There's a line of thinking in the western education system that has also influenced the western church that says if we're not good at something (say, math), then we need to develop our skills at math until it's one of our strengths, which necessarily means we don't work at our developing the areas that are already our strengths (say, writing), so they don't develop so much.
We tend to think that it’s best to be a pastor or a teacher, because that’s what we see modeled. But if that isn’t you, then you have a choice: either try to fake it, or be who you really are, even if it’s something that isn’t as well recognized.
|Exercise your strengths.|
That’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it?
What took the Seahawks to the Superbowl twice recently was each member recognizing that they have a gift that is different that others' gifts, and each member developing their strength, and trusting others' strengths in places where they are not strong.
You've seen how Marshawn treasures his offensive linemen? He buys them gifts, sometimes expensive gifts, because they do very well what he cannot, and it makes the way for him to do (very well!) what they cannot.
Yeah, that's how it works. We don’t ignore the gifts we don’t have, but neither do we focus on them. It’s absolute foolishness to ignore the gift that God has given us in order to develop what someone thinks is a more important gift.
|Don't be a copycat.|
It never works, anyway.
I’ve got more important things to do than prepare for Heaven’s bonfire. So do you.
Use the gifts God has given you, even if you don’t know another soul with those gifts. Be you! God doesn’t need copycats.
I still can’t completely wrap my brain around the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three, and yet they’re one. Not just “One with three aspects.” Not just “Three in perfect unity.” Really three. Really one. Weird. Cool, but weird.
Prophetic folks can also be rejected for carrying a message different than the one for which they’re called and gifted to carry. New Testament prophets are to be primarily characterized by two verses: Ephesians 4:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:3:
And of course, some groups, some people, some churches are more abusive and others are far more civilized. And of course, nobody (or perhaps “nobody in their right mind”) aspires to be a prophet or sound guy or children’s pastor or an intercessor for the money or for the respect. They follow that path because they can’t NOT follow that path, lest they shrivel up and die.
He really wants to have a bride that is not completely distracted by the trials, by the conspiracy of distractions, by the complications and nattering voices. He will have a bride that will overcome, and he wants you.
The prophetic is not one gifting, it’s several related ones. First the basic ones, available to anybody:
• Every believer can hear God’s voice. John 10:27 speaks to this.
• Pretty much anybody can prophesy when they’re in a prophetic environment. King Saul did in 1 Samuel 10:11.
In addition to those, some people get specific gifts. In fact, the whole Trinity gets involved: each person of the trinity gives their own version of the prophetic gift:
• Holy Spirit’s gift is described in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It’s a “tool in the toolbox” kind of gift: pull it out & use it when you need to.
• Father’s gift is in Romans 12:6. It’s a “This is how some people are built. This is how they relate to the world.” kind of gift.
• Jesus’ gift shows up in Ephesians 4:11. He gives some people as prophets, and their job description (v12) is “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Prophecy is much more about knowing what’s on God’s heart than it is about predicting the future. But the future is on his heart, so they do in fact go together.
Final word about it: 1 Corinthians 14:1 says we must “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” We are commanded to want to prophesy.
Left Turn: Discernment:
First cousin to the gift of prophecy is the gift of discernment. Both are critical in this day and age, and it appears that you have both gifts.
Properly called “discerning of spirits” (from 1 Corinthians 12:10), the gift has a few highlights:
• First, it’s about judging spirits. It’s not about judging people. When you heard noises and saw creepy things on that person, I suspect that what you encountered was demonic spirits showing off, not something weird that weird guy was doing.
• It means that you might see things that not everybody sees. That’s OK. It doesn’t make you weird (though you may be weird on your own…); it means you have a gift from God.
• The gift of discernment is mostly about being able (with experience) to identify, “This is from God,” “This is just them,” or “This is demonic.” You may develop to the finer discernment: “This part is from God,” “This part is not from God.” I have observed that not everybody gets there.
• The word means literally, “To know all the way through the thing.” As you mature in the gift, this aspect comes into play: as you discern gunk (like the creepy thing on that guy), you have authority over it: because of who you are in Jesus (and the “in Jesus” part is the biggest part), you can tell the creepies where to go and what to do. Mark chapters 5 & 9 have some cool stories illustrating this.
• Note: guard against interpreting the gift by what other people tell you. Let the Holy Spirit tell you (remember John 10:27). He’s the one who gives the gift, so he’s the best source of training for it. There are a whole freaking lot of ignorant ideas floating around out there.
Neither of these gifts work all that well without practice, even training. I encourage you to use the gifts, and to talk with other folks who use the gifts. Growth is necessary. Without growth, the gifts will likely kind of fade into obscurity.
On the other hand, even with pursuing the gifts, the experiences we have in God will likely be less dramatic than the early days, not more so. The goal is to focus on the One who gives the gift, not the gift itself, and so he whispers, so that we have to snuggle closer to him to hear. That’s because it’s safer for us there, it’s better there, and frankly, he really likes it when we snuggle close to him. He’s that kind of God: he likes his kids close.
Note that the gifts - all the gifts - are tools, not toys. But nobody said that you can’t have fun with the tools. Just know that there is no “kid’s size” version of the gift of God; they still have the power to change a life forever while you’re learning. Have fun with them, but have fun carefully! By all means, play! But play safely.
Oh yeah, the gifts are to you, but they’re not for you. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The gifts are more for the people around you than they are for your own benefit, like Jesus did: he was always healing other people, doing miracles for other people, not all about himself.
A Gift to Remember
It was late on a Sunday morning, and I was just waking up. I’d slept in, knowing that I wasn’t healthy and that I needed rest. I was thinking, “I’ll miss church if I don’t get up soon.”
For context, my Sunday morning “Church” is online and I attend by webcast. My “in real life” fellowship is another time during the week. This train of thought applies to both, really.
So I was thinking about what would happen if I miss church this morning, and that turned into an interesting train of thought. “What is my tradeoff? What am I missing if I miss church?”
The accusation crossed my mind that my online church is unnatural, not really what God has in mind for me, so I considered that for a moment. There actually is some merit in the argument that an online “fellowship,” where I am only an observer, not an actual participant, is not really what God had in mind as ideal for me. OK, let’s follow that thought for a moment?
But wait! Isn’t that what most Sunday morning gatherings are like? I’m an observer there, too. Oh, yes, I stand up when they say to, and sing the words they tell me to sing, and sit back down when they say to. But there’s no point during our time together at
Someone will say, “That’s not what Sunday mornings are for. That belongs in a home group.” [And here is where I’ll add my commercial: if you’re not part of a fellowship of believers that meets in an informal setting like a home, then they’re seriously missing out.] that kind of “sharing” is not an appropriate expectation for a Sunday morning gathering, though it would fit in the hallway or the lobby, maybe. There’s merit in that statement: Sunday mornings aren’t really designed for those kinds of things (which is rather a strong argument in favor of my online church – or for house church – but I’m going a different direction here).
So what are Sunday mornings for? What is the church gathering for, really?
Is Sunday Morning for worship? That can’t be right. My best worship is private, and I hear others tell me the same. I find that I believe that corporate worship is at its best when the worshippers have worshipped privately, and I know that I am a far better worship leader when I have worshipped privately. So while I affirm the value of corporate worship, I suspect that it is not the primary motivation, at least in God’s mind, for the gathering of the Saints.
I hear people talking about the value of getting fed at church; maybe the value of the church gathering is in the teaching. And I do value the teaching of my online church! But the Book is clear, and I’m fully committed to the concept that I must learn to feed myself first. The teaching there is good, but it is to supplement my own feasting on the Word. That can’t be the main value of church gatherings.
I’m going to be blunt here: It seems clear that the idea of “the message is the most valuable part of church gatherings” has come from those who preach. And it is from worship leaders that I most often hear that worship is the most important part of the service. (Please don’t assume that I don’t value a well-preached message from a gifted teacher, or that corporate worship isn’t glorious. If that’s what you’re hearing, you need to read this again more carefully!)
The thought crossed my mind, “What does the Bible say about the church coming together?” and as it did, a verse from Hebrews came with it:
It hit me like a freight train: God’s purpose for us coming together is to encourage each other. Specifically, it’s to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” which is how we are to encourage each other.
That’s the reason for coming together as a congregation: encouragement.
There is more extensive teaching on the church gathering together in 1 Corinthians 11, and it’s focused on meals together. Paul touches again on the topic in the midst of teaching about spiritual gifts in chapter 14, and in that context, he says, “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” Same thing: encouragement. Apart from these passages, there is no definitive teaching on church meetings in the New Testament, though Acts shows that the early church met daily in homes and weekly for apostolic teaching.
We could take it all together and form this model: When the saints come together, let’s gather around the dinner table, and let’s encourage one another, and let’s use what God gives us to that end.
My recommendation: learn to worship by yourself, not dependent on a leader and a band, though worship with them when you can. Learn to feed yourself, though supplement that with good, inspired teaching sometimes. But choose the congregation you gather with by this: “Is this a place where we can encourage one another?” And then go there, prepared to encourage, prepared to encourage others.