Not Yours!

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Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)
11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

When Tina and I were in Bible College we had a really dear friend who after college took a position working at a Christian boarding school on an Apache reservation in Arizona. While this friends was not Pentecostal, he certainly was Pentecostal friendly and open to moving and gifts of the Spirit. In fact, he frequently attended a Pentecostal Apache church (an interesting story in and of itself) at one of the villages on the reservation. He had graduated a year ahead of us and so the following Spring Tina and I did a weeklong missions trip with him at the school. Let’s just say he and I had some really interesting conversations that week. One of the conversations we had concerned the gifts of the Spirit, and the gift of tongues in particular. Like I said he was very open to the gifts of the Spirit, however, he kind of had it backwards as far as receiving the gifts was involved. One of the things he said to me was that he was interested in receiving the gift of tongues…as long as the tongue he received was Apache. Now let me say I appreciate his motive in wanting gifts so he could more effectively minister to the Apache, but we don’t get to decide what gifts we get. In essence he was saying I am open to the gift of tongues as long as it is on my terms. Paul tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who distributes the gifts, and “He alone decides which gift each person receives.” My friend Dr. Stanley Horton puts it this way, “Paul’s concern is that every believer have a part in the ministry of the Spirit, as the chapter goes on to show. They are not given as a deposit in the body of believers. They are given to individuals. Yet they are not for the individual’s benefit but for the body’s benefit, to build it up spiritually and in numbers. They are sovereignly given by the Holy Spirit as He wills (pleases, or determines), not as any believer wills or desires; He alone knows what is truly needed and He uses whomever He wishes” (Horton, I & II Corinthians: A Logion Press Commentary, 117). So what is our responsibility here? Just stay open and willing to be used by the Holy Spirit in whatever way He chooses.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

To Each One…

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Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)
7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

One thing that we should notice about spiritual gifts is where the emphasis is placed. First, thing we should notice is that they are “spiritual” gifts. All to often we think of these as natural gifting’s that people are born with or talents that people develop through instruction and practice. However, that is not what Paul is talking about here. In fact, a more literal translation is “manifestation” rather than gift. The point is that it is a divinely given activity of the Spirit. Second, we should see that it is given “to each of us.” The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for some spiritual elite among us that need to be looked up to and revered. On the contrary, they are given to each of us. Again this places the emphasis off of people and onto the Holy Spirit. They are not dependent upon our own abilities, characteristics, or even holiness, but rather upon our willingness and openness to receive from the Spirit. Furthermore, the third aspect we should pay attention to is “so we can help each other.” These spiritual gifts are not given to draw attention to ourselves, but rather to draw attention to the Spirit’s power. They are given to us by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can benefit others in the church. What Paul is getting at here is that the gifts are not so that everyone can see how spiritual we are, or as a means of pride for ourselves. They are given to us to benefit the whole church. The question should never be what this does for me, but how does it benefit others.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Dare To Be Different

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Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NLT)
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

Some of you may remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. He said when he first came to the United States from Russia; he wasn’t prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk–you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice–you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to my self, what a country!” Variety is what Paul is stressing here about Spiritual gifts. Just as it takes different kinds of people to make the world go around, so it takes a variety of gifts to make the church effective. These verses set the theological backdrop for everything that Paul wants to say about spiritual gifts in the conversation that follows. The words themselves that Paul uses indicate both unity and variety. The opening phrases open with “the same,” and then conclude with a member of the Trinity. Therefore, the unity of God brings variety, not uniformity, and God is the one that provides the variety (Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, 586). So rather than try and make everyone fit into a mold, we should encourage people to embrace their own gifting’s because they are given by the Holy Spirit for that reason. For too long we in the church have tended to gravitate towards sameness, but God wants us to be different. The Holy Spirit gives us all different gifts for a reason, and so we should embrace who He has made us to be. Be who you are and make the most of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives to you. Happy gifting!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

Be Informed

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Greetings In the Name of The Lord:

1 Corinthians 12:1 (ESV)
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

If you recall, last week I began a discussion on the gift, or gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that the Holy Spirit Himself is a gift to us, however, He also gives gifts to us. Let’s examine Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church about spiritual gifts. He tells them that when it comes to spiritual gifts that they shouldn’t be “uninformed.” Different translations render this word differently. The NIV and KJV translate the word as “ignorant,” while the ESV uses the word “uninformed,” and the NLT uses the word “misunderstand.” The word being used in Greek, agnoeo, means, “pertaining to not employing one’s understanding, particularly in practical matters – ‘foolish, senseless, unwise (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains). So what Paul is trying to convey to them is that they need not only to know what the gifts are, but also about their purpose and intended use. What is curious here is that Paul is writing to a church that is very boisterous about the use of spiritual gifts, in particular, the gift of tongues. So why is Paul telling them not to be “uniformed?” It is because they had missed the big picture. They saw the gifts as a sign of how spirutal they were rather than a gift from the Holy Spirit. We are not much different in the church today then they were when Paul wrote this letter. We are either uninformed all together or we, like the Corinthians, miss the point of the gifts. So what is the point of the gifts? We will discover that in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

Seeking The Greatest Gift

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Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

Luke 11:13 (NLT)
13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Since we are just coming out of the Christmas season, and we have spent probably more money than we could afford, I would do a series of devotional thoughts on gifts. After being away on business, a man thought it would be nice to bring his wife a little gift. “How about some perfume?” he asked the cosmetics clerk.
She showed him a bottle costing $50.00. “That’s a bit much,” he said, so she returned with a smaller bottle for $30.00. “That’s still quite a bit,” he complained. Growing annoyed, the clerk brought out a tiny $15.00 bottle. “You know,” he said, “What I mean is that I’d like to see something really cheap.” The clerk handed him a mirror.  Jesus, on the other hand, in this verse is talking about giving good gifts.  Most of us tried to give the best gifts we could this Christmas to our family and friends.  In fact, some of us went to great lengths to accomplish this task.  We went shopping at insane hours of the morning on “Black Friday,” in order to get the best deals we could to give the best gifts we could afford.  In doing so, we stood in lines that were way too long, all the while being pushed and shoved by other people fighting to do the same for their loved ones.  This all shows what great pains we will go to in order to give good gifts to those we care about.  Now Jesus asks us to put all this in perspective.  He says, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”  He reminds us that we are a sinful and self-centered people, and yet we do our best to give good gifts to our children.  Consequently, if we are willing to go to such lengths for our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give us the greatest gift of all, the Holy Spirit, to those who ask!  Not only is the Holy Spirit the greatest gift God can give his children, but also Scripture reminds us over and over that it is a promised gift.  Jesus told his disciples, “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (Luke 24:49, NLT).  However, Jesus adds that this promised gift is only given to those that ask.  Have you asked the Father for the greatest gift?  As we begin the New Year let us be determined to seek the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark