Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stir up the gifts

Twice in the letters to Timothy, Timothy is told to utilize the spiritual gifts he has been given. In 1 Timothy 4:14 he is told: "Do not neglect the gift that is in you which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice . . ." And in 2 Timothy 1:6 we read, "For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." This becomes a double reminder to me that my choices and my will greatly impact my ability as a Christian leader.

First, I must not neglect the gift that is within me. There are over 25 different spiritual gifts in the New Testament and we do not all have the same package, the same function or the same calling. This is one of the things that makes Christian ministry so very interesting. Some of these gifts are up front and obvious (music, exhortation, teaching, prophecy, and the like would be on this list). Some of these gifts are in the background and less obvious (helps, administration, mercy, come to mind). Regardless of how God has gifted us we must not neglect using what God has put in us for the body of Christ. It is an act of will to stay engaged in what God has called me to do.

Second comes the issue of rekindling. If I have neglected the gift that is within me it is also likely that this particular gift needs to be awakened, re lit, reignited, or stirred up. Sometimes these spiritual gifts are latent within us and, frankly, sometimes they have gone cold from lack of use. It becomes an act of will for me to choose to reengage in the work God has called me to do and to rekindle or stir up the gifts, abilities and talents placed within me.

What are you doing to rekindle? I am committed to spending a half an hour a day, one day a month and one week a year alone and/or with my covenant group keeping the fire lit, and keeping me healthy and engaged. What are you doing to rekindle? I am also taking some "me" time to disengage and go and look at something else for a few weeks. All of these things can help us to not neglect what God has placed inside of us and to "rekindle" it when necessary.

Come Holy Spirit and kindle in me the fire of you love . . .

Dr. BJ

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The big ask

I was reading in 2 Kings 2 this morning and was reminded of the importance of asking. When we want something accomplished we ask, when we need help we ask others to help, when we are dreaming great dreams for God we need to ask for God's help, guidance, influence, favor, etc. We have to ask. The epistle of James says "we have not because we ask not". Jesus says, "ask and you shall receive . . .". Many times in Jesus ministry people with real and obvious needs come up to him and he consistently asks them "what do you want me to do for you?"

In 2 Kings 2 Elijah is about to be taken up into heaven. His anointed successor, Elisha, has been serving him, following him and being mentored by him for several years. Elijah knows his time has come near and tells Elisha to wait for him but Elisha refuses to leave his side. A little while later Elijah tells Elisha to wait in a place while he goes on further but Elisha refuses to leave his side. After the third time this exchange happens Elijah says to Elisha "what do you me to do for you?" And Elisha makes the big ask "I want a double portion of your spirit."

I don't believe Elisha is asking for double as in twice as much what he is asking is "can I have as much spirit as you have?" A "duplicate" portion might be more accurate. Even so this is an amazing thing to ask for. Elisha, has been named Elijah's successor and in this one question he asks for the power, authority and spirit to actually live out that succession. The reason he asks for this is simple, he needs the fullness of the power and presence of God to do what he will need to do -- he will need a double portion to live out the dream and to be faithful.

The big ask can only come when there is a big dream. There is no point to Elisha asking for a double portion if his dream is to sit by the road side or watch the world go by drinking mint juleps on his veranda. But if Elisha's dream, the vision God has placed within him, is to do great and might things for the LORD then he is going to need a full measure of God's spirit and a full replacement value anointing to get it done.

I have not because I ask not. I do not ask because I may not be dreaming big enough dreams.

What do you want?

Dr. BJ

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Self Denial is the Key to Self Fulfillment

Philippians Chapter 2 is often referred to by Bible scholars as the "kenosis" passage. Kenosis is the Greek word meaning to empty and is drawn from Philippians 2 where it says that "Jesus emptied himself, talking the form of a servant . . .". In order for Jesus to be what he was called and sent to be he had to put his privileges aside ("though in the form of God did not count equality with God as something to hold on to"). Jesus set aside the rights and privileges of being the Son of God in order that he might become mortal like us and offer his life for ours.

I wonder how often my sense of rights and entitlements get in the way of living out God's call and claim on my life. I find myself, on occasion, looking at a particular task or encounter with the preservation of my "dignity" or "the dignity of my office" as a primary consideration. In this way of thinking, where I am the center and focus and end product of my own personal universe, I will never submit, never step aside and never "empty myself" and therefore never become the servant leader Jesus calls me to be.

Someone once said that a person can accomplish a lot if they don't care who gets the credit. The Bible reminds us that "Kingdom" values are radically different from the "World's" values. The world values things like power, money, and control. The Kingdom of God values service, stewardship, and surrendering control to God. In the Bible's way of thinking surrender is the key to spiritual victory.

My prayer for the day: Lord, help me be empty of Me and filled with your Holy Spirit. Free me from the tyranny of my own ego and my own sense of importance and help me be free to serve. Amen.

Dr. BJ

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Call to Repentance

I have been pondering the importance of the Biblical practice of repentance over the past week or so. "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand" was the first message from Jesus. Repent and be baptized all of you was the end of the first Christian Sermon (see Acts 2). In our permissive and tolerant society (not all bad, by the way) we have lost sight of the critical spiritual practice of repentance.

Repentance assumes that we have done something wrong. Is it too much to say that there are some things about which we should be ashamed? Is it too much to say that all of us have done things we should not have done and have avoided doing things we should do? Often the result of doing or not doing is guilt, remorse, sorrow. This guilt, remorse or sorrow needs to be dealt with and the spiritual cure is repentance.

Repentance begins by admitting the sin (mistake, error, whatever). The second step of repentance is to choose to turn away from the behavior. I have been in weight watchers for the past 17 months (and have lost nearly 90 pounds) and periodically I have to turn away from old behaviors (the ones that helped me get fat). I have to admit that it is not good for me, it is not right for me and I have to turn away from it. The third step of repentance is to turn toward the better option. Spiritually, this means to turn away from sin and turn toward God.

I am struck with the need for individuals, small groups, ministry teams, churches, denominations and entire peoples periodically need to work through times of repentance. We forget who we are, we forget what we are called to do and we forget where we are going. Repentance is a way God has provided for us to come back to who we are supposed to be.

I invite you, all of you, to make space to admit, turn away, turn toward and begin anew.

God's peace,

Dr. bj