Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - www.LoveLivesAtPGUMC.org Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.
Showing posts with label Transformers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Transformers. Show all posts

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Encouragement


Introduction 
We’ve been studying how the power of God transforms all believers through the Holy Spirit so that we in turn can help transform each other and the whole world.  The Holy Spirit everyone who follows Christ as Lord a special gift.  Romans 12:6-8 tells us tells us the Holy Spirit gives some the gift of Prophecy, others the gift of Serving, or Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, or Kindness.  Today, we will consider the spiritual gift of encouragement.  The Word of God tells us how to encourage one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:14
14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

Encouragement
Preaching is so enlightening for me.  I learn so much.  Today’s message is a perfect example.  I’m 45-years-old and in all this time, I never really thought very deeply about encouragement.  But preparing and preaching a sermon challenges me every week to look deeply into things I otherwise would have taken for granted.  The concept of encouragement is a perfect example.

What is encouragement?  The Greek word the New Testament uses is parakaleo.  Some versions translate it exhort.  Exhort is an outdated word people don’t use much anymore.  (I always have to look the word exhort up to remember what it means).  So a lot of new translation use the word encouragement.  But encouragement seems too easy that just makes me think of cheering someone on.  Cheering people on is only part of what the New Testament means when it talks about encouragement.  The spiritual gift of parakaleo (or exhorting or encouragement) is much more broad than just cheering people on and making them feel better. 

Parakaleo/exhorting/encouraging means to invite, invoke, beseech, call for, comfort, or intreat.  It's a kind of encouragement, but it's more like what a good football coach does.  Think of a football team with all the players having different personalities and problems.  Each player needs a different kind of “encouragement” from their coach.  One player is being lazy and needs the coach to bark at them, “Johnson!  Get off your butt and get to work!”  Another player is discouraged because they made a stupid mistake.  The coach says to them, “Shake it off Taylor.  Forget about it.  You’ve got this.”  Another player has a serious injury and is out of the game and the coach kneels with them and comforts them, “Don’t worry about it.  We’re gonna get you fixed.  You’ll be as good as new by next week.” 

A good coach “encourages” each player according to exactly what they need.  But always, a good coach is also thinking about the bigger picture and leading the whole team in their mission.  His words and actions are meant to drive the team forward toward victory.

Well, football is great, but the Church is on a mission from God.  We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the whole world.  And for this purpose, the Holy Spirit has given some Christians the special ability to encourage “the team” (the Church).  The gift of encouragement is the ability to inspire, admonish, embolden, and support others so that they are strengthened in resolve, faith and spirit.  The gift of encouragement is not so much about making people feel better as cheering them on in the right direction to do what God is calling us to do.  It is a motivational type of encouragement.

You want to know something really cool?  In the New Testament, the Greek word for the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete.  It’s the Greek word for Helper or Encourager.  So if you have the spiritual gift of encouragement, you are doing the very work of the Holy Spirit of God!  That’s just cool!  It’s like you’re a little holy spirit walking around getting people fired up to do God’s work!

Slide – Tips for Encouragers
Now let me give a few tips for all the little holy spirits in the room—the encouragers and exhorters. 

First of all, get to work!  We need you!  We need you to offer your encouragement.  All Christians ought to try to encourage one another.  But those who have the spiritual gift of encouragement can have a powerful influence on the Church.  Your words and actions get us fired up.  They motivate us to do the Lord’s work.  So speak up.  Offer your encouragement.  It really makes a difference!

Second, ground yourself in the Word, the Bible.  God gives some people the ability to teach—to offer facts and figures and knowledge about God’s story in the Bible.  (We talked about the spiritual gift of teaching last week.)  But exhorters/encouragers are practical teachers who emphasis getting things done rather than just knowledge for knowledge's sake.  Teachers says, “This is how you should live.”  encouragers says, “I will help you to do it.”  So encouragers need to know the Bible so they can help people live the Bible’s teaching.  (One of the best partnerships is between Teachers and encouragers.  The Teacher shows the deep meanings of the Bible to the encourager and then the encourager helps people put it all into practice to accomplish God’s mission.)

Third, plug in to ministry.  Find ways to put your encouraging gift into practice.  People with the spiritual gift of encouragement make great counselors, Sunday school teachers, pastors, deacons, people who visit shut-ins or people in the hospital.  If your spiritual gift is encouragement, get some training in one of these ministries and then get to work!
  
Lastly, go deep.  Be careful that your encouragement is more than just superficial cheeriness.  You know what I mean?  Yes, sometimes people just need a cheerful word and smile.  But other times, they need a kick in the butt!  And if they need a kick in the butt and you just give them a cheerful word, you’ve not helped.  You might have made the situation worse.  So make sure your encouragement caries the full strength of this remarkable gift.  Let God lead you to be honest and truly helpful as you provoke people to be all that God wants them to be.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Prophecy


Introduction
I loved the transformers when I was a kid.  The brilliant people at the toy company Hasbro really came up with a winning formula when I was a kid.  Eight-year-old Pastor Chris loved the transformers and so did millions of other kids.  Now, Hasbro didn’t just manufacture toys.  In a bit of marketing genius, they made toys and developed a cartoon TV series featuring their toys, which told the fictional story of the transformers.  So of course, kids all over America where watching these little mechanized robots that could transform in to cars and truck and jet airplanes.  And then they would go to mommy and daddy and beg for the toys so they could play with them at home.  The transformers have been a lucrative franchise every since—spawning seven movies and numerous television series.

The Transformers are definitely, “More than meets the eye.”  But I don’t want to talk about transforming robots today.  I want to talk about how the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and how we in turn can use the special power God gives us to transform our world.  The Word of God tells us some of the gifts the Holy Spirit offers each of us to help transform our world.  Listen.

Romans 12:6-8
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

All Believers Are Given A Gift.  What’s Yours?
Now this is not an exhaustive list of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it gives you a good idea of some of the special powers God may give you to help you transform our world.  Click here to take a spiritual gifts assessment to help you begin to identify which gift(s) the Holy Spirit may have given you.  It will give you some indications about your spiritual gifts.  Each week, I plan to talk about a different gift of the Spirit.  Today, I want to talk about the transforming gift of prophecy.

Acts 2:17-18
17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit

    even on my servants—men and women alike—
    and they will prophesy.

Everyone's a Prophet
This is an important and incredible statement. In Old Testament times, God only chose a few special people to be prophets. But now that Jesus, the Son of God has come, the Word of God says the Holy Spirit will be "poured out" on everyone who believes in Jesus. And the gift of prophecy will be found in young and old, men and women. And it seems like everybody's going to be seeing visions and dreams and prophesying. 

Notice it says, “poured out”.  I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine the Holy Spirit hovering up above you.  Now imagine the Holy Spirit of God pouring His power down around you and it’s splashing all around and soaking over you.  That’s the image.  If you've decided to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord, you’ve been drenched with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And Acts chapter 2 indicates prophecy will be one of the most frequent results.

What is Prophecy?
The Word of God is True. Every believer of Jesus Christ has been Spirit empowered to prophesy. But the gift of prophecy is frequently misunderstood.  When most people think of a prophet or prophecy, they think of someone predicting the future.  However, prophecy is not about predicting the future.  Prophecy is simply telling people what God says.  (Sometimes in the Bible, God told a prophet to tell people what was going to happen in the future.  But the main point is not telling the future; it is telling what God says.) 

Prophecy is the Spirit-given ability to determine and proclaim God’s Truth.  A prophet “hears” what God says.  And when I say “hears” I want you to understand it’s not necessarily an audible voice.  Remember, Jesus liked to say, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”[i]  Well everyone has ears, but not everyone listens.  A prophet listens and understands what God is saying—whether it is an audible voice or (more likely) God’s truth as revealed in the Bible through a sermon or a study or something else.  A prophet perceives what God is saying and shares it with others.

Now, every believer has some ability to prophecy.  If you can read the Bible and understand John 3:16 and then tell someone who needs to know, then you can prophecy.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  If What have you done?  You've understood God’s truth, shared it with others, and even foretold the future (which is just a bonus).  (Yes!  You did predict the future!  You spoke about eternal life that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive; that's the future.)

Everyone can prophecy, but the Holy Spirit gives some people a special gift for prophecy.  What are some marks of a person who is truly gifted as a prophet?  Someone the Holy Spirit has gifted with prophecy has an extraordinary knack for hearing and expressing God’s Truth. 

Hearing God’s Word
First of all, a gifted prophet hears God’s Truth.  This is very important.  2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”

A true prophet is not sharing their own brilliant opinions and ideas.  A prophet is sharing God’s Truth.  We see this again and again in Scripture.  God told the prophet Moses, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exod. 4:12).  The Lord said to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9).  To the prhophet Ezekiel, God said, “You must speak my words to them” (Ezek. 2:7).  God tells prophets what to say.  So someone with the extraordinary, Holy Spirit imparted, gift of prophecy today, first has to listen for what God has to say.

God can speak in many ways, but the primary and most important way God speaks is through Holy Scriptures.  So a gifted prophet will be an avid student of the Bible.  They will become familiar with its teachings and discern the deeper meanings of what God says through the Bible, and not just what people say about it or God.  A true prophet will want to know, “What does the Bible say?” because they know what the Bible says is God’s Word.

And I must say a word of caution here, beware of any prophet or prophecy who consistently and fundamentally contradicts what God has already said in the Bible.  God inspired the Apostles and early church leaders to write and compile the Holy Bible.  It’s very unlikely that God is going to tell a new prophet to contradict what God has already said in the Bible.

Speaking God’s Truth
So first, a gifted prophet hears God’s Word.  Second, a prophet speaks God’s Truth.  Someone with the special Holy Spirit gift of prophecy feels compelled to share what God has told them.  The prophet Jeremiah described it “like a fire in my bones.”[ii]  Prophets are often ridiculed or persecuted, because God may lead them to say things people don’t want to hear.  The first Christian martyr, Stephen, said, “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?” (Acts 7:52).  But because God has told them to speak, someone with the gift of prophecy candidly speaks the plain truth when God compels them to speak.  They will speak the truth (even at personal risk) and speaks the truth even if it causes pain or hurt feelings. Furthermore, they will speak in such a way that people clearly understand what God is saying and have no one else to blame but themselves if they don’t listen.

The Problem of False Prophets
Now, the Bible warns us to watch out for false prophets.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  And 2 Peter 2:1b says, “…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

In the Transformers cartoon series, it’s real easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  There are the honorable Autobots sworn to fight for good and protect the earth and its inhabitants from evil.  Then there are the evil Decepticons who want to rule the universe and will destroy anyone and anything that gets in their way.  The very name “Decepticons” makes it pretty obvious that they are the bad guys.  Buy if that weren’t enough, they always punctuate their evil schemes with a maniacal laugh. 

Unfortunately, in real life, the Decepticons (or false prophets) don't give themselves away with a maniacal laugh.  But there are some clues to help you watch out for false prophets.

First of all, false prophets will twist or even contradict Scripture.  Now, sometimes there is room for different interpretations of Scripture and not every preacher or teacher will get it right every time.  But there are also many places in Scripture that are plain and easy to understand.  And if someone is consistently contradicting and twisting the plain teachings of God's Word, watch out.  If they're telling you that the teaching of the Holy Bible are outdated and no longer apply, be on guard.  They might be a Decepticon (false prophet).  That's why it's so important for Christians to know the Scriptures so you won’t be fooled.  I understand that not everyone is going to be an expert in Scripture.  However, there's no reason why almost every Christian in America shouldn't at least be familiar with Scripture.  At the minimum, you need to know enough to question when someone says something that might contradict scripture, and then be able to take those questions to a Christian teacher you trust (or a small group for study) and know how to look for answers in your Bible.  This is becoming more and more important in the world in which we live, where there are so many who would seek to lead you astray.

A second way to spot a Decepticon (false prophet) is by their fruit.  Jesus said you can identify a good person from a bad one the same way you tell a good tree from a bad one—by their fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. A bad tree produces bad fruit. Luke 12:35, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

I Have a Prophecy for You Today
I have a prophecy for you today.  It's very simple and straight forward.  First of all, if you believe in Jesus and follow him as Lord, you will have eternal life.  His Holy Spirit will live inside you and transforms you and give your a special ability to help transform the world.  And Jesus wants you to know and use your spiritual gift(s) to help him transform our world.  And if he is truly your Lord, you will gladly get to work.  You can use the spiritual gifts assessment here to better understand what gift(s) you may have.

The second part of the prophecy is this:  If you do not believe in Jesus or follow him as your Lord, that's not good at all.  You do not have eternal life.  Something much darker lies ahead in your future.  You will not experience the blessings God wants for you in this life and after you die, you will face God's judgement and eternal punishment in hell where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and eternal separation from God, the source of love and live and peace.  The Good News is you can repent and turn to God today.  Through Jesus Christ, you can receive the free gift of God's salvation and eternal life.  Won't you turn to Him today?  All you have to do is decide, close Your eyes, and ask God to save you and then start following Jesus as your Lord from this day forward and you will be transformed.


[i] Matthew 11:15, 13:9, etc.
[ii] Jeremiah 20:9

Monday, August 5, 2019

Transformers, The Spiritual Gifts


Introduction
When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys/shows was The Transformers.  It was a cartoon about alien robots that came to earth who could transform from robots into a cars, jets, construction equipment, even dinosaurs.  The Autobots were the good guys who fought against the evil Decepticons who were trying to steal the earth's energy resources.  Each individual robot had special powers and characteristics that made them an important asset to the team.  Plus, the individual robots could combine together into a super robot.  It was a cool show, at least for a 8-year-old boy!  Click here to see a trailer for the 80s TV series cartoon!

I was thinking about the transformers a few months ago and meditating on how the Holy Spirit of God transforms us.  Because of what Christ did for us on the cross, Christians are transformed. We’re not robots, but the Holy Spirit transforms us from our old sinful ways into new creations, with a new nature and new power to serve God.  Part of that transformation is receiving special abilities and powers to serve God and make a difference in this world.  We call these special abilities spiritual gifts.  The Apostle Paul teaches about them in the Bible.

Romans 12:6-8
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Lists of Spiritual Gifts
The spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit.  We are born with some of our talents.  However, the Holy Spirit can enhance a talent you already have so that it becomes a great asset to the Kingdom of God.  The Holy Spirit can even bless you with a talent you’ve never ever had before.  Maybe you were not born a natural leader or with a great singing voice or the ability to read and understand and tech Scripture.  However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God can enable you to do these things and many others.  It is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit to all who follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

The Bible offers several different lists of Spiritual Gifts. Romans 12:6-8 lists seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 4:11 lists five.  1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists nine.  1 Corinthians 12:28-30 (the same chapter) list 8.  The Apostle Paul offered each of these lists.. The fact Paul gives numerous lists with differing gifts is a clue that the specific number and types of gifts is not important. Here's what's really important that we need to know.

First of all, no gift is better than any other; and no person is better than another.  When talking about spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul reminds the Church that we are a body.  Some people are hands and some people are feet and some people are eyes, etc.  In order for the body to function properly, it takes all the parts working properly.  1 Corinthians 12:21, “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”  We are all essential to the body and we ought to appreciate everyone for the vital roles they play in the work of the Church.

Second, there is a division of labor in the Church.  No one person is supposed to do all the work.  The Holy Spirit intentionally equips different people with different gifts so that we all have to work together to accomplish the mission of the Church.  If the hand keeps trying to be an eye, the Church will be blind and have no vision.  If the feet keep trying to be hands, we will stumble and fall.  In order for the Church to be most effective, all the different parts need to do what God called them to do.

Third, the gifts of the Spirit are not for individual advancement. They build up the whole Church.  Perhaps Holy Spirit gave you the special gift of a great singing voice.  Then, you should use that gift for the glory of God, not your own glory.  You should use the gift of music to build up the Church and accomplish God’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Did the Holy Spirit give you the gift of preaching or teaching or fixing things or healing or administration?  Whatever gift the Holy Spirit gave you, He gave it so you could use it for the Kingdom of God, not your own selfish benefit.  The Spiritual Gifts are for completing the work of the Kingdom.

Fourth, The Holy Spirit Lives Inside All Believers.  When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside you.  Spiritual gifts are evidence of God’s grace working through our lives to benefit others. Our gifts are not for us. God intends us to use them for the good of His church. My gift is for you. Your gift is for me.  But the gifts are evidence of the supernatural power of the God of the universe working in our life.  They are an assurance that we truly are God's children destined for eternal life.

Now, there is something else I need to say here.  If Jesus is not your Lord and Savior, you don’t have the Holy Spirit.  You are not all you can be, all that God wants you to be.  You lack the power of God’s Holy Spirit in Your life.  If you’ve never decided to surrender to God, repent of your sins, and follow Jesus as your Lord, you have not received God’s forgiveness.  You have not yet received the gift of eternal life.  And you have not been filled with the Holy Spirit.  If that describes you, I pray you will make a decision to follow Jesus as your Lord today.  Then, He will save you and God will fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit.  And you will receive a gift from the Holy Spirit to help you serve in God’s Church.

Conclusion
Over the next several weeks, we will look at the seven gifts of the Spirit Paul lists in Romans 12:6-8.  My prayer is that through this, we will all find new insights into the way the Holy Spirit has equipped us to serve together.  I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts assessment to help discern how the Holy Spirit may have gifted you to serve in His Kingdom.  Here are a few you may try:




Transformer's Spiritual Gifts Assessment


This Spiritual Gifts Assessment is designed be very simple, quick, and short.  It is not meant to be in depth, but just to give you an quick sense of how God may have gifted you.

Never
Rarely
Occasionally
Sometimes
Mostly
Always
0
1
2
3
4
5

1. I will speak the truth even if it causes hurt feelings.
0
1
2
3
4
5
2. I feel compelled to share knowledge.
0
1
2
3
4
5
3. I can be described as responsible, charitable, and disciplined.
0
1
2
3
4
5
4. My natural tendency is to step up and take control.
0
1
2
3
4
5
5. I have compassion for all living creatures.
0
1
2
3
4
5
6. I will stand alone on something I believe in strongly.
0
1
2
3
4
5
7. Others tell me I’m a good listener.
0
1
2
3
4
5
8. I easily identify tasks that need to get done and do them myself.
0
1
2
3
4
5
9. People see me as a frank and outspoken person.
0
1
2
3
4
5
10. I neglect my own work in order to help others.
0
1
2
3
4
5
11. I am compelled to comfort people who are hurting or suffering.
0
1
2
3
4
5
12. I give well above 10% of my income to the church.
0
1
2
3
4
5
13. I can create order out of organizational chaos.
0
1
2
3
4
5
14. Discouraged people are often encouraged by my words.
0
1
2
3
4
5
15. Communicating the facts in a situation is something I do well.
0
1
2
3
4
5
16. I don’t hesitate to give constructive criticism.
0
1
2
3
4
5
17. I like deadlines and I usually meet them on time.
0
1
2
3
4
5
18. People seem to learn easily from me.
0
1
2
3
4
5
19. I enjoy doing little things to help people.
0
1
2
3
4
5
20. I will not confront others if I feel it may hurt them.
0
1
2
3
4
5
21. I don’t expect repayment for favors I do for others.
0
1
2
3
4
5

Spiritual Gifts Scoring Key
Directions: Put the number you circled in the blank beside the corresponding question number. Add up the totals in each column. The higher the total, the greater your tendency toward that gift.


1.
10.
2.
14.
3.
4.
5.

9.
8.
18.
16.
21.
17.
20.

6.
19.
15.
7.
12.
13.
11.
Totals








Prophet
Server
Teacher
Encourager
Giver
Leader
Kindness

Read about you gifts and ask God
how you could use them to serve in the church

Prophecy – the ability to communicate God’s truth to others. Prophets might consider leading a small group, counseling, overseeing a church ministry, preaching, or being a mentor.


Serving – the ability to recognize a need and assit others with it.  Servers might consider hospitality ministries, children’s ministry, set-up or cleanup. maintainance or repair projects, helping the homeless.

Teaching – the ability to study, explain, and communicate truth.  People with this gift might consider teaching class or Bible study, or preaching.

Encouragment – the ability to draw near to others in a time of need and help them find comfort and courage.  Encouragers might consider being a counselor, visiting shutins or the sick, prayer ministry, or leading a small group.

Giving – the ability to freely and joyfully give time, money, and resources with expecting anything in return.  Givers might consider fundraising, supporting special church projects, supporting church ministries, sponsoring youth and children to take retreats.

Leadership – the ability to lead others to achieve long term goals.  Leaders might consider leading a ministry, chairing a committee, starting and overseeing a new ministry to meet a need, or leading a Sunday school class.

Kindness – the ability to have great compassion for those who are suffering.  People with this gift might consider homeless ministry, counseling, visiting the sick or shutins, or being a greeter/usher.

Use Your Gifts To Be A
Transformer in Your Community