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Archive for the ‘God Stories’ Category

A friend of mine introduced me to trail running a couple years ago.  It combines two of my favorite activities – running for fitness and hiking in the outdoors.  I definitely prefer trails to running on the road.  However there are more opportunities for mishaps in trail running.  My experience after 15 or so solo trail runs, there are also numerous opportunities for “life lessons” while on the trail.  I had a number of life lessons reinforced in a single run this week.

There is a state park between the plant where I am working and my hotel.  Morrow Mountain State park is a rolling, wooded haven for deer, squirrels, lizards, and more in central North Carolina.  I’ve hiked and run there a number of times and I enjoy the peaceful solitude.  On the trails I have encountered few other travelers although the trails appear fairly well travelled.

Trail running in West Virginia last week I slightly tweeked my ankle, so I was a little apprehensive considering this trail run.  The Morrow Mountain trails are very rocky with a plethora of tree roots providing trip and ankle-rolling hazards.  For this reason I made sure I told two folks at the plant my plans.  In the back of my mind I thought, “In case I don’t show up at work tomorrow, they will know where to send a search party.”  Both gentlemen shared stories about adventures at Morrow Mountain with snakes and ticks being a predominant theme.

When I pulled into the open field that serves as the parking lot I was only slightly surprised there were no other vehicles.  While this is the parking lot for the horse trailers as well as the start of a hiking only trail, my sense is that is primarily a summer and weekend activity.  My plan was to run about 4 miles.  Looking at the map I made a plan to start on the hiking trail for about a mile, jump onto a cross-over hiking trail for about a half mile, then pick up the short loop horse trail for the remainder of the run.  At the last minute I folded up the map and slipped it in my pocket.  I’m glad I did.

I set off and I had to remain focused on the number of roots and rocks in my path.  The hiking trail was neither smooth nor level.  My hyper-caution was making the run less fun.  When I first began trail running I was amazed to learn that trail running really only took a little greater attention to the trail than street running.  However since I had tweeked my ankle last week, I was too focused on the trail and I was overthinking my steps.  Life lesson #1 It is easy to slip into the need to control everything.  We can’t.  Trying to do so will rob the enjoyment out of life.  Trust God and the instincts He has given us.  Prudence is to listen to the Lord and walk (or jog) in wisdom.  I stopped after about 1/3 mile, stretched, and made my mind up to run more naturally and quit trying to plan every step.  It was mentally fatiguing and, as I had experienced in the past, unnecessary.  Running after that was much better.

After about a mile I was to jump on a cross-over trail.  I didn’t notice the cross-over when I first passed it since it was on a steep downhill descent.  I overshot it by half a mile.  When I realized my mistake I cringed.  If I kept to my original plan, them my run just became a 5 mile run instead of a 4 mile run.  I am a 3 – 4 mile run guy.  It’s been awhile since I ran 5 miles and I wasn’t sure I was up to it.  Life lesson #2 – Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that demand more of us than we think we are able to give.  Sometimes we realize we are headed in the wrong direction.  Seek God’s wisdom, follow His leading, and press on wherever He guides you.  If we find we are heading in the wrong direction, turn around.  He is faithful and true.  He will not abandon His child.

I found the cross-over trail and set off down it.  It was a section of trail that I had not been on before.  I had hiked this trail further ahead where it steeply ascends Morrow Mountain, but this section appeared on the map to run downhill for a ways and cross a couple streams before turning up the mountain.  I had run for a few minutes and crossed at least one stream when I noticed the trail turn up a steep slope.  “On no,” I thought.  “I’ve missed the turn again and now I’m heading up the mountain.”  My recent memory of adding a mile to the run was fresh in my mind.  I did not want to add any more distance to today’s run.  A quick consult of my map and I saw that the trail I wanted shouldn’t be more than 100 yards east of me since I had just crossed that stream.  So I headed off the trail toward what I assumed was the right trail.  Well 100 yards became 200 yards.  When I realized there was no trail, I turned south intending to cross the Bridle trail that showed up on the map.  That was IF my new estimate of my location was correct.  I wandered around in the woods for about 5 minutes with three thoughts.  First was the thought that the trail has to be around here somewhere.  The second and third thoughts were about snakes and ticks.  I’m not sure why that part of my earlier conversation made such an impression.  Life Lesson #3.  Fear is a poor partner in decision-making.  Fear can and will steer you off the proper path if you let it take an inordinate role in making decisions.  Fear has a role.  It can cause us to stop and think through a situation critically.  Once you stop though, use data and rational thinking to make your decision.

I finally stopped and did a serious reconnoiter.  My Boy Scout training kicked in.  Panic was the enemy.  Fear of running too far and driven me off the trail.  Now fear of snakes and ticks were clouding my critical thinking.  And for the first time in several minutes I prayed.  “Lord, I need a little help here.”  Was I lost?  Well, I didn’t know exactly where I was.  But I knew the direction where the trail I had left should be.  I set off in that direction not sure if it had turned away and up the mountain or not, but at that moment getting back to that trail was my best bet.  I had only gone a little ways when I saw movement and color up ahead of me.  It was a hiker, the 2nd and last I would see all evening.  I knew I was headed right direction.  I picked up my pace and soon I was on the right trail.    There was another life lesson here.  Life Lesson #4.  When you lose your way, God is right there with you.  Call to Him.  Ask for help.  Follow His guidance.  Critical thinking is very good.  Prayerful, critical thinking is the best.

My attempt at avoiding adding extra distance to my run added about a half mile.  I was at the point that should have been a little over a mile and I was not too far from 3 miles into my run and I was pretty sure I had at least 2 miles left to run.  I set off again now that I had the trail.  It was familiar and, being predominantly a horse trail, it was wide and smooth.  Life Lesson #5.  Life, like the trail that day, has twists and turns, ups and downs.  The Lord has laid out a path for us.  While the path won’t always be easy, it is the tried and true way to your destination.  Don’t seek to avoid the challenges, but rather face them head on and persevere to the end.

The remainder of the run was relatively uneventful.  I guess I had enough to consider after all the lessons of the day.  As I jogged and prayed I sensed the Father’s presence encouraging me to press on.  Nearing the end of the run was a quarter mile, very steep incline.  I knew it was coming and as I got to the base of it, I simply started walking and gauging my fatigue level.  While tired, I was confident that if I stayed the course I would make it.  And after 5-1/2 miles and a little over an hour I found the parking lot and my car.

Thankfulness for the Lord’s kindness, care, and the life lessons which made a physically demanding run so insightful flooded my soul.  I think I’ll be back… but I will probably hike instead of run…. and I will definitely stay on the trail.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be a blessing to whoever the Lord brings into your life today.

 

 

 

 

 

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I had a bad travel day this week.  What was supposed to be 8 hours of travel from a worksite to home became a 28-hour ordeal.  Three canceled flights coming out of one airport, the last one after I had only gotten a little sleep in order to be at the airport at 5:15 am for my trip home, left me pretty frustrated.  As I road in the taxi for the 1-1/2 hr trip to a different airport to wait 5 hours for a flight that hopefully would get me home, I admit I was throwing a pity party in my mind in my own honor.

At the airport I waited until a little after 7 to awaken my wife with a phone call for our morning conversation and devotion.  She didn’t realize immediately that I wasn’t supposed to be talking to her at that moment because I was supposed to be in the air heading home.  However, her sympathy and encouraging words, began the process of getting my mind right.  When she read the devotion from Jesus Always by Sarah Young though, that is when the Lord really lifted me up.  It was a reading inspired for that moment.  I’m convinced He does this often if we are open to it.  I have included a picture of the devotion below.  The gist was that God is with us at all times and we can trust Him at all times –  in the good times and the bad times. 

Well friends, that reading was like the sunshine breaking through after 5 days of rain and overcast skies.  While I was still about 12 hours from getting home, I knew the Lord was present and that His love was real and tangible.

As I boarded my first flight 5 hours later, I followed a petite young lady down the jet bridge.  I didn’t realize it yet, but Miss K was to be my seat mate.  On recent trips, I have rued the fact that no one chats on flights anymore.  It had been a long time since I had a good conversation on one of my flights.  The ever present and attention-sucking smart phone is one of the primary reasons.  And I can be just as bad as anyone.  Thankfully… in fact providentially, our trip was not one of those trips. 

Almost immediately after sitting down, Miss K expressed exasperation that she had left her book in the bag she gate-checked.  So instead of reading we began to chat.  Another confession on my part, in some instances I look to use conversations to share God stories.  I know that some of the miraculous things God has done in our life is for encouraging other people.  However, I am also aware I can “force” things and it is so much better to allow the Lord to lead the conversation.  Well that is exactly what happened this day. 

Miss K shared that she was considering going back to school for a career change.  It was casual conversation and I did not pick up that there was a problem or issue driving this.  As she was sharing a scripture came strongly to mind. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I shared that with her and then the natural flow of the conversation caused me to share how the Lord had faithfully guided me through a job change that occurred over a period of 15 months.  Now until this point I had only glanced at Miss K.  But as I neared the end of the story, I looked her in her eyes.  It was only then that I noticed the tears rolling down her face.  There was backstory for her that she had not shared.  The work situation she was in was very difficult and she was seeking the Lord’s guidance in what to do.  Of course as she shared, now I began feeling wetness on my cheeks.   A few moments later I started laughing as I realized – the Lord only had to ground three flights and to get me on this flight next to Miss K and provide exactly the right devotion to adjust my attitude so we could have this conversation.  Suddenly the unfortunate travel day had purpose…  I am so thankful that the Lord gave Miss K what she needed.  I am totally confident He will lead her into her next steps.  I am also thankful to know that when things don’t go my way, I can lean into God’s faithful, ever-present love and know He is working things out for good.

This morning as I type on my back porch with the sun just rising and the birds singing songs of praise to the Creator, My heart is overflowing with gratitude that the Lord loves us and He is infinitely trustworthy.  Whether things are going well or they are far from “perfect”,

He is there,

He loves us,

He is in control,

and we can trust in Him.

Be blessed today my friend and be a blessing.

April 28 Devotion

 

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When I set out to blog, I made the commitment to be transparent in my writings and never sugar-coat the stories of my faith journey.  It is easy to write about the good things that God does in our lives.  Yet when we slip or when things aren’t working out quite as nicely as we would like, we can easily gloss over or ignore a significant part of life that likely carry’s meaning to many, simply for the sake of putting up a good front.  Today I am compelled to share a recent chastisement from the Lord.  Partly this is to highlight an aspect of God’s nature that is often mis-characterized.  Also, it is because the trap I fell into is very easy to slip into even if it is hidden in plain view.

In my last post, ALL, I wrote about Jesus’ declaration of the greatest commandment and what our love of God with all that we are looks like.  What you don’t know is that I wrote that a week ago under what I sensed was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  But I hadn’t quite finished it.  While we have had a lot transpire in our family over the past week, there is no reason why I didn’t finish the post sooner.  I had clear nudges to do so, but I kept busy and I kept putting it off.

For much of my life I have risen early to spend 1 – 2 hours in bible study, prayer, and occasionally blogging.  But for the last week I would wake up very early, usually before my alarm would go off, with a strong sense of needing to spend quiet time with the Lord.  But I would reason that I could pray just fine snuggled in my warm bed.  Somehow one or two sentences in prayer would occur and the next thing I knew it was an hour or more later.  By the time I would arise, it was time to start the day’s activities.  Needless to say, my attempts at a quiet time were rushed, stilted, and not really a time of connection.  It was more like a child rushing through the kitchen late for school, snatching at whatever they can for breakfast before sprinting out the door.  It might have the appearance of eating breakfast, but nutrition it was not.  My quiet times had become like that – an appearance of the right thing, but connection with God and edification, it was not.

Tuesday of this week I did respond to the nudge.  I was up early and I got into the Word.  Afterward I slipped outside where a light rain was falling.  With an awareness of my lack of direction lately I whispered a prayer, “Lord, please steer me.”  Immediately the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “The boat has to be moving for the rudder to work.”  Oh my!  I am used to God’s encouragement and gentle correction, usually when I turn in repentance after I realize I have made a mistake.  In this case, I had been a little lazy for several days, but I assumed that getting up early was a good sign on my part.  The rebuke was firm, clear, and thankfully cut through my self-satisfaction.

Since our relationship is with the omniscient God, there is no hiding our true thoughts, feelings, and motivations.  If we are not careful, we can slip into self-deception and “think” we are fine.  But, getting into the Word, spending real connected time with the Father is the antidote we all need.  When we do, He will guide us into the way of truth and life.  And if we need more than a little nudge, He can provide that too.  The important thing on our end is to embrace His loving nudges and His firmer chastisement and follow Him diligently.  It ties into the last post.  When we are giving Him only part of our attention, part of our heart or soul or mind or strength, we are falling short of His high calling upon us.  It is not God who is lessened when we are not fully devoted to Him, but us.

Friends, I pray that your walk will be marked with consistent progress and Godly joy and peace.  But, when you do begin to veer off course, I encourage you to readily accept and embrace the Lord’s loving correction, however He may give it.  He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knows you intimately and His desire is always for your good.  Jeremiah 29:11 affirms this.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,  “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Be blessed my friend.  And be God’s blessing to someone today.

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This week I have had the opportunity to meet a sweet young woman who is battling cancer.  She is a single mom with three children under the age of 10.  We are partnering with her work family to take her meals, to visit with her, and pray.  Needless to say, she has been a primary topic of conversation with the Father this week.  A couple days ago as I was praying, the story of Jesus healing a woman with a chronic bleeding disorder came to mind.  The story is found in both Mark and Luke’s gospels.  Here it is from Luke.

“Luke 8:42a As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds.  43 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. 44 Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.  45 Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” 46 But Jesus said, Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” 47 When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. 48 Daughter, he said to her, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.””
I have prayed for healing for many people.  There have been miraculous healings.  There have been healings in other areas of lives than the physical malady we had begun praying for. There have been healings that have transpired through the efficacy of modern medicine which I take on faith the prayer helped to be effective.  There have been terminally ill patients who in prayer it became clear that ending this life well was the appropriate prayer.  And there has been a very small percentage of times when the results were not what I had hoped for.
Through today’s scripture the Lord showed me a new and crucial element of prayer for people who are ill.  Notice that the woman didn’t ask Jesus for healing.  She didn’t come to him with an elaborate petition for healing or a list of reasons she should be healed.  There was not an elaborate process followed to gain his attention and favor.  No, there was really only one thing she felt essential to be made whole.  She needed to get close to Jesus.  Close enough to touch the fringe of His clothing.  Her faith was in Jesus and proximity to Jesus brought about the flow of His healing power.
That’s it.  It is as simple as that – draw close to Jesus and let Him do what He will do.  Jesus is in the “making whole” business.  But be aware, to be made whole by Jesus will encompass much more than just healing from an illness.  He who created us body, soul, and spirit is interested in the totality of our lives.  He wants to perform a transformation in us in it’s entirety, not just on the surface.
This is liberating to me as an intercessor.  I have always known it was Jesus who heals, but I have at times taken on a degree of responsibility that I had to pray it through, that I needed to fast and intercede sufficiently, that I needed to have the right faith to see the healing happen.
I remember a fairly long season of prayer for a 20 year old son of a work friend who was diagnosed with leukemia.  We surrounded the family and prayed and he went into remission.  “Yeah God!”  It was but about 2 years later that it returned.  This time they determined he required a bone marrow transplant.  No match was found so he went through the auto marrow transplant where his own bone marrow was removed, it was radiated to kill all cancer, and then put back into his body.  He seemed to be doing fine and then he picked up an infection.  With no white blood cells to fight off the infection he slipped into a coma.  I felt guilty because I had not kept this young man high on my prayer list.  When he slipped into a coma I joined the prayer team interceding for his healing.  I remember getting daily updates and praying each and every day.  This went on for 40 days.  Amazingly he hung on in that coma.  He did not seem to deteriorate, but as the doctors began telling us, he wasn’t improving and he had to improve.
The break-through came about day 40.  I remember crying out to the Lord from my hotel room in Montreal.  It was in the evening and I looked up at the ceiling because that about how far it felt my prayers for Chase’s healing were going, bouncing off the ceiling and coming back to me.  As I looked up, spiritually worn out, I asked a different question, “Lord, what would you have me pray?”  “Pray for Chase’s mom, that she will release Chase to come home.”  Suddenly the whole prayer changed.  Instead of feeling like I was pushing against a wall, I had a real sense of being aligned with the will of the Father.  Joy and peace filled me and prayer flowed.
It was only a day or two later and the Mom’s prayer request suddenly changed.  Apparently she to had heard from the Lord because instead of the fervent plea to intercede for his healing, she asked us to pray for the Lord’s will to be done and for peace and strength for the family.  Chase passed a day or two after that.
I know the Lord heals.  The story above is one where the healing was Chase going home to be in the closer presence of the Lord.  For others He will touch them with healing as evidence of His love and power on this side of the veil.  In either case, the goal is the same, to draw us closer to Jesus and cause us to grow in our relationship with Him.
Closer to Jesus – it has become the cornerstone of my prayer for healing.
Closer to Jesus – it is the ultimate goal.
Closer to Jesus – where we live and move and have our being.
Closer to Jesus – it’s who we were created to be.
Closer to Jesus.  Close enough to touch Him.  Close enough to be touched by Him.
Be blessed today my friend.

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A very good lesson today in navigating life’s temptations, challenges, and trials.  Give it a read.

Also, if you don’t have the You Version app you might want to give it a try.  It has dozens of bible translations as well as numerous bible reading plans.  I have used about a dozen shorter plans.  I intend on tackling this one in 2017.  I recommend trying a few of the shorter plans before attempting a year long study.   Source: Bible In One Year 2017

I am a “fastest route” kind of person.  Long before GPS systems became so readily available and we are told step by step how to get from point A to point B, I was a map reader.  I may have even been a little over the top about it.  It wasn’t usually good enough to just assume I had the fastest route.  If it was a regular route I took, I would specifically look for opportunities to validate my choice by either timing all the routes at different times, or, please don’t judge me, have my wife drive a vehicle on one route while I took the other.  (Yes, I usually allowed her to go what I estimated to be the slower of the two routes.  That strategy was only partially successful though.  She happens to be as competitive as I am so I wasn’t always certain she / we observed all the traffic laws.)

Long trips early in our married life also turned into learning experiences.  My wife enjoys the travel experience and prefers not to feel rushed.  I preferred to conquer the drive.  Frequent stops for shopping, eating, and bathroom breaks were a normal part of the journey for Lisa.  In my opinion they were the enemy of a successful drive.  The tension around this rose a bit as children arrived.  We survived those challenges and we’ve grown to have a much more aligned view on our travel.  Today I still plan the trips with an estimate of the journey’s duration given to the family.  But we include time for potential stops.  We talk about it ahead of time and generally come to agreement.  And travel is much more harmonious.

The biggest difference in me is that I have realized that in my journeys, like in my life, if I make a plan seeking the Lord’s guidance and then give it to the Him, then I can let go of the need to MAKE IT HAPPEN.  I can relax and trust Him with the outcome.  This is liberating.

An illustration comes to mind.  In a way it is like having a map and having the travel app WAZE on.  I see the path to take on the map.  But as I travel, WAZE is giving me commentary on the road ahead.  It tells you of traffic ahead and reroutes you around it.  You may still encounter a bit of a slow-down, but in the end you get around it in a bit better time and you make it to your final destination.  The comparison for me is to reading the Word and listening to the Holy Spirit.  When I read the Word I am encouraged, I gain direction for my life, I see a life to live that is pleasing to the Father and something I desire.  But when I step out the door and into all the activities that make up life, I need the Holy Spirit to help take the truth of scripture and apply it to the myriad real life situations I encounter.

I used to have a problem when things interrupted my plans for the day.  I am much better (not where I know I need to be yet, but better) today about letting the interruptions play out.  I have learned that often in the interruptions God intervenes to teach me or use me in ways that wouldn’t have happened on the path I had planned.  Last night is a case in point.

We were heading home late after watching our niece and nephew’s basketball games.  While we really didn’t want to, we stopped at the store to pick up a few things.  As we were checking out I noticed the cashier let out what sounded like a tired sigh as she finished the prior customer.  I assumed she was feeling tired like I was so I casually asked, “Been a long day?”

“No.” she replied.  “Stressed.”  After a bit of a pause she said, “It’s not work.  It’s something else… not here.”  (Okay, let me just say that an opening like that is definitely a detour that a person intent on following the straightest and fastest route would say to avoid at all costs.)

I don’t remember exactly what I said in response, but we engaged in a bit of a conversation as she rang up our groceries.  It turns out we had a slightly similar experience to share and encourage her from.  It was just a few brief words of encouragement, but it seemed like they were somewhat of a help.  But I think the bigger thing was the last thing we did. As she totaled our purchases and turned to me, I knew I didn’t have a specific answer to her dilemma, but I knew Who did.  I asked if she minded if we prayed.  Well she didn’t say “No.” so I reached across, took her hand and prayed a simple prayer of faith asking the Father to give her guidance and to bless her.

As I let her hand go she asked, “Are you a preacher?”

“No,” I said.

“Are you a Minister?”

Again, “No.”

“Where do you go to church?”

I told her.  And she replied, “Well I guess Sunday I’ll have to come to visit.”

I walked away chuckling at God’s goodness.  We took a detour.  Shopping is not my thing at anytime, but especially late in the evening when I am ready for bed.  But that little detour meant a young woman was encouraged and hopefully will make it to a place where she can meet the One who loves her more than she can imagine.

When we let go and let God, He will take us to the places we need to go and allow us to experience things that fit into His perfect plan.  Just let Him navigate and you will enjoy the ride of your life.

Take care my friend and enjoy the ride.

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“For God so loved the World that He gave…”  (John 3:16) Jesus is God’s most precious and most amazing gift.  The fact that Jesus condescended at all is the most humbling gift imaginable.  He, Who had always existed in splendid community with His Father, left heaven to come to a world that was beneath Him in every way.  Yet He came to offer every single person the absolute best there is – a restored relationship with the Father, and an intimacy with the Lord that enlivens life in the best of ways and puts everything into proper perspective.

In coming to earth, dying for the sins of the world, and rising to new life, Jesus began something totally new.  He created the Church – the Body of Christ present in the world today.  For every individual who comes to faith, Jesus puts His Holy Spirit inside them.  The Holy Spirit is a seal of our redemption and a very present Helper in living the life of faith in God.  Jesus spoke extensively about the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life in the hours just prior to His crucifixion.  See John 14:15-31, 15:26-16:15.  Practically the first thing He did after His resurrection was impart the Holy Spirit upon His closest followers.  John 20:22 reads “And with that He (Jesus) breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

In our continuing study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have focused upon writings from three different epistles written by the Apostle Paul – Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.  In all three of these passages Paul discourses on Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The lists of the gifts in these verses contain some overlap, but each also contains unique gifts.  One element that is present in all three is the imagery of the Body of Christ being the bearer of, and reason for, the gifts of the Spirit to exist.  The Gifts of the Spirit are alluded to indirectly in a few other places, but these three chapters give the deepest and most comprehensive discussion of the Gifts of the Spirit.

As I have done in the last two blogs, I am going to include the teaching notes from our lessons on the Gifts of the Spirit.  I begin with some open-ended questions and then we move into the Bible Study on the Gifts.  I encourage you to use these as part of a personal bible study or perhaps a small group study.  I know I was lead to new insights on God’s empowerment of the Body through the study and my personal walk has been strengthened.  I pray that this will do the same for you.

Body of Christ as the Recipient of the Gifts of the Spirit

  • Have you ever been part of a team? 
  • What were the positives of being on that team? 
  • What were the less desirable aspects of being on a team?

Read:

  • 1 Corinthians 12: 1 – 11
  • Romans 12:3-5,
  • Ephesians 4:3-7 & 15-16
  • 1 Cor 12, Verses 12 – 27

How is the Church like a human body?

  • One Body.  Not two… not many…
  • Many parts, but ONE Body.

Why do you think Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used the imagery of a body?

  • One Body.  Not a team… Not an Organization… Not a Committee… A living organism, a BODY.
  • Not just any Body.  The BODY of Christ.
  • Central nervous system.  With what we now know about the body we can see the Holy Spirit living in the believer is like the central nervous system transferring vital information back and form between the brain / head (Christ is the “Head” of the Body) and all the varied organs and members of the body (That’s us, the Church)
  • White blood cells. The body has a defensive mechanism living and working inside it.  The Holy Spirit serves in a similar role with the Body of Christ.
  • The interdependence of the parts. No part of the Body can live apart and independent from the other parts.  The maximized capability of the body is when all parts are healthy and performing it’s intended role.
  • The body will not survive without several of the parts.  There are organs of our physical body that we cannot live without… heart, brain, spine, etc.  Some of the gifts of the Spirit are supernatural enabling that the Body of Christ must have… apostles, pastors, teachers, leaders, etc.
  • The body can be ill, but still survive.  There are maladies that can and will affect the Body.  Steps can be taken to help the body remain healthy, but we don’t always take those steps and we will at times succumb to illness.
  • Life and death are potential states for the body.  Life is a matter of the body parts functioning.  The imagery here is a little more of a stretch, but when taken in context of Jesus resurrection, there is a picture of the body living through death… like the Phoenix rising from the ashes of death.

What key attributes does Paul exhort his readers to strive for in these verses?

Humility, gentleness, patience, love, seeking of unity, accepting of diversity, empathy

Why are these attributes so important in a body?

The Body of Christ is a diverse conglomeration of parts.  The world tends to emphasize our differences, to puff up pride, and promote a self-centered world view.  Isolation, whether as an individual or small group, is the antithesis of the unity pictured in a healthy, fully functioning body.

What are the outcomes of all the members of the body functioning as they are designed?

  • Not uniformity, but unity.
  • Not all the same, but each valued and vital.
  • The roles are varied.  The parts are varied.  The gifts and abilities are varied.  The whole body knit together accomplishes far more than the capabilities of each part alone.

Read Ephesians 4:1-16

Christ Himself gave:

  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Evangelists
  • Pastors
  • Teachers

Imagery of the Body with Christ as the Head.  We are to grow into unity and maturity within the Body of Christ.  Growing in unity means growing more intimate with Him and allowing Him to transform us, to change us.

Every part does its part, its role.

Our role in God’s plan is to draw close to Him, live a life in intimacy with Him, receive His guidance and gifts, and operate in those gifts in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We will all fit into God’s plan.  If we submit to Him, He will equip us and lead us in fulfilling our God-ordained destiny.  Since He is sovereign, He already knows what our destiny is.  Since He allows us to exercise free will, He does not force us to walk a certain path.  He knows what is best – His perfect will, but He will work with us wherever we are.  The optimum is consistent and continual obedience.  However, He will work with us whenever we submit to Him and will use us wherever we are when that happens.

One short side story.  There was a co-worker of mine for several years who steadfastly refused to turn to Christ.  He was at times a very difficult person to deal with, but the Lord always, always kept bringing me back to praying for and loving this man.  After he retired he got into serious trouble, was arrested, and sent to prison.  During the time leading up to his being sent to prison he contemplated suicide.  On one particular day he knew he had to make a decision.  Either he was going to walk into his bedroom and end his life or he was going to pick up the old family bible his late wife kept in the living room to see if there was something there that could give him hope.  Fortunately when he walked into his house he turned to the right and picked up the bible.  In it He found a reason for hope.  This prideful man who had lived for himself for 60+ years fell on his knees, repented of his sins, and accepted God’s forgiveness.  Shortly afterwards he headed off to prison for seven years.
I wrote to him in prison.  He was a different man… gentler, softer spoken, broken in good ways, hungry to know Jesus more.  And after he got out I met with him and we had Church.  It was good.  I was blessed to play a role in encouraging him.  The gift of exhortation and encouragement is a Spiritual Gift that God has given me to use for the benefit of the Body.  This story I just shared is 25 years in the making.  Yet God loved my friend enough that He placed people like me in his life to intercede, to encourage, to exhort, and to evangelize.  Today he is walking in freedom and growing in the gifts God has given him to build the Body of Christ.

As we walk in the gifts the Lord has given us, we will become the part of the body we were created to be.  God will not leave us guessing, but rather He will cause confidence to grow as we walk in the Spirit.  He is able to send us counselors and teachers, people who have experienced God’s gifting in the same or similar areas, to help us grow in the gifts we are to walk in.  We are His Body and He is passionate in His Body being whole, healthy, and beautiful.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be the vehicle of God’s blessing in someone else’s life today.

 

 

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The wellspring of the gifts of the Spirit is the loving heart of God.  1 John 4:16 tells us that “God is love.”  He is the ultimate embodiment of perfect love.  Many of us have a difficult time wrapping our head around what perfect love might look like because of poor examples we’ve seen or experienced in life.  However, that does not diminish the reality that love exists or that it exists in a manner that is life-giving and transformative to the extreme.  Such is the love of the Lord God.

I recognize that I am a fortunate man.  I had two loving parents who modeled love extremely well.  I fondly remember long talks with my Dad as he patiently taught me life skills.  Mom was always there to sooth our fears and tears and encourage us in whatever pursuit we were engaged in.  As we grew more responsible, they gave us the necessary tools for life – shelter, food, clothing, an education, a vehicle to drive, a foundation of faith and service to others, a legacy to live up to.  I grow nostalgic as I think of how my parents strove to bless their four children realizing that my wife and I have tried, in our imperfect way, to do the same for our four children.  The point of this is that if we as imperfect, often too busy, sometimes self-absorbed, parents want to give good things to our children, how much more does our perfect, always present, attentive Heavenly Father want to give good things to us, His children.  If you have entered into the family of faith, you are His precious child.  And if you have not surrendered your life yet, I can tell you He is drawing you and offering you the penultimate relationship life has to offer – adoption into His family, a seat of honor at His banquet table.

What I have described echoes the words of our Lord recorded in Matthew 7:9-11 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”  God is the perfect Father and He gives His children good gifts.  This is a truth we can hold on to.  After 33 years of living for Him, I testify to the veracity of this scripture.

Even as I write this the Lord has highlighted another scripture – John 8:31-32.  “To the Jews who had believed in Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”  Jesus wants you to know that He is for you and not against you.  That He loves you with an everlasting love.  That His banner over you is love.  That you are precious to Him.  That He gave Himself for you.  And He wants to give you everything necessary to live out the life He has called you to.  A life of joyful, fulfilling, abundant, faithful service in the family of God.

I’m reminded of a sweet season of extended prayer many years ago.  We were living in Louisiana, but I was praying for my family who all lived on the east coast.  Literally I had been drawn to pray for an hour or more every day for certain things going on in the family, but specifically for my family who lived a long way away.  My wife and I were reasonably content having started a family of our own, but I had a real burden of prayer upon me.  One night as I was pacing and praying in our closet, the Lord spoke very clearly to me.  “Son, I’m going to give you the desires of your heart.”  I distinctly remember saying, “No Lord, not my will, but your will.”  To which the Holy Spirit responded, “That is why I’m going to give you the desires of your heart.”  I was humbled, thankful, and awed all at the same time.  Now I had not been trying to get back to the east coast.  I don’t think I had done anything to start the process or even look for another job, but within 9 months or so, through a series of amazing (you could even say miraculous) circumstances we found ourselves living in southeast Tennessee.  By the way, I don’t know if I had read the verses in Psalm 37:4 prior to this event, but today they stand as one of my life verses.  “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

As we pour our heart into knowing the Lord, growing in our relationship with Him, obeying His prompting, He wants to give us good gifts.  He desires us to desire the things He wants to do in us and in the lives of those around us.  Let’s go back to the verses just before Jesus talks about the Father giving good gifts to His children.  In Matthew 7:7-9 Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened.”  When we are His children and we are responding to His love, when our desire is to love and obey Him, He will give us good gifts.  Even before a person turns to Christ the Lord loves them and has offered the ultimate gift, His Son, Jesus, so they can enter into the family of God.  He wants us to have the gifts of the Spirit to edify us and to strengthen the Church – the body of Christ.  His love toward us and His love for the Church are the wellspring of the spiritual gifts.

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