Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

“Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

Frederick Buechner

Discovering your spiritual gifts will help you find your vocation.  If you are asking yourself, what is a vocation, here’s the definition:

A vocation is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.

At one point in the world’s history, vocation was an idea reserved for priests, nuns and monks who devoted themselves to God.  Martin Luther changed that kind of thinking when he said:

A cobbler, a smith, a farmer, each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops, and every one by means of his own work or office must benefit and serve every other, that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, even as all the members of the body serve one another…”

All of us have a vocation, or calling in the plan of God.  We don’t have to be pastors or missionaries;  we can use our gifts in our church, our community and our careers.  The challenge is to be aware of this and make a conscious effort to serve others.  When you do this, you will find yourself growing in God’s grace and doing things you probably never imagined.

For example, before I retired, our personnel officer made a visit to me and I shared my feeling that our hospital no longer cared about our lowest level employees;  small benefits were being cut that meant little to most of us, but quite a bit to these people — for example, no discount at the hospital cafeteria.  Because I spoke out, he created an “Angel Fund”– money designated to help employees who were struggling with a particular situation — serious illness, for example.  I served on that committee and it is still going on years later.  It’s something I would never have imagined doing.

I am an introvert, but because I am passionate about spiritual growth, I became the leader of a Via de Cristo retreat.  I love to write and encourage people, and so I wrote a Bible Study for the women of our denomination — this required me to go to a conference and stand up in front of 200 women to give a devotional reading!  If anyone had told me when I was twenty that I would do such things, I would have laughed (hmmm– maybe like Sarah when God told her she would have a child at 95!).

Anyway, my point is this — follow your gifts, follow God’s leading, and you will find yourself in the most unexpected places.  You’ll be amazed at what you and Christ can do together.

Advertisements

Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

We haven’t had a song this month yet, and I was having a hard time thinking of one that dealt with spiritual gifts.  Looking through With One Voice in church this week I found this one.  If you haven’t heard it before, I think you’ll love the lively calypso beat.  It will inspire you to use your gifts to spread God’s Word.l

Feeling God’s Pleasure

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

Eric Liddell

If you’re old enough, you may remember this statement from the movie, Chariots of Fire.  It is the true life story of Eric Liddell, and Olympic runner who went on to become a missionary and teacher in China.

When I think about spiritual gifts, my mind always goes to this quote, because I believe that God made us in a certain way, with an aptitude and ability to do certain things well, and when we discover that “sweet spot” for serving, we do indeed feel His pleasure.  There is no better feeling in the world because in that moment we become our true and authentic self, the person God meant us to be.  It’s a taste of heaven on earth.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it[ says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives

and gave gifts to his people.”  Ephesians 4:7-8

God Himself gave us a purpose and He gave us the spiritual gifts needed to accomplish it.  Our job is to align our life with God’s desire for us.  Only there will we find true freedom and joy.  Will we be able to do this perfectly?  No way!  However, through prayer, through a realistic assessment of our gits and talents and through His grace, we can come closer day by day.

As spiritual gifts coordinator for St. Paul’s, I’m hoping to help others, one step at a time, to discover their gifts and then put them to use.  This excites me because one of my prominent gifts is encouragement.  God made me to encourage others in their walk of faith.  Here’s the definition of the gift of encouragement:

ENCOURAGEMENT:  The gift of encouragement is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement and counsel to other members of the Body in such a way that they feel helped and healed. Contributes: Affirmation.

There are so many ways to use the gift of encouragement.  I hope my writing and this blog encourages others;  when I teach Adult Sunday School, I hope to encourage our class to not only learn about God’s Word, but apply it to their lives;  when I send a card or note, my desire is for it to encourage the receiver.

Maybe encouragement is your gift as well.  If so, how have you used it?  I’d like to hear more.

 

 

 

Gifts or Fruit?

We’re doing the Spiritual Gifts as a theme this month and I was thinking a lot of you may be thinking of the wrong thing. Many people confuse the Spiritual Gifts with the Fruits of the Spirit. They really are two separate things.  The Fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

In this section of Galatians, Paul is talking about walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh. If we are walking in the Spirit then we should be exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit. If we are walking in the the flesh, there is another list:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

Spiritual Gifts are something totally different. They are gifts that God has given everyone of us to do his work. We are usually aware of these gifts in one way or another but we don’t usually think of them in terms of a Spiritual Gift. Here is what Paul says about Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

I know that most of us don’t go around speaking in tongues or healing people. But what of someone who is really good at languages and learns them quickly and well? What about all the Doctors and Nurses (Aides, Technicians & Caregivers) out there? See? The Gifts are still out there and, actually, have been expanded on by some people. Many of these are Teaching, Shepherding, Evangelism, Mercy, Service and Hospitality, just to name a few.

You will find people all over using their gifts if you look for them. That friend who always makes you feel welcome in their home (Hospitality) or the person that always seems to be out helping someone but never talks about it and to them it’s no big deal (Service). There are those who can easily share about their faith (Evangelism) and those who work with the poor and needy (Mercy).

It’s easy to see the difference when you know what you’re looking for. Have you looked at yourself to see what your gifts are? Everyone has them. If you’re wondering how to start, you could get the book S.H.A.P.E.; Finding & Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life by Erik Rees. It would be a good start.

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  1 Corinthians 12:4-7

It’s interesting and fun to discover our spiritual gifts.  However, the Bible makes it clear:  the gifts have a purpose, and that purpose is not to puff us up or make us feel superior or special.  Spiritual gifts are given for one reason:  to build up or edify the church.  God did not give us gifts to use to accomplish our own goals, he gave us gifts so that we could spread the gospel and serve others.

When we do a spiritual gifts assessment, we need to be thinking not just, what are my gifts?  We need to ask ourselves these additional questions:

  1. How am I using my gifts?
  2. Am I using my gifts in a way that benefits my church and others in the world?

An unused gift is useless.  A gift that is not used to serve God is also useless.  We don’t all have the same gifts (the verse above makes that clear) and some gifts may be flashier than others;  however, the parable of the talents makes it clear that God expects us to use what we have.   In fact, it’s a use it or lose it situation:  The servant who buried his talents is condemned:

“So take the talent from him and give it to him who has ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.  But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”  Matthew 25:28-30

Don’t be like that unworthy servant.  Discover your gifts, use them and feel God’s pleasure when you hear the words,

“Well done, good and faithful servant….Enter into the joy of your master.”  Matthew 25:21

 

 

 

 

This Is Our Time – Book Review

This review is longer than usual because this book deserves your attention.

Trevin Wax is a well-known evangelical millennial and after reading this book, I can see why.  He manages to take modern day situations and show how they relate to God’s word.

Starting with the introduction, Trevin engrosses the mind and engages the thought process by telling us that our neighbor is not where the battle is, but rather the battle is with the lies that are told by the powers and principalities that engage us daily through the media. There are 8 chapters in the book.  The first 4 deal with the habits that impact us on a day to day basis.  The last 4 are based on the larger myths that animate our society. Every single chapter holds a wealth of information that opened my eyes to things that I have been doing and not even been aware that I was doing them.  I enjoyed this book so much that I am going to give a chapter by chapter review.

Chapter 1 deals with how our cell phones, internet practices, and even our friends can lead us to have a formed opinion instead of an informed opinion of ourselves, by narrowing our information intake to model our “Christian beliefs.” This constant affirmation of our views leads us to the myth that our “beliefs” are always right.

Chapter 2 is about our interaction with movies, TV shows, etc.  As most of us realize, a lot of the things we watch are fictional but the constant immersion into this alternate reality can pervert our true reality.  Often, these movies and shows tell us the lie that our fulfillment is found not in God but in emotional and material things.

Chapter 3 – This chapter addresses how we use society’s goals to map out our future.  Often, doing that leads us on a faulty path away from God.  God’s word leads us on a true path with a glorious ending.

Chapter 4 – Our all-time favorite myth of all, shopping and material things can make us happy.  We have turned our year into one shopping event after another.  Instead of being thankful for what we have in November, we are planning to buy more on Black Friday so we can be happier.  Ads that target our longing to be accepted through the labels we wear, the car we drive or the newest electronic gadget have turned shopping into a substitute “Religious” experience.

In these first four chapters, there were several quotes that stood out.

“The primary myth the smartphone tells you every day is that you are the center of the universe.”

“Desensitization is not a sign of spiritual progress but of sensual dullness. Do not confuse the ability to be unfazed by depictions of sin with spiritual maturity.”

“True courage is not deciding for yourself what is “right and wrong” but seeking to discover what truly is right and wrong – for yourself and everybody else.”

“The lie is not that you wouldn’t be okay without it.  The lie is that you’re going to be happier with it.

“The American Dream is about shopping for happiness.  The Kingdom Dream is about experiencing joy in God.”

Now onto the last four chapters.

Chapter 5 – Here the Author reminds us that we are not “at home” on this Earth.  We forget that this is not where we will spend our eternity but it is only where we spend a short tie in the span of our lives.  We, as Christians, have become too much “of the world” and have failed to remember to just be “in the world.”  This chapter also delves into the trap of politics, where sometimes politics become so central to us it becomes our alternate religion.

In Chapter 6 Trevin deals with the thought that we look at marriage as the pinnacle of our relationships, instead of making it the foundation of our lives. He does a great job of delving into common fallacies that pervade our societal beliefs and shows how each and every one of them steers us wrong and why.

Chapter 7 – Another common myth – Sexual freedom is a sign of a mature society and a sign of our freedom.  We have gone from a society and culture where sexual restraint was a sign of maturity into believing that sexual relations are a sign of maturity.

Chapter 8 This chapter is titled “As the World Wobbles” I admit I was confused as to what the content of this chapter would entail.  After reading the chapter, the title fits perfectly. We, as a society, go back and forth with “the world is ending” to “the world is better now than ever.”  Read this chapter for more information on this.

The final four chapters of the book sum up the worldly myths we encounter daily.  Below are my favorite quotes from these chapters.

“So, if you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of a church.  After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election but because of Easter.”

“All marriages are broken, but what makes a marriage is they are broken together.

“Staking your identity in sexuality or pinning your hopes for happiness on sex is too low of a goal for a human being made in God’s image.”

“We can’t be faithful in our own time if we’re always longing for another.”

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe it would make a great small group study.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Read it, Study it, Learn from it.  I sure did.

Purchase the book at the link below – You will not be disappointed

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/this-is-our-time-P005789993

 

Kate’s Gift

My daughter, Kate, has not yet completed her spiritual gifts assessment, but I’m pretty sure when she does, mercy will show up as one of her prominent gifts.  I first noticed this when she was a teenager.  She often had friends who were needy or underprivileged in some way.  She wanted to volunteer at the local rescue mission.  She wanted to help others, even when my husband and I, as her parents, were afraid that doing so was risky for her. I couldn’t understand sometimes, why she was so set on people and activities that might lead her into undesirable environments.  It finally dawned one me– Kate has the gift of mercy!  She is naturally drawn to the people who need her the most.

That helped me tremendously.  As her mother, I still had to guide her until she learned to use that gifts in ways that were appropriate for her age and situation;  but I also had to allow her some room to exercise that God-given ability when she could.

Here’s how the Fanning the Flame workbook describes the gift of mercy.  Do you have this gift?  If so, the Lutheran Ladies would like to hear from you.

 MERCY

 Literal Meaning: To have compassion

Description: The gift of mercy is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to feel genuine empathy and compassion for individuals, both Christian and non-Christian, who suffer distressing physical, mental or emotional problems, and to translate that compassion into cheerfully done deeds that reflect Christ’s love and alleviate the suffering.

Distinctives:

q     Focus upon alleviating the sources of pain or discomfort in suffering people

q     Address the needs of the lonely and forgotten

q     Extend love, grace, and dignity to those facing hardships and crisis

q     Serve in difficult or unsightly circumstances and do so cheerfully

q     Concern themselves with individual or social issues that oppress people

 

Traits: Cautions:
q Empathetic q Need to be aware that rescuing people from their
q Caring pain may be hindering God’s work in them
q Responsive q Need to guard against feeling “unappreciated,” since
q Kind some of the people helped will not show or express
q Compassionate any appreciation
q Sensitive q Should guard against becoming defensive and angry
q Burden-bearing about the sources of others’ pain

 

References: Acts 16:33-34; Matthew 5:7; Romans 12:8; Hebrews 4:16