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Showing posts with label the Gifts of the Spirit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the Gifts of the Spirit. Show all posts

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Kindness

Today, I want to briefly finish up our Transformers series about the transforming power of the spiritual gifts.  Just as my fictional childhood heroes, The Transformers, could transform from robots into cars, the Holy Spirit transforms us when we trust Jesus Christ and follow Him as Lord.  The Spirit makes us a new creation.  We die to our old sinful ways of living and we become new people.  And the Holy Spirit gives each of us a special ability that we can use to serve and help transform the world.  Listen to the Word of God.

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.

Kindness.  You probably know what it means to be kind.  But I want you to understand more specifically what this gift of kindness is, from the biblical perspective.  When I think of kindness, I think of a sweet, friendly person who is very nice.  But Paul has something deeper in mind when he says the Holy Spirit gives some people the spiritual gift of kindness.  The word Paul uses for kindness in Romans 12:8 is eleeo and it means divine compassionate mercy.

Eleeo, the Greek word for kindness, is used in other places in the Scriptures.  It's almost always translated mercy and used to describe the mercy Jesus shows people by healing and forgiving sins.  For instance, in Matthew 9:27, two blind men begged Jesus to heal them crying, “Son of David, have mercy on us.” And because of their faith, Jesus healed them. And it is used in Romans 11 to describe how God has mercy on all people who repent, forgiving their sins and welcoming them as His very own people.

All Christians are to be kind—showing divine, compassionate mercy.  Jesus has been so merciful to us!  In divine mercy, He laid down His life on the cross that our sins can be forgiven and we can make a brand-new start and inherit eternal life as daughters and sons of God.  In turn, shouldn’t we also show compassionate mercy to others?

We should all be kind.  However, the Holy Spirit supernaturally enables some believers with the ability to feel and understand the tormented suffering of others so that they can offer God merciful kindness.  When others suffer physical, mental, emotional, social, or spiritual distress, people with the gift of kindness are like the hands of Jesus bringing forgiveness, healing relief, and hope for a better tomorrow.   They have the extraordinary ability to sympathize with those who are suffering.  They often cry with others and feel compelled to share in their pain.  Their heart forces me to console them and help them find relief.  People with the gift of kindness show mercy willingly and cheerfully.  They are glad to do it just as Jesus was glad to pay the ransom for our sins. 

Has the Holy Spirit enabled you with the spiritual gift of kindness?  How could you use it to help His Church transform the world?

Let me end with one more Scripture.  This time from Ephesians 4:31-32.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Now, go out and show kindness--the divine, comppasionate mercy of God--to one another.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Leadership

The Transformers was one of my favorite cartoons and toys when I was a kid in the 80s.  Optimus Prime was the leader of the Autobots, the heroes of the story who fought for good and to protect the people of Earth.  Optimus Prime was a robot who could transform into a tractor trailer.  He was one of the strongest Transformers, but he was also a wise and noble leader who always put the good of others before his own.  I mention Optimus Prime's leadership, because I want to talk about the transforming spiritual gift of leadership today.

You see, when a person chooses to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives them a special talent to serve in the Church and help transform the world.  Romans 12:6-8 teaches that some receive the gift of Prophecy, others the gifts of Serving, or Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, or Kindness.  But today, I want to talk about the spiritual gift of leadership.

I am an elder in the United Methodist Church.  That’s the technical term in the United Methodist Church for someone who has been fully trained, examined, approved, and ordained as a minister to lead a Methodist church.  It’s sort of ironic for me to think of myself as an elder.  On the one hand, my kids would agree; they think I’m old!  On the other hand, at 45, I’m still younger than most other United Methodist pastors.  Most United Methodist pastors are between 55-70 years old.  But the world elder to describe a Christian minster comes from the Greek word presbyteros used in the New Testament.  In the early New Testament Church, the leaders of various congregations were called presbyteros or elders.  They were people the Holy Spirit equipped with leadership.  Often, elders were older people with more experience.  But we also see examples of young people leading the church, like Timothy whom the Holy Spirit equipped to be an elder in the Church.  So age is not what’s critical for leadership.  What’s important is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Listen to the Word of God.

1 Peter 5:1-4
1And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.

Caesar’s Leadership vs. Christ’s Leadership
Immediately we see some important aspects of Holy Spirit inspired Christian leadership that set it apart from worldly leadership.  In the ancient world during New Testament times, world leaders were very different from Christian leaders.  Caesar, the emperor of Rome, was the ultimate example of a non-Christian leader.  Caesar lorded his position over everyone in his kingdom.  His power led him to think he was a god and that everyone was put on earth to serve him.  Caesar even expected people to die for him; sometimes for frivolous reasons.  Gladiators in the Roman Colosseum were forced to fight each other to the death for the amusement of the Caesar.  People obeyed Caesar out of fear of death.  Now let’s contrast leadership in Caesar’s kingdom to the leadership of Jesus in the Kingdom of God.

In God’s Kingdom, Jesus is Lord.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  John 1:2-5 tells us, “[Jesus] existed in the beginning with God.  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.  [Jesus] gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  If anyone is worthy of worship, honor, total devotion, and absolute obedience, it is Jesus (not Caesar).  And yet, Jesus did not use his position to “lord it over” his people the way Caesar did.  Instead, Philippians 2:6-8 tells us “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

In other words, Caesar's leadership was about glorifying himself.  Jesus' leadership was to humble himself.  Caesar made his kingdom do what was best for Caesar.  Jesus always did what was best for the Kingdom.  Caesar indulged his own privileges as the leader.  Jesus gave up his privileges for others.  Caesar made everyone serve him.  Jesus served everyone else.  Caesar made others die for him.  Jesus died for everyone else so they could be forgiven and have eternal life.

Lead Like Jesus
1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  If you follow Christ, you have the potential to lead.  Every Christian is a leader is some sense.  You might not think you are, but you are.  If you are a parent, you are leading your children.  If you are grandparent, you are leading your own kids as well as your grand kids.  If you are a young person, you are influencing your friends.  If you go to church, you are leading someone  doesn't go to church but knows you do and thinks you are an example of how a Christian lives.  Are you leading them well or poorly?

If you are a Christian, you are leading someone.  So, we all have a flock (so to speak), whether it is our kids, grand kids, our friends, our coworkers, or our neighbors.  As 1 Peter 5:2-3 says, “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.

The Spiritual Gift of Leadership
The Holy Spirit gives some people the special ability to lead.  God has always used special leaders to guide His people.  He used Joseph to save his family and the Egyptians from starvation during a 7-year famine.  Then, God used Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt.  And God used Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land.  Without godly leaders the masses would not get anything done.  Just like in these Old Testament stories, the Holy Spirit of God raises up leaders today to lead in the Church.  Could leadership be your spiritual gift?  Well, let’s see.  Here are some traits of leaders.  Do you have any of these?

Leaders See Where Everyone Needs to Go – God gives leaders a vision for where He wants His people to go and enables those leaders to get people to follow them there.  Think of Moses.  He was just out in the wilderness tending a flock of sheep and he saw a burning bush.  God spoke from the bush and told Moses, "Go lead my people out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land."  You might not think you are a leader.  You might say, "I'm not a leader!  I can't do that!  No one would listen to me!  Besides, I no good a getting in front of people and talking!"  Funny, that's exactly what Moses said.  And we all know he was a leader.  He led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt!  So maybe you are a leader, if you see where everyone needs to go and feel God calling to you to lead them there.

Leaders Garner Loyalty – You can’t lead if no one will follow.  Someone with the spiritual gift of leadership earns people’s respect, trust, and loyalty.  Do people listen to your opinion and want to follow you?  Do you know how to garner their respect?  Then you’re probably a leader.  Now, be careful to love the people and build their loyalty, because they might have to follow you through some difficult terrain.  There may come times where they question why they are still following you because they don't understand.  So build their trust now and it will pay off later.

Leaders Are Usually A Few Steps Ahead – Imagine a tour group led through a museum by a tour guide.  The tour guide is probably walking a few steps ahead to show everyone where to go.  The guide is leading the group.  Leaders are usually out in front showing the way.  They have seen where everyone needs to go and now they are showing the way.  Therefore, leaders are usually the first ones to arrive and an event.  They may also be the last ones to leave, because they're making sure no one get's left behind.

Leaders Are Able to Delegate – It’s impossible for leaders to do everything that needs to be done.  It’s not that a leader thinks they are too good to do something.  There’s just too much to do and the leader has other things to do that only the leader can do.  A good leader knows they need help and also knows the people they lead need to be involved.  So a gifted leader learns what are people’s abilities and plugs them in in the right ways.  Giving people something to do helps everyone move forward and be more effective and develops each individual’s abilities.  It even raises up new leaders within the team.

Leaders Overcomes Resistance – Most people just want to remain comfortable, right where they are now.  They are wary of change and afraid of the unknown.  If a leader is doing their job, they are probably leading people out of their comfort zones toward a new and better place, but that doesn’t mean people will go willingly at first.  They will resist.  And there may also be resistance up ahead from the forces of darkness that don’t want God’s people to be on the move.  So a leader has find strength from God to overcome resistance from within and without in order to lead God’s people forward.

Leaders Are Able to Make Quick Decisions and Be Decisive – Sometimes, there is time to sit and ponder a decision and some very important decisions require a lot of time and study.  However, the pace of leading God’s people is often so fast that there just isn’t time to agonize over every minor detail for a long time.  Leaders always follow God's leading and know when it is important to go slow and when to make a quick decision and move fast.  A leader surrounds themselves with lots of wise and conscientious people and listens to good advice.  In the end, the leader makes a decisive decision and loyal people follow them wherever God is leading them.

Is God calling you to lead?  If He calls you to lead, the Holy Spirit with supernaturally enable you to lead.  Don't neglect the gift of the Holy Spirit within you.  Be faithful.  "Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.  Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.  And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor." (1 Peter 5:2-4)

A Prayer for Godly Leaders
"Lord, God Almighty, lead us forward.  Raise up godly leaders among your people to guide us where you want us to go.  There are many among us who are afraid to lead or don't know or think they can.  Fill them with Your Holy Spirit to impart the gift of leadership.  Help them to trust You, to follow you, and so to lead the ones You have placed in their care.  That Your Name may be glorified and Your Kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen."

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Teaching

We’re in the midst of a series of sermons about the transforming power of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  When we believe in Jesus and choose to follow Him as Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us.  And the Holy Spirit gives each of us a gift—a special ability—to use to serve God in the Church and help transform our world.  Romans 12:6-8 teaches about seven of these spiritual gifts:  Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, and Leadership.

As we’ve gone through this series together, I’ve been remembering the transforming robot toys I played with as a boy—the Transformers.  I would watch the cartoon series on TV after I got home from school.  Then I would play with the Transformer toys my Mom gave me.

I’m not a little boy anymore.  I’ve grown up (somewhat!).  And so has the Transformers series.  The What started out as simple cartoon drawings on TV has grown up into sophisticated CGI movies on the big screen that look so realistic you can hardly tell the difference between what’s real and what’s animation.  The toy makers at Hasbro, the creators of the Transformers, are marketing geniuses.  They know that all those little boys from the 1980s (like me) have grown up into men who now have a little money to spend at the movie theater.  And they have adapted their Transformers into a movie format that appeals to men my age who want intense action and realistic graphics paired with the toys we played with as kids.

Unfortunately, though the graphics have matured quite a bit, the movies is still very childish.  They have paper-thin plot lines filled with cheesy one liners (that might sound cool to a boy, but) are kind of silly.  They are full of pretty girls, cool cars, and action packed sequences, but there’s no real meat or substance.  The Transformers are not going to win an Oscar anytime soon.

But what’s all this got to do with the transforming power of Jesus?  I’m glad you asked!  Our faith has to grow and mature much better than the Transformers series has. Listen to the Word of God.

Hebrews 5:12-14
12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

Growing into Mature Christians
This Scripture makes it clear that we are to grow and mature as Christians.  Our growth is more than just our outer appearance.  Our mind and spirit must mature.  Thankfully, God has given some the spiritual gift of teaching to help us grow and mature.

Teaching is the God-given ability to clearly communicate the truths and applications of the Bible in such a way that others will learn.  People with the spiritual gift of teaching might say things like: “I enjoy research.”  “I tend to analyze everything.”  “I love to read and study.”  “I enjoy helping others to learn.” 

Spiritually Gifted Teachers
Spiritually gifted teachers have a passion for God’s Word.  They love reading and learning the Bible and then sharing what they learn with others.  They believe in the transforming power of Scripture, because they’ve seen it in their own lives and they want others to experience it too. 

Spiritually gifted teachers know what to teach.  They focus on the Bible, because they know Scripture is the Living Word of God and the foundation of all Christian belief and practice. 
Therefore, they favor the Wisdom of God in Scripture of the teachings of man.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they will only ever teach the Bible by reading it line-by-line.  A gifted teacher knows how to mine God’s Truth in the Bible and teach it in ways that the average person can understand and use in their everyday life. (They might even use silly toys are props to make their lessons more memorable!)

Spiritually gifted teachers know how to communicate ideas in organized manner.  They are always thinking, “How can I get people to understand and remember this?”  One of the great challenges for teachers is keeping their lessons simple.  For themselves, they love to go into the deep end of the pool of God’s Word.  They are fascinated by all the interesting facts and ideas they find there.  But the best teachers realize, not everyone has their same passion for the little “details”.  If they overwhelm their students, they won’t get anything out of their lesson.  And so gifted teachers find creative ways to make their lessons deep enough to provide real meat, but simple enough that average people can get it.  And one of their greatest joys is seeing people “get it”.

Spiritually gifted teachers hate when Scripture is twisted or misused.  They want sound teaching because they know people are easily misled.  And they know the damage that is done when people follow bad teaching.  That’s why they are so diligent to do their very best to teach well and found their teachings upon the eternal Truths of God in the Bible.  And it really disturbs them when they see other teachers spreading false teachings that twist and corrupt God’s Word.  Also, they do their best to counteract false teachers who would deceive.

We Need Spiritually Gifted Teachers
The Church needs gifted teachers.  Americans in the 21st century do not know the Bible.  Although 85% of people in America own a Bible and 51% can’t name the 4 Gospels, 60% can’t name 5 of the 10 commandments.  My church is struggling to find a Young Adult SS teacher.  When people don’t know the Truth of God’s Word, they are susceptible to the Enemy.  If the Church doesn't teach, they will simply believe what the world tells them.

Are You Learning, Growing, and Maturing?
Hebrew 5:12 – You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.

Weekly worship is a god way to start and get a general teaching.  In my church, I work very hard to make sure I give a good lesson each Sunday in my sermon.  If people are willing to give up their Sunday morning to come hear me, I want to make sure the time is meaningful to them.  It is difficult though because I have so many different kinds of people coming with widely varying spiritual maturity.  Some people come needing to be fed the milk of very basic teachings.  Other come needing a steak of more advanced lessons.  But I can only give one message to them all.  I do my best, but I encourage everyone who want to learn, grow, and mature to go deeper.

One way you can go deeper is to study on your own.  Pick up your Bible.  Read it and pray about it and ask God to speak to you and teach you as you study.  There are many helpful resources available to help you go deeper as you study on your own.  I recommend The Story by Randy Frazee or the great resources at Disciple Dojo,  But if you really want to grow and mature, you really must go even deeper.

It's crucial that you study God's Word with other people in a small group.  Join a Sunday school class or Bible study.  You will never learn all you need by studying by yourself.  Working with other people will give you questions and insights you never thought of while encouraging you to keep to keep at your studies and not give up.  Plus you will be learning the way the Twelve Disciples learned from Jesus--together.  The Christian faith was always meant to be lived out together in a community, right from the very start.  So commit to grow and mature through worship, reading, and study--on your own and with others.