Making God Your Strength and Shield in 2023

Psalm 28:7 is my mantra for 2023. This post breaks it down and reveals how to stay filled with the Spirit and draw on God as your strength and shield.

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7 NLT

Recognize where your help comes from

In today’s uncertain climate, it’s easy to feel bombarded with negativity, strife, and conflict—whether it comes from the greater world scene, national politics, or closer to home in your personal life. Where can you turn to for protection and help?

1bWhere does my help come from?
2My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot stumble.
He who watches over you will not slumber.

Psalm 121:1b–3 EHV

Our help comes from the Creator of the universe—Christ Jesus the Lord, who sits on the throne, interceding for us. “So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved grace, and we will find help” (Heb. 4:16 CEV).

The Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to be our Helper (John 14:16–17). Have you been filled with the Spirit? If not, ask Jesus to fill you (see Luke 11:13).

The Lord is your strength

Psalm 18:32 says, “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure” (NIV). Call on God to equip you with strength for your journey—wherever the Spirit leads in 2023.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Ps. 29:11 NIV). Ask for not only strength, but peace. Be a peacemaker in the new year, and reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18 NIV).

Jesus said many times, “Fear not.” Come what may, remember that Christ is always with you and will never, under any circumstances, leave you (Heb. 13:5). “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10 NIV). That right hand will keep you from faltering.

Be joyful, for “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10c NIV). More about this in a moment…

Even if you feel weak and frail, tell yourself you’re strong: “Let the weak say, I am strong” (Joel 3:10).

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:10–11 NIV

The Lord is your shield

The full armor of God includes the shield of faith. But, when the enemy lets his arrows fly, you must use it. “Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:6 NIV).

Remember, you have an inheritance:

4bThis inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

1 Peter 1:4b–6 NIV

Always remain in God’s love by praying in tongues:

20But you, dear friends, continue to build yourselves up in your most holy faith as you keep praying in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you continue to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which results in eternal life.

Jude 20–21 EHV

Trust in the Lord

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5–6 NIV

Partial trust is untrustworthy. Trust God with every fiber of your being. Call upon the Lord and recognize His influence in every area of your life. Doing so enables God to chart your future through 2023 and beyond.

6Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
7They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
8Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Psalm 112:6–8 NIV

“‘No weapon that has been made to be used against you will succeed. You will have an answer for anyone who accuses you. This is the inheritance of the Lord’s servants. Their victory comes from me,’ declares the Lord” (Isa. 54:17 GW).

Rejoice in the Lord

The joy of the Lord is your strength. But how can you be joyful in troubled times? By exercising your will to be thankful and happy for your blessings.

Be gentle in all your dealings with others who may also be struggling. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Php. 4:4–5 NIV).

The fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). Continually sowing to the Spirit will ensure a continual harvest of spiritual good: “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8 NIV).

Singing songs of praise is a good way to stay happy in the Lord.

18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:18–20 NIV

Look up

When the going gets rough, it’s easy to become downcast. But Jesus said that, as tumultuous events of the end days begin to play out, “‘…stand up and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is approaching‘” (Luke 21:28 ISV).

When Stephen testified about the Messiah, “[he], full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55 NIV).

Keeping yourself full of the Holy Spirit by looking up to Jesus and His victorious position enables you to see God’s glory. “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Now he holds the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the heavenly throne” (Heb. 12:2 GW).

Look up for that joy which is your strength. Rejoice in the Lord in every situation. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. God will shield you and lead you to deliverance.

But you, O Lord, are a shield for me. You are my glory and the one who lifts up my head.

Psalm 3:3 EHV

Remember that God wants to bless you. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jer. 29:11 NIV).

May God bless you richly as you bless others in 2023!

Look Ahead

Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.

Proverbs 4:25 NIV

Many cannot see God’s plan for their lives because they are always looking backwards, thinking about the past. The past deals with what has been done, right or wrong. It lies in the unchangeable realm of memories.

Looking AheadYou can’t make progress in God’s plan if you are memory-centered, whether those memories are positive or negative.

Becoming memory-centered can be triggered by some event in your life, something that reminds you of an unfortunate incident or some mistake you’ve made in the past. “I wouldn’t be in this situation today if I had only finished college when I was young… if only my spouse hadn’t divorced me… if only I had stopped drinking sooner…”

Progress towards fulfilling God’s plan for your life slows to a halt when you take your eyes off what lies ahead and you stop to relive painful memories. Unforgiveness can stunt your growth. Hurts and resentments can keep you focused on yesterday, building and reinforcing the prison they hold you in.

Even fond memories may keep us from moving forward in God’s plan for our lives. When we focus on the good old days, or the way things used to be, we have still taken our eyes off the path before us. This type of nostalgia is often prompted by a disappointment with present circumstances, or fear of the future.

Paul said, “I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Php 3:13 NLT). Are you focusing all your energies on forgetting the past and looking forward to what God has for you?

You can’t be Kingdom-centered if you are memory-centered. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62 NIV). You can’t plow a straight row unless you keep your eyes locked ahead of you. No matter how fondly you remember it, you will never reap another harvest from cornstalks that have already grown, ripened and been picked.

Sure, it’s easier to look back on what’s already been constructed—even if it was regrettably built incorrectly. What’s been done is more real, more tangible, more concrete than blueprints on the table.

Someone once asked the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright at the age of 83 what he thought his greatest architectural masterpiece was. Mr. Wright replied, “My next one.”

You can’t change the past, only your future. God’s plan for you always lies in the future, and it begins today. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11 NIV).

If you can correct the mistakes of the past, do so quickly to the best of your ability. If you’re harboring bitterness and resentment, let them go. Draw on Christ’s power to forgive. Then forget the past—good or bad—and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:14 NIV). God is waiting for you there.

Jesus said, “Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. [And there is nothing buried that will not be raised.]”

Gospel of Thomas, verse 5
(Patterson and Meyer translation)

The Great Delusion

We are living in unprecedented times. Here in the U.S., a violent insurrection rocked the nation’s capital on January 6 during a protest where Trump supporters included Evangelicals and other religious fanatics waving “Jesus Saves” and “Jesus 2020” banners.

Although not everyone at the mall participated in the riot, a mass of people seeking to overturn Trump’s election defeat caused chaos on the Hill and forced their way into the Capitol building, proceeding to invade offices, deface and steal things, fight with police, and smear feces throughout the building.

Some rioters were Christians

Taking part in the riot were those who call themselves Christians. Even after the day’s events, Evangelicals are still expressing support for the attack that left five dead and many injured: “‘No regrets’: Evangelicals and other faith leaders still support Trump after deadly US Capitol attack.”

Many on the Right have falsely promoted that the rioters and infiltrators were Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters dressed as Trump supporters. This has been debunked in several publications:

How is it that Christians, who should be champions of the truth, have fallen prey to lies and misinformation?

President Trump and his GOP supporters have repeatedly lied about election results, claiming that fraud was rampant. After over sixty lawsuits were filed and dismissed as having no basis—some by conservative judges—they persist in spreading false information.

Do they really believe the election was “stolen”?

Some do not, but others do. And these are, frighteningly, our lawmakers.

The Big Lie

Timothy Snyder (@TimothyDSnyder), Levin Professor of History at Yale, and author of On Tyranny (2017), posted a ten-tweet thread that explains the process I believe Hitler used to commit his atrocities less than a century ago:

  1. The claim that Trump won the election is a Big Lie.
  2. A Big Lie changes reality. To believe it, people must disbelieve their senses, distrust their fellow citizens, and live in a world of faith.
  3. A Big Lie demands conspiracy thinking, since all who doubt it are seen as traitors.
  4. A Big Lie undoes a society, since it divides citizens into believers and unbelievers.
  5. A Big Lie destroys democracy, since people who are convinced that nothing is true but the utterances of their leader ignore voting and its results.
  6. A Big Lie must bring violence, as it has.
  7. A Big Lie can never be told just by one person. Trump is the originator of this Big Lie, but it could never have flourished without his allies on Capitol Hill.
  8. Political futures now depend on this Big Lie. Senators Hawley and Cruz are running for president on the basis of this Big Lie.
  9. There is a cure for the Big Lie. Our elected representatives should tell the truth, without dissimulation, about the results of the 2020 election.
  10. Politicians who do not tell the simple truth perpetuate the Big Lie, further an alternative reality, support conspiracy theories, weaken democracy, and foment violence far worse than that of January 6, 2021.

Having been led through this process over the past four years, Trump’s supporters, including Christians, have been not only misled but brainwashed—by one who claims to share their beliefs but whose actions betray that he doesn’t.

How hard it is to get people to believe or even consider views that counter their own. They’ve been conditioned against examining facts, making it nigh impossible to penetrate their shell of misinformation. Trump has groomed too many of this nation’s citizens to accept, believe, support, and defend lies and falsehood—even to the point of violence.

This delusion will persist for years to come. And it may lead to more violence on Inauguration Day.

God sends a powerful delusion

The Apostle Paul wrote about the Big Lie:

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason GOD sends them a POWERFUL DELUSION so that they will BELIEVE THE LIE and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
–2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 NIV

Long ago, Jeremiah spoke for the Lord, saying, “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and MY PEOPLE love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:31 NIV)

False prophecy

Televangelist Pat Robertson “prophesied” last October that “without question, Trump is going to win the election.”

Yet, Trump not only lost the election but has now become the first president to be impeached twice.

21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
–Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NIV

Come January 21, will we cease to hear from Trump? Not by a long shot.

Despite his being de-platformed on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites, Trump is not one to keep quiet. And his loyal followers, including Christians, will continue to believe what he says.

Idol worship causes blindness

In a recent Facebook post, progressive Christian author, pastor, and activist, Brandan Robertson says:

Evangelicals created the “Left Behind” series, which states that in the end times the antichrist will rise up and deceive masses of Christians, claim to be the Messiah, and ultimately lead the world towards destruction.

And here we are. It very much seems like those novels were at least marginally right. The problem is… they can’t see that they are the deceived ones though it is so obvious to everyone else.

As Jesus said: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39

Brandan Robertson

Two verses later, Jesus told the Pharisees, who claimed they were seeing clearly, “‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you CLAIM you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41 NIV).

What has caused this impenetrable blindness?

Trump worship.

This is exemplified by Miriam Adelson, Israeli-American physician and wife of the recently deceased Sheldon Adelson, billionaire donor to Republicans, who said she wanted a “Book of Trump” added to the Bible (July 10, 2019, USA Today).

Paul warned about the results of idolatry and its consequences:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness… 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…
–Romans 1:18,22–23,25 NIV

How are those who see through the lies and resist misinformation to deal with those who are given over to deception? If God has sent them a powerful delusion, is there any use in praying for them? His will is already done.

Separatism is biblical

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses the matters of schism and separatism. In chapter 3 he upbraids the flock for their immature preferences for certain Christian leaders, a carnal division that he condemned.

1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
–1 Corinthians 3:1–4 NIV

Worldliness is saying, “I follow Trump.” Or any other political or religious leader for that matter.

Over this issue, Paul urged the Corinthians to come to maturity and agreement (see 1:10–12). Yet later, concerning propriety in observing the Lord’s supper, Paul admitted that division was necessary for true believers to separate themselves from those who followed a wrong practice:

18 …I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have GOD’S APPROVAL.
–1 Corinthians 11:17–19 NIV

Today’s English Version phrases verse 19: “No doubt there must be divisions among you so that the ones who are in the right may be clearly seen.”

Paul did not praise them for dividing but acknowledged there was a valid reason for it. Separation is sometimes necessary for those who would follow God and live their life with integrity, free from deception. (From my book Outside the Camp.)

What stirred the mob to invade the Capitol with murder on their minds?

Robert P. Jones states, “This seditious mob was motivated not just by loyalty to Trump, but by an unholy amalgamation of white supremacy and Christianity that has plagued our nation since its inception and is still with us today.” (Taking the white Christian nationalist symbols at the Capitol riot seriously.)

However, the final book of the Bible assures us that there will be “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9 NIV). Bowing before the Throne will be those of all genders and orientations.

What must we realize about liars and those who are willfully deceived?

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
–1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

Their consciences are seared—they have become impervious—and they’ve been given over to fictions like QAnon and a host of other conspiracy theories championed by the Right-wing media and disseminated from pulpits. Another gospel is a false gospel (Gal. 1:6).

16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore, Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
–2 Corinthians 6:16-17 NIV

We must not pursue unity with those who side with a dangerous leader that promotes White supremacy through demagoguery, lies, and the incitement of violent insurrection. They have idolized the lawless one, believed his deceits instead of loving the truth, swallowed a powerful delusion sent by none other than God, claimed to be wise but suppressed the truth, and loved to have it so.

Some of these people are neighbors, coworkers, friends, relatives, and members of our own households. We may not be able to shun them completely, but we can distance ourselves from their rhetoric. There is no use engaging or arguing with anyone who has “renounced the use of reason” (Thomas Paine).

We must “come out from them and be separate.” We must stand up for the truth in non-combative ways and lead by example in our thinking, speech, and actions. Then we will remain clean and walk with God.

“16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
—Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV

God bless and keep you in God’s love and truth.

More Scriptures about lies

Note: To evaluate Trump’s statements made over the past four years, visit Washington Post’s Fact Checker database.

“Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!” —Prov. 17:7 NIV

“A lying tongue hates those it hurts…” —Prov. 26:28 NIV

“Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” —Ps. 31:18 NIV

“Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.” —Ps. 120:2 NIV

“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” —Prov. 12:19 NIV

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” —Prov. 12:22 NIV

“‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?”’” —Jer. 8:8 NIV

“How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?” —Jer. 23:26 NIV

“‘“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord.”’” —Ezek. 13:8 NIV

“By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live.” —Ezek. 13:19b NIV

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” —John 8:44 NIV

“‘But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’” —Rev. 21:8 NIV

Using Spiritual Gifts, part 6

Spiritual Gifts

Let all things be done

Let all things be done decently and in order.
–1 Corinthians 14:40 KJV

We are concerned that our church services be conducted “decently and in order.” But we can be so concerned about what we think is proper that we quench the Spirit.

Yes, we want decency and order, but above all, “let all things be DONE!”

1 Thessalonians 5:20 forbids us from despising manifestations of Holy Spirit.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus presses the point that we’re to use the gifts of grace He’s given us to build His kingdom until He returns. Those who obey in faith will be rewarded.

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
–Hebrews 5:14 NIV

Concerning operating in the gifts of Holy Spirit, spiritually mature saints will learn to distinguish good from evil, what’s of God and what’s not—not by standing back and refusing to participate. Instead, they will train THEMSELVES through constant USE and PRACTICE.

“As John Wimber put it, spiritual gifts are tools. They are not toys. You need to practice using them, and you will not be an expert on your first try.” (James W. Goll, Releasing Spiritual Gifts Today, p. 20.)

Therefore, we must earnestly desire to be used in the gifts of the Spirit, step out in faith to manifest them, and consistently practice them to edify the Body of Christ. This is how we prepare ourselves and the Church for Christ’s return.

Using Spiritual Gifts, part 5

Spiritual Gifts

Use them or lose them

In Matthew 25:14–30, Jesus tells a parable about a master who entrusted sums of money to three servants to put to work while he was gone away. One who was given five talents earned five more. Another given two earned two more. The servant given one buried it in the ground.

The master returned and rewarded the faithful servants but scolded the lazy servant.

The context of this passage is the return of Christ. Jesus has gone away, but entrusted to us His Holy Spirit and His gifts. What will we do with them? Will we—of our own desire and sense of responsibility and stewardship—use them to build His kingdom? Or will we bury them deep within our earthen vessel?

Those who took the risk and, in faith, developed what they had, not only increased their abilities, but were rewarded with more by the Master.

But the one who neglected his gift and did not “lively and intensely set himself on fire” (2 Tim. 1:6) to use what he’d been given, was called “wicked and lazy.” What he was given was taken away from him and given to someone who would actually do something with it.

Romans 11:29 says “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (NIV). Potentially, we always have the ability to move in the gifts. But if we don’t seek, develop, practice, and use them, we will lose the practical ability to manifest them when the Spirit moves on us.

God is serious about us taking the responsibility to use the gifts He’s given to us through Holy Spirit. We must “use ’em or lose ’em.” If we really want to please God, then we must learn how to move in the Spirit and manifest the gifts. It’s OUR responsibility.

Next time, we’ll conclude our study with a final exhortation.

Using Spiritual Gifts, part 4

Spiritual Gifts

We must stir ourselves up

Some believers have waited years for God to move on them to manifest a spiritual gift. But God says it’s our responsibility to first desire and believe and step out in faith to manifest the Spirit.

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
–1 Timothy 4:14 NKJV

Paul reminded Timothy that a spiritual gift had been imparted to him when some elders had laid their hands on him and prophesied. The prophetic message revealed God’s intent to impart a particular spiritual gift to Timothy, and it was transferred by the power of Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.

In Romans 1:11, Paul wrote, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.”

Spiritual gifts may be imparted by the laying on of hands at the direction of Holy Spirit. The word impart means “to share or give over.” Impartation must be directed by God.

Paul reminded Timothy, then, not to be careless of, make light of, neglect, be negligent to use, or disregard this spiritual gift. It was Timothy’s responsibility to use his gifts.

We can have gifts that are lying dormant and unused if we neglect to do what it takes to use them.

Therefore I remind YOU to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
–2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV

Again, Paul reminded Timothy, “YOU must stir yourself up to use your spiritual gifts.” It was not God’s responsibility to rekindle his zeal for manifesting the Holy Spirit, it was Timothy’s.

Stir is the word anazopureo, meaning “to rekindle or stir up.” It comes from a combination of three words: one meaning “intensely,” one meaning “a live thing such as an animal or beast,” and another, meaning “fiery, fire, or lightning.” This is not a calm word!

Paul was insisting that Timothy “lively and intensely set yourself on fire to use your spiritual gifts!” I get the image of kids vigorously scrubbing their feet across the carpet to build up an electrical charge so they can really shock someone.

God said, “YOU do it!” We’re responsible to step out in faith, accept some risk, and use what God has given us.

How do you stir yourself up?

Paul wrote, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant” (1 Cor. 12:1 NKJV). You must not only understand spiritual gifts, but you must also be convinced it’s God’s will for you to move in them. This should be clear by now.

Besides tongues for personal edification, God may impart to you any of the nine gifts of the Spirit from 1 Corinthians 12:7–10. (God could give you any of them at any time to use in a ministry setting.)

We must also realize that we’re not perfect. We will make mistakes. But God doesn’t condemn us for trying to learn.

However, God will not accept us burying our gifts because we’re afraid we might make a mistake. So we remain humble, and give grace to others who make mistakes with the gifts.

And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith.
–Romans 12:6 NASB

Remember: gifts are given by God’s grace. We didn’t earn them. Whatever gifts we have, we are commanded to exercise them, to use them. How? By faith. The more we use them, the better we’ll get, and our faith will grow to use them even more.

You can also stir up the gifts by speaking in tongues. LOUDLY!

20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
–Jude 20–21 NIV

You build your faith by praying in tongues. Note in verse 21 that praying in the Spirit is also a way to keep yourself “in God’s love.” How are we to use the gifts? In love (see 1 Cor. 13).

Note also this verse has to do with expecting the Lord’s return. Jesus gave the Holy Spirit and His gifts to build up the Church to prepare it for His return.

Next time, we’ll learn that gifts are ours to use or lose.

Using Spiritual Gifts, part 3

Spiritual Gifts

We must earnestly desire spiritual gifts

A pious pastor once told me, “Seek the Giver, not the gifts.” There’s truth in that, but what does the Bible say?

But earnestly desire the best gifts. …
–1 Corinthians 12:31a NKJV

What are the “best gifts”? Those that build up the Church—individually and corporately.

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
–1 Corinthians 14:1 NIV

Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
–1 Corinthians 14:39 NASB

Why is prophecy so important? Because it’s immediately understood. Paul said, “in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

Paul was not criticizing messages in tongues, rather messages in tongues with no interpretation.

What good is the manifestation of a spiritual gift if no one understands what God is saying? Because prophecy is immediately understood since it’s in your native language, it will edify. Tongues with interpretation is the equivalent of prophecy.

In all these verses, the King James versions says, “covet earnestly.” That word covet in Greek is zeloo, meaning “to have warmth of feeling for, covet earnestly, desire, envy, be jealous over, be zealous for.”

God’s Word commands us to be zealous and envious to move in the gifts of the Spirit. Jesus said,

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
–Mark 11:24 KJV

Jesus said that whatever we desire, crave for, beg for… to not only ask God for it, but to believe and trust Him to the point that you can reach right out and take it. Then, He said, you’ll have it—it will come to pass.

That’s what we’re to do about spiritual gifts. We have what we need—the Holy Spirit—but we must covet the ability to step out and use that which He’s freely
given us.

Next installment, we’ll learn how to stir ourselves up.

Using Spiritual Gifts, part 2

Spiritual Gifts

All divine gifts in context

3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
–1 Corinthians 12:3–6 NKJV

What are we to look for when we consider spiritual gifts? Verse 3 tells us we’re to expect the exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord.

In verses 4–6, each member of the Trinity is mentioned:

Holy Spirit Giftscharisma Manifestations
Lord Jesus Christ Ministriesdiakonia Administrations
God the Father Activitiesenergema Operations

There are three categories of gifts:

  • Some gifts are credited to Holy Spirit.
  • Some ministries are attributed to Jesus.
  • Some operations are credited to the Father.

There are three lists of gifts in the Bible—each attributed to one person of the Trinity.

Gifts of the Father

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 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;
7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
8 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 12:3–8 NIV

These are the natural gifts—the motivational or working gifts.

God as Creator has graced every human made in God’s image with a capacity to serve humankind. These gifts are given to everyone, whether Christians or not, although they are sanctified through union with Christ. You could also consider them natural personality types:

  • Prophecy—visionary pioneers
  • Serving others practically
  • Teachers, educators
  • Encouraging, exhorting
  • Giving, philanthropy
  • Leading, organizing, administration
  • Mercy and compassion

Gifts of Christ Jesus

7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
8 Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.” …
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
–Ephesians 4:7–8,11–13 NRSV

Christ Jesus gave gifts to the Church in the form of ministries:

Ministry Gift Function
Apostles Establish new territory for Christ
Prophets Hear and see what God is doing and where He’s leading
Evangelists Reach out to the lost to present Christ crucified
Pastors Care for the sheep of God’s pasture
Teachers Ground us in the Scriptures and doctrine of God

We have these ministry gifts until the Church attains unity and maturity. Since we have not attained the full stature of Christ, we still need all of these ministers.

  • These are gifts of Christ—the Head building the Body.
  • Fivefold ministers equip the saints for the work of the ministry. They have a training capacity, a call to reproduce themselves and their ministries in believers.

Gifts of Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:7–11 list the nine manifestations of the Holy Spirit:

  • Word of wisdom
  • Word of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Gifts of healings
  • Working of miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Discerning of spirits
  • Gift of tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues

In this series, we will focus on using these manifestations of the Holy Spirit in corporate worship meetings.

Three Types of Gifts

Churches can be built on the Father’s natural gifts, but these organizations will be primarily social institutions.

We need Jesus’ ministry gifts to turn the institution into a body.

We need to be filled with Holy Spirit and manifest the Spirit’s gifts to build up that Body to maturity.

The Father’s gifts are irrevocable—they are intrinsic to who you are.

Jesus’ gifts are also irrevocable, but they are given to only a few. These individuals can grow in them and add more as they prove faithful. Paul was a prophet or teacher in Acts 13:1, but later in his letters he said he was “called to be an apostle.”

The Holy Spirit’s gifts are manifestations distributed to anyone when the Spirit wills. The Spirit can give or withhold them. Yet, if you are faithful in exercising a gift that the Holy Spirit manifests through you, you can develop a gift into a ministry.

Next issue, we’ll learn about God’s command concerning spiritual gifts.

Using Spiritual Gifts, part 1

Spiritual Gifts

If you’re born anew and baptized in Holy Spirit, you have what you need to move in the gifts.

But ministering spiritual gifts is not optional. God commands us to “earnestly desire” spiritual gifts and to stir ourselves up to use them. That’s what this series is about.

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts
–1 Corinthians 14:1 NIV

You can be equipped

1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples
2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” …
6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
–Acts 19:1–2,6 NIV

As soon as the Ephesians received the Holy Spirit, they could speak in tongues for personal edification and prophesy. They demonstrated vocal evidence.

You also have received this ability, whether or not you have released it or know how to release it.

2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with ALL those EVERYWHERE who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: …
5 For in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— …
7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
–1 Corinthians 1:2,5,7 NIV

The Corinthian believers lacked no spiritual gifts. This goes for you too—”all those everywhere.”

If you’ve been saved and baptized in Holy Spirit, you have what you need to move in the gifts.

Next time, we’ll look at all the divine gifts in their biblical context.

Hearing God’s Voice, part 5

Hearing God's Voice

How do we know it’s God speaking?

First of all, by faith. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to My voice.” That means He will speak to us.

Here is a test to measure what you hear:

  1. Does it honor the lordship of Jesus in your life?

    Does it bring glory to Jesus? (Or does it not dishonor Jesus?) John 16:14.

  2. Does it align with the Scriptures?

    Is it Scripture (quoted exactly or paraphrased)? Does it agree with scriptural principles?

  3. Does it promote the fruit of the Spirit? Gal. 5:22-23.

    Is it characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Does it encourage you to be more like Jesus?

  4. Is it encouraging and comforting? 1 Cor. 14:3

How often should we listen for God’s voice?

A convenient time to listen and journal what you hear God speaking is during your prayer time or quiet time.

But [Jesus] answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
–Matthew 4:4 NKJV

That’s the spoken word.

Matthew 6:11 NKJV: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Job 23:12b NIV: “…I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”

Hebrews 4:7b NKJV: “… ‘Today, if you will hear His voice’…”

What do we do with what we hear?

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.’ ”
–Jeremiah 30:2 NIV

Get a notebook. Write the date, the time, and any circumstances surrounding your listening time. Then listen and write what the Lord says.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
–James 1:22 NIV

Do not be hasty and run ahead of the Lord. But be willing to obey and be changed by what He tells you.

Don’t expect everyone else to fall in line because you heard God. God confirms His will through the mouths of many witnesses. His word is primarily for you.

What are the benefits of hearing and heeding God’s voice?

Proverbs 8:34 NIV: “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.”

John 3:29 NIV: “‘The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. …’ ”

Proverbs 1:33 NKJV: “‘But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil.’ ”

Psalm 81:13–14 NIV: 13 “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, 14 how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!”

I pray that you’ve been blessed by this series and that you cultivate and continue to hear the voice of the Lord for yourself. God bless you.

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