FROM MY HEART (Part 3)

In February of 2013 my wife Carolyn and I began praying together on a more regular basis. We also began to set our faith for an increase in finances for her to be able to let go of her temp jobs and travel with me in the ministry more frequently. At the end of 2014 we were able to do that.

It is still a stretch financially every month as we live from week to week, but the Lord has been faithful. We live as the Levites of old – no retirement, no investments, no medical insurance, until we were threatened with penalization and had to sign up for Obama care (Ha!), and really no budget for vacations or conferences like most pastors have (and deservedly so). We are certainly not opposed to any of these things. We wish we had them ourselves, but to this point the Lord has designed a different plan for us.

“I will be your portion,” has been His word to us. Such was the lot of the Levites. What more could a man want than to have the Lord be his portion? We lived like this as missionaries. We’ve lived like this as traveling ministers. We have no lack. Many times we’ve had no surplus, but never have we had lack. We are use to this lifestyle. Our faith and trust in the Lord continues to grow.

We know that the Lord uses His people to sow into our lives, and we are grateful for every partner and friend of this ministry. And we are encouraged, thrilled, and elated whenever new partners begin supporting the ministry or one time gifts come in. We pray for you. There is always a need met when someone obeys God.

Why am I sharing all this?

Back to February 2013 and you will see.

When Carolyn and I started praying together an unusual operation of the Spirit began to manifest. Spirit-filled prolific utterances began to pour forth from her vessel. I recognized the manifold wisdom of God in these utterances and began recording them. Sometimes it would take me all morning to get them transcribed unto paper. Today we have nearly 300 pages of documents of this pristine wisdom from God.

During our prayer sessions it is as if the Holy Spirit is at the head of the class writing on a chalkboard, and Carolyn is reading the board, while I am privy to the wisdom and revelation coming forth. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.

What’s so neat about it is that when I hear these utterances, they impregnate me with the word of the Lord. I see more and I understand more as the Lord unveils His wisdom to us. I also receive utterance bubbling up inside o f me and pressing against my lips to preach the living Word. This has revolutionized our life and ministry. It has freighted our preaching and writing with more of the Spirit’s authority. Now mind you, we don’t control this operation. It is as the Spirit wills, but He has willed more often than not.

Contained within this wisdom and revelation from the Holy Spirit is personal direction, messages for many of the churches we travel to, and manna for some of my writings – although I must confess it is difficult to share some of the gems and nuggets the Holy Spirit gives us because of a lack of maturity and reverence in the body of Christ. Holy gems and precious pearls are not for the immature and irreverent.

Honestly, since writing weekly for Charisma magazine I have witnessed the immaturity and irreverence of so many professing Christians whose comments are often critical, cynical, degrading, and even demonic. Some are so quick to shoot down any word from God.

I just completed my 9th book, averaging a fraction over one book per year the last five years. I am able to do that for two reasons: 1) I’m an independent self-publisher and have full control of how, what, and when my books are published; 2) And I am pregnant with more of the word of the Lord, especially since this new operation my wife and I are experiencing in prayer. My books are not flying off the shelves, because we are virtually unknowns in the publishing world, but they are out there for the taking. In a small way, these books are radically altering the lives and even ministries of some.

After reading one and then several of my books, here’s what one pastoral couple said: “Have purchased 5 of your books – all of them immensely impacting!! Haven’t finished all of them yet, but will definitely be writing reviews. Thank you, Bert, for sharing your anointed messages!!” S.L. and R.L. (pastors of a church in Oregon)

The impact is being felt because of the anointing of the Lord that has been received in prayer. Honestly, I do not consider myself a great writer or author. I have two helpers – the Holy Ghost and my wife. If my writings are worthy of any readership it is because of my helpers. I give the Lord all honor and praise.

Thank you for following this blog and availing yourself to some of what we write. We intend to share more of what the Lord has shared with us in the future. We want this blog and our books to reach the people that the Lord has ordained for them to reach. We may never write a best seller or have our books published in other languages, but that is the Lord’s business.

We are also still  in the process of producing some short video teachings/trainings highlighting life in the Spirit and what the Lord shares with us. The greatest treasures of His manifold wisdom and holy knowledge are ever waiting to be discovered.

Thank you for your readership and for being a part of our lives. Thanks for allowing us to share our hearts with you, and many thanks to those who remember us in your giving as there are always needs.

 

 

 

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HOW PROUD ARE YOU?

Both James 4:6 and 1 Pet. 5:5 quote the writer of Proverbs in 3:34 and tell us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Humility increases your capacity to receive more grace from God and qualifies you to be used greatly by God.

I find it interesting that both James, who was the Lord’s brother, and at first, did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and Peter who had many obvious pride issues quoted the same verse. It seems like they had learned some hard lessons about pride.

The Bible has so much to say about pride and because the increase of grace is in proportion to our measure of humility, it would be well worth our time to give some careful study and reflection to this vital theme.

Pride has to do with a person’s high and lofty estimation of himself. Everybody has to deal with pride. It is always seeking entrance and rule in our hearts. There is a lot more pride in us than we think. It’s very subtle and we need revelation to see it.

Pride is also the nature of the devil. That alone should motivate us to resist it and want no part of it.

On the other hand, there are many blessings attached to true humility and that ought to increase our desire for it. When you understand what true humility is and what it will open up to you, you will earnestly desire it and be motivated to make it a high priority in your life.

It is impossible to walk closely with God when you are full of pride. The least bit of falsehood, pretension, and smugness will hinder your fellowship with Him. The Bible says that God hates pride.

There are many symptoms of pride. Let us look at some of them so that you can identify the spirit of it and receive more grace in your life and grow in true humility.

1. Do you try to project and maintain a false image of yourself?
2. Are you constantly promoting yourself?
3. Are you slow to admit when you’re wrong or when you don’t know something? Is it difficult for you to say, “I don’t know”.
4. Are you hesitant to ask questions, but quick to give all the answers?
5. Are you slow to acknowledge others’ successes or envious of them?
6. Are you slow to be impressed with others accomplishments or status?
7. Do you always presume that others are interested in what you are saying?
8. Do you frequently defend yourself and make excuses for your behavior? Are you content to leave your justification in the hands of God?
9. Are you bossy and use coercion to get your way?
10. Do you have to have the preeminence and be the best, the first in everything?
11. Are you always trying to be different?
12. Are you teachable?
13. Are you ungrateful and unappreciative, especially for the little things?
14. Does your pride scream when someone gets credit for what you did?

Here is a great verse: “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” (Jn. 7:18).

  • Are you always speaking of yourself and seeking your own glory – for others to be impressed with you? Why is that important to you?
  • Why is it important to you to tell others about your accomplishments and successes? Important people you know and places you’ve been?
  • Does it bother you when people don’t recognize you and acknowledge you? Why?
  • Do you show genuine interest in other people and in what they are saying? Why not?

Pride can only be detected when you begin checking the hidden and underlying motives of your heart?

Train your heart by asking yourself the “Why” of your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

Why do you feel the way you do?
Why are you doing what you do?
Why are you saying the things you say?
Why are you hurt? Angry? Aggravated?
Why did that bother you?

If you start paying attention to your heart like that, you will surely begin to grow in humility in a way you haven’t before.

Here are some proverbs on pride that will cultivate an increased awareness in you.

“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood…”(Pr. 6:16-17).

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” (Pr. 8:13).

“When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom” (Pr. 11:2).

“The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow” (Pr. 15:25).

“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces,[a] none will go unpunished” (Pr. 16:5).

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Pr. 16:18).

“A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing[a] of the wicked are sin” (Pr. 21:4).

“A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor” (Pr. 29:23).

Let us humble ourselves in the  sight of the Lord and receive more of His grace in our lives.

FROM MY HEART (Part 2)

Our newest book just went live on Amazon Passing On The Move Of God To The Next Generation. I wanted you to be among the first to know about that. It is a book for the ages. That is not a sales pitch, but a godly conviction I have.

I’ve said it before, but writing for me is not a craft – rather a calling. I take it very seriously. The work of a real writer is never done. If he is not writing he is thinking of writing – and all the more so if he is called of God to write.

I self publish most of my books. The reason I don’t publish the traditional way is because most companies bottom line is money. Is the message marketable? Does the author have a large enough platform to sell a lot of books? In my case, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “No”.

I’ve had companies turn me down because of reasons like, “the message of the book is not a felt need,” or “it’s too negative,” and the latest, “it doesn’t offer enough how-to’s and solutions.”

Yet the Bible says that the wisdom of God must be spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14) and that the natural man cannot receive it. Most of my books are books written in the Spirit and from a place of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ (Eph. 1:17). This just means that the book is birthed in my spirit before it is delivered.

Self-publishing is an altogether different animal than traditional publishing. I don’t have a company circulating and distributing my book for me. That is my responsibility. I am not only the author of my books, but the publisher and entrepreneur.

What makes a book take off is when its message hits a nerve and resonates with the reader. The momentum of the voice of the people at a grass roots level then carries the message forward into lives and arenas and even other nations where someone receives a strong desire to translate the book into their language.

My latest book is such a book, and in my humble opinion, the prince of all my books. It has value but only for the spiritually minded. The effectual working of the power of God is attached to it. What does that mean? That means that there is an energy that will activate many of the readers into a higher dimension of God’s wisdom.

There is even an endorsement at the beginning of the book from the Lord. The Lord? Yes! My wife Carolyn who is a Holy Ghost woman of many years of prayer, received an inspired utterance from the Lord concerning the book. When is the last time you saw a book that, instead of having endorsements from men, had one from God. I know – that is pretty bold and may even seem arrogant to some to include something like that in a book, but we believe it is the Lord that led us this way. His counsel and leading can at times be unconventional.

My heart is to get this message out to the body of Christ near and far. I’d like to get a copy into the hands of every minister and hungry saint, but it’s going to take someone with a lot more influence and clout than I have. BUT GOD!

In the meantime, I have to utilize the small platform of followers and readers that I do have both on Charisma and here. The majority of the few hundred consistent readers that we have on here are spiritually minded people, or else they would not even take a second look at our books or follow this blog. But I know there are many others out there that need to be exposed to the message of this book. Will you help me get this message out?

“How?” you ask.

By first of all, purchasing a copy and reading it.

Secondly, if it touches your heart and is a blessing to you, kindly post a review on Amazon. Here is the link again: (Passing On The Move Of God To The Next Generation). The more reviews a book has the higher it rises in Amazon’s rankings and the more searches it appears on.

Thirdly, could you please recommend it to your friends?

As a matter of fact, if you purchase three copies – one for yourself and for two other friends, I will send you a free personalized copy of any of my other books of your choosing. Just inbox me on Facebook Messenger, or if we’re not friends or you don’t use Facebook, email me at adm@holy-fire.org. If your email bounces for some reason just respond here in the comment section.

Here is the link to my other books on Amazon and of course here on our website, too Holy Fire Ministries.

I want to assure you that this is not about a sale. It’s about a word from the Lord. He wants to move and do so much more for us than He is presently doing. But it’s not by our own might and power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. The money from the sales of all our books goes right back into publications, and if there happens to be any leftover, it goes toward our ministry traveling expenses.

The book is 234 pages, consisting of 38 mostly short chapters, and divided into three parts. You may recognize some of the chapters from past blogs I’ve written. The book is actually underpriced for the time being at $12.00 but is valued at $15. The Kindle version should be going live soon, too, and will be priced at either 6.99 or 7.99.

Below is a list of the contents in the book to whet your appetite. I know it’s a bit lengthy, but you can survey it and see if it a word that you might be interested in reading and promoting.

Thank you for your time today and for your readership. We deeply appreciate each one of you.

All For Jesus,

Bert

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART I

 THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF GOD

THE LORD’S ENDORSEMENT

PREFACE

CHAPTER 1 — THE WISDOM OF MEN VS. THE WISDOM OF GOD

CHAPTER 2 — FLESH CHURCHES VS. SPIRIT CHURCHES

CHAPTER 3 — THE REAL CURE FOR SOCIETY’S ILLS: MORE SPIRIT AND FIRE CHURCHES

CHAPTER 4 — ABANDONING THE MACHINERY OF MINISTRY

CHAPTER 5 — THE ONE THING MANY OF OUR CHURCHES ARE MISSING

CHAPTER 6 — ONE BIG REASON SPIRITUAL PEOPLE ARE LEAVING CHURCHES

CHAPTER 7 — IT’S TIME TO UNCHURCH THE CHURCH: IS IT AN ORGANIZATION OR AN APOSTOLIC ORGANISM?

CHAPTER 8 — THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF CHRISTIANITY (PART 1)

CHAPTER 9 — THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF CHRISTIANITY (PART 2)

CHAPTER 10 — DIVISION AND STRIFE KILL LOCAL CHURCH LIFE

CHAPTER 11 — BIRTHMARKS OF A MOVE OF GOD

CHAPTER 12 — WHY DO SO MANY PENTECOSTALS AND CHARISMATICS NOT SPEAK IN TONGUES ANY MORE?

CHAPTER 13 — THE IGNORANCE ON THE SUBJECT OF TONGUES IS MIND  BOGGLING

CHAPTER 14 — OPERATION OF THE FLESH OR SPIRIT: WILL THE REAL HOLY GHOST PLEASE STAND UP?

CHAPTER 15 — PROPHETS OR FORTUNE TELLERS: IT’S ABOUT TIME WE LEARN THE DIFFERENCE

CHAPTER 16 — THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF GOD: ARE YOU AN AQUARIUM KEEPER OR AN OCEAN SWIMMER?

CHAPTER 17 — THE VARYING MOODS OF THE HOLY GHOST

CHAPTER 18 — HOW TO MOVE UP IN THE SPIRIT

CHAPTER 19 — TONGUES AND INTERPRETATION: THE CROWN JEWELS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

CHAPTER 20 — RESTORING THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT TO PRESENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS

CHAPTER 21 — HEALINGS AND MIRACLES: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS IN POWER

CHAPTER 22 — HOW TO BE ON FIRE FOR GOD

CHAPTER 23 — MY STORY OF MOVING WITH HIS GLORY

PART II      

PREACH THE WORD

CHAPTER 24 — RESTORING THE PROPHETIC DISTINCTION AND GLORIOUS PROCLAMATION OF THE CHURCH

CHAPTER 25 — SEEKER-FRIENDLY CHURCH TEMPLATE MODEL FAILING OUR YOUTH

CHAPTER 26 — BRING BACK THE OLD ANOINTINGS: HOW LONG WILL WE BE SATISFIED WITH HAPPY, SHALLOW REVIVALS?

CHAPTER 27 — SPIRITUAL JUNK FOOD WEAKENING THE CHURCH

CHAPTER 28 — BIBLE BABBLE AND BIBLICAL ILLITERACY

CHAPTER 29 – WIMPS AND PIMPS IN THE PULPIT: SPEAK UP OR SHIP OUT

CHAPTER 30 — PREACHER AMBIGUITY AND SPEAKING INTO THE AIR

CHAPTER 31 — THE MAIN DANGER OF THE HYPER-GRACE MESSAGE: ERROR THROUGH OVEREMPHASIS

CHAPTER 32 — THE INCLUSIVITY AND EXCLUSIVITY OF TRUE CHRISTIANITY: A KEY REASON WHY THERE IS SO MUCH UNCHECKED SIN IN THE CHURCH

CHAPTER 33 — BE CAREFUL WHO YOU CALL A HERETIC

CHAPTER 34 — SPIRITUAL ADULTERY AND FORNICATION

PART III  

A PORTRAIT OF A LAST-DAYS PREACHER

CHAPTER 35 — PROJECT STEPHEN: A MANIFESTO FOR A NEW BREED

CHAPTER 36 — THE MESSAGE: IRRESISTIBLE WISDOM

CHAPTER 37 — THE MIRACLES: MANTLES OF MIGHT

CHAPTER 38 — THE MARTYRDOM: THE CHARACTER AND GLORY OF ETERNITY

 

 

HOW RELIGIOUS ARE YOU?

What some people call the hyper-grace message began as a result of a sort of revolt against religion and man-made rules. Much of the message, however, went into a ditch on the other side and became rebellion against every kind of discipline and godly conduct. In a word, Christians abused their liberty.

There  are now so called liberated churches who party and drink alcohol all in the name of “being free”. One church had a beach party with women dressed scantily in bikinis while beer and wine were being served. Their motto: “We want people to know that we’re not religious!”

Hmmm…what does that mean? What are some characteristics of “being religious”? Is there such a thing?

I was raised as a devout Roman Catholic. I believe I have a pretty thorough understanding of religion, the Law, and legalism – all synonymous terms. I define religion (without relationship) as manmade expectations enforced upon someone as a means of defining how they may be accepted in a particular religion, church, or denominational system.

“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3).

Religion is man trying to reach God on his own terms through a system of works and rituals. True Christianity is God reaching down to man, and by His amazing grace, doing for him what he could never do on his own – forgiving him and transforming him.

In my Catholic upbringing we had our own rules of coming to God from the extreme act of people crawling on their knees during religious festivals, to paying indulgences for their sins, to obeying the sacraments and having our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds. It was all motivated by man’s effort to please God and get Him to accept us. It was all driven by guilt and condemnation.

What Christians have done in the extreme hyper-grace camp is to confuse conviction with condemnation. Have you ever thought about the fact that both the Holy Spirit and Satan will expose your sins and faults? How can we differentiate between the two?

Here it is. The Holy Spirit not only convicts the world of sin, but He also leads and guides the believer into all truth – which means He will lead you away from sin and the lusts of the flesh. When He convicts you it draws you closer to the Lord, causing you to be more sensitive to Him. He corrects you lovingly and points you to Jesus and His grace.

Condemnation, however, comes from Satan and is manifest through him pointing out your sins and faults while crushing your motivation to serve the Lord fervently. Condemnation draws you to yourself and makes you self-centered – beating yourself up, pitying yourself, feeling despair and hopelessness etc. You begin to fight your habits and try harder and use will power to overcome. But all the time it’s the devil using religion and the Law to work you over. Condemnation is present in your mind and draws you away from God, but conviction is a force working in your spirit and draws you closer to God.

Here’s where the problem has been in the extreme hyper grace message. In an attempt to be free from religion and man-made rules and regulations, many believers stopped following the Spirit of God. In an effort to be free from the Law written on tablets of stone they forgot about the Law that has been written on their hearts. These so called Christians stopped listening to the Spirit of God and stopped following the love of God that’s been shed abroad in their hearts (Rom. 5:5). If they would listen to the Holy Spirit and follow after love they wouldn’t act so irresponsibly, using their liberty as a license to sin, and being a stumbling block to many and exuding such indiscreet and even “dopey” behavior.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them, then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:16-17).

While many who promote the hyper-grace message see it as a departure from religion and the Law, which indeed it is, the extreme of it is the aforementioned example of liberal churches who forsake the Law that has been written on their hearts by the Spirit of God. In an effort to pull some believers out of one ditch they have dug another. Can you see that?

Here is the ditch that hyper-grace teachers have attempted to bring believers out of, which began, with what I believe, were godly motivations. They recognized and rightly discerned that many believers are still too religious, and in fact, operating more from a self-righteousness perspective than they are from the righteousness of God. Hyper-grace proponents accurately assessed that many believers still operate under a legalistic mind-set based on self-effort and have a need to properly understand the grace of God. Here are some examples of a legalistic and religious mind-set present in believers today:

  • A Bible school student gets up at 4:00 every morning in an effort to please God and to show Him how much he loves Him, all the while struggling because he works two jobs while going to school. His motivation is more to receive God’s approval than it is out of a pure heart to just love and commune with the Lord.
  • A woman dances around the church at each service performing for God because she thinks if she dances enough that God will meet her pressing financial needs.
  • A man goes to a Sunday service and fasts all day because he missed two straight Sunday services and doesn’t want God to be angry with him and forget his prayer requests.
  • Another man purchases a BWM that he can’t really afford because he feels it is a show that his faith is working.
  • A woman never misses a church service because she wants to show God how serious she is, so that God won’t forget her prayers for her backslidden children who are no longer serving the Lord.

We could probably come up with many more versions of these legalistic traits that portray believers as being religious and lacking a true understanding of God’s love and grace. Do you have any of the mind-sets of these aforementioned individuals? Are you depending more on your own righteousness than God’s righteousness? Are you legalistic? Are you doing certain things to appease God and make Him happy with you? Are you fighting bad habits in your own strength? Are you religious?

If you are like me and were raised in a legalistic home and were reprimanded constantly because of the wrongs you did without ever being praised for the right, you may still be influenced by a religious legalistic spirit more than you know. For example, if you were told by either of your parents to do several things in a given day like clean your room, take out the garbage, sweep the floor etc., and you did all but one, for which you were corrected or disciplined, then you are probably prone to be religious and have legalistic tendencies. You may still have a mind-set of trying to please men and find acceptance in others. You probably have a fear of rejection. You are probably living with a constant striving to be more and to do more in order to find love and approval from others, especially your friends. It’s a vicious cycle.

Here is the escape from this mentality.

  1. Realize that you are loved by God and fully accepted and approved in His Son’s righteousness. You are the righteousness of God now and not in the future (2 Cor. 5:21). Renew your mind with the Word to that truth.
  2. Realize that as a disciple you are a disciplined follower of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is one of discipline, but it is a discipline born of the Spirit and of love. All God requires from us is to love Him and love our neighbor. There are no external rules in Christianity. It’s all internal. Be led from within. Follow your heart. Ask yourself continually: “What would love say and do?”
  3. Let every motivation be born out of a desire to know the Lord and be close to the Lord, and not to gain His favor and approval. This attitude will also help you overcome bad habits. Look at a bad habit as a thief that steals the sweet fellowship you enjoy with the Lord, instead of you approaching it from the standpoint of YOU trying to quit the bad habit. The more you TRY, the worse it gets. That’s how religion works.

Your own efforts according to the Law actually gives more strength for you to sin. “The strength of sin is the Law” (1 Cor. 15:56b). Instead of curbing sin, your own efforts to quit actually give strength to sin.

So the question remains: How religious are you?

Be free from the Law. Be free from legalism. Be free from all manmade rules and restrictions. Be not entangled with any yoke of bondage like that ever again.

Instead, be free to follow the Spirit of God within you. Be free to follow after love. Be free to live from within.

That’s the good and fruitful life!

 

 

 

 

HOW SELFISH ARE YOU?

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Rom 2:28-29)

At one time in Israel’s history the practice of circumcision had been halted for one entire generation, obvious signs of the nation’s disobedience and apathy. In this age of grace, circumcision is not of the flesh but of the heart. When apathy creeps into our lives we need a second circumcision of the heart, so to speak.

Apathy is a vital sign of a lack of life in any church or Christian. It is one of the telltale symptoms of a dying church and a backslidden believer.

Are you ready for a serious heart check? Okay, take your defenses down. Apathy is setting in when:

  • An hour in prayer seems so long, but so short when watching a good movie.
  • It is laborious to read a chapter in the Bible, but easy to read 200 pages of a best-selling novel.
  • Gossiping about someone is easier than sharing the gospel.
  • We can’t fit a gospel meeting into our schedule with a yearly planner, but we can schedule other events at a moment’s notice.
  • We scramble to get a front seat at a ball game, but are content to sit in the back row of a church meeting where God is moving.
  • We get thrilled because a football game goes into overtime, but complain because a Spirit-inspired sermon is too long.
  • A ten dollar bill looks big in the offering, but small at the market or mall.

Ouch! I know that hurts.

As spiritual physicians, ministers must not treat the symptoms, but the cause of apathy. Idolatry is the cause of apathy. Yes, idolatry!

Any motivation of the heart having to do with selfish gain is idolatry. Idolatry begins when you start giving your heart’s affections to someone or something else more than God. In this state, a second circumcision (of the heart) is necessary to restore the heart to its supremacy of loving God above all else.

The Bible tells us to “examine ourselves” to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). If we are growing in the love of God we are growing in Christlikeness and becoming less and less selfish.

Let’s compare some characteristics of selfishness that lead to apathy, proof of an uncircumcised heart in certain areas, with the characteristics of a circumcised heart. Again, let’s go through these with an open heart and with the hope that it will expose our blind spots, birth godly repentance, and then lasting change.

Check carefully the areas of your life that are manifesting selfishness:

• Selfish people desire to be served, but a circumcised heart is motivated to serve others.
• Selfish people desire to be a success, but a circumcised heart is motivated to make others a success.
• Selfish people desire personal advancement at the expense of others, while a circumcised heart desires to advance and promote others.
• Selfish people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated, but a circumcised heart has a sense of its own unworthiness outside of Christ and is just grateful that God would use it at all.
• Selfish people are wounded when others are promoted and they themselves are overlooked, but a circumcised heart is eager for others to get the credit and rejoices when others are lifted up.
• Selfish people think of how much they can do for God, but a circumcised heart knows they have nothing to offer outside of Christ and His life flowing through their broken lives.
• Selfish people feel confident in how much they know, but a circumcised heart is humbled by how much it doesn’t know and has yet to learn.
• Selfish people are self-conscious, while a circumcised heart is not concerned at all with self.
• Selfish people are self-righteous and look down at others, but a circumcised heart esteems others better than itself.
• Selfish people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit, but a circumcised heart has a dependent spirit and recognizes its need for others.
• Selfish people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation, while a circumcised heart is self-denying.
• Selfish people claim their rights and have a demanding spirit, but a circumcised heart yields its rights and has a meek spirit.
• Selfish people focus on the failure of others, but a circumcised heart is overwhelmed with a sense of its own need.
• Selfish people possess a critical, fault-finding spirit and are always trying to remove the speck out of someone else’s eye, while a circumcised heart is merciful and forgiving and is busy removing the beam from its own eye.
• Selfish people find it difficult to share their spiritual needs with others, but a circumcised heart is willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.
• Selfish people work to protect their reputation and self-image and are overly concerned with what others think, but a circumcised heart is willing to die to its own reputation and to what others think. Its only concern is being real with God.
• Selfish people are defensive when criticized, but a circumcised heart receives criticism with a humble and teachable spirit.
• Selfish people are quick to blame others and make excuses, while a circumcised heart accepts personal responsibility and can see where it is wrong.
• Selfish people do not wish to be vulnerable, but a circumcised heart is willing to get close to others and risk vulnerability.
• Selfish people are blind to their true condition and don’t think they have anything to repent of, while a circumcised heart walks in the light, and realizes its need for a continual attitude of repentance.
• Selfish people want to always cover up their sin and make sure no one finds out, but a circumcised heart doesn’t care who knows or who finds out as long as God is pleased.
• Selfish people have a hard time admitting wrong and asking for forgiveness, but a circumcised heart is quick to admit failure and seek forgiveness.
• Selfish people deal only with general confession of sin, but a circumcised heart is willing to acknowledge specifics when confessing its sin.
• Selfish people are concerned only about the consequences of their sin, while a circumcised heart is grieved over the root cause of their sin and of the hurt it brings to the heart of God.
• Selfish people are only sorry they got caught or found out in their sin, but a circumcised heart is genuinely sorry for its sin and proves it by forsaking it.
• Selfish people wait for the other person to come and ask forgiveness when there is a conflict or a misunderstanding in a relationship, but a circumcised heart runs to the cross no matter who is wrong, taking the initiative for reconciliation when there are conflicts or misunderstandings.
• Selfish people compare themselves to others and feel superior or inferior to them, but a circumcised heart compares itself to the holiness of God and feels a desperate need for His mercy and grace.
• Selfish people don’t think they need a second circumcision but are sure everyone else does, while a circumcised heart continually senses its need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Well, we all have some work to do, don’t we? Allow God’s grace to tender your heart and let the Lord be your all-sufficiency. You are complete in Him and He loves you right where you are and in the season of life and spiritual growth you are in. But He also wants you to grow as you learn to abide in Him and let His Word abide in you.

Abundant grace be multiplied to everyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

BIBLE BABBLE AND BIBLICAL ILLITERACY

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken (deceived), not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mt. 22:29).

“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Heresy can be fatalistic.

Ignorance of the Scriptures engenders bondage.

But willful ignorance that leads to Biblical illiteracy is inexcusable.

Daily the Bereans diligently searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching was true. Today most Christians easily believe and swallow what the most popular and elevated preachers in our culture say.

The lack of basic Bible knowledge in the church world today is extremely high. Most professing Christians have not read the entire Bible or even the whole of the New Testament once in their lifetime. And some don’t want to, which is a bigger problem, symptomatic of the church’s backslidings and false conversions. Scripture reading and the necessity for Biblical foundations have been dumbed down, and sadly, some of our pastors are not even qualified to teach the Bible. Moreover, many of our seminaries and Bible colleges generally produce lecturers and theologians void of the Spirit and fire of God, and full of head knowledge that puffs up and spawns unbelief.

Regarding Biblical illiteracy, researchers tell us that it is worse than many have even thought or imagined. Here are some interesting statistics from a recent Barna survey:

• Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels.
• Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples.
• 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the ten commandments. “Increasingly, America is Biblically illiterate.” [see Barna Group’s web site]
• According to 82 percent of Americans, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better by only one percent.
• A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family.

Some of the statistics are rather perplexing even to those aware of the problem.

• One poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults in America believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
• Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.
• A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

Perhaps what is even more alarming is that within churches and organizations that still have a high esteem for Scripture, there is also a growing ignorance of the content of Scripture. For many, especially modern day Charismatics, they regard some inner light or impulse as being “led by the Spirit” or “having a good feeling about it”, instead of giving priority of the Spirit’s testimony to the written Word. They don’t think or study for themselves. I call these Christians modern day sensationalists who are easily led away by fables and lies, spoken so cleverly by men that they sound like the truth, or they follow teachers who teach in accordance with their own desires.

Not only is ignorance and sensationalism a problem today, but following extreme teachings from Scriptures taken grossly out of context is a major plague in the Charismatic movement. The Bible warns us concerning those who twist Scripture this way:

“Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20:30 – NLT).

Charismatics are notorious for pursuing new revelation without the expense of diligent study. And I say this as one who is a strong proponent of the supernatural and modern day Charismania and Pentecostalism. Often, though, we put more stock in ministers who have had visions, visitations, or some other spectacular experience more than the written Word of God. I believe in visions and visitations and all these things, but the Scriptures will forever be our standard.

For example, recently I had a dialogue with a Facebook friend who was posting supposed visions and revelations that people have had of hell, and how many professing Christians were there simply because they had not tithed to their local churches. When I told him that I couldn’t accept the authenticity of these visions based on what Scripture says, he unloaded Bible reference after reference on tithing, in an effort to prove that these visions were from God. But it was all out of context. So it is possible to study the Scriptures diligently, but still not rightly divide them and keep them in context when studying a certain topic. This, too is a common error. If you merely study to prove what you already believe without humility and being teachable you will miss it.

Knowing that in the last days many will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons this should keep us very sober in this regard (1 Tim. 4:1). The anointing of the Holy Spirit does teach us (1 Jn. 2:20, 27) and open our understanding, but we are also commanded to study to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15). The same Holy Spirit that leads us and guides us into all truth also inspired the apostle Paul to pronounce a curse on false teachers and those who preached another gospel (1 Gal. 1:8-9).

The biggest problem I’ve witnessed in almost every movement is the poor use of the full counsel of God. We tend to judge and evaluate everything we believe from our own traditional or denominational perspective or particular stream of faith we might be in.

For instance, the revival camp emphasizes repentance but don’t really have a working knowledge of faith. The faith camp emphasizes faith, but many don’t understand repentance. The holiness camp emphasizes holy living, but they don’t walk in power. The power camp emphasizes signs and wonders, but many of them don’t walk in holiness and have faulty foundations in the Word.

The fundamentalists emphasize their strong belief in Scripture but have a reactionary approach to the Bible. They are quick to shout, “if it’s not in the Bible I don’t believe it!”, but ironically they don’t believe in tongues and other aspects of the Spirit-filled life. They win people to a doctrine, but not to life in Christ. Conversely, the liberals, and proponents of the seeker-sensitive philosophy, relate to society by compromising truth and softening doctrine to reach the culture, which also creates problems, mainly the lack of true disciples.

When will we learn to reject error and blend all the truths together and be balanced? When will we learn to receive and release the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)?

The greatest illiteracy tragedy is concerning the basics of salvation and the Bible. Here are some alarming statistics:

• Out of 79% of evangelicals who say their faith is very important to them, only 36% believe Jesus Christ is actually the only way to salvation. That’s a shocker.
• In mainline denominational churches that percentage drops even more as only 14% believe Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, while 83% believe all religions lead there.
• Only 22% of mainline denominational churches even believe the Bible is fully inspired by God while 28% believe it is just a book written by men.
• Perhaps the most disturbing trend is among the 18-35 younger group of religious Americans. For many of them Christianity is becoming a watered down hybrid version of eastern philosophy and biblical knowledge.

While some polls show roughly 9 of 10 Americans still maintain belief in a god or gods, the trend of religious young Americans is toward a conglomeration of varied religious beliefs, including atheism.

This generation must get serious about the problem of Biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of next generation Americans – Christians included – will go on thinking that the Bible is really not the inspired Word of God, Jesus is not the only way to salvation, and Noah and his wife Joan of Arc will live happily ever after.

WHY HALF OF ALL BELIEVERS WILL BE UNPREPARED FOR THE BRIDEGROOM

“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him.’ All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’

But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked.”

(Mt. 25:1-13 – NLT)

Verses 3 and 4 in the New King James version reads like this:

“Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.”

The fundamental difference between the wise and foolish virgins was that the wise kept extra oil in an added vessel and the foolish did not. Oil, of course, is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The psalmist of old said, “I shall be anointed with fresh oil” (Ps. 92:10). In other words, oil gets old and stale and we need to be anointed with fresh oil.

Oil is the dividing line between the wise and foolish virgins. If we received all the oil we need at salvation, why would we need a parable like this? The point many of us can miss in this parable is that our lives have got to match up to what God wants to do to us, in us, and through us in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the dividing line.

“Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18-19) is God’s command. This command was given to already Spirit-baptized believers. The admonition here is to stay filled or maintain the infilling, as the original Greek bears forth the meaning, “Be being filled…”

In 1927 Smith Wigglesworth preached a profound prophetic message at Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, CA. By the inspiration of the Spirit, and with what he described as liquid fire running through him, he said this:

“There must be a special preparation for the return of Christ, and at least half of all believers will be totally unprepared.” This agrees with the above parable of the 10 virgins.

The standard established by the Lord from the beginning of the Church age is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and maintaining that infilling through continually speaking Spirit-inspired utterances.

Even the qualifications for the selection of men to wait on tables in ministry to the widows included being Spirit-filled.

“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” (Acts 6:3).

Peter in rehearsing before the Jews the vision he had of the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Gentiles said: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning (Acts 11:15).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was a vital and an essential part of the early Church.

The Church must be careful in not departing from the standard God set from the beginning. The supernatural Church is God’s standard. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is where it starts. Even after Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on a few disciples (Jn. 20:22) they were still commanded to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, which was the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) in His fullness.

All ministers and saints must humble themselves and unload from their lives the traditions of men that are making the Word of God of none effect (Mk. 7:13), give up their worldly wisdom that is nullifying the manifold wisdom of God from being displayed (Eph. 3:10), and cast off their doubt and unbelief that is short-circuiting the power of God in our generation (Mk. 6:5).

Traditions of men, worldly wisdom, and doubt and unbelief are some of the weights and the sin that so easily ensnares us and keeps us from running with endurance the race that is set before us (Heb. 12:1). The foolish virgins did not have enough oil to carry them through the midnight hour. Conversely, the extra oil in the added vessel kept the wise virgins ready and carried them through.

We are living in the night season of the Church.

“For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory shall be seen upon you” (Is. 60:2).

“Then the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night” (Is. 4:5).

These verses tell us that in the night season the glory of the Lord and the fire of God shall be seen on God’s people. We know that this last scripture was witnessed in Israel during their wilderness journey, but how much more shall this manifestation be enhanced during the days of the outpouring of the Spirit in this Church age?

The question is not, “Are you saved?” but “Are you burning with the fire of God?”

“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning” (Lk. 12:35).

In Bible times in order to have freedom of activity men tucked the skirts of their long robes into their belts around their waist. This signified a readiness of action. But in the night that instruction would not benefit them without also having their lamps burning. When you have no oil, your lamp cannot be kept burning. Not having the fullness of the Holy Spirit in your life is sort of like driving your car at night without the lights on.

Your lamp is the word of the Lord that burns in your spirit through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

“The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inner depths of his heart” (Pr. 20:27).

“And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us’” (Lk. 24:32).

The point of this parable is that even though the 10 virgins are all saved they were not all ready for the coming of the Bridegroom.

One Bible translation says in verse, “When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Mt. 25:5).

All the virgins were drowsy and fell asleep, and all of them woke up when the cry was made, but only the five wise had enough oil to get their lamps burning and move out to meet the Bridegroom.

Lethargy is a huge problem in the Church today. This message is so important because of the dullness of people’s ears. We need an electric word like a live wire that shakes and arouses us from our doldrums and lethargy.

Wise virgins unload the weights and sin that so easily besets them, and maintain an infilling of fresh oil in their lives that keeps them burning with the fire of God, and prepared for their translation at the Bridegroom’s return. If death should meet us first, then the way they enter heaven will in part determine their eternal reward and position in heaven.

Paul spoke of attaining unto a certain resurrection, calling it a prize to be gained (Phil. 3:11-14). The problem is that we stop pressing into “knowing and gaining Christ” (Phil. 3:8-10) and preparing ourselves for this glorious attained place and being ready for our translation.

Here is the rest of that prophetic excerpt from Smith Wigglesworth:

“All the people which are pressing into and getting ready for this glorious attained place where they shall not be found naked, where they shall be blameless, where they shall be immoveable, where they shall be purified by the power of the Word of God, have within them a consciousness of the very presence of God, changing their very nature and preparing them for a greater thing, and causing them to be ready for translation.”

May this word stir you and cause you to take great inventory of your life, so that you will undo from your life that which is keeping you from being a wise virgin.

May the earnest reader understand this great mystery.

A WORD FOR YOUNG MINISTERS: MATURING IN THE CALL OF GOD

I’ve been mentoring ministry students and younger ministers for most of my life in ministry, both on the mission field and here in America. There are many struggles and challenges we face on the way to growth and maturity in our calling. The Lord has brought me through many such trials. With it has come understanding that I wanted to share with you. These secrets will help you enter into a settled and restful state of heart, where you are no longer striving. I hope they are a blessing to you, for they are written out of the pain of my own journey to maturity.

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter….” (Heb 11:24). In his youth, Moses didn’t always make right choices, but as he matured, his choices brought more honor to God.

David was anointed (selected) to be king as a teenager (1 Sam 16:1, 21), but he didn’t begin to reign until he was age 30 (2 Sam 5:4).

Elisha was chosen to take Elijah’s place (1 Kings 19:16-21), but it wasn’t until years later that it was fulfilled.

It took a considerable number of years for Paul to mature in his calling.

Even Jesus had to subject Himself to others for a period in His life so that He could mature (Lk 2:51-52).

Maturity in the call of God can be likened to a seed. The process begins at conception before moving on to birth and maturity.

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest is come.” (Mk 4:26-29 NIV)

I realize that this parable refers to the Word of God producing fruit in a person’s life, but I am going to use it to show the process of maturity in the call of God. By call of God, I mean your God-given function and purpose in the kingdom of God especially, but not limited to, those called to the ministry of the Word.

The maturity of the call of God in you is a maturity in and of your spirit. The call of God and you are inseparable. Unless you mature and develop spiritually, you will never fulfill the call of God on your life. Now follow this real closely because the following principles which we share will save your life, and bring you into a greater anointing of the Spirit.

Maturity in the call of God begins with a seed and moves through the different stages of development until there’s a harvest. Here are the elements which make up the harvest of your calling.

1) The Seed: You see, the call of God is first a seed, and in order for that seed to germinate and bear fruit it must die (John 12:24). It must die to its own life, way, plan, and ministry. It must die to the harvest it thinks it should produce and the time of fulfillment. A seed lets the process of maturity happen without a struggle. It does not struggle with time and identity. It cannot control either one.

Secondly, the seed must be watered and nurtured. Every believer needs a mentor and a father. He must have the right environment and atmosphere to grow. A godly vision and example must be set before him. Godly training must be given. Submit to be taught, fathered, and trained. Submit to the nurturing process.

Have you ever known a forty year old man who was immature and irresponsible? A person becomes that way because of two basic reasons. He had no one in his life to father and train him, or he failed to submit properly to them. Naturally and spiritually, this is true. Even though ultimately God is our spiritual Father, we still need to follow and learn from the godly example of older saints.

2) The Soil: The call of God must have the right soil which has been plowed, cultivated, and fertilized (Lk 13:6-9). The soil is your own heart. Notice that all by itself the soil produces fruit (Mk 4:28).

The amount of time it takes to mature spiritually and in the call of God is ultimately determined by the condition of your heart. That is why it is so important to keep your heart and spirit right. Make it a priority to minister to your own spirit continually through prayer and the Word and fellowship with God. And never allow strife and dishonor to enter into your relationships, especially those who are over you in the Lord.

Jesus taught in the parable of the sower (Mk 4) that the quality of the soil determines the quantity and quality of the harvest.

“The measure of thought, study, and use your heart gives to the truth it hears, is the measure that comes back to you, and even more.” (Mk 4:24-25 Amp)

Use what you have or you will eventually lose it. Walk in the light and truth you now have, and more will be given. Some people are waiting for their “big” ministry or “big” break but not using what they have now.

3) The branch: The “branch” stage of development in the Christian life and in the call of God is when you will begin to see a “budding” and a “sprouting”. Here you may even begin to see some fruit and to recognize more fully your calling. It is usually at this stage also where vision is realized. Growth and momentum are happening.

The “branch” stage of development is both very exciting and very dangerous. Right at this stage is where many believers falter. They can become very independent, proud, and self sufficient. With growth and momentum in your calling, it becomes very easy to do things that the Lord has not told you to do. It is here where you really begin to grow, but it is here also where an un-submissive attitude may begin to show.

The branch must stay connected to the Vine (John 15:1-2). You will be challenged here to remain in the Lord, and to stay aligned with His purposes for your life and calling. This is a lifetime challenge, but more so in this pruning season.

The “branch” stage of development is usually a difficult season for many believers especially for those who have a real calling to the ministry. This is the season of severe “pruning” and “purging”. God knows it is painful, but He also knows that without it you will not bear more fruit. Every branch that will bear more fruit will not do so without being pruned. Growth and maturity is painful.

Even Jesus had to learn obedience by the things which He suffered (Heb 5:8).

Small children and especially teenagers experience pain in their soul on their way to further maturity. Spiritually speaking, it is the same way.

One cannot really mature properly without submitting to this painful pruning process. Suffering according to the will of God (many suffer outside of the will and purpose of God due to their own ignorance, unbelief, and disobedience) is a part of our learning to submit and obey.

Listen to this powerful statement: Purging and pruning is a work of the Spirit in our lives that is very necessary because the vision we have for our lives and ministry is often ahead of the maturity of our character, the fullness of our calling, and the season of expected harvest.

4) The Harvest: This is the fourth and final element of the maturing process. Patience and perseverance along with a keen spiritual discernment of the times and seasons are two of the greatest qualities of heart which will help us to reap the God ordained harvest for our lives and callings.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (perseverance or endurance). But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking nothing.” (Jam 1:2-4)

Once you know your place in Christ, your calling, and the season of its fullness you will not be shaken in all the trials of your faith. It is difficult to shake someone from what he knows is God’s will. Your faith is that which you know to be the will of God for your life. That which is only of the soul or emotions will not produce a spiritual harvest because you will quit during the pruning process.

The full cycle of patience’s perfect work will produce perfect (mature) character and completeness in you where you are lacking in nothing. Until you are lacking in nothing, you are not ready for something.

The conforming of our character to the image of Christ is the harvest that God wants. When your character is mature and complete, then you are ready for your harvest. Let God have His harvest so you can reap yours.

These principles will save your life, and you will come into a greater anointing of the Spirit.

God will test you on this. The enemy will attempt to sidetrack you. People will run right in front of you, and they will seem to get more favor from leadership than you do. They will seem to get the favor, position, and benefits you thought were yours. Remember, though that God’s gifts and calling are without repentance (Rom 11:29).

No leader, organization, or man can control God’s gifts and calling in you. God and you control it. God and your willingness to the submission of God’s plan is what ultimately controls the gifts and calling on your life.

So be patient and let God have His perfect way in you.