Your spiritual gift is worth more than a plate of cookies

As I’ve stated in many other posts, I love giving people things. I love giving gifts. Birthdays. Christmas. Anniversary. Just because. There’s nothing better than to show up unexpectedly and deliver a present to someone just for the heck of it. Anyone else ever been there?

It’s a great trait to have, sure, but it can be a double-edged sword too. What if you don’t have enough money to purchase gifts? What if you don’t have time to make something intricate and beautiful? Can you still go see people if you don’t bring a gift? Maybe that sounds silly, but that’s one of those silly little fears that pop up at the back of my head. I can’t just show up at somebody’s house or workplace without something give, can I? That’s rude, isn’t it?

What I need to remember (and everyone like me) is that the best gifts you can give aren’t always wrapped up in boxes and ribbons. Sometimes, the best gift you can offer is your time and your perspective on following Jesus.

wood-light-brown-dessertToday’s verses are Romans 1:11-12.

For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

In my life, I’ve never longed to visit anyone to bring a spiritual gift. Have you? This is Paul talking to the Church at Rome, though, so if Paul can talk like this, it’s most likely something we should pay attention to.

Paul is this legendary figure in my mind, so it’s hard to remember that he had nothing. He traveled from one corner of the continent to the other. He didn’t have a home or family. He didn’t have possessions really. So of course he had no tangible gifts to bring people. But what he could bring to share with others was the spiritual gift God had given him.

I don’t take my spiritual gifts seriously often enough. If you’re a Christ-follower, you have one too, and God has given them to us so that we can enrich and encourage the Body of Christ, the Church. So what if you don’t have time to make cookies? So what if you don’t have enough money to buy something nice? The gift of your time and your care and your love is worth more than you might think.

What I also love about this is how Paul states that he wants to visit to encourage the people of the Church at Rome but that he also needs encouragement too. If Paul can admit to needing encouragement, heck–I’m right there with him.

So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t give someone a gift. And absolutely don’t let your perceived lack of something prevent you from spending time with other believers. Don’t underestimate the power of the spiritual gift God has given you. He can use you to bless people ten times more than a plate of cookies could. You just have to let Him.

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Different pieces of the same puzzle

I got to do something cool yesterday. I got to meet the people my best friend works with at OMNIvision, the video and media ministry of Operation Mobilsation. I’d met a few of them when I was here in 2013, but I got to meet most of them yesterday. Such amazing people!

It reminded me again of how awesome it is that God provides opportunities for His children to use their gifts and talents to help other people. We’re not all made the same. You know that, right?

(Photo from Omnivision Facebook Stream)

(Photo from Omnivision Facebook Stream)

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 4:10-11.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

God has given each one of us unique gifts and talents, but it’s up to us to choose how we’ll use them. We can use them for ourselves or to further our own agenda, or we can use our gifts to do what God would have us accomplish for Him. Maybe that means serving in your local church. Maybe that means packing up everything you own and moving to England because you can write, like my best friend did.

We’re all different, and we’re supposed to be that way. So don’t sit back and be jealous of someone who has a different gift or talent than you do. No, instead look for a way to use your gift or talent to make a difference. We’re all just different pieces of the same puzzle that God is putting together around the world.

Your talent doesn’t have to be awe-inspiring. It doesn’t have to stop people in their tracks. It’s actually better if it’s not, because then the awe-inspiring moments can be attributed to God working through you.

So what are you good at? It doesn’t have to be impressive. But if you let God use your talents for His glory, you might be able to change the world. He’ll certainly change you.

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Gifts are for helping each other

What would you do if you saw a giant eyeball rolling around downtown? Or a tongue hopping its way down the street? I would be pretty disturbed. That sounds like something out of a horror show.

But actually that’s something that comes out of the Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, specifically verses 14-17. Actually, the whole chapter is pretty amazing, talking about the different parts of a body and how everything works together and how one part isn’t more important than another part.

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Flamingo at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 12:7.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

As Paul talks about in the rest of 1 Corinthians 12, the Church is called the Body of Christ, and we are all members of that Body. If you believe in Christ, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. As it says in 1 Corinthians 12:19 (The Message), “But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.”

Every part of the Body is important. Every part of the Body is necessary. And if one part isn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to, the whole Body suffers or the whole Body isn’t as effective as it could be.

The first part of 1 Corinthians 12 talks about gifts. If you have accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit has given you a gift. It could understanding. It could be communication. It could be compassion. Or any of the gifts mentioned (and maybe some of the ones that aren’t). But no matter what your gift is, you are expected to use it to help the rest of the Body function. That’s why the Spirit gave it to you.

But like any expectation of a Christ-follower, it’s not required. You can sit on that gift all your life and no do anything with it, and nothing bad will happen. Nothing good will happen either, but you’ll be perfectly safe.

But then why did God give you that gift to begin with?

We are here to help each other. The Church is here to spread the Good News to the farthest reaches of the world and the closest corners of our home and also to encourage fellow believers. But if the Church isn’t functioning like it should, how can it do the job Christ has asked of it?

Just like a body made up of just an eyeball would be distressing, a body that doesn’t have an eyeball will be less effective. A body that doesn’t have a tongue has to learn a new way to communicate. A body without hearing has to find a new way to listen. A body is supposed to have all of these parts, and if we’re talking about a real person, yes, they can find a way around it. But this Body shouldn’t have to.

So why are Christians afraid to use their gifts?

I’ll tell you why I am. I’m a perfectionist. And it’s very difficult for me to share my gifts with anyone because I’m terrified that if I don’t get it 100% right, I’ll not only make a fool of myself but I will also make a fool of Christ. So in my mind, it’s safer to just sit quietly in the corner.

Maybe it is safer. But how much of my fear is really valid? And how much of it is our enemy telling me I can’t do it?

Check out verses 4 through 6:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

If you’ve got a gift and that gift allows you to worship God and lead others to worship God, it comes from the Spirit. And if you keep yourself out of it and if you keep your heart set on bringing God glory, it doesn’t matter if your performance is flawless. It doesn’t matter if your grammar is perfect. It doesn’t matter if your song is pitch perfect. God will be glorified. He’ll be glorified in your perfection (if you can ever achieve it); He’ll be glorified in your lack of it. And that’s what matters.

If other people don’t appreciate your gift and you are obviously using it for God, ignore them. Remember who it’s about. It’s not about you. It’s not about them. It’s about the Church as a whole (which doesn’t mean the grouchy person who always sits in the same pew). It’s about helping the Church function the way it was meant to.

We don’t have a lot of time left, and the Church needs every part working together in harmony if we’re going to reach the rest of the world before Christ comes back for us. If you’ve got a gift and you’re scared to use it, buck up. Get busy. Just do it, like that old Nike commercial used to say. Don’t be afraid and don’t be a perfectionist; both of those things are about you. Do your best, but keep your eye on the target and remember who your gift is about — helping each other.

 

 

A gifted church

What makes a church? Well … that’s a strange question. Mostly because a church wasn’t originally supposed to be a singular entity. All churches were supposed to stand together, united, as one body. In ancient cities, like Corinth, there weren’t twelve different churches. There was one. Just like in Ephesus, Philippi, Antioch, etc. There were no denominations. That’s why you’ll hear ministers refer to the Church in Corinth or the Church in Antioch.

The Church is supposed to be one, united force. In America, the concept of a church is different than what it was in the Bible. In America, a church is a building with beautiful statues or stained glass windows. Or, depending on denomination, it’s a modern complex with high-technology and stadium seating and McDonald’s in the lobby.

But that’s not the Church. The Church isn’t a building. The Church is people. If the building were to fall down or blow away, the Church would still stand because the people yet remain.

Nowadays, especially in American Christianity, the Church has entered the realm of tradition. It’s something we do because our parents did. It’s something we suffer through because it alleviates our guilt. It’s something that is performed for us instead of us participating in.

Some churches operate under the belief that they exist to keep their members happy. Some churches operate like a country club, welcoming only the people who fit their defined mold of what a Christian should look like and rejecting (politely) the people who don’t. Some churches operate like a zoo, keeping their members under lock and key. Some churches operate like party with no adult supervision, with wild chaos and noise and no direction or goals.

Some churches care about their communities and work to see people come to Christ. Some churches only care about their own needs, although they donate a little bit of money to a good cause every Christmas. Some churches only care about putting on a good show and are willing to sacrifice the truth to keep their numbers up.

But which one is right?

I don’t know if I have the right to determine that. But what stands out to me is what makes a church effective. And it doesn’t matter how big a church is or how few people attend or where it’s located or how good it’s music is or how talented its pastor is. What matters is if everyone recognizes that anything good in the Church comes from God.

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 1:4-5.

4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge.

I think it’s so funny that Paul starts this Book of the Bible off with praise. I think he wanted to soften the blow of following chapters. Because 1 Corinthians is a scathing letter to a church that had lost its senses. The Church in Corinth had been making some very very foolish choices.

What stood out to me this morning was how Paul pointed out that the enrichment of the Church of Corinth was a result of the gifts God had given its people when they accepted Christ. Whenever someone accept Christ and receives the Holy Spirit, God gives that person a Spiritual Gift. Some folks have more than one. But every believer has a gift, and that gift is designed to serve the Church. It may be an obvious gift, like preaching. It may be a serving gift, like hospitality. It may be a quiet gift, like prayer. But every believer has one.

And it’s essential that those gifts be used in the church. But more important that using those gifts, it’s important to remember where those gifts came from.

I have the privilege of attending the most awesome church in the world. My church is my family. It’s my second home. And I know people say that all the time, but I mean it. There are few places where I feel at home, and my church is one of those places. But what makes my church awesome isn’t our beautiful building. It’s the people. And what makes those people so gifted is God and the power of the gifts He’s given them and their willingness to use their gifts AND their understanding that those gifts aren’t their own doing.

My church is a gifted church, a blessed church. And the only reason it has remained blessed is because no one is seeking the spotlight and no one is trying to be more important than someone else. And no one has forgotten where our blessing came from. God has drawn people from all over the place, people with gifts that defy explanation. The talent base at this church is unreal. But all it would take for everything to fall apart is for us to forget that God is the One who brought us here.

There’s nothing special about what happened at my church. There’s no secret formula, and there’s no magic words. What happened to us was we decided to take God at His word and love people and give Him the credit for anything and everything that happened.

The Church is here to point toward Christ, to lead others to Christ and to encourage other believers to keep going. And I don’t know if we can really judge what makes an effective church, mostly because what the Church is here to accomplish can’t be seen with human eyes. It’s true that some church have a higher ratio of gifted people in attendance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a church will be “more effective” because of it. Because all it takes is forgetting.