Good Gifts Part 2

Given that we have motivational or redemptive gifts built into who and what we are, how do we identify them? How do we best use them? The simple answer to the second question is that we use them in the service of His kingdom. The identification part is harder to answer. I believe if we take the time to step back and look at our lives we can see our motivations at play. However, this type of seeing is helped by understanding. There are charts and formulas used to identify motivational gifts, however, I think a better process is to look at the meaning of the words in context.

One qualifier is that the same gift can manifest in different ways in different people. You can have two people who are both skilled teachers but who present very differently. The fruit you want to look for is whether their teaching establishes people and creates in them a hunger for more.

Some have an anointing for speaking, some for writing and some both. I have read numerous books from one well known leader yet initially found their messages pretty much dry as dust. They have improved over the years but are certainly not gripping. Another well-known leader has a powerful anointing on what they speak. I can remember the content of messages I heard over two decades ago. I still have to struggle to get through any of their books. The same gift or anointing manifests in different ways in different individuals.

So here is Romans 12:6-8 again and a breakdown of the gifts.

6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7  or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8  he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8 (NKJV)

  • Prophecy – this is knowing God’s mind in the moment. Speaking life into situations and discerning the direction to go.
  • Ministry/Serving – this is a heart to serve and support others to see their destiny realized.
  • Teaching – this is sharing information that builds others up.
  • Exhorting/Encouraging – this is coming alongside others encouraging and challenging them.
  • Giving – this is a desire to give or impart to others to see them established in their calling and purpose.
  • Leading – this is a calling to lead and support others. To see problems and bring solutions.
  • Mercy – this is showing compassion toward the hurting and wounded. Being active on their behalf.

When we reflect on the list we can likely discern these motivations operating in the lives of others. I can think of friends who operate in more than one area but I see one that is dominant. What do we see in our own lives? Reflecting on my own life I see teaching as the driver. Whether I view it as a foundation or the hub of a wheel it is what supports everything else.

For example, I am leading a small group with a focus on worship and hearing His voice. The last couple of times we have met when we have prayed for someone we have had them sit in a chair with others gathered around. That is not unusual. However what I have done as part of the ministry is ask those praying how they are hearing. Is it an image, a feeling/sense, a scripture coming to mind or something else? The person being prayed for is asked how this fits in their current situation and if it makes sense to them. The qualifier is at the beginning not asking the person in the chair what they want prayer for.

The driver for me doing this is teaching even though what is happening may be encouraging, prophecy or showing mercy. I want people to leave having encountered Jesus and having learned something that strengthens them in their walk.

I will share one more example of motivation. I don’t fit well in large crowds of people I don’t know. A driver for me in teaching is spending timing thinking and reflecting. I was in my late 20’s when I began to figure this out. I was at a work event with a large number of people. The venue was in a park and since I knew very few people I ended up going for a walk at lunch time rather than trying to interact with people I didn’t really know (yes, my gift is not evangelism!). I find I am driven to have this type of time to reflect and think and that it energizes my teaching gift.

This was the first time I recognized that it was okay to want to be alone and not try to fit into a crowd. Later as I reflected back on my life I realized I had been spending time by myself tramping around in the outdoors since I was in elementary school. I grew up in a small town in the north and we lived in the edge of town. I could walk out of our vegetable garden, cross the road and be in the woods. I did this a lot by myself or with my dog.

So, look at your own life and reflect on it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you patterns and the motivations behind them. Ask Him to breathe fresh life on the gift of who you are for the service of the body and see what unfolds.

 

Good Gifts Part 1

I was having coffee, tea actually, with a friend and he referenced the redemptive gifts of Romans 12. My friend Evelyn used to refer to them as the motivational gifts. The distinction between these and the gifts of 1 Corinthian 12 is that the Romans 12 gifts are built into who and what we are whether or not we have been born again. Obviously they are ideally designed to function in a believer.

Look at the list of gifts below. I have provided a few translations for a clearer understanding.

6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7  or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8  he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8 (NKJV)

6  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; 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. Romans 12:6-8 (AMP)

6  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

6  In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7  If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8  If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:6-8 (NLT2)

While the different translations bring out different shades of meaning I think the Amplified translation sums it up well, “Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them:” Whether we label these abilities as motivational or redemptive they are part of who and what we are. Paul acknowledges that they differ and tells us to use them. I like how the Amplified presents them as talents or qualities. They are gifts of God built into us.

In my own life the primary gift is teaching. To apply what Paul is saying I need to use my gift for the benefit of His body, which I seek to do. While I have functioned prophetically many times it is frequently combined with teaching as that is primarily who and what I am, not just something I do. Why is this important? We function best when we understand what we are designed to do and seek to do it well by His grace. There is also a key connection that I think is often missed when teaching on gifts.

What is the context in which Paul talks about our motivational gifts? What causes these talents/qualities to function most effectively? The answer is in Romans 12.

1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

The answer is primarily in verse one. If we want to function effectively in terms of how He has designed us we need to present the totality of our being to Jesus as a living sacrifice. That is, we need to submit our talents and abilities to Him for His purposes.

I have an old Labrador Retriever. People often comment on how well trained she is but had they observed her at 3 or 4 months that is not what they would have said. Through some difficult processes she had to learn to submit to a leash and to obey voice commands.

What impresses people the most about her is how far she will swim out into the river to retrieve something, even at 11 years of age. How did I train her to do that? She is naturally motivated to swim and retrieve. It has been bred into her for generations. In essence I worked with her motivational gifts and she presented her body a living sacrifice.

My prayer is that we would all learn to submit and obey that Jesus would be glorified as we use our inherent talents and qualities for His purposes.

Choosing Life Part 3

I started this series reflecting on the tree of life versus the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I also noted it is an ongoing choice. We walk in life when we are led by the Holy Spirit in our spirit. The Romans passage below is a more detailed description of this process.

8  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17  and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Romans 8:8-17 (NKJV)

This is written to the born again. Notice in verses 8-9 that post conversion we are ‘in the Spirit’ rather than in the ‘flesh.’ What Paul is presenting is an identity issue. The problem that comes in for many is that the NIV translates ‘flesh’ as ‘sinful nature.’ This begs the question, what happened at conversion? Once we are born again do we still possess a sinful nature, isn’t that contrary to the NT? After all the NT says that once we are born again we are a ‘new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17).

In my view this is a major issue with this translation because it identifies the born again as still possessing a sinful nature. After all, if we are at all consistent our behaviours flow from our beliefs, which is why what we believe is so important and one term used for Christians is ‘believers.’ If we believe that our nature is sinful after conversion what kind of salvation do we have? What confidence do we have in our ability to live a holy life?

While we can still follow our flesh rather than the Spirit, a way I have described it over the years is that once converted we are no longer in the flesh but there is still flesh in us. There is something in us still vulnerable to sin and with a propensity toward it, but as Paul notes, we don’t have to follow it. We can follow the Holy Spirit because our nature was changed at conversion.

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

This leads us into Romans 8:14-16. While I use the NKJV as my primary bible the NASB renders Romans 8:14 more accurately.

14  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 (NASB)

The idea conveyed here of ‘being led,’ is that of an active present tense submission to the Spirit. This is consistent with what Paul stated earlier in this passage. We can choose to follow our flesh or we can choose to submit to the Spirit and put to death the deeds of our body. Being led by the Holy Spirit requires a heart attentive to His voice and choosing to submit.

There is a distinction between ‘sons’ and ‘children’ in Romans 8:14, 16. The distinction is that children refers more to the immature or helpless so the message Paul is conveying is that even if we fall and follow our flesh the Holy Spirit we still affirm He is with us and in us. At the same time, Paul’s lead up to the ‘sons’ reference is talking about how to walk in victory in our lives and carries more of a connotation of walking in maturity.

So what is my point? When we submit to the Spirit we are partaking of the tree of life planted within us, deepening our relationship with Jesus and spiritually maturing. If we chose the flesh we are partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and releasing death in our lives.

Which direction are we moving?

 

Choosing Life Part 2

Choosing life is all about what? I referenced the need to choose to keep partaking of His life in our spirits or leaning on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, if we are to continually partake of the Tree of Life how do we do that? Malachi provides an exhortation.

15  But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. Malachi 2:15 (NKJV)

I have highlighted five words here. We are to take heed to our spirits. When we do so we walk in life. Yet what does that look like? Have you ever planned something and had a nagging sense of unease about it, then felt a need to change direction at the last minute or moved ahead and it simply didn’t work out? It may have made good logical sense but there was something ‘off’ in it. That is the Holy Spirit nudging us from within and trying to get our attention. Another scripture that supports this idea is below.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit moves within our spirit shining light on the direction He wants us to go. I am not negating planning. That is wise and practical, yet at the same time rather than making plans and asking our Father to bless them is it not wiser to include Him in the planning and seek to get internally quiet and hear His voice so we are being led by Him? The NT strongly reinforces this message.

16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)

25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

22  Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 1 Peter 1:22-23 (NKJV)

20  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 1 John 2:20 (NKJV)

27  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:27 (NKJV)

The message in these verses is the same as that in Malachi, we need to pay attention to and be led by the Holy Spirit by paying attention to our spirit. The one piece that may be unclear is 1 John 2:27. John is writing a letter teaching his readers something and in so doing says they don’t need anyone to teach them. Seems to be a little confusion! There isn’t any. John was writing combating some form of Gnosticism. The basic teaching was that to experience God you needed to go through someone who was at a higher ‘spiritual’ level, enlightened if you will. John’s teaching point was that all believers have access to be led by the Holy Spirit. So, if we are not already doing so let’s develop the habit of taking heed to our spirit, which I believe is becoming increasingly important in this hour.

The above verses are examples. In my next post I will dig into a more extensive passage on this issue, Romans 8.

Choosing Life Part 1

What role did the first major choice in our ancestors’ lives point to in our lives? When we look we see the first major choice was in Eden.

9  And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 (NKJV)

This event set up a pattern in the scriptures in relation to choice. We all know what happened, Adam and Eve both ate of the wrong tree. They chose knowledge over trust. More fundamentally they chose the knowledge of good and evil over receiving life.

In Hebrew the word translated as ‘midst’ in Genesis 2:9 doesn’t just mean the tree of life was somewhere in the middle of the garden, it bisected the garden. The implication is that it was the centrepiece. The idea presented here is that both trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were there together. Clearly this was the point of choice. This implication is clearer in the NLT.

9  The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 (NLT2)

Our Father continually gives us choice.  We may wonder why but really it is because He wants us to choose Him because to choose Him is to choose life. The first choice was the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That is still the choice we each must make many times each day. Those who have not been born again live from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their choices are living from the good or evil side of the tree. Many seek salvation by climbing the good side of the tree. However, no matter how high we climb, climbing the wrong tree will not lead us to Jesus.

Once we have partaken of the tree of life in conversion, which is Jesus, we still must choose whether to keep partaking of His life in our spirits or lean on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. More to come on this.

 

 

How Am I Looking? What is our View of Others?

What is the favourite verse of those who are not Christians but have some familiarity with Christianity? What I hear quoted most frequently is Matthew 7:1, usually just the first two words.

1  “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 (NKJV)

A number of years ago three of us were having coffee at work (okay, I was having tea). Two of us were believers, the third commented on someone we knew now living with her boyfriend and there plan to get married in the future. I commented that they had it backwards and needed to do the wedding first. She said, “It’s not our place to judge.” That is, she referenced Matthew 7:1. Yet what had she just done? She had judged my view as wrong and hers as right.

We are always assessing things and judging them right or wrong. The liberals judge the conservatives for being too conservative and the conservatives judge the liberals for being too liberal. It reminds me of a little cartoon I used to use in teaching conflict resolution. It was the little ants and the child ant asks his father what a stereotype is and the dad ant responds, “It’s a label we put on someone so we can hate them without having to understand them.”

So, when we take a closer ‘look’ at Matthew 7:1 what is Jesus actually saying to us? What is the context? Jesus statement comes as part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). A few verses later Jesus references the need to remove the plank in our own eye before seeking to remove the speck in someone else’s. The idea of not judging is to not pass sentence on or condemn someone. We also have Jesus comment in John.

24  “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7:24 (NKJV)

Here Jesus addresses the religious leaders who condemn Him for healing on the Sabbath while they circumcise on the Sabbath. His point is that they miss the heart of the law, the spirit, while still violating the letter and passing judgment on Him for doing what they are doing.

So how do we look at others? Jesus is clear that our heart approach is to be one of love. That does not mean condoning sin. In John 8:3-11 we have the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Now there was hypocrisy here (think judgement) because those who brought the woman violated the Law of Moses by not also bringing the man. Jesus did two things in this passage. He first pointed out that there was sin in the lives of the accusers (Jesus judged their hearts because He knew them) and after telling the woman He did not condemn her (pass sentence on her) Jesus told her to not continue in her sin. That is Jesus was clear that her behaviour was wrong but He was giving her forgiveness.

So what does this mean for us? We are not to pass sentence on others because we do not know their hearts. We are not called to go around pointing out all the sin we see, that is a wrong focus. We are however called to respond and we cannot condone sinful behaviour. So how are we to respond? Paul tells us, we are to respond out of a heart of love and compassion recognizing that we could fall in the same way.

1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:1-3 (NKJV)

What is the law of Christ? Jesus summed up all the Law and Prophets in a paragraph.

29  Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NKJV)

Paul further condensed it.

10  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 (NKJV)

As did James.

8  If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; James 2:8 (NKJV)

We are to walk in love toward others, which means helping people deal with their sinful behaviour through repentance, embracing Jesus forgiveness and supporting one another to walk uprightly before our Father. This means not judging hearts but helping people deal with their behaviour and looking to them to help us with ours.

As a fellow shared with me one day at the fitness centre, he doesn’t trust those who don’t have a limp (he was referencing Jacob in his wrestling with God and coming out broken). So, are we viewing others as being just like us, broken people who need grace, forgiveness and support?

How am I looking?

How Am I Looking?

Have you ever considered that what we see depends on how we look? I’m not talking about what we see in the mirror, but how we receive from scripture and our interactions within our environment. I remember once listening to a John Paul Jackson message and he said after a teaching someone came up and said, “What bible are you using?” John told him it was the NKJV version and the fellow responded something like, “I didn’t mean that. I read the same bible as you but don’t see the things you see.”

Let me give you an example. What was the first instance of food being multiplied in scripture? Did you think of Jesus and the loaves and fishes? Would it surprise you to learn it happened in Elisha’s ministry?

42  Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread, and newly ripened grain in his knapsack. And he said, “Give it to the people, that they may eat.” 43  But his servant said, “What? Shall I set this before one hundred men?” He said again, “Give it to the people, that they may eat; for thus says the LORD: ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’ “ 44  So he set it before them; and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD. 2 Kings 4:42-44 (NKJV)

This is the first example I see in scripture of food being multiplied. My point is not how clever I am in finding this. I have read it more than a few times but never made this connection. When reading it this summer the light went on. Why didn’t I see it before? I didn’t expect to find it here because I knew it only happened in Jesus ministry.

Our expectations tend to set the level of our faith. Look at scripture.

1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

A primary function of faith is bringing reality to things we are hoping for, making them substantive. I am not speaking of some magical process. True faith is tied to expectant hope that is settled and established in our hearts. So, might it be prudent to ask the Holy Spirit to remove the veils from our hearts and minds that keep us from seeing from His perspective?

How are you looking?

Calling and Purpose Part 3 Being with Him

Given we all have a calling and purpose, what is our primary calling and purpose? Is it evangelism, discipleship, understanding spiritual disciplines or another of the many options that face us? I think the answer lies in something that Yahweh said to Moses.

12  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” Exodus 24:12 (NKJV)

The portion of this passage I want to highlight is the first phrase, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there.” Have you ever considered that as your primary calling and purpose, being with Jesus? What did Jesus have to say about it? In John 17, known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, He said the following.

24  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24 (NKJV)

Now, we can view this as Jesus desiring that His followers join Him in heaven at death. Was that what Jesus was talking about when He said, “May be with me where I am?” Where was Jesus? When He prayed this He was on the way to Gethsemane. Is that what He meant? What about what He shared with Nicodemus.

12  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13  No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. John 3:12-13 (NKJV)

Where was Jesus when He shared this? Somewhere in Jerusalem speaking with Nicodemus and at the same time seated with His Father in heavenly places. In John 17 He didn’t pray that we would be with Him where He would be, future tense, His prayer was that His followers would experience His glory in this life. Look at more of the context of what Jesus said.

20  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 24  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
John 17:20-26 (NKJV)

Paul understood this and wrote about it.

1  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV)

 

Not only is our life hidden with Jesus, He wants us to learn to dwell in His glory while here. God’s glory is His character (see Ex. 33:18-19, 34:5-7). I’m not suggesting going somewhere else but rather entering into heavenly places while here. Simply by faith sitting before Him and gazing with our spirit upon Him we enter into heavenly places and He begins to touch us. I think this is available to all of us in our walk with Him. Does it sound mystical? I suppose it does but I would frame it as a practical mysticism. Not a flight of fancy but a practical expression of faith that touches our spirt, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23). I believe this ‘living in two places’ is our primary practical calling and purpose because, just as natural food sustains our daily physical lives so this spiritual food prepares us for the assignments He has in our lives.

After all, He calls us to come to this place.

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) see also Revelation 4:1-11

So, let us daily come boldly and humbly before Him and be changed by beholding His glory.

18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

Calling and Purpose Part 2 The Master Weaver

This past June we were in Scotland on vacation. When we toured Stirling Castle they had a number of beautiful tapestries on the walls. As part of the tour you could go behind the castle to a building where they made the tapestries. An interesting thing, these beautiful tapestries are like us, they don’t look that good from the backside! Yet that is where the work is being done. To create a beautiful tapestry the weaver needs to know the pattern on the front and what thread to weave in where but they are tied off at the back, out of sight when viewing the finished product.

In terms of our calling and purpose the desire of the Master Weaver is to produce a masterpiece by working in hidden places. Look at what the scriptures tell us.

21  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22  in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight– 23  if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:21-23 (NKJV)

Paul is clear. The Master Weaver has a desire, to present us to His Father, “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” He wants to present a beautiful tapestry. Yet Paul also builds in a qualifier, “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast.”

Will we all become all that we are called to be? No, I am confident the only one who fully walked out His calling was Jesus. At the same time I believe that when we learn to cooperate with His grace we can accomplish far more than we would have imagined and I think for most of us it is more about being faithful in little things than it is about seeking to accomplish what we view as big or great things. He simply calls us to follow Him and be faithful

I heard a story once about a man who lived a simple quiet life and attended church regularly. Not much was known about him but it was revealed after he died that he had sowed over a million dollars into the mission field. This was decades ago when that amount of money was very significant. Whether the story is accurate I do not know but the principle is clear, quiet and devout faithfulness. What about a scriptural example?

25  And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke 2:25 (NKJV)

If you read the whole story in Luke 2 we know the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and drew him to the temple to prophesy over the baby Messiah. There is no indication that the temple leaders or others knew Simeon nor do we read anything about him after this, though scripture implies his death was imminent. So why was he given this privilege? He was “just and devout.” What about Ananias? Do you remember him? His story is in Acts 9 where Jesus sent him to pray for Paul (Saul at that point). How is he referred to in scripture? As ‘a certain disciple (Acts 9:10).’ He was there and available and Jesus wove something into his life. We never hear of him again in scripture.

As we walk with the Master Weaver and He works on us I think the only thing that truly mars the tapestry is deliberate rebellion or refusing to follow His leading. We will stumble and make errors at times but at the end of the day I think the pieces we often see as areas of brokenness and weakness, when we overcome them, will show up as glistening gold in our tapestry.

So, as we walk with Him let’s pray that we will walk wisely and cooperate in becoming the kind of tapestry the Master Weaver wants to create out of our life.

Calling and Purpose Part 1

I am beginning this series with one verse.

2  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)

Imagine you sense a call from the Holy Spirit into ministry but you lack clarity on how it is to be worked out. You do however have a sense that it involves multitudes being saved. You expectantly prepare for opportunities and look forward to speaking to large crowds and seeing multitudes saved. Then, a prophetically gifted individual comes and says, “An angel appeared to me last night and said you are called to the hidden place of intercession. You are to pray for evangelist X and there will be a great harvest of souls but no one here on earth will know the part you played.”

How would you respond and why? Prior to answering that consider the idea (I do not know the exact origin though Rick Joyner mentions it in The Final Quest) that most of those who are well known on earth are little known in heaven and most who are well known in heaven are little known on earth. So as you reflect on your answer think of this question first. Where do you want to be known?

While we all have a calling and purpose I started with the call to the hidden place because I think it is the most difficult. I referenced intercession first but it is one hidden calling among many. What if we are called to obscurely labour as a mother raising godly children? Billy Graham’s mother did not know she was raising who Billy Graham became. Susanna Wesley did not know what John and Charles were called to become. What if from the world’s perspective and standards we never do anything significant? Have you ever considered that in the scriptures we know nothing or next to nothing about the first 12 apostles beyond Pentecost? Matthew, Peter and John wrote portions of the NT and John’s brother James was an early martyr. Regarding the other 8, nothing is really written about them beyond the beginning of the book of Acts. They were little known on earth. Do you think they were well known in heaven?

At the end of the day our significance will be measured by one thing, how we lived out the verse I started with.

2  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit spoke it to my heart in the mid 1990’s and I have never forgotten it. While what we do may be expressed in many different callings and purposes the true measure of how heaven views us is how faithful we were with our calling and purpose. When I retired in April I began playing Pickle Ball with Carol. I enjoy the game. It is a healthy recreational outlet. Recently she said one lady told her she improved a lot when she played every day. In our conversation we both agreed Pickle Ball was something we enjoyed but was not what our life was about. I said I couldn’t imagine standing at the Judgement Seat and Jesus asking me what I did with this life He gave me and responding, “I was really good at Pickle Ball.” That kind of puts it in perspective!

The tagline I use on my blog and email signature is, “An Eternal Perspective: Living in time, preparing for eternity” It was something that came to me a few years ago and is the way I want to live my life. I always want to maintain an eternal perspective. For example, recently in Invermere the neighbour invited me to go boating with him on the lake. The problem was we would get back really late. I responded it wouldn’t work because I needed to be up at 5:30. I didn’t tell him why I had to be up that early but I have a regular early morning appointment. Now if  I had some sense from the Holy Spirit that I needed to go because of something deeper that would happen I would have gone. Without that leading my focus is on keeping my appointment.

In conclusion, as we ponder the place of hiddeness consider what Jesus said.

10  He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10 (NKJV)