In this worship gathering, we hear a message about how we discern our spiritual gifts so we can serve in the way God wired us up. It’s based on 1 Peter 4.1-11 and Ephesians 4.1-16, and you can watch the whole gathering below, or just the message below that.
Twice a year, on my day off, I undertake a task I never look forward to, but I do it anyway.
I change the tires on my car and my wife’s car.
In November, I put on the winter tires, and in April (or, in this case, May 2), I take those off and put on the so-called “all season” tires.
You might be thinking, Jeff, if you don’t enjoy it, why don’t you just hire it out?
Well, I used to do that, back when I was only changing the tires on my wife’s car. But my insurer now requires that I do so with my vehicle as well. The hassle and cost of having this job done at a garage left me thinking, Why don’t I just do it myself?
My dad taught me the basics of tire changes when I was young, so I started doing it myself. The first time, it took me most of a day. Why? Because I lacked adequate equipment for the task.
I’d use the scissor jack to lift each wheel, take the lug nuts off with a ratchet, change the tire, and put the lug nuts back on with the ratchet, lower the jack, and tighten them more fully. I’d repeat this process seven more times (for two vehicles).
Needless to say, my out-of-shape body was feeling it by the time that task was done!
Each time I’d do it, however, the process got quicker; this past Monday, I accomplished the task in less than 2 hours. Why? Because I had better equipment and more experience.
This involved two investments: an investment in tools, and an investment of time.
While I’ll never be able to accomplish the task as fast as a garage mechanic could, I now have a good rolling floor jack, an air compressor, an air tool for the lug nuts, and a modest torque wrench. And each time I do the job, I find ways to be more efficient.
Growing as a disciple of Jesus is not much different, is it?
By investing in tools and time, our walk with God improves. It’s not that we want to make it more efficient – our spiritual formation is a life-long process, after all – but as we become more spiritually mature, our life as disciples of Jesus does take on a different character.
Tools such as a good study Bible and some solid theological literature can go a long way toward impelling forward our faith journey. And the investment of time, through worshipping in community, belonging to a small group, and engaging in personal devotion on our own will advance our maturity in Christ.
In other words, being a follower of Jesus is not just something that we do for an hour on Sunday. It’s a 24-7-365 venture. And the results are so worth it.
If you don’t have a good study Bible, a church family, or a small group to which to belong, let me know…I can make recommendations for you. It’s an investment with eternal dividends.
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4.11-13, NLT).
Picture this: you have a friend whose birthday is coming up. You decide on the perfect gift to give him or her. You purchase it, wrap it up, and on your friend’s birthday, you hand it to him or her with a greeting and a smile.
Your friend thanks you for the gift, sets it down…and never opens it.
How would you feel?
Did you know that if you’re a follower of Jesus, God has given you at least one special gift by the Holy Spirit? Yet, in reality, most of us never open them.
Knowing our spiritual gifts is vital to our proper functioning as part of the body of Christ, the church. By knowing our gifts, we know how most effectively to serve the Lord in the edification of his church.
Lots of people burn out serving Jesus. Sometimes – oftentimes, I think – it’s because we’re serving outside of our gifting.
When we know and use our spiritual gifts, we are able to function harmoniously in the perfect role God has planned for us in his church.
Do you wonder what your gifts are?
This Sunday, I’ll be talking about the importance of service in the church as an expression of our faith in the Lord, and I’ll be inviting participants to join me in a seminar on Zoom for unwrapping our spiritual gifts.
The seminar will be held on Thursday, March 18 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. If you’d like to join me in that seminar, I invite you to comment, with your email address. I’ll send you the Zoom link, and also a link to an inventory of your spiritual gifts that you will fill out before the seminar. It would be good to see your face – unmasked, even!
If you do know your gifts, use them to the glory of God, and the edification of his church. But if you don’t know your gifts, please feel free to join me. I look forward to hearing from you.
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children” (Ephesians 4.11-14, NLT).
There’s a meme floating around social media that has grown more popular through COVID times. One variant of it says this: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Always be kind.”
Another says this: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
Very warm and fuzzy indeed. But what does it mean to be kind?
The dictionary refers to it as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Fair enough. But when we remember that one of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness, that kicks it up a notch for followers of Jesus.
Anybody can be friendly, generous or considerate when they need to be, or want to be.
Followers of Jesus, who have the Holy Spirit living in them, are called to bear the fruit of kindness, which is on an entirely different level. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4.31-32, NLT).
See what I mean?
Being kind means more than being nice. There’s stuff to get rid of and stuff to appropriate. Paul suggests that being kind involves being tender-hearted, and forgiving other people in the same way Jesus forgave you.
Now there’s a challenge.
The good news is you can do it, because if you follow Jesus, you have his Spirit in you, and his Spirit enables you to be able to forgive in his way as part of being kind.
Are you harbouring a grudge against anyone? Today’s the day to let go and forgive.
That doesn’t mean what the other person did was right. It doesn’t mean you will forget. But it means you can release whatever was wrong into the merciful care of God, without taking it back.
You can do it. If you follow Jesus, his empowering Spirit will help you.
One of the things the Coronavirus pandemic has shown us is that our society, indeed the whole world that is influenced in any way by western culture, has been too busy. Chances are, I don’t need to tell you that: it is more than likely evidenced in your own life, as it is in mine.
I read an article yesterday that was sent to me by a friend who is a monk in Pennsylvania. It is entitled “Leisure in the Life of the Christian”, and appeared in The Catechetical Review, Issue No. 6.2. In that article, the author, Simone Rizkallah, a Roman Catholic lay worker, wrote about the meaning of leisure. She quotes Josef Pieper’s book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, wherein he writes that leisure is a “mental and spiritual attitude, a condition of the soul, an inward calm, of silence, of not being ‘busy’ and letting things happen.”
Since we tend to define leisure as the things we do when we are not working, this might seem like an apt definition by our standards. But, if you dig deeper, there is far more to it than that. Rizkallah suggests, echoing Pieper, that leisure is not the ancillary activity we undertake when we’re not doing the ‘main thing’ of life – working – but is intended to be the centre of life.
Talk about countercultural!
That doesn’t mean that our work is unimportant; quite the opposite. But our work does not, and should not, define us. (By implication, therefore, our lack of work ought not to define us, either – a word of grace for those who are currently unemployed!) But we have tended, in our culture, to see leisure as entirely secondary to our work. Indeed, as followers of Jesus, our true work is actually the practice of prayer and faith. As Rizkallah writes, “without the silence, space, and time for the cultivation of leisure, I cannot pray well. I cannot wait well. And then I may not be in a prime position to recognize ‘when and how’ [God] arrives.”
I’m a big fan of etymology, the study of word meanings. I’ve been fascinated by it for a long time. The article I read noted that sloth is actually quite contrary to leisure: “Slothful people are idle, restless, agitated, and often workaholics. They are spiritually lazy and easily bored.”
Yikes. Not quite the same definition as we have given it over time, eh?
Again, echoing Pieper, Rizkallah notes that the word ‘leisure’ in its Greek and Latin roots actually translates – virtually transliterates – to the word ‘school’. Now, I don’t know many students who think school is leisurely, at least by our culture’s definition of leisure, but it’s where the notion of the liberal arts came from: “[e]ducation was for the sake of (human) freedom, perfection, and salvation; not for the sake of work. It seems while the West has largely forgotten this connection, its enemies have not forgotten. For example, the terrorist group of Nigeria, Boko Haram (which means “Western Education is forbidden”), is one such example.
One more etymological gem: the root of the word ‘culture’ is ‘cult’, which refers to worship. Cult doesn’t have the same meaning in North America, where we see it as a hardline religious or ideological group that expects abject obedience from its adherents. (There is an exception: French-speaking churches in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada will still refer to their worship gatherings as la culte.)
So if leisure is the basis of culture, then leisure is the basis of worship, at least in one sense. But what do we worship? Money? That breeds materialism, which focuses on the economy rather than on human dignity. Power? That leads to a culture that political and even violent, says Rizkallah. Honour? We’ll be centred on vanity. Pleasure? We’re headed for hedonism. But if our culture centres on the worship of God, that’s revolutionary.
I say all this to suggest that perhaps this season wherein we have far fewer options to entertain us might be an invitation from the Lord to reframe how we see our lives, and how we contribute to the culture around us.
Are you spending more time in worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we can’t yet gather together to do so? Are you spending more time in service to others in Jesus’ name, aiding the vulnerable and the needy?
Or are you hankering for things to get back to ‘normal’, so you can crowd out the opportunity to face these challenging questions with more busyness?
Spend some time pondering that today, while you still have the opportunity.
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4.21-24, NLT).
What’s your ministry?
A lot of church people would say, “Ministry? That’s the minister’s job.” We pay professionals to teach our children piano lessons, or to bark at us at the gym, so we often assume that ministry is to be left to the “professionals”. But is that really a biblical model?
The noted Quaker theologian, D. Elton Trueblood, once said, “If you are a Christian, then you are a minister. A non-ministering Christian is a contradiction in terms.”
Each person who has received the grace to follow Jesus possesses at least one special ability to serve God and build up the church – to minister. And the word ‘minister’ simply means ‘serve’. Do you know your spiritual gifts?
Lots of people keep busy in the church, and sometimes, they burn out – not because the work they are doing is not in some way valuable, but because these people may be serving outside of their gifting. Do you feel burned out? It could be that you are serving in an area that is not working for the way God wired you up.
If you’re serving in the church and are experiencing the joy of the Lord, as well as seeing spiritual fruit borne, congratulations; you’re serving according to your gifting. If not, it may be time for a change. Take a spiritual gift inventory, learn how God has equipped you to serve, and adjust your ministry.
If you’re not doing ministry, though, why not? It’s not enough to come to church and “be fed”, if you’re not making practical what you’re being fed! (To get a blunt take on this theme, listen to this clip of one of Amy Grant’s lesser-known songs.)
Do you love Jesus? Then understand that he has given you abilities to serve him in the church, to minister. Discern those abilities, those gifts, and put them to work. Every local church has all the spiritual gifts among its people that are necessary to undertake the work God has planned for that church; we just need to unwrap those gifts!
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4.16, NLT).
I imagine you remember what you were doing when you heard the news 14 years ago today, don’t you? I know I do.
I was sitting in an automotive repair shop waiting room, getting an issue dealt with on my vehicle. There was a television on. Whatever was on before broke for a news flash: airplanes were crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City.
That senseless act of terrorism changed the world forever – and probably not for the better. In a matter of moments, the world was no longer the safe place it had been – or, at least, it had been perceived to be. When the ‘all clear’ was sounded and airports and borders reopened, it suddenly became mandatory to take your shoes off before clearing security.
For some, 9/11 became a watershed for inconvenience. For others, it became a rallying cry for change. While westerners watched in horror as the video was played over and over again on the news, Palestinian children rallied in the streets to cheer. In the Middle East, many perceived that the Americans were getting what they deserved.
Why were there such disparate views on one tragic situation?
Some in the Middle East saw the United States as a collective bully. Others saw the US as their saviour. Americans saw the nonsensical loss of life and vowed to gain revenge. Whether that revenge was justly exacted remains a point of disagreement with many.
What we can all agree on is that we live in a different world because of 9/11. “The war on terror” became a new phrase, symbolic in different ways for different people. In a way that not even the Cold War could, this new era has caused us to live on the edge of our seats.
So what is a Christ-follower to do , all these years later?
Pray for peace. Work for peace. Don’t be afraid of those who may think, act, or dress differently than we do – but don’t be afraid to disagree with them, either. Reclaim the old definition of tolerance: make allowance for other people to be wrong. But don’t hate them, or fear them, for it. Learn from others, and pray for them. For when we all rally around the Prince of Peace, there will be peace.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace” (Ephesians 4.2-3, NLT).