Do you have the sense that something is changing?
It’s the sense that God is moving his people into intensified desire to see his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
... And the increasing awareness of the role he has given us in that.
... And that the only way to cooperate with him in that and see fruitfulness is by his Spirit and his power.
For the kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
Because of that, I’ve never spent more time than I have during the past year meditating on, praying about, and reading testimonies and books about how God empowers his people to cooperate with his kingdom work.
You might have seen this photo on Instagram recently, of me holding up a copy of Gift and Giver by Craig S. Keener, with the comment that I’d likely be talking about it in my next email. And I am! Below you’ll find 10 highlights from the book.
But before we deep dive into those, there are a few other things I want to share with you.
I Thank God for the Life of Francis MacNutt
Just one year ago, I came to the writings of Francis MacNutt (April 22, 1925 – January 12, 2020), books which arose from his decades in effective Christian healing ministry.
In my upcoming book, Faith with Wings, I plan to share a story of how powerfully God used MacNutt’s writing in my life to free and strengthen me in some areas where God knew I needed to be free and strong.
I want that freedom and strength for you, too.
In this brief tribute, I Thank God for the Life and Work of Francis MacNutt, I share comments on some of MacNutt’s books (and links to blog posts I’ve written about them). I hope you’ll check them out.
Want to be Part of the Launch Team for My Upcoming Book?
If you have an interest in being part of the launch team for my upcoming book, Faith with Wings, please reply to this email to let me know.
In the next few weeks, I’ll send a separate email to those people who indicate interest, letting you know the various ways available to help, and then you can decide if you want to commit.
Faith with Grit Testimony
I received a message this week from a reader, letting me know they had come to my book Faith with Grit through a friend, and how God had really helped them through their reading of it.
God, thank you. Please heal many more people in any and every way you want to work, because we need it, God. We need you to pour out your healing on us. Thank you for what you have already done. Please do it in many, many more people, and empower us to cooperate with your work in any and every way you have designed and called us to. Amen.
If you’d like to send a gift copy of Faith with Grit to a friend, Amazon makes it easy to have a gift sent directly:
- To give a paperback: Go to the Faith with Grit paperback book page, click “Add to Cart,” then click the “This is a Gift” box, then click “Proceed to Checkout.”
- To give an ebook: Go to the Faith with Grit Kindle edition book page and choose the “Buy for Others” option. (Kindle edition books can be read on any device or computer; the recipient does not need to have a Kindle.)
Recommended Book: Gift & Giver by Craig S. Keener
What a good book. I really appreciate Craig S. Keener’s focus on the Bible, his scholarship, his humility, and his conversational writing style.
I flagged so many pages of Gift & Giver as I read it, that by the time I finished reading, it looked like a sticky-note farm had been planted in the pages. Here are just 10 highlights.
- Persistently Praying for the Spirit’s Work – Jesus’s teaching his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come was part of, and crowned by, a teaching to pray persistently for God’s Spirit to be given (see Luke 11:1-13). Keener explains that the empowerment of the Spirit is necessary in order for believers to be able to do the work that will ultimately usher in God’s kingdom. Early Christians actively prayed for this (see Acts 4:29-31). Keener challenges believers today to ask God to move in power, as well, and to make sure we are asking with right motives.
- A Variety of Spiritual Gifts – We’re each a different part of a body that is given a variety of gifts from God to care for and build up the body (1 Corinthians 12:4-30; 14:12). All of the gifts are needed, all are given for a reason, and all must be stewarded faithfully. Some believers will have one gift, and some another. For example, even though both Elijah and John had the same Spirit and the same power (Luke 1:17), only one of them worked miracles; both of them, however, carried out the work God had given them to do.
- Pursuing Spiritual Gifts – Although God is the giver of spiritual gifts, the Bible teaches that we should pursue these gifts. Paul directs believers to eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit that will be of greatest use in building up the church (1 Corinthians 14:1; 12:31).
- Salvation as a Purpose of Signs & Wonders – Keener discusses how the signs and wonders God produces through certain of the gifts of the Spirit (such as gifts of healing and miracles), serve to direct people’s attention to the gospel while providing proof of God’s power. (See Acts 2-28.)
- Receiving the Empowerment of the Holy Spirit for God’s Work – There is an excellent biblical discussion about when, how, how often, and in what degrees, the Holy Spirit’s empowerment was received by God’s people in Scripture and is still received today. In understandable terms, Keener addresses the sometimes-confusing points and questions that can arise on this topic.
- Healing is Normal – I deeply appreciate Keener’s position, based on Scripture, that healing is normal, and that we should pursue it, based on the conclusion that Jesus is the same now as he was when he healed everyone who came to him. Keener also notes that early believers healed all kinds of illness and diseases—something that James also expected from all church elders, as evidenced by James 5:14-15. Keener acknowledges the possibility that God may not be pleased with the current state of affairs, in which so many people are not being healed. (I agree. I wrote about it in this blog post.) Keener cites the case in which Jesus’s disciples were unable to heal a boy whom Jesus then promptly healed, clearly indicating that even when God wants to heal a person, there can be obstacles that lie with the would-be healer that prevent healing. Jesus names the obstacles that prevented the disciples from healing the boy in that instance; see Matthew 17:14-20, in which Jesus says the disciples didn’t have enough faith; and Mark 9:14-29, in which Jesus indicates that the disciples hadn’t prayed and fasted enough. Francis MacNutt, in The Power to Heal, also addressed how a lack of spiritual power in the life of the minister praying for a healing can be a real obstacle to healing. But MacNutt compassionately reminded believers to not give up praying or dedicating ourselves to spiritual growth, so that the gap can be closed and our effectiveness in being used in healing increased. He also gives hope to both the sick and those praying for them by relating that in his own experience, many healings, especially of chronic illness, have taken place gradually, through persistent prayer over time. (See my blog post How The Power to Heal by Francis MacNutt Changed My Faith to Pray for the Healing of Chronic Illness.)
- Prophecy is Useful When It Accurately Reflects God’s Message – In the wake of the events of Acts 2, we are now living in the time when prophesy abounds. Keener’s grounded discussion of prophecy includes an instructive look at the different forms in which God’s revelatory messages come and why they are given. Keener points out that prophets in the Bible were called to deliver many kinds of messages about things close to God’s heart (not just messages that sounded encouraging) and that it is the task of a prophet to steward any message God gives her or him. (It is also the task of every believer to test prophecies. See 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 and 1 John 4:1.)
- Birds of a Spiritual Gift Feather Have Flocked Together – Keener points out that it’s rare today to find a church in which all of the gifts of the Spirit are in operation. Birds of a feather have flocked together in local churches, to the point that many are operating, not as the complete body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-14), but as partial, limited bodies. Perhaps the eye has said to the hand, “I don’t need you!” and the head has said to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (See 1 Corinthians 12:21). As you look at just the list of gifts Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12:28, how many churches do you know of that have members operating in all of them? Or even more than one or two of them? This point opened my understanding about why some churches that seem strong in one area can be so weak in others: because the eye isn’t the hand.
- What is Most Necessary for the Church – Keener urges believers to consider what the church needs most in our time, and then to ask God to give those gifts to his church, while being willing to be one of the people he uses. As I read this, I thought of Matthew 9:37 – 10:1, and of Isaiah 6:8. There is a whole mindset shift that takes place as we broaden our view from our own individual lives, to considering the entire kingdom of God—and all of those still outside it. We all need the power of God. So let’s ask.
- Love and Power – Keener underscores his entire message by observing that without love, spiritual power would be dangerous, and lamenting that without spiritual power, love lacks the ability to effectively demonstrate itself. Therefore, Keener calls believers to learn to love and to seek spiritual gifts, in order to demonstrate God’s love and power to a world that desperately needs them.
May God empower each of us to fully live out the lives he envisions for each of us (Psalm 139:16; Ephesians 2:10).
P.S. Congratulations to Regina, winner of the January Faith with Grit book giveaway!