One of the quietest places for a prayer walk is, at least in my town, the local cemetery. The neighbors don’t seem to be annoyed by my talking out loud in their yard.
I’d been walking in cemeteries all that spring and summer, just wandering around their back sections, talking with my Father. I usually chose the sections where all the gravestones are flat with the grass, simply because I didn’t need to go around them, so I was walking over peoples’ names. Occasionally one would catch my attention and I’d look closer.
Finally, the obvious occurred to me: ask God why this is catching your attention! Oh! There’s a radical thought. So I asked. “Father, why is Jacob Thompson’s grave marker catching my attention so much? What’s up with Jacob?”
In reply, I felt Father’s grief; Father was broken-hearted about this man, who had lain buried here for forty years, and he was sharing his broken heart with me. I felt honored, but I had to admit that I was also confused.
My first thought was that the man died in his sins, and was headed to hell, but it was not that. Father told me some things about his life: he was a Christian, and he loved God. In fact he was a prophet. But the church that he was connected with neither respected nor received prophetic gifts, and so his gift was never used, never really even activated.
Jacob Thompson had carried his gift to his grave, still wrapped, still unopened. This grieved Father.
I have to admit, I felt a little relief. If he was in hell, I knew that was really bad, and I didn’t have a clue how to deal with that. This didn’t feel quite as bad as that.
But I knew enough to realize that if Father were telling me about it, then there was something he thought I could do about it. So I asked. And he gave me a Bible lesson that was unlike any Bible lesson I ever heard in church.
I’ve taught often enough about Spiritual Gifts, and he reminded me of one of the things I teach in those lessons: spiritual gifts are exercised through an individual, but they aren’t for the good of the individual. They’re for the church.
In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul teaches us that “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” Peter supports the idea in 1 Peter 4:10: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The gifts God has given us are only for us to steward, and the goal is the profit of the whole community.
Principle #1: The gifts belong the community, though they’re exercised often enough by individuals.
Principle #2: gift has a metron, a “sphere of influence.” This is part of my teaching on gifts. Some are local, some are regional, a few are national, and a very few are global. Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry is global. Mine is not. As I reflected on Jacob’s gift, it seemed that his prophetic gift was given to the church in his city.
So Jacob Thompson had taken a gift belonging to the church of his city to the grave. That felt something like stealing: taking somebody else’s gift, and essentially throwing it away unused. That’s not good.
Next, standing in front of Mr Thompson’s name in cast bronze, Father took me to Romans 11:29: In my NKJV it says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (The KJV uses that curious term, “without repentance!”)
I stood there, thinking about what “irrevocable” meant. If nothing else, it means that once the gift has been given, it stays given. That means once a gift has been given to the church of a city, that gift stays given. Jacob’s prophetic gift was not his possession, when he took it to the grave, it belonged to the church in his city.
Principle #3: Once given, a gift is never taken away.
Jacob was dead. He couldn’t use a prophetic gift any more. But the church in that city was not dead, and they most certainly could use a prophetic gift.
This kind of stuff scares me a little. I could tell we were heading outside of the box, and it’s so far outside of the box of “normal Christianity” as I’d always experienced it, that it felt strange, wrong, cult-like. But it had three things going for it: God was speaking it, the Word supported it, and it was relatively solid logically, given the things the Word had to say about it.
I stood there and discussed it with Father some more, letting him walk me through this radical conversation a second time, and a third. I may be delusional, but at least it was consistent.
So what can I do about that? I was aware that Job 22:28 said, “You will also declare a thing, And it will be established for you,” but I also knew that this was the teaching of Eliphaz the Temanite, who had already demonstrated he had a lousy understanding of God. Fortunately, this time, he’s backed up by Jesus himself: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” [Matthew 21:22].
Conclusion: That which has been taken away can be returned.
So I prayed, and declared a thing: that Jacob’s gift would be returned to the church in his city, and that they’d use the gift, and find profit in it. That was all.
I had a vague sense of something flashing out of the ground, and flying off to somewhere else. More significantly, I felt like I was done with Jacob Thompson. Whatever was holding me there about him wasn’t holding me any more.
I spent a good bit of time debriefing about this interesting incident with Father, and later, with some apostles and prophets I respect. And they didn’t freak out. They reminded me that
grave site in Spokane
has been a popular tourist destination, and a lot of people have lain on it,
asking for the gift that he carried be imparted to themselves. And a lot of
times, it seems that it has happened.
Since then, I’ve had a number of other walks in cemeteries, but they’re more distracting now. One time, I prayed to restore a whole flock of gifts to the Chinese church in the region. Another time, gifts were restored to the local longshoremen.