Stewardship of the Spirit

Our reflections this week have been on Spiritual gifts.  When God gives us His Spirit (the first gift),  the Spirit gives us capacity for service (the second gift).  When believers use abilities and possessions for the glory of God we call it stewardship.  The sermon this morning will tell one of the most inspiring stories of stewardship in the Bible–the widow who gave 2 pennies.  The only reason we know this story is that Jesus pointed it out to the disciples.  He made it part of His instruction to us re. money and its role in a spiritual life.  I am excited to preach this message!  Most of us would find more freedom and more joy if Christ had full possession of our wallets (and of our hearts, which is what our wallets tell Him).  “Come every soul by sin oppressed, their’s MERCY with the Lord.”  I will look for you in a few hours.  Love to you, dear friends.  Don

A manifestation of the Spirit

“Now to each one a manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”  (1 Corinthians 12:7)  The Spirit of God is invisible, but He doesn’t stay that way.  He makes Himself known  through the lives of believers.  This is what Paul calls “the manifestation of the Spirit” (phaneros–to make visible).  It includes a wide array of activities and works of service that are part of every Christian life.  How does the Spirit show Himself through you?  What evidence is there that you are filled and following?  It is for the common good.   He fills us so that we will gladly and effectively contribute to the work of the body.  Friend, do others see the Spirit at work in you?  Do you help others because of the help He has given you?  “Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit!”  (Ephesians 5:18)  Ask the Lord for this promised help.  I will see you in the morning!  Pastor Don

Being Spiritual

These days, when people tell me they are spiritual,  I usually ask, “do you mean the Holy Spirit?”  Just trying to be clear.  While the Bible allows that all men may have an awareness  and appreciation for God and the supernatural realm, it reserves the words spirit or spiritual for the work of the Holy Spirit.  He is the Activity and Mind of God who comes to us by virtue of the work of Christ!  He is the only means by which a person can know and serve the Risen Lord. “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”  (John 14:18) is a prediction of His presence in us.  As I prayed this morning, I despaired (again) of ever serving Christ in my own strength or goodness.  My flesh is still so fleshly.  My hope, today and everyday, is that I will “walk by the Spirit”.  “No one can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit”  (1 Corinthians 12:3)

Word first

“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles. . .” (1 Corinthians 12:28)  “But eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31)  It is confusing to consider how we are to be  individually content with the gifts the Spirit gives us (ears are to be glad to be ears–see vs 16) and at the same time  to corporately desire the “greater gifts”.  Desire is a word that most often means jealousy–a couple jealously excludes others from their marriage, a church jealously guards some gifts from exerting too much influence over the fellowship.  Structure the church, says Paul, with the emphasis on the gifts of evangelism, discipleship and teaching.  Put the “word gifts” first. (not in value but in emphasis)  This is a choice of God and when we cooperate with Him, all gifts operate with greater efficiency and joy.  No favoritism here, but it is wisdom from God to keep the “word first”.

Like a symphony

When God is at work in the church, it often seems disorganized, inefficient by human standards.  There will be no uniformity.  We will not all be in the same room singing the same song–at least not always.  The tubas will not have the same notes to play as the flutes.  “There are different works of service, but the same Lord”  (1 Corinthians 12:6)  Only those who can step back from the sound can hear the melody and harmony the composer intended.  Like the conductor of a symphony, God prefers complex sound and diverse contribution.  Those of us who love Him must love this choice.  We must learn to trust His direction of every individual part and His ability to bring it all together into one glorious performance.  I am relieved that I do not have His job!  Just grateful to be included in the orchestra. . .  I am praying for you this week, my friend.  Pastor Don

Different by design

“There are different gifts, but the same Spirit.”  (1 Corinthians 12:4)  You have to wonder.  Why does the Creator make us all so different?  Wouldn’t unity (His plan and prayer) be easier to acheive and maintain without so much built-in diversity?  We are different in so many ways–gender, ethnicity, opinions, spiritual gifting, even language!  “Those French,” quipped Steve Martin, “they have a different word for everything.”  What possible purpose could God have to create such different people and then put us together in a church?  Perhaps it is something we should expect from an infinitely creative mind.  The God who imagined spiders and sperm whales never needs to repeat Himself.  Perhaps, like the Tower of Babel story, our diversity is part judgement, part prevention from an easy and ungodly unity.  Maybe it is God’s gentle/stubborn way to remind us  that unity and rest are unattainable until we return to Him.  Maybe it is His “obstacle course” to teach us to love.

More than words

“No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3)  It is more than words.  Saying that Jesus is Lord (and meaning it) is a supernatural act  made possible by the Holy Spirit.  Beginning in 1 Corinthins 12, Paul discusses spiritual gifts with the Corinthians.  He admits (vs 2) the difficulty we have knowing what an invisible God is saying.   The Corinthians have a history of confusion at this point.  In the past, they have been “led astray” by idols that were “mute”.  ie. they couldn’t speak but the Corinthians thought they were! (vs 2)  So Paul supplies how we can always recognize the Spirit–by His affect on us.  Any invisible force that makes Jesus real and allows Him to reign over us is the Holy Spirit.  Count on it!  Have you called Jesus Lord with your words? Would you like to declare Him Lord with your actions and life?  The Holy Spirit is the only way.

An Important Question

I have a question for you.  Please ask yourself as you leave church in a few hours. 
“Did I love anyone?”  It is a higher question than the one we often ask, “Did I learn anything?”  (Itself, higher than the most common question of all, “Did I enjoy myself?”) Christians all over the world tend to substitute knowledge for love.  We have Bible studies.  When do we study love?  “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up” says Paul in intentional contrast of these two values. (1 Corinthians 8: 1)  Church success is never self-authenticating.  Sometimes the most successful churches (and the most prominent Christians) never practise the most valuable virtue of all.  So, did you?  Today, did you love the teenagers (or internationals or visitors from the street) or did you avoid contact?  Did you reach out to those who worship in a different style or did you wish they would “go somewhere else”?  It is an important question.  Important to the Lord.  I will see you in a few. — Pastor Don

It’s complicated

There is a movement these days toward Simple Church.  There is even a book.  While I admit the need, I wonder if it is possible.  I am all for adjusting schedule or order of worship.  What I don’t expect is that relationships will ever be simple.  There are whiners and grumps and “high maintenance saints” in every church.   There are always people I don’t naturally like whom I am called to love.  My sons were, in a funny way, the same sort of trouble.  As babies they kept me up at night.  As teenagers they tested my patience and wisdom.  As college students, they drained my bank account.  But I wouldn’t trade the privilege of being a Dad for anything in the world!  Sort of like church.  When Paul (1 Corinthians 8) tells us to make decisions based on what is good for others it complicates life.  In a good way.  Church only works when we learn to love.

The limitations of love

“But if anyone should say, ‘This is meat sacrificed to idols’ do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience sake” (the other man’s)– 1 Corinthians 10:28.  Paul has clearly declared the freedom that comes from knowledge. (cf chapter 8)  Now he declares the limitations that come from love.  Love is always measured by loss.  A mother loses sleep because her child is sick.  A believer loses the freedom to act or think certain things because others are watching and may be harmed by the example.  Love motivates both.  The clearest picture of love is the life/death of Christ.  “He emptied himself. . .and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8)  If He was willing to serve us in this way, it is impossible for us to call ourselves His followers and “refuse to lose” in service to others.  Friend, what are you prepared to lose for the sake of love?