Gifted

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”Romans 12:6-8 (NLT)

You have a gift.

When God took time to create you, He did so knowing the people and places you would be a part of someday. Through this incredible knowledge, He gifted you to make an impact in those people and places. Where you are today and who you know today is no surprise to God.

Today’s passage reminds us of two simple but important truths about the gift you have and the gift you are to those whom you will encounter…

  1. Know YOUR gift(s). The passage tells us that God has given us different gifts, meaning not everyone has the same gift. Some gifts grab the spotlight a little more often than others, so it is not unusual to find people trying to do things and be things that they aren’t really gifted to do, because they like the attention they see others getting. The only spotlight that matters is the one that God is viewing you through, so make sure you are using the gift He gave you to bring attention to Him, not yourself. 
  2. Consider HOW you are using your gift(s). In today’s passage, with each gift we are encouraged not just to use it but to use it well, faithfully, intentionally and seriously. We have all been around people who have such a joy in what they are doing, and it leaves such a positive impression on us. We have also been around those who have a lousy attitude in what they are doing and we know the negative impact it has. 

Look through the gifts mentioned in the passage above. Does one resonate with you in a special way? Are you using your gift in some way as part of the body of Christ? Are you using it with joy, excitement, and with passion? Talk to God about how He has gifted you and ask God to help you discover, use and enjoy the way He has gifted you to make a difference in the lives of others.

YOUnique

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”Psalms 139:14 (NIV)

Some folks never become all they can be because they spend their whole lives trying to be like someone else. While it is normal to be inspired by other human beings and to learn from them, if we make the mistake of trying to copy them we will never make our unique mark on the world that God has created us to make.

While knowing God through Jesus Christ is essential for life abundant and eternal, it is also vital that we know ourselves. On the eternal side of things, if we don’t really know ourselves we will never really let the Lord deal with our sin problem completely. As for becoming an abundant believer, it is also important to know yourself, and the unique ways God has created you. Today’s passage reminds us that He did his creative work in you in a fearful and wonderful way, meaning that you weren’t a random collection of chromosomes that came together one day. Everything you are is on purpose. Things that might seem like physical limitations are part of God’s plan for you. Things that seem like door closers are actually going to open doors through the power of God at work in you.

There are people who know themselves, compare that to others and spend a lot of time and money trying to cop someone else. There are others who know themselves (the good, the bad and the ugly) and say, “Thanks God, for you creating me in a fearful and wonderful way. Use my strengths, weaknesses, and all that you created for your glory and honor today, and use me in all these things to impact my world for you.”

Your name is connected to the unique creation and the unique impact that God knows. Don’t try to live in the shadow of anyone else’s name. Let God make your name famous, for His name’s sake.

Immature No Longer

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” – Ephesians 4:14 (NLT)

Children are very impressionable. This is because they don’t have a lot of years of experience, so each new bit of information or new opportunity is not able to be compared and contrasted to opposing ideas in their brain. This is why it is not just important that kids learn academic truth, but during these formative years they need to be taught the truth of scripture. Then when they are confronted with a lie or with a wrong choice they will have something in their minds to contrast with the lie or wrong choice.

You may be an adult that is immature or childlike when it comes to your knowledge of the scripture. Maybe you came to Christ as an adult, or maybe your parents were more into your academics and athletics than they were in your growing in the knowledge of God’s word. It’s never too late to get started. Through daily reading God’s Word, attending Bible studies and worship, and reading books written by Bible believing authors, you can quickly make up for lost time.

If you don’t, you will be like the person described in today’s passage. You will be tempted to believe everything that sounds “spiritual” and by into lies that may seem to be connected to a scripture, yet what they lead you to go after is not at the center of God’s will.

Talk to the Lord today about your maturity level when it comes to knowing and doing God’s Word. If you sense He is leading you to expand your Bible knowledge of Him, pray about the three ways you can do this that we mentioned earlier. Ask God to help you grow up into a fuller knowledge of the scriptures. When that happens, you will find that living right and making right choices are a much more frequent occurrence in your life.

By Association

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”Proverbs 22:1 (NIV)

You probably won’t be too surprised to know that the most common guy’s name in America is James, and the most common girl’s name is Mary.  And in case you were wondering, the most common last name in America is Smith.

Some people try to make a common name unique by changing the spelling.  Others don’t want to be so common so they choose to be called by a nickname rather than by their given name.

This is NOT what today’s passage of scripture is all about.  As God speaks to us through this proverb, He is encouraging us to think about the connection between your reputation and your name.  Your reputation is what you are known to be. You might be known for positive things such as being a helper, for imparting wisdom or for your kind spirit.  You also might be known for negative things such as being stingy, being cutting with your words, or for your anger.

The greatest thing that can be associated with our name is that we know Christ and that our actions and attitudes are Christ like.  When people see Jesus Christ in our lives, it is worth more than any amount of money, because a life that reflects Christ can’t be purchased at any price.

Talk to the Lord today about what your name is known for.  If you are known for things that are not Christlike, ask the Lord to forgive you and change you to reflect His nature.  This is what God hopes will happen for each and every one of his children…

“As all of us reflect the Lord’s glory with faces that are not covered with veils, we are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”2 Corinthians 3:18 (GW)

Your Citizenship

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”Philippians 3:20 (NLT)

I pledge allegiance…

Each day, many Americans load up on planes and head to foreign countries.  Some stay for days, weeks or even months before they are able to return to their home here in the United States.  When you visit a foreign country, it is important to know and adapt to the culture so you can successfully interact with it.  The successful American traveler can learn the language and culture of a foreign place, but will never forget her allegiance to her country.  She needs to be able to interact with the foreign culture but not become any part of that culture that would undermine the laws and principles of her homeland; the United States of America.

As believers in Jesus Christ, our spiritual citizenship is NOT on planet earth.  Today’s verse reminds us that our spiritual citizenship is in heaven, where our Lord Jesus lives.  Our existence on planet earth is not one that we should desire to feel at home in. Jesus put it this way…

“I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to this world any more than I do.  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” –  John 17:15-19 (NLT)

Its important to know and adapt to culture so you can successfully interact with it, but it is also important to not feel at home in it by adapting in a way that runs counter to our Holy Lord and Savior, Jesus. 

How about you?  Does your heavenly citizenship drive your passions and choices, or have you adapted in compromise to the culture of this worldly place we live?  Talk to God today about this, and take time to express your allegiance to your heavenly home and its King, the Lord Jesus.

Set Apart

“Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.”John 17:17 (NLT)

Today’s passage was part of a prayer Jesus prayed for his disciples, and for all who would place their faith and trust in Jesus.

One of the things Jesus prays for us is that we will be holy.  To be holy does not mean that a halo appears over our heads or that we become perfect in all our thoughts and deeds.  To be holy means that we are “set apart.” To be holy means that we are not common, but we are different and those differences are in line with who God is and what He wants.

Many of us look at areas of our life and realize they are far from holy.  We want our lives to be holy and pleasing to God, but the reality is that there are areas that are not.  In today’s passage Jesus says that the key to holiness is exposure to truth. If we choose to believe lies, they will always lead to unholy choices.  If we choose to believe truth, we will always be led to holiness. If we don’t know what is truth and what is a lie, we cannot make choices that will effectively move us toward holiness.

This is why the Bible is so important.  Jesus said here that if you want to know truth then know God’s word, and we find His words in the Bible.  Exposure to the Bible is exposure to truth, which leads to the info we need to expose the lies we believe and change our believing to those things that are truth. 

Talk to God today about how exposed you make yourself to the truth found in scripture.  Are there lies you believe that have led you down paths taking you far from God? What does God say about your choices in the Bible?  What you read in the Bible is truth about your situation. Ask God to help you to know the truth, choose the truth, and to make you holy… set apart to accomplish the things that are important to God.

A Great Church

“And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”Ephesians 1:23 (NLT)

What makes a church great?  Is it a superabundance of talented, gifted or generous people?  Is it people who are super willing to go places and do things that most people would not be willing to?

Today’s passage reminds us that the church is the Lord’s body, and it is great as Jesus is allowed to fill it and complete it.  People don’t make the church great… Jesus Christ does. The living Lord Jesus empowers and leads his people (the church) to be all it can fully be for God.  If a church is not doing great things, there is a good chance that his people are limiting the Lord in some way.

The personal application for each of us in this passage is to remember that we are a part of the body.  God has placed us in the body for specific reasons related to the way he has blessed us with gifts, talents and abilities.  A defective or rebellious part will have an impact on the body as a whole. We should seek to let Christ fill and complete our individual part of the body and we should be praying for the other parts and encouraging them to let Christ fill and complete them.

How about you?  Are you a part of the body that seeks the filling and fullness of Jesus?  Do you pray for other members of the body and encourage them to be all they can be in Christ Jesus?  Ask the Lord to give you a passion to be filled and full of Christ, and pray and encourage other folks in your church to do the same so God will be able to do His amazing work in and through the church.

Jesus Rejected

But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem.  When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?”  But Jesus turned and rebuked them.”Luke 9:53-55 (NLT)

What is your attitude toward people who people who reject Jesus?

When Jesus walked the earth, there were many who did not welcome Him, such as the people of the Samaritan village in today’s scripture.  James and John knew Jesus, believed in Jesus, and when they saw these people’s response they were angered to the point of wanting to see them wiped off the face of the earth.  Jesus didn’t seem to be bothered as much by the village that rejected Him as he was by the attitude that James and John were displaying.

As a believer in Jesus, we too will come into contact with many people who choose to reject Jesus Christ and the truth of scripture.  Sometimes, that rejection can be very aggressive and vocal. While it is not easy to see people dishonor and disrespect the honor and reputation of our Lord and Savior, the Lord makes it clear here that how we respond is of utmost importance.

Striking back in word or deed is not the way of Jesus.  This is not the way He dealt with the people who had Him nailed to the cross, and it is not the way He wants us thinking about those who are rejecting Him.  It is appropriate to cry over them, pray for them, and love them with our words and actions, but desiring retaliation or their destruction would only eternally seal their present separation from the Lord.  The Bible makes it clear concerning God’s heart about this…

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

Are there people you hate or want to see destroyed because of their blatant opposition to the Lord or his ways?  Talk to the Lord about this, and ask God to give you the attitude of Christ. Begin to pray for them, and let God open doors for you to engage with them so that they might see Christ’s love in you.  

Encouragement Needed

“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”Acts 11:23-24 (NIV)

Today’s passage comes from an event that happened in the early days of the Church.

Initially, most new Christians were converts from Judaism. Soon though, as the message of Christ spread, even the Gentiles began to hear and respond to the message about Jesus. They were coming to Christ and they were evidencing the same spiritual gifts as the new Jewish believers. When this happened in a big way in Antioch, the leaders of the church in Jerusalem sent a man named Barnabas to go check it out.

When he got to Antioch, he saw the amazing things God was doing and it made him glad. The Bible says with his words he encouraged these new Gentile believers to remain true to Jesus and love Him with all their hearts.

New believers need encouragement. Each week new folks come to know the Lord and join the church. They are new to the ways of Christ and to the ways of church. If they get stares and glares because what they are doing is “not the way we do things around here,” they will probably either hide in a spiritual shell or they might bail on the discipling that God wants to do in them. 

There is a difference between personal preferences and godly doctrine.  Personal preferences are negotiable, but Godly doctrines are not. Take the time to distinguish why you are bothered by what you see. 

Either way, with everyone at church and at home, find a way to encourage people in their next steps. If you will be a “Barnabas” to them, they too will be encouraged to keep on in their new walk with the Lord and with their new church family.

Embrace Scripture; Express Love

“As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.  ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.'”John 8:3-11 (NLT)

There are many cultural beliefs and lifestyles that head in a directly opposite direction than the way that is revealed to us through the scriptures. How can we unwaveringly hold to biblical principles and at the same time express the grace of God to our culture?

One of the best ways to have the mind of Christ is to study the life of Christ.  Jesus was in a situation once where there were those who wanted to prove their unwavering hold to the scriptural teachings on adultery, so they found a woman who was living an adulterous lifestyle and brought her to Jesus.  Jesus’ response showed clearly that he held to the principles of scripture, not only under the category of adultery but also under the categories of the sinfulness of all humanity and that forgiveness for sin is available. About human sinfulness Jesus said, “… let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” About forgiveness for sin Jesus declared, “Neither do I (condemn you).” About adultery Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”

We can’t unwaveringly hold to part of the Bible, ignore other parts of it, and show the world what biblical Christianity looks like. One of the amazing attributes of God is that at all times He is 100% righteous, gracious, just, merciful, and holy. He doesn’t stop being one to be the other. As we encounter and engage with the parts of our culture that embrace a lifestyle that is not biblical, we need to do it like Jesus did – loving holiness, loving people, and helping others to see that there is forgiveness and a better way to live available that God has provided.

Talk to God about this today. Are there sinful parts of our culture where your expression makes it seem that you hate both the sin and the sinner?  Does your expression make our culture think that God really doesn’t care about issues that the Bible clearly says are sin? Ask God to help you be strong in embracing all that scripture declares to be true, and at the same time strong in expressing love and forgiveness to even the worst of sinners.