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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual gifts’

I’ve been learning a lot, since June, about spiritual warfare.  God told me to focus on learning about it and practicing it.  The other day I wrote down a list of what I’ve learned to do when I recognize attacks.  I thought it might help you out.  Or you might help me out by adding to it or correcting anywhere I’ve overstepped.

 

Responses To & Wards Against Spiritual Attacks:

 

Prayer

Obviously there are so many kinds of prayer.  First of all, I can simply ask God for what I want or need.  Jesus truly says, “Ask and you shall receive.”  I want to try to live that, to find out the fullness of what it means.  Talking to God keeps me close to Him, keeps my perspective pointed His way.  I pray Scripture sometimes, as God leads (Ephesians 6:10-20 if I can’t think of anything else).  I call out for help from the God who is mighty enough to deliver me from my enemies.  He is a shield, a help, a comfort, a refuge.  And He can guide me to the purposes He has for me – the things His enemy is trying to distract me from.  He can show me how to move past the ambush.

 

Thanks

So many of the spiritual attacks come in the form of doubting God’s word and character.  Thanks remembers who God is and what He has done and what He has promised.  It names them like a claiming for my collection.

 

Praise

Praise takes thanks a step further.  It shouts to the world that my God is good.  I feel like it’s less defensive and more offensive in this spiritual battle, a tactic that has the enemy of God wishing he could avoid bringing the subject up.

 

Rest

God created rest.  It’s just a fact.  He made us to need it.  Rest is related so intimately with waiting and trust.  It is an outward submission to the fact that while I do nothing, He is able to work.  He doesn’t need me; I need Him.  And so I still my body and even sleep sometimes, committing my concerns to my good Father.

 

Enjoying Good Gifts

If one of the lies is that God isn’t good, it gains power when I refuse to take the good that God gives.  He uses these gifts to refresh us and to speak to us of His love.  We have to be receiving from God.  If we are dependent on Him, it doesn’t mean that we just let Him do everything.  It doesn’t mean that we only take from Him the things we perceive as useful for the battle.  We take everything He gives.  In the midst of sorrow, if He gives laughter, we take that too.  We remember that the battle isn’t a punishment; it’s a privilege.  So I don’t act like a child pouting in time-out; I taste chocolate and dance in the yard and I thank God for His wisdom!

 

Encouragement

I’m so glad that God didn’t make us to fight these spiritual battles alone.  I heard a preacher say once that God called the Church to spiritual warfare – more than He called individuals.  I haven’t figured out what that means or if I agree entirely, but I do know that the members of the body of Christ have been given gifts to build each other up for the ministries God has prepared for us.  I love it when my friends tell me they are in this with me, when they remind me of truth, when they admonish me to persevere.  Sometimes I even beg them for it.

 

Prayer Together

This one has been coming up in my thoughts a lot lately, and I feel conviction that I’m not very good at making it happen.  I believe that when we recognize spiritual warfare, we should come together to petition God together for strength, guidance, and victory.  For whatever reason, I think we’re supposed to be doing this in groups and not just alone.

 

People

Sometimes I get to be around people who aren’t aware of the battle in my life, and even that can be a bulwark against spiritual attack.  It is good to be around humans.  We minister to each other.  We are made in the image of God, objects of His love, and instruments of His righteousness.  It is good to be reminded that God is at work in lives, in situations completely unrelated to my battles.  He grows people.  He answers prayers.  He wins.

 

Speaking/Writing/Remembering Truth

When I’m in the midst of the weightiest attacks, sometimes the only things to cling to are prayer and truth.  I can start small, naming the truth I see about me: “That is a window.  Today is Thursday.”  And then I can tell myself, journal, or tell others truths I know about God.  I can remember things He did in the Bible.  I can remember what He did for me yesterday, last month, last year, or when He saved me the day I turned six.  One very important thing to remember is that God freely gave His Son to pay for my sins.  Paul springboards from that truth to asking, “Will He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  It doesn’t make sense for God to give us His most precious possession and then to hold little things back just to be mean!  The final type of truth that I focus on is who I am in Christ: “I am chosen.  I am sealed.  I am empowered.  I am loved.”

 

Fasting and Self-Denial

Mostly my experience with fasting is experimentation.  I ask God whether to fast.  I don’t understand all of how it works or why God made fasting to have power in spiritual warfare, but Jesus said it, so I believe it.  Maybe it has something to do with recognizing my dependence on God for the sustaining of my life.  I think there is something to be said for self-denial, for practicing being led by something other than the impulses of what my body or mind want.  Plus, since the body is pretty good at sending those impulses, I can use them as a reminder to focus on God and to pray.

 

Obedience

The Bible warns me to take heed lest I am also tempted, when I’m pro-actively engaged in the spiritual battle.  So I regularly evaluate whether I’m being obedient.  How have I failed to do what I know God wants me to?  I put on the breastplate of righteousness, believing that pursuing good works God has called me to puts me in the places where He can readily use me to intercede for others.  When I am obedient, I am not so distracted with repenting – and I am not fighting to regain the foothold I had given over to the Devil.  But I also remember that my God is merciful.  When I fall, I cry out to Him and He forgives.  His grace strengthens me for obedience; it isn’t something I do apart from Him and then bring myself before Him well-armored in my own good works and strength.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  I have to let it be Him working in me.

 

Reading and Hearing Truth

I want my mind to be saturated with truth so much that it can’t even hear the lies of the Devil.  I want to be so confident in the truth that deceits are easily identified and turned back.  So I read the Bible, read books about factual things, listen to Christian lectures or good Christian music.

 

Work

Rest is important, but so is staying busy.  The last thing I need is down time when my prayers are exhausted and I’m bored and the temptation comes to chase after my own pleasure.  Work is therapeutic.  It is a taking-back from the chaos, a living out of the dominion God called the first Man and Woman to.  In a way, that’s the same thing happening in spiritual warfare.

 

Calling On Jesus’ Name

This one is potent.  If I feel strongly oppressed, I need to speak Jesus’ name aloud, to claim the authority of the King of Kings to fight this battle for me.  It’s also pretty potent before God.  If I’m confident enough that my prayer is for Jesus’ sake, for the bearing fruit in His kingdom, I present my supplications in Jesus’ name.  And Jesus promised that whatever we ask the Father in His name, we can have confidence that we have from Him.  This is another form of acknowledging the truth of God’s promises.

 

Rebuking Demons

Sometimes I need to take seriously that there are personal creatures scheming against me and that they do not have authority to oppose me, because I am a chosen ambassador of God in the world.  I openly resist the Devil, and trust that the Bible is true when it says “He will flee from you.”  I don’t know how long it lasts, or exactly how this works, but I try it because it is taught in Scripture.

 

Prayer For Others

The spiritual battle does not just affect individuals, so I pray for others potentially involved to be guarded against the schemes, temptations, and opposition of our spiritual enemy.  I pray for them to put on and take up the armor of God, being strengthened with His might.  I pray for them to be vigilant.  I pray that God would hedge their families, their health, their jobs, their travel – and anything else that seems relevant or that God leads me to pray for them.  I pray that they will be in right standing with God, repentant of sins and practicing righteousness.  Intercession is one more thing that I think the spiritual warfare is opposing in the first place, so to go forward doing it seems to me a good idea in resisting the attacks.

 

Attention to God’s Works

Like remembering what God has done in the past, and being around people in whom God is active at present, I can look around me right now and observe the wise and powerful works of God.  These things don’t have to be spiritual, though sometimes they are.  I gain encouragement watching God change the seasons, open up wildflowers, bring a bee buzzing by.  I watch Him move the hearts of “kings.”  This isn’t quite the same as praise or thanks, because it precedes them.  First I slow down and give heed to what God is doing – I set out looking for it.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend recently asked an interesting question on his Facebook status.  He said “Are spiritual gifts rewards?”  What followed was a discussion that went a certain way because of the things that his friends had been thinking about.  It wasn’t a simple, abstract, objective discussion.  I have been reading Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit, and it is frustrating me.  He teaches that we are utterly dependent on God, and that we ought to wait on His power and guidance instead of being self-directed.  But he also says that the reason many Christians have not received a Pentecostal manifestation and ongoing filling of the Holy Spirit is because they do not want it, have not surrendered to it.  I don’t like this because it puts the gifts of God out of the realm of grace, leaving people feeling anxious that though there is a gift they want and which God wants to give, they must do more to persuade God to give it to them.  They must be doing something wrong.  But are they under conviction about any sin?  Does God not hear their pleas for deliverance from sin, for power to be God’s vessels in the Church and the world?  Does He judge them as insincere who cry out for this gift?

 

But maybe God doesn’t always work in bursts like that.  Maybe He doesn’t want our goal to be the acquisition of some particular gift.  When I searched deeply for what really bothered me about Andrew Murray’s teaching, I found that I believe God wants daily faithfulness, that He sanctifies us as we follow Him.  And my Facebook friend pointed out that in this life the sanctification and maturing will not end.  We should not be content – Andrew Murray advocates discontent with our mediocre spiritual experiences.  But even if our experiences are not mediocre, we shouldn’t be content.  We shouldn’t ever feel that we’ve reached our own ideal of spiritual intimacy, so we need not desire or pursue any more.

 

This brings to mind Philippians 3:12-14, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Earlier this week I was talking to an old friend.  As long as I’ve known him, he’s been talking about ways to make the most out of all the information in the world.  What it comes down to is community: I can’t read all the books and you can’t watch all the movies, but if we do a little of each, and then share the summaries or highlights, we’ve both benefited from double what we could have done ourselves.  Another thing he brought up was the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Wisdom knows value.  Wisdom can make choices. 

 

You get on the internet and how do you decide whether to read the article about the presidential race or the news story about international affairs?  You go to the library: upstairs or down?  Fiction or nonfiction?  M’s or Biographies?  There’s so much you couldn’t hope ever to get to, yet gaining knowledge is good.  What makes you read Jane Austen over Dickens?  Why did you pick a mystery today, but a book about Iceland last week?  Or we could look at your household.  How do you decide between Monopoly with your kids, a movie with the family, or any of the hundred chores and projects you could do around the house? 

 

The choice is wrought by wisdom: your wisdom or someone else’s.  My same friend is an excellent story-teller.  He has the wisdom to know what details are essential to letting you feel right there a part of the story.  When I get on the internet most days, I’m not thinking of choices that are life-shattering.  “What’s this about?” I ask and click.  I found all of my favorite blogs by linking out of curiosity.  Why did that article catch my eye?  I believe this is providential grace.  Do I always see purpose in my trips to the library, the museum, or the web?  Are all of my conversations with friends evidently headed in a direction good for both of us?  I believe that, though I can’t always point to it. 

 

Fruit in our Christian life is a matter of wisdom.  It isn’t dutifully devouring the books in the library shelf by shelf until we are filled with useless facts and exhausted by blurry lines on the pages.  Christianity is walking in the Spirit’s wisdom.  And the Spirit produces fruit in our lives. 

 

Luke 10:27-42 contains two stories: the first is the Good Samaritan.  The second is one we’ve been studying in Sunday school for several weeks, Mary and Martha.  This week we’re got a glimpse of the context of Mary and Martha.  We can tend to see Jesus’ reproof of Martha as a call to abandon work almost entirely.  Churches today are so afraid of legalism that they can be afraid to tell people to work.  Who was most spiritual in the Good Samaritan story?  Who was most Christ-like?  Who obeyed the greatest commandment?  It’s significant that Martha’s story follows the account of the lawyer (asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?”) who wanted to “justify himself.”  He wanted to earn credit from God.  That’s not what ministry is about.  Let’s look at a proper perspective on service. 

 

Last week in Sunday school we talked about having “living room intimacy” with God.  A few weeks ago one of our teachers shared a little of what her living room is like with friends.  She’ll serve them, but wants them to help themselves to refills or anything they need.  I love most to visit my friends and spend the day with them, changing diapers, folding laundry, etc.  What I’m getting at is intimacy that goes beyond sitting at Jesus’ feet, beyond the time of prayer and meditation on His words.  Intimacy with Jesus is an active intimacy, too.  It doesn’t turn off when we get off our knees, or when the kids wake up, when we’re at work, driving, relaxing, or even when we’re on vacation. 

 

We work as a result of being with Jesus.  We can’t do everything, so we need wisdom to know which works to choose.  Follow Jesus’ example (taken from Joanna Weaver’s Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World).  He ministered in three ways:

 

         as He went on His way

         as He went out of His way

         in all kinds of ways

 

 

In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby writes that we should look for God at work and join Him there.  In John 5:19, Jesus describes His walk in the same way: So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

 

We don’t get the impression from the gospels that Jesus published an itinerary.  His disciples rarely even knew where they were going or when.  Jesus was like a living pillar of cloud and fire that the Israelites followed.  Jesus knew where He was going, and the gospels even report at times that He had to go somewhere (Jn 4:4).  

 

Even in the story of Martha and Mary, when Jesus got to Bethany, He was on His way to Jerusalem.  What does this joining God at work look like? 

 

I’ve worked at the same office for seven years.  Over that time I’ve met some favorite patients and some least favorite.  Last week we saw one of my least favorite, a man who when he came last year was a test of my Christian love.  I didn’t want to love him, to want him to be saved, to be nice to him or anywhere around him.  I wanted him punished.  But I struggled with that, and prayed that God would help my weak heart to love my neighbors no matter who they were. 

 

This year when I saw his name on the books I started to pray, but my prayers were all different.  I prayed for an opportunity to share the gospel, and for the approach to take with the gospel.  Our patient needs Jesus, no question about it.  And for all the times I’ve asked God to never let this man come back to our office, God has brought him back year after year.  God doesn’t make me miserable for no reason, so I believe God is at work in that man’s life.  I didn’t get to share the gospel.  He came in and left without even stopping. 

 

But he came back the next day, and my gifted-evangelist brother shared the gospel with him.  How incredibly cool is that? 

 

Remember the story of the Good Samaritan?  He wasn’t out on a charity field trip.  He didn’t build a shelter for beaten and unconscious penniless men to recover if they could make it.  Luke 10:33 – “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”  The Samaritan was on his way, paying attention to the needs of others.  He ministered on his way. 

 

But the difference between the Samaritan and the other, “religious” men in the story, was that after he met the needy man on the road, the Samaritan didn’t just toss him a drink or some money; he went out of his way to help him, just like Jesus would. 

 

Joanna Weaver points us to Matthew 14:1-22  for Jesus’ example.  The first part of this chapter describes the death of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.  John was the first to proclaim Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God,’ and actually baptized Jesus.  In response to news of his friend’s execution, Jesus goes apart by Himself.  The crowds find Jesus, but He doesn’t immediately send them away.  Instead, according to verse 14, Jesus “saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”  Note the word “compassion.” 

 

“He laid aside his hurt so he could pick up their pain.  He laid aside his wishes so he could become their one Desire.  He laid aside his agenda so he could meet all of their needs.”  – Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

 

There’s a lot of emphasis these days on our passion for ministry.  What do you just love doing?  God created you to be passionate about certain types of service, truths about Him, or people groups.  As youth leaders at church we’ve been talking about that.  And when you’re building a team with a mission, that’s good.  You want those passionate about interaction to be doing the fellowship, the teachers to be teaching, the servants to be running the snack bar or sound booth, the loud and energetic ones to be leading games.  God gave the body spiritual gifts, and He gave varieties to different people so that we could work together and be the best and strongest. 

 

But we’re not talking just about targeted long-term missions. 

 

Compassion is different from passion.  Compassion is why Jesus went out of His way to meet the needs of the multitudes.  Compassion is why Jesus went out of His way to make me His.  And compassion is willing to serve wherever needed. 

 

Jesus ministered in all kinds of ways. 

 

What if Jesus had said, “Blind people aren’t my ministry; I heal the lame”?  Or “You’re a Roman; I only help Jews”? 

 

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, healed lepers, taught Pharisees, fielded questions from lawyers and peasants.  Jesus played with kids and cleansed the temple.  Nothing and no one was off limits to Him. 

 

Yeah, you say.  That’s Jesus.  Of course He could do everything. 

 

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

 

God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the same Spirit from whom we get the terms “spiritual gifts,” and “fruit of the Spirit.”  So no excuses.  If God is leading you to a ministry, whether for five minutes, five days, or for a lifetime, He’s going to supply the gifting.  Remember the idea of spiritual gifts is that they are supernatural.  If we could do it without God, they wouldn’t be spiritual gifts.  Ministry is God’s power working through us.  And that Power, that God, is exactly what the world needs. 

 

Remember the story of Peter and John from Acts 3:6-9 where they heal the lame man?  Peter offers the man first Jesus and second healing.  We need to have that intimacy with God (from spending particular time with Him) that gives us insight into physical and spiritual needs of those around us.  They need Him more than money, free food or good counseling.  Even the people not like the Samaritan’s neighbor, not at death’s door, desperately need to believe that there is a God with Power that they can trust. 

 

So we’re serving out of our intimacy with God, continuing the journey and joining Him in His work.  We serve and bear fruit as we go, when we embrace God’s interruptions of our plans and go out of our way to help, and reach out in all kinds of ways.  You see a person in need.  What do you have to offer? 

         Compassion that comes because God loves them.  When we spend time with God, we get His heart.  We start to love people because God loves them, and because we love what God loves.  The word compassion is an overflow of feeling.  If it doesn’t produce action, it isn’t compassion. 

         Compassion that sees their need as more than outward.  Going through our daily lives with God is a good way to keep in mind that there’s more to life than what we see or feel.  People have needs that are physical, and God calls us to care for those in distress.  But God left us on earth to spread the good news. 

         Passion for God’s glory that can’t hold it in.  Getting to know our God produces more and more enthusiasm for who He is.  Then we can’t help sharing it.  Everyone should know about God; He should get credit from everyone for the goodness that He is and does. 

 

This whole lesson on fruit is based on the idea of abiding in Christ, summed up in John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  When we have that intimacy with Jesus, we’re like a zucchini vine.  Joanna Weaver writes, “Fruit happens.  You get connected to the Vine and pretty soon you’ve got zucchini – tons and tons of zucchini.  So much zucchini you just have to share!”  If our fruit doesn’t point back to the vine, though, we’re just working.  We’re Marthas, cumbered about with that load of rocks (acts of service or ministry) God didn’t give to us, trying to earn credit from God for all the good things we do.  We’re trying to tackle the whole library.  Christian work is from “walking in the Spirit” (that living room intimacy picking up and moving through the whole house), the Spirit who glorifies Himself, and who gives people what they need and not a cheap substitute.  If all we have to offer the world is our love by ourselves, or our money, or our help – they’re not getting nearly what they need. 

 

Jesus promises that men will recognize His followers by their love (John 13:35), and sure enough, Peter and John were identified as Jesus’ disciples because they boldly healed the lame man in Jesus’ name, and would not be deterred by the religious incumbents, though the apostles were untrained and uneducated.  Jesus had made a noticeable impact on their lives (Acts 4:13). 

 

We had elections in this country last week.  Compare the US to China.  In China the Christians are often officially persecuted for their faith.  But most of them aren’t fighting to transform the government.  They know their real mission – and only hope – is to transform lives.  God changes lives when He is known in His people’s love.  “Chinese Christians devoted themselves to worship and evangelism.  They concentrated on changing lives, not changing laws.”  – Philip Yancey

 

Does the world know WHOSE you are? 

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Apparently one of my favorite pet hobbies is worse than unpopular.  It’s irrelevant to the world around me.  I love to study words.  Their roots and history, and how they got from start to present, are fascinating to me.  When I find the etymology of a word, I feel like that word is full of color and life and intense meaning that before was cloudy and uncertain.  When I write I want the best word not only to say exactly what I mean, but with the tone and connotations I intend.  Etymology helps me do that (I hope). 

In any case, being a linguist helped JRR Tolkien.  Jane Austen and Charles Dickens also employed word selection to aid their plots and descriptions.  The more I improve my vocabulary, the more I appreciate classic authors and their works.  I marvel at the subconscious effect their word choice had on me before I understood.  Their literature comes alive when I really know what their language indicates. 

But today, in an increasingly post-modern, non-absolutist, highly individual world, adhering to one definition for a word is less feasible than adhering to one faith in one truth about one reality.  And this makes debate completely useless.  This makes computerized discernment and classification impossible.  In other words, we can no longer test someone’s words to see what they believe.  Either they sound heretical, but were really just trying to use hip lingo and got sloppy, or they sound orthodox and mean something mystical.  In both cases knowledge of what the words inherently mean, and are supposed to still mean, is no help at all.  In fact, it’s confusing. 

So what we need instead of the computerized classification or test such as evangelicals gave to presidential candidates last century (asking them whether they were born-again; how long do you think it took for the candidates to catch on and learn to say the right thing?  They’re politicians!), is real discernment.  People who have studied truth need to test all things, but not with clichés.  They need to pray for God to guide them with His eyes.  They need to be Samuel, who so leaned on God’s insight, who yielded to God’s vision of man’s heart instead of human sight of the outward appearance. 

There is a spiritual gift, like teaching, like giving, like service, and like compassion.  Through the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit, those who have called on the name of the Lord and are therefore indwelt by the Holy Spirit and led by Him into all truth need to examine the words of men and discern spirits.  After studying the gift of discernment, I think there are several reasons Paul calls it “discerning of spirits.”  This analysis provides another reason: in a postmodern culture that defies definitions, discerning words is basically useless.  We need to discern (discover, classify, penetrate, understand, identify as true or false) where a speaker is coming from, and what they really mean. 

The other reasons I have considered are: 1.  Discernment is spiritual.  It has to do with the spirit-world, and can often involve identifying demonic activity or influence.  2.  Discernment of a spirit can be of a message, due to the Greek word (pneuma)’s double meaning of breath and spirit.  3.  Discernment might have to do with insight into the spiritual needs of an individual.  Beyond whether an individual is right or wrong, where are they weak and where are they strong?  What is the spiritual reality going on in their life, behind the service and the teaching or the sin and the doubt? 

I believe God gifts members of His body as needed to see all these things, and I believe there is an incredible need in the Church today for those who can identify the spiritual truth of a situation, message, or person.  These people, using their gifts, are an incredible contribution to the community and cooperation of believers.  They are indispensable in edification.  And in a world where there are many books, many teachers, and much mesmerizing media, the Church needs to seek God’s direction and discretion as they choose their courses of ministry and belief. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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To hear someone tell you that the keyword of Romans is grace is so much less than discovering it for yourself. Since God has been busy revealing grace to me everywhere I look, I should not be surprised to find it again in Paul’s famous epistle. To be honest, grace is such an overwhelming subject that I have been unable to think of one coherent thing to say about it. One facet I’ve been exploring is the concept of being “disciplined by grace.”

Last night at Awana our high school group (called Journey) was studying Romans. We’re actually on chapters 9-11, but a verse from chapter 6 caught my eye. “You are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) I’ve studied Romans at least three full times before. Always I’ve been so focused on the first half: not under law. Legalism has been such a danger to the church that its opposite, grace, has been neglected in study.

My Bible turned to Romans 6, I scanned the short two pages (including a bit of chapter 5). There, it seems, is the whole concept of being disciplined by grace. We know that faith produces works, that anyone who is truly saved will bear fruits of righteousness (which are by Jesus Christ). This does not happen on our own, but as a result of God’s grace, the activity of the Holy Spirit in us.

Even at the end of the passage, arguably the key verse, Romans 6:23 talks about grace. In every translation I checked, I find the word “gift” in this verse. Actually the Greek is charisma, which is accurately translated as gift – BUT is a derivative of charis, grace. Charis is used several other times just in Romans 6, let alone the other 15 chapters. So I suggest that we should read gift in verse 23 as “gracegift.” We miss so much in English. What charisma indicates is the product of grace.

In Romans 5-6 we see that grace:

  • Brings salvation. We are justified by faith, which gives us access to the grace wherein we presently stand. Romans 5:16 says that the free gift is justification of many offenses. Finally Romans 6:23 provides the contrast between the consequences for our sin: death, and the great gift we who are justified receive instead: eternal life. (See also: Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 2:11-12, Galatians 2:20-21)
  • Is the opposite of legalism. Galatians expounds this theme, and is echoed in Romans 6:14: “You are not under law, but under grace.” In Galatians I believe Paul uses “walk in the Spirit” as virtually synonymous with “under grace” in Romans. Galatians also says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
  • Is not an excuse for licentiousness. Romans 6:1 asks the question: should we sin a lot, so that grace will abound? This is not an accurate understanding of grace. Grace is God’s power in us to walk in newness of life. Grace proves that sin does not have to control our lives anymore.
  • Enables righteousness. Throughout Romans 6 there is a taut balance between the necessity of righteousness as a product of grace and our new life through Christ and the danger of going back to the law, doing good for goodness’ sake. In between is also the horrible ground of doing no good at all, which would equally defeat the point. By grace are ye saved unto good works, which God prepared beforehand for you to walk in them.
  • Is our new master, rather than sin. The end of chapter 5 makes this point, which is then developed by chapter 6. Paul writes in 5:17 – “… much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.” Over at the Elect Exiles, Disciplined by Grace explains Titus 2:11-12 with regards to grace. First, it brings salvation. Grace’s second activity is teaching, which is the same Greek word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Thus the word means to discipline, teach, train, rear. The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but now grace is our teacher. Romans 6:14 says, “…Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

For refers us back to the rest of chapter 6, all about being presently, as believers, under grace.

Gift is charisma, which I discussed above.

This gracegift is eternal life. Eternal life starts when we accept God’s grace and continues forever. It is life, not just a get out of hell free card. The grace of God gives us the life we now live in the flesh, by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. The life is through Jesus Christ, in His power, for His purposes, to His glory.

Our Lord tacked on to the end of Jesus’ name is a title of authority. The apostles recognized Jesus’ authority by calling Him Rabbi, Teacher, Master, Lord. John often referred to Jesus simply as “the Lord.” Here Paul is saying something about who Jesus is. He is our Lord, our authority. He is the Master, the giver of all good gifts. While the law came by Moses, grace and truth, John tells us, came by Jesus Christ.

We walk by faith and under grace. Faith talks about leaning not on our own wisdom, yielding control, following instantly and without explanation. Grace talks about leaning not on our own strength, praising and thanking God, obeying, but not because of rules – because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives, and “spiritual” gifts, and sanctifies us from sin. This washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit is as much God’s work as the mercy by which we’re saved. I sigh just in re-reading this paragraph, because the words and themes are found all over the Bible, not only in Romans. How exciting!

My life reminds me that walking by grace is the path of thanksgiving and rejoicing and humility and prayer often. All those we are commanded to do. Though I am not theologically a legalist, I sometimes find those hard to do, when I am depending on my own resources to accomplish anything, rather than seeking God. When I am, how impossible not to rejoice, to say with Jeremiah, “His mercies are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness!”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Gave Gifts Unto Men is a spiritual gifts Bible study I wrote for ladies at my church.  If anyone is interested in the Greek, in cross-references, in study questions, and application questions, feel free to download.  I used Blue Letter Bible a lot for my research.  One of my favorite parts is that we looked at New Testament characters who may have exercised their gifts, how others responded to the use of the gifts, and how the gifts were meant to contribute together to the edification of the whole Body. 

A question to consider:

What happens when the church uses their gifts?  What do spiritual gifts in action prevent/correct?

 

Also head over to the Elect Exiles series on spiritual gifts, and comment over there!  Blogs and Bible studies, church and learning are conversation! 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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