Growing Up, Part 4

Since those early days I’ve been in many different kinds of Bible study groups. There was the two year “Crossways” study Terry and I attended when our children were small. In that class, for the first time, I began to get the chronology of all those Sunday School stories straight. I made some good friends, too. I could still list for you every person who took that class with me.

Another study that had a big impact on my life was one that our pastor taught on spiritual gifts. I hadn’t really thought about my gifts before. Of course, I knew there were things I liked to do and things I didn’t. But when it came to doing things at church, I was pretty haphazard. I did things because somebody asked me to help, or because something needed to be done, or because I was interested. Sometimes this approach worked out– I was fine at many things like teaching the children, serving on the altar guild, and editing the newsletter–but I also made mistakes. There was the time I agreed to bake a lamb cake for Vacation Bible School. I baked three cakes and the final one still wouldn’t stand up the way it was supposed to! I can laugh now, but at the time it was a frustrating and unpleasant experience and one I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat.

In the gifts class, I learned there was a better way to go about serving. By evaluating my God-given talents I began to sort jobs around the church into three categories– things I was especially good at that included writing, studying and leadership; things I certainly could do like making coffee, cleaning, helping at the yard sale or visiting someone in the hospital; and things I really shouldn’t do– in my case that’s anything involving arts and craft or a high degree of organizational skill.

I’m not finished yet, so come back tomorrow for installment #5!

For more posts about spiritual gifts see:

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

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

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

This book is just delightful! The illustrations by David Catrow are a beautiful blend of bright pastel colors and whimsical characters that will captivate the fancy of both young children and their parents. Bouncy, simple rhymes teach the important lesson that every one of us is a special and unique creation of God. Your child will be encouraged to dream big about discovering their gifts and talents(readers, you know I am all about spiritual gifts!) and also develop the important qualities we can all share–love, peace, kindness and generosity.

When God Made You

Some of the words would be difficult for beginning readers, so it would be best suited to reading to young children. It would be a wonderful way to open up discussions about what it means to be created in the image of God.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I loved it and would definitely purchase it for my grandchildren!

For more Christian books for children see these posts

Win or Lose I Love You! by Lysa Terkeurst

When I Hold You by Ashley Huffstutler–Book Review

The Great Farmapalooza by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

The Gift That I Can Give For Little Ones by Kathie Lee Gifford–Book Review

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I am very interested in spiritual gifts, and this sturdy board book would be a great way to introduce young children to that concept. In it Ms. Gifford explains that each person is uniquely created by God. When He made us, He also gave each of us a gift. That gift might be a talent, like music; it might be a quality like kindness; it could be the ability to help others in a variety of ways.

The Gift That I Can Give

The narrative highlights the fact that whatever our gift is, it is meant to be given away. We are to use it to benefit the people around us. Of course, the greatest gift, the gift that all others spring from is love. This is the gift we all receive from God, and the gift we can pass on to others.

The illustrations by Julia Seal are bright and attractive. The message is clear and will be easy for youngsters to understand. The examples given are appropriate to the age level. I would highly recommend it.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I loved it!

For more about spiritual gifts see:

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

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

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

For more Christian books for children see:

Where is Wisdom by Scott James — Book Review

Great and Small Prayers for Babies — Book Review

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

Are You a Spiritual Person?

What makes a person spiritual?  Too often these days “spirituality” is associated with New Age or Eastern beliefs, and some even insist that “I am spiritual, but not religious.”  For Christians the true meaning of spirituality is inexorably linked to the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers.  In our most recent class on the Holy Spirit we learned how the Spirit works in the lives of individual Christians.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin, brings us into fellowship with God and others, and works through our sanctification to make us more Christlike.

According to the Bible, there are three types of people:

  1. The natural person — this is how we are born
  2. “People of the flesh”– people who know Christ, but are still living as spiritual infants
  3. Spiritual people– those who are led by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11-12); who are spiritually minded

Every believer receives spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (1 Peter  4:10-11) as well as spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).  Believers are meant to be spiritual stones, built into a spiritual house where they dedicate their lives fully to God. (1 Peter 2:5).

Herbert Lockyer, (1886–1984) a minister and best-selling author of more than 50 books, lists these characteristics that identify a truly spiritual person:

  • They are misunderstood by most people
  • They show signs of development in their faith life (spiritual growth)
  • They accept the truth of Scripture
  • They are discerning, able to correctly understand spiritual truth
  • They are compassionate, putting their faith into action
  • They live a life that is confident in the knowledge of victory in Christ

Take a close look and evaluate yourself.  Are you a spiritual person?

For more about spirituality see these posts:

Streams of Living Water by Richard J. Foster–Book Review

Developing Spiritual Habits

What Damages our Spiritual Life? (according to Hannah Whitall Smith)

 

 

 

Discernment = Clarity

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I am big on discovering and using our spiritual gifts.  I am the spiritual gifts coordinator of our congregation.  There is one gift that stands out when it comes to seeking clarity — the gift of discernment.  Here is the definition:

DISCERNMENT: The gift of discernment is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the

Body of Christ to know with assurance whether certain behavior purported to be of God is in reality divine, human or Satanic. Contributes: Clarity

Literal Meaning: To separate or make a distinction, differentiate

If you think you may be gifted in this way, take a look at these distinctive characteristics.  Are you someone who can:

  • Distinguish truth from error, right from wrong, pure motives from impure
  • Identify deception in others with accuracy and appropriateness
  • Determine whether a word attributed to God is authentic
  • Recognize inconsistencies in a teaching, prophetic message, or interpretation
  • Are able to sense the presence of evil

A person with this gift is usually perceptive, insightful, sensitive, intuitive, decisive, challenging and truthful.  People with this gift my sometimes struggle with how to express their feelings and insights.  They need to be careful to avoid being harsh and should always confirm their perceptions before speaking.  The truth should always be spoken in love, not judgement.

For further information refer to:

 Acts 16:16-18; I Corinthians 12:10; I John 4:1-6

You may also use your concordance to do a word search for other verses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Shepherding

Normally we think of “shepherding” as the responsibility of the Pastor.  However, anyone can have this spiritual gift. When I discovered that this was one of my gifts I understood why I enjoy leading small groups and being the spiritual gifts coordinator for our congregation.  Here is some information about this gift from my Fanning the Flame material.

Literal Meaning: To shepherd a flock

Description: The gift of shepherding is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to assume a long-term personal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of a group of believers.

Distinctives:

  • Take responsibility to nurture the whole person in their walk with God
  • Provide guidance and oversight to a group of God’s people
  • Model with their life what it means to be a fully devoted follower of
  • Jesus Christ
  • Establish trust, loyalty, and confidence through long-term relationships
  • Lead and protect those within their span of care

People with the gift of shepherding have the following traits:

  • Influencing
  • Nurturing
  • Guiding
  • Discipling
  •  Protecting
  • Supportive
  • Relational

If you have this spiritual gift you might use it as a small group facilitator, Sunday School or Confirmation class teacher;  leader of a program for New Members of Discipleship training.

For references to this gift see: Ephesians 4:11;  1 Thessalonians 5:12 or 1 Timothy 3:1-7

For other posts on spiritual gifts see:

The Spiritual Gift of Leadership

The Spiritual Gift of Service

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

 

Leading Small Groups – A Book Review

Chris Surrate has authored a book that navigates the small group implementation thoroughly.

The book is divided into 4 sections with each section covering separate points in the small group ministry life. There are chapters on starting, facilitating, logistics, and many more.

Section 1 delves into the first step of small group implementation – Gathering, In this section, which is divided into 4 chapters, the author goes over the initial items to consider such as, leadership qualities, purpose of the group, logistics, and group characteristics.

Section 2 takes us into the second step – Launching. In 2 chapters he reviews recruiting, advertising, covenants, and the characteristics of a good, Biblical group.

Section 3 deals with the actual leading of the group – Leading/Facilitation. Since this a critical part of the success of the small group, the author has devoted 6 chapters to this subject. He explains the importance of preparedness, hospitality, genuine authenticity, service, and how to develop a study that is Biblical.

Section 4 goes in-depth into the process of multiplying your small group – Multiplying Your Small Group. The small group should not be looking to add but to develop leaders that can branch-off and start their own small groups. There is also information about training new leaders/facilitators.

Having just experienced our church’s implementation of a Small Group Ministry, I can honestly say that this book earns 5 stars. This is a well written and researched book that can be used in conjunction with many resources to start a successful small group ministry at your church.

Purchase at link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/leading-small-groups-P005809960

I have received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

What Can I Give Him?

We recently observed Epiphany which celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi.  If you remember the story, these wise men from the East came bringing gifts.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. ” Matthew 2:11

Reading this as part of my devotions made me remember a poem by Christina Rossetti:

“What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,–
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.”

Then I wondered, how about each of us?  What can we give Him?  Here’s a quote by John Ellerton ( English clergyman and hymnodist) that expresses it well.

“Give yourselves anew to God and to God’s service, and He will give you the desire and the power to open your treasures;  to give to Him, it may be wealth, it may be time, it may be personal service, it may be life itself.  In His store there is a place for all, for the tears of the penitent, the barley loaves of the child, the two mites of the widow, the savings of the Philippians’ ‘deep poverty’, as well as for Mary’s ointment, for the land of Barnabas, for the gold and incense and myrrh of these Eastern sages.  And if the vision of Christ be before his eyes, and the love of Christ be in his heart, the man of wealth will give his large offering, the man of learning his dear-bought knowledge, the man of business his hard-earned leisure, for the glory of God, for the benefit of his fellow-men, for the Church or for the poor;  to feed the hungry, or to teach the ignorant, to help the struggling, or to guide the erring;  and each gift will be welcomed by Him who gave Himself for us all, and who asks in return for ourselves as a living sacrifice.”

This is a season of giving, and we all have something to give.  It’s a good time to think about our spiritual and material gifts and then decide what we can give back to Jesus who gave everything for us.

For more about the magi see these posts:

Follow the Star

Journey of the Magi by T.S.Eliot

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Brave Enough by Nicole Unice–Book Review

Are you brave enough to extend and receive grace?  True grace, not fake grace?

Are you brave enough to commit to practicing the spiritual disciplines of worship, study, prayer and fellowship?

Are you brave enough to resolve conflicts and offer forgiveness, even to yourself?

Are you brave enough to discover and use your own spiritual gifts?

Are you brave enough to accept your personal situation and limits?

Are you brave enough to rely on God daily, whatever your circumstances?

Author Nicole Unice leads her readers through these challenges of everyday life as a called woman of God.  Each section ends with a “brave enough pause” with ideas for reflection, prayer or journaling.  There is an appendix listing many Bible verses that will encourage each of us to be “brave enough.”.  The themes include:

  • God’s passion for us
  • God’s power and protection
  • God’s priorities
  • God’s promises
  • God’s provision

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  I enjoyed this book and would love to read it with a group of Christian friends.  The author really challenges women to understand and analyze themselves in the light of the Gospel message.  It was more than informative — it motivates and reminds us that everyone is “brave enough” to do what God asks.

For more on courage see these posts:

Women of Courage: a Forty-Day Devotional — Book Review

Afraid of all the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal–Book Review

Here on Earth.

 

How it Works — the Fanning the Flame Process, part 1

This article was published in The Lutheran Ambassador, our denomination’s magazine.  It gives you a look at how the whole Fanning the Flame Process is working at St. Paul’s.  

I’m a member of St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Md.. Located in a small village, the congregation has grown smaller and the membership older over the years.  In an effort to become healthier, we embarked this year on a program of revitalization called “Fanning the Flame.”  Our ten-member team has been meeting, studying, and praying for the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts.  During this time of spiritual introspection, God has revealed our need to change our focus.  We must look outside of ourselves into our neighborhood, community and even the world.  We are small, but God still has a purpose for us.

Many member participated in a spiritual gift assessment to learn how we, as individuals and as a group, are best suited to serve God.  As Romans 12:6-8 says.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve;  if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;  if it is giving, then give generously;  if it is to lead, do it diligently;  if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

One of the most prominent gifts in our congregation is the gift of mercy.  This gift is the special ability God gives to some members of His body to feel empathy and compassion for other people who are dealing with physical, mental or emotional problems, and to translate their empathy into deeds that reflect the love of Christ.  (For a listing of all the spiritual gifts see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4).

People with the gift of mercy are naturally attracted to caring ministries, ministries that help people meet all sorts of needs.  Caring ministries are also a great way to evangelize.  Why?  According to Pastor Harry Reeder, who developed Fanning the Flame, here’s what can happen when a congregation undertakes mercy ministry:

  • First, God is glorified because others see the gospel in action
  • Then, people are influenced by encountering authentic Christians
  • Last, church members are encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they participate in ministry

Since more than 50 percent of our members have the gift of mercy, it seemed like a no-brainer.  St. Paul’s needed to invest in mercy ministry.  Where would we start?

…… to be continued