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When anyone showed up at my mom’s house around Christmas or around their birthday, she would go off into her gift room and look for something that she could give them. Most of the presents she gave were inexpensive and odd. One year she gave me pots and pans and cereal (among other things) for Christmas. There was a reason and a story, but I cannot remember the reasons or the story.
If my mom wanted to make sure that everyone had a gift, and maybe yours is too, how much more is our heavenly father a giver of gifts? 1 Corinthians 12 says that God has given each of us spiritual gifts, and Paul does not want the church to be uninformed about those gifts. In our churches we may not be seeing lots of people living out their spiritual gifts. The people who lead in the church service and the Sunday school teachers have gifts, and they get to use them, but maybe not many other people are using their gifts in the church for the common good. One of the gifts that Paul lists is a gift of healing. Wouldn’t you like to know if there was someone or some people in your church who have the gift of healing? You could make sure to have them praying over a critical medical issue. That might even be your gift, but you are uninformed that you have it.
The Bible does not tell us how to find them, but I’ve found at least three things to find them out: 1. Ask the Lord what your gifts are in the presence of people who have some sense about spiritual gifts. 2. Ask other people what they think your gifts are. 3. Get involved with a group of people who will let you try out your gifts.
We are the light of the world. We are the outpost of the Kingdom of God. These gifts that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, has given us are part of God’s plan to redeem the world through Jesus Christ.
I really liked something in the sermon Sunday. The preacher said that he was helping someone who said that they wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, but they were not even considering letting go of their right to continue sinning. The preacher said that this man had a problem with Jesus, not just with sin. That really resonates with me. When I don’t want to do what Jesus taught, what the Bible teaches, I am running into a collision with the God who made the universe with a couple words from his mouth. When I read the Bible and don’t like what it says, it’s up to me to seek to understand and seek grace to conform to his revealed will for me. The preacher’s example was about sex, but it applies to all my sindencies (new word meaning sin tendencies) as well. Sometimes I don’t want to be generous. That is a strain on my relationship with Jesus—not only did he tell us to give our coat and shirt to a man who asks for our coat, Jesus gave his blood and body for the whole world. Sometimes I want to hate my enemies and curse them. That presses on my relationship with Jesus. Jesus told us to love our enemies, to pray for those who are jerks to us, and he proved it all by asking forgiveness for the people who crucified him. I could go on.
Yesterday evening I spent some time talking with friends about the beginning of Matthew 8. Jesus touches and heals a lepper. From our perspective it seems like the most normal thing in the world for Jesus to walk over and touch this untouchable person and heal him, but if anyone was watching this happen, it would have seemed ridiculous. You don’t touch those people. Neither can a man just walk up and say, “You are clean.” Jesus challenges us with his words. He leads us into impossibility by his example, and he takes every step with us. Hallelujah!
Christmas is wonderful-the Son of God is coming into the world. Good Friday is amazing—that the son of God died for my sins, but without resurrection the cross is a tragedy—another good man rolled under by bad people. This Easter I preached from 1 Corinthians 15 and found these truths about what the resurrection means to those of us who are in Christ.
Jesus makes me able to stand.
Jesus saves me.
Jesus makes it so that I can be comfortable with myself.
Because of Jesus I work from acceptance instead of for it.
Jesus’ resurrection guarantees my resurrection.
Jesus not only guarantees my resurrection, he delivers me from sin
Jesus gives meaning to life beyond eating and drinking.
Jesus will come for me.
Jesus makes me victorious.
My life in Christ, weak or strong is not in vain.
I hope you will cut these out and paste them on your mirror. These thoughts from 1 Corinthians can be a mirror to remind you of who you are in Christ. If you’re not in Christ, you can be. You can never be good enough to save yourself, and you could never be so bad that God couldn’t save you.
1 Corinthians 10:13 has a great promise for Christians, but we may not want to accept it: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not authentically human, and God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you have the power to to bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you will have power to endure it.”
Isn’t this great? We don’t have to be self-obsessed, worrying, lying, greedy, immoral, drunken sons of guns. God is giving us a way out. I think I misunderstood this verse for a long time, thinking it meant that some special event would happen just when I was most tempted: Right before I was going to tell a lie to my boss, God would make a plane fly by with sky writing that says “To thine own self be true.” I don’t think that is what this means. I think God is always providing many ways to empower us when we are tempted. Here are four:
Enjoying the Lord. I cannot tell you how you enjoy the Lord, but I hope you find out. For me, singing and playing music to the Lord and walking in the woods are two examples.
Enjoying and leaning on loved ones. Often when I’m tempted I lean into my friends to support me. Working on your relationship with your spouse helps you be faithful to him/her.
Practice humility. One of the main reasons that we fall into temptation is our tendency to over value our own desires. Do humble things for others. Speak humble words to others such as asking for prayer in your struggles.
Flee from tempting situations. Sometimes you just need to run or walk quickly away from conversations, relationships, and substances.
The good news about all this is that it’s all found in Jesus Christ. By his blood he has set us free from the law of sin and death. Our destiny is to be more like him and less like who we used to be.