Qualified (Addendum)

Don’t get too excited about warm bodies.

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Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

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I have written before about the matter of being qualified for ministry.  Today, at the risk of being judged as judgmental, I do it again.  Let me be plain-spoken on this matter.  Being born again, even Spirit-filled, while absolute requirements for ministry and service in the body of Christ, are NOT the only qualifications.  Take a moment and read our Manna for Today.  It won’t take long at all.  Then consider the “novice” as mentioned in 1 Timothy 3. It is clear that Paul is writing about qualifications for strong levels of leadership in the church; bishop and deacon.  He said a “novice” is not qualified, despite the fact that he would surely be born again and Spirit-filled.  You can easily read all the qualifications for that level of ministry.

In our Text for Today, I believe we’re looking at a man, Simon by name, who thought that because he was a believer, had followed through with the Biblical command to be baptized, and had remained close to Philip who was the spiritual leader, that he was qualified to function alongside the apostles in their level of authority and giftedness.  From the description of events in Acts 8, we see that this is clearly NOT the case.  We easily understand that he was in error to think that he could BUY the power to lay hands on people to receive Holy Ghost.  That is evident.  But what we don’t often recognize is his thinking that he was qualified to possess such an anointing and the powers that accompanied it.  He was wrong in both cases.  It could NOT be bought, and with that point not even entering into the discussion, he was in NO WAY qualified to have such a gifting and power convey upon him.  Regardless of his faith and faithfulness, he was not, at this point in time, yet qualified.

Oh, how I wish that these principles were clearly taught in the church.  So many people think that if they’re born again and Spirit-filled, they should be able to stand in any place and hold any post in the church.  Not so, dear friend.  One must make full proof of one’s ministry before one will be loosed by the Lord to serve in many arenas of ministry.  Likewise, people think that when one has turned from the Lord, perhaps bringing great offense and hurt to the church, and then repents, that the repentant party should immediately be restored to places of trust, authority, and leadership in the church.  Once again, this is simply not the case.  Just as a new believer must prove himself by growing in the graces of ministry, so a repentant fallen leader must do the same.  Though completely forgiven for the sin, they have not yet made full proof of their ministry again.  Failure to recognize these truths in the church has brought it much harm.  The church must awaken.

Manna for Today – Acts 8:9-25; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 2 Timothy 2:24-26

 

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Foundation for Joy

People who love birds know how to attract hummingbirds. 

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Acts 8:8 And there was great joy in that city.

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Is there joy in your city?  I didn’t ask about your home or your church.  I asked about your city.  While considering that question, take a moment to read Acts 8:5-8.  Let’s examine what we see there.  Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ.  When he preached Christ, several things happened.

  • The people, with one accord, gave heed to what Philip preached
  • They  heard what Philip said
  • They saw the miracles Philip did
  • Many demon-possessed people were delivered
  • Many palsied and lame were healed

While I am NOT saying that this example of the ministry of Philip is all that is necessary for the joy of the Lord to clearly reside over a city, I AM SAYING that this example is a critical part of the work to achieve such a thing.  I am not speaking to an individual minister in my writing.  I am speaking to the body of Christ in the cities in which we (the body of Christ) reside.  We may not have the entire city for an audience, be we all have an audience.  What are you preaching to them?  If you’re NOT preaching, it’s time to step up to the plate and fulfill your responsibility. If you ARE preaching, WHAT are you preaching?  Are you preaching Christ?  DON’T STOP – NEVER STOP!  If you’re preaching something other than Christ, change you message, or be quiet.  The events that followed Philip’s preaching of Christ in Samaria should give clear indication that my words are right.  Here are some questions for you.

Are people giving heed to what you are preaching?

Are people clearly hearing what you are preaching?

Are people seeing miracles (signs and wonders) flowing from what you’re preaching?

Are people being delivered by the power of what you’re preaching?

Are people being healed (of anything) by the power of what you’re preaching?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” an atmosphere in which joy can reign is being formed.  If the answer is “no,” an atmosphere for grief, bitterness, and worry is being nourished.  Of course, the bottom line of all our discussion is JESUS.  If Jesus is key in the mix, there is light, life, and love that make all things possible.  If Jesus is NOT key in the mix, no matter how often He may be mentioned peripherally, the light, life, and love are pushed aside from being truly influential.  Allow me to use a phrase from two or three decades ago.  It speaks clearly for itself, and it is absolutely true.  KNOW GOD, KNOW PEACENO GOD, NO PEACE.  The same can be said concerning the matter of joy.  KNOW GOD, KNOW JOYNO GOD, NO JOY.  Let it be spoken loudly and critical.  JESUS MUST BE AT THE CENTER THINGS.  As a songwriter has penned, “Jesus, You’re the center of my joy.”

Manna for Today – Acts 8:1-8; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; John 14:12-14

A Complete Evangelism

Are the works we do chosen by us, or directed by the Lord?

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Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

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I have served in the arena of five-fold ministry, at this writing, for 48 years.  I have traveled extensively, ministered in a vast number of churches and locations for a broad array of different churches, denominations, and organizations.  One of the things to which I have committed myself in those years is to be an observer; to look; to attempt to see what is happening in the light of God’s Word.  I can tell you, and sadly so, that one of the great weaknesses within the body of Christ is its segmented, unattached, sometimes denominationally directed, sometimes ego-directed teaching of the Word and training of the body of Christ.

One of those arenas that stand out so vividly to me is the arena of evangelism.  Ask most believers about evangelism, and they will tell you it’s about soul-winning, reaching the lost.  Many will also use terms like revival, especially as it relates to revival meetings, or the ministry of an evangelist.  A few might give much more focus to gifts of healings, deliverances, and working of miracles; the signs that should flow in the office of an evangelist.  But with all this focus, with all this descriptive terminology, and with all the evangelistic nomenclature of the modern church, there still remains much disjointedness, and from that, a weakness in the work of evangelism within the church.  And please note here, I am NOT writing in an attempt to focus on the ministry office of the evangelist, but rather on the broader church work of evangelism.

In the early church, there had been no opportunity for the body of Christ to have been instructed concerning the work of evangelism as part of the Kingdom function.  But in today’s church, we have no excuses.  The fact that we have accepted traditions of men above the Word of God is no excuse.  The fact that we are doing things like we’ve always done them is no excuse.  The twisted view that the evangelist, or the preacher, should be the one doing the work of evangelism is no excuse.  We have the Scriptures in their completed form.  We have a long-standing working arrangement with Holy Spirit Who should be accepted as the great Teacher in the church.  We are without excuse.

So, what do we need?  We need a church that knows how to carry the Gospel to the lost.  The field is where the harvest is; not in the church building on Sunday.  We need believers who yield to Holy Spirit and flow in His gifts and power on the street; not just in a meeting with a well-known itinerate minister.  We need people of God who will boldly preach Christ, for when Christ is preached, the results will speak for themselves.

Manna for Today – Acts 8:4-40; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30; Acts 21:8

From Death to Life

No matter how dark your world, you’re only one turn from light.

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Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death.

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Here is a statement worthy of your consideration.  You can only walk in the light you see.  If you are blindfolded, or have your eyes closed, you may stumble about in the light, but again I say, you can only walk in the light you see. Now let’s take a look at the Saul of our Text for Today.  We know that later he became known as Paul the Apostle, Apostle to the Gentile, writer of more than half the New Testament; an awesome legacy.  But in our Text for Today, he was known as Saul of Tarsus.

Saul of Tarsus had been trained and educated at the feet of Gamaliel.  He was deeply vested in the traditional Jewish system, considered to be a Pharisee of the most dedicated strain.  Saul, in our Text for Today, was consenting unto the death, the stoning, the murder of Stephen.  When the people laid their coats at Saul’s feet before stoning Stephen, they were, in effect, giving honor to Saul, indicating that what they were doing was at his bidding, for his benefit and pleasure.  Think of that.  But consider this, too.  Saul was alive during the ministry of Jesus.  He was among the Pharisees when Jesus was crucified.  At that moment, he may not have been as highly ranked as the high priest, but for the arrest, beating, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, he was definitely “consenting unto His death.”  And then consider the vast number of Christians who were arrested, abused, beaten, imprisoned, and even killed at the bidding of Saul of Tarsus as he traveled about the countryside at the pleasure of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.  This man was a man of darkness, a man void of light, a man with an agenda to destroy Christianity.

Yet he was loved by the same Lord to Whose death he was consenting.  And in a single moment of confrontation, in a single statement of yielding, in a single encounter, Saul turned from death to life, from darkness to light.  He began a journey with the Lord in which his stumbling in the darkness was changed into a sure walk in the light.  He took the first step of a lifetime of change that was so marked that even his name was changed.  He moved from unbeliever to believer, from heathen to Christian, from Pharisee to teacher, prophet, and ultimately, apostle.  Please note how simple, yet eternally profound that “moment of confrontation” was that caused Saul to turn from death to life.  You can see it in Acts 9:5 in Saul’s question, “Who are thou, Lord?”  You need to realize right now that there may be a work for you to do that requires a “moment of confrontation” that takes you to a turn from death to life, from darkness to light, from unknown to known, from fear to faith.  When it comes, meet it in faith, and perhaps change the world.

Manna for Today – Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:1-18; John 3:1-21

What Meaneth This?

  • Are you filled with Holy Spirit?  Look up, and only up.  The glory is waiting.

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Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

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Take a moment today and read the 7th chapter of Acts in its totality.  It won’t take long, and you will be blessed.  At the close of the reading, you see our Text for Today.  Now imagine this scenario as vividly as you can in your mind.  What was happening to Stephen?  He was being called to account for his ministry, both in word and action.  The crowd to whom he was speaking had become brutally angry and were stoning Stephen.  The scene was brutal and horrific.  I am sure most people, being stoned, would have been crying out either in anger or for mercy, trying to cover their face and head, and to ward off as many stones as possible, though such would have been a fruitless attempt at the hail of fist-sized stones (and larger) being hurled at them.  But this was not the case with Stephen.  Consider his demeanor.

As he is being stoned, he was looking up towards heaven.  But more than looking TOWARDS heaven, Stephen was actually looking INTO heaven.  There he saw the glory of God (that is Holy Ghost) and Jesus “standing on the right hand of God.”  Now consider for a few moments the significance of what Stephen saw.

  1. Heaven  was opened before Stephen to see into the very throne room of God.  Here was a dynamic revelation by the Spirit into the glory realm of heaven.
  2. Stephen saw the Trinity.  He saw the “glory of God.”  That is Holy Ghost who raised up Jesus from the dead.  He saw the Lord Jesus, and more than that, he saw Jesus “standing on the right hand of God.”  And he saw the Father, for Jesus was standing beside Him.

Now, for a few moments, consider what it meant that Jesus was “standing.”  I offer these thoughts.  When a dignitary enters a room, those in the room rise in honor of that dignitary, his title, his estate, his power, his authority, and his work.  Could it be that Jesus rose as a sign of conveying honor on one of His saints who stood faithful, even in the face of death?  Furthermore, if a king rises at what he is viewing, it would appear as though something is moving him spiritually and emotionally to the point that he is rising in preparation to do something suddenly.  Could it be that Jesus was about to step into the scenario of Stephen’s stoning to fend off the stoners?  I believe both could be the case.  In either case, Jesus stood for Stephen because Stephen stood for Jesus.  Are you standing for Jesus?  Let us all make sure we are, for we do not want to be found in a place where Jesus does NOT stand for us

Manna for Today – Acts 7; John 14:15-17; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Matthew 10:33

A Terrible Weapon

As terrible as some weapons are, the child of Covenant has protection against them all.

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Acts 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

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I have been bitten by dogs, cats, and birds.  I have also been bitten by a person or two in my younger years.  But I have never suffered the kind of attack that is described in our Text for Today, at least not physically.  I can only imagine what it would be like to have a crowd of vicious on-lookers rush upon me with the intent of literally tearing pieces of my flesh from my body.  Yet that is precisely what took place in this attack on Stephen.

What could provoke such an attack?  The answer is clearly seen in our Text for Today.  They heard what Stephen said.  It was truth.  Truth can be sharp beyond imagination, and in this case, it was not only sharp, but both spiritually and emotionally painful for the hearers; so painful, in fact, that they attacked Stephen as would a pack of wolves.

But, my dear friend, while most of us may never have experienced this kind of physical attack, such toothy attacks as to destroy a person still occur, occur regularly, and occur far more frequently that many might imagine.  I know they occur in the world.  All one has to do is view broadcast news in its coverage of politics around the world.  But what is horribly saddening is that such attacks occur daily in the church world, a place where such should NEVER be the case.  Yet it is.  Having been in ministry for almost five decades, with 28 of those years in a pastoral role, I can tell you first-hand that pastors face it almost continually.  I would venture to say that most pastors are better roasted than the Christmas turkey, only more frequently, probably weekly.  And they are not alone.  ANYONE who serves the Lord with a pure heart, who speaks the absolute truth of God in love, who will not compromise their walk with the Lord, and who walks in the integrity of the Word of life will be the subject of such toothy attacks as gossip, back-biting, slander, and the like.  While such may not pierce the flesh of those who come under attack, the intention of such attacks is just as destructive as those made on Stephen.

But take heed, dear friend.  The lies, disparaging remarks, back-biting, gossip, slander, and rumor may even be multiplied exponentially, but you still have a promise from Father.  “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn.”  God said it, and that settles it.  Rest in His promise.

Manna for Today – Acts 7; Exodus 20:16 & 23:1; Leviticus 19:16; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Ephesians 4:29;  1 Timothy 5:19 & 6:4; James 1:26 & 4:11; Psalm 34:13; Proverbs 10:18 & 26:20-22; Isaiah 54:17

When You Speak the Truth

For the sake of our discussion, “Truth” is the Word of God spoken in power.

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Acts 6:11-13 Then they suborned men . . . And they stirred up the people . . . And set up false witnesses . . .

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Stephen, along with six other men (Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timan, Parmenas, & Nicolas) had been selected by the people, approved by the apostles, and anointed by the Lord to wait on tables in seeing to the ministry to the widows to assure all were treated properly.  These men were not selected for pulpit ministry, as at this time none of them were called to any office of the five-fold ministry (at least not knowingly).  We should learn from this that one does not have to be called to the five-fold ministry to be full of Holy Ghost and endued with power from on high to perform wonders and miracles.  In this case, a table-waiter was empowered for such purposes.  At this point I will ask a simple question of you.  Whom are you serving?  True servant-leaders are positioned for power, not through title, but through service.

Note, too, that Stephen not only performed wonders and miracles, but he spoke the Truth in a way that could not be resisted.  And speaking in that manner provoked the enemy of his soul, Satan, to attempt to stop him.  This provocation came from one source in three phases.  The source – unholy men (people).  The phases – (1) men were suborned; (2) people were stirred up; (3) men became false witnesses.  In other words, men were recruited, inspired, and given a lie to speak.

Dear reader, though the times have changed, though societies have greatly changed, and though boundaries of nations have and still are changing, the strategy of Satan to stop the kingdom of God remains the same.  It may seem disguised, but in reality, it is still the same. The enemy of our soul suborn men, use those men to stir up all the people they can, and give them a lie as a cover story in an attempt to hide the fact that their true motives are demonic, directly from the bowels of hell.  When you will take up the mantle of holy boldness necessary to speak the truth of God’s Word in EVERY situation in EVERY place at ALL times, and wear that mantle in compliance to Holy Spirit within you, you will be the target of the three phases I have set before you today.  And there will be SOMEONE that will become Satan’s pawn(s) in that attack.  Once again, the reason is simple; you have allowed yourself to become the most dangerous element of God’s arsenal against the darkness of the age.  Without the anointed voice of integrity speaking forth the truth of God’s Word, the church is ineffective.  Jesus Himself demonstrated this truth in His temptations on the mountain.  Every response He gave began with “It is written,” and ended with an accurate and applicable quotation of Scripture.  We need the same thing today.

Manna for Today – Acts 6:1-15; Matthew 5:1-16; 1 Timothy 3; Isaiah 55:8-13; Matthew 12:37

Not by Might or Power

If you want God’s honor, honor God.  He and His Word are One.

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Acts 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

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Take an extra moment of time and read closely the Acts passage in our Manna for Today.  What is expressed there is so vitally important to the 21st century believer.  With so much emphasis in today’s church being of issues like technology, being user friendly and seeker sensitive, and seeking to attract new-comers to our churches through the use of all kinds of modern introductions, I believe we may, in many, if not most cases, be missing the mark completely.  No, I am in no way against the use and implementation of tools, technology, and trends in an effort to reach more people with the Gospel.  After all, if you’re reading this, it is because of the use of modern technology.  What I DO see happening is using such tools, tech, and trends as a replacement FOR the dynamic truth of God’s Word as opposed to making them a means for delivery of the same.  Once again, I refer you to our Text for Today and the Acts passage from which it comes.

We read that “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.  To hear many speak of this, it would seem that “wonders and miracles” should be enough to draw folks to the kingdom.  But, from the text we realize that “wonders and miracles” alone were resisted by the religious minds of the day.  You see, “wonders and miracles” do not build faith.  SEEING does not build faith.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

My friend, I exhort you to use EVERY tool at your disposal for the work of the kingdom of God.  Use every ounce of technology that you can obtain and use well.  And yes, use even the trends of the time if you can do so without violating the integrity of the Scriptures.  Use them all, BUT never, Never, NEVER allow them to even come close to being a substitute for the preaching and proclaiming of the unchangeable, unalterable, supernatural Word of God.  Note closely that the passages we examine today do not say that those who fought against what God was doing could not resist the “wonders and miracles.”  Such can indeed be resisted.  Consider Moses before the magicians of Pharaoh.  But we DO SEE something that NO power can resist.  Our Text for Today DOES say that “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.”  The Word of God is “spirit and life.”  The Word of God “heals and delivers.”  The Word of God is “the power of God unto salvation,” and He is “upholding all things by the Word of His  power.”

Manna for Today – Acts 6:8-15; Joshua 1:6-9; Proverbs 4:20-23; Isaiah 55:8-13; Zechariah 4:6;          Romans 10:17; John 6:63; Hebrews 1:3

Biblical Increase

When the Word of God increases, so does the church.

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Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

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I’ll come directly to the point.  When the Word of God increases, so does everything else that pertains to the kingdom of God.  And I do mean “everything.”  Let’s look more closely at that statement.  Take a few moments to read our Manna for Today.  It won’t take long, but it will surely enlighten you about what I am writing.  You see, the WHOLE kingdom of God, NOT SOME of it, but ALL of it, operates on the seed principle set forth in Mark 4.  Read verse 26 closely.  “And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground.  Note that Mark wrote “the kingdom;” NOT “some of the kingdom.”

Now re-read our Text for Today.  Look at what happened when the “word of God increased.”  First, the number of the disciples “multiplied greatly.”  Note, it did not say the number of Christians multiplied, but it was the “number of disciples.”  Not all Christians are disciples.  That should not be the case, but it is.  There are many Christians who are NOT disciples.  A “disciple” is one who has disciplined him/herself to apply the Word of God to their heart and life.  Once again, note closely; when the Word of God increases, the number of disciples increase.  Realizing that, keep in mind that it requires disciples to make disciples, and that disciples are made from believers.  You don’t make disciples from unbelievers.  So, for the number of disciples to be “multiplied greatly,” there had to be an ever-increasing number of believers, and all that happened because the Word of God increased.

Now look further.  A “great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”  Here is the conversion, to spiritual changing of the religious to become converted; believers; and thereby becoming candidates for discipleship.  And again, I ask you to note closely; this was because the Word of God increased.

From that the following question arises.  What are we doing to cause the Word of God to increase?  Think for a moment and consider your answer in light of our Manna for Today.  I offer the following for your consideration.  High quality light shows, even with smoke, are not multiplying disciples.  Neither is the hiring of professional musicians, multiple screen displays, and God forbid, holey (not HOLY) blue jeans.  No, I’m not attacking the onslaught of casual dress in pulpits today.  What I AM ATTACKING is the thought that the things I have mentioned are truly worthwhile tools for the work of increasing the Word of God, and thereby greatly multiplying disciples.  What the church must do is “increase the Word of God.”  That is the seed that needs to be planted.  And such does not arise from the outward appearance, but from the hidden man of the heart.  Study the Word, read the Word, teach the Word, preach the Word, live in the Word, drink in the Word, feast on the Word, and obey the Word.  In short, “increase the Word.”

Manna for Today – Acts 6:1-7; Mark 4:1-34

 

Training Regimen

Any true champion has a champion’s training regimen. 

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Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

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If you were a conscientious athlete in any discipline, you would be engaged, at the very least, in regularly scheduled and consistent training.  If you were a medical doctor, you would be engaged in on-going medical training to remain current in your medical practice.  If you were an accountant, you would be constantly learning to keep up with new tax laws and legal requirements to serve you clientele.  As important as many would consider such professions, how important is your witness as a child of God to you?  Are you a child of God?  If so, you should be training daily to live as a child of God.  Are you a leader in the body of Christ?  If so, you should be training daily to live as a leader in the body of Christ.  Are you a member of the five-fold ministry?  Your training regimen for the work of perfecting the saints should be second to none.

I write today to serve notice on every reading believer, but especially to those among us who are called of the Lord and established in five-fold ministry; apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher.  Lives, not just in the present, but for eternity, rest in the balances of the work of the five-fold ministry, in which I am a called participant.  If God has called you, He has anointed and equipped you for the work at hand.  And a major element of that calling and equipping is the assigning of personal responsibility to the five-fold minister to grow, learn, and develop in that ministry and its anointing.  There ARE grave responsibilities in this arena of life for every five-fold minister.

Study the Word.  Be sure of the office you are called to serve.  Study the Word.  Learn to clearly recognize the responsibilities of that office.  Study the Word.  Identify your personal place of service in which the Lord Jesus has set you.  Study the Word.  Rightly divide the truth of God’s Word, especially as it relates to the specific calling the Lord has set upon your life.  Study the Word.

Seek sound Biblical counsel.  You need mentors, trainers, leaders with experience and sound knowledge, and counsel that arises from the heart of God, clearly evidenced through the lives and work of authentic men/women of God.  Seek sound Biblical counsel.  Ask questions, be a life-long learner, and ALWAYS search for truth in all things.  And never, Never, NEVER forget that in your study, all things MUST be in alignment with the Word of God.  So, in all you do, KEEP THE WORD IN FIRST PLACE.  The ONLY thing that should move you in the Word of God, for it alone stands immutable, unshakable, unchangeable, and unalterable.

Manna for Today – Acts 6:1-7; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30; 1 John 2:20-27