Gifted (Holy Spirit Series Part 3)

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There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines,~1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Before we start talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I want to touch on the purpose of the gifts.

A. To glorify God. The Holy Spirit is continually at work to glorify God. The gifts of the Spirit are given for His glory.

B. To build up the Body of Christ and be a blessing. Most natural or gifts of the world are beneficial for the recipient. We are called to use the gifts of the Spirit to bless one another.

C. Reveal the character of God. There’s so much that can be said here about how God works through His children to demonstrate to the world His character. Read the entire Bible. Every story reveals some aspect of His nature.

What the gifts are not:

1. Proof of spiritual maturity. Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit. Fruit (see last post) is manifest in our lives through abiding, pruning, and relationship with God. Someone can have gifts of the Spirit and be led by their flesh or be spiritually very immature.

Gifts are free, maturity is costly,”~Bill Johnson.

2. Proof of salvation. This one can be touchy as some teach the gifts are proof of salvation. We are saved by faith, not by our ability to do something (Ephesians 2:8).

3. About us. The gifts are for other people. It’s not about us. It’s about God and others.

4. For sale. There are many verses in the Bible about not using the gifts of God for personal gain. Those who demand money to pray for people or prophesy or share wisdom, I dare not judge, it’s not encouraged in the Bible. Jesus said, “Freely you’ve received, freely give,” Matt 10:8. There’s a difference between accepting an offering or holding a paid office (as pastor, counselor), and demanding people pay you to pray for their sick relative, etc…God hates exploitation, and mistreatment of the poor.

I’ve visited services (long ago) where you had to give an offering to get prayer for a miracle and the person made it seem the more you gave the minister, the more incentive God had to bless or heal you. God is generous. He’s looking to give, not exploit people. Our giving should be motivated by a desire to give, to honor Him, an act of worship, not to get something from God.

5. To embarrass, harass, or condemn people. Jesus used the gifts to help people. He knew the sins of the people around Him, yet He didn’t frequently broadcast their sins for the purpose of humiliation. If the Holy Spirit reveals a persons weaknesses, it’s so we can pray or gently lead to restoration. It’s not so we can gossip, judge, or shame people.

Spiritual discernment (the ability to see good or evil at work in someone’s life) is for the purpose of helping the person, honoring them, building them up, and/or restoring them.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted,~Galatians 6:1.

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Now that I’ve touched on the purpose and what they are not. What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

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The image is not an exhaustive list. It covers the gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. I will break down the gifts in more detail next post.

Be encouraged that every member of Christ’s Body has a role to play and no member is more important than another. If you read the rest of 1 Corinthians 12, it covers unity within the Body of Christ and how EVERY person has a part.

We are Family (Identity in Christ Part 20)

 

Young Couple with Two Children (8-12) Walking on the Beach

God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing, ~Psalm 68:6a.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father,” ~Romans 8:15.

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir, ~Galatians 4:1-7.

The picture above is what we normally think of when we think of a family. We have a father, a mother, and children. If this is our only view of family, we will be disappointed if our family does not look like the one above. In today’s society you find single parent homes. You find widows and orphans. You find childless couples. You find millions of singles who may never marry. So, where is their family?

God sets the lonely in families. We were not intended to become His child and neglect other believers. We are family. It’s a challenging and difficult concept. We are not only called to care for our blood related family, we are called to care for our spiritual family. Some of our relatives we may not see again in heaven (though I’d hope so). There will be no marriage in heaven (Matt 22:30). There will be no having children there. We will all be like the angels. One big happy family.

Why is it so difficult to function as a family in church?

1. We don’t see the benefits of unity.Read previous post about the members of the Body. Division and independence weakens us. A divided force is a weak one. God is a God of unity. We need each other.

2.We live in a self focused society. We can go to church and not invest in anyone. We go, get our needs met, and go home. It’s about us, not necessarily others.

3.Our worship gatherings attract broken, hurting, and some really messed up people. Just like our natural families there are some awkward people we are related to. We are probably someone’s awkward person. It tests our love and patience to deal with people who don’t always act like Jesus or we have nothing other than Jesus in common with.

4. We are taught to care for our natural families, not our spiritual family. However, the Bible says, “Mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice,” Romans 12:15. We read in Philippians 2:4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

5. We are too busy. I don’t know about you, but getting to know people takes time, energy, and resources. We have to make time for people. It can be tiring. We are not called to strive, but to make an effort to bless other believers.

6. It can be messy. If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you’ve probably been hurt by another believer. It’s painful for we expect people who are Christians to act like Jesus. That is not always the case. Hurt feelings, offense, betrayal, it can can happen. We learn boundaries with our natural families, and we need boundaries with our spiritual family. Some relationships can be damaging, toxic, or unhealthy. Wisdom, boundaries, and counsel may be needed in dealing with people.

Personal Experience:

Have you ever been to someone else’s family gatherings? I have. My family has been disinterested in celebrating holidays since my mum passed. So, year after year I have either hosted my own gathering with people from church or been invited to other people’s homes. Some are welcoming. Others though the intentions are good, have left me to feel like the stray someone picked up and it’s a pity meal. You don’t really fit. You don’t really belong. You are a guest. You don’t have the same privileges as the regular family and it’s awkward. God intentionally set us in a big church family. So, no person is a misfit. No person in His family is to feel like a stray. Every believer in Christ is an equal heir to Christ’s inheritance. There are only adopted children, each one wanted, cherished, and desired.

I love the movie The Blind Side. Micheal became a real member of their family. He wasn’t a guest, a pity case, but a loved child. He was chosen to be a part of a family. They treated him the same way they did their other children. God did that with us. He calls us to do the same for others.

Final Notes:

If you are a part of a community believers, I encourage you to start investing in the lives of the people around you. Get to know them and treat them like family. If you see a person who’s lonely, be a friend. If you’re a married couple with kids, I encourage you to befriend singles and not just other couples with kids. If you’re a single person, reach out to married couples. We are supposed to be a family. Protect each other. Encourage each other. Mourn with each other. Rejoice with one another. Don’t simply look out for your own interests, but the interests of others. Ask God who you can bless and be on the lookout for opportunities to be like Jesus to those around you.

P.S My friend Virginia wrote an excellent book called Single Not Separate, How to make church more like a family. Check it out. http://www.amazon.com/Single-Not-Separate-makethe-church/dp/0884199290

 

 

The Single Reality (Part 6)

Covenant Friendship

When you are not married there are questions that pop up such as, “Who will be my witness? Who will share my life with me? Who will be my family? Who will care for me when I am old?” Married people have someone who has promised to love them for better or for worse. They have someone who interacts with them regularly. They have a person who cares about the details of their lives. They have a witness. If you are single, who do you have? Of course for believers, we have Jesus. However, there is someone else that we can share our lives with as well. It’s a covenant friend.

What is a covenant friend?

A covenant friend is someone you are committed to love for life.

God has a covenant with His people. He will not break His covenant. A covenant is a promise.

Covenant friendship is a willingness to lay down one’s life for the other person, it involves sacrifice. It is sacrificial love. In a godly context it is a oneness in spirit, a linkage by the Holy Spirit.

Example of covenant friends: David and Jonathan, 1 Sam 20.

Think of David and Jonathan in the Bible. They had a covenant friendship, a promise to love, protect, and be there for each other for life. What were some of the characteristics of their friendship?

1. Loyalty. They refused to betray one another. Jonathan would not surrender his friend to his father Samuel. He chose to protect his friend even with the possibility of being harmed.

2. Trust. There was complete trust between David and Jonathan. They had each other’s best interest at heart.

3. Transparency, Vulnerability, and Accountability. These two men were willing to be vulnerable, transparent, and accountable to each other. They had no fear. They were able to expose their souls to one another and know that the other person would do what was best for them. Not only was there intimacy (transparency and knowing each other), they were willing to hold each other to God’s standards.

4. One in Spirit. They both loved God and were one in spirit. There was no division over who they were serving. They both believed and were committed to God.

5. Mutual Service. David and Jonathan had a relationship of give and take. They supported one another 100 percent. They took care of each other. Even after Jonathan’s death, David cared for his disabled son.

6. Protection. These two men sought to protect each other.

7. Genuine Love. David and Jonathan loved one another as God loved them. They demonstrated their love for one another with patience, kindness, godly affection, support, encouragement, protection, and friendship.

8. Honesty. David and Jonathan were honest with one another.

So where do you find a covenant friend? I would say pray for one or a community of them. You would think that any person who believes in Jesus is a good match. I have found that is not true. Though you may find a covenant friend in your church, God may send you a covenant friend from across the  world. I have a friend who lives in Brazil. We met on a mission trip. As soon as I met her, I knew we’d be friends for life. We pray for each other. We protect each other. We correct each other in love. We support each other. We seek God for each other. She is interested in the details of my life. It’s a give- give relationship. It’s a win, win. God will put us on each other’s minds and we pray. Distance isn’t an issue. I can say I would lay down my life for her. I love her with my life, and I trust her.

I have another friend who has a community of covenant friends. They live like family. They don’t simply hang out and have fun. They point each other to Jesus. They are there for one another. They share resources. If one person is lacking, they as a community will help out. No person is alone or without support. The community has married couples, families, and singles. Together, they are one big family under the parenting of God. I believe the model they follow, is what Jesus intended for church community.

Prayer for you:

Abba I pray for everyone who reads this blog to have a covenant friend or covenant friends. People they can share life with, find support, encouragement, love, protection, accountability, family, and so much more. Knit them tightly with people who will love them the way you love them. If they already have covenant relationships, bless those relationships. Keep them from division, strife, pain, hurt, or offense. Build a wall of protection around them. In Jesus name, Amen.