Posts Tagged 'spiritual gifts'

Panic Podcast – The Gift of Evangelism

On today’s program, we learn a few things about the Spiritual gift of evangelism. This is another gift that all believers posses, to varying degrees.  You may not be a Billy Graham, but God has given the ability to share the Good News, too.

 

Panic Podcast – The Spiritual Gift of Teaching

Do you know what the gift of teaching is?  Can anybody possess this gift?  Or is it only of pastors and Sunday School teachers?  Today, I take a closer look at this wonderful gift.

 

The Master Multiplier, Part 5

We all enjoy getting presents. Whether it’s at Christmas or for our birthday or some other occasion, who doesn’t like ripping open a gift? And most of us like to give gifts; we get a lot of joy and satisfaction watching the other person opening their gift from us. It’s just built into us, I guess. As we get older, it becomes harder to buy a gift for us. And even though we could have bought a certain item, it feels good to receive it as a gift from a friend or loved one. It makes us feel a little special and we realize that we mean something to them.

God is the giver of perfect gifts. He gives us gifts that we can really use. Starting with the gift of His Son, God continually gives gifts to His people. We’ve already looked at some:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24, 25 | TNIV)

God gives everyone life and breath and, as Paul said, “everything else.” That’s a stunning declaration that some people have a difficult time dealing with. God gives life but He also sustains life. You’re alive today because God is keeping you alive. You woke up this morning because God decided to give you another day. Think about that!

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7 | TNIV)

Here Paul was referring to his evangelistic efforts. He was a great preacher – one of the best that ever lived, yet he acknowledged that he was just one of many doing the work of God. As God gave opportunities, Paul planted seeds of faith just like a fellow like Apollos did, but ultimately it was God who was bringing about salvation in men, not Paul or anybody else.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 | TNIV)

God gives all of us victory over death, hell, and the grave through Jesus Christ. Death doesn’t have the last word! We do! That word is “victory!”

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 | TNIV)

In times of difficulty and stress, God promises to give you wisdom if just ask Him. Wisdom is the one thing we all need more of, and if we ask God, He will give us more than enough. He gives perfect perspective, allowing us to navigate through all the twists and turns of life.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”. (James 4:6 | TNIV)

And God gives us even more grace – He gives us an over-abundance of grace. He never gives just enough, but always more than we think we need.

But then, we read of this gift in 1 Peter:

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11 | KJV)

God gives abilities with which we may serve Him. Think about that for a moment. God makes us able to do that which He asks of us. Yet how many of us face the prospect of serving Him with fear or doubt? We always think “the other guy” can do it better than we can. Well, according to Peter, that’s baloney.

Let’s consider what Peter meant when he wrote of these abilities from God, because as always, there much more going on than meets the eye.

Be like Christ – Suffering

In various ways, Peter had been writing about suffering; that is, suffering on account of the faith. He was writing to people who were suffering various degrees of persecution, and his purpose was to show that this kind of suffering was inescapable; that the best way to deal with it was to be prepared for it. In chapter 3, Peter wrote about Christ’s suffering for us. Of course, our Lord not only suffered for us, but He also died for us. As a Christian, how do you respond to that? According to Peter, here’s how you should:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because those who have suffered in their bodies are done with sin. (1 Peter 4:1 | TNIV)

That’s right; we should have the same attitude as He did. We need to think and reason and respond to suffering or persecution as He did. Peter covered that a couple of chapters back:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21 – 23 | TNIV)

According to Peter, when we suffer barbs of criticism because we follow Christ, or indeed if we are persecuted to a greater extent because of our faith, we are “done with sin.” That’s a funny thing for the apostle to say. While it sounds like he is saying that “persecution drives the sin out of us,” that’s not at all what he is getting at. It’s really the other way around: Because we are “done with sin,” we are now facing various kinds of persecution. Or, another way to put it might me: Because you are now taking your faith seriously and have stopped this sin or that, you will face mockery or jeering or worse forms of persecution. Your new life of faith and holiness makes you a target!

But your attitude through it all should be that of Jesus. The Christian who keeps the faith and remains true to Christ during persecution does not do evil. He doesn’t fight back, for he will withstand persecution as Christ did. Consider this:

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53 | TNIV)

That’s right. Jesus could have called on thousands of angels to get Him out of the predicament He was in with the Jewish religious leaders and with the Romans. But He didn’t. He faced it. He submitted to His captors. Christ never gave evil for evil, and the Christian who has the attitude of Christ toward suffering will not strike out against his persecutors.

Be Like Christ – Purpose

In verse two, Peter contrasts two philosophies:

As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:2 | TNIV)

The person who doesn’t know God or knows God but isn’t serving Christ is not living for the will of God but does everything he can to fulfill his own human desires, which more often than not run contrary to God’s will. But the true believer’s goal in life is to accomplish God’s will and he actively finds ways to do just that. In verse 3, Peter touches on some of things that the believer used to spend his time doing:

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1 Peter 4:3 | TNIV)

It’s amazing how much time you have on your hands when you aren’t trying to find a party to go to or recovering from the party you were at the night before! Before you were saved you did those things, but now you don’t. Another amazing thing happens when you start taking your faith seriously: You’ll probably lose some friends. And it likely won’t be your idea:

They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. (1 Peter 4:4 | TNIV)

Really, what Peter is talking about here is living a life of holiness – separated to God, though not physically separated from the world. You still have to live in this world of sin, but living for God means you don’t participate in all the things the world thinks are so great and necessary. The people you once spent time partying with or, as Peter might have said, “sinning with,” may not be interested in God’s will and because they likely won’t understand it, maybe they’ll “heap abuse on you.” It’s illogical to be sure, but who said sin in logical?

But when you get to thinking they’re right and you’re wrong, remember these words:

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5 | TNIV)

That’s right; they may live like there’s no God and like they aren’t responsible to Him for the sinful choices they make, but it doesn’t matter what they believe: There is a God and they will stand before Him and give an account of how they lived their lives and, more importantly, why they rejected Him. And before you think there are exceptions, know this: Every human being, at some point in their lives, will be given the choice to serve God. That’s Peter’s point in verse 6:

For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6 | TNIV)

Peter uses the term “dead” to refer to individuals who heard the presentation of the Gospel – who where given the choice – while they were living, but now at the time he wrote this letter are now dead. The point is that these individuals had heard the Gospel, but they rejected it.

Be Like Christ – Service

Fortunately, not all people reject the Gospel. A great many accept it and their lives are good examples for us to follow. The rest of the world may live like there’s no end in sight, but the truth is, there is an end coming:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. (1 Peter 4:7 | TNIV)

Christians ought to be clear-headed and see things with a God-given perspective so that they may pray more effectively. See how important prayer is? It’s linked to how you perceive your world. If you’re so dull-witted that you think everything is hunky dory, then your prayer life will probably be lackluster, boring, and a waste of God’s time. However, if you begin to take your faith seriously, pretty soon you’ll start to see your world the way God does, and your prayers will reflect that. Your prayers will become serious prayers that God takes seriously.

However, a believer can’t just pray all the time without a thought to other members of the church. Prayer is important, but so in maintaining a good relationship with other believers:

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8, 9 | TNIV)

Love exists between believers, or it should, and we ought to love each other “deeply.” That’s a good word but it’s not the best. Other translations use the word “fervently,” but even that word isn’t strong enough. The Greek word carries the idea, for example, of an athlete straining his muscles in an effort to win his race or reach his goal, or of a horse running at a full gallop. It’s an intense word that suggests an intense effort. More important than any other thing, believers should practice love for each other fervently. According to John, this how other people know we are true believers:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7, 12 | TNIV)

This kind of deep love, Peter says, “covers over a multitude of sins,” which is an awkward way of saying that as we love each other the way Christ loves us we will forgive each other. It’s not that love excuses sin or hides it, but rather forgives it. This kind of love accepts the person just as he is, faults and all. This does not imply that the local church should never deal with gross sins, but that the Christian should never hold past sins against a brother who has turned his back on those sins.

Use your gift(s)

And that’s the background that gets us to God’s gifts to us:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10 | TNIV)

It’s not a coincidence that Peter mentions using one’s gifts from God right after a discussion about loving each other. Spiritual gifts need to be used within the context of love. Whatever gift or gifts God has given you, you are to use them in love. God gives us gifts in love and He expects us to exercise them the same way. Peter briefly mentions a couple of those gifts in the next verse, but his point is that without your spiritual gift or gifts operating in your church, your church will suffer.

If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11 | TNIV)

Now would be a good time pause and examine your own life to see if you are using your God-given gift or gifts to benefit the Body of Christ. Getting by in this world of sin isn’t always easy for the child of God but He has given us the tools to not only get by but to live in victory in spite of circumstances. We owe each other in the church love and the faithful exercise of our spiritual gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the Numbers, 2

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Last time, we talked about the big census taken of Israel and the fact that the Levites were to be excluded from that census because God needed people to care for His Tabernacle and tend to the religious needs of the people and His priests. The Levites would not be counted upon to fight for Israel. But is was essential that each Israelite knew who he was and to what tribe he belonged.

Another reason for the big census was to organize the people for their journey. It is here, as at no other time in Israel’s history, that the first steps toward nationhood were taken. Prior to the census, Israel was very loosely knit and resembled a mob more than a nation. From this point on, however, there would be a definite structure to the camp and an “address” for each family of each tribe.

The interesting part of the story is that the people of Israel were divided up into four camps or neighborhoods by God Himself. The order and placement of the tribes had nothing to do with birth order or size. The tribe of Judah went first, but was the fourth son of Jacob and the tribe bringing up the rear was the largest tribe of all. The position of each tribe is of moral significance and full of spiritual meaning and application.

It is significant to the placement of each tribe that they surrounded the Tent of Meeting. The people were to never forget that “God was in the midst of His people” no matter where they found themselves. This is also significant:

Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting. (Numbers 2:2 NKJV)

Let’s examine each standard of Israel and find out why they are important to us, today.

The standard of Judah, Numbers 2:3 – 9

Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun were the fourth, fifth, and sixth sons born to Jacob by Leah. It is common knowledge that Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son, so it is surprising that these tribes were the ones to lead the other tribes.

“Judah” means “praise the Lord.” That’s probably why they were to lead the way. The importance of praise cannot be overstated. The psalmist knew this:

Hallelujah! Yes, praise the Lord! Sing him a new song. Sing his praises, all his people. O Israel, rejoice in your Maker. O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King. Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by drums and lyre. For Jehovah enjoys his people; he will save the humble. Let his people rejoice in this honor. Let them sing for joy as they lie upon their beds. Adore him, O his people! And take a double-edged sword to execute his punishment upon the nations. Bind their kings and leaders with iron chains, and execute their sentences. (Psalm 149:1 – 9 TLB)

Yes, the “praising camp” should lead the way. Praise is the first, most obvious sign that a soul is right with God. When a believer thinks more highly of himself than is reasonable, there is no praise. Praise comes when a believer sees himself in light of God’s righteousness and holiness; when he sees an accurate picture of himself. Pride and praise don’t go hand-in-hand; humility is essential. It is only we see our own needy and guilty state, and by faith lay hold on God’s mercy and the all-sufficiency of Christ that we can praise God with a sincere heart.

Yes, they knew about him all right, but they wouldn’t admit it or worship him or even thank him for all his daily care. And after a while they began to think up silly ideas of what God was like and what he wanted them to do. The result was that their foolish minds became dark and confused. Claiming themselves to be wise without God, they became utter fools instead. (Romans 1:21, 22 TLB)

True, genuine praise can stop that from happening. It keeps the our focus where it should be: on God, not on ourselves. Praise keeps our priorities straight; it keeps our lives in proper perspective. Most of all, though, praising God keeps our minds clear.

Praise is indispensable in the life of the Christian. It may be all about God, but the benefit is all ours.

The standard of Reuben, Numbers 2:10 – 18

On the east was Judah, and to the south were Reuben and the tribes associated with it. Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son. “Reuben” means “behold a son.” Of all the relationships possible in life, sonship is the best relationship a believer can have. After praise comes the testimony of true sonship. All believers are children of God, but not all have the close relationship required in sonship. No wonder the testimony of true sonship follows praise.

How can you tell if a believer has a relationship as close as sonship demands? They are the ones whose lives are full of praise to God.

So, dear brothers, you have no obligations whatever to your old sinful nature to do what it begs you to do. For if you keep on following it you are lost and will perish, but if through the power of the Holy Spirit you crush it and its evil deeds, you shall live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.” (Romans 8:12 – 15 TLB)

Not every Christian can do this. Only those who have learned to yield themselves to the Holy Spirit within them. Only those who are living disciplined lives for God are able to praise Him as sons.

The standard of Ephraim, Numbers 2:18 – 24

To the west we have Ephraim the tribes with him. We might call this the “Rachel Neighborhood.” “Ephraim” means “double fruitfulness.” Abundant fruitfulness is sure to come after true praise and a life of devoted sonship. Bearing fruit is essential for the believer, it’s not an option even though a lot of Christians think it is. In the Kingdom of God, it’s not normal for a Christian to be barren; to be fruitless. In fact, it’s so abnormal there is only one cure:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1, 2 NKJV)

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.(John 15:6 NKJV)

That’s pretty serious! And it’s an expectation the Lord for all of us. We are to bear fruit. But how does that happen? Abundant fruit will definitely come after praise and a life of sonship. We praise God not because we are fruitful, but because in the atmosphere of praise, fruit will grow.

Under Jehoshaphat’s guidance, the people were able to sing and praise God and THEN He gave them the victory.

Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. (2 Chronicles 20:22 NKJV)

They praised God and He blessed them. We modern Christians have it all backwards; we won’t praise God until He blesses us. The next time you have a need or if you’re just feeling down, start praising God. You won’t feel like doing it, but do it anyway.  And when you do, you won’t believe how good you’ll feel.

The standard of Dan, Numbers 2:25 – 31

Finally, on the south-side came Dan and his tribes. “Dan” means “judging.” Of Dan it is said:

...they shall break camp last, with their standards. (Numbers 2:31b NKJV)

It’s not insignificant that the ones who “judge” come last. The privilege of judging isn’t for all. It’s the last thing a believer should be doing, only after he’s spent time with God in praise, in a life of consecrated sonship, staying connected to Jesus like a branch is to its vine.

What does all this have to do with us?

By finding and keeping to their designated places, the families of Israel were taught some important lessons vital to their survival as they embarked on their journey across the desert, facing perils of all kinds. They were taught discipline; taught to keep their places whether marching or standing still. They were taught to depend on each other for protection on all sides. They were taught to keep looking up – to keep their eyes on the standards and to pay attention to the voice of their leaders. And they were taught whether they were marching or standing still, they were following the will of God.

But the most important lesson of all was this one: Yahweh was their Covenant-making God and He was the God who fulfilled His Covenant and He, Yahweh, must be central to their lives.

That’s why the Tabernacle was in the center of the camp. It was put their by God’s design to be the intersection of all the day’s activities. It was to be the major focus of their attention; an ongoing reminder that God was with them, leading them and commanding their worship and authority.

As Christians, we are not Israel. We don’t have tribes or a Tabernacle. What God told them He isn’t telling us. But at the same time, we’re supposed to learn something. God is still in the business of making covenants with His people. He makes promises and He keeps them. By now, the children of Israel knew who they were and they knew their place. Do we? Do we know to Whom we belong? Do we know our place in the Kingdom? Is God at the intersection of our daily activities?

All believers, all members of the Body of Christ, have their appointed place.

Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the “body” of Christ. Each of us is a part of the one body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But the Holy Spirit has fitted us all together into one body. We have been baptized into Christ’s body by the one Spirit, and have all been given that same Holy Spirit. Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part. (1 Corinthians 12:12 – 14 TLB)

When God put you in the Body of Christ, you were put there to serve. You are part of the church to do something with the spiritual gifts God has given you. As you exercise your gift or gifts, you are serving God in the place He has put you. Do you remember a woman called Dorcas? She was a seamstress; she made clothes. That was her place and her job in the Kingdom.

But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Dorcas,” and she opened her eyes! And when she saw Peter, she sat up! He gave her his hand and helped her up and called in the believers and widows, presenting her to them. (Acts 9:40, 41 TLB)

Why did Peter do this? It was because members of her church came and found Peter and begged him. Dorcas, a woman whose only talent was sewing pieces of cloth together but who used that talent in the context of her church, was seen as being so indispensable to the church that its members sought out Peter so that he would come, pray, and bring her back to life!

Find your place in the Kingdom – in your church – and be faithful to it. Do what God has called you to do.


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