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The Brilliant Facets Of Grace

 


I present to you a priceless diamond, more beautiful than
what is found in the marketplace. This diamond in its’ multifaceted glory not
only catches the light, but it also seems to be lit from within. This diamond
truth is the grace of God.

 

Once you have recognized God’s grace in your life, you
cannot deny his unusual kindness. God’s grace toward Creation is beyond human
measurement. As visible as it may be, there is so much more grace than the
human mind can hold.

 

How is God’s characteristic grace at work to renew and
restore?

 

A.W. Tozer said, ‘Grace is the good pleasure of God that
inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.
[1]

 

In this series, we will examine some key ideas that are
essential to understanding God’s amazing grace.

 



[1] Aiden Wilson Tozer (1975).
“The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the
Christian Life”

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Red Flag #5 – The Blind Dart Thrower

 


Pin The Tail On The Donkey’ was a childhood game
where you had a poster with a picture of a donkey. You were blindfolded and
given a paper donkey tail with a thumb tack through it. You were then
instructed to walk over to the wall and pin the tail on the rear of the donkey.
Inevitably the tail would be pinned to some other part of the donkey or miss
the donkey completely. Those watching would laugh as the blinded participant
fumbled around.

 

Imagine playing darts with a blindfold on. Not only would
you miss the bulls eye, but you might also dangerously fire a dart in the wrong
direction and hit someone in the eye. There have always been prophets that tell
of future events. Unfortunately, too many miss the mark and yet insist on
prophesying again.

 

There is an accuracy with a real prophet and a real
prophecy. It is not blindly throwing darts at a target.

 

 

Deuteronomy 18:

21 You
Will Say To Yourselves, “How Can We Know When A Message Hasn’t Been Spoken By
The Lord?” 22 Sometimes A Prophet Will Announce Something In
The Name Of The Lord. And It Won’t Take Place Or Come True. Then That’s A
Message The Lord Hasn’t Told Him To Speak. That Prophet Has Dared To Speak On
His Own Authority. So Don’t Be Afraid Of What He Says.

 

 

There is much in the name of prophecy that should be
discredited when the target is missed. If a grizzly bear is coming up the path
to attack you, you need a kill shot and not random bullets in various
directions.

 

Once you find a prophet has missed the mark, do not keep
listening for updates and new prophecies. There’s also the risk of
misdirection. Magicians create illusions by getting you to focus your attention
away from the sleight-of-hand that performs the trick.

 

Also, be wary of a prophet who predicts accurately, or
performs a miracle but then introduces teachings that distort the gospel or
introduce ideas that are not grounded in what the Bible teaches or
demonstrates.

 

Deuteronomy 13:

Suppose A Prophet
Appears Among You. Or Someone Comes Who Uses Dreams To Tell What’s Going To
Happen. He Tells You That A Sign Or Something Amazing Is Going To Take Place. The
Sign Or Amazing Thing He Has Spoken About Might Really Take Place. And Then The
Prophet Might Say, “Let’s Serve Other Gods. Let’s Worship Them.” But You
Haven’t Known Anything About Those Gods Before. So You Must
Not Listen To What That Prophet Or Dreamer Has Said. The Lord Your God Is
Testing You. He Wants To Know Whether You Love Him With All Your Heart And With
All Your Soul. You Must Worship Him. You Must Honor Him. Keep
His Commands. Obey Him. Serve Him. Remain True To Him.



 

 The Scriptures go on to say that we should get rid of that
person. They should not be given a voice in our midst. As we have considered
what the Bible teaches about false teachers, false prophets, and false
messiahs, let’s also consider that we there is an abundance of good teachers,
good prophets and only one that can save us.

 

You are invited by Jesus to be his follower and to receive
the Holy Spirit who will empower you for your part in God’s mission. As we
learn to walk humbly together, it is the Spirit that calls and affirms what
each one is given to do. There is no power imbalance in the Kingdom of God and
its work is marked by love and unity.

 

We are members connected together and there is one head in
the person of Jesus. Let’s continue in the way that Jesus established for us to
walk in.

 

 

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Red Flag #4 – The Controversial Sidetracker

 


Sometimes I will sit in front of my TV at home and watch
YouTube videos. I have several  things
I’m interested in, but if I’m not attentive, I can waste time on theories and
speculative ideas that keep me from getting up and doing something purposeful.
What if I applied that same criteria to how I grow in faith?

 

What if I only listen to teachers that talk about pyramids,
UFOs, and mysterious folklore? What if that replaces teaching me how to walk
with God and be grounded in the Scriptures? There is an abundance of knowledge
and speculation on many things, but our spiritual formation requires wisdom and
the soul-searching power of God’s Word.

 


1 Timothy 1: (NIRV)

Timothy, stay there in Ephesus.
That is what I told you to do when I went into Macedonia. I want you to command
certain people not to teach things that aren’t true. And
command them not to spend their time on stories that are made up. They must not
waste time on family histories that never end. These things only lead to fights
about ideas. They don’t help God’s work move forward. His work is done by
faith. Love is the purpose of my command. Love comes from a
pure heart. It comes from a good sense of what is right and wrong. It comes
from faith that is honest and true. Some have turned from
these teachings. They would rather talk about things that have no meaning. They
want to be teachers of the law. And they are very sure about that law. But they
don’t know what they are talking about.

 

 

It’s a red flag if your teachers spend all their time
focused on controversial ideas and not equipping you to walk with Jesus.

 

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Red Flag #3 – The Embittered Wannabee

 

The Embittered Wannabe is a strange creature with large
colourful tail feathers like a peacock. They have the ability to make
themselves appear larger and more powerful than the scrawny bird they actually
are but lack the structural integrity to fly. You will often find them seeking
out habitats where less noticeable birds of flight are brooding over eggs. The
embittered wannabe parades around with its tail fully erect and tries to nudge
the other birds off of their nests. The Wannabe wants to be followed by the
birds and gain access to an egg breakfast.

 

Be on the lookout for people that puff themselves up as
being more powerful than others in the things of God. A true man or woman of
God will carefully guard over the life formation of emerging disciples and wait
on God for spiritual empowerment.

 

Acts 8:

A Man
Named Simon Lived In The City. For Quite A While He Had Practiced Evil Magic
There. He Amazed All The People Of Samaria. He Claimed To Be Someone Great. 10 And
All The People Listened To Him, From The Least Important Of Them To The Most
Important. They Exclaimed, “It Is Right To Call This Man The Great Power Of
God!” 11 He Had Amazed Them For A Long Time With His Evil
Magic. So They Followed Him. 12 But Philip Announced The Good
News Of God’s Kingdom And The Name Of Jesus Christ. So Men And Women Believed
And Were Baptized. 13 Simon Himself Believed And Was Baptized.
He Followed Philip Everywhere. He Was Amazed By The Great Signs And Miracles He
Saw.

14 The
Apostles In Jerusalem Heard That People In Samaria Had Accepted God’s Word. So
They Sent Peter And John To Samaria. 15 When They Arrived
There, They Prayed For The New Believers. They Prayed That They Would Receive
The Holy Spirit. 16 The Holy Spirit Had Not Yet Come On Any Of
Them. They Had Only Been Baptized In The Name Of The Lord Jesus. 17 Then
Peter And John Placed Their Hands On Them. And They Received The Holy Spirit.

18 Simon
Watched As The Apostles Placed Their Hands On Them. He Saw That The Spirit Was
Given To Them. So He Offered Money To Peter And John. 19 He
Said, “Give Me This Power Too. Then Everyone I Place My Hands On Will Receive
The Holy Spirit.”

20 Peter
Answered, “May Your Money Be Destroyed With You! Do You Think You Can Buy God’s
Gift With Money? 21 You Have No Part Or Share In This Holy
Work. Your Heart Is Not Right With God. 22 Turn Away From This
Evil Sin Of Yours. Pray To The Lord. Perhaps He Will Forgive You For Having
Such A Thought In Your Heart. 23 I See That You Are Very
Bitter. You Are A Prisoner Of Sin.”

24 Then
Simon Answered, “Pray To The Lord For Me. Pray That Nothing You Have Said Will
Happen To Me.”

 

 

Simon’s problem was that he had a root of bitterness in his
life. Perhaps the loss of followers to Jesus made him feel less powerful.
Perhaps he had experiences in life that left him feeling that his worth
depended on making a larger-than-life presentation. Maybe pride had consumed
him. At any rate, he disrespected God by wanting to buy and manipulate others
to give real power over to him.

 

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Red Flag #2 – The Smooth-Talking Separator


 

I remember when one of my children had a public-school
friend that was always trying to separate them from other friendships so they
could have them all to themselves. They would go on about how, ‘You’re my
only friend. No-one else understands me or likes me. Those other kids can’t be
trusted. It’s just you and me.’

 

Simply put, that child was using their words and emotion to
manipulate and get all the undivided attention that was available. Similarly,
there are sometimes immature and false teachers that constantly sow distrust
for all those other ‘so-called Christians’ and churches steeped in
heresy. Their whole premise is to discount everyone else except those that will
listen to them as the high standard of orthodoxy.

 

Romans 16: (NIRV)

17 I Am
Warning You, Brothers And Sisters, To Watch Out For Those Who Try To Keep You
From Staying Together. They Want To Trip You Up. They Teach You Things Opposite
To What You Have Learned. Stay Away From Them. 18 People Like
That Are Not Serving Christ Our Lord. They Are Serving Only Themselves. With
Smooth Talk And With Words They Don’t Mean They Fool People Who Don’t Know Any
Better.

 

Pin a red flag on the smooth-talking separator. They may
appear to flap righteously in the wind, but they are divisive and
self-absorbed.

 

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Red Flag #1 – The Flamethrower

 


Listen carefully to what a teacher says, what their
relational conversations are like and whether chaos tends to follow in their
wake.

 

James 3: (NIRV)

My Brothers And
Sisters, Most Of You Shouldn’t Become Teachers. That’s Because You Know That
Those Of Us Who Teach Will Be Held More Accountable. All Of
Us Get Tripped Up In Many Ways. Suppose Someone Is Never Wrong In What They
Say. Then They Are Perfect. They Are Able To Keep Their Whole Body Under
Control.

We Put
A Small Piece Of Metal In The Mouth Of A Horse To Make It Obey Us. We Can
Control The Whole Animal With It. And How About Ships? They Are
Very Big. They Are Driven Along By Strong Winds. But They Are Steered By A Very
Small Rudder. It Makes Them Go Where The Captain Wants To Go. In
The Same Way, The Tongue Is A Small Part Of A Person’s Body. But It Talks Big. Think
About How A Small Spark Can Set A Big Forest On Fire.

 

 

It’s a good thing to be a Christian teacher in the church,
but it should come with a high degree of scrutiny and accountability. What is
the code of conduct that defines who is given the opportunity to teach?

 

If a spiritual leader is always putting others down,
bringing accusations on a whim and being dishonest in how they report things,
those are big red flags. Like a drunk with a flamethrower in a dry forest, they
use words recklessly without regard for their appropriateness, aim or
intention.

 

The flamethrower has a pattern of burning people with their
words. Look for the teacher that can speak the truth in love and has a gracious
way of addressing their concerns. Their conversation should be reminiscent of
Jesus’ direct, but discerning method of conversation.

 

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Unauthorized Power

 

How readily do you assume that a person in charge is
actually authorized to be there and approved to have that responsibility?

 

Canadians will not soon forget the 2020 mass murders
perpetrated by Gabriel Wortman.  He
killed 22 people in Nova Scotia and injured 3 others before he was shot and
killed by RCMP. What added to the shock of it all was his masquerading as a
police officer, complete with an RCMP uniform and a replica patrol car.
Clearly, he had seized unauthorized power to fulfill some horrible purpose that
caught people unaware.

 

The province was on high alert as his evil scheme unfolded
and a trail of devastation traumatized many Maritimers. Authentic police
services warn against impersonators and criminalize those that get involved in
this type of scam. People who use false pretenses can cause a world of harm to
those in their path.

 

In an analogous way, the Bible warns repeatedly about false
prophets, false teachers, and false Messiahs. The fact is that there are
imposters and those that capitalize on the willingness of listeners to empower
them in their selfish agenda.

 

There are multiple strategies and motivations operating in
those who make false claims to God’s power. Rather than naively being swayed by
every convincing persuader, a Jesus’ follower needs to learn to discern truth
from error.


Colossians 2:
(NIRV)

Make
Sure No One Controls You. They Will Try To Control You By Using False Reasoning
That Has No Meaning. Their Ideas Depend On Human Teachings. They Also Depend On
The Basic Spiritual Powers Of This World. They Don’t Depend On Christ.

 

There are several red flags to indicate that you need to
proceed cautiously when certain patterns emerge.

 

 

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The Hands Of Jesus

 

The laying on of hands was used when people were prayed for
to receive the Holy Spirit, in the selecting of servants to wait on tables and
in commissioning people to go on mission. This humanly physical act is
intimately enmeshed with God’s touch. When we exercise spiritual authority in
affirming others for God’s work, the Lord is present to add his touch. Without
Jesus’ touch, we would simply have human resources.

 

Jesus surprised people when he would lay hands on the sick.
They were considered spiritually and/or physically unclean and yet he touched
and healed them. It’s Jesus’ touch that makes someone unclean become pure. In
the call to be living sacrifices, Jesus’ touch brings an imperfect person to a
new reality where they are declared clean and can boldly into God’s presence.

 

When we have a revelation of whom Jesus really is, our
unworthiness is amplified. But Jesus’ response puts us on our feet in
readiness. The apostle John was likely Jesus’ best friend and yet it would be
decades before he would see Jesus in his full stature.

 

Revelation 1:

12 Then
I Turned To See The Voice That Spoke With Me. And Having Turned I Saw Seven
Golden Lampstands, 13 And In The Midst Of The Seven Lampstands One
Like The Son Of Man, Clothed With A Garment Down To The Feet And Girded About
The Chest With A Golden Band. 14 His Head And Hair Were
White Like Wool, As White As Snow, And His Eyes Like A Flame Of Fire; 15 His
Feet Were Like Fine Brass, As If Refined In A Furnace, And His Voice As
The Sound Of Many Waters; 16 He Had In His Right Hand Seven
Stars, Out Of His Mouth Went A Sharp Two-Edged Sword, And His Countenance Was
Like The Sun Shining In Its Strength. 17 And When I Saw Him, I Fell
At His Feet As Dead. But He Laid His Right Hand On Me, Saying To Me, “Do Not Be
Afraid; I Am The First And The Last. 18 I Am He Who
Lives, And Was Dead, And Behold, I Am Alive Forevermore. Amen. And I Have The
Keys Of Hades And Of Death.

 

 

But he laid right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be
afraid.”

 

 

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The Appointment

 

 

Those who lead God’s people are often have a mix of God
speaking to them about some assignment and other leaders in the community
selecting them. It is rare that God would call someone to leadership and not
affirm it in the heart of others. God often will speak to those who lead about
who to call into their sphere of spiritual work.


Numbers 27:

18 And The
Lord Said To Moses: “Take Joshua The Son Of Nun With You, A Man In Whom Is
The Spirit, And Lay Your Hand On Him; 19 Set Him Before Eleazar
The Priest And Before All The Congregation And Inaugurate Him In
Their Sight. 20 And You Shall Give Some Of Your
Authority To Him, That All The Congregation Of The Children Of Israel May Be
Obedient.

 

 

Did you catch that? Authority is shared with the
appropriately called individuals. In case you think it’s simply a case of being
in the right circles or knowing the right person to get you in, consider the
case of Saul of Tarsus. Later he would be known as the Apostle Paul.

 

He was the early church’s enemy and was on a mission to
persecute the Christians. Jesus appeared to him in a vision that left him
physically blind. God then called upon a Christian named Ananias to come lay
hands-on Saul to heal his blindness. After his conversion to Jesus, Saul went
away and studied. When he came back, Barnabas brought Saul to the other
apostles in Jerusalem. After hearing him out, they laid hands on him and
commissioned him to be the apostle to the Gentiles.

 

The spiritual authority of God’s servants usually depends on
God’s call and the church’s affirmation. Years later, we see Paul mentoring a
young pastor named Timothy. In one part of his letters to Timothy he talks
about the character of someone who is chosen to be a pastor.


1 Timothy 3:

This Is A
Faithful Saying: If A Man Desires The Position Of A Bishop, He Desires A Good
Work. A Bishop Then Must Be Blameless, The Husband Of One
Wife, Temperate, Sober-Minded, Of Good Behavior, Hospitable, Able To Teach; Not
Given To Wine, Not Violent, Not Greedy For Money, But Gentle, Not Quarrelsome,
Not Covetous; One Who Rules His Own House Well, Having His
Children In Submission With All Reverence (For If A Man Does
Not Know How To Rule His Own House, How Will He Take Care Of The Church Of
God?); Not A Novice, Lest Being Puffed Up With Pride He Fall
Into The Same Condemnation As The Devil. Moreover He
Must Have A Good Testimony Among Those Who Are Outside, Lest He Fall Into
Reproach And The Snare Of The Devil.

 

 

If the character and integrity are key components to
selecting leaders, there is a developmental side of seeing the potential before
the maturity. Sometimes those who are inexperienced at leading need to be
encouraged and reminded of their calling and mentored in the finer details of
their own spiritual formation.

 

 

1 Timothy 4:

12 Let
No One Despise Your Youth, But Be An Example To The Believers In Word, In
Conduct, In Love, In Spirit, In Faith, In Purity. 13 Till I
Come, Give Attention To Reading, To Exhortation, To Doctrine. 14 Do
Not Neglect The Gift That Is In You, Which Was Given To You By Prophecy With
The Laying On Of The Hands Of The Eldership. 15 Meditate On
These Things; Give Yourself Entirely To Them, That Your Progress May Be Evident
To All. 16 Take Heed To Yourself And To The Doctrine. Continue
In Them, For In Doing This You Will Save Both Yourself And Those Who Hear You.

 

 

The laying on of hands for leadership is not the same as
being selected as the perfect blood sacrifice, but it is an affirmation of
suitability to be on display as a living sacrifice of worship to God. The
sacrificial leader is not affirmed once, but continually as their progress of
spirit becomes evident.

 

We are disappointed when someone in leadership is overtaken
by pride, power and lust and falls in humiliation. This is why the heart of a
leader needs to be continually nurtured and mentored in the way of Jesus. It
may be that we have sometimes authorized people more on their giftedness and
attractive qualities, than on the pure hearted potential to be like Jesus in
all their ways.

 

1 Timothy 5:

21 I
Charge You Before God And The Lord Jesus Christ And The Elect Angels
That You Observe These Things Without Prejudice, Doing Nothing With Partiality.
22 Do Not Lay Hands On Anyone Hastily, Nor Share In Other
People’s Sins; Keep Yourself Pure.

 

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The Sacrifice

 

 

It may seem like a strange place to start an understanding
of the laying on of hands but consider the role of animals in the ancient
world. The practice of blood sacrifice is as old as humanity and considered by
all who practised it to be an essential, sacred act to appease the gods.

 

Because most of us are not herdsmen or cowboys, the biblical
concept of animal sacrifice is an abstraction. Those who raise herds and flocks
know that there is a cost and commitment to raising animals for slaughter.
Animals are graded, inspected, and nurtured for fetching a good price.

 

Animals had value to their owners and buyers. To sacrifice
an animal would always cost you something. You did not sacrifice any old
animal. Specifically, it had to meet certain criteria to be sacrificed. It
needed to be without flaw. There is an underlying message that you must pay the
gods for your sins by sacrificing the best you have.

 

The smoke of an altar’s fire would ascend to the gods and
determine whether you would be accepted. In some religions, an animal might not
be enough of a sacrifice. In the case of other religions, you might need to
sacrifice a child or a virgin to the gods.

 

While this concept is a grotesque abstraction to many
people, it was a commonly understood practice for ancient people. What we need
to grasp here is the idea that you pay for your mistakes. You answer to God and
need to make things right with him.


The laying on of hands is part of the sacrifice system.
There are many examples in the Old Testament of animals being used as
substitutes for the shedding of blood instead of God asking for human
sacrifice, as other religious systems might call for. The priests who bore the
responsibility of carrying out the sacrifices would receive an instruction like
this.

 

Leviticus 4:

10 “You
Shall Also Have The Bull Brought Before The Tabernacle Of Meeting, And Aaron And
His Sons Shall Put Their Hands On The Head Of The Bull. 11 Then
You Shall Kill The Bull Before The Lord, By The Door Of The Tabernacle
Of Meeting.

 

Semicha in sacrifices was the placing/leaning [of the
hands] before the offering of a korban (“animal sacrifice”) in the
Temple in Jerusalem. This involved pressing firmly on the head of the
sacrificial animal, thereby symbolically “transmitting” sins onto the
animal or, in other interpretations, to transform the sacrifice into an
offering acceptable to Hashem (Hebrew term for God ‘the Name’.)
[1]

 

The sacrifice system of the Old Testament mostly ended when
the Temple was destroyed in AD 70. This was the sacred place where sacrifice
was to take place in Jerusalem. For the Christian, Jesus became the sacrifice
lamb that was slain for the sins of the whole earth. He was the final blood
sacrifice and in a strange twist, he was the Great High Priest that offered the
sacrifice.

 

What can we learn from the Old Testament practice of laying
hands on an animal for sacrifice? First, we are reminded that a sacrifice sends
a message to God that the humans want to make peace and be reconciled to God
and his ways. Second, sacrifice is always personal and costly. Someone pays and
someone gets their hands dirty to restore relationship.

 

As a priest put his hands upon a living animal, there was a
reminder that God had placed mankind with a responsibility to the Creation. Sin
not only brought a price to the sinner, but also an effect to the Creation.

 

Third, it was the impression on the heart that God was most
interested in. Did His people bring worship and sacrifice out of a desire to
draw near to Him, or as a way to excuse their conscience? Did the cost of
obedience get budgeted for, so you didn’t have to experience the inward effect
of worship and sacrifice?

 

Once Jesus became the final sacrifice, there is a call for
all of us to become priests unto God. We follow the example of Jesus and
present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. Instead of the shedding of
blood with substitutes, we live our lives with sacrifice blood flowing through
us. We follow Jesus and present ourselves to God in a meaningful way.

 

Romans 12:

Brothers And Sisters,
God Has Shown You His Mercy. So, I Am Asking You To Offer Up Your Bodies To Him
While You Are Still Alive. Your Bodies Are A Holy Sacrifice That Is Pleasing To
God. When You Offer Your Bodies To God, You Are Worshiping Him In The Right
Way. Don’t Live The Way This World Lives. Let Your Way Of
Thinking Be Completely Changed. Then You Will Be Able To Test What God Wants
For You. And You Will Agree That What He Wants Is Right. His Plan Is Good And
Pleasing And Perfect.

 

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