability to understand scripture in a way that only comes by revelation". That is a dangerous and unbibilical doctrine! Scripture is to be used to judge revelation not the other way around. The objective standard of the Word of God always is the measuring stick of the subjective revelation of the prophetic and revelatory gifts.

The Lord moves among his church in profound ways. His purpose is to work his will of strengthening, encouraging, comforting, healing, etc among the body of Christ. He does so by revealing a bit of knowledge to someone open to the gift so that it may be used by God to instigate the process of healing or strengthening. For instance, we read of Jesus knowing that he had been touched by someone with faith. The woman with the issue of blood was revealed to Jesus by a word of knowledge. Clearly the Spirit revealed that to Jesus. (We know that many of the miracles of Jesus were done by the anointing of the Holy Spirit on his life because he claimed in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4) that that is what drove him to do the miraculous. And we have Luke's synopsis of Jesus' ministry  in Acts 10.38 where it clearly says that his ministry of "doing good, healing all who were under the power of the devil" was Spirit directed.) But we also see similar working of these gift in the body of Christ in the book of Acts. Peter should have been pretty impressed with the offering placed at his feet in Acts 5. But he knows something is amiss. He calls Ananias to task saying things that could only be known by a revelation of God.

Thankfully, the Word of Knowledge doesn't always end with someone being struck down by God! Often it is used to establish trust in the heart of someone so they may receive a prophetic directive or a Word of Wisdom which is to follow. " I saw you under the fig tree..." Jesus said to Nathanael. This fact known by revelation opened up Nathanael to the rest of Jesus' ministry. So as your seeking the greater gifts in obedience to God command in 1 Cor 12.31 include an openness to the Word of Knowledge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Understanding Spiritual Gifts 1

As I perused the internet looking for some information regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit I became increasingly concerned that not only do many not practice the gifts but many are so ignorant of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they cannot even define them correctly. Disconcerting to say the least! How can we be a Spirit-filled people if we cannot define the objective descriptions of the Spirit's working among us?

So let's take a look at the 9 charisms mentioned in 1 Cor 12. Other sections of Scripture speak of motivational giftings and offices within the church but 1 Cor 12 clearly identifies these gifts as manifestation gifts. Their purpose is to reveal the Word of God, the Mind of God, and the Power of God to the situations within the believers gathered. John F. MacArthur is certainly no sympathizer with the charismatic movement but is forced to acknowledge that these gifts were "specific enablements" for the purpose of "authenticating or confirming God's Word". Unfortunately, MacArthur himself has called these gifts "temporary sign gifts"-despite the complete lack of any indication in this (or any other) text that these gifts were designed to be temporary. Miracles were common in the first century among those followers of Christ. So much so that some miracles became "ordinary" (Acts 19.11). They were not worked strictly by the Apostles alone. Indeed, the NT records many healings and miracles by those outside the 12. Paul seems to be encouraging the proper use of the charismata in 1 Cor 12. It is clear that the purpose is to manifest the Spirit for the common good (12.7) Donald Gee reminds us that these gifts arose out of individuals who had been personally filled with the Spirit. He writes, "The very phrase "manifestation of the Spirit" makes this clear. The Greek Word is phanerosis, 'a shining forth.' The nine gifts...are examples of different ways in which the indwelling Spirit might reveal himself through believers."
So, let's examine these manifestation gifts.

The Message (Word) of Wisdom- This is more than some sanctified natural gifting. It has little to do with human intelligence. All of these gifts are divinely imparted. Since the gift of healing has little to do with medical science- wisdom should not be expected to be connected to intelligence. Neither is the Word of Wisdom simply the application of the divine wisdom that comes down (James 3.17). That is the application of the teachings of Jesus. One author I read taught that the Word of Wisdom was a way of proper interpretation of Scripture. As important as good hermenuetics is, it is not connected to the Word of Wisdom. The Message of Wisdom is a spiritually imparted nugget of divine purpose and application. It is differentiated from the Word of Knowledge in that it gives a directive on what should happen based upon God's perspective. It is the revelation of God's mind on what to do in a particular situation. It is actionable. It is recognizable in the council rooms and board rooms of the church when the leadership is prayerfully seeking to honor God. It is seen in prayer meetings and presbyteries over those who are seeking direction for life and ministry. It is seen occassionally at the altar, as the Holy Spirit moves through everyday christians caring for one another. We see evidence of this revealing of the divine tactic in Acts 13.1f, when during a time of prayer, worship and fasting, the Holy Spirit said "Set apart for me Barnabus and Saul to the work I have called them." Before this we have no indication that Paul would lead a great missionary endeavor. But God knew what to do when the believers gathered did not. God can see the future, knows intimately the giftings of individuals, and can choose to reveal this to the seeking church to clearly direct the path of the church.

I have experienced the Word of Wisdom on numerous occasions. I often look back upon those keystone moments. They are like the divinely inspired stepping stones of my life. Looking back I see confirmed the path of God's plan and am encouraged. God sent men and women at key moments in my life to speak a Word of Wisdom to me regarding the direction of my life and ministry. When I am facing decisions that are not clear, I seek the Lord and he helps me by his Holy Spirit. often God uses others to speak a Word of Wisdom to me. It is not the wisdom of their age, nor the wisdom of scriptural principles, for these are too broad. This is the Wisdom perscription from Jesus. Is this not what we mean when we say Spirit led? Let the Spirit lead you in to his purpose by being open to the Word of Wisdom. Seek it out, desire it, be eager to be used in that gift and you will not only live a profitable life for the Kingdom of God but you will be a blessing to those around you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

When the Athiest Dies

Today Christopher Hitchens died. He was 62 and lost his battle to esophageal cancer. His career as a provocative journalist and his penchant for attacking religion- especially Christianity- established him in some circles among the intellectual elites in Britian. He was the author of  God is not Great (Twelve Books), a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and visiting professor of liberal studies to the New School. Hitchens published a series of letters to Douglas Wilson entitled "Is Christianity Good for the World?". These are worth the read by folks of either persuasion.

He leaves behind 3 children and a wife. For those of us who are believers, we recognize the ultimate sadness is that in spite of engaging with some of the most brilliant minds in Christendom he has slipped into a Christless eternity and is destined for perdition. Yet, he had powerful witnesses to faith and will be judged according to the truth he knew. Certainly he had rejected, even at the end, the message that a real salvation comes to those who place their faith in Christ, and not in their own intellect.

How about your friends, loved ones, and neighbors? Have you given them an adequate witness of faith to offer them a way out from spiritual ruin? Paul said to the Ephesians " I am innocent of the blood of all men for I have not hesitated to proclaim the whole will of God..." (Acts 20.26f)- have we been faithful proclaimers of God"s message of Grace and Love to those who are in our lives? After all the love of God extends to them as well. Christ followers need to speak up before it is too late.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Worse than an Unbeliever

Reading the Tribune the other day and the author reminisced about his father who worked 2 jobs in order to keep food on the table and heat in the house. And as I pondered on that for a while I realized that I didn't know very many men who worked that hard for their family. For all the complaints about "living wages" and union benefits I don't know too many who are working a FT job and a PT job as well. Some won't even look for work.

Paul wrote to Timothy, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim 5.8)

Of course there are circumstances that mitigate this a bit- such as a horrible economy, but I am thinking that this is extremely harsh language. How is a believer ever WORSE than an unbeliever?

1.) He is worse in that his witness is blown. We represent God to our families. And as fathers we are to be haveing our hearts turned toward our children (Mal 4.6). Even the unbelievers would look with distain upon a man who doesn't care for his family.

2.) He is worse because he fails to do his part and then blames God for not providing.

3.) He is worse because he shames the name of the ultimate provider- Jehovah jireh by not working in conjunction with Him.

Seems that our view of work as menial or trivial is far from the reformers views of "vocation" and calling. Further, if we see certina forms of labor as beneath us is that not a form of pride?