Growth by Community

I’m starting a journey through Romans today.

Romans 1:11-12

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—
12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

In this passage, Paul says that (in the NKJV translation) that he wants to “… impart to you some spiritual gift…”  I’ve struggled with this passage before.  This got me wondering: 1. Can an individual impart a spiritual gift (1 Cor 12:11)?, and 2. If so, how does one do that?  As I began to research this verse I came across a really interesting bit from A Survey of Bible doctrine by Charles Ryrie:

“Too, we can develop our gifts by benefiting from the ministry of others (see Ro 1:11 where Paul is not saying that he could bestow gifts but that he could through his ministry impart the benefit of his spiritual gifts to others). This should be a never ending cycle—gifted people ministering to others who are thereby built up and who in turn minister to others who are then built up to minister to others, etc. This is the way the body of Christ grows quantitatively and qualitatively.”

Ryries’s take on the word “impart,” really helped me personally.  And his last sentance got me focused on verse 12 where Paul talks about the importance of community.

“…that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”

Now this, I get.  This is the very reason I’m engaged in daily accountability with a group of faithful men…. that we can be encouraged together by our mutual faith.  This is why Prov 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man shapens another.

So what’s the take away today?   I cannot do this life by myself.  I need community. One of the great lies of the enemy is that somehow, manhood is defined by being the Lone Ranger, or John Wayne, the “strong, silent type.”  No. No! NO!  That is not what God intended.  That’s why God created Eve, because it was not good for Adam to be alone…

Thank you Lord for my community… for those You’ve placed in my life and in my path.  Help me to always be grateful for them and for the work you do in me through them.  May I never take You or them for granted.  Amen.

Orienteering – Map and Compass

So how do we discern those words we hear to be truth (from God) or lies (from the enemy)?

A few weeks ago I took my son on one of his favorite Cub Scout events. It’s called Cub-O. It’s an all-day outdoor, orienteering event where the Cub Scouts learn to read and follow maps with a compass to various “flags” all over the Scout Camp. Each “flag” is worth a some point level (5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40) and the object is to get as many points as you can in the 2-hour competition window.

As I said, this is on of my son’s favorite events and this was our third or fourth year to go. However, on this particular event, Papa dropped a little manna my way and I’ve been chewing on it for a few weeks, letting it marinade and watching as Daddy gave me a small piece of the puzzle, a little at a time. It wasn’t until 2 weeks later that I had, what I thought was a semi-complete thought pattern / and spiritual lesson. Saying that, know this is a work in progress. We will see how Papa adds to it as time goes on. I was able to give this as a devotional to a group of close friends and was encouraged to share it on my blog… so here goes.

Let’s start with some definitions:

MAP – Webster defines a map as a “…representation of a flat surface” … it is also defined as “… to plan in detail.” These are both very good and pertinent definitions. Basically the Map at Cub-O was a representation of Sid Richardson Scout Camp at Lake Bridgeport. It showed elevation changes, trees, valleys, rivers, power lines, clear paths, obstacles, etc. Maps are drawn in relation to a fixed point – in this case Magnetic North. So there are magnetic north lines that run all the way the length of the map, for references. A map will also, if you know how to read it, tell you where you are, where you want to be, how to get there and what you might encounter (good and bad) along the way – depending on the route you take.

COMPASS Webster defines a compass as “… an instrument that indicates direction.” The compass, when used correctly, marks the direction we are to take to get to the destination we are seeking. The compass is used to help up get from where we are to ANYWERE on the map.

ORIENT – Webster defines orient (by the way, this is a verb) as “… to set or arrange in any determinant position, especially in relation to the points of a compass” and also as “… to set right by adjusting to facts and principles.” To orient oneself is to adjust the direction by which I am heading based on my compass reading.

OK. So, in case you don’t know how this works in real-life, let me briefly describe what they teach the boys at Cub-O.

  1. Open the MAP where you can read it.
  2. Identify where you are – this is not always as easy as it seems. There are no “YOU ARE HERE” dots like at the mall or the zoo! This is done by looking at the surroundings around you and finding those same things on the map.
  3. Locate your destination, at Cub-O it’s the next “flag” on your plan.
  4. ORIENT the COMPASS to the MAP. This is done by aligning the magnetic north lines of the MAP with the “guide” lines in the COMPASS dial. This makes sure that your map and compass are aligned properly and that the “north” point of the compass point is pointing north.
  5. Once you’ve ORIENTED the compass to the map, then you ORIENT your body with the COMPASS. This means you hold the COMPASS flat and keep the “north” point of the dial in the “north” marking (on my compass it’s the red side of the dial in the red markings).
  6. Walk in the direction of the arrows on the compass. As long as you keep the COMPASS aligned, you will walk in a straight line to your next destination.
  7. Continually monitor your surroundings, the obstacles, the trees, the grassy parts, the elevations changes so that you can see you are or are not on track.

Hopefully that’s clear as mud, but the spiritual application is much easier to see…

The MAP

Let’s start with the MAP. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the WORD of God… the Bible… the WRITTEN WORD (Logos) of God? Isn’t God’s word written in relation to a “fixed point” i.e. Jesus? Doesn’t the Bible tell you where you are, where you want to be, how to get there and what kind of obstacles or blessings you may encounter along the way – depending on the choices you make? Isn’t the Word of God what we use “… to plan in detail” what God is calling us to be?

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:7-8, NIV)

“”I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. “Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,” (1 Kings 2:2-3, NASB95)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

These passages reference the WRITTEN word of God, the MAP, per se. What is the result? “Then you will be prosperous and successful” and “…that you may succeed in all you do and wherever you turn.

The COMPASS

Now, let’s turn to the COMPASS. This was one of the missing “pieces of the puzzle” as God began to reveal this word in me. As I sought His wisdom and what he was saying, He showed me that the compass, in spiritual context, is the SPOKEN WORD.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11, NASB95)

The Hebrew word for “word” in verse 11 is dabar and means 1. statement, what is said, word, saying, message, communication.2. speaking,

If the compass is the spoken word, then where are those spoken words coming from? Jesus tells us where all spoken words come from.

Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.” (John 8:43-47, NLT)

If, according to our definition, a compass is “… an instrument that indicates direction,” then those spoken words (either by a person, or the thoughts within our head) are one of two things. According to Jesus, all spoken words are either TRUTH or LIES.

So how do we discern those words we hear to be truth (from God) or lies (from the enemy)?

ORIENT The Map

Reviewing our definition of ORIENT is to “… to set right by adjusting to facts and principles.” Can we agree that “facts & principles” represent TRUTH?

This is where it gets really interesting, because 2 Cor 10:1-6 tells me that it’s not at all easy out there.

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.(2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message)

This is a powerful verse! Not only does it say that we could have two conflicting points of reference / direction, but it also tells us exactly what the final destination is! “…building lives of obedience into maturity.”

So the first step we take is to orient the SPOKEN WORD (COMPASS) to the WRITTEN WORD (MAP) – sound familiar? – Does the word I am hearing align with the truth of the Scripture? This is critical because if it doesn’t, then we’ll be working with a broken compass and heading in EXACTLY OPPOSITE of where we want to go. This is why Paul said in 2 Corinthians that we are to be “… taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Cor 10:5-6 NASB) because Jesus said there is an enemy whose sole purpose is to “…kill, steal, and destroy…”
(John 10:10) all that God has laid up for us. So we first “…set right by adjusting to facts and principles” the spoken word against the written word (the truth).

ORIENT Your Self

Now that I’ve taken every word (thought) captive to determine it’s truth, now comes the really hard part! The second part of orienteering is to orient my self (my body) to that spoken word, to that truth that will lead me into maturity. What does that look like? James has a idea….

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)

Persevere… Embrace trails with joy… OUCH!

I want to review a verse we mentioned earlier….

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11, NASB95)

I was really bothered by the last half (all of verse 11) and I asked the Lord “what does that mean?” Here was his reply ( I have to thank my friend Michael for helping me decipher the word spoken to me (he helped me orient the compass to the map!)

Bryan, Although I can be, I’m not always going to be the loudest voice in the room. I’m not going to speak intimate and personal things into you until you are in a position to receive them and hear me. (I have to orient myself to the compass) I have said in my Word, my spoken word will not return void, so if you are not listening, then I cannot speak into you. I do not change and I cannot go against my written word. When you are aligned and in a position to hear me, then I will speak those truths that move you into a life of obedience into maturity. Because My word cannot return void and cannot return without accomplishing what I desire, then I have to know you are going to hear and receive My word.”

Can I just say WOW! That has put a whole new perspective on my time with Him.

Daddy, I am awed by YOU! I cannot ever get over how much you pursue and how much you love me. To know that you are always watching, waiting to see when I am going to be in a position to hear you and receive Your words of life. I am overwhelmed with your goodness and your continual mercy towards me. Help me Father to listen intently. Help me to align those words I hear with the truth of the Scripture and then align myself with your truth. Help me keep my account short with you so that nothing hinders my communication and relationship with you. Draw me close to you because you’ve promised in your Word that if I draw near to You, you will draw near to me. Meet me in the daylight and meet me after sundown. Thank you for loving me enough to speak into me and to know my every thought, need, want and desire. I submit my self to you and your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Running After Papa…