Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The Plan - God's Word About Gifts"

"Be humble and gentle.  Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love."  Ephesians 4:2

This week we continue with the WELCA study on Spiritual Gifts, "The Plan - God's Word About Gifts".

Last week we took an assessment to determine our gifts.  Since then I have been given some more resources on Spiritual Gifts, including another assessment that uses 80 Questions and identifies 25 Spiritual Gifts, noting that these are not all the gifts listed in the New Testament.  It also doesn't include gifts that were on the list that we used, like Music & Writing.  Discerning your Spiritual Gifts is an Art, not a Science and scholars often have differing interpretations of the text.  There are also different uses and depth to each assessment or inventory.  If you would like a copy of this second inventory, I'd be happy to give you one.  I may take it, just out of curiosity, to see what is the same and what is different between the two.  I'll let you know!  Maybe I do have some Artistic gifts! :)

Have you considered your passions & areas of need in relation to your gifts?  That is the next step after discovering them, but the study doesn't give a specific week to really discuss this.  It's a good idea to do this on your own, gathering a list or some ideas and then get together with others to talk about it.  We do not use our gifts alone, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church."  1 Corinthians 12:7  We cannot keep our gifts to ourselves!  We are called to share them & use them for God's purpose!  Often times your gifts can be applied directly to opportunities within the church.  Sometimes you have to be a little more creative and flexible!

This week our study looks at 3 readings that talk specifically about the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives and how to use them.

Read Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.  Follow the directions in the study guide on using the READIT method of analyzing the text.  Please read these texts before Friday, as I would love to get right into discussing them and how we can apply Scripture to our everyday lives. 

Of all the scripture I read this week, the opening verse of this post struck me to the core.  The first part about being humble, gentle, & patient is definitely meant for me!  While I continue to work on these, I still find my patience wearing thin and my nature giving way to harsh words and judgement, often times to those I love most.  I thank God that He offers those very things to me that I forget to offer to others.  Especially when I so often require of others the last part of the verse, "...making allowances for each other's faults because of your love."  
Oh, how I hope and pray that on the days when I speak before my brain & heart catch up to my mouth that whomever I have hurt or offended makes an allowance for me!  On the days that the best I have to offer is less than my best, I hope that those I disappoint or make weary will make an allowance for me!  And on the days that humility & gentleness seem lost to me, I pray that those who know me on that day don't judge my whole character on that slip of the tongue or bravado, because that's not who I am.  It is human nature to do stupid stuff, to let slip something you wish you could suck back in at the very moment it comes tumbling out, to be less than our best self 24/7!  But that is the beauty of being a Christian -  of being loved by the One who created us and loves us and gave His Son to die for us.  That we are Sinner and Saint; that we can offer humility, gentleness, and make allowances for our Brothers & Sisters out of love one day and be the one in need on another.  

Even when we are using the Gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us, we are not perfect.  We are not perfect in knowing how to use them or in their execution.  This is probably why Paul says in Romans 12:12 "...Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful." and why he explains the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control." Galatians 5:22-23.  We cannot do any of this on our own, but with God as our designer (Jeremiah 1:5) and the Holy Spirit giving us gifts and the fruit, we can boldly do His work.   When we confess that we are in need, ask forgiveness and offer forgiveness, we are filled the the fruit of the Holy Spirit and are able to use our Spiritual Gifts with reckless abandon for the good of the Kingdom of God!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Friday, September 20, 2013

Spiritual Gifts: Gifts from the Holy Spirit

"But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere - in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Acts 1:8

Spiritual gifts are gifts from the Holy Spirit, but they are not the Fruit of the Spirit.  If you want to read more on the Fruit of the Spirit, visit October-December 2012 on this blog and read Galatians 5:22-23.  I just wanted to mention that in case there is any confusion.  They are different, but they work together!

A few other things to remember about Spiritual Gifts (directly from the study guide):
*They are Biblical
*Given to everyone
*Essential to discipleship
*You cannot choose or trade the gifts you receive
*Exciting to discover
*Not about you
*They bring unity to the body of Christ, but not uniformity

Do you know what your Spiritual Gifts are?  Are you wondering how you can find out what they are?  In our study we took a "Spiritual Gifts Assessment", a series of questions that we answered on a scale of 0-4, '0' being "rarely true" and '4' being "consistently true" about ourselves.  The numbers are tallied, added together in a specific way (with a final number from 1-12) and charted on a bar graph. 
There are many assessments out there, but if you'd like to take this one visit for a free copy.

Some things to keep in mind about Spiritual Gifts:
*One is not better than any other
*Many people can have the same Spiritual Gift, but it will look different for each person
*Spiritual Gifts are validated by others
*They are confirmed through prayer

Once you know what your Spiritual Gift is or have a picture of your Spiritual Gift cluster (a main gift surrounded & supported by other gifts) what will you to do with them?!
Hide them under a bush? 
Jesus says to his disciples, and us, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:19-20).    That doesn't mean that teaching or preaching is more important, it means that whatever our gifts are, we are to use them to spread the Gospel.

So what might that look like?  Well, you can be sure that it looks as unique as every person's fingerprint.  Here's a for instance: if someone's gift is music they might do some of the obvious things like sing or play an instrument; but they might also be gifted in teaching which may lead them to volunteer to lead a Children's choir.  Another person who is gifted in vocal music, hospitality, & evangelism might organize off site singing as an outreach.  Those gifted in hospitality, mercy, or giving will probably find themselves naturally reaching out to others, organizing groups to help others, and always finding a way to give to those in need!

The assessment we took identified 20 Spiritual Gifts, though there is no official number.  This assessment also utilizes Spiritual Gift Clusters, which puts your highest scored gift in the center, surrounded by gifts for which you rated '7' or above.  Every assessment has it's scoring and grouping, but your gifts are your gifts.  That shouldn't change no matter which assessment you use.  However, if you took the assessment at different seasons in your life, you may see your gifts rating slightly higher or lower at different times in you life and certainly would discover different ways in which to use them.

I like to think of the assessment as a frame work on which to build a solid ministry, within the church and personally.  While it points out those things in which we are gifted, it also helps us to see what areas where we are not so gifted, saving us from anxiety, frustration and failure.  It's important to continue with follow up steps, including exploring your passion(s) and assessing where is the greatest need.  Questions to ask are: "Do I have a gift that would fulfill a need in the congregation or the community?  Is there a need that is not being met?"  and "What am I passionate about?"
Exploring where the greatest needs are and our own personal passions in relation to our gifts is where the rubber really meets the road!  It's one thing to discover Spiritual Gifts, but it's what we do with all this information that will produce spiritual growth, both within ourselves and within the body of Christ.

For example, I'm a passionate 'cheerleader'.  Not the kind with pom-poms (ok, sometimes I have pom-poms), but I am that person who loves to see people succeed.  Supporting & encouraging, in my own way, those who are following their call, their dream, or taking on a challenge.  "You can do it!" & "Woo-Hoo!" are two of my favorite phrases!  It's called "Exhortation" on the list of Spiritual Gifts.  It showed up as a 7 on the assessment, but my passion for it would put it ahead of other gifts for which I scored higher.  On the flip side, knowing our Spiritual Gifts can help us focus our energies where they will be most productive for everyone.  Take me, for instance, if there was a need to help with VBS, many of my gifts would fit that ministry, my season of life adds experience, and I enjoy helping with young children.  However, I scored VERY low in the Gift areas of Artistry and Skilled Craft, so it would not be a good fit to put me in charge of crafts or building something!  I would be filled with anxiety, the craft would be pretty lame and it wouldn't be much fun for anyone.  It would be best for the ministry to seek out someone who's Gifts & Passions make them especially qualified for that area of VBS!

It's not all about the numbers!  It's discovering things about ourselves, that which God already knows.  He created us, He equipped, He calls us to be a part of Him; to live in community, loving & supporting each other and sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus.  He leads us to use our gifts, and trust me, sometimes that call can be uncomfortable.  Knowing our gifts does not mean that God will allow us to sit back and only do those things with which we are agreeable.  Being gifted in something doesn't mean it's easy or that we won't be pushed in an unfamiliar direction, just ask Jeremiah and Jonah!

So, when you feel like your gifts are taking you out of your safe-zone, take comfort in the words that God says to Jeremiah, for he says them to us too, "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.  Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world." " must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you.  And don't be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you.  I, the Lord, have spoken!"  (Jeremiah 1:5-8).

What a blessing to be loved by God, to be lead by God, and to be equipped by God to do His work.

Your Partner In Ministry,
Shelly Housel 

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24