Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

Prepositions are funny things. They are so small and yet so full of meaning. They establish relationship between two things or people. Here is a verse that establishes God as the source (of all light) and the Christ as the prism through which that light shines.

I Corinthians 8:6
. . . yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Mike and I had a throwback experience yesterday and showed the old movie, Pollyanna with Hayley Mills, to our daughter. I’d forgotten about the lovely scenes with the prisms and how that simple act gave hope to a couple of grumpies.

But the symbol is perfect. We cannot actually see light. We see a reflection or, in the case of a prism, a refraction and a spectrum of color.

Jesus is our prism and through him, we see God.

Consider the phrase, “to live is Christ” [Philippians 1:21] and what that might mean in conjunction with the prism image. If we are in Christ and Christ is in us, then we, too, become a prism. The more transparent and translucent we can become, the more likely the Light can be seen in us, the spectrum of God’s love.

Over the years, I have wanted to manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit [I Cor 12:8-13], but today, I understand this essential manifestation must come first. Those other gifts are by-products of the Light, they are merely one color in the spectrum.

Oh God, may the spectrum of your Light shine through Christ and may I be a vessel clear enough, transparent enough, that others would be able to see You. Forgive me for covering myself with bushels [Matthew 5:14-15] and closed doors and closets.

You are my truth.

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We each have what is needed to become what God intends. Our destiny is fueled by our giftings, environment, genealogy, and circumstances. Do I like that idea? Not much. I keep trying to run away from my past, my trials, and my circumstances.

I Corinthians 3:21-23
So let no one exult proudly concerning men [boasting of having this or that man as a leader], for all things are yours, Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas (Peter), or the universe or life or death, or the immediate and [a] threatening present or the [subsequent and uncertain] future–all are yours, And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

For years, I kept searching for the right church, the right leader/teacher, the right community, the right books. I’d hear about incredible anointings upon this church or that church, this leader or that leader and ask God why I didn’t have access to these experiences. I’d read about miracles and outpourings, but always from afar. And with the advent of lightspeed communications, I could hear and see all of these things happening elsewhere.

It’s like daydreaming about winning the lottery. Oh, if only I had a million bucks, then I could really do something good. Why, Lord, I’d even tithe 10% of that million. There’s generosity. And I’ll send another 10% overseas to the missions our church supports in Africa. And then I’ll pay off my debts. I know you want me to do that, it’s scriptural. And then I’ll sock some away for my kids’ education. But once I get past these obligations, I can rub my hands together and really have some spending fun.

When will I get it?

Look in the mirror. This is what I have: my health (for today), my age, my family, my knowledge, my work, my friends, my church, my neighborhood, my pets, my “stuff,” my faith. . . ah, my Redeemer, who really owns all of these things. Remember, I surrendered myself to God. That included the whole package, what it was then and what it became through the years and ultimately, what it will be.

This day, I have everything I need to serve God. It’s up to me to accept all the challenges and circumstances and to live, really live this day fully and to apply all I know to it. I am not a president or a preacher. I am not world renown. I am not a celebrity. I am me and I am called to live this day completely in the name of the One God. That’s all. That’s enough.

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Wisdom is the interpretation and application of knowledge. Foolishness is the inability to do either one with knowledge. When I am acting foolishly, I am not thinking clearly or considering future consequences or outcomes. Worse, I am acting selfishly–which is never wise.

I Corinthians 1:21
For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy, God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching [salvation, procured by Christ and to be had through Him], to save those who believed (who clung to and trusted in and relied on Him).

According to James 1:5, wisdom is a gift while foolishness is nothing more than human frailty (the default).

With wisdom, we can adapt to change, we can process struggle, we can build on mistakes.

Why wouldn’t everyone want wisdom? Why don’t we ask for wisdom every day? Why don’t seek wisdom? Why don’t we hunger and thirst for wisdom?

Why don’t I?

The first Bible study I started was on wisdom. I learned so much during that time, but I didn’t use that information wisely (how ironic). I didn’t build on the foundation.

I think there are a lot of building blocks that are set in place throughout our lives but we don’t take advantage of them. Many experiences in my life came to an unworthy demise: relationships (a family who loved me in Germany during a student exchange, friends from high school, friends from college, friends from Chicago, friends from Atlanta, friends from New York — all lost to me); skills (playing guitar, speaking German or sign language, playing piano); and creative pursuits (plays, articles, and stories I have written, ideas lost, crafts started and stalled). I responded to all of these events foolishly.

Wisdom would have integrated my events, people and experiences into a wholeness that continues to elude me after all these years.

But here’s the good news. Wisdom is unconcerned about my age or place in time. Wisdom is still here to lift me up. Wisdom is my sister. “Wisdom calls aloud in the street . . . [Proverbs 1:5a]. She is patient, like her other selves in God. She is willing to take me with her. She is here now

Come sweet sister and manifest in me this day.

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We have “faculties, talents and qualities” that contribute to our uniqueness. They are gifts. Some of these gifts travel through our family lines, some appear supernaturally, some are discovered after years of disuse, but all are from God and given in grace. Exercising those gifts is a choice.

Romans 12:6-8
Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy . . . practical service . . . teaching . . . encouraging . . . contributing to the needs of others . . . leadership . . . showing mercy . . . .
Amplified and NIV combined

Out of this list, I can manifest some of these attributes by sheer will. I can serve others or encourage, I can even contribute to the needs of others and I am working on showing mercy. These are all good things to have and employ. We would all do well to work on these areas of our lives.

Some people are simply gifted with these attributes and the expression of these gifts is instinctive. And yet, lots of the same folks don’t seem to realize they have the gifts and as a result, the gifts are under-used and the community suffers. Maybe it’s because people don’t even realize how important they are to the body of Christ . . . to the koinonia.

Paul specifically noted these gifts and although I’m sure the list is not necessarily exclusive, clearly these attributes are essential to any team or group (Christian or not, I’d say). There is always a need for visionaries (prophesying) while others handle the practicalities. Some must teach while those who struggle need to be encouraged by those who can see future success in anyone. There are those who understand and multiply resources for the good of all and there are those who can see the big picture and put the puzzle pieces together. And in a thriving group, there will be those whose mercy weaves compassion, gentleness, and forgiveness throughout.

What are your gifts? Do you have one or many? What is the gift of the one beside you? What is mine?

Remember, these gifts are given by grace. Whenever grace is involved, it means there is no “worthiness” involved. The gifts are undeserved and cannot be bought or earned. And yet, all are needed for a fully functioning koinonia.

If you are an encourager, then I exhort you to draw forth the natural gifts of those around you. It may be this role that is most essential to building a truly viable community.

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I just realized I’ve been confusing God’s gifts with God’s tools.

Romans 11:29
For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.] [Amplified]

The parable of the talents has always been a challenge for me as I thought of those talents as gifts (like intelligence, creativity, good health, etc.) [Matthew 25:14-30] And how important it has been for me to invest these talents wisely that they may bring forth fruit. Obviously, I don’t want to be the one-talent guy who gets the outer darkness treatment.

But as I pondered verses 11:28-29, I realized the talent parable is not about irrevocable gifts. It’s about “tools” that God gives to help us accomplish whatever is laid out before us. He gives challenges and he gives equipment.

But the irrevocable gifts are wrapped up in “call.” This truth is foundational from the times of Noah and Abraham. The covenants of God are eternal. We will not be destroyed and if we accept the call to God Presence within, that gift is also eternal.

I have been too centered on what my senses can experience and not given enough place to the spirit. This is where the words of eternity have meaning. This is where faith can grow. This is where assurance, trust, and hope find root.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

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Mercy is the best thing ever, particularly when we’re on the receiving end. But, it gets a little dicey when we see some other “undeserving” soul get the good stuff.

Romans 9:14-15
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [Exodus 33:19]

God is at the bottom line and no matter how hard we try to understand God’s distribution of suffering and mercy, we will never be able to get it. What often appears “unfair” is not for us to judge. Scripture promises that God is just; our understanding is not required in God’s dimension.

My essential characteristics, my natural abilities, my intelligence, my body, my mind, my spirit: these were the ingredients God put together to make me into “me.” These, along with the circumstances and environments out of my control (where and how I grew up) including my parents and genealogy, all come together as my life’s infrastructure. Upon these, I can add building blocks while others can add to the structure as well. I grow, I become, I change. . . or not.

God’s mercy has kept me alive these many years. There were roads I supernaturally avoided that would have led to my early death. There were dangerous people that I fortunately bypassed. There were places I never had to visit. I wasn’t just lucky, I was under grace.

But there was still my willfulness and it narrowed my journey and brought me to turning points that I chose; many of those choices were not wisely considered. For good or ill, they brought me to this day, this hour, this life.

I cannot go back and relive or choose differently. I cannot project who I will be tomorrow. I can only walk out today, being mindful of the gifts, the mercy, the presence of God, the possibilities.

Oh Lord, what will we make of this day together?

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An Equal Opportunity Employer–that’s sin! Equal pay for equal work. Totally fair. Which is why I am so grateful for the gift of grace that continues giving even when I screw up.

Romans 6:23
For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord.

As a new Christian, I never understood the parable about the laborers who were hired throughout the day and paid equally, whether they started at the beginning of the day or at the very end [Matthew 20:1-16]. It all seemed so “unfair.” But now I see, first of all, that I am one of the “late in the day” laborers; and, secondly, this is the whole point–this is how grace works.

The sowing and reaping principle is in place for everyone. Other religions teach sowing and reaping as well, but perhaps by a different name like Karma. Like energy, what we expend comes back to us in equal parts. The only thing that can block the full force of this cycle is the cross of Christ, the ultimate sacrifice. The sacrifices required in Jewish law were a foretelling of the work of the Messiah.

What is sin? So many think of the most dire deeds as sin like killing someone or stealing or breaking some other secular law. “I am basically a good person,” they say. And because of this human tendency (described very well in the story of Adam and Eve), God provided a “law” or code of conduct to help people see how far we are from the “mark.”

It is so much easier to observe the misconduct of others. But the the mirror of Christ allows us to see more accurately our own missteps and our self-preserving tactics (preserving “face,” preserving our standards of living, etc). There are lots of forms of sin, some easily detected, others hidden in the heart. But, in any case, all sin is covered by grace. This is where my confidence lies. Otherwise, I would be truly lost.

I hold to the tether of Christ’s mantle.

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