Friday, September 28, 2012

The Body and Gifts - VII

God's marching orders concerning his coming kingdom is for his fmaily to take the resources he has given us and put them to work.

He has given us gifts, grace, love, his presence, his Spirit, his promises and a team to work with and rely on.

The change charge is to work for the profit of God's kingdom, to be faithful, to gain fruit and to glorify God.

The problem is that large parts of the family of God have forgotten how to move ... or maybe, never knew how to move in the first place.

They are afraid to make a mistake. The don't feel able. The expect one thing, and God expect another. They value themselves, the gift of God and what they can do as being too little.

Do what God has put on your heart. Do not despise small things. The kingdom of God is like a small seed put into the ground, that grows to cover the whole world. And anyone can plant a seed.

The Body and Gifts - VI

The problem with gifts and talents is that they can go to our heads. We can consider ourselves more important than others. We can consider our gifts as more important than other peope's gifts.

That's why Scripture says gifts are not enough. Without one ingredient, any gift, all gifts are vain, fruitless, death giving and glory robbing.

Love needs to power all gifts. Love needs to power how we express our gifts, look at others' gifts and receive grace/gifting from other people.

Love will outlive all gifts, all "spiritual manifestations", all theories and all ministries. What will last of individual lives is how much love did they give.

If love powers spiritual gifts, a spiritual gift is God's special of expressing love through each person.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Body and Gifts - V

The Bible says each person in God's family is given a gift "for the common good."  As the New Testament was originally written in Greek "for the common good" is how newer English versions interpret "Προς το συμϕερον".

At first, "common good" sounds like mutual giving and serving within God's family. That seems to be a good thing. Love, service and grace poured into each others' lives. The family grows in heart, character, mutual interdependence and practical unity. All good things.

We still have the problem I wrote about in my last post. If everyone should be expressing this gift (and it seems Scripture says they should), how do we find a niche for everyone to fill?

Of course, maybe we are misunderstanding "for the common good?" I have found references for translating the phrase as "toward that which is profitable."

Maybe the gifts are for more  than pouring into the family of God? (They are certainly for that.) Maybe the gifts are for kingdom building?

The niche question remains, but the scope grows bigger. We are no longer looking for just improving God's family. We are improving God's family and demonstrating God's love and character in the community and culture. We are seeking whatever is profitable. Is there a problem which brings misery to people and dishonor to God -- hunger, lack of education, human trafficking -- does the application of grace through diverse gifts bring hope, and relief to people, and honor to God.

If we open the doors for God's gifts to be applied, filling a niche may become asking different sorts of questions. And there may be more niches than can be filled.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Body and Gifts - IV

I have heard people say that all people in the church are necessary and important to the health and growth of the body. The Bible certainly teaches that. I am not too sure that the church of God lives that way.

I have pointed out in a previous post ( ) that the Bible says we are all priests, but we don't live like priests. What we live like is: certain people are priests.

God gives gifts. Most agree that one gift is "teaching."  In present-day churches, it seems like there are two places where the teaching gift gets plugged in: the message during the worship meeting, and in spiritual education for children. In some churches, there is a spiritual education system developed for adults. In many of those churches, the adult education and the worship meeting teaching is filled by the same people.

What if there is someone with a gift of teaching, who is not one of those teaching the worship meeting, and whose gifting is not suited to teach children?

If the Holy Spirit gives gifts to individuals by his wisdom, outs those individuals into a group of Christians by his wisdom, and the purpose of gifts are for building the body, how does the above individual fit in and express the gift to do what the Spirit intends it to do?

Does he invent his own curriculum, structure and plug it into the church and its structure? And if the leadership feels this new thing does not fit in with the values, goals and philosophy of the church? Is it the church's responsibility to find a niche for everyone?

And if a person has no niche, no expression of who he is in God among God's people, is he that necessary and important to the body?

The Body and Gifts - III

The Spirit is responsible for implementing God's strategy. He is the tactician. He blends the body together. He knows the weaknesses and strengths of each local group. So, he knows each groups needs. So, he know what to add to complete each group.

He strengthens a group by adding different people. Because people have different gifts, he, in eternal wisdom, empowers different gifts in someone. He puts that someone into a particular family of God. That person lives out of his heart, expressing who God designed him to be and adds his unique contribution to the body, and fills an important need. That person matures. The body matures. The body bears fruit. And God is glorified.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Body and Gifts - II

A person could make a very strong case in saying that the quarterback is the most important position in football. The quarterback can largely determine the success or failure of a team.

Many would argue that the pastor, apostle or other person, recognized as the head of the church, is the most important person in the church. And most people live in agreement with that.

I will contend here that the most important person in the church is Jesus. (Or the Holy Spirit, given he is the present-day, animating force of God in the church.)

The church is not the pastor's body. The church does not carry out the purposes of the apostle. If the person who sweeps the floor is more obedient to God, in closer agreement to God's purposes and in greater harmony with his role in God's kingdom, he can have a greater impact in the world than the pastor or the apostle. It is a person's agreement with God, that determines how God's presence and grace flows through him. Not a position. Not a title.

It is faith, love, obedience and humility that grant authority in God's kingdom. And a large proportion of Christians in the western church live as though God gives authority based on titles and educational degrees.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Body and Gifts

One of the Spirit's jobs is to point favorable to Jesus. Jesus is the visible part of the God-head. He is a picture that allows us to know the character and nature of God. By revealing Jesus to people, he reveals the Father and himself.

Because his family is the body of Christ, part of the strategy is to shine a light on the people of God. God's people should be a picture -- and imperfect picture, but a true picture -- of Jesus.

God gives each person in God's family a supernaturally empowered ability, so each person in god's family matures, has a heart to pursue God's purposes and their role in them. The completion of God's purposes is a team effort.

There is a lot of discussion about who is the greatest quarterback today: Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The truth is, if they did not have teammates protecting them, the greatest quarterback would be Michael Vick, because he can run, and neither Brady nor Manning can.

These men have an important function that leads to the success of failure of their team. But they will fail unless they have others completing their functions.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Gospel Challenge - II

On further consideration of my last post, there is another part of the Bible where it is said that wisdom is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. (Rough paraphrase.)

Stirring up trouble, arguments and bad feelings does not honor God. Christians are already labeled as bigoted, critical, and narrow-minded. They only give lip-service to this thing they say they believe in -- love.

Jesus did say that the gospel itself was going to be offensive. For one reason, it was going to turn the expectations of the religious upside down and inside out. Those who thought they were in are going to find that they are out. And those on top are going to find out that they are really on the bottom.

So, how do you tell someone that he is a fool for not believing in Jesus -- not only will they be condemned for eternity, but they will cut themselves off from living as they were designed to live -- but do it in a truly kind and loving way?

Monday, September 03, 2012

A Gospel Challenge

My group at work has lunch together on Thursday's. Recently, because of flip-flops in schedules, there were only three of us eating --  Two women and myself.

One of the women likes to dominate  the conversation. Mostly, the topic revolves around why she holds the political philosophy she does, why the "other" political philosophy is ruining the country, how past governments failed and how recent governments cannot accomplish anything because politicians are all behaving with partisan fervor. (One gentlemen and I agree where we can, and politely listen where we cannot. To disagree is to invite a harsh response, a refusal for the most part to compromise and an expression of hard feelings. Interestingly, according to her, a refusal to listen and accept people with different opinions is one of the main problems with the current political climate.)

This day, religion moved to the forefront of the discussion. Life existed only in the arena of the physical and the senses. People were chance collisions of atoms. Those who held a religious or spiritual philosophy were weak and needy. 

My inclination at this point was to eat my lunch and pretend to listen. I could have created a heated debate if I chose. Each of us staking out our turf. Bad feelings abounding. She would not move one millimeter closer to the kingdom. God would not be honored. "Here is one more, backward, ignorant, judgmental, born-again bigot."

But I find myself asking questions:
  • Is the above scenario the only way this situation could work itself out?
  • Jesus always seemed to be on top of tense situations. How would he have responded?
  • Does every situation that ridicules or denies God have to be challenged?
  • Was my choice to sit quietly a failure?