Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spiritual Gifts

Lately I’ve been thinking on the topic of spiritual gifts. The Bible has many verses on spiritual gifts, and clearly states that each of us has at least one.

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:4-8)

It seems like the Church, both as a body and as individuals, neglects to emphasize the significance of the fact that not only do we have a spiritual gift, but we each have our own gift, and a different way that gift manifests itself in us.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

If the Holy Spirit endows each of us with a unique gift, then that must mean we have this specific gift for a purpose. And if we have this gift for a purpose, and neglect to put it to use for the kingdom of God, then that must mean we are wasting it. And who are we to take for granted a holy and undeserved gift from the Lord? I feel like many of us (myself included) are more afraid of volunteer sign-up sheets than of the Devil himself. And where as it isn’t appropriate to say that everybody should be raising their hand to serve in the nursery, or visit shut-ins, isn’t it right that we should seek out ways to bless others with these powers of God working through us?

I took a spiritual gift test today. It was exhaustive and detailed, and told me that my spiritual gifts were faith and discernment. This is interesting to me, because I know that means that God has a specific reason for giving me these certain gifts. He wants me to use them in the church, for the Kingdom…somehow. This doesn’t seem as clear to me as a gift such as healing or teaching would be (although, coincidentally, teaching was a very close 3rd place on my results). What do you do with a gift like Faith? And Discernment? Do you sit there, trust in God, and glare righteously at evildoers? I don’t think so, but neither can I see a certain direction with these things, as far as serving in the church goes. I want to serve, and I pray that God will present me with an opportunity to use His powers that He’s letting me borrow to in turn bring glory to Him. However, regrettably, as excited about service as I sound (look?) right now, I, also, have been known to be one of those dive-under-the-pew/hide-behind-the-bulletin people when the pastor looks my way while talking about volunteering. What is the cause of this reluctance? Is it laziness, or a fear or failure/incompetence? Or, perhaps it’s more along the lines of selfishness? I believe that it’s all three of these things, but I also think that they all really stem from selfishness. Selfishness is not exactly how the world tends to define it. When we are selfish, not only do we tend to think on ourselves more often than we should, but we also have a warped view of reality. Selfishness is extremely easy to be caught up in, because it means that we view the world through how it relates to us, and us alone. Since I am, and can be, only one being, it’s not difficult to see how our perspective could eventually become the only one we are aware of. When we look at church, service, and spiritual gifts through the screen of “Me” (as in, our own selves), the big picture gets lost, and what we see is a tunnel-vision version of the benefits our services reap. Serving others and exercising our spiritual gifts seems more like drudgery or penance and less like fulfilling our life purpose. When we see it as something we must do in order to be a “good person”, and not as the intended purpose God made us for, we see the effects of a self-centered mindset. Being able to see the big picture as it pertains to God and His kingdom is unnatural for us humans. But in order to gain understanding in the value of our spiritual gifts, it is also essential.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Reason We Are Meek

"He who knows himself well is mean and abject in his own sight, and takes no delight in the vain praise of men." --Thomas a'Kempis

"'You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,' said Aslan. 'And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.'" --C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

The concept of being meek and lowly has long confused me. Obtaining true humility seemed rather impossible, and, honestly, rather unappealing. Why must be rid ourselves of all pride? I mean...we do good things, right? And surely we have skills, and talents, and nice features. What makes Pride the worst of all sins, as some have labled it? In moderation...what makes it a sin at all?
These are questions for which I didn't really have any answers for until last night. Oh, I knew that we, compared to the Lord, are unimaginably, unfathomable lowly. I knew that that fact alone should be enough to bring us to our knees. But...once in awhile...I didn't really see what was wrong in enjoying that wee bit of swelling in the chest when people begin to think highly of you. After all, you did deserve it...right?

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." --Galatians 2:20

As a Christian, I believe strongly that the ONLY source of ultimate Truth comes from God. Why do I believe this? Because Jesus told us in His word that He is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life". If there was a way to obtain goodness, even in small amounts, outide of The Lord, then obviously He wound't be the only way, truth, and life. Sure, He may be one way to truth and life...but not the only way, for we could simply cultivate the slight amounts of goodness inside of us to obtain righteousness. This is critical in how we view the sin of pride. If, then, God is the only source of goodness and Truth, as the Bible teaches He is, how is it orthodox to believe that we humans could have even a speck of goodness of truth in us? Simply put, it isn't.
Here's an analogy for you...
Imagine a room....a bare, empty, room. The only thing in this room is a candle, which is lit, casting light throughout the room. Without the candle, the room is pitch black. Now imagine of of the walls boasting about its light, and imagine the other 3 walls praising the this wall for its glorious shine. Would this seem ridiculous? Certainly it knows that it only glows because the candle, the source of the light, is reflecting off of it. Without the candle, the wall would be devoid of any light, whatsoever...just like the rest of the room.
When we fail to recognize our complete incapacity to be a source of any goodness at all, we are essentially saying that He is not the only way. He is not the only Truth. He is not the only Life.