Living Our Lives With The “Two Minute Warning” In Play

SCRIPTURE:  1 Peter 4:1-11 (NIV)

In football, the manner of play I’ve noticed over the years changes when the “TWO MINUTE WARNING” has sounded.  And in VERSE 7 in our study together, Peter says “The end of all things is now.”

I think that thought gives meaning to the whole passage as the Holy Spirit is saying through the Apostle that we should live our lives on earth as if Life’s TWO MINUTE WARNING has sounded.

The question becomes…we should ask ourselves while investigating this passage of Scripture, the same one Peter asks his readers (2 Peter 3:11)–“What kind of people ought you to be?”

So with that in mind, let’s look for ANSWERS to that question:

First, as Christians living in a lost world at the end of time, we should be ARMED with an ATTITUDE.  By the way, I didn’t steal that idea from Dr. Laura–it comes right out of this passage of Scripture (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Peter is giving us a picture of putting on our ATTITUDE as part of a suit of armor.  Very similar to the passage Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesian church–“Putting on the whole ARMOR of GOD” (Ephesians 6).

So What is ATTITUDE?

The English Oxford Dictionary:  “A settled way of thinking or feeling about something.”

Referring to “ATTITUDE”, Peter is saying it’s the same one that Christ took towards suffering–ARMED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE that He once had, completing the task, never again to wrestle with sin or temptation–that would all be over with, “It is finished!”

What it’s not saying is that if you suffer once, you’ll never suffer again.  It’s saying that we should “understand” suffering for what is right and it sometimes part of life in the body.

BIG PICTURE…as a result, you won’t live your life as if you must satisfy your earthly appetites–your desires, your pleasures, for a little suffering here.  It can’t be compared with an eternity FREE from SIN & SUFFERING.

ILLUSTRATION:

The ATTITUDE we should arm ourselves with is like that of a quarterback in the Superbowl who gets injured in the 4th Quarter of the game and the TWO MINUTE WARNING begins.  He would be willing to play through a great deal of pain for the sake of that victor’s ring because he know’s everything is at stake and the end is in sight.

We who are Christians, who stands on the edge of history should arm ourselves with the ATTITUDE that says, I can see the goal line and it’s worth any price to obtain it!

That’s the ATTITUDE that free’s us to do God’s will in our lives.

That’s NOT the Way We Used to Live, however.

VERSES 3-4

VERSE 3 actually is a direct contrast to Verse 2,  It literally says enough time has been spent doing the will of nations (worldliness) in CONTRAST to our NEW ATTITUDE which frees us to do the “will of God”–we used to live our lives to PLEASE the World and ourselves; not anymore.

And now the World doesn’t understand this new attitude of ours; why we don’t plunge into a life of SENSUAL PLEASURE–drunkenness, sensual immorality, worshipping money and fame.  The will of the WORLD summed up in the phrase “If it feels good, do it!”

Secondly, as Christians living at the end of times, we should have…AN AWARENESS OF ACCOUNTING.

To live as followers of Christ we need to understand that AN END IS COMING!

Coaches begin to watch the clock very carefully inside the TWO MINUTE WARNING.  It’s important to know where they stand in the time they have left.

Peter says that we need to understand the end is near and living in this time requires clear headedness, self-control, allowing us to keep in communication with the Coach.

It is important as well that we understand what “the end” means–that it means there will be an ACCOUNTING…whether we are LIVING when that time arrives, OR…whether we have already passed on, that we’ll give an account to our lives.

Even those who have gone before us will be judged and this is why they needed the GOSPEL too–it’s not just for those who will be living when the ACCOUNTING comes.  And when those who have gone before us put their TRUST in Christ Jesus, thought by human standards being judged GUILTY, in the spirit, they live everlasting because of the work of Christ.

As we sit on the edge of history’s end, we must be aware that Christ will judge the living and the dead.  We then must consider how we will be judged on that day.  Our DEEDS will be laid before Him.

Woe unto us on that day if our SINS are not covered by the BLOOD of Jesus.

Those who trust the SAVING GRACE of Jesus whose BLOOD was shed on Cross, understanding that only HIS BLOOD can cleanse them; that nothing we could ever do or say will make us worthy.

Those who have put their TRUST in Him alone…ALSO, commit their lives to Him–to live for Him, not to earn His affection, but to demonstrate our affection–because we have been ARMED with the ATTITUDE of Christ.

And because we are aware of an ACCOUNTING…

Third, as Christians living during the “TWO MINUTE WARNING” we should be…

ABOVE ALL AFFECTIONATE (Verses 8-9)

[8] Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  [9] Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  (NIV)

More important than anything else is LOVE.  

JESUS’ top TWO LIST was this:  Love God, Love your neighbor–everything else, He said, All of the Scripture is tied up in those TWO!

Church tradition says that when the Apostle John, the beloved disciple, became too old to even walk, used to ask to be carried to the local church meetings, go before the assembly of believers and say only this:  “Little children, love one another.”  Well, that sounds sweet enough but after a while, it started to get on people’s nerves.  Finally, the elders of the church went to John and asked him why do you keep saying that?  His reply was short and to the point:  “Because it is our Lord’s command and because it’s enough!”

LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS.

The Lord knows as well as my wife, I have a multitude of sins.  That said, my wife also knows that I LOVE her.  Sometimes I hurt her feelings and I’ll demonstrate that LOVE in a tangible way–in an exercise that some have said is a “suck up gift”.  But that “suck up gift” works NOT because I spend money, but because she knows that I genuinely care deeply about her!

But it works the other way too.  Our LOVE for others covers a multitude of OUR sins toward them but our SIN should also cover a multitude of THEIR sins.  About 70 times seven I’d say.

There’s one last thing I want to mention that we should do as Christians while living at the end of time.  That’s ADMINISTERING GOD’S ANOINTING (vs. 10-11 a).

Each one of us should use whatever GIFT he/she has received from the Holy Spirit to SERVE others, faithfully administrating God’s GRACE in its various forms (verse 11).

Here is this passage of Scripture, Peter urges us to be “faithful stewards” of the GIFTS God has given to each one of us.  And as ADMINISTRATORS (Stewards) of God’s GRACE in various forms, that is of the gifts that God has given YOU (put your name in place of the word “you”), NOT for your pleasure but for His, to SERVE OTHERS.

And notice also that emphasis is given here as it has in the passages found in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, to the fact that these Spiritual Gifts are exercised not in our own strength BUT in the strength of the Lord.  And this is the part that makes it important for us who live in History’s TWO MINUTE WARNING…to OPERATE in the GRACE (the FAVOR) God gives to us through SPIRITUAL GIFTS.

So as the BUZZER, the whistle approaches (or actually, as the TRUMPET sounds),  we must work in God’s strength, FAITHFULLY ADMINISTERING as good stewards, God’s Anointing in its various forms.

Conclusion:

ARMED with an ATTITUDE that says I have my eyes on a prize above and I can’t be distracted by the pleasures below.

AWARE of the ACCOUNTING–keeping our focus and ready for that day!

Above all AFFECTIONATE–because it’s the Lord’s command and because it’s enough!

And ADMINISTERING faithfully God’s Anointing that through HIS STRENGTH we might accomplish ALL that He has for each one of us as the day approaches!

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CREDITS –

VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY of Old and New Testament Words.

PHOTOS:  Advance Settings–Gooogle Image Search.

Bible Translations:  The New International Version (NIV), EXCEPT WHERE NOTED.

 

 

 

Receiving A New Heart and New Spirit to Reach Our Potential

Ezekiel 36:26-27 in the Amplified Bible:

[26] A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  [27] And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them.”

Ezekiel 36:26: A Heart of Stone Transferred to a Heart of Flesh
Ezekiel 36:26: A Heart of Stone Transferred to a Heart of Flesh

For the past month, I have been leading a small group at our home, calling the study Being Gifted for a Purpose.  I am using The 9 SPIRITUAL GIFTS listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 as an introduction to the study.

In using my Bible Concordance, listing specific verses concerning Spiritual Gifts, I found some interesting facts in the Old Testament which refer to Spiritual Gifting.  So much so, I decided to write down my thoughts in a Blog-post.

I also learned from God’s Word, I should have presented a portion of the facts found in the Old Testament before launching into the Spiritual Gifts Study mentioned in I Corinthians 12, and Romans 12.  Lesson learned.

Renewal Is Promised–

According to Ezekiel 36:26,27, the hardened heart of man is replaced with a soft heart [“a heart of flesh”], where RENEWAL is promised at this occurrence.  Now compare this with the New Testament verse of being “born again” (John 3:3)–meaning to be RESTORED to what we were created to be according to God’s plan.

What is God’s Plan After Receiving “A New Heart”?

Your specific calling is related to the Spirit’s work in several areas:

1.  CREATION.

2.  REGENERATION.

3.  EMPOWERING BELIEVERS FOR THE WORK IN THE CHURCH & THE WORLD.

The GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT Found in the Old Testament and the New Testament:

Three Basic Areas in The Old Testament:

1.  COSMIC – referring to the Spirit’s role in the CREATION.

2.  INDIVIDUAL – referring to the Spirit’s role in REGENERATION and the SANCTIFICATION (setting apart) of individuals.

3.  THEOCRATIC – referring to the Spirit’s role in EMPOWERING the children of Israel.

A.  HOLY SPIRIT’S WORK IN THE CREATION PROCESS:

In my detective work in Scripture this week, I found a number of biblical passages pertaining to the COSMIC area.

“By His breath the heavens are cleared…”  ~  Job 26:13.

“The Spirit of God has made me,  And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” ~ Job 33:4.

“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” ~ Psalms 104:30.

We can look at the GIFTS we’ve expressed throughout our lives; indicating where we are to SERVE in the church and in the world.  BUT, how does this whole process even begin?

B.  Individual: the Spirit’s work in us–

JESUS talks about this process, when He discusses the topic about being “BORN AGAIN” or “BORN FROM ABOVE”:

3 times in a conversation with Nicodemus in The Gospel of John 3:1-10:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”  (verse 3).

In Verse 10, JESUS asks Nicodemus,  “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet do not know or understand these things?”  

JESUS is making a clear point, that based on Nicodemus’ knowledge of the Old Testament, he should have a grasp about the Spirit’s RENEWAL or REBIRTH of individuals.  Ezekiel 36:26 speaks of this language.

Note the new heart and new spirit that is promised–the HARDENED heart is REPLACED with a soft heart.  RENEWAL is promised to take place.

Being “born again” means the beginning process–being RESTORED to what we were created to be according to God’s plan.  Again, this PROCESS includes our gifts.

C.  Theocratic: where the Spirit is, There is POWER–

In some ancient languages, the words for “spirit”, “breath”, and “wind” are identical.

The Old Testament uses two Hebrew words “breath” and “wind”–  

1.  Ruach, refers to heavy breathing, or breathing through the nose with violence.  Exodus 15:8 uses ruach to refer to a “blast” of the nostrils:

“With the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood fixed in a heap, the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea”  (Amplified Bible).

2.  Neshamah, refers to quiet breathing.

“when the breath (or Spirit) of the Lord” is used, Ruach Yahweh could mean Spirit of the Lord or Wind of the Lord.  In both cases, the idea is POWER.

Holy Spirit gives GIFTS and He can and will…EMPOWER those GIFTS in our lives.

In The Book of Acts, we see an instance where the empowerment is given and the results:

“AND WHEN the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place.  When suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them.  And they were ALL FILLED (DIFFUSED THROUGHOUT THEIR SOULS) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words]”  (Acts 2:1-4 AMP).

OUR “GIFTS” ARE FROM THE SPIRIT:

Being EMPOWERED by the Spirit of God is to accomplish the PURPOSE for which they are given.

Empowerment of the Spirit On Display From the Old Testament–

Do the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit really matter in our everyday work, our ministry, our witness?

In the Old Testament, there are a number of gifts the Holy Spirit gives Israel which I found applicable to our life and work today.

Strength and Leadership–

The Holy Spirit EMPOWERED various people in different ways which establish and protected the kingdom of Israel.

GIDEON in Judges 6:34:

“Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon GIDEON…”

The words “came upon” literally mean “clothed”; the Spirit put on GIDEON as a cloak.

JEPHTHAH in Judges 11:29-33:

In a similar way, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon [or “fell on”] Jephthah,” when he was able to win the battle that was rapidly approaching.

SAMPSON:

When the Spirit of the Lord fell on Sampson, he became supernaturally strong.  Now he was strong to begin with, but Holy Spirit used this God-given ability to make him stronger.

“And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion as he would have torn a kid…”  (Judges 14:6).

Clothed With Power From On High.

“And behold, I will send forth upon you what My Father has PROMISED; but remain in the city [Jerusalem] until you are CLOTHED WITH THE POWER FROM ON HIGH”  (Luke 24:49 AMP).  [I capitalized words for emphasis]

QUESTION:  Why did Jesus choose the word “clothed” ?

He lifted it from the pages of what we call as the Old Testament.

Thinking it all through, it’s plain to see. The Spirit is a spirit; He does not have a body.  Holy Spirit needs a human body to accomplish the works, the gifts listed in Scripture [both in the Old Testament and the New Testament] God wants done on Earth–To SPEAK THE WORDS God wants spoken.

God’s Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and the RESULT?:

Gideon’s mind, voice, and hands became tools the Spirit used to accomplish God’s purposes.

REACHING OUR POTENTIAL:

What is POTENTIAL?  The Online Dictionary defines it as,  “latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.”

How does the Lord define POTENTIAL?  The Lord takes people who are already GIFTED by His Spirit, causing their gifts which are already present, to reach their full potential.

An Old Testament Example — Bezalel, A Gifted Artist and More! :

“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, understanding

in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship

to make artistic design for work in gold, in silver, in bronze, and in cutting

of stones, and in carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”

Exodus 31:1-5

All of your GIFTS are affected by the Fall (SIN).  Holy Spirit can take our GIFTS and cause them to be renewed and energized:

1.  Be directed to His glory.

2.  Unfold and reach their potential.

The Work of Holy Spirit Gives Direction in Our Work and the World–whether in Creation or Regeneration.

The Spirit constantly EMPOWERS us to carry out the CALLINGS God places in our lives.  The examples that I gave in the Old Testament should bear witness for our work in  the Church and the World today.

1.  The Spirit gives us POWER!

Where we have GIFTS of the Holy Spirit given to each one of us as Christians, we have power.  Now we can fail to take ownership; bury them in the ground, fail to fully utilize them from either false-humility or lack of discernment of God’s potential in our lives.  In either case, using these GIFTS is our responsibility, yet in our failure to do so doesn’t deny their potential POWER in this temporary residence we call “the world.”

2.  We shouldn’t separate “natural” and “spiritual” gifts.

It’s wrong to depreciate or separate our natural (created) gifts and our “spiritual” gifts.  Both gifts are from the Holy Spirit.

Although God can give each one of us new capacities at anytime He so chooses, in most cases, He empowers or develops the POTENTIAL from our created gifts; for the use in the Church or the World.

3.  The Spirit helps us reach our true potential.

Both the Old Testament and New Testament, people need the Holy Spirit to overcome spiritual blindness and grab hold of spiritual realities.  People in both testaments needed to be born again, their hearts made anew.  This transformation kindled by the Holy Spirit enables us to develop and reach our potential.

4.  The Spirit can increase our gifts for specific tasks.

God gave people the artistic skill and even more skill through the Holy Spirit, so they could fulfill His plans; building the Tabernacle and fashioning its utensils.

GOD’S PROMISE:

Likewise, God can unfold, redirect, or develop our potential with the Spiritual Gifts He has given each one of us.  That’s His PROMISE to those who have received a New Heart and New Spirit.

This applies to people with a variety of skill sets, not just those with artistic gifts.  And by-the-way, it’s okay to pray that the Lord will unfold the partially developed GIFTS.

Holy Spirit Empowerment
Holy Spirit Empowerment

My Personal Story–

Several years back, I was asked by a pastor if I could come up with an idea for an Easter Play.  One that would include some of the people in church as cast members.

Over the years, I had acquired some acting experience; even came up with an idea for a church choir performing an Easter Musical .  But to write, cast, set-design, and produce an original Christian play…NO EXPERIENCE AT ALL!  NONE!!

With the days passing, with fervent prayer in my spirit asking God for direction, I still found myself at a dead-end.  And then one night, while sound asleep, I felt a touch on my right shoulder.  I turned to see if my wife was still asleep and not standing beside the bed trying to get my attention for some reason. But she was sound asleep.  As I rolled over on my side, I felt another touch, but this time it was more forceful.  Still unaware, I looked at the alarm clock on the bed stand noticing it was 3:30 AM.   The room was dark and still and at that moment, I heard a soft voice:  “Mel, get up! Grab your notepad, a pencil and your Bible and go out to the kitchen table.  I’ll tell you what to write and do.”  I’ve learned from previous experiences, when God’s Spirit speaks, you better listen and do!

Following the Instructions and Directions–

Starting at 4 AM and finishing at 6:30 AM (seemed like 10 minutes and not hours), the play was done: the staged set sketched out on paper, lighting diagram positioned,  and the title:  MERCY On Trial.  My only problem…I had no clue how to write a Script for actors to follow including stage directions.   But I did have HOPE in reaching what God had planned.  I love one definition of HOPE:  “A heartfelt expectation of something with an out-stretched neck.” By, was I ever stretching my neck out, HOPING God’s Spirit would develop my potential.

And then I remembered.  My daughter-in-law graduated from college with a minor degree in Performing Arts.  She could help.  Thank You Jesus!

Later that morning, I called her at work and presented my hopes and the time frame I was up against to have a finished product.  “Can you help out Loretta?”  

Loretta:  How much time will I have?

Dad:  Two weeks?  (holding my breath).

Loretta:  Dad, if you will call me late Saturday morning and present me with your ideas, I’ll see what I can do.  I’m going down to Phoenix on business next week and I’ll take my laptop computer.

Two weeks later, I had a finished Script and had her FAX the 3 Act Play to the church.  On a Monday night, the play was cast and rehearsals began.  God gifted my daughter-in-law’s talented abilities along with my natural desire, to present a Spirit-led prophetic, Resurrection Day drama.  Thank You Father for developing my potential and empowering the both of us for Your glory.

What is your POTENTIAL?  With a new heart and a new spirit, God promises to reveal His plans to you.  It’s up to you to have a willing heart that will be transformed!  He promises!

The Measure of Our Faith and Beyond!

Spiritual-Gifts

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF FAITH:

 I was asked a few weeks ago by the pastor of the church I fellowship at, to lead a small group study in an intimate atmosphere of our home.  Churches today have been placing a great emphasis in this area of koinonia [“fellowship”; “SHARING”, “communion”] in the church.  Also, our pastor wanted each small group involved to be a part of focusing on the Great Commission; how it can be personalized and demonstrated in the body of Christ, the Church.

After prayer and God’s Spirit speaking to me from His Word, I thought what better way to focus on ‘making disciples’, but to do so in a Bible study on Spiritual Gifts.  I decided to call the STUDY, “Gifted For A Purpose.”  

I then thought, while in a study on GIFTS, why not do a Blog-post, not on all the GIFTS mentioned in the Bible but one of the GIFTS.  One  that I have been asked to discuss in the past.

1 Corinthians 12:9:

“To another FAITH by the same Spirit;”

DEFINITION:  It is a supernatural faith that is imparted by the Holy Spirit that enables the Christian to believe God for the extraordinary and the miraculous in a specific time or circumstance.

 Notice now the difference in a SAVING FAITH:

“For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor)  that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation)  through [your] FAITH.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving].  but it is the gift of God”  (Ephesians 2:8 AMP).

This is also different from the FAITH that GOD GIVES to every man:

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith”  (Romans 12:3 KJV).

So every man has some FAITH, but not necessarily THE GIFT OF FAITH:

Primary Objectives of The Gift of Faith:

1.  GIVES a calm assurance and trust that God WILL bring it to pass in the most adverse circumstances.

2.  IMPARTS supernatural faith at a given time to believe and to accomplish might works of God’s power.

The Old Testament heroes, who BY FAITH, subdued kingdoms…stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire and more! (Hebrews 11:33-40).

The Dangers of Demonstrating Our Spiritual Gifts:

We are living as Christians in a day of co-existence of good & evil [The gift of discerning of spirits].  This is still true within all the spiritual gifts.

It is the devil’s duty to imitate and copy what God does and to try to hinder the plan of God.  But, just because this gift has been abused, doesn’t mean that God is not still desiring to use the GIFT OF FAITH in a godly way for His glory!

ILLUSTRATIONS–Past and Current:

Peter in Matthew 14:22-33, walked out of the boat onto the water.  I don’t know about you, but that’s an illustration of supernatural FAITH!

The Christian leader and philanthropist, George Mueller, in 19th Century England provided for thousands of orphans completely by prayer and without even asking for donations.

In my detective work this past week, I ran across a story that I thought best illustrated a current Holy Spirit moment in The Gift of Faith:

A preacher told the story of when his wife was dying of cancer.  The doctors had done all they could, sending her home to die.  After this occurred,  he went to prayer and fasting like never before.  Of course he had prayed all during his wife’s treatments, but not in this manner.  In fact he felt led to take the step of FAITH in proclaiming that he would not eat or drink until either God healed his wife or took her home to be with Jesus.  On the 4th day of no intake of any beverage or food, not even water, he was feeling faint and light headed.  But as he prayed at the side of her bed, he noticed a stirring in his soul.  Also, he noticed at the same time his wife began to move and before long, she jumped out of her bed, shouting in the Spirit [The GIFT of speaking in tongues] for quite sometime!  God had completely healed her of cancer!

That my friends, is the Gift of Faith in action!  Let us fervently desire and stir up this gift (1 Corinthians 12:31)! There are so many people around us who need a miracle in their lives.  GOD wants to use someone just like you and I to fulfill HIS divine will for their lives.

spiritualgifts

Detecting the Presence – (Part Two) of “Separating the Gold From the Junk” Series

In PART ONE, we looked at the apostle Paul’s admonition to the First Church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:1-16), regarding DISCERNMENT for ALL.  In PART TWO, we will be looking at the special GIFT of DISCERNING SPIRITS within the body of Christ, the church.

20090527_spiritual-gifts-discernment_poster_img

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 Amplified Bible:

[7] But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit.  [8] To one is given in and through the [Holy] spirit  [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another  [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same [Holy] Spirit;  [9] To another  [wonder-working] faith by the same [Holy] Spirit, to another the extraordinary powers of healing by the one Spirit;  [10] To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight  (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose); to another the ability to discern and distinguish between  [the utterances of true]  spirits  [and false ones] to another various kinds of [unknown]  tongues, to another the ability to interpret  [such] tongues.       [11] All these  [gifts, achievements, abilities] are inspired and brought to pass by one and the same [Holy] Spirit,  Who apportions to each person individually [exactly] as He chooses. 

“Discerning of Spirits”  (verse 10):

Discerning of spirits is a vital gift to the body of Christ, the church.  The enemy has gotten away with a lot of junk of demonic manifestations in our church services because of the gift of discerning spirits… is not functioning in the leadership.

This particular GIFT reveals the “kind” of spirit behind a supernatural manifestation.  If somebody is crawling around on the floor during a church service, barking like a dog, the pastor better have the ability to DISCERN what spirit is operating in that individual.

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

The GIFTS of the Holy Spirit, are talked about in Christian circles with differing reactions.  I believe ALL the GIFTS are for the body of Christ today and are given by the Spirit for the common good of the church.  They didn’t pass away with the original apostles, and as God’s Word explains in verse 11,  “ALL these gifts…Who  (the Holy Spirit) apportions to [not “SOME”, but ] EACH PERSON individually as He chooses” (Mel’s paraphrase in brackets).

God is still moving, still healing, still performing miracles, and still bringing deliverance to 1000’s of people!  We can deny the facts or accept His gifts.  But our God is alive and well and He wants to use us in His kingdom.

Why are these GIFTS given to believers in JESUS?  

1 Corinthians 12:7 begins in telling us why.

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] for good and profit”

GIFTS are not given to be personal blessing to us, to make us feel special or holier than the next guy.  They are given for the common good of the church.

In my Word investigations over the years, I believe we must accept His gifts—so the BODY can prosper and function according to His purpose and plan…not our purposes and plans. (By the way, there is more than one list.  *See 1 Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11 for additional GIFTS.)

None of Us Have ALL the GIFTS:

JESUS is the only one who possessed every gift in its fullness.  The GIFT OF DISCERNING SPIRITS is a good example of this.  It may be pretty nifty to be able to see what is going on in the spirit realm, but what are you going to do with the information?

It may take someone with the GIFT OF WISDOM to know.  Or, someone with the GIFT OF PROPHECY to be able to speak about God’s plan or purpose in the situation presented.  Many gifts will blend together to bring God’s kingdom on the earth and to the body of Christ.

WHAT IS THE GIFT OF DISCERNING SPIRITS?

Discerning spirits is first…a God-given ability to detect the presence of–to see/perceive into the spirit realm; to know the roots of issues and true motives of people whether from good or an evil spirit.

To the person possessed of the gift, they have the ability to skip to the bottom line faster and not to be sidetracked by appearances.

[An Important Note]:

The discerning of spirits is NOT the “gift of discernment”.  Have you ever heard someone say, “I have the gift of discernment”?  Biblically, this person is incorrect, because the Word of God makes no mention of the gift of discernment; however, it does mention the GIFT of discerning spirits.

Ephesians 6:12
Ephesians 6:12

LOOKING INTO THE SPIRIT REALM:

“This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” were two of the first Christian fiction novels that I read all the way through [In record time for me].  It was the battle between good and evil that has been raging for centuries.  Some of the characters in the books, obviously have the gift of discerning spirits.  Frank Peretti brings alive the events in a small college town in the Northwest, where nothing much ever seems to happen, until Scripture comes alive on the book’s pages.

“For we are not contending against 

flesh and blood, but against the

principalities, against the powers, 

against the world rulers of this present

darkness, against the spiritual hosts of

wickedness in the heavenly places.”

–Ephesians 6:12

ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE BIBLE:  Isaiah and John’s  Gifts–

“IN THE year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple”  (Isaiah 6:1 KJV).

How was Isaiah able to see the Lord?  He saw by the gift of discerning spirits; the ability to see into the spirit realm.  And the apostle John…on the Isle of Patmos, he saw the Holy spirit as seven spirits before the heavenly throne.

“Yeah, but those examples were thousands of years ago, not for todays’ church!”

A Personal Story and Testimony–

My son and daughter-in-law had asked me to attend a two-day conference being held at their church.  Although I wasn’t really excited about two days of guest speakers; inside of a poorly vented building,  but said I would attend:

The first day was informative and with worship and praise accompanying the speakers, I was having a Holy Spirit good time.  And then on the second morning, as I sat with head bowed and eyes closed in prayer of the last day, it happened.  I began to see an army of mighty angels descending on the roof of the church.  With no clue to what was happening or why, I looked straight up at the inside ceiling and could see cracks forming and expanding like spider webs.  And while all of this was going on, hoping the evidence of chaos happening on  the roof would become clear to my spirit.  Why was this happening here and now?  Was I dreaming…with my eyes open?  And why me, was anyone else in the church building having the same experience?

And then as suddenly as it had appeared, it all stopped.  Deadening silence until…I was given a clear understanding; a discernment, an understanding of what I had seen in the spirit realm.

Holy Spirit explained, “God was being manifested on the inside of the church from those in attendance of our ‘prayer and praise.’  Already, Satan’s demons had been sent to create chaos during the FAITH conference.  And since our prayers had released God’s messengers, they in turn cleared the roof from any other hindrances–‘spiritual hosts of wickedness’.”  

There had been a battle going on top of the roof, so much so, the cracks in the ceiling became visible to my spiritual eyes.  Although the entire vision was over in minutes, which at the time seemed much longer, I immediately tapped my son on his shoulder and told him the course of events and what I had seen.  And his quiet response in my ear was: “Dad, you just had your first experience into the spirit realm– of ‘discerning spirits’.”  After the conference had ended, my son asked if I would relay the gift of discerning spirits to his pastor.

I have had other experiences in this gifting since then, but none as visual and dramatic as the one I just shared with you all.

What is a “spirit”?

A spirit is a living personality, whether it is the Spirit of God, the human spirit (which is the spirit of man), or an evil spirit.  There are many voices speaking today and we must allow the gifts of His Holy Spirit to operate and function in us.

Being Careful At the Same Time–

We are not to confuse suspicion with perception and discernment.

Suspicion is from the mind, not from the Spirit of God.  We cannot be led by our “suspicions” but led by the power of the Holy spirit.

SHOULD WE DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS?

King Solomon, David’s son is praying and asking God for direction:  “I know not how to go out (begin) or come in (finish)”  (1 Kings 3:7).  He continues in his prayer saying, “Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen…”  (verse 8).  And now the petition, Solomons desire in his prayer:

“So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart

to judge Your people, that I may DISCERN between

GOOD and BAD…”

~1 Kings 3:9~

To answer the question “should we desire spiritual gifts”, we must look at the reasons they are given in the first place; TO PROMOTE THE COMMON GOOD OF THE ENTIRE BODY OF CHRIST!  If we can think of it this way, it should deter us from corrosive pride, as each gift has a specific use and one gift is not any better or inferior to any other.

Dr. Basil Frasure, a counselor and minister with the Fellowship Church in Angelo, Texas has written a fascinating article, “Discerning of Spirits”.  Dr. Frasure writes,

“One of the best ways to discern the nature of a spirit is to check the Word of God (your Bible).  Does what the spirit says match up with the Word of God?”

In the Genesis Story, Eve certainly didn’t have this gift of discernment.  God had told Adam and Eve one thing by His Word, and the serpent, Satan, a ‘spirit’ had told them something else.  REMEMBER, the main principle of interpreting Scripture is that the Bible, God’s Word interprets itself.  Only by repeatedly cycling through God’s Word in the manner of the Bereans (Acts 17:11)-“Separating the Gold From the Junk”, can we properly exercise the gift of discerning of spirits.

Our Destiny Won’t and Can’t Be Overlooked!

Queen Esther
Queen Esther

THE BOOK OF ESTHER:

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from else-where, but you and your father’s house will perish.

AND WHO KNOWS but that YOU have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?”  (Esther 4:14).

Do I really have SPECIFIC PURPOSE in Life?

In 1963, I was single and working a grave yard shift at a local grocery store chain in Southern California.  I was a part-time student at a local Community College along with some morning classes during the week.  So, on specific days, I would get off work at 7:30 AM; drive to school and attend a 9 AM class, then come home and sleep until 4:30 PM and do it again starting!   at midnight!  I’m exhausted from just recounting the story.  And to make thing worse– at the ripe old age of 21 at the time, my social life was all but non-existent.

One day, pulling my car up in front of the house and sitting there for sometime, I got out of the car and proceeded to kicked the rear tire, with a  loud proclamation to the neighborhood,  What am I doing all of this for?  There must be a better purpose in life other than work, school, money, girls etc.  Well, maybe not girls!  And by the way, in case you might be wondering, I wasn’t a Christian at this time in my life, nor have any relationship with the Lord.  Oh I knew there was a GOD and I knew what Christmas and Easter were all about…but NO RELATIONSHIP. Not until I was married, had three children and reached the ripe old age of 30 did a new relationship begin!  That’s another whole story.

GOD HAS A PLAN:

Jeremiah 1:5  (KJV):

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Psalm 139:13  (NIV):

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

—  Moses was born to lead the children of Israel of Bondage.

—  Elijah was born to be a prophet.

—  Noah was born to build the ark.

—  John the Baptist was born as forerunner of Christ Jesus to baptize in the wilderness. 

—  Paul was born to preach and write most of the New Testament.

Until we discover our PURPOSE, our EXISTENCE, we have no meaning…because PURPOSE becomes the source of FULFILLMENT.  And, success is NOT PURPOSE…because SUCCESS, without PURPOSE, is LIFE without meaning and no, that statement isn’t out of Rick Warren’s book, A Purpose Driven Life [sorry, I’ve never read it!].

DURING THE TIME GOD MADE ESTHER QUEEN…

Haman wanted to kill ALL the Jews and Esther being a Jew, was told by her Uncle Mordecai,  she had the POWER to protect her people.  She was given this position as queen by God for such a time as this…

Although there isn’t an explicit reference to God in the Hebrew text, God’s providence is clearly over His covenant people throughout the reading of THE BOOK OF ESTHER.

Seeking a Purpose–

 Many people today turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, career, seeking a PURPOSE.  Putting a 250-channel remote control in our hands…we’re still restless because the things of life don’t really satisfy.  Maybe for an instance, but afterword, we want more!

We have been born to have a RELATIONSHIP with God and when this happens, God’s purpose becomes our purpose…

JESUS CAME WITH PURPOSE AND DESTINY:

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. ~ Luke 9:51 (KJV).

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will, but (always) Yours, be done. ~ Luke 22:42 (AMP).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 (NASB).

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning. ~ 2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT).

HOW GREAT is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. ~ 1 John 3:1 (NIV).

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be had not yet been made known.  But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. ~ 1 John 3:2 (NIV).

OUR DESTINY?  WE HAVE BEEN BORN–ANOINTED–SET-APART TO INFLUENCE OTHERS!

The Christian walk in life is a FAITH WALK.  God doesn’t always reveal His perfect will and allow us to see our DESTINY He has set in place for our lives.  But that is no excuse to bury your head in the sand and wait for God to call you home.

He asks us to TRUST Him and take a leap of faith, allowing Him to guide our every step along the way until we come to the end.  Often, it is not until we have reached a milestone or accomplish a major goal that we can look back and see that God has been leading us all along.

With that all said, you might be questioning God right where you are at this moment in time: Why am I here?  Can’t I accomplish great things for your Kingdom at some other place?

Esther Felt the Pain!

Esther couldn’t understand why…why God would allow her to be forced to marry a pagan King; then taken from her family, to live in a palace, where she felt more like a prisoner than a Queen.

According to the Persian Law, Esther could not even go to her husband the King, without his prior approval.  If Esther were to attempt to walk in the presence of the King, without permission, she would be instantly killed if he didn’t want to see her.

Esther’s Destiny Could Not Be Overlooked!

AND THE RESULTS?

Esther’s people shared in the Queen’s Destiny–God’s Plan:

“The Jews had light [a dawn of new hope] and gladness and joy and honor.    And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, the Jews had gladness and joy, a feast and a holiday.  And many from among the peoples of the land [submitted themselves to Jewish rite and] became Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them”  (Esther 8:16-17 AMP).

YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD OR YOUNG TO DO WHAT GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO DO:

Moses was 40 years old when he began tending sheep in Median and did the same mundane chores for 40 years.  When Moses was 80 years old God called him for His purpose.

When is became a born-again Christian in 1972, I was told by a wise old pastor:  Mel, God has a special calling just for you in life.  My thought process at the time?  Okay pastor, what “calling” is that?  It took over 20 years to discover it and another 20 to follow through with it.  What was it? TEACHING!

Ways to Determine Your Purpose in Life–

When I was investigating Esther’s Destiny; her calling…I uncovered some informative ways to determine God’s calling in your life by John Piper:  10 Ways to Determine God’s Calling in Your Life ~ April 25, 2005.

Although the ten questions were directed to people who desired committing their lives to the Mission Field, I thought Mr. Piper wouldn’t mind if I shared with you a few ways of not overlooking your destiny–your God blessed purpose here on earth.

Our calling can be deep-seated and lasting in our spirit (our hearts).  After all, it is the work of God [not your work] that brings your heart to a point of conviction.  All things considered–including Scripture–this pathway is the path to obedience.

[Esther’s pathway was chosen by God but it was her chosen obedience  that couldn’t be overlooked].

 Conviction is not infallible–

Although conviction isn’t perfect, but when it is of God, it certainly brings peace to your soul.

How does God waken such a calling in our lives?

John Piper suggest 10 Ways in grasping God’s plan for your life and only one of them is infallible–The Bible.  [I’ll present only 2-ways for reference.]  All others are relative and are not absolute but still important for determination.

Also, various combinations he lists are fuel God uses to drive the engine for His calling in your life.

#1. Above all, know your Bible and saturate your mind with it:

God’s Word, His will for your life shapes our minds:  Psalm 1:1-3.

It makes us burn for Christ:  Luke 24:32.

#2.  Know your gifts and know yourself:

Every Christian has spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11 AMP):

“As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of god’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].”

“Whoever speaks, [let him do it as one who utters] oracles of God; whoever renders service, [let him do it] as with the strength which God furnishes abundantly, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”

Knowing your special gifts shapes your convictions about your calling and knowing yourself (as Paul illustrates in Romans 7:15-24), deepens your sense of fitness in various ministries.  Remember, this can be over-ridden by other facts that come into play.

This is but two means given by John Piper, to get you thinking.  If you want the other 8, you will have to go to John Piper’s book.

ARE YOU LISTENING FOR GOD’S CALL IN YOUR LIFE…DISCERNING YOUR DESTINY?

A blogging friend and published author, Jeannie Pallett, said recently in a message,  “I won’t be blogging this week.  I think my life [‘my destiny’]    is about to change…a sensing God wants me to open our home for my unsaved niece to live here for awhile” [the words in brackets are mine].

God’s Main Call First–

Careful Listening
Careful Listening

First, is to a restored relationship then a close fellowship.  Have you ever tried to have a verbal conversation with someone and they did all the talking?  You couldn’t even get a word in edge-ways ; an answer, if it really was a question.  How do you feel?  How does God feel when you do all the talking–asking all the time, but never listening for His answers.  That is not relationship or fellowship.  That’s spiritual deafness!

Eternal life that comes with being a Christian is not just accepting JESUS as your Lord & Savior, then waiting around to go to heaven and live for ever.  It’s about relationship with God–getting to know Him, serving Him and obeying Him because you love Him:

John 17:3–  Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 15:15–  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:14–  You are my friends if you do what I command.” 

“God’s call is for you to be His loyal friend, for whatever purpose He has for your life” ~ Oswald chambers “My Utmost For His Highest”.

The apostle Paul tells the church located in Corinth:

“God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”  (1 Corinthians 1:9 AMP).

GOD’S SPECIFIC CALLING FOR YOUR LIFE:

What is God’s call in your life?

That’s the question many Christians wonder about and seek an answer to.  Is it full time ministry, or to be a missionary, or to be a lay person, or…?  You need to prayerfully seek God and ask Him to help you discern His special plan and calling designed especially for your life.  Ask Him to give you the faith and courage to follow–obey–whenever He leads you.  You will be the happiest and full of joy when you are in the middle of God’s will and plan.

 

DOING and SAYING the Things God Expects Us to Do and Say

1 PETER 4:10-11 AMPLIFIED BIBLE:

[10]  As each of you has received a gift (a particular talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits]  good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [FAITHFUL STEWARDS of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].

[11]  Whoever speaks, [let him do it as one who utters] oracles of God; whoever renders service, [let him do it] as with strength which God furnishes abundantly, so that in all things God may be GLORIFIED through Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  To Him be the glory  and dominion forever and ever (through endless ages).  Amen (so be it).

ELIEZER of DAMASCUS–

Abraham and Eliezer
Abraham and Eliezer

Eliezer certainly wasn’t the most prominent of Bible Characters, and yet, he played a significant role in the life of Abraham where identified as “a steward of Abraham.”

“And Abram said, Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on [from this world] childless and he who shall be the owner and heir of my house is this [steward] Eliezer of Damascus?”  (Genesis 15:2).

What is a “steward”?

In the OT [Old Testament]; a man who is ‘over a house’.

In the NT [New Testament]; two words translated “steward”:  epitropos (Mt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2). i.e. one to whose care or honor on has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian, and… oikonomos, the Greek word use in 1 Peter 4:10.  i.e. a manager, a superintendent – from oikos (‘house’) and nemo,u (‘to dispense‘ or ‘to manage’). 

The word is used to describe the function of delegated responsibility.

So, with that meaning in mind, ALL things are Christ’s and Christians are His executors or “stewards”–

In the case of Eliezer, he had to manage ALL of Abraham’s ‘stuff’, and boy, Abram had a lot to manage!

“Now Abram was extremely rich

in livestock and in silver and in gold.”

(Gen. 13:2).

ELIEZER, himself, mentions how great the responsibility was in Genesis 24:34-35:  flocks, herds, silver, gold, men servants, maidservants, camels, and asses.  That is a lot of STUFF!

As a STEWARD, his task was making sure that he was prompting Abraham in his best interests.  Over January 2012 062the years, Abraham had found ELIEZER to be faithful and dependable and chose him to carry-out an important errand–to find a woman who believed in the one true God.  He found Rebekah for his son Isaac and the rest is history.

No matter what Abraham placed in Eliezer’s hands, he was found to be faithful and dependable promoting his master’s best interests.  Over the years, Abraham and Eliezer had become more than a master/servant, but in relationship, had become trusted friends.

ELIEZER is an ideal example for us to imitate–

In 1 Peter 4:10, we’re told to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (KJV and NAS).

Now, everything belongs to GOD: “Behold, the heavens and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth also, with all that is in it and on it”  (Deuteronomy 10:14).

Even though GOD owns all things, He entrusts us with a portion of His possessions.  In His “manifold grace” He grants us ALL that we have and enjoy in this life.  We are then STEWARDS of what GOD gives us!

On what basis are we to be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ stewards?

VERSE 11 tells us that we are good stewards when…we use all that we are given to promote GOD’S best interests–“so that in all things God may be glorified.”

THREE THINGS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US TO “GLORIFY”:

1.  SPIRITUAL GIFTS.

The primary focus of 1 Peter 4:10-11, is to use our spiritual gifts Again verse 10: ‘As each one has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment – Amplified Bible)–“employ it for one another, as good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [‘faithful stewards’].

Look carefully what is said and meditate on the certain truths that are taught in this verse:

FIRST, Peter informs each of us we’ve been given a “special gift”.  There is not a single member of the Church assembly who has not received from GOD a GIFT.

SECONDLY, we are to notice the enablement–to ‘serve one another’ in the assembly.  These GIFTS grant us the ability to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  Each GIFT represents a ministry that GOD calls us to perform within the congregation.

THIRDLY, only as we actively “employ” our special gift are we “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  ~ adopt, utilize, apply; engage, hire, use, ‘put-to-work’.

THE APOSTLE PAUL’S ADMONISHMENT:

Romans 12:6-8 speaks to us. in regards to being FAITHFUL, in the Use of Our Gifts.

[6]  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them:  [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;

[7]  [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching;

[8]  He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.

“Unopened Gifts”

I happened to run across this great story late last night by Rosalind Renshaw, date 10/2/91:

How come you’ve left so many gifts unopened on the floor?  They have your name on them, they belong to you, they are yours for the taking–if only you will receive them.  What is that you say?  That they can’t be yours, you have your share already.  They must be someone elses. There must be some mistake?  You’re afraid of what so-and-so will say when they see you unwrapping that gift–you fear their reaction, their envy.  Go open up your package, see what is inside your gift box.  You’ll be amazed at how I knew exactly what to give you–the perfect fit for you right now–in fact, just what you’ve always wanted, but you didn’t know it.  Go on, open it!  You can trust Me.  I am the Master gift-giver.  I never make mistakes or give the wrong size, or color, or fit.  But, please do hurry and open it, to enjoy it and to share it with others, so they can benefit from your gift too.  That’s My whole purpose of giving gifts…not for you to put them back in the box, to keep them safe or even put them in a glass cabinet, to look at and admire.  No, all My gifts are for My children to use, to help their brothers and sisters, not to make anyone else jealous or feel less fortunate.  As I said, I see a number of unopened packages, gift wrapped especially for you.  They are yours!  I’m right here, waiting, longing to see you unwrap them, and to see the look of joy and wonder on your face.

We Each Have Different Gifts Given to Us:

Each GIFT given to the ‘re-birthed’–and this is an important first step.  None is more important than any other and only when each of us actively uses our GIFT can a church body grow as GOD intends.

EPHESIANS 4:15-16 says,

“we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, cause the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Are we using our gift(s)?  Are we performing the ministry that GOD has called us to?  We will be judged by how faithful we used our gift(s), as much as how diligently we lived the life of righteousness and worshiped GOD properly?  (Matthew 25:14).

2.  OUR TIME

The second area where we need to be GOOD STEWARDS is the use of the time GOD grants us.

Even though the length of our lives seem so long when we are young, the truth is…LIFE IS SHORT!  I’ve asked myself over the years in my Christian life, “Am I being a good steward of the precious time that GOD continues to give me?”

Paul writes in Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”  (Eph. 5:15-16 NIV).

Are we, as good stewards, investing time in ACTIVITIES that promote GOD”S interests and glory?

Are we investing time now in the ACTIVITIES that will pay dividends in eternity?

Or, are we wasting valuable time that GOD has graciously given to us, engaging in ACTIVITIES, that have absolutely no spiritual significance?

How much TIME do we devote to self-improvement?

We all have weaknesses in our lives.  We all have faults.  The question becomes, how much TIME and EFFORT do we dedicate to changing our practices and habits?

How much TIME do I use, to make myself a better person, so that my light might shine brighter for GOD?

3.  MONEY!

The third and last area to discuss is our STEWARDSHIP OF MONEY.

It’s so easy for us to forget what we think of as OUR MONEY–what is actually GOD”S money (Ezekiel 16:17; Haggai 2:8).

The income which we have is given to us by our GIFT-GIVER; our GOD, to meet our basic needs but, above all, to promote His interests and glory.

When we steward GOD’S money, what is the appropriate amount to set-aside?

Every Lord’s Day, GOD’S people are encouraged to give–Scripturaly and doctrinally.  The question we need to ask ourselves, is whether or not, as STEWARDS OF GOD’S MONEY, do we contribute or offer an appropriate amount?

When my wife and I were SAVED–born-again in 1972, the issue of “giving” our money to the church, was an issue.  In our minds, there wasn’t room in the budget to “give”…period!  Much less, a tithe!!

The pastor who led us to Christ could point to Scripture about tithing all he wanted, but we just couldn’t and wouldn’t make room to GIVE!

But then the Holy Spirit’s “Light bulb” came on as we matured in Christ Jesus and has stayed on ever since; even during bad economic times in our family when things looked dark–repeated unemployment; low pay; no health insurance for a growing family.

THE TRUTH ON GIVING IN 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NKJV:

16  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  2 On the first day on the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

When we go about determining how much we are to give and frequently focus our attention on “as he may prosper”, then we are tempted to adjust our thinking in giving.

Often we interpret the phrase “net profit”; that is, in accordance to what money we have left over after expenses of other worldly activities.  We GIVE GOD a “cut” of whatever is left over.

However, that’s not what Paul is talking about.  The phrase “as he prospers” is referring to what GOD has prospered us with, before we begin to divide it up!  It is based upon our “gross” earnings before expenses.  In other words, GOD expects His cut first; He wants the first fruits of our labor.

There is the story about a little boy who had two quarters, one for ice cream and one for giving to church on Sunday.  Unfortunately, he accidentally dropped one of the quarters in a storm sewer.  “Well, Lord,” said the boy, “there goes your quarter.”

We are tempted to be just like that little boy in the story.  We get our pay-checks, divvy it up to this and that and when we find we have little or nothing left-over for GOD…we say, ‘Sorry Lord, maybe we can give more next time.’   GOD calls that ROBBERY! (Malachi 3:8-12).

You may be thinking right now, the Scriptures you referenced, about GOD”S money, really doesn’t apply in today’s world.  That’s Old Testament Law! 

THAT THINKING would be incorrect.  The apostle Paul repeats the same message in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (AMP):

[6]  [Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.  [7] Let each one [give] as he has made his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].  [8]  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

As GOOD STEWARDS; trustees, we put GOD”S interest and glory first…even in the church offering each week.

What a privilege it is to be chosen by GOD to be His stewards.  May we all take our role seriously and glorify our Lord and Savior.

Operating At MAXIMUM Output – PART 1

Well, the London 2012 Summer Olympics; the XXX Olympiad is almost upon us, starting July 27 to August 12, 2012.  Although I’m not personally a TRACK and FIELD guy, the Men’s Decathlon competition is simply amazing to me.  There are a total of ten events over a two-day period, even going into the darkness of night before they’re through competing.  Here are the events:

1.  100-meter run.

2.  Long Jump.

3.  Shot put.

4.  High Jump.

5.  400-meter run.

6.  110-meter hurdles.

7.  Discus.

8.  Pole vault.

9.  Javelin throw.

10.  1500 meter run.

The achievement of completing all ten events in two days is worthy of great honor in the athletic world.  It seems overwhelming to me that the human body functions in this capacity.  Most people can barely get their BODY up out of bed on Sunday morning, ease it over to the chair and sit it down; ease it out to the kitchen and set it down.  Then sit it down in your car, get to church and sit it down there, trying to stay awake.  Then return home and sit it down and take an afternoon nap.  That is NOT God’s intention; not what He had in mind in making our bodies.

Some of us don’t understand what it means, “That we would have strength; renewed like eagles.”  We can’t RELATE to it.  We’re sort of PHYSICAL SPARROWS at best!

What is amazing to me is to see the human body FUNCTION at MAXIMUM output.  It is incredible!  You can only see that kind of specimen in action, to see the POTENTIAL  God has placed within the human body for activity; the capacity and productivity in the Olympiad.  That’s EXCITING.

If only the body of Christ could operate like that.  Every CELL and every MEMBER, every CAPACITY.  What a tremendous influence that would be to the surrounding Church community of your area.

BUT, that is exactly what God intended as when God intended the physical body used to that MAXIMUM OUTPUT.  So does He intend the Church body to be capable of the same?  You say, “But how?”

Well, like the athlete, if he’s going to OPERATE like that; every cell, every muscle, every tissue, every fiber, every capacity in his/her body has to ALL come together from the mental to the physical to operate.  It is the same in the Church.  If the church is going to be all that God intended it to be, to GIVE GLORY to Christ Jesus, as the athlete’s body gives GLORY to himself, then the body is going to have to FUNCTION with every single part.  The body has to be doing what it has to do at MAXIMUM OUTPUT!  that’s exactly where the MINISTRY of the SPIRITUAL GIFTS comes together.

FOR WE ARE A BODY:

“For just as the body is a unity and yet has many parts, and all the parts, though many, form [only] one body, so it is with Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  For by [means of the personal agency of] one [Holy] Spirit we were all, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, baptized [and by baptism united together] into one body, and all made to drink of one [Holy] Spirit”  (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 AMP).

The apostle Paul speaks to the Church at Corinth and goes down and discusses the members of the body; how the MEMBERS of the BODY are to COOPERATE  to make the Church function and the way it should function.

Spiritual Gifts Are Vital–If the Body of Christ is to HONOR Christ.

This will happen when we’re WHOLE, FUNCTIONING, MAXIMIZED BODY.  That will only happen when ALL of us are MINISTERING in the area and with the GIFTS of the SPIRIT of God graciously given to us.

When the body functions as it should be, FOUR BASIC things that occur as a result.  They are very IMPORTANT because all of us are RESULT-ORIENTED.  These are FOUR RESULTS when the body FUNCTIONS PROPERLY:

NUMBER ONE–The People Receive The Blessing.

You will be BLESSED when you MINISTER and see the FRUIT of your labor.  God never intended the ministry to be carried on by professionals while everybody else watched.  God intends ALL of us to minister so that ALL of us see FRUIT; ALL of us UNDERSTAND JOY and BLESSING in response to these.

SECOND THING–When Everybody Does His/Her Part, the Body Really Functions.

WITNESS is really DYNAMIC!  When Peter EXERCISED his GIFT of PROPHECY, proclaiming on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people were saved (Acts 2).  When other believers EXERCISED the GIFT of GIVING, shared what they had, the Lord added DAILY to the church people.  They saw that kind of LOVE and wanted to be a part of it.

There is an illustration all the way through the life of the early Church in Jerusalem in the Book of Acts.  It shows how the MINISTRY of the GIFTS of the believers created response in the unredeemed, non-saved community.

A THIRD RESULT.

Not only that the people receive the BLESSING and the WORLD receives the WITNESS but thirdly, LEADERS are made APPARENT.  In a FULL-FUNCTIONING body of believers, leadership RISES TO THE TOP.  It just emerges!

We have a lot of leadership; “leadership material” available to the Church today because there’s a real NEED for LEADERSHIP.  That’s the GREAT NEED in the Church.  You can’t get people to do what the people ought do UNLESS you’ve got somebody to help them along, show them, work with them.  And LEADERSHIP is a PRIORITY and it’s amazing how the Church tries to find its leaders.

You can go to LEADERSHIP seminars, read books on leadership, find a great amount of material that is simply an adaptation of the world’s system of getting leaders.  Oh when the church says, you know, “We’ve got to EDUCATE our people,” they want to GET A GUY or GAL with an education, a degree in education.  Or the Church says, you know, “We’ve got a lot of problems.  We’d better get somebody with some psychological training to handle OUR problems.”  Or, “We’ve got a lot of young people who have needs.  We’d better find an EXPERT in the youth area.”  And so the Church opts out for STYLIZED LEADERSHIP; what the world offers.

The TRUTH of the matter is that all God ever expected out of leaders were certain GIFTS of the Holy spirit; certain moral and spiritual qualifications.  All these things become manifest in the MINISTERING COMMUNITY.  As people MINISTER, they simply EMERGE as LEADERS.  Spirit-filled leadership ALWAYS emerges rapidly when God is freely at work in His body, the CHURCH.  That is another one of the benefits.

And FOURTHLY, One of the Other BENEFITS of a FUNCTIONING BODY is When UNITY DEVELOPS.

When UNITY develops there is a beautiful LOVE and wonderful FELLOWSHIP in the body.  And this fulfills our needs and reaches out, touching the lives of those who would like to have the same.

So these BENEFITS, resulting in the body is the KEY to making it function in the use of these spiritual gifts.  All of us have received them; we’ve talked about them in endless details in Church circles, so I will move away from that point for now.

Ephesians 4:11 Terminology:

This passage discusses the GIFTED MAN; the apostle, prophet, evangelist, teaching pastor, teacher.  These five individuals are the gifted people given to the Church by God and empowered by Holy Spirit to lead the Church.

The Edifying Gifts.

There are TWO CATEGORIES presented in Scripture that are permanent, edifying gifts.  Look at 1 Peter 4:10:

As each of you has RECEIVED A GIFT (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), EMPLOY it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [FAITHFUL STEWARDS of extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].”

Whatever your GIFT is, most likely it is a combination of the various enablements that makes up your gift.  But as you receive the GIFT, so “EMPLOY it for one another.”

USE your gift, this is vital as good stewards of the multicolored GRACE of God, literally.  If you’re a steward, minister your gift!

Now then he divides the GIFTS into TWO CATEGORIES in 1Peter 4:11:

“Whoever SPEAKS, [let him do it as one who utters] oracles of God; whoever RENDERS SERVICE, [let him do it] as with the strength which God furnishes abundantly, so that in ALL THINGS God may be glorified through Jesus Christ (the Messiah).”

Speaking Gifts and Serving Gifts.

You can have “speaking gifts” and serve also; these are but general categories.  Again, these type of gifts are mentioned in either/or one of them in both passages; Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10:

Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, LET US USE THEM:  [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;  [He whose gift is] practical service, LET HIM GIVE himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching;  He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who GIVES aid and superintends, with ZEAL and SINGLENESS of mind; he who does ACTS of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness”  (Romans 12:6-8 AMP).

“To one is given in and through the [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same [Holy] Spirit;  To another [wonder-working] faith by the same [Holy] Spirit, to another the extraordinary powers of healing by the one Spirit;  To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose); to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, to another the ability to interpret [such tongues]”  (1 Corinthians 12:8-10 AMP).

In PART 2, Operating at MAXIMUM Output, I will try to convey the meanings and the usages of the specific gifts in the Church today.  You might AGREE with my findings and you may DISAGREE, and that’s okay too.  My emphasis is for you to not just identify your particular gifting but to be Operating At MAXIMUM Output through the POWER of the Holy Spirit.