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Gifts of the Spirit

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 1 Corinthians 12:4-5

A friend of mine and her husband recently participated in a church workshop which helped them identify their various gifts and strengths.  While doing her homework for the workshop she reached out and asked me and a few friends to help her identify three values she’s passionate about and three abilities she has.  I think it surprised her when all three of us identified the exact same qualities.  What was interesting was that she, herself, was struggling to do the same.

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

I think so often as Christians we get caught up in this list of gifts from 1 Corinthians and forget what else this chapter says.  We are all given the Holy Spirit and we all are given gifts to assist the body of the church. So, when our friends tell us one of our gifts is being trustworthy or loyal or even diligent or empathetic, we might not see those as important as one of the “Big 9” and therefore not as worthy. And yet I will tell you having a person managing the church funds whose gifts are trustworthy and diligent is incredibly important!

I’m so thankful that God gave me the gifts of being organized, able to multitask, a love of writing and teaching.  I can’t interpret tongues but thankfully none of the jobs I’ve had, both volunteered and paid, required that!  I would love to stand on my church stage and be able to sing you a beautiful hymn but that’s just not going to happen.  What I can do, however, is thank God not only for the gifts he has bestowed on me, but the ones He has given others.  Together we make up the talented body of Christ.

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Are You Ready?

 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28

One of my friends has found herself in an unexpected teaching opportunity.  She and her husband were active participants in a Bible study held at my house for about 5 years.  My observation was that he wasn’t progressing in his faith journey.  He seemed a bit stuck.  He was definitely a man of faith and attended church regularly.  But he kept listening to the world’s half truths about Jesus.

A year passed after that study group disbanded and my friend came to me asking about doing another study group.  She was particularly concerned about her husband.  They were no longer attending the same church and with the study group having disbanded her husband was without the counsel of other Christians.  We decided to start a new group but it would be just women this time around and it left her concerns about her husband unanswered. 

Over the course of last year my friend has made amazing strides in her faith progression.  Just last week I listened to her as she was able to answer a difficult Bible study question with a great analogy – making it all clear to the rest of us!  Like the glee I had while watching one of my Girl Scouts successfully learn to build a fire I jumped for joy at my friend’s insight!  I loved it!

And God has answered her prayers about her husband.  It wasn’t the answer she was expecting.  You see, the teacher he needed was her.  Her husband has watched her transformation with awe.  She is living out the Word.  And he started asking her questions about Jesus.  After church (their new one) they go for breakfast and sit and discuss the sermon.  He relies on her for further insight and instruction.  

 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16

My friend’s teaching opportunity was close at home.  And at the start of Jesus’ ministry, He too started close to home.  The first recorded teaching by Jesus was to His cousin, John the Baptist.  Jesus asks John to baptize him but John recognizes Him as the Messiah and tries to convince Jesus it should be the other way around. 

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

Jesus knew His audience.  As a devoted man of God, John was well practiced in what it meant to achieve holy righteousness.  And so he accepted Jesus’ reasoning.

When you follow along Jesus’ teaching path, you’ll find it to be not only slow and patient but tailored for each person or group of people He encounters.  And that’s the joy in teaching.  No matter what we teach it’s important to know the delivery method.  At first, Jesus reached out to His cousin, then His cousin’s followers and their friends.  And the tipping point, after performing quiet acts of healing and word of them spread, was the Sermon on the Mount.

But even after He preached to large crowds, He would encounter individuals and specifically set aside time to teach them.  To tell them about the glory of God and the forgiveness of sins. 

To the learned He spoke with confident knowledge of Moses and Isaiah.  To the poor and lame, He taught through love and compassion.  To the average man and woman, He used parables containing everyday elements like farming and relationships.  And to the disciples He opened their eyes to the mysteries of the Kingdom.  Each time He sought the “ah ha” moment for which every teacher longs.  The moment when the light comes on inside.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

I once was leading a small Bible study and the topic of “evangelizing” came up.  It usually makes people squirm.  One participant said she just didn’t feel ready to talk to people about God.  And yet she’s been a Christian for about 50 years. What if we erase the word “evangelize” and replace it with sharing or teaching?  What if instead of picturing ourselves standing before the Pharisees or Sanhedrin we picture ourselves sitting with our children or a friend?  And sharing how Jesus has brought us peace and joy in times of trouble.  That should at a minimum be expected of us.

My friend I mentioned at the beginning has come a long way.  About a year ago, her adult son started asking her questions about God and Jesus and she felt unprepared. She had prayed for many years that her son would turn to Jesus.  And now he was asking her questions.  So, what did she do?  She sought instruction, she prayed, and she was bold.  And at her next opportunity to teach a family member, her husband, she was ready.

“Our lives should reflect the love and goodness of Jesus but we should pray that the Lord would give us opportunities to share the gospel with people who come into our lives.”  

Pastor Adriel Sanchez, Core Christianity Podcast

Jesus didn’t want to keep His life offering amongst a small group of people.  So yes, He lived a good and faithful life but He didn’t stop there.  He reached out to people.  He shared through teaching the most important lessons we will ever learn.  He prepared for this task.  And when His time came, He was ready.

The question is, are you ready?  

Your role as teacher may be needed right now.  For your children, your spouse, your neighbor, a struggling believer or searching non-believer.

Have you worked on the other steps so you can teach, like Peter says, with gentleness and respect?  Have you put yourself in positions to be a humble servant and therefore interacting with non-believers in positive ways?  Are you studying His Word so when confronted with half-truths or outright lies about God you can stand firm like a warrior?  God has already tested you in all these areas.  He’s tested me.  What is your report card?  In what areas do you need to ask for God’s help today so you can be ready?


bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Best For You

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
    your peace would have been like a river,
    your well-being like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:17-18

We’ve all probably heard it from our parents at one time or another.  And if you are a parent you are most likely guilty of saying the same – “I just want the best for you.”  As your child (or you as a child) rolls their eyes.  As humans we seem to have the propensity to want to cut our own path through the jungle and trip over our own mistakes.  We grab random vines thinking it’ll help us swing through our problems or create fabulous opportunities.

It’s one thing to see our parents as fallible human beings that may not truly know what’s best for us but when we apply that same logic to God, we’re in for an Indiana Jones style bumpy and dangerous ride.

And we know that in all things 
God works for the good of those 
who love him, who have been 
called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

God has thoughts beyond our thoughts.  He knows the past and the future and he has big plans for each of us.  And when we lose sight and let go of God, we take a lot of unneeded weed- choked paths.  So much of this behavior seems to come down to a lack of trust that God really does teach us what is best for us – or we think maybe He just doesn’t understand what is best for us.

God sees tomorrow – all of your tomorrows – and he is able to prepare you for whatever is to come.

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principals, #9 Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.

All trusting relationships are built on time spent together, learning each other’s character, experiencing trials and joys and seeing how each person either stands up or lets you down.  Have you assumed that God is going to let you down?  Have you decided that God already has let you down?  And yet, scripture reminds us of the promise that God is always teaching us what is best for us.  Maybe what you were hoping for was not what you needed.  Or maybe God needed you to experience that disappointment so you are tested for a future greater than you can imagine.

When we accept that:

  1. God is God and we are not (PS 46:10)
  2. God’s thoughts and ways are greater than ours (Is 55:9)
  3. And God wants the best for us (Is 48:17; Matt 10:29-31)

We can have a perspective change during our times that might seem hopeless and instead know that God is working for our good.  We just might not know exactly what that “good” is.

My BSGs are starting a new study called, “Everyday Theology.”  Now it might sound silly for a group of devout Christians to read a book that reviews the basics of our faith: scripture, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc.  But each time we open our Bibles and truly approach reading it from a learning point of view we find out something new.  The Bible is a living source of God’s Word which wants to guide us throughout our lives.

I used to be one of those Christians that had a very dusty Bible.  When I did open it, I would close my eyes and then randomly pick a page.  I figured that’s how it worked – God would point me to nothing short of a miracle of words.  But would you ever take the phone book (if any exist these days), open it up and phone a stranger expecting to trust them with whatever advice you were seeking?  It might be great advice but the likelihood that you would take it would be slim.

His Word holds great lessons for us to try and keep us moving in the right direction.  We should pore over it like a treasure map.  It’s a bit complicated because it has so much to accomplish.  But once we start using the map and trusting that it is right, we find ourselves better able to navigate the twists and turns of life.  And isn’t that a great way to start out a new year?

I want to encourage you today to read Psalm 119. It is a perfect example of how God provides order in the midst of chaos. It is the longest chapter in the Bible, composed of 22 stanzas with each stanza containing 8 verses. Each verse starts with the same Hebrew letter — pretty cool. Almost every verse contains one of the following words: instruction, decree, precept, statute, command, judgment, promise, and word. Here is an excerpt:

I have more insight than all my teachers
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the 
elders, for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
Psalm 119:99-102

Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!