Sunday, November 23, 2008

God's Gifted and Talented

It's Sunday morning and many believers will be attending church today. There will be teaching, special music, and countless opportunities to interact. In the book of Acts, many believers not only met in homes, but also attended the synagogue or temple on the Sabbath. One of these believers was Apollos.

Apollos must have been an incredibly gifted individual. Acts describes him as "an eloquent man," "mighty in the Scriptures," "speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus." When Apollos spoke, people listened. God had equipped and enabled him to engage the Jewish population (Acts 18:28).

But the notable part of his ministry wasn't his teaching. The most memorable part of his ministry was his service. He felt called go to a new location "and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace" (Acts 18:27). God put him where He did, gifted him as He had to serve, to help, to minister to the needs of those who had believed.

My goal, my purpose, cannot be to sharpen my spiritual gift(s) or to be passionate about excelling in giftedness. My drive and passion, when it is Christ-centered, is to serve the Body of Christ in any and every way possible and to be His instrument in introducing Christ to the world.

To be Christlike is not to be efficient or specialized. To be Christlike is to be touchable, to be hungry, tired, and desperately needy for the Father. To be Christlike is to serve others when no one is looking, to love others when no one is loving me. To be Christlike is to be content in the Father's purpose and provision; "to greatly help those who have believed through grace."

Application: As I minister to those God put in my path today will they see Christ or will they see me?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Compost and the Chicken Pot

One of the most commonly used receptacles in our house is the infamous "chicken pot." It's the small aluminum stock pot that sits on our kitchen counter collecting vegetable peelings, apple cores, etc. When the pot is full, the child who has that chore for the day takes it outside and dumps its contents onto the compost pile--where our free-range chickens generally clean it up. Needless to say, we have very little real compost by the time the chickens are done.

This pot was a loving gift from Aunt Helen who picked it up at an auction in the Midwest. We think of her fondly often, due to our constant use of the chicken pot.

The apostle Paul speaks of such a pot in 2 Timothy when he writes, "Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor." Paul goes on to compare believers to these vessels. "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work."

Our chicken pot has to be empty to be useful. At times it nearly overflows--and there simply isn't room to put anything more in. It has to be emptied first. We are the same. In order for us to be useful to the Master, we must be empty first. We must take time to empty and wash out that which is hindering our usefulness.

It is also interesting to note that the very word, compost, has overtones of humility. It has been noted that "humus," decayed organic matter, shares the same root word as "humility." To be fully used of God is to be empty of self, to be broken down, decomposed, full of those elements that are useful in aiding the growth others.

Hmmm... the chicken pot. It would behoove each of us to stop and reflect from time to time, "Is my life a vessel of usefulness to the Master, a fond gift, empty of self, useful for building others up according to their need?" What kind of pot am I, anyway?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Too Tight!

Last year I was able to shed forty pounds! It was an absolute blessing from the hand of God. Did it require effort? Yes. Was it difficult at times? Absolutely. But the crux of the matter is that it was God's gift. He is the One who provided the motivation and means to make my dream come true--for His honor and glory. It was all His doing. Even so, it is easy to become complacent, and I have rediscovered some unwanted weight the last few months. I'm still wearing the same clothes, but they've gotten a bit uncomfortable.

This was in the back of my mind as I sat down to read about Philip's interaction with the Ethiopian. As Philip went about his daily business, he remained sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord. He obeyed immediately and completely (Acts 8:29-30). His obedience not only put him in the physical proximity for further obedience, it also placed him in spiritual proximity for continued obedience (Acts 8:35-38).

When I am obedient in personal choices, in what God has openly revealed through His word, I am much more prepared to share the gospel. My mind is already stayed on Him by His Word. I am actively seeking to do His will, and I am much quicker in my response to outside influences as God gives opportunity. It is much like getting dressed for a special occasion.

If I have been eating right, exercising regularly, and caring for my physical being it is much easier--even enjoyable--to slip into special clothes and get dolled-up for an important occasion. But when I have eaten impulsively and failed to exercise or care for myself, it is a chore to get dressed. The clothes that I wear less often and that have special significance are tight and uncomfortable--revealing bulges I try to keep hidden.

To share the good news of Christ is a special occasion, a joyous, momentous event regardless of how often it happens. But if we are honest, too many times we have failed to obey in the small, daily events of life--and it shows in our presentation of Christ. We are uncomfortable with the consequences of our disobedience. Our bulges are evident, and our unrepentant choices mar the image of His testimony. It is a painful, awkward task to share that which we are unprepared.

Oh, to be obedient in the small, daily callings so that we will be ready to obey immediately and completely, in a God-honoring way, to the larger calling of God. May we evidence the image of His Son as we clothe ourselves with Christ (Romans 13:14). Praise God that Philip was willing and ready, a sensitive servant.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Say the Name

In the work-a-day, everyday world, life somehow gets skewed. We set out with a plan, an agenda, and gauge our success for the day based on whether or not the plan was accomplished. In the book of Acts, the apostles didn't have a plan as much as they had a Person.

Over and over, these men and women did great things, crazy things, in the Name of Jesus. It wasn't that they used the Name of Jesus as a magic charm or a mantra before throwing themselves into the temple with wild abandon. It was quite the opposite. The Person of Christ compelled them to do what they did, to say what they said. It is because of who Jesus Christ is that they taught about Him, healed in His Name, underwent rebukes and physical beatings. They recognized that Jesus is the center of the message, the center of life, the center of salvation; the power is in the gospel (Romans 1:18).

How often do I forfeit the power of God because I fail to acknowledge the Person of God, namely Christ? Just to acknowledge His Name would work a miracle in my own life. It would change the way I think. It would change what I do. "I am eating this doughnut in Jesus' Name." Preposterous! "I am watching this movie in Jesus' Name" (albeit many actors perform "in Jesus' Name" but not in His Person and power--this is where we fail). Until we are living in submission to the Word of God, through the Person of Christ, and by His Spirit, we will fail to understand the weight of His Name.

Will His Name change your life today? It's already changed mine.