In the middle of Romans 12, Paul makes a list of spiritual gifts and encouragement to use them for the benefit of the church. If you are like me, you scan the list for your specific gift ignoring all the others because they are not “your thing.” The gift of leadership is one that most of us pass over, thinking it is for those who stand on podiums and big rocks directing others on toward the advance. The gift of leadership is far from what most of us think. Leadership is influence. It is the ability of one person to influence others. It is deposited by God into all of us no matter our personality, aptitude, or Enneagram type. And the leadership gift is wrapped in service.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12:28:
“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.”
Paul gives us another list of gifts, not in contradiction to the three or four other lists of gifts he lays out in his epistles, but in compliment. Consider the two toward the end, helps and administration. Helps is another word for service and administration is another word for leadership. Paul continues in verses 29 and 30 by confirming everyone does not get all the gifts, and as he rhetorically asks the questions, he invites us to agree:
“All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?”
But he leaves out of the second list two gifts, helps and administration, or Servant Leadership. I believe he does this because every believer gets those two gifts. The reason everyone gets the gift of service and leadership is we always need them in the church. We don’t always need teaching, or healing, or tongue but we always need to be in a posture of service toward one another, and we always need to be providing Christ-like influence to one another.
So as you think about your gifting, thank God that at least two gifts are “your thing.”
Hermann Eben spoke March 10 on the gift of generosity. Here is a resource he mentioned to evaluate and grow toward higher generosity. To listen to the lesson click here.
This survey is only for you. Answer the statements by thinking about giving in all areas of your life, not just associated with church or Christian events and organizations. It does not need to be shared with anyone else. If you want to share your answers with others, it can help you and them grow toward excellence in generosity.
Directions: Please rate each statement. Give yourself the NUMBER (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) for each line.
Rating Scale: 1 – Completely Disagree, 2 – Somewhat Disagree, 3 – Somewhat Agree, 4 –Agree, and 5 – Completely Agree
|1. I am committed to excel in the grace of giving|
|2. I am prepared to give now, not waiting for a better time|
|3. I give what I promise without complaint|
|4. I give bountifully believing I will reap bountifully|
|5. I listen primarily to what God puts in my heart to give|
|6. I don’t give as an obligation – I give freely, without response to pressure from others|
|7. I am happy and cheerful to give|
|8. I give of all things (time, talent, treasure) believing in God’s sufficiency not mine|
|9. I consider giving as impacting my eternity not just this life on earth|
|10. I let God’s blessings on me, flow on to others|
|11. I give because I am just a channel of God’s blessing to others|
|12. I give as a reminder of how much Jesus gave for and to me|
12 Questions to Help You Excel in the Grace of Giving
Before You Give (What’s Your Plan)
When You Give (What’s Your Attitude)
What You Give (What’s Given)
Why You Give (What’s Your Reason)
There is a stability to ordering our lives around compulsion. We attend a birthday celebration for a friend, knowing to bring a gift as an expression of our affection and excitement. We pass a car sitting on the roadside or a person alone in the back of the sanctuary, allowing previous decisions from a similar circumstance to govern our actions. Social and personal scripts run a considerable portion of our lives and can guide our behavior to function in the same manner as an autopay system, where we give without thought and risk mistaking these automated responses as generosity. What we stand to lose, however, is discernment, both to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the redemption of individual moments as holy.
Throughout 2 Samuel, it is frequently noted that David “inquires of the Lord” when making a decision. Rather than embracing a diplomatic judgment or evoking decisions as a display of power, David consistently seeks to place himself under a higher authority and to walk with God in a manner that exercises faith. Many of his choices, therefore, fall outside the bounds of conventional wisdom and surpass the expectations placed on a man in his position. By faith, David refuses to fight Goliath with anything but a sling. By faith, Saul’s life remains in the hands of the Lord instead of taken by the will of man. By faith, Araunah receives payment for his threshing floor so David’s sacrifice would not come at another’s expense.
These actions are generous not on any merit of the gift itself, but because faith offers them in a manner that directs all parties back to the giver of all good things. This leaves every man without excuse, as earthly limitations on the gift and the giver do not hinder the kindness of God. We, however, often oppose God’s plan by choosing to serve two masters. Like Peter, we are tempted to look around and compare what is required of us with the calling placed on a fellow believer. Fear begins to rationalize what is found lacking in faith and leads us into the mire of bargaining, justifying our selfishness, revising the definition of fairness, or believing we have nothing to give; all to which Jesus lovingly responds: “What is that to you? You follow me.” God alone knows all our needs, and it is not for us to worry or to manage meeting them in our own strength, as everyone who drinks from his own well will be thirsty again. Rather, it is our responsibility to see how the tiniest seeds entrusted to our care can be sown in faith and generously enter the soil of this world as a spiritual gift.
Today, each of us is entrusted with a unique set of decisions, circumstances, strengths, and weaknesses. To chart a wise course, we must first remember that the One who commands the wind and the waves is with us on our journey. Like David, we can take time to inquire of the Lord and realize when we are tempted to give out of compulsion rather than as an act of faith. We can choose not to justify our fear or compare our walk with God to that of our neighbor. Only then can we sow generosity wherever He leads. These seeds might look like a small adjustment in our approach to an ordinary task, a perspective shift on a person we consider to be an enemy, or a relinquishment of the keys to our storehouse of earthly treasures. Thankfully, it is not for us to determine the soil on which these seeds will fall, but to trust that every mustard seed given in faith reaps its harvest in a strength other than our own. May we continue, then, to labor in following the Spirit as he leads us into the spiritual gifts, and to redeem every moment as one where we serve with generosity in the fields of the kingdom of God.
When it comes to daily life, I like routine and order. I love my planner where I can jot down a to-do list and get a fuzzy feeling when I get to check them off. I’m reserved, detailed and enjoy making things pretty. Carl, on the other hand, likes to fly by the seat of his pants. He is spontaneous and rarely makes a checklist. He can complete a task quicker than anyone I know, and you will never meet a friendlier guy. To say that we are opposites would be an understatement. There are many cases in which this creates frustration and conflict. However, it also makes us an incredible team. And when it comes to hospitality, we make a top-notch team. We believe this is the result of a couple of different things:
First of all, our parents were wonderful examples of hospitality. My mom could make a spread out of lunch meat and veggies that made you feel like royalty. My parents were friendly company, and the house was always filled with music. It was a place that I and others loved to be. At the same time, I can’t tell you how many people have lived with Carl’s parents. A cousin, the preacher, a server they met at a restaurant, and now their parents. In different ways, our parents chose to “Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not men…” (Ephesians 6:7-8). We could never have asked for a greater testimony of hospitality, and we are so thankful for their example.
Second, we believe we are a good team when it comes to hospitality because the Lord has given us that gift. All of a sudden our strengths and weaknesses begin to work together beautifully. I can set the table while he vacuums the entire house (because, yes, he’s that fast!). I can make the detailed guest list, and he can make them feel welcome.
While hosting is something we have always done, over the years the gift of hospitality has manifested in different ways. Sometimes its dinner with family or friends. Sometimes its parties, hosting our InGroup or letting my sister spend a couple of nights. It’s backyard BBQ’s, game night, lending tools from the garage and coffee always waiting to be brewed. In recent years it’s also come in the form of Passover Seders at the church. The bottom line is we love to create an inviting atmosphere for people to come in, feel welcome and learn something about our awesome God. While these are all things that we will continue to do, we are also seeking the Lord and how he would have us open our hearts and home in new ways in the future.
Much of our days are characterized by looking right through other people in our efforts to fulfill our own concerns. We have items on a “mental list” that we consider in need of being done. The outcome is we rarely see what is of need in those we come across. Or in our spouses, for that matter, or in our co-workers, in the life of the community we dwell in, or, more importantly, in the kingdom of God.
The Scriptures are permeated with the activity of God, and in all of His activity there is a focal point at which His work is aimed. The peculiar and amazing aspect of God’s activity is that He has seen fit to operate through other people. Through us. The Christian discipline of service is the way the world discovers the love of God. And God has been working all along for this end.
The Lord says in Genesis 18:18, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” Jesus came as the perfect Israel to the earth as the one who serves (Lk. 22:27). He calls us to serve (Matt. 22:37-39). At the heart of service, we act from a deep care for the One who is Good and for His kingdom. We love Him because He first loved us. Out of our love for Him, we love others by the spending of our own goods and energy to promote the good of others without any personal, expected return. This is what we call service.
This is the role God asks us to play. To spend our energies “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).
However, until we can see the needs of our neighbors as truly important, we will never really serve others. The times in my life when I ceased desiring to serve others were when I was caught up with myself and my needs. This lack of seeing the needs of others was preceded by a lack in learning who my God is and what His loving-kindness is like through His actions towards me. Likewise, unless we learn to meet with God in our days and commune with Him, we will struggle in giving our time and resources to others.
Unless we learn from God what is of true value and where the good life really is, we will not know how to see others as we ought. For serving is grounded in seeing, as A. A. Calhoun remarks. Prayer must be first before service can pave the way. Our love alone will not be strong enough to bear with the world. This is why the apostle Peter exhorts us that “whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:11).
What does prayer mean to you? Is it a spiritual discipline? A gift? A calling? Is it a box to check off each day, or is it your life’s blood?
There isn’t just one way to describe prayer, but I can tell you what it isn’t. Prayer is not meant to be a wishlist, a way to manipulate God or others, boring, or just for certain people.
So what is prayer, then? I like to think of it as talking with God. It’s sharing everything with Him and expecting to hear from Him. Through prayer, we can know and do God’s will and view all our experiences as shared with Him. I like what Richard Foster says of prayer: “To pray is to change…In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills.”
If you had told me 18 months ago that God was about to change my life through prayer, I would have shrugged it off as a strange thought, and I for sure wouldn’t have prayed about it. In September of 2017 God gently yet firmly let me know through a series of conversations with Him that my perception about prayer was wrong: sinful. I was greatly humbled by this painful awakening, and after confessing and repenting my next response was, “Jesus, please teach me about prayer.” He graciously gave me more than I could have asked or thought. As I took baby steps of obedience and surrender, He gave me personal lessons on how to gain His wisdom, abide in Him, and have more of Him. And for the first time in 20 years of walking with Him, I desired these things above everything else in my life.
At that point, I was two years into an already life-altering inward spiritual journey that was forged in deep grief. Through those two years, I had begged God for more of Him and His nearness and clung with white knuckles to this promise: “The righteous cry and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:17-18
I began pleading for His wisdom, and He gave (and continues giving) it freely…
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” -James 1:5
And I discovered what true abiding is…
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…and if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.” -John 8:31-32, 36
Today as I daily seek to abide in Christ, I find myself craving and sacrificing for more focused time with Him. Throughout the gospels, I see Jesus frequently going “off to a lonely place” to be with the Father, and I understand why: it is where spiritual blessings abound. I have also been training my mind to (as my favorite monk Brother Lawrence calls it) “practice the presence of God” throughout the day. Although I fail often, it has become something I never want to stop striving for.
I encourage everyone to seek more of God through prayer. Not sure where to begin? Do as the disciples did and ask Jesus how He wants you to pray. (Remember, James 1:5 tells us He will give wisdom generously to those who ask!) God will use His Word and the Holy Spirit to teach you. Shift your focus from yourself, your shortcomings, or your past onto God (Isaiah 26:3), and expect to hear from Him (John 16:13-14, 1 Cor. 2:9-13).
Come to Wednesday Night Worship and Prayer time (7 PM in the sanctuary). Try a morning and/or evening devotional that focuses on gratitude and praise. Start a prayer journal, recording everything from requests to laments to answers you get to see on this side of heaven. Make prayer cards and pray through 3-4 each day. Have a family prayer time and teach your children to join you. Everyone can put Romans 12:1-2 into action by practicing the presence of God throughout your day. You can do this by asking yourself, “Does this activity/conversation lead me to God?”
God desires a deep relationship with you. And believe me, you want it too! It was those who followed closest to Jesus, truly seeking and abiding in Him, who received the deeper things, the most intimacy, and the fullest joy. The benefits of orienting your life around God through prayer are endless and far outweigh the sacrifices and growing pains that come with a life being continually transformed by Him.
“It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened to you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.”
The Thessalonians experienced a Message that changed the course of their lives forever. It wasn’t the words that Paul, Silas, and Timothy spoke that gave them power, but the Spirit behind and in the words that emboldened these believers to live in freedom and truth.
Take a moment and pray these words over you, your family, our church family, and the community.
Father, I thank you for your steadfast love and grace. I ask Your Holy Spirit to speak life into our hearts and minds. Provide us with opportunities to speak that same life into the hearts and minds of others. May you strengthen our convictions as that of iron smelted into steel. May we always be imitators of you. Use us so that we may bring glory to Your name. Fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit that we may endure every hardship according to your Word.
Steady your thoughts on things above and be lifted up. God has something special for you. Be still and listen.
Do you need a prayer partner? Contact our prayer team here. We have prayer warriors willing to fight with you in battle.
Why is children’s ministry such a big deal? C.S. Lewis said, “God wants a child’s heart and a grown-up’s head.” This thought captures it all!
Being a part of children’s ministry gives us the opportunity to invest in a child’s life in the time they have the biggest imagination and the clearest eyes to see who God is before all of the adult stuff of life kicks in.
It also gives us adults the opportunity to be children in our hearts again. As we walk with children while they learn about the Creator, we can experience the awe and wonder anew as God reveals Himself to both child and adult. Some of my biggest “AH HA!” moments have been teaching young kids the most basic of lessons!
Some would say it is our duty to participate in children’s ministry, often pointing out Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child up in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” While this is undoubtedly true, it has a compulsory aspect in a communal setting that seems more appropriate to an individual pursuit in the home by parents.
Children’s ministry in the church should supplement the parent’s effort at home. It should be structured in a way that the volunteerism is carried out by adults that see the benefit in investing in our children.
Studies have shown that for the most part, what a child accepts about God, Satan, good and evil, etc. as they enter adolescence is what they will die believing. In the best case, we are partnering with parents to help give a solid foundation to our children to provide them with as much information as possible to choose to follow God as they continue to mature.
In a less ideal situation, the church may be the only place a young child ever hears about the love of God, in which case it is all the more important for children’s ministry to be staffed by adults that genuinely care about participating in children’s spiritual growth.
At the end of the day, Midland Bible Church can only have a successful children’s ministry that invests in these aspects of a child’s spiritual development if we have enough volunteers willing to jump into the mix with a child’s heart and a grown-up head. Where do you see yourself fitting in? Where do YOU want to serve?
Acceptance from God is something He freely gives to those who believe. God’s acceptance is unconditional. The free gift of being born again into God’s family is something that is simply received. There is no after-action required. Nothing we can do is bad enough to make Jesus’ death on the cross insufficient to cover all our sins.
“The gift and calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom 11:29) Nothing can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand. Every sin was nailed to the cross, including sins of believers after they were born again. Every believer will receive the GIFT, and spend eternity with Jesus, no matter what their behavior is. The Prodigal’s Father never stopped loving his son; he was always his child. This parable of Jesus illustrates the love of our Heavenly Father.
This great truth is hammered home by the A and A’ points of the chiasm in 2 Tim 2:11-13:
A If we die with Him we will live with Him
A ‘ If we are faithless, He is faithful. He cannot deny Himself.
A tells us that if we believe in Jesus, and are baptized into His death, then we will live with Him forever. Nothing is included here about subsequent behavior. A’ underscores that point: if we are faithless to God, He is still faithful to us. Why? Because we are “in Christ.” His Spirit dwells within us. If God rejected us after placing us into His body, He would be rejecting His own body.
The PRIZE is conditional upon obedience. That is what Paul emphasizes to Timothy. Timothy has been faithful to this point. But Paul wants him to understand that to win the PRIZE you have to finish well.
The B and B’ parts of 2 Tim 2:11-13 chiasm make this point (the center of the chiasm being the main point):
B If we endure, we will reign with Him
B ‘ If we deny Him, He will deny us.
If we want to gain the PRIZE of reigning with Jesus, sharing His throne, we must first endure. If we deny Jesus in this life, He will deny us the PRIZE of reigning. If we deny Jesus in the way we live, we will be ashamed.
We saw the men and women in 2 Timothy 3 who pursued their own pleasures and pride. They were disapproved concerning the faith, not rejected. God does not reject His children. Acceptance is unconditional. But disobedience makes us disapproved. Someone who is disapproved will lose rewards.
Paul is gladly giving his life to win the PRIZE and exhorts his key disciple to do so. The shame of being disapproved by God is not something that only affects us in the next life, however. The consequences, or wages, of sin, is death or destruction.
Timothy called us to repentance, for our own benefit. We want to experience the best life now, and the greatest reward when we are approved at the Judgment Seat of Christ. But Timothy called us to repentance not out of a fear of rejection, but out of the security of knowing we are accepted. Because we know we are accepted and God wants our best, we can admit our faults. He will not condemn us; He wants to help us, to grow and prosper us.
So let’s admit our 2 Timothy 3 faults. Let us embrace the reality of our flesh, admit it, ask for help from God and brothers and sisters, and let’s get better.
The PRIZE of life is something we can gain each day. The abundant life is available for all who will receive it through the obedience of faith. But it requires putting to death the flesh. That is hard. It requires the humility of repentance. But we can do so joyfully, knowing we have a loving Shepherd, a benevolent Father, a faithful Husband who accepts us completely. “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God.”
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:1-6
Paul opened his letter to Timothy with a call to continue his endeavors in the Gospel–he is passing the baton.
In chapter two, he continues to equip Timothy to stay strong despite hardship and trials. He uses three different analogies:
No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
The first is that of a soldier and the relationship he has with his commanding officer. Roman military men took their jobs on as a way of life. Nothing delayed the completion of a task ordered by their superior.
His second analogy is of an athlete competing for the victor’s crown. As Olympic athletes entered a competition, there were rules that had to be followed both before and during the events. Athletes had to swear upon training adamantly for ten months before a game to even qualify to compete. Beyond physical training, every athletic event had its own set of rules that had to be maintained so that you didn’t get disqualified. Any competitor lacking the self-discipline to know and follow the rules would lose any chance of wearing the crown.
Paul’s final analogy says the farmer ought to be the first the receive his share. At first glance, you may read this as merely a gift for all the hard work; however, “ought” is a keyword. The farmer only gets first pick when and if he finishes strong. He’s tilled, sowed, and maintained throughout and when he remains attentive to his fields, he is highly rewarded with the best crop.
What each of these has in common is diligence. The definition according to dictionary.com is: constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing anything. The soldier’s focus remains steadfastly on his commander to life or death. The athlete is persistent in his training-pushing himself to the limit physically and preparing his mind mentally. The farmer keeps vigil on his fields for any possible danger to his crop and as he knows the exact day and time for peak harvest.
How do we remain diligent in pursuit of Jesus Christ as Lord? It’s not an easy task. It consists of denying self and enduring the cross alongside Him. We train our hearts and minds on His love and His word. We keep our eyes peeled for false witness and prepare for the harvest.
Sometimes the thought of such diligence can be daunting. It’s overwhelming to wear the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s important to remind ourselves we are not the ones bearing the load. If you revisit the beginning of this chapter, Paul begins by telling Timothy, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ.” The strength we have to endure is a divine gift.
If you find you have taken on too heavy of a burden, lay it all down at the cross. Pray for God to renew your strength. We have members of our prayer team and a vast array of resources to come alongside you as we walk this narrow road together.