“Spiritual Gifts”

What is your spiritual gift?

Exodus 31 The Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity who gifts men for the purpose of ministry. He gifted Bezalel with four gifts: in skill, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship. However, the Spirit did not leave Bezalel to do this work alone. He also gifted Oholiab from the tribe of Dan to work under Bezalel. Paul expands this idea in Romans 12 where he explains that each member of the church community has a gift specifically apportioned for the work of the ministry in the church. To the Ephesian church, he told them that we are “equipped for the work of the ministry of God that is to build up the body of Christ.”[Eph 4:12]

It is often heard people say one of two things: (1) I don’t know what my spiritual gift is OR (2) I don’t have a spiritual gift. To say either is to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. This nothing more than a false idea; instead stop and consider yourself blessed to be given your gift so you can serve the ministry.  

Where are you serving using your spiritual gift?

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Acts 3 “A Divine Interruption or Appointment?”

ImageHow do you handle interruptions when you are late, on your way, ready to go to church or prayer meeting, Bible study? If we all would stop and investigate our responses we would more than often see them as just that; interruptions but not as divine appointments. Peter and John teach us some valuable lessons as they are on their way to prayer.

First, these two disciples were on their way just as they have always done, three times a day. It was their regular walk to the temple at specified times, morning, noon and at 3 pm. They had passed this gate many times and probably took note of the many alms beggars there. But, why this one day did their gaze fall upon this one beggar out of all the rest? Why did they stop and talk to him? Why this day, why not yesterday or why not wait until tomorrow? Why did Jesus only heal the one infirmed man at the Pool of Siloam when there were many there? The answer lies in this: Joh 14:31 “but I am doing just what the Father commanded me,” It was the Father’s will for that man at the pool to be healed “that” day and not another, and it was the Father’s will that this beggar out of all the others be healed on “this day.” Only in eternity can we know the answers to the “why’s.” For now it is that the Father reached down from heaven this one day and chose to place His favor upon this one man.

So when God sends you an “interruption—appointment” remember that it was the Father’s will and His plan. You may just be meeting a beggar in need of redemption, in fact a beggar not even looking for eternal life. But if your faith is strong and you are willing to be used, God will give you the privilege as he gave Peter and John to offer the cup of living water, the bread of consolation and healing in the name of Jesus so that the words spoken by Peter would bear fruit: “And on the basis of faith in Jesus’ name, his very name has made this man – whom you see and know – strong. The faith that is through Jesus has given him this complete health in the presence of you all.”

Are you looking for a divine appointment? It often does not come as roaring thunder to stop us in our tracks but instead the still quiet voice that Elijah heard as he waited in the cave. 1Ki 19:12 After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper.

 

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“Happy Birthday Church”

ImageBirthdays are wonderful times of each year, complete with presents, cake and candles. God loves to celebrate as well and today in Acts 2 we see how he sends the Holy Spirit as the present and tongues of fire as the candles. The icing on the cake comes from seeing how God will use this to bring 3000 members to his flock in one sitting. What a party!

The Birthday day was Pentecost. It is the Jewish celebration 50 days after Passover known as Shavuot in Hebrew. It is one of the three feasts when all men near enough to Jerusalem come to present themselves and thus this is why we can ascertain that there were so many Jews present in that city. We remember from Acts 1 that Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples “presenting himself alive with many convincing proofs” and that he commanded that they stay put in Jerusalem until the promise of the Father. Thus we are about 10 days after his ascension. 

God’s “present” to his church was the infilling of the Holy Spirit who is the third person of the Triune God; sent to teach and recall the all things that Jesus taught his disciples. When Jesus was baptized he was anointed with power with the Holy Spirit who descended upon him in the form of a dove. Now God will send the Holy Spirit to anoint the beginning of the church with tongues of fire and power.

God’s “Birthday Candles” were the tongues like a fire appearing to them and rested upon each one. We recall from the OT that God put a pillar of fire to guide his children and now it appears that this pillar has divided into many parts to anoint each part of the body with His power and gifts; one of which was the gift of spoken languages. AQ

Within the city the sound came and “a crowd gathered and was in confusion, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” They were baffled and responded in two ways which is the same way people respond today. Some were astounded and asked “What does this mean” while others jeered and said “They are drunk on new wine.” Lest they be without excuse God sends his message of love and forgiveness to the listeners through Peter—the one who denied, was restored and now is empowered. That is often our path as well.

God’s “cake,” that is His message, was offered and some partook of what the Holy Spirit revealed which had three parts: (1) Jesus was the anointed of God as the Messiah proven by powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs, (2) He was crucified but raised on the third day according the scriptures, and (3) he ascended and sits at the right hand of God. God then sent his Holy Spirit to prove to them they were  “wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment –“  Peter reiterated: “we are witnesses of it.” As a result 3000 were acutely distressed or pricked in their hearts and asked “what shall we do?”

God’s gift is shared: “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”

Beloved this party was not just for a few for remember Jesus’ promise: “and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”   Let’s celebrate together!

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1Cor 5 “Teachable Moment of Time Out!”

ImageOnce a parent always a parent. Can you recall long ago when our fathers/mothers disciplined us saying: this hurts me more than you? Now in the role of a parent you see the wisdom of that statement. Parenting skills never go away even when your children are adults. Paul took seriously his role as a parent to the fledgling church in Corinth. “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” [1Cor 4:15] and in that role knew that there would come times when as a parent, one must discipline.

How does a parent lovingly discipline? As Paul wrote to Timothy in another letter, he gave us the wisdom of what the Word lovingly does and we can apply that same principle to parenting: “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”[2Tim 3:16]. We are to teach our children, reprove/rebuke them, correct their faulty thinking and behaviors, and train them up “Prov 22:6 Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

When you were naughty did you often anticipate the parent’s return with dread or did you go on with no thought of what lay ahead? That is part of the picture Paul is painting for us as he reminded them that just because he was absent physically he was there in spirit. Jesus too as our head is not with us physically but is with us in Spirit “And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” Paul gently asked them: “Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” If Jesus were to return right now which of these might we want him to administer?

The Corinthian church had a serious problem. One congregant was co-habiting with his father’s wife. As a church they had failed to discipline this man and in fact were accepting it and were proud. Why were they not sorrowing over this serious sin? Why had they not administered discipline?  Paul says this is so serious that not even the Gentiles would think of doing this. What were they thinking of?

Paul then lovingly corrects their faulty thinking/behavior. This sin will infect the entire church just as yeast infects the dough. Remove this evil person from among you! You as a parent might have done it this way: go to your room to think about it. Isolate the child.  For the Corinthians isolation of this man with no participation in the Lord’s Table, no fellowship with individuals, no small groups of believers is Paul’s counsel with the hope that he will reflect on his sin. Further, it is hoped that he will see how it is affecting the whole body and return to the fellowship renewed in spirit, pure in spirit and behavior and willingness to obey.  As a parent or a teacher you have probably administered this same “time out” and seen the effectiveness of isolation.

So how do we apply this today? (1) Lifestyle: keep oneself unstained by the world.  (2) Follow the steps of 2Tim: Teach, rebuke, correct, train both in the home and in the church, (3) Consider that Jesus may return at any moment. Is there any sin within you or the church that needs attention? Remove the evil among you and be ye cleansed. Be ye holy as I am holy saith the Lord. (4) Follow the discipline principles of Matt 18 (one on one, two on one, bring to church). (5) Because you love you will: never give up. And care more for others than for yourself. [1Cor 13 MSG]

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Are You Ready?

ImageFinishing up the Book of Romans with this post:

September is here once again and with it many new Bible Studies are beginning. One of the details of being a leader in this arena is getting people to know one another and what better way than to give them a nametag. We might think of Romans 16 as Paul’s collection of nametags.

Some trivia to get us started:  “This sixteenth chapter is neglected by many to their own loss. It is by far the most extensive, intimate and particular of all the words of loving greeting in Paul’s marvelous letters. No one can afford to miss this wonderful outpouring of the heart of our apostle toward the saints whom he so loved—which means all the real Church of God!”[Newell] In other words; don’t skip this chapter!

 Paul’s requests: Ten times Paul uses the phrase “in the Lord” or “in Christ.”  One time he uses the phrase “commend and receive” regarding Phoebe. Fifteen times he uses the word greet in regards to the many he has met on his journeys throughout Asia.

Paul’s purpose: Paul wants this church to know who these people are and we are the recipients of this information as well. [Imagine heaven here!] Paul wants each one recognized for who they are and their contribution to the kingdom work. Secondly, that the Roman Church may praise and pray for how the Lord has used each one. Although we do not know these people personally, they are imprinted upon our memory as we ponder the descriptions of each. Take note of the descriptions he uses for them and struggle to pronounce their names for they were real people, thus honor them in this way. They are “in the Lord,” or they are “in Christ.” They are fellow workers or laborers, hard workers, compatriots (fellow countrymen), dear friends, good friends, approved in Christ, and one is the first convert in Asia! Two were fellow prisoners with him and well known among the apostles. 

As Paul closes this precious letter to the Romans he thinks he is coming soon but we know from the book of Acts that God will change that timetable. As Paul began so he ends: Rom 1: 7 “Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 16:25 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,…” [Rom 1:16 “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”]… through Jesus Christ, be glory forever! Amen.”

Three questions: Are you ready to greet, commend and receive new people into your fellowship? Are you ready to proclaim the truths of Romans to those who will visit this week? What is one truth you carry away from this study in Romans? Are you ready to dive into 1Corinthians? Follow me as we journey to the most heathen city in Asia at the time of Paul. Come and learn how to live in a society much like our own. It will be relevant! Are you ready? Image

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The Jesus Prayer

ImageRecently our granddaughter returned from her 4th year in SLU (Student Leadership University). When asked what one thing she took away from her week she gave this reply “May I walk so others see Christ in me and because of my walk they desire to follow Christ as I did.” Humbled and silenced. Is this our desire as well? As Paul closes out his letter to the Roman church in chapter 15, he offers once again this advice: be a people lover not a people pleaser through giving these precious Jewish/Gentile believers eight guidelines.

  1. Those who are strong in the faith bear the burdens of the weak in the faith
  2. Please others before we please ourselves following the example of Christ
  3.  Know the OT which was written for our instruction
  4. Be unified with one another
  5. Receive one another just as Christ received you
  6. Walk according to love
  7. Be a servant as Christ was
  8. Glorify and Praise God for His mercy

True unity demands sensitivity to one another. The world is watching and it desires peace and harmony; if there is one place they should find it; it is in the church. There they should see it in us and so desire to seek that same unified spirit. This can happen only in and through Christ. It might be good to look at two other passages as we strive for this goal.

The “Be-Attitude”: Matt 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

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The Jesus Prayer: John 17:21 “that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

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Can we truly say that we are people lovers? It will show in our attitude, our actions, our prayers. Can we say that we desire that others see Christ in me and because of my love for others, my desire for unity that they will also seek to follow Christ? Is this our prayer today?

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Living Righteously in the Body of Christ.

ImageRomans 14 always brings to forefront tears for me as I see the Body of Christ being torn asunder with differing opinions. I have to step aside and ask is there a grain of truth in this ounce of criticism and if so in light of eternity is this something I need to alter in my life so that the enemy will not use as his tool to divide the fellowship of my church/fellowship of believers? Maybe that is the question we must all ask ourselves as there are many in the church and outside the church that cry: Hypocrite! Hypocrite! We could all share from our experiences family members, friends, co-workers, etc. that have said this to us and it causes us to cringe. Could it be that in some respects they are right? Let’s dig in and see what we are to learn and then more practically what we are to apply.

Paul addresses this full head on in chapter 14 but does not use the word hypocrite but rather bluntly says “do not condemn” and “do not judge.” Yesterday we talked about how to live righteously in an unrighteous world. Today Paul asks us the same question but in regards to how we live in the Body of Christ. Again we need to come back to our premise of yesterday: we are to love our neighbor and sometimes loving comes at a price, comes when we are face to face with those who differ with us. How do we do that lovingly? That is the question.

First off, Paul addressed two situations that the church in Rome was experiencing and which we find are the same two that are still with us today: food/drink and days on which we worship. Some say it is ok to eat certain foods, another says no. Some say it is ok to drink alcohol and another says no. Some say you must worship only on Saturday and others say not so, worship on Sunday or any other day is ok. Oh the tools that Satan uses to divide and he will use whatever he can to destroy the Body of Christ.  We must remember that our enemy, Satan, is wily, and he knows where we are weak and where we are strong. (2Co 2:11 Satan… (for we are not ignorant of his schemes); and in fact he often disguises himself as an angel of light (2Cor 11:4). He will seek to divide and cause disunity and what better place than within the Body of Christ? Let’s get practical here and see what the Word of God says.  

Paul uses very strong language in this situation: vs 4 “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant?” Then he also reminds us that we are “not to condemn” nor are we to “judge.” And if we didn’t get those phrases he adds another: DO NOT to be a stumbling block for another. So if we are not to do that, then what key elements should be a part of our life?

Beloved, the key is found in vs 7: “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

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14:19 “So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.” Did you note that the word peace seems to be cropping up over and over from chapter 12 to 14? Did you also note that he inserts peace between righteousness and joy? If you do a search you will find that Paul used that word 13 times in this book.

Today may we seek peace above all else. May this be our mandate for today, Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. And if we disagree on the points of food/drink and days–remember that Satan is lurking, waiting and looking for ways to divide us. Ecc 4:12 Although an assailant may overpower one person, two can withstand him. Moreover, a three-stranded cord is not quickly broken. Let’s keep the three strand:

          J – Jesus O- Others Y- Yourself = Jesus righteousness, peace, joy

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To Our Children….Ps 78

ImageIn Matt 25 we sat at the feet of Jesus as he answered the disciple’s questions. We listened as he taught through 2 powerful parables about the eternal consequences of being faithful or being faithless. This is the same point that Asaph makes in Ps 78. He reminds his listeners that the source of being faithful begins early with a grateful heart, teaching the young to be grateful to God for all He has done, grateful to God for who He is.

Asaph says this where we have gone astray. We have not heeded Deut 6 about the Word being taught while sitting, standing and walking. In addition, Asaph says we must resurrect the age old mantra: listen, heed, and incline your ears. But, we do not… instead we talk, talk talk and we escalate our words and the volume until the children just turn us off.  Asaph said if we want to be wise and learn we must go back to the past and resurrect the real way it is to be done. And then he adds: he who would be wise will observe and learn.

Let me once again remind you, or so Asaph says, “I will “begin at the beginning” and make insightful observations about the past.” First, avoid the mistakes of your ancestors who were stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful. Secondly, you parents, teachers etc, why are you not teaching doctrine and lessons you have learned to this generation? You must begin to teach them to honor and praise the Lord. Thirdly, a key point ! Share about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, about his strength and the amazing things he has done. Too often we get caught up in the stories but forget to show how God was the orchestrator and the conductor as he rehearsed his musical creation. We fail to teach the children the names of God and His attributes.

Why is this so needed? In vs 6-7 Asaph says “so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them. Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey his commands.” This is how they will grow and mature into faithful followers of our Master. To neglect these principles is to leave children drifting and heading into faithlessness.

Our mandate is to carry that message to this generation and the next and the next and the next. This year I stepped up and taught 1st graders in VBS and soon will work  in Good News Club at a local elementary school. So here’s my question to you:

Where are you fulfilling this mandate in your home, church or wherever God has planted you?

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Believers are God’s Tapestry [Eph 4]

ImageTapestry; what a beautiful word to describe the body of Christ, His church. A tapestry is a form of textile art, imitating paintings, which is woven so that there are two sets of interlaced threads, the warp which runs parallel to the length and the weft which is passed back and forth across all parts of the warps.  A tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible.

We as Christ’s church are a tapestry, being woven together uniquely. We are the weft of beautiful colors which make up a glorious representation which is on exhibit to the principalities and authorities in the heavenly realm as well as here on earth. And just as a tapestry utilizes many colors, many strands of threads to complete this “painting” so it takes many believers in Christ to be the strands, the threads,  used by the Holy Spirit to weave together Christ’s church. Thus, Paul charges the Ephesians and us in turn to be a weft thread by demonstrating the gifts of humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.

When you work on a tapestry you must have adequate light. The Holy Spirit is our light which illumines our understanding and allows us to see each thread for its color and beauty. If we work in the dark we are unable to see our design, the colors, the next warp to go under. So too when we are not in unity in the Body, Paul says we give the devil an opportunity and thus mar the tapestry being woven. Therefore, “he turns from exposition to exhortation, from what God has done (in the indicative), to what we must be and do (in the imperative), from doctrine to duty . . . from mind-stretching theology to its down-to-earth, concrete implications in everyday living” [Stott].

Speak truth, be angry and sin not and in fact do not let the sun go down upon your anger! Put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling and evil, slanderous talk. Instead, weave the threads of kindness one to another, compassionate, forgiving one another, Just as Christ also forgave you. Thus, “Christians must preserve the unity between believers that God has created in the church.”[Constable]

As a believer in Christ you are a weft thread.  Precious ones, let the Holy Spirit illumine your weaving so you are a glorious and beautiful tapestry for the entire world and those in the heavenly realms to see!

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The Church at Colosse….chapter 1

ImageIrving Jensen has been like a mentor to me over the years and his study guide on Colossians is by far one of his richest. In the first lesson Jensen gives a task: Write a list of the good traits which you think a local church should exemplify. After you have completed your study of 1:1-12, go back to this list and see how the Colossian church rated.

 Paul knew about these precious saints that he had never met through word of mouth and the testimony of Epaphras. This dear saint came to Rome and shared with Paul, now in a Roman prison under guard, who they were. From that we read Paul’s desire for them as believers in Christ.  

Paul’s list that he had gleaned from Epaphras: They had faith in Christ, They had love for all the saints [the setting apart of the individual as one of the company whom God,] They have a hope laid up in heaven vs 4 and an inheritance in the light vs 12 [1Pet 1:4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you], The gospel message has borne fruit within their midst and continues to bear fruit;, once strangers/enemies of God but now reconciled to Him through Christ; therefore Christ is in them, the hope of glory.

Now Paul turns from who they are to what his prayerful desire is for them: God to fill them with the knowledge of His will [In the broadest sense, the will of God is the whole purpose of God revealed in Christ. Dr. Constable]; God would give them spiritual wisdom and understanding [“‘Wisdom’ and ‘understanding’ probably should not be treated separately but should be looked on as expressing a single thought, something like practical wisdom or clear discernment.” Dr. Constable];

And now the “why”… They might live worthily; Please the Lord; Bear fruit; Grow in the knowledge of God; and Display or show to the world: patience, steadfastness and joy.

Back to the first question: The church at Colosse was rich beyond measure.  If you rated your church how do they stack up against the Colossians?

They were rooted and grounded in Christ but we will see that their roots were being attacked by the enemies of the cross. This is why we need this book today! Today we are seeing the very foundations of our churches being stripped by those who espouse a gospel that is works plus grace or a gospel of “feel good, a gospel of intolerance for the things that are the very bedrock of our faith.” Many are sliding down a slippery slope of worldliness. As Paul prayed for this church, may we stop and pray for our churches and for their message to be true to the Word of God, true to the simple gospel message and true to Christ? For it was because of Christ. who is the very image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all,  the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the head of the church, the reconciler through the blood He shed on the cross that both they and we are “who we are, who we need to be.”

 

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