Guidance for Spiritual Gifts: part 6 – the Spirit is giving your life away

spiritual gifts logo-imageLife is given to be given away and grace-giftings are God’s beautiful way to pour out your life — for you. Let me phrase it another way. If you are born from above, the Holy Spirit has made you such a new human being (and continues to make you more and more like Jesus) that to continue his mission he not only gives you new life but gives your new life away to his purposes in the world. In the Holy Spirit, we are the walking temples of God where “Spirit-ual” things happen. Look at how Paul wrote it in 1 Corinthians 6:19 when church members were justifying sexual deviancy as an act of worship! “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own…

So, for me and you to experience anything spiritual, we have to allow that the Spirit saved us, to dwell in us, to fix the world through us, and glorify the Father because of us. We don’t own our lives; He does.

To see grace-giftings in action, we need to look at how and where the Spirit is bringing this world to see the majesty of Jesus Christ. Here are some examples. Literally, the Spirit of God is stepping into situations of disorder and bringing gifts through his church of organization and administration. Where the fog of ignorance hinders his children from hearing his truth, God sends teaching which leads men to worship him. Where illness seems to conquer, the Spirit arrives with merciful hands to show he is the ever-present Help in time of need. When the suffering of lack and oppression take place, the Spirit releases a wave of generosity through his children. We can continue on like this with prayer, faith, discernment, hope, and many more. In fact, I believe that as many different needs which you can identify, there is One Solution with the right gift for each one of them.

Therefore, God is gracing us beyond our own means to accomplish his will. He is giving evidence and signs of the Kingdom which is here but must be accepted by faith. We can say that the Spirit is operating in a way that “rights” a world gone wrong, and he is doing it so that it reveals the truth and presence of Jesus. Through the spiritual gifts, God the Spirit is gifting the message of God the Son around the world through a gracious invasion.

Yes, yes, I know we really like the spectacular stuff. It is quite tempting to want to see the miraculous for its own sake. And as a Christian journeys through the years with Jesus, we will definitely see some surprising things which only God can do. On the other hand, we should be thankful God has ordered his world so that each of us can participate in it. To enjoy the grace-giftings of God does not mean that we each need to perform miracles. It may simply mean we are giving our availability to God and serving others in simple, unseen ways.

Is it right, then, to demand that if a gift is not spectacular, then it must not be of the Spirit? I have had people come to our church “looking” only for the showiness of the gifts only to leave after spending less than a couple hours with us saying our church doesn’t “have” the Holy Spirit. However, the more obvious thing missing and unmentioned in their research was if the Gospel was being proclaimed and lived in our church. Simultaneously with their dismissal and departure, the Holy Spirit was always working through many grace-giftings. The reality is the desire for the seen and the spectacular was more important to them than the working out of the Gospel through humble service without a spotlight.

Take careful note of how Jesus was washing feet the night before he was unjustly murdered. There was nothing spectacular about that. No power-show was happening there. It was all quite ordinary and yet extraordinary at the very same time. Jesus left them the example of loving service for how he operates in his world. Apostle Paul follows this up with, “You can do the spectacular with angels and lightning bolts included, but if you don’t have love, you’ve only lit-up fireworks.” (my paraphrase, 1 Cor. 13:1-3). The Italian words for “fireworks” are fuochi artificiali meaning “artificial fires” and are apt here. They might be spectacular like fireworks, but they’re beneficial per niente (two other Italian words meaning “for nothing”).

So, we might test a “gifting” with a few helpful questions — Does the gift in operation serve specific needs and heal the world to Jesus through the Gospel? Does the gift bring glory to God more than the person through whom the Spirit is operating? Is the gifting evident through a person’s self-giving service?

The point is there are hundreds of kinds of needs (ways in which the world just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to). And corresponding to those needs, there are hundreds of opportunities for the Spirit to work through me and you by placing Jesus right into the middle of each one of them. Let’s not overcomplicate the beautiful simplicity of gifts. Also, we must be careful not to overemphasize one, singular “gifting” at the expense of declaring one, singular Christ. Needs abound, but there is one, generous, gift-giving Solution.

Does that mean that I have all the gifts? In a certain sense, yes. If you have the one Spirit of God who operates to meet needs and you’re like me with a thousand weaknesses to operate through, the Spirit may gift you away to all kinds of Gospel settings. In fact, Paul calls us to desire all the gifts, which, if our lives are Christ-centered is a healthy desire (1 Cor. 14:1). However, no single person has all of the gifts exclusively. The Father distributes them throughout the Body that we might bring him glory together. If you had all of the gifts, then you simply wouldn’t need me or anyone else. One evidence of humility in a Christian’s life is how considerate they are toward other believers because they acknowledge how the Father is operating through others for their good. Humble believers desire and search for the way God is directing and blessing other members in the Christian family.

In closing, I would like to encourage and challenge each of us to not make church all about ourselves. Rather, let us give our availability each day to the Holy Spirit and ask of him, “Holy Spirit, would you give my life away today for your delight?” Then, just watch what he does to restore his world. I believe at that point, we will start to see how much grace he is imparting through his gifts to us and how much God wants us to enjoy him in our churches.

Note: please click here if you would like to read the earlier articles on guidance for spiritual gifts.

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Guidance for Spiritual Gifts: part 5 – gifts meet needs

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In this series on the Spirit-giftings, let’s take a step back and simply ask what the Holy Spirit is actually doing when he graces a gift to us?

At surface level, we can say that God is actively fixing stuff. Literally, the Spirit of God is stepping into disorder and bringing gifts through his people of organization and administration. Where the fog of ignorance hinders his children from hearing his truth, God sends teaching that leads men to worship him. Where illness seems to conquer, the Spirit arrives with merciful hands to show he is the ever-present Help in time of need. When the suffering of lack and oppression take place, the Spirit releases a wave of generosity through his children. We can continue on like this with prayer, faith, discernment, hope, and many more. In fact, I believe that as many different needs that you can identify, there is One Solution with the right gift for each one of them.

At a greater level, God is gracing us beyond our own means to accomplish his will. He is giving evidence and signs of the Kingdom which is here but must be accepted by faith. We can say that the Spirit is operating in a way that “rights” a world gone wrong, and he is doing it so that it reveals the truth and presence of Jesus. Therefore, God the Spirit is gifting the message of God the Son around the world through a gracious invasion.

Yes, yes, but we really like the spectacular stuff. It is a very tempting desire to see “the cool of God” and the miraculous. If you have been around the work of God for any length of time and witnessed his power, you know that he trademarks some surprising things at times. On the other hand, let’s ask ourselves if that is normative in how God ordered his world? Is it right to demand that if it’s not spectacular, then it’s not of the Spirit?

Notice that Jesus was washing feet the night before he was unjustly murdered. Nothing spectacular about that. No power-show happening there. It was all quite ordinary and yet extraordinary at the very same time. Jesus left them the example of loving service for how he operates in his world. Apostle Paul follows this up with, “You can do the spectacular with angels and lightning bolts included, but if you don’t have love, you’ve only lit-up fireworks.” (paraphrase di Rob, 1 Cor. 13:1-3). The Italian word for fireworks is fuochi artificiali meaning “artificial fire” and aptly applies here. Spectacular yes, beneficial niente. So, we might test a “gifting” with this helpful question — Does the gift in operation meet needs and show the greater way of Jesus’ love?

The point is that there are hundreds of kinds of needs (ways the world just doesn’t work) and correspondingly, hundreds of opportunities for the Spirit to work through me and you by putting Jesus right into the middle of each one of them. Don’t overcomplicate the beautiful simplicity of gifts. Also, be careful not to overemphasize one, singular “gifting” at the expense of declaring one, singular Christ. Needs abound, but there is one, generous, gift-giving Solution.

Does that mean that I have all the gifts? In a certain sense, yes. If you have the one Spirit of God who operates to meet needs and you’re like me with a thousand weaknesses to operate through, you might experience all kinds of the works of Jesus as you serve. However, I would say that not one person has all the gifts exclusively. Then you wouldn’t need me and I wouldn’t need you. What kind of a holy minestrone is that?

Spiritual Widows Do and Don’t Build the Church

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I use the term “spiritual widow” to describe a spouse (more often a lady) whose mate shares no concern with them toward God or the Scriptures. Sometimes the non-believing spouse is simply indifferent and then we have observed others who are openly belligerent.

The believing spouse, therefore, enters our church family and experiences long seasons of up-and-down; from joy to grief. More often than not, the spiritual widow needs comfort and prayer. Simply put, they often need much more than they give. Commonly seen in their lives is a lack of godly leadership, faithfulness, doctrine, strength, and hope. If you only look at what they have to offer, you would not look to them to build the church when just coming to church is a weekly dilemma.

About 5 years ago, we only had a few spiritual widows. At last count, we now have around 17 people (including widowers) that share this deep ache for someone they love. So, the church has grown! A number of these folks are involved in our missional communities and more.

Another sign of the Gospel at work is the inclusion of the down. These precious people quantitatively have more problems in life to sort through. Their resources are often spent just trying to keep going. Their lives are messy. But these examples seem just like the people Jesus was around — and the kind of people he called to build his Church.

By reaching out to these dear friends again – and again – the efforts are seemingly exhausted in the natural realm. However, Jesus sees both their needs and our “wasted” efforts. And, if it pleases Jesus, he will build his church in the strangest of ways with the weakest of people. Spiritual widows and widowers DO build the church – because that is who we as the church are.