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Posts Tagged ‘church’

If You Go, They Will Come

November 26, 2012 1 comment

My wife and I recently made a commitment to be more intentional and proactive in ministry. We decided to make a weekly commitment to go somewhere – so far it’s been a local park – and try to find at least one person with whom to share Christ.

The first week, we met Junior. He grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, but hadn’t been to church in years. We invited him to our church and to our Life Group and encouraged him to seek the Lord for himself, and told him that God had an awesome plan for him. Though I believe he was encouraged, and though I know I planted a seed, he has not come to church or our Life Group.

The next week we went back to the same park, this time with an infant and a two-year-old in tow. This made things more challenging. We didn’t get a chance to share Jesus specifically with anyone, but we met a lady and her granddaughter who come to the park often, and we felt we may have made a connection that would pay off in the future.

This last week, we weren’t able to make it out to the park, but we met someone at church who had come for the first time, so we decided to invite him out to lunch. He never showed.

I chronicle all of this to show that, quite frankly, I don’t feel our efforts have been particularly fruitful. Honestly, its been a bit discouraging. Of course, as an  optimistic young preacher, I assumed that the second I opened my mouth, the heavens would open and the audible voice of God would boom out, “This is my servant! Hear him!” None of that happened.

Then there was this morning. As I am leaving my house to go to work, my next door neighbor was rolling out her trash to the curb (kinda weird because trash day is tomorrow). Anyway, I say hello and start getting into my car. All of a sudden, she’s knocking on my window. She proceeds to tell me that her husband is in the hospital having problems with his heart, and since she knows we are Christians (they are Catholic), she asks us to remember him in our prayers. I say, “Let’s pray right now!” So we grab hands, and I pray the prayer of faith for her husband. When I look up there are tears in her eyes, and she thanks me profusely. Tomorrow, Lauren and I will knock on her door and follow up. Maybe she’ll even come to Life Group.

Here’s my point in all of this – and it’s something I’ve experienced in the past, but somehow forgot. When we begin to step out in faith, when we leave the comforts of our couches and homes to try and advance the Kingdom of God, God sees. Even though it seemed that I was not having much of an effect, I was out there, trying my best, doing my part. Then, lo and behold, God brings someone to me!

There’s a reality that the more willing we are, the more we will be used. I remember the story of Philip. He started a city-wide revival in Samaria. Then, for some strange reason, the Holy Spirit led him away from the revival out into the wilderness to minister to one man. That man turned to Christ and believed, and Philip baptized him. Then, something weird happened. Philip vanished and appeared a few miles away in the city of Azotus preaching the Gospel.

As freaky as this incident may be, I think it tells us something about Philip, and about God’s attitude toward us when we are obedient. Think about this man. First, he is a faithful member of the Jerusalem church, which lands him a position serving tables for widows. Then, when persecution hits, he flees the city, preaching Jesus as he goes. Then he gets to Samaria, and God moves powerfully, and many in the city turn to Jesus. Then when God tells him to leave and go preach to one man, Philip obeys without question. Here’s a story of a faithful and committed Christian, determined to advance the Kingdom wherever he goes, even willing to leave the revival he started, to preach to a single man who needed Jesus. I think God saw the faithfulness of Philip and said, “Now here’s a man I can use! No need for him to waste time walking to the next town, I’ll just beam him up!”

Similarly, I think that when God sees our faithfulness, He will give us opportunities we would never have otherwise had. How often do we have people literally knocking on our door asking for our ministry? I know it doesn’t happen too often to me – maybe its because I am only now gathering up the courage to step outside of myself and make a difference for Jesus.

What are you doing for the Kingdom of God these days?

 

A Study on the Spiritual Gifts

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The subject of Spiritual Gifts is one I think about often, and one I believe to be of great importance for the Church. In our “Enlightened” age, reason and science have trumped the supernatural to such an extent that for the most part even the Church has either rejected the supernatural wholesale, or at least adopted an ambivalent attitude toward the supernatural. Many Christians have a difficult time believing that God can or will do the same things today which he did through Jesus and His apostles.

I consider this (the Church’s reluctance to believe in the present power of God) to be a symptom of ignorance, more than a lack of faith. And with that we move into our study. I will begin in 1 Corinthians 12:1, using my own translation.

1 But concerning spiritual [gifts], brothers, I do not want you ignorant. 2 You know that when you were Gentiles, you were led toward mute idols however [you were] being led.

I would first draw your attention to the fact that Paul breaks into this whole subject by stating his desire for the Church to be informed about the spiritual gifts. As I have said, I believe there is an unfortunate amount of ignorance in the church regarding the spiritual gifts, and such has led (in my opinion) to a weaker Church, a less effective Church.

Furthermore, you may notice that ‘gifts’ is in brackets. This is because the word is inserted by the translator. Were I to be a strict literalist with the translation, it would say “…concerning spiritual things…” However, one needs only look down to verse 4 to see that Paul begins to use the word ‘gift’ in reference to the subject. Thus I believe the insertion of ‘gift’ to be appropriate.

Verse 2 seems to further imply the need of the Church for instruction on these things. Paul says, “you were Gentiles” being “led toward mute idols,” implying a disastrous spiritual ignorance on their part. Of course, we are in no better shape then they. We too were “once darkness,” though we are now “light in the Lord.” We too were once “dead in trespasses and sins,” we once “followed the course of this world.” Every Christian, no matter where in their journey they are, is still under the divine command: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Our minds need to be renewed because we still, in many ways, think like the world thinks, and not as the Lord thinks. Paul, in introducing this completely spiritual subject, here recognizes our need for renewed minds before we can fully grasp the depth of this subject matter.

Furthermore, there is a contrast here – they/we used to be led toward mute idols. Now, we are led by the Spirit toward God. Thus, Paul’s intent here is to show what it looks like to be led by the Spirit. Which leads us directly to the next verse:

3 Therefore I tell you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says, “Jesus [is] accursed,” and no one is able to say “Jesus [is] Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Paul, understandably, starts at square one in determining whether someone is being led by the Spirit or not. According to this verse, someone cannot speak against Jesus Christ and be “in the Spirit.” Obviously we must refrain from extreme literalism here. Paul is not intending to say that one is not able to verbalize the words “Jesus is Lord,” or “Jesus is accursed,” unless appropriately spiritually motivated. His intent is that a person could not say and mean either of these without proper spiritual motivation. I cannot say “Jesus is Lord” and mean it from my heart, unless the Holy Spirit has taken up residence there. Likewise, a person cannot say and mean “Jesus is accursed,” if the Holy Spirit resides in his/her heart.

Thus, Paul’s initial (and apparently only) qualification for ministering in the spiritual gifts, is a person’s ability to make an earnest confession of faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That means that you, if you can confess Christ as Lord, are qualified for the spiritual ministry of these gifts. And contrastingly, we must be certain (though it may be obvious to some), that a non-Christian cannot truly operate in these gifts.

4 But there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 And there are varieties of workings, but the same God who works all things in all men. 7 But to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Lastly (for now), let’s look at the reality of the diversity of gifts, ministries and operations. First of all, there is a variety of actual gifts. Some will inevitably disagree with me here, but I believe the enumeration of gifts in verses 8-10 of this chapter is comprehensive in itself. I believe this because the various gifts listed here seem uniquely supernatural and miraculous in nature. This differs from the list in Romans 12, where the gifts appear to be more akin to natural abilities or propensities which are infused with a spiritual power (i.e. teaching, leading, giving, etc.). As well, the list in Ephesians 4, seems to be a list of spiritual offices, more than specific gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher). Of course, we see later in this chapter (v28) an abbreviated list which is a mishmash of the three individual lists, which is a worthy discussion for another time or another blog. My opinion is that though all of these may be listed under the greater heading of “spiritual gifts,” each of the individual lists appears, to me, to be a specific collection in and of themselves – subcategories, if you will – of that greater heading. Moving on…

Staying within the subcategory of what might be termed “manifestation gifts” (cf. v7), we see a total of 9 gifts. In recognizing that though the gifts differ from one another, yet they are all given and distributed by the Holy Spirit, Paul shows that no gift in its operation may be called inferior, and none superior to any other. For if the Spirit is truly moving an individual in a particular gift, how could we be at all disrespectful of it?

Again, Paul states that besides the diversities of gifts, there is a diversity of ministries/services in which those gifts may operate. Each of us has a place in the Body of Christ, each of us a service to offer, and within our specific spheres of influence, the gifts may operate. This adds another dimension to the diversity of the gifts. Again, the emphasis is the one Lord who oversees all. Thus no gift, and no ministry may be given undue honor or disrespect.

Also, there is a diversity of operations. Once again, another layer of complexity is here laid. The Holy Spirit may distribute any of these 9 gifts to you, and you may find yourself using said gift in any number of ministries, and further, you will find that the gift operates in and through you differently than in the next person. Though two may utter a prophecy, the form, the delivery, the intensity will vary from person to person. Never buy into the idea that God must you in the same way He uses another. He has no desire to be redundant, and no need. Our God is infinitely creative, and His ability to use you is equality as unlimited.

Lastly, verse 7 tells us that the privilege of manifesting the Spirit through these gifts is afforded to all, and it is for the common good. Some (including the church at Corinth as chapter 14 shows us), have misconstrued the purpose of the gifts as an opportunity to bless themselves. Such operate the gifts with no regard for others, and do so with the attitude, “I’m gonna get mine.” This is the exact opposite of the spirit with which Paul writes and instructs us in the gifts. These gifts are for those who want to be a blessing to others. Thus, if it is your desire to be a blessing to the body of Christ, the spiritual gifts are for you!

Thus, in your pursuit of these gifts (I hope that this blog has sparked some interest and desire in you), remember that God is able to use you, with your personality, and your eccentricities, and your specific insights, and all your frailties and weaknesses. He wants to use you to bless others, and His promise is that He will use you, if only you will desire to be used.

Blessings,

Jeff

Bad Music, Good Worship

January 21, 2010 2 comments

So last night was church. I was on the bass, which is always a little nerve-racking. Then, we didn’t have a drummer. Which was WAY nerve-racking. Everything felt very naked and unsteady. Tempo was somewhat optional last night. During my bass solo, I stepped on the chord and unplugged the bass from the amp. Awkward. After worship while the pastor was praying, Steph hit a wrong button and a very loud calypso-style recording played over the system for a few seconds. To put it mildly, last night was an utter train-wreck.

But you know what? God was still there.

In fact, I entered in more than I usually do! I sensed God’s real presence in that room, even after accidentally unplugging the bass. It taught me something important – something I’ve learned a thousand times, and will probably learn a thousand times more. God’s presence is not dependent on us “having it together.” In fact, sometimes I think God allows us to train-wreck from time to time, just to remind us of that fact.

Now to be clear, I believe that we are called to excellence. I think that whenever possible, we need to do our best, to give our best. That being said, sometimes our best frankly isn’t that great. Sometimes our best still results in train-wreck. Luckily, the Holy Spirit doesn’t come in and say, “Wow, I really intended to do some awesome stuff tonight, but the worship team really blew it. I’ll come back next week.”

You see, God said, “…Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Worship doesn’t happen because the band played well, and all the instruments were in tune. Worship happens when your heart is in tune with God. The saints at Living Hope Family Church worshipped last night. I worshipped last night. It didn’t matter that the music was off. What God heard was the perfect harmony and unison of hearts united in praise to Him. God was pleased. Of that I am convinced.

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