What Are Your Giftings? Part Three

There are no closing hours on your giftings – they are there, waiting to be discovered, unwrapped, used. There’s never been a better time to whip out your giftings and spread more of God’s love around! The world needs it. Many businesses are shutting down and our travel is being limited if we live in countries affected by Covid 19, but our giftings need to be opened up and activated in every way possible.

I’m fascinated with the fact that God gives us giftings that we wouldn’t necessarily see as ‘spiritual’ at first glance, and this concept is captured really well in the third passage we’re going to look at. In Part One of this series we looked at the ‘five-fold’ ministry gifts; in Part Two we looked at the ‘nine spiritual giftings’ listed in Corinthians, and now we’re taking a look at gifts that God has given you which don’t fit so much into nice neat categories:

‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.’ (Romans 12:4-8).

Prophesying and teaching are mentioned – usually we’d see ‘prophesying’ as one of the nine spiritual gifts (see Part Two for more details) and ‘teaching’ as a five-fold gift, but here they’re placed alongside ‘serving’ and other gifts that most people would think of as ‘less spiritual’, more crossing over into our natural giftings or personality traits: encouragement, giving, leadership and mercy. I think Paul deliberately places a five fold gifting, a ‘gift of the spirit’ and other gifts that don’t fall into those packaged categories beside each other.

I think this passage emphasises that although we might try to make boxes for different types of gifts and different types of giftings, at the end of the day every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17) – even the things that don’t appear to be particularly ‘spiritual’.

Anything that God has empowered you to be good at, when submitted to Him, is a gift or a gifting! It can be developed, given to others, and is of great value to the world, no matter how small or obscure you think your gifting is.

We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others because God has given us different measures of grace, right from the outset, so the gift He gives to one person will never be exactly the same as the gift He gives to someone else (even if the general gift is the same e.g. we can all prophesy, but I believe we are all different in the way we outwork that gift, and the niche that God will use us in).

Here’s a closer look at some of the gifts mentioned in the passage above:

Serving: People who have a gift for serving just love doing things for others – you can’t stop them! They’ll see a need, whether it’s a garden that needs weeding, a table that needs wiping, or an older member of the family who needs a bottle of milk. They are aware of moments where someone might need a hand, and they actually get joy from lending a hand. Without the servers – the toilet cleaners, the tea-pourers, the picker-uppers of those who don’t have a car, church – and the world – as we know it wouldn’t really exist. There are many many ways we can develop a gift of serving in the context of being light to a fear-infected world right now; let’s ask our families and neighbours if they need anything.

Encouraging: Encouragers will give you that one text message or that one little pep talk at just the right moment to help you get through the day. They are amazing at looking for things that people are good at – seeing giftings in others, speaking out what they see, and they have a strong sense of empathy that draws them to people who might be going through a bit of a rough day, week, month or year! There have been times in my life where God has sent me encouragers who helped change my entire perspective. Never underestimate the power of this gift. It’s crucial in these times (and any other time really). There are many lonely and hope-depleted people out there. We need you encouragers!

Giving: If you have one of those aunties who won’t let you leave the house until you’ve eaten the biscuits she offers, had a cuppa and taken a bag of ‘leftover’ goods with you, she might just have a gift of giving! If you often get joy from giving money, goods, or other things to people, you might just have a gift of giving! Again, the church as we know it and the world as we know it wouldn’t exist without this gift. Those who have the gift of giving will have their internal switchboards lighting up with happiness right now as there are so many opportunities to give to those in need.

Leadership: Those gifted in leadership are sometimes obvious – the one who can’t help but take the reigns even in a small group. These ones love facilitating meetings, making decisions, helping teams to run smoothly. However, I’ve learned over the years that some of the most gifted leaders actually take a while to realise that they are gifted in this area (and others may not see leadership in them at first) because the best leaders are servant-hearted; God loves to appoint those who actually want to champion the giftings of those that they lead, making space for each person to use their strengths. So gifted leaders don’t always look like the loudest, most confident people in the group; sometimes their anointing is much more subtle and they will be strong influencers of culture at grass-roots level, bringing an atmosphere of kindness and uplifting others wherever they are. Leaders are crucial to any church, from ‘Senior Leaders’ to creche leaders, to those who are not officially appointed but who create Jesus-culture wherever they go, and whatever group chat they land in!

Mercy: The one who stops on the street to find out the life story of the homeless person? Merciful. The one who believes the best in everyone and overlooks sins and flaws? Merciful. The one who gives us a second, third, fourth, fifth chance? Merciful. We desperately need people who model the mercy of God in our generation. It’s a quality that speaks volumes about the undeserving, lavish love of God towards us. We love you people who have the gift of mercy! And we need to learn more of your ways in this area. In days like these, our patience is also tested and we need to exercise mercy towards each other on a daily basis.

So with those gifts in mind, and with the main point of the passage in mind – that we all value and honour each other because we all have a very wide variety of giftings, and they’re all important – what are some of the other ‘good gifts’ that you can think of in your own or someone else’s life?

Are you gifted at music? Art? Fixing the car? Teaching older people how to use technology? Creating a safe place for kids to talk about how they feel? Turning a house into a home? Baking? Making room for joy? Listening well? Finding the perfect emoji or GIF to make someone laugh when they read your message? You are just as important as a prophet, an apostle, a teacher or anyone else with any other kind of gifting. Use your ‘good and perfect’ gifts from God while on earth. And honour and receive those around you who have gifts that are different to yours, including your spouse or kids or others you’ve become familiar with – look for their giftings and call them out. Because we’re needed – each one of us, and each one of our gifts.

Don’t forget to check out our new Facebook page Spiritual Growth and Giftings for more resources and encouragement.

~Alicia

 

 

 

 

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What Are Your Giftings? Part Two

You may be gifted in an area that you didn’t realise because you thought you would experience the gift like a bolt of lightning, but it often comes as a still small voice, an inner desire that you haven’t spoken about, or a gut feeling or nudging. We only step out in these gifts as we practice them, so I’d encourage you, even if you feel the slightest leaning towards one or more of these gifts, ask God to show you more about it, and how to partner with His Holy Spirit in activating it more.

The gifts are God-given, so we don’t receive the gift by practicing, but most of us have so much self-doubt (or perhaps a lot of self-assurance but a lack of wisdom, on the flipside) that I believe practice is an essential way for us to learn HOW to move in the gift without second guessing all the time, or how to move in it with wisdom so that that we don’t get in the way of ourselves.

Spiritual Giftings

Click the link here to check out Part One in the series and you’ll see what it means to be a five-fold gift – a prophet, pastor, teacher, evangelist or apostle. This second article is focusing another patch of scripture looking at what most people would call ‘the nine gifts of the Spirit’ of 1 Corinthians 12 (just read the whole chapter, it’s all good!) These are gifts that are given to us by the Holy Spirit after we’ve received Jesus into our hearts. The Holy Spirit chooses which gifts we get – ‘distributing each one individually as He wills’ – but the scripture also suggests that the Holy Spirit wants us to ask Him for more gifts in addition to the ones we are given initially by Him, because we’re told to ‘earnestly desire the best gifts’. He wants to know what giftings we want! This is different to the five-fold gifts where Jesus gives people to be gifts and we don’t get to choose which one we are wired to be (see previous article). With the nine gifts of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts however He wants, BUT He’s open and flexible to lean into our desires!

Breaking down the nine ‘Gifts of the Spirit’ mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:

1.Word of Wisdom: We all have moment where we have to make gnarly decisions and we feel like we’re darned if we do and darned if we don’t. The gift of wisdom has a way of helping us make decisions even when it seems like an impossible or overly complicated situation. Wisdom allows us to make decisions, strategies, or take approaches to situations (or give other people advice on this) that will benefit not just in the short run but also in the long run and in serving the bigger picture. We all need some-a-that!!

2. Word of Knowledge: This is where someone knows something about another person’s current life (or past history) that they could not possibly know other than having a supernatural source (the Holy Spirit!). So someone with a word of knowledge might sense that a person in the room has a sore knee, then they could offer to pray for them to demonstrate God’s power. Or it might be as simple as a sense that someone is struggling with depression, even though on the outside everything looks fine and they are acting cheerful, not giving anything away. Word of Knowledge is very powerful in showing people God knows them and loves them – it can be particularly spectacular when used as an entry point to evangelism!

3. Faith: People with a gift of faith will believe that the weather will change when they pray, mountains will be moved when they seek God, that God will provide even when there’s only two bucks in the bank account, and that your family members WILL come to God even if they’re currently P addicts who curse Jesus. We need the gift of faith! It’s the belief in the substance of things that haven’t even happened yet, based on the authority and promises God has given us. If you have crazy ‘impossible’ visionary ideas of things you want to see God doing, or you are the one still believing for something great when others have given up, maybe you have a gift of faith.

4. Gifts of healing: People with gifts of healing will pray and see healings happen! Most of the time people think of physical healings when they mention this gift, and this is an amazing aspect of it – healings of injuries, sicknesses, cancer, other illnesses or ailments – but I wonder if it also includes inner healing issues to do with the emotions. It’s a gift that is an incredible demonstrator of God’s power and love. The word ‘gifts’ is plural with this one, suggesting there are different types or areas or ways of healing available. If you have a passion for healing, God might want to use you in this! I think the concept of plural ‘gifts’ of healing is fascinating and would love to explore this more in Jesus.

5. Miracles: miracles is such a gloriously broad category! So I guess this is the area of mind-blowing things that God does which don’t fit into the other more specific categories. A miracle is something that goes against the laws of nature or something that is impossible in a physical, scientific sense. Sundials moving backwards, a sea parting, angel armies defeating the opposition, feeding five thousand people with just a little bread, finding money to pay the IRD in a fish’s mouth! There are so many miracles in the Bible and I believe God just keeps on extending his range of things that He wants to do which contravene his own laws of creation! Fun!! I don’t want to really put limits on this one by defining what a miracle is other than that. Let your imagination run!

6. Prophecy: Someone with a gift of prophecy will sense God communicating something to them which is then to be communicated to someone else, or to a group of people with the purpose of encouraging, building them up or adding momentum to that person to do good and follow God’s ways (usually God won’t communicate via an audible voice but it will often be through things like an inner knowing, thought, impression, dream and interpretation, vision, or circumstances or symbolic ‘signs’ that seem more than ‘coincidence’ etc). If you get an impression that a person has a particular gifting that is a bit hidden, or you see amazing qualities in them that remind you of a Bible character/person, God might be wanting you to speak this out to encourage them, and to develop the gift of prophecy in you. Prophecy can include foretelling future events as well, but this is only one facet of the gift.

7. The Discernment of Spirits: There are many spirits and a lot of spiritual activity in the world. Only one Spirit out of all the spirits is perfectly pure: the Holy Spirit, sent to be our teacher, advocate, comforter and our empowerment here on earth. The gift of discernment of spirits will allow us to see the difference between supernatural activity that is of God, and supernatural activity that isn’t of God – aka unclean spirits, demons. We might meet someone for the first time and get a really uncomfortable nudging that the person struggles with being abusive towards others without us having hard evidence of this – situations like this could be God showing you He wants you to move in the discernment of spirits. This is very helpful for steering clear of, or confronting, when we sense things that are not of God, but also for focusing on what God is doing even when we perceive darkness – for example, praying for freedom when someone is trapped by darkness. It’s essential to ask for wisdom to know what to do with the type of information the Holy Spirit brings us in this gift.

8. Speaking in different kinds of tongues:  I’ve heard it said that every Christian can ‘speak in tongues’ because this can be our prayer language to God, a direct line from our spirit to God’s spirit, and it builds our spirit as we speak. I tend to agree with this – but speaking in ‘different kinds of tongues’ is a specific gift listed in the scripture which appears to suggest that some people have several kinds of languages that they speak through the Holy Spirit (sometimes these are actual human languages that the person never studied, or can be heard as human language as a supernatural sign to those who don’t speak our own native tongue) as evidenced in the book of Acts, or it could be multiple prayer language tongues, not necessarily human languages. The Holy Spirit is big on communication – communicating the heart of God – so if He can use spiritual languages and also sometimes impart to us other human languages that we didn’t naturally learn so that foreigners to our culture can hear Him, He’ll use that too!

9. Interpretation of tongues: This is when someone hears a God-given language or ‘tongue’ being spoken by someone else usually, and God downloads to them the meaning  or interpretation of the foreign-sounding words so that everyone can understand something that otherwise might sound like gobbledegook! This is important as someone with the gift of different kinds of tongues might be unknowingly prophesying an important message and it takes teamwork – the person with interpretation – to bring that message in a way that the rest of us, or someone visiting the church, will understand.

And with that final mention of teamwork, that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. If you do read the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 12 (hey, and why not go on to chapter 13 too which outlines something we need to have way more important than the gifts of the Spirit), you’ll see that God has given different gifts to different people through the Holy Spirit. If anyone claims to have every gift and be all of the five-fold rolled into one, that person is a phony. Only Jesus had every gift and was every gift all rolled into one. We are all parts of the ‘body’ of church, and the second half of 1 Corinthians 12 explains how God has designed us to each contribute something different, and we need to honour each other for those differences.

When Jesus went to heaven after His resurrection, He broke up his ministry (His work on earth) into pieces – so that we would have to work together in love to have a full picture and appreciation for who He is. So be encouraged to get around other believers in Jesus, and it’s in that community that we’ll truly discover more of ourselves and learn more about the gifts. We need each other.

My new Facebook page Spiritual Growth and Giftings  is a great place to grow more with others –  if you like my blog, you’ll like this page – don’t forget to click ‘LIKE’ on the Facebook home page to stay up to date with the free resources that are offered. I’m currently working on part three of ‘What are your giftings?’ This will cover some things you might not initially think of when you hear the word ‘giftings’ – I’m excited to share it soon.

~Alicia


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Coronavirus – what would Jesus say?

Yep, I thought I’d do a post on old Covid. What does Jesus want to say about coronavirus? Do I buy more toilet paper, Jesus? Jesus hasn’t answered me about the loo paper but I do think there are some things on His heart.

I’m sure He’s been speaking to many people – I just felt to share my puzzle piece of what I’m sensing. Since last night, I’ve been feeling to pray for people with a ‘Joseph’ type of anointing to be raised into positions of power for this time. Joseph knew a massive disaster was coming on Egypt – seven years of famine. But God raised up Joseph at the right time with supernatural wisdom that saved many lives.

Even though it was the OLD TESTAMENT, folks, Joseph didn’t get stuck in judging politicians like Pharoah. He got straight to work after he was appointed 2IC of Egypt. He collected grain in the years of plenty prior to the famine. He organised. He did what would be an administrative nightmare – appointing leaders, building storehouses, creating systems to collect grain, communicating the plan to an entire nation without the internet, not to mention the bamboozling task of redistributing food to a bunch of people who would’ve been more irate than Australians fighting over the last packet of toilet paper. Yet because God’s hand was on him, it worked. The grain was enough to feed the people. (See Genesis chapters 37-41 for his story).

Because he worked with God’s wisdom, he saved an ‘unbelieving’ nation from destruction as well as his own! Don’t we want the same thing? There’s a problem right now that even the biggest world leaders cannot solve, just like there were problems that world leaders couldn’t solve until Joseph and Daniel were appointed, in order that they would show the power and grace of a God who is bigger than any person.

I’m praying that God will appoint Christians right now in leadership, in governments, science and medicine, and other areas – people who seemingly ‘come from nowhere’ because in this time of desperation, the Spirit of God will be so obvious in them – the Spirit of wisdom and might. It’s a time when the thrones of power and authority are being shaken and we need to pray into those shifts, decreeing God’s way and God’s appointments. If God could bring damage control to a seven-year famine, don’t we think he can bring damage control to a virus? It’s very sad that there are so many deaths already and I don’t want to ever downplay the losses of those families. We need to pray for them too, help them, and of course pray fiercely that the virus will be stamped out.

Let’s also pray that God will give each one of us, along with the leaders, supernatural wisdom in the practicalities of this situation every day, and let us demonstrate the love, peace, power and grace of God to our neighbours.

I’ve also been praying for us to awaken to tending our home fires. It’s a time when many people are stuck at home in isolation or are restricted in their travel and their ability to gather in groups. Emergency laws are being passed and tightened in these areas, even in lil old NZ. That means we’re all increasingly forced to pay attention to our home nation, our home town, our home street, our home church, and our family at home. The world is re-evaluating its priorities – placing life and survival above the need to travel and the need to be entertained in stadiums – so maybe it’s a good time for us to lead the way as Christians in re-evaluating and re-prioritising too.

Let’s take this opportunity to look at our home fires – our home church, our family, our own heart. How are we doing? Are we taking care of those who are under our care or have we been a little too busy with conferences and missions trips, organising this or that ministry event, or making sure our guest speakers have celebrity treatment and that their environmentally-friendly bottle of filtered distilled mountain spring water is primed and ready to be handed to them to drink, when actually there are people in our congregation who desperately need more care, teaching, equipping, discipleship, inner healing, commissioning and releasing into their own ministries?

Are we treating our kids right? Are we attentive to our kids with the same vigilance and care that we have towards our projects, endeavours, work, sports, ministries? Are we treating our husbands or wives or parents right? Would two weeks inside the house together feel like torture, or would we be at peace? Where are we at in the home fire of our relationship with Jesus? Are we okay to be alone with Him? Or are there things we’ve been ignoring for too long, allowing ourselves to be distracted by – the routines, the school run, work, going out to restaurants, getting that elusive perfect coffee at the elusive perfect cafe, saving for and fantasizing about that next trip overseas?

Has the coronavirus brought out fear and anxiety that’s been in us which needs to be dealt with and replaced with love? Or are there other things in the personal ‘vineyard’ of our love relationship with God that have been neglected? Maybe it’s a good time to ask God what He’s saying in all of this (I’m interested in your further thoughts on what you feel He’s saying), a good time to align ourselves to be the people who are anointed with peace, love and wisdom among our neighbours, a good time to self-reflect, re-prioritise and seek Him some more.

Don’t forget to check out my brand new Facebook page Spiritual Growth and Giftings which has more resources and content – click LIKE to stay updated.

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What Are Your Giftings? Part One

Any talk of giftings is usually dripping with Christianese so I felt to do a break-down of giftings for us normal people.

If you’re not a Christian, keep reading anyway 😀 God has a plan for you just as much as He has for anyone else and you might see yourself in the description of some of these gifts.

Disclaimer: I’m not a Bible scholar, I haven’t been to Bible school, but I studied Literature at University and I’ll always remember the advice of Prof Brian Boyd for Literature 101: read, read and re-read your text before reading anyone else’s commentary on it!

So that’s one of the things I’ve been doing for the 17 years that I’ve been walking with God and that’s what I’m basing these thoughts on – reading the ‘primary text’ of the Bible and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance in finding meaning, in addition to gleaning some great things from messages I’ve heard or read over the years. I’m open to people bringing questions or their own perspective to what I write.

It’s an inherent thing for us to have a curiosity about our giftings because it links so directly to our sense of purpose, our place in the world, how we can help others, and the direction our lives take.

I’ve learned that most of my giftings weren’t obvious to me when I was younger, partly because my baggage and insecurities (big and small) were hiding those giftings. So don’t worry if not much jumps out initially. As you read through this three part series, ask God to show you your obvious giftings but also the ones you may not have realised yet.

In the Bible, there are different types of gifts / giftings listed so in my series I’m going to focus on 3 main patches of scripture where attention is drawn to this. Aside from the five-fold areas, I believe most people have more than one area of gifting. The first patch of scripture I’ll look at is to do with the ‘five-fold’ gifts.

The ‘Five-fold’

The term ‘five fold’ isn’t found anywhere in the Bible – someone at some point made this phrase up and it simply refers to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-13. When talking about the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, it’s much easier to just call them the ‘five fold’ rather than the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers! Whew. Bit of a tongue twister!

These five-fold people are ‘gifts’ themselves (we are all designed to be gifts to the world around us, but it’s specifically stated that ‘Christ himself gave’ the five-fold people as gifts because it draws attention to the fact that their whole DNA and training process with God is geared towards the end-point of serving people by being equippers). The five-fold equip people of the church to be more like Jesus in the way He operated while on earth – we all need training from the five-fold so that we’re more well-rounded, so that we all catch a bit of the flavour of apostleship, prophetic ministry, evangelism, pastoral care and teacher-mindedness: all attributes of Jesus Christ.

If a church only has apostles in leadership, it will be unbalanced. If a church only has pastors, it will be unbalanced. If a church only has teachers, it will be unbalanced, and so on. We need all five to come to maturity, to be more like Jesus, and so we’re not blown about by every weird teaching out there.

How do you know if you’re one of the five-fold, or which one of the five-fold you’re called to? It takes a process, not a whim, to know –  the scripture suggests that these roles have a high level of responsibility because they each involve training / equipping people, so if we flippantly go around calling ourselves a prophet or teacher, that’s not wise because it brings with it a whole bunch of spiritual heft that we may not be prepared for.

We need to ask God to confirm to us in several ways over a decent period of time if He’s calling us to this. Jesus is the one who gave the gifts so Jesus will make it clear through others around you (without you telling them what you think you’re called to) and through a revelation He gives to you personally if you’re to be operating as one of these people. Jesus decides (again, refer Eph 4:11-13): we don’t decide for ourselves that we just want to be one of these. Some people take the view that we’re all, as Christians, called to be a five-fold member; others see it as a role more specifically for ‘some’ who are called to lay down their lives to equip the church. I’m not sure what I think but either way, knowing more about the five-fold is incredibly helpful so that we don’t lose this important early-church foundation.

Breaking it down:

Apostles: These are the people who often have a big-picture mentality – they’ll walk into a street, community, city or country and want to see it transformed. They’ll want the dark, evil things to be exposed and removed, and they’ll want to get blueprints and build structures that will benefit those areas (businesses, churches, leadership structures, teams, organisations, etc). They’ll want to bring breakthrough, healing, and decreases in negative statistics of crime, homelessness, suicide, etc. They are leaders of leaders, they’re empowered by God to put teams together, to pioneer things and to go forward into new territories. When they train and equip others, it’s often from the angle of helping others to transform their environment via miracles, building teams, and bringing heavenly things to earth. They get excited about being ‘sent’ into new places and endeavours (in fact, ‘apostle’ means ‘sent’). Read about the life of apostle Paul in Acts to see examples of all of these things and more!

Prophets: Prophets can often tune in to things that are outside the world of the five senses – to a ‘gut instinct’ that goes beyond logic or they tend to ‘hear’ in the spirit realm fairly intuitively. They sense the heart of God on many issues, therefore they have a strong sense of justice and they want to communicate that to people (sometimes forcefully)! They will champion the rights of vulnerable people in society, and they tend to be black-and-white in their thinking. When submitted to God’s ways and training process, prophets are powerful in being sensitive to helping steer the ship of ‘church’, noticing potential pitfalls that others wouldn’t notice and warning people to save them heartbreak, establishing new things or movements through prayer, tweaking the finer details of an apostle’s building process, and seeing gifts in people that others might not see. When they train and equip others, it’s often from the angle of helping people to hear from God for themselves, and having intimacy with Jesus.

Teachers: These ones usually have a desire for detail, a high value for truth, a hatred for lies, and an ability to make complicated things easy to understand, and they’ll also help others to apply what they’ve learned because they have a way of showing us how a teaching principle might look on the ground, in real life, in the everyday grind. It goes without saying, an anointed (empowered by God) teacher is worth his or her weight in gold because they can take a scripture passage that might seem obscure, show us what it means and how to implement it!  When they train and equip others, it’s often from the angle of helping people to read the Bible for themselves, embrace the truth, reject lies, and connect with God for their own understanding in how scripture can be outworked.

Evangelists: Evangelists are often good at connecting with anyone from any background through conversation. If you walk around with an evangelist you’ll typically find yourself waiting around while they have a convo with a stranger about said stranger’s kids or some other random topic with some random person they just met. They have a firey passion to see people from all walks of life – druggies, the homeless, CEOS, stay at home mums, relatives, shopkeepers, saved (to see people receiving eternal life by accepting Jesus into their lives.) They are essential to expanding God’s fam! When they train and equip others, it’s often from the angle of helping others to speak about Jesus to non-believing people, to pray for miracles as a witness to the world that God is real, and get to that crunchpoint question with everyone: do you know Jesus and if not, do you want to receive Him into your life?

Pastors: Pastor means ‘shepherd’. People with a pastoral gifting are drawn to help those who are going through difficulties, those who are isolated, those who have been emotionally or physically hurt by others and need healing, those who need guidance and patience because they’re going a bit awol, or those who need a sense of family (we all need that so we all need pastors!) In relatively recent church history, we’ve slapped the title of ‘Pastor’ on anyone who leads anything in church but the original connotation of the word was one of shepherding, which is a less visible often one-to-one, behind the scenes and grass-roots role (that’s why pastors aren’t mentioned much elsewhere in the New Testament other than Ephesians 4, I believe – they are busy with the people at ground level). When pastors train and equip others, it’s often in the area of helping them to see the great need for loving and following up with people in an ongoing way, providing support so that lasting healing can happen, etc.

 I hope this is an exciting process for you as you discover more about who God has called you to be and what your giftings are. Even if you don’t feel that you’re called to be a five-fold ‘gift’ dedicated to equipping others, you might still have leanings towards one or more of the above gifts – you could have a strong pastoral leaning without being ‘a pastor’ as such, or a strong prophetic gifting without being ‘a prophet’ as such, so I hope these descriptions at least give some clarity on that, or areas to ask God more questions.

I have a brand spanking NEW Facebook page called Spiritual Growth and Giftings (click to visit). Please like the page to see other content that you may find helpful, and stay updated on free resources, and of course parts 2 and 3 of this series. Click here to read Part Two! I’d love to hear your comments on other things you want to learn more about, or any other comments in response to this article. If you know any new Christians or seekers who might be interested, don’t forget to invite them to like the page. The goal of the page is to freely give encouragement, ideas and knowledge to help people grow spiritually and in their giftings. There is no other agenda and the resources, as mentioned, are FREE! Enjoy.

~Alicia

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Are we missing the most basic element of church structure?

Maybe ‘love one another’ isn’t just a nice sentiment. Maybe it’s also part of church structure. Maybe it’s the most important part of church structure – a joining of parts, a joining of people, that we’ve put to the back of our minds because we prefer creating structures that are hierarchical – hierarchies feel safer than than structures where we are shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye. Or maybe we assume love will automatically ‘happen’ without effort.

Maybe we need to be as deliberate about loving one another as we are about establishing Youth ministries, Worship Teams, Leaders and Assistant Leaders, and the five-fold ministries. I have a huge passion for Pastors, Teachers, Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists to be commissioned and given space to lead as in the early church. But maybe the structure of ‘love one another’ is even more crucial.  Maybe we should start there.

Maybe it’s more important to look at the person next to us in church and ask Jesus how we can love them in action, not just words, not just a nice Christianese ‘bless you sister’ as we walk out after the service. Maybe when we feel strong, we need to look around for those who are weak and hold them up for a time. Maybe we need to hang out and laugh a bit more with each other. Maybe we need to invite the people who are a bit lonely to dinner instead of sticking with the same friend group all the time.

Maybe we, the universal church, the people, are living stones being built together into a holy temple, and we are held together only by the mortar of loving one another as God has loved us (1 Peter 2:5, Colossians 3:14). Maybe without loving one another, the stones fall apart.

Maybe the bigger structures like walls and rooves and joinery and Kids Church ministries and Intercessory teams and Senior Leadership hierarchies will only fall if we don’t have Jesus’ all-out on-fire self-sacrificing brand of love between us. Forgiveness. Patience with those who we feel irritated by. Kindness. Longsuffering. Gentleness. Believing the best in each other. Eating together, talking together in love. Asking Jesus for more love when we feel we’ve run out. Giving up our lives for our friends.

Maybe there’s a reason Jesus didn’t mention the importance of establishing hierarchical structure in church among His final instructions before being crucified.

Maybe there’s an important reason why He mentioned twice in His final instructions before He left earth: ‘Love each other as I have loved you’. (John 13:34, John 15:12-13)

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How to Receive our Prophets and Little Ones

Traditionally, we kill them, dishonour them, ignore them, or choose to believe they don’t exist. Or, at the other extreme, we idolise them and watch them self-destruct because when prophets have no accountability, they tend to crash and burn (as anyone would).

Surely there’s a better way to interact with prophets? Yep. Jesus outlined it in pretty clearly in a book called ‘The Bible’. We’re supposed to receive the prophets. But what does that mean?

Jesus’ words are often quoted: ‘He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward’.

When it gets mentioned, we usually focus on the second half of the verse – if we good Christians just call a prophet a prophet – ‘the name of a prophet’ – we’ll ‘receive a prophet’s reward.’ Preachers often use the verse with a satisfied air when they’re introducing a guest prophet from out of town, taking pains to call him ‘a prophet’ out loud in front of the church because it’s a good thing to do, right? And it has some kind of ‘reward’, right? Whatever that may be…(I’ve never heard anyone explain what the reward actually is).

Acknowledging that a prophet is a prophet is a great idea (not as a pompous title but just as we would call a leader a leader and a pastor a pastor, identifying the God-given mandate of that person). But I think there’s a lot more to be said about the beginning of the verse: ‘receive a prophet’.

Jesus doesn’t say ‘receive a prophet’s words’ or ‘receive a prophet’s ministry’. He says ‘receive a prophet’. A prophet. A whole person. Not just a mouthpiece.

If we’re only interacting with prophets as intriguing wonders who distribute prophecy after prophecy, something is wrong. Acknowledging that a prophet is a prophet (not just a ‘prophetic voice’ or someone with a ‘prophetic gifting’ or ‘prophetic insight’) is a great start, and that in itself would be a massive mark of progress for some churches, but it’s not all there is. If we think that all we need to do with a prophet is receive their words and throw the word ‘prophet’ around when we introduce them, I think we’re mistaken.

If we only want a prophet to communicate with us when they have a prophetic word, and we’re only interested in needling their latest revelation out of them during our conversations with them, we’re missing the point, in my opinion. And possibly missing the fullness of a reward, too….

Maybe the Shunammite woman had the right idea about how to receive a prophet, a whole prophet. She had an appreciation that a prophet isn’t just supernatural but he or she is also human. When she received Elisha, she didn’t just receive his words and send him on his way in a taxi to the next town. She received HIM. She received the person Elisha into her home.

She did reno for him! She made a room and put a lampstand, a table, a chair and a bed there for him, knowing that prophets get tired and need rest, they need homes, they need to eat, and they need community (2 Kings 4:8-10).

I’m not suggesting we all take a prophet into our homes (although that would be a cool as heck experiment!) But we can learn from the Shunammite because hearing Elisha’s Godly words and receiving miracles was only one aspect of her embrace.

I’m guessing she would have also received his more mundane conversation, his dirty dinner plate, his morning breath and bed hair. And she probably caught glimpses of his insecurities too. Because that’s what happens when people stay.

I truly think that when we receive prophets, and each other, every single person in the body of Christ, as humans and not just a set of giftings and gifts to serve the non-profit factory of ‘church’, we will then receive Jesus.

We have some of Jesus in church. But I don’t think we’ve received all of Him. The extent to which we receive the prophets, and each other, is the extent to which we receive Jesus among us. Jesus Himself said ‘He who receives you receives me’ (Matt 10:40). If we ignore or reject the humanity of each person who joins the church, we reject parts of Jesus because each one of us is a member of His body. We are not supposed to be knitted together by our pretense of perfection, or even by our gifts or ‘serving together on a team’. We’re only bonded together by love (Colossians 3:14).

Are we prepared to receive not only each others’ best bits (our gifts, talents, slick words on a good day) but also each others’ humanness? Are we prepared to be hospitable to the extent that we still receive another person when they’re tired, a bit grumpy, a bit mundane, when they don’t know what to do about their family drama, when they’re in need of care, in need of accountability, or simply in need of a friend?

I’m well aware that the context of that verse about receiving a prophet is Jesus giving instructions to His disciples about preaching the gospel. And He doesn’t just refer to prophets. He also says ‘He who receives a righteous man in the name of  a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward’ (Matt 10:41-42).

We want ‘the world’ and ‘the unsaved’ to receive us and receive the gospel when we speak it, but have we as the church even received each other fully? Are we prepared to receive each other the way Jesus received the disciples?

For three years Jesus received and poured into the lives of twelve men, twelve disciples, twelve ‘little ones’, who certainly could not yet be called fully fledged apostles when he was with them, although they would go on to be. They had no clue what their calling or giftings were when He first received them. He received them as doubters, needy ones, immature ones, triggered ones, cowardly ones who abandoned Him by fleeing when persecution came.

That verse about receiving prophets is perhaps not so much about prophets as it is about our attitude towards each other – can we receive each other fully, every ‘little one’ among us, whether we have many gifts in ministry, good and ‘righteous’ deeds, or if we’re just simply imperfect and unaccomplished, bumbling followers of Jesus? Because aren’t we all ‘little ones’ at the end of the day?

Elijah, Elisha’s mentor, was received by a widow who he stayed with, and it was only after he had stayed with her for some time that she saw him with greater clarity and experienced him as a true prophet through an astounding miracle (1 Kings 17).

If you think you haven’t yet had a conversation with a local prophet, you’re probably wrong. They are there. Maybe we need to ask God to help us receive each other fully, and in receiving each other no matter where we’re at, in really getting to know each other, we can also see each other more clearly as unique gifts from God.

The word translated as ‘receive’ in that verse in our English Bible came from the Greek ‘dechomai’. This word means ‘to take with the hand, to take hold of, to take up, to grant access to, not to refuse friendship with, to receive hospitality, to receive into one’s family to bring up or educate, to receive favourably, give ear to, embrace, make one’s own, approve, not to reject, to take upon oneself, to sustain, endure, bear, get, learn’. 

Receiving someone in this way is very different to just giving someone in church a title and a role.

Can we appreciate the humanity in each other? Can we see a prophet (or an apostle or a teacher, or any little one) sometimes as someone who simply needs a drink of water, someone who needs a laugh over dinner, someone who sighs with relief because even if they are not received everywhere else, they can be received and at home in our community?

Photo Credit: Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

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True Pastors

Even though you might not have an official title, you’ve been doing the stuff. You might not be called a ‘Senior Pastor’, ‘Youth Pastor’, ‘Assistant Pastor’, ‘Young Adults Pastor’ or ‘Worship Pastor’ but you’re actually a shepherd to people. So this is a thank you to the true pastors.

You know Jesus has called you to be a nurturer, a comforter, an equipper of others. You’re attentive to people. You listen well. They feel heard when they are around you. They feel accepted.

You discern when someone is so wounded that they need intensive care, not advice, quick-fixes or long-winded prayers. When Jesus asks you to, you stand by a person for weeks, months or years, patiently walking with them even though there isn’t much if any outward ‘progress’ in their lives.

You trust that with these ones, Jesus is working, and you know that sitting with them is not wasted time, and it is not ‘enabling’. You know the value of simply being with someone when, like Job, their pain goes beyond words. Your presence is crucial. You release healing virtue just by being there.

You also know when it’s the right time to change tack – press someone towards deep inner healing, even if it’s painful, to offer advice, to confront what might need changing, to guide and to steer in a particular direction, and even to back off and let someone make their own mistakes. A shepherd hand-feeds the weak of the flock – but only until they are strong. He bandages the wounds of one who has been bitten – until healing takes place. He carries the abandoned lamb in His arms so that it knows comfort – until it is able to be more independent. He calls gently but he will also use his staff to correct a sheep’s direction.

Above all, thank you true pastors for knowing that you cannot be Jesus to those you shepherd. Your focus is always pointing to Him, The Good Shepherd. Knowing and readily admitting you will never be the perfect guide or comforter, the end-goal is to draw people closer to knowing Jesus the shepherd, every day of their lives.

There is nothing quite like what you bring, pastor.

There is nothing quite like your sensitivity to the human heart.

We need you. You are rare. I haven’t met very many of you.

And we need to be there for you just as much as you have been there for others.

I’m sorry for the times we’ve turned churches into factories, only interested in churning out instant leaders and instant numbers without taking time to hear the pastor’s cry to slow down and heal when we have wounds. I’m sorry that we’ve overused that word: ‘pastor’. We’ve misused that word. We’ve used it as a synonym for all ‘leaders’ when it should have its rightful place as a description of a person commissioned by God to shepherd His people at close range and, in turn, equip them to shepherd others.

I’m sorry that people who were never true pastors and never will be true pastors have called themselves ‘Pastors’ when really their hearts were full of manipulation towards those they had power over. This has messed with what should be a lovely word.

A person with the self-appointed title of ‘Pastor’ who pressures his congregation to give tithes to the church, while simultaneously refusing to consider the needs of the struggling poor who he knows are among his flock, is not a good pastor according to scripture. God Himself says ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock’ (Ezekiel 34:2). Jesus rebukes the greedy scribes ‘who devour widows’ houses’ and the leaders who exact a tithe while neglecting the weightier matters of mercy, justice and faith (Mark 12:38-40; Matt 23:23).

A person with the self-appointed title of ‘Pastor’ who has no interest in helping or, if he can’t get there himself, sending help to the people he leads when they are going through terrible difficulties like illness, mental health crises or the death of a loved one is not a true shepherd according to scripture: ‘The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them’ (Ezekiel 34:4).

Of course, there are some who have the title and appointment of ‘Pastor’ who really do the work of a pastor and have the genuine heart and anointing of a pastor. But there are also those who don’t. Although the word ‘pastor’ hasn’t been used rightly in many cases, Jesus has held onto his intentions for that word: your identity is secure in Him, all of you true pastors.

You are unique. Just as an apostle is unique, a prophet is unique, a teacher is unique and an evangelist is unique, you are not some vague concept, pastor. You are not just any kind of leader. You are wired specifically to bring something that the others cannot.

Your whole life was and is a training ground preparing you to do what you do best: shepherd.

I know I’d like to listen to your heart more, pastors. I know I’d like to see more of you around. I know I’d like to get to know you and not presume, just because I’m a leader of a different kind, that I know what your dreams are or the finer details of how you should operate. I flow pastorally at times, but I am not you. I’d like to learn more from you. I miss you if you’re not there in my local church.

Every apostle, prophet and leader of any kind needs to learn to be more pastoral. We can’t survive without your flavour, pastors. Jesus asked Peter, big apostle Peter, the man who became a miracle-working leader of leaders, ‘Do you love me?’ and then he gave some final instructions to Peter: ‘Feed my lambs’. ‘Tend my sheep’. ‘Feed my sheep’. (John 21:15-19). Jesus knew that the church desperately needed leaders who were willing to grasp and embrace a shepherd’s ways.

Thank you to the one or two or three in my life who have been true pastors, walking alongside me, imperfectly, yes, humanly, yes, yet so powerfully, in my darkest times. You didn’t have any kind of church title, but you were there.  I didn’t need a prophet when I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death – when I had seen my loved one’s body which had been pulled from the wreck of a car accident, lying under a sheet. I didn’t need an apostle. I didn’t need a teacher. I didn’t need an evangelist. I needed Jesus, my shepherd. And I needed you, pastor. I needed you. I needed you to sit with me. I needed you to cry with me. I needed you to come to me when I didn’t have the energy to come to you.

Thank you to the women who have been excluded from any recognition of being a ‘pastor’ in any church simply because they are women, yet they continue to actually pastor those who have been given to them by God, including their own families, and sometimes they do a better job of pastoring than the leaders who refuse to acknowledge their call.

Please keep following Jesus in what He’s calling you to, true pastors, knowing He sees you in every moment. Don’t change into a teacher or an apostle because someone else wants you to.

He looks with such amazement at you, pastor, when you visit the sick, when you feed a new Christian with God’s word until they can chew the meat, when you sit with someone who is dying, when you walk alongside someone with severe depression for several years because God nudged you to despite others saying it’s a waste of time as they don’t seem to be ‘improving’, when you cry over those who have decided to go their own way even after years of caring for them and pointing them to Jesus’ guiding hands.

He looks at you with such love because you want to equip others to be more like The Shepherd, and you influence church culture to be more comforting and patient and compassionate and whole and healed, often from the ground up. You have a piece of Jesus’ heart beating in your chest. And it’s beautiful.

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Photo credit: Josue Escoto on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

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Singleness: The Friend Zone

Being friend-zoned…this has been a feature of my life so far. Hahahaha! So I’m well qualified to write about the friend zone.

There’s nothing quite like liking someone, having that hopeful glance towards more than friendship, a desire which grows over time in the recesses of ‘hanging out’, and then eventually there’s that pinching, cutting, crystallized moment of realisation (that text message, that unanswered letter, or that moment they find an actual girlfriend and it’s not you) where you know you’ll never be more than friends.

Painful as it can be, I’ve come to realise through living in the friend zone (this far), there are actually some positives to being behind the orange tape of platonic no-man’s land, not just if we’re liking someone who is out of reach, but also in just living our single life, learning to be friends with both men and women.

1. If being friend-zoned feels like it broke your heart into a bazillion shards of death, there may be something else goin on

I had the experience (years ago) of feeling broken-hearted in a snot-inducing devastated kind of way over being friend-zoned a couple of times. We weren’t involved at all romantically, just friends, yet the finality of friendzonemanship had me crying and carrying on as if I’d just ended a twenty-year marriage. Uh…yeah. My response was way out of proportion to the events. It took time (quite a lot of time – what, I’m a slow learner sometimes, okay people) to realise that maybe there was some underlying stuff going on with me that needed healing. I felt like I was unlovable already, so the friend-zone thing was just salt in my raw wounds from the prehistoric past. Also, my issues had caused me to cling onto guys in my heart in a way I never should have, which is why it hurt so much to be friend-zoned. So my prehistoric past needed healing, and the reaction to friend-zonery helped pinpoint or signpost that.

2. Learning to remain friends after something extremely awkward

After those experiences of being friend-zoned, I had the choice of whether to still be friends with the person or not. Despite wanting to avoid avoid avoid, I did eventually, after having many awkward moments around one of them, get back to a friendship (with some help from a priceless female friend who was great at inner healing stuff; I would talk to her about my heart and she helped me stop being so weird). It wasn’t a super-close friendship with the guy; it wouldn’t have been wise to be best friends or anything nearing that but over time I was able to share stuff with this person again, see them as a friend again, and I felt like I gained so much from the experience. It taught me a lot about relationships in general – pushing past perceived hurts and awkwardness to fight for the connection, in agape love. I fought hard, and it was worth it.

3. Friend-zone equals more friends

So when you’ve always been single and never migrated out of the friend-zone, it forces you to either (a) become a hermit or (b) make friends. Married people usually wake up with a companion good to go – hanging out with someone is the default setting. You wake up and ooh, looky there, there’s someone in the bed! You automatically have someone to eat breakfast with if you want. You have someone to eat dinner with if you want. When you’re single, if you want quality time with other humans, you have to actually do something to get it. You have to message someone and say ‘Hey, wanna hang out?’ and then arrange it. After years of singleness, I’ve cultivated a lifestyle of asking almost everyone to be my friend. Yes, like a five year old at primary school. I ask people if they want to do stuff, and I’ve learned to get over it and keep my love on if people don’t want to be my friend. Not everyone will. Keep making friends anyway! In deliberately  asking people if they want to hang out, and not being fussy, I’ve become friends with some of the most amazing, fascinating people who I naturally, on the surface, wouldn’t have thought I had much in common with.

4. Unexpected blessings found in deep friendship

Did you know it’s possible to have a healthy soul tie with a person of the same sex in the context of agape friendship? Jonathan and David in the Bible had this: ‘Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul’ (1 Samuel 18:1). Ooooohuhhh, soul ties. We usually see that as a negative thing. But here we see a totally non-sexual soul-to-soul connection that is so beautiful (Kris Valotton does an amazing messsage on wholeness that explains this further). Two soldiers from opposing lineage. And they weren’t rivals; they were friends, despite a great risk to their own lives. This kind of friendship reminds me of something Jesus said: ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends’ (John 15:13).

He didn’t say ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his marriage partner’. There’s something about the covenant love of friendship (and yes, marriage partners can also be friends of course) – the love that is willing to sacrifice one’s own feelings, one’s own need, with nothing expected in return, which encapsulates the heart of God. The world would expect a husband to lay down his life for his wife if she was in danger, even if purely based on the obligation of his vows and traditional codes of morality. But there is no obligation for a friend to lay down his life for another friend. Such an act is a choice that must be motivated by love. Pure and simple. You can end a friendship and not be judged by the world because it won’t affect anyone else. When a friendship is ended, there are no kids involved, no custody arrangements to be made, no finances to be divided. It’s relatively easy to end friendships when it gets to the point that sacrificial love might be required. So to deliberately decide to keep loving and laying down one’s life for a friend, no matter what? THAT is spectacular.

I’ve experienced one or two friendships like this. Gifts from God – connections with people where we surrender our own desire to get our needs met, where we forgive each other without limit, where we push past the seven year mark, the eleven year mark, and keep somehow, through the love of Jesus, being bound closely as friends in agape love. These are incredibly beautiful and I wouldn’t exchange them for any other experience in life.

5. Friendship with God

Friendship isn’t some cute Winnie-the-pooh story. The friend zone isn’t some insipid pool that you wade in until a ‘proper’ relationship begins. Friendship is testing, it is stunningly beautiful, it requires ferocious love. God designed it. And He designed it to be POWERFUL. Aside from my friendship goals of approaching people like a five year old at primary school, my other main goal is to be a friend of God. In fact, being a friend of God is one of my all-time biggest goals. Growing up, there were times when I had no friends. We’ve all probably experienced that at some point. There were also times of intense grief and trauma where I wasn’t able to be proactive with the friendships I did have, so even though I did have friends, it felt like I was in a pit on my own. And even now, when I am in a good space to make friends and be friends with people, there are still those lonely times when only God can relate to what I’m thinking and feeling.

He’s the friend who has been there from before my birth, throughout my childhood, and into every experience of my adulthood. He’s been there at two and three in the morning. The Holy Spirit is my most precious friend and my desire is to keep growing in my friendship with God through Him. Turns out, friendship with us is one of God’s biggest endgoals too. Jesus said ‘No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you’ (John 15:15). Jesus didn’t die to make you His servant; He died so that he could be your friend.

I want to be like Moses, described as a friend of God, one who spoke to God ‘face to face’ (Exodus 33:11). One who chose to share his heart with God, including his questions, his insecurities, his doubts, his failings, his desires. There was nothing spectacular in Moses’ character that set him apart to be a powerful leader who split an ocean and delivered a nation out of slavery. He wasn’t an alpha male, he wasn’t schooled in leadership 101, he stuttered and he had trouble trusting God. But there was one thing he did do: he talked to God about everything, big and small. He had faith that God knew him and understood his strengths and flaws. He listened to God’s heart in return. His friendship with God made way for freedom for oppression, mind-blowing miracles, and a path carved in history, a zone of friendship with God that we’re all still invited to walk in today, no matter who we are.

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Kings, Priests and the Current Move of God

If you have a nine-to-five and it’s not your dream job but you still show up day after day,  year after year, or you’re a stay at home mum who spends her day running after the kids without any appraisal except a small gummy smile, or if you clean hotel rooms, or if you volunteer behind the scenes, or pray for people without them ever knowing, we need you.

If you manage people in an organisation or office or business, spend time worrying about how to keep teams together and who to appoint next, feel the squeeze of those looking to you for direction, make the final calls, have a desire to build something more, something spectacular, a desire to take over new territory, and the buck stops with you, we also need you.

The move of God cannot go forward well without honouring both Kingly and Priestly roles – those with public profiles, and those who are less visible to others.

In 1 Chronicles, David made the mistake of not giving place to the priests when he tried to move the presence of God, housed at that time in the ark of the covenant. All his best intentions unraveled because he appointed those he was familiar with to carry the ark; he didn’t appoint priests. He used his Kingly anointing to orchestrate a Priestly role, and God wasn’t too happy. Uzzah reached out to steady the ark during the first attempt at moving it and …well…he died because he didn’t have the priestly training to pull it off (1 Chron 13:9-10)

David then realised he needed to appoint and delegate authority to the Levites, those with a Priestly anointing, to carry the box with presence of the Lord forward to Jerusalem (1 Chron 15:1-2). This was God’s divine order: a King using his authority to give place to those from a ‘priestly’ tribe.

Some of the stories about moves of God in recent history remind me of David’s first attempt to move the presence: they often start out centred on people who have powerful, authoritative, Kingly anointings. Miracles, signs, wonders, salvations, healings. These people are shoved into the limelight, made into leaders, and then things fall apart months or years later because there was no honouring of the Priestly anointing: the call to faithfulness, obedience, developing character in the secret places where no one could see,  and being accountable to authority.

I feel like God’s finger is on the full activation of both Kingly and Priestly anointings in the (universal) church. A Kingly anointing without a Priestly anointing will focus solely on power – having goals of seeing large numbers of people saved, taking new territory for Christ, establishing new works, seeing signs, wonders and miracles….but it will neglect the development of an intimate relationship with Jesus, holiness, and submission to God and one another.

A Priestly anointing without a Kingly anointing will focus solely on intimacy with God, developing character, being behind the scenes like the lil old Levites behind the fabric of the tent where they baked bread, counted utensils, stood guard as gatekeepers and obeyed instructions…but it will neglect the development of authority over the enemy, the need to step out into public ministry at times, and the action of taking new territory…and of course, a church that neglects these things will be a church that never expands its influence or reaches new people.

Jesus is simultaneously both King of Kings (Rev 19:16) and the Most High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). He’s the one who has all authority over the enemy, He takes ground wherever He goes, He does signs, wonders and miracles, He heals, He delivers, because He understands He has all power in heaven and earth; He reigns in the Kingdom.

And yet His role in heaven is to pray for us – to intercede (Rom 8:34) – and He learned how to do this well when He spent many nights on earth in intimate prayer with His Father. He became the ultimate mediator in sacrificing Himself, in total obedience to the Father, after thirty years of growing up in obscurity in the hidden place with God, in order to pay for our bad deeds, and this is why He’s the ultimate priest who kicked the devil’s butt so that no more temple sacrifices were necessary. Yahhhh!!!!

So when we receive Jesus, we receive His spiritual DNA – within us is the capacity and anointing to be both Kings and Priests too. If we neglect one of these anointings, we’re neglecting a part of Jesus’ personality, ministry, character and mind.

At every major transition in Israel, those with a Priestly anointing were given authority to be at the forefront. It might seem more logical to have a King carry the massive glory of the presence of God…but no. God’s way was for the priests to go first over the Jordan river into the promised land, and to be at the front in carrying the ark into David’s city. But ironically, the priests could not have carried the presence without first being given permission and appointment by the Kingly leader – so they are dependent on one another – it’s a matter of interweaving these two anointings, not  counting them as separate or mutually exclusive within ourselves or within the church.

Although we’ve all got the potential to be Kings AND Priests, we probably naturally activate one of these anointings before the other. Our personality, calling and circumstances might make it easier for some to activate in the Kingly anointing first, or others the Priestly anointing. Some naturally take charge, even as kids, you know the ones – the (sometimes bossy) little leaders with bands of followers. Others sit back and are more known for being the ‘faithful’ type (don’t even get me started on that adjective, it’s seriously underestimated and it’s a whole other blog; all ya’ll that have ever been described as ‘faithful’ are fiercely amazing). And I know ‘priestly’ has some underwhelming or even weird connotations in today’s world but actually the original connotations that God gave it were way cool. Priests got to spend time being in a room with God Himself!! Priests are just as cool as Kings! We’re all some kind of mixture of the two, but maybe we lean more one way than the other.

I wonder if this means we need to ask God how to develop each anointing more fully, and maybe also we need one another’s influence. We need to learn by rubbing shoulders with each other. Prophets who might be more naturally inclined towards a Priestly anointing (intense prayer lives, an intimate relationship with God, and a slap-down white-hot passion for getting rid of unholiness) might need apostles, for example, to help them learn to be more king-like in leading, being visible and taking territory. Apostles who naturally assume leadership might need to learn to balance their Kingly anointing with the intimacy of hearing from God more clearly before charging like visionary warriors into adventures (cf David charging ahead to take the ark of God’s presence to Jerusalem), learning value in keeping the home fires burning, encouraging a culture of holiness etc.

I don’t think the church will become everything God has designed it to be if apostles just keep appointing more apostles, or if Kings keep appointing others who are operating in Kingly anointings like themselves, as leaders. David initially appointed those he knew already, not those who were different to him – the priesthood – so the presence of God was stuck outside of Jerusalem in the middle of nowhere and the presence could not move forward until he learned to appoint priests and give honour to them in their rightful position, and let them do what they had been fully trained to do.

I feel there is a call at the moment for those who have allowed themselves to be activated  in the Priestly anointing to step forward and be positioned more visibly. Be encouraged if you’ve always served in more background roles, or you have an awareness that God has kept you hidden for a time, like the Levites behind tabernacle walls; there is a time where you need to be seen. In order to move into the promised land, the priests had to step out of the tabernacle and into the open air, leading the way across the Jordan river. If the Lord puts more influence in your path, it might be the right time to take it! We need you to step out.

Even at the end of his reign, David seems to place way more importance on securing the positions and roles of the priests in the land before any other priority. He even gives the Levites additional authority and appoints some as judges; he had learned that the future of the Kingdom did not depend solely on having a King – it depended on the value for holiness and right relationship with God. As long as the priests were given their positions of authority, he knew their influence would be over the entire nation and the Kingdom would be safe, secure and sustainable.

What will happen when those who have that air of being ‘kings’ in Christ will look with honour (rather than patronisingly) at those who are in the background – the slide technicians, the intercessors who pray in quiet places, the person who presses in for more holiness, the person who visits the lonely, the person who sets up the coffee and tea, the person who is so reliable at washing the teatowels each week that no one even notices they’re doing it. What would happen if those who have activated over years, even decades, the qualities of being faithful, obedient, pure in integrity, able to serve without needing constant affirmation, were appointed more intentionally as influencers? What if today’s leaders deliberately started looking for people who carry and cultivate a Priestly anointing? What if a King took time to know the dreams in the heart of a Priest?

And what if the ‘background’ people stopped smiling with brittle politeness (while inwardly retreating) at the loudly enthusiastic charismatic leaders who draw a crowd and expound their grand visions for the territory we can all take together, and the thousands of people they want to fill that stadium? What if Priestly people actually listened to Kingly visions and partnered with them in taking new ground?

I’m not saying that apostles aren’t faithful or that prophets don’t take new ground – most people do stuff that relates to both anointings I’m sure, to a greater or lesser degree – but the point is – couldn’t we do way more? Could we reach a much greater fullness of operating in both the Priestly and Kingly anointings, individually and as a church?

I think the move of God would be powerfully carried into future generations if we learned, not just from reading the Bible but in our living relationships, how to be both Kings and Priests through honouring, I mean really honouring, moving beyond patronising and brittle politeness towards each other, going out of our way to honour, those anointings in each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Hallmark Of The Next ‘Revival’

A few weeks ago, an impression came to mind that I feel to share – again, I wouldn’t usually blog something like this but here goes… I’m interested in people’s thoughts on this so please feel free to comment of course.

The impression was of a large tsunami-like wave rolling into church from the back towards the front. I felt the wave was a big move of the Holy Spirit but at the same time it was also a wave of people – a harvest of souls / salvations.

I felt the Lord was saying yet again (as has been said many times by many different people) that there is a big move of the Holy Spirit coming to the church in general; it will be conflated with and inseparable from the harvest of souls because the whole purpose of His Spirit moving is to save people, in line with God’s heart which is ‘not willing that any should perish’ (2 Peter 3:9).

I also had the impression that the defining hallmark of this particular ‘revival’ (as many like to call it) will be mature agape love. I felt that those who were receiving new salvation – the people of this wave – were so impacted by the power of the Holy Spirit’s move that they had a deep revelation of God’s great love and were strongly joined / bonded in love to Jesus from the outset. They were permanently marked by love.

They loved Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. They grew quickly to maturity and understood the workings of agape – the highest form of love.

They loved others sacrificially. Being reviled, they blessed. Being persecuted, they endured. Being defamed, they entreated (1 Cor 4:12-13). Being treated as the offscouring of all things, they still served Christ. They loved their enemies, blessed those who cursed them, did good to those who hated them and prayed for those who spitefully used them (Matt 5:44). They were not deterred by rejection from the world when it came; nor were they deterred by offenses that came against them from fellow Christians.

They hung on every word of Jesus, both His written Biblical word and His still, small inner word, because of their love for Him and His voice. This produced a radical obedience to Him, a turning away from sin, and an adherence to His loving ways that was a witness to all. They knew His truth and spoke it in love. Many of these new Christians had little to no knowledge of the church doctrines, theology or denominations before coming to Christ. Denominational differences meant little or nothing to them.

They, like the woman in Luke 7, had a full revelation that they were forgiven much therefore they had the capacity to ‘love much’. Many of these new believers, like Saul/Paul after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, became leaders in short periods of time and many apostles rose up among them. Many of them never trained at a traditional Bible school yet were fully prepared by God. I felt the Lord was saying that the hallmark of love meant that the momentum of ‘revival’ remained powerful and was sustained beyond their own generation. They had powerful giftings and ministries but these stemmed from their love walk with Jesus.

As the wave came in, there were people who were already saved – the existing church – who also adopted the ways of mature love and they rolled with the wave and were caught up fully in the glory and momentum of this Holy Spirit move.

However, there were other Christians of various ages and stages of life and / or ministry who did not get carried by the wave – even though many of them had been Christians for many years, they chose not to adopt the ways of mature love. Therefore they were not able to fully embrace the wave. They were still in the water of the ocean but they were floating behind the wave that had passed them by. They were not part of the intense Holy Spirit action that was taking place; they were not leading, not at the forefront.

I felt that some of those who were unwilling to adopt the ways of mature love were even people who had held official leadership positions in churches; some of them were senior church leaders; some of them were people who had been working many miracles, signs and wonders; some of them had ‘power’ ministries but because they didn’t embrace mature love, they weren’t able to join in this wave of God. Their spiritual maturity had been surpassed by the startling maturity of ‘new Christians’ in many cases; their ministries were eclipsed by those who were thriving in agape.

I feel that right now the church is in a season where it is being given opportunities to increasingly walk in mature agape love – love for God, and love for one another – the love that all the Law and the Prophets hangs on (Matt 22:33-40). In these days ‘many will be offended’ (Matt 24:10) because Satan is trying to bring division at this time; yet what the enemy purposed for evil, the Lord is using as an opportunity for good (Genesis 50:20).

As offenses happen in this season – in different forms, to every believer, both offenses from worldly persecution and offenses from other Christians – it’s an opportunity for us who are already walking with Jesus to prepare our hearts for greater growth and maturity in love, to surrender to love in all areas, to receive fresh and deeper revelation that we’re forgiven much, and therefore to love much: to speak the truth in love, to bless even when reviled, to entreat when defamed, to endure when persecuted, to put the operation of agape love above the operation of signs, wonders, miracles, giftings, ministries and titles, and to return to our first love with Jesus; to position ourselves ready for the wave to come.

I felt the Lord was labouring the point that the sole sustaining force of ‘revival’ – the move of God – will be love for Jesus and love for others; no other emphasis will sustain us, the church, in the time that we are now living.

jeremy-bishop-iftBhUFfecE-unsplashPhoto credit: Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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