Gifted by the Spirit

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 5 and there are different ministries and the same Lord; 6 and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. 8 A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, 9 faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

O (Observation): Paul’s famous words here echo through the ages. We – who are in Christ – are gifted. (Yet we cannot forget that others can be gifted, too!)

Paul is hearing that the followers of Christ in the churches he’s established are competing with each other or are showing disdain for those with gifts that different from their own.

A (Application): These verses are typically used when we install officers, council members, or other volunteers at church. We all share our gifts together for the good of all. The same Spirit leads us. The same Spirit equips us.

Are you finding yourself grateful for the gifts you’ve been given, yet also showing disdain for those with other gifts? Are you jealous?

Or are you in a place to appreciate the breadth and depth of how God has equipped you and those around you to build one another up to love God and neighbor.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to know you are equipping is all. Amen.

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Are We There Yet?

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S (Scripture): Matthew 24:32 Jesus said to the disciples: “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that the Human One is near, at the door. 34 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

36 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows.”

O (Observation): The community of believers are growing restless in terms of seeing the Kingdom come. They believed that they would see The End and the fullness of God’s glory in the Kingdom Come.

So, Jesus gives them some context: Others will come and say they are me, but they won’t be me; all are encouraged to endure any suffering done on account of Jesus’ name; the heavens will shake; a trumpet will sound. All of these will take place. You won’t miss it!

And in the meantime, says Jesus, stay alert. You keep an eye on the fig tree; so, too, keep an eye out for my return. Be alert. Be ready.

No one knows when this will all occur.

A (Application): We are not happy without deadlines. Well, some folks are happy with no deadlines…no deadline, no pressure…but also, no results.

With a deadline, we at least know what we are working towards. Now, we may not complete the project, but at least we will have this outside force (the deadline) on which to base our current activity: if the deadline is soon, we ramp up activity…if the deadline is far off, we can wait and relax.

Jesus is preparing the people in Matthew’s community to be ready at all times! They do not have a deadline (we do not have a deadline), but the signs will appear…but even with their appearance, no one knows exactly when all of this will usher in the Kingdom.

So, like we tell our children, get the chores and such done now. Completing those chores now mean more opportunities later on for us to serve or relax or embrace life or a new project.

Let us be ready. Let us be about the work of the Kingdom: using our gifts where the world needs them. Let’s do this until Kingdom come.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that we are always working towards the good of the world, regardless of the timing of your coming again. Amen.

A Wide Door Awaits

S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia—for I intend to pass through Macedonia— 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go. 7 I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

O (Observation): Paul trusts the Spirit to guide him.   He has a clear purpose: share the Good News.   But the strategy and the implementation of that strategy are guided almost completely by the Holy Spirit.   

Paul is listing out his travel plans to his brothers and sisters in Christ in Corinth.  He points out that a “wide door for effective work” has opened up for him in Ephesus.  The Spirit is opening the pathway for him to walk along.  He serves the purpose he has been given, and he does this most effectively when he follows the grace poured out for him by the Spirit.  

A (Application):  While we do the “hands and feet” Kingdom work, the Spirit is also constantly at work, preparing folks’ hearts and minds to receive the Good News.   No speech or tactic is in and of itself the factor that causes people to believe.  Rather, the Spirit guides this process.  The Spirit prepares people’s hearts and minds. 

The Spirit lays out a pathway for us, a roadway lined with vision and grace…and the Spirit has all the time in the world.   So the Spirit will wait for us.   

This pathway is a gift from God.   The pathway may lead where our hearts are already going; or where our minds are going; or where both heart and mind are headed.   And sometimes we get off that path.  Sometimes we are WAY off that path.   Or maybe we only recently took a wrong turn.  

This pathway is where our spiritual gifts lie in wait, ready to be used for the good of the Kingdom.  We need only to take the abiding time necessary to discern what gifts we are to use, when to use them, how to use them, where to use them.   

In all of this, the Spirit is busy guiding us and giving us hope that – no matter the circumstances – a wide door for effective work awaits us.  

P (Prayer):  Spirit, guide us.  Grace us all the way back to the path.  Amen.  

1 Corinthians 13 – Its Not Just for Weddings

S (Scripture): 1 Coronthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

O (Observation):  Paul has been harping on the idea of Christian community.  He just finished up talking about how all members of the body of Christ are indeed ONE in the body of Christ.  They have great need of one another.   They are inextricably linked to one another.  They are to see one another as helpful in their own ways.  No one is more important.  No one is less useful. Each has a place, regardless of prior background (Jew, Gentile, Slave, Free, etc).   

A (Application): How is this type of community lived out? In a word: LOVE. Love is the hallmark of the Christian. One who receives grace and mercy and love extends the same to the world, especially in the Christian community. Others who look in on Christian community wish to see how differently the Christian realm is will hopefully see a community rooted in love.  

This text is used quite often in weddings.  I see nothing wrong with this use.   I simply take the opportunity today to remind us all that this text was originally meant for how we are to treat one another within the Christian community.   And maybe, by extension, how we might treat others in the world.   

So go ahead…use it at your wedding.   See how love roots you together to your loved one…but then also see how love roots us all together in community.   See love’s impact on the world around you!   And get ready for transformation.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, love is simple, but hard.  Help us to love.  Amen.   

The Hardest Part About Being Christian…


S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 

O (Observation):  Paul encourages Jesus’ followers to acknowledge the work of the Spirit in their midst.   Everyone has a gift of the Spiritnti share for the common good.   Gifts of the Spirit are not made for the individual, but for the whole community.   And no one should be jealous of another’s gift, for we are all working towards the common good.  

The one Spirit gives these gifts for God’s people (and thus, for the benefit of the whole world).   

A (Application):  The hardest part about being a Christian…is other Christians : )

We are one church, one body, despite our differences and despite our theologies: we are on in Jesus Christ.    We don’t want to acknowledge this, quite often, especially when our political leanings take control of our frontal cortex : )

We want our religion to fit into our boxes that we have constructed.   And if anything is outside of that, we dislike it or dismiss it.  

When we see others using a spiritual gift that we don’t have, instead of celebrating, we typically wonder why we don’t have that gift? Or why that other person is “showing off.”  (I don’t think people are showing off when they use their gifts, that’s just our perception, quite often.)

So, let us celebrate our ONEness in Christ Jesus.  

May you own and use that gift of the Spirit for the common good.  

May you celebrate when others use theirs.  

P (Prayer): Lord, what is up with these spiritual gifts and all the division?   Help us, O Lord, to be one in practice and spirit.  Amen. 

Thinking of Yourself Less

S (Scripture): Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. 4 For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, 5 so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. 6 And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; 8 if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness.

O (Observation):  Paul is nearing he end of his letter to the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome.   Neither the Greek nor the Jew is a “better” or “more faithful” follower of God.  Each has their own troubles and is made righteous by grace alone, apart from any good work.  

A (Application):  Humility, then, is the key to the Christian walk. And if humble, then one would think to serve others first.  Yes, we need to take care of ourselves, but I have been surprised by God at the “plenty” that I feel I have in response to being generous in my giving.  Not that we have had a windfall of money, but we have enough.  

The same goes for serving others with the gifts God has given us.  As we give, according to imhow we are gifted, we feel renewed, even if we wore ourselves out serving someone else.  

A good way to sum this up is in the quote I leave with you today…a quote (maybe from CS Lewis?) I read somewhere on my journey:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself…but thinking of yourself less.  

Blessings!

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to know I have all I need in your grace: enough for me and my family, and enough for us to serve others in this world.  Amen.  

Gifted and Passing on the Gift


S (Scripture): 2 Kings 2:9 When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of the prophetic spirit that energizes you.” 10 Elijah replied, “That’s a difficult request! If you see me taken from you, may it be so, but if you don’t, it will not happen.”

11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a fiery chariot pulled by fiery horses appeared. They went between Elijah and Elisha, and Elijah went up to heaven in a windstorm. 12 While Elisha was watching, he was crying out, “My father, my father! The chariot and horsemen of Israel!” Then he could no longer see him. He grabbed his clothes and tore them in two. 13 He picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen off him, and went back and stood on the shore of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen off Elijah, hit the water with it, and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he hit the water, it divided and Elisha crossed over.

15 When the members of the prophetic guild in Jericho, who were standing at a distance, saw him do this, they said, “The spirit that energized Elijah rests upon Elisha.” They went to meet him and bowed down to the ground before him. 16 They said to him, “Look, there are fifty capable men with your servants. Let them go and look for your master, for the wind sent from the Lord may have carried him away and dropped him on one of the hills or in one of the valleys.” But Elisha replied, “Don’t send them out.” 17 But they were so insistent, he became embarrassed. So he said, “Send them out.” They sent the fifty men out and they looked for three days, but could not find Elijah. 18 When they came back, Elisha was staying in Jericho. He said to them, “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t go’?”

O (Observation):  God passes the mantle from Elijah to Elisha.   And Elisha wishes for double the prophetic spirit given to Elijah.   The power of prophecy is important for God’s people to experience, so that they can hear from God.  

Elisha will now be the mouthpiece for God.   

The fellow prophets in training lack the understanding that God literally took Elijah to heaven.  They think some strong wind must have carried him off, and eventually dropped him.   That’s about the only logical conclusion they can conjure up.  

Elisha, however, knows what happened.  God sent a chariot of fire to carry Elijah away to be in heaven.   A powerful demonstration by God, for sure.   

A (Application):  God carrying away a person to be in heaven – while alive – is a pretty big deal.  Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (our text for today) are two of the few examples of God taking a live person to heaven.  We are not sure of the reason, but we could be safe in saying that these are special people in salvation history.  

Elijah took on Elisha as the one to follow him, though he gave Elisha several chances to leave.    Elisha relied on God to give him the gift of prophecy.   And he did receive it, indeed.  

How many folks are you taking on to mentor or train?  How many have you mentored over the years?  Formally and informally?  

Who have you followed?  Who has had an impact on your life?   What was their journey like?  
The way we pass on ministry matters.    Let us hope that we can continue to see the gifts in ourselves and in others…gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, you gift us in many and various ways.  Help us now to see those gifts in ourselves and others.  Amen.