Last weekend I had the privilege of meeting internationally acclaimed guitarist, composer, and vocalist Phil Keaggy. My brother Dennis, also a long time Keaggy music admirer, arranged to have Phil play at a ministry/charity fundraiser in Champaign, Illinois. I’ve enjoyed Phil’s music for over 30 years so there was no hesitation on my end to travel to Illinois and meet Phil and his longtime friend and road manager, Darrin.
If you have attended a Phil Keaggy concert, you know the feelings and questions that go through your head, like: “How does he do that?” and “How does he keep blowing me away every time I see him in concert?” and “The man just keeps getting better!”
God has graced each of us with unique possibilities. I use the word “possibilities” because it is up to each of us to do something with what God has given us and where He has placed us. Whether He’s given gifts that can be formed and received by the physical senses, or intangibles such as wisdom and insight–that counsels, or leads, or encourages, or a heart that is a father to the fatherless, all gifts should be honored and held with gratitude. The list of gifts and how the sovereign God intertwines and places them in and among us can seem limitless. This truth is both liberating and inspiring.
The responsibility to cultivate and express the gift(s) that God has given should be with a humble, joyful, and serious heart. It is from that basis that God has intended that we use His gift(s) unselfishly. We have most likely heard all of this before, so why aren’t we pushing ourselves in this direction?
That wasn’t the hammer. Ready for the hammer to drop now?
If a person is using his abilities to praise himself, then he has missed their intent. If he neglects the intent and the responsibilities that come with the gift(s) that has been given, then dishonor to the Giver and neglect towards others are the actual fruit from his labors. Or I should say, fruit from his lack of labor. You and I must begin with recognizing that our abilities and strengths are not self-created, but are from the living God.
I Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
Psalm 119:73 “Your hands have made me and fashioned me;”
Also, do I believe that I am the end purpose of my writing? Are you the end purpose of your (fill in the blank) gift? Really? The idea that God’s reason for creating me is merely to please me or get man to notice me is … is … laughable and shallow and futile. How limited and self-exalting is that purpose? The reason is to please and give praise to the Father, through the Son. This is the ultimate prize. Secondly, my place in the Body of Christ is to contribute to the whole, that is, the rest of the Body. Our gifts are for those within the Church that we may be salt and light, manifesting the invisible kingdom of our Christ to the world. That purpose trumps my selfish purposes on a scale that cannot be measured.
I have to preach this “responsibility” message to myself now and then. The busyness of life and the default mode of selfishness are consistent deterrents. It goes something like: “I need to get focused and finish what I know that I am currently called and gifted to do.” The word “discipline” begins ringing around in my head. Keeping up this blog is one example that applies. You and I must learn to be faithful stewards of the grace given to us by our God.
My final word on this issue.
If you’re a writer, write with a purpose, a God-given purpose. Whatever you do, do it to glorify the Father, through the Son, Jesus Christ. Make what you do worth something beyond a temporal pat on the back.
I Cor. 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Col. 3:17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Col. 3:23-24 “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”
Oh, and don’t forget: Ecclesiastes 9:10 “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”
Back to Phil Keaggy.
One of the inspirations that I have gained from Phil Keaggy over the years is that he knows where his musical gift comes from and he uses it to glorify the Gift Giver—Jesus Christ. Thanks Phil, for being an example and a reminder.
Hold on a moment, I need to flip the LP (Play Thru Me) over.
And yes, at the concert I couldn’t help myself. I picked up two more CDs. I believe that Phil has over 50 to his credit, so I still have a few on my list to pick up. Christmas is coming soon, right?
If you are unfamiliar with Phil Keaggy’s music, check out his website (http://www.philkeaggy.com/). Check out this video with Phil using his looping affects and singing a reminder to all of us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz8KfYD67CI.
If you’re a Keaggy fan, what is your favorite LP/CD?