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Using Spiritual Gifts During the Holidays

16 Nov

There’s nothing funny about those throughout history who have been martyred for their faith. (I hope you know I get that.) But I have to tell you, I laughed when I read this humorous (obviously, made up) story about three Christians sentenced to die … and their “spiritual gifts.”

During the French Revolution, three Christians were sentenced to die by the guillotine. One Christian had the gift of faith, believing God for big things. The second one had the gift of prophecy, and the third had the gift of helps… a real problem solver.

The Christian with the gift of faith was to be executed first. He declined a hood over his head, saying he was not afraid. “I have faith God will deliver me!” he shouted. As his neck was positioned under the guillotine, he said a short prayer and waited confidently. The rope was pulled, but nothing happened. His amazed executioners believed it was an act of God and they freed the man.

The Christian with the gift of prophecy was next, and he also refused the hood. “I am not afraid to die,” he said as he was positioned under the blade. “But I predict God will deliver me from this guillotine!” The rope was pulled and again, nothing happened. The puzzled executioners assumed it was a miracle and freed this man too.

The third Christian – the man with the gift of helps – was next. He likewise refused the hood. “I’m just as brave as those other men,” he said. So the executioners positioned him, face up, under the guillotine. They were just about to pull the rope when the man stopped them.

“Hey, wait a minute,” he said. “I think I just found the problem with your guillotine!”

FourColorfulGifts

This is the time of year we’re all thinking about gifts.

During Thanksgiving we thank God for His gifts – all the “benefits” we enjoy (Psalm 116:12; Psalm 100:4James 1:17); and during Christmas we thank God for His perfect, indescribable (“unspeakable”) gift to us, the Savior (2 Corinthians 9:15).

But this year I thought I’d focus on “spiritual gifts” during this holiday season.

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Let me explain …

There are references to spiritual gifts in Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and 1 Peter. Every Christian has at least one God-given gift to use in ministry. And …

We were not given spiritual gifts to keep them for ourselves; we were gifted to give of ourselves.

If you are unsure of your spiritual gift/s, LifeWay Christian Resources offers helpful Assessment Tools that can help you see how God has gifted you and how God might want to use you. I like the Spiritual Gifts definitions described in Gene Wilkes’ “Discover Your Spiritual Gifts!” on that site. (2)

I used those definitions recently when the Lord woke me up with this thought: “How are you going to use your spiritual gifts in others’ lives during this holiday season?”

Maybe it’s because I went to bed the night before needing a topic for a women’s meeting, or maybe it’s because the Lord just wanted me to think about this concept. Whatever the reason, I had fun thinking about the ministry opportunities our spiritual gifts can create for us.

Let’s explore the gifts a bit:

  • Do you have the gift of giving? Now this one should be obvious during the holidays … they are made for you! The giver gives freely and joyfully… with liberality … just like God Himself. Think of all the resources you have – not just money:  time, talents, wisdom, organization, etc. (Romans 12:8)
  • Do you have the gift of hospitality? Can you make visitors, guests and even strangers feel welcome in your home? In your church? Do you understand that hospitality isn’t about what you have, but rather an open heart? How can you reach out and be hospitable in a fresh way this year?
  • Do you have the gift of faith? Although the holidays are fun, they can also be a challenge for some. Help the struggler look to the Lord, her ultimate Provider. Help her “see,” with the eyes of faith, the One who is in control of all things. (And consider whether God wants to use your faith to encourage hers. Maybe God wants you to meet one of her needs as you trust God to supply your own.)
  • Do you have the gift of leadership … or administration? If you know how to lead, maybe you can lead a children’s play or choir, or head up a neighborhood party that honors the birth of Jesus. If you are an organized administrative type, perhaps you can help a women’s group stay on task as they plan a Thanksgiving program or an outreach for Christmas. Or could you help a friend or relative plan a party, a guest list or a dinner menu? You might even create and organize someone’s gift wrap station, or give her a step-by-step plan to keep her home clean throughout the season, or stay financially free as she budgets for gifts. (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28)
  • Do you have the gift of exhortation? Everything’s not “cookies and cocoa” during the holidays. Some people hurt; some are lonely. This is the perfect time to encourage people (especially in the Body of Christ), as well as to counsel them. And people with this gift also know how to motivate people to serve the Lord and others. Be their cheerleaders! (Romans 12:8)
  • Do you have the gift of teaching … or knowledge … or wisdom .. or discernment? Figure out a creative way to share the truth of the Christmas story. Plan some Grammy time and teach your grandkids about why we are grateful to God for His love and grace. Watch for teachable moments all throughout the season and create a legacy of truth. Help your family or friends use wise, biblical principles for finances, family, attitudes, etc. Discern the motives of those who try to destroy the truth of Christmas – and help them understand why the Father sent the Son into the world. (1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:7; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10)
  • Do you have the gift of prophecy … of evangelism? Prophecy might seem like a tough concept during the holidays – but think about it. Prophecy isn’t about “predicting the future,” as the humor above suggested. The essence of this gift is proclaiming God’s Word boldly. What better time to approach people about the need for a Savior and the truth about Jesus, the Savior of the world, than at Christmas? And if you have the gift of evangelism, go for it! Be creative in sharing the truth with as many people as you can! (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Ephesians 4:11)
  • Do you have the gift of shepherding? You don’t have to be a pastor to “shepherd” people – to care for their spiritual welfare. Be alert to those who are wandering from the Master’s flock. Think of ways you can draw them in and build into their lives. Give a practical gift of love with no expectations. “Be Jesus” to people. And Christmas is a perfect time to invite the backslider back to church; pray God will make her heart tender. (Ephesians 4:11)
  • Do you have the gift of apostleship (like missionaries/church planters)? Look beyond the “borders” of your church or even your country to those who might be in need this holiday season. Encourage a new church plant with your presence or a “present” – a financial gift to boost their expansion. Or maybe your greatest Christmas gift might be a financial investment in a ministry designed to help people in crisis so they can have the opportunity to share Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)
  • Do you have the gift of mercy? Does compassion characterize your life? Empathize with those who hurt. Help others understand there are hurting people in your church body, and discuss how you can help. Mercy acts … with joy. It wipes a sweaty brow, comforts a weeping saint, reaches out to the broken. (Romans 12:8)
  • And finally … but this is certainly not the “least” of the gifts … do you have the gift of service (“helps”)? If you do, you will likely notice others’ needs, and the Spirit of God will move in your heart to assist in meeting those needs in practical ways, joyfully. You might work behind the scenes during a Christmas program … or ladle stew in a soup kitchen … or help an elderly woman publish her Christmas letter … or take care of a single mom’s children so she can do some holiday shopping … or … (I’m sure you can think of lots of opportunities). (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28)

We are most blessed and effective when we are ministering to others out of our gifting; and God can help us become more like Jesus, who exhibited all of the gifts during His time on earth.

So … how will you use your spiritual gifts during the holidays this year?

~ Dawn

(1) Adapted from humor at cybersalt.org

(2) Note: Wilkes says this particular list “excludes the ‘sign gifts’ because of some confusion that accompanies these gifts and because they are difficult to fit into ministries within a typical church ministry base.” But that is beside the point of this post.

Gift image adaptation Image courtesy of luigi diamanti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Opening God’s Gifts

28 Nov

Sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect gift. Other times, we really should try harder. After being away on business for a week before the Christmas Holiday, Barry thought it would be nice to bring his wife a gift. “How about some perfume?” he asked the cosmetics woman at the Department Store. So, she showed him a bottle of $50 perfume.

“That’s a bit much,” Barry said. The woman then returned with a smaller bottle costing $30.

Barry complained, “That’s still a lot of money.” Growing disgusted, the woman brought out her smallest little bottle of $15 perfume.

Barry grew even more restless and replied, “No no… What I mean is I’d like to see something really cheap!”

So the clerk handed him a mirror! (1)

A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be special. It’s the heart that counts. But one of the fun aspects of Christmas giving is finding secret places to hide gifts until it’s time to place them under the tree. It’s especially tough if you’re the kind of woman who buys gifts in August or earlier!

I (Dawn) read about some great “secret places” to hide gifts from “snoops” ~

  • Hide small gifts in socks in your underwear drawer.
  • Hide gifts under the sink where cleaning supplies are stored, or in empty detergent and fabric softener boxes.. (Kids aren’t likely to get anywhere near anything to do with cleaning!)
  • If your kids don’t do laundry, hide larger gifts inside the dryer a few days before Christmas… or in a large dirty clothes hamper.
  • Consider the garage, storage shed, or pool house (who has a pool house?) as long as floors and walls are not damp.
  • The back of the Master Bathroom vanity is a good place, again, if it is free of moisture.
  • Use plain brown paper or fabric remnants, and hide gifts in plain sight! (For example, wrap a book and place in a bookcase.) Not quite as obvious as the bear shown here!
  • The trunk of the car is a terrific hiding place, unless your kids are likely to open your trunk (groceries, ball games, etc.).
  • If you have a “messy,” consider hiding a gift in your child’s room ~ perhaps in a children’s pile of laundry under the bed!
  • Larger or special gifts can be stored at a neighbor’s house, at the grandparents’ house, or even at your workplace.
  • I’ve hidden gifts in suitcases, which we always had a lot of in our family.

Of course, this will all be defeated if you have a clever child with Continue reading

No Gift Quite Like Yours

17 Oct

It’s always to good to know where our gifts and talents lie.

Sugar Ray LeonardSugar Ray Leonard once spoke at Harvard. The amiable boxer said:

“I consider myself blessed. I consider you blessed. We’ve all been blessed with God-given talents.

“Mine just happens to be beatin’ people up!” (1)

Victor Borge at PianoPianist Victor Borge was once asked if he played any other musical instruments.

Borge answered, “Well, yes. I have another piano.” (2)

Both of these men were talking about talents more than spiritual gifts. Talents are wonderful, but your God-given spiritual gift will bring you the greatest blessing, if you use it ~ if you “bloom where you’re planted.” It is what makes you unique. It can also bring you favor with others, and increased success in life.

The Holy Spirit decides what spiritual gifts we should have (1 Corinthians 12:4-6), but spiritual gifts are not all about you. As Adrian Rogers said, your spiritual gift “is not for your enjoyment; it is for your employment.” There’s a reason you have it that is far bigger than you.

Spiritual Gifts GraphicSometimes as we discover our spiritual gifts and use the talents God has allowed us to develop, we focus on the benefits to our own lives, and that is OK … but it’s much better to focus on the JOY model ~ Jesus, Others, You.

First, we glorify God as we use the gifts He created in us. A better way to say this is, we display His creative glory through us. We have differing gifts according to the “grace given us” (Romans 12:6-8), and we reflect His image as the all-wise Creator. Our gifts aren’t a matter for pride, but for humility before God. It is His power working in us to properly use our gifts. We’re not to “size each other up” or compare ourselves with others.

I (Dawn) remember when I was in Bible college. I took an apologetics class, and I thrived there. The professor told me privately, “Dawn, you’ve got a better grasp on this than most of the guys in this class.” I remember my heart swelling with pride, and from then on until the end of the semester, I “noticed” when I outshone my male counterparts in the class. Yet I failed to understand that God was using all of us in different ways in that class, related to our gifts. 

For instance, I tended to shine in apologetics because my spiritual gift is teaching ~ and boy, could I spout facts and “truths” in debates. But one mercy-showing male classmate used what he learned in the class to reach out to others on the streets of Pennsylvania with the truth. Another used doctrines he learned to gently disciple a dorm-mate, a new believer. Was my gift superior to theirs? No, but in my comparisons, I missed how we ALL were glorifying God!

We need to thank God, the sovereign giver of gifts (Ecclesiastes 2:26a) for giving gifts to different degrees and for different purposes (1 Corinthians 12:18), rather than comparing ourselves with others (1 Corinthians 15:10). He gives a diversity of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4), but for one purpose ~ to bring Him glory. Like the different instruments Continue reading

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