First steps on the journey of faith and community

Tag: spiritual gifts

January 14 — The Way of Jesus/Fire: Fan your gifts into flame

Today’s Bible reading

We receive a Kingdom which cannot be shaken . . . For our God is a consuming fire. —Hebrews 12

More thoughts for meditation

John the Baptist told people that “one is coming who will baptize you with the Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3). Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem after he rose until that fire came upon them, and it did (Acts 2). The writer of Hebrews says this fiery baptism is like receiving an “unshakeable” kingdom (Hebrews 12), which includes a healing so deep the brokenness transmitted by our ancestors is given a chance to heal, and our bond with our ultimate Parent is restored! The longer we are on the way of Jesus, the greater our sense of awe in relation to God’s power.

There are two sides to the image of spiritual “fire” at work in us: renewal and refinement.

Renewal: Fire is warmth in our cold hearts and light in our dark rooms. These images compel us and capture our longing for closeness to God who is Other than us but who needs us, not because of nature but because of love. We are other than God but we need God. There is a spark between us.

Refinement: Fire is passion in our relationships and compassion; it is about power and cleansing. It is hot and bright. Sometimes it hurts because we feel so deeply and because it searches us so completely. The challenge of knowing God, who is a “consuming fire” is one reason many people languish in the earth or wind stages, the first act, of life.

An unrenewed or unrefined disciple should not play with fire. In Luke 9 the disciples ask, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” Jesus turned and rebuked them. We don’t get to control the power—but we are tempted to try!

Suggestions for action

Fan into flame the gift in you. Grow in your experience of God and yourself. Some things are going to get burned up! But more is going to burst into a flame with a fire that burns but does not consume. Beautiful.

Where do you need renewed and refined? It does not matter whether you know everything about that question; what do you know?

Is there a place where you act with power that has not been given you? Search it out and bear the problem of needing to change direction.

What is burning in you that needs to be fanned? It may just be a spark, an inkling, a dream. Write down one thing to do and see if you can move with that spark. It may be a vision for evangelism and service; the world needs light and warmth.

All these questions imply that you are keeping a journal, aren’t they? If you don’t have one by now, get yourself a notebook. A school book full of notebook paper is fine; a moleskin might work; one of the fancier hardbound types might be perfect for you. Journaling our prayers is a good way to see what we are praying about. Our spiritual journal is more than a diary, but it does serve to help us see where we have been and celebrate our growth when we look back through it.

Check out our teaching on spiritual gifts at the Way of Jesus site. [Inventory] [Studies]

June 27 — Discover your gifts

We expect people to express their gifts, talents, art and worship
It is essential to discover, develop and use one’s spiritual gifts.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read 1 Corinthians 12

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

More thoughts for meditation

It is popular today to talk about a person’s identity as something they discover in themselves or create for themselves. Psychology took the idea of “id” and made it the part of one’s psyche that is unconscious and serves as the source of instinctual impulses that demand satisfaction for primal needs. This gave an individual emphasis to an idea that had usually meant  a product of  (arachn-id) or descendant of (Seleuc-id). The word turned toward “unique” as  opposed to “similar.”  Now one’s identity is generally seen as a matter of personal reality or choice—the government gives one an “ID” and provides protection for uniqueness.

In today’s scripture, Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts seems like a major contradiction of what amounts to common sense these days. Paul says one’s “identity” (a word he had never heard, of course) comes from one’s relationship with God and one’s role in the body of Christ. One’s old self may be coming from Freud’s “id,” but that is not all we are about. We have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the image our Creator.

We have an amazing similarity that builds us into a body now that we have been given the one Spirit to drink. Within that body our diversity is more than just respected, whether we are “Jews or Gentiles, slave or free,” our diversity is required—the body is not made up of one part but of many. Our essential unity in Christ is fundamental: we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. Our sense of being a unique person among the other persons has to do with how the Spirit of God is at work in each of us to bring the life of Jesus into redemptive, joyful action.

That’s why we are so committed to valuing what every person brings to our life together. In the last century, “church” morphed into a product to consume or an act to watch—a personal choice or desire. But the Bible teaches that the church is a living body animated by the Spirit of God and teaches that every member is necessary and responsible. How we express our “identity” as one of God’s people is crucial to being all we are called to be and doing what we are meant to do.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Free me to drink of your Spirit and to be my valued part of your Body.

The idea of having a “spiritual gift” may be an old or new one for you. Regardless, it makes practical sense to take an inventory of what God is doing in each of us as of now. We all drink of the same Spirit so we all have the capacity to act like Jesus. But each of us has a unique role to play too, based on what the Spirit gives us to give.

In several places Paul and Peter make lists of gifts expressed in the body. We have collected them all and constructed an inventory you can take to see how you match up. The inventory is mostly a conversation starter for you and God as well as for you and the body of Christ. It is an interesting exercise to think through the aspects of different well-known gifts in the body to see in which direction you lean. Here is a link for the inventory, if you’d like to use it: [Spiritual Gifts Discernment Exercise]. Here is a link to Bible studies on the various gifts listed in the New Testament [Spiritual Gifts Bible Studies].

Whether you use the inventories and studies or not, meditate on who God has made you and what it means for you to drink from the common cup of life in the Spirit.

June 14 — The gifts of the Spirit: Equal honor

gifts of the Spirit

Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1542-45, Vatican City, Apostolic Palace, Cappella Paolina – detail.

Today’s Bible reading

“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.  ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.”

Festus interrupted him, “ “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” — Acts 26:15-16, 24-29

More thoughts for meditation

Every Jesus follower bears their portion of the Spirit of the Risen Lord. We all have the same role to play: Jesus alive in us. We have gifts.

But all Jesus followers are not the same. The Bible-writers, especially Paul, celebrate this reality. Everyone is not the same in the body of Christ: the same maturity, personality, background and spirituality. We do not have equal rights, we have equal honor. This truth is central to Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts. We all have the same roles to play, but we play them in an amazing number of blessed variations.

Paul’s main point about spiritual gifts is “There is one Spirit but the body it inhabits is big, and getting bigger all the time.” We are all blessed with the freedom and beauty of our own individual relationships with Jesus and we are called to find joy in how God uses each of us in his redemption project, according to our stations in life: slave or master, male or female, low-status background or born into the domination system—it all becomes good in Jesus.

Each of us has a place in the whole big body and in the local community where God supplies what is needed for our Spirit-formed family to flourish and to do its work—the place where we grow people in faith, sustain them in disaster, and launch them to transform things. It is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful thing Jesus is holding together by His Spirit.

But none of us have every spiritual gift at any given time. Most of us have more of some things and less of others. We are supposed to work together, not contain it all. When someone brings up a song like you were given yesterday, it could make someone feel bad because it makes them feel like they should have something they don’t. Chances are, you did not hear the song how someone else is hearing, so don’t worry. For instance, you may want to go in some way the song calls you to imagine, but it is time for you to stay—it takes spiritual, communal discernment just to sing a song! We have to work these things out individually and together. The Spirit of God is present to help us.

In yesterday’s Bible reading, Eli told Samuel to go back to his room and say, the next time he heard the voice, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Or “Here I am Lord. Is it me, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.”

In today’s reading, the Apostle Paul, who later teaches us about spiritual gifts, has an even more dramatic, but similar experience when God meets him on the way to Damascus. Read Acts 26 and see how he told his story about Jesus coming to him to Festus, the procurator of Judea at the time, and King Agrippa. He said, “I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’”

Suggestions for action

Paul assumed that his experience was available to King Agrippa, if he would just listen. He was kind of dragging him into his own wonderful experience of God. I don’t know if Festus and Agrippa eventually figured it out, or not. I hope so. What do you think?

Have you figured it out? Are you listening (really listening)? Are you willing to play the role of the risen Jesus alive in you? What gifts of the Spirit have you been given? Write down what Jesus is saying to you, what God is calling you to do. Tell someone about it and let them help you work it out.

Here is a link, again, that leads you to our Way of Jesus site and teaching about spiritual gifts.