Blessings To Us, Blessings Through Us We Have What It Takes

Don'tcha just love it… when you hear some "Big Cheese" remember how it was when he or she was just a little mouse? I do. So I was quite taken at Conference. The General Secretary of the Board of Religion and Race of the UMC told a story on himself as a little boy. He got a whuppin'. Not beaten up or abused. Just a little applied psychology from his mamma. Here's the story in a nutshell. Mamma gave her six year old 25 cents for church. She sent him on his way. Only, he took a little detour. 'Stopped in at the little corner store. He invested a dime. In a soda pop (hey, it was a long time ago). A soda and a few jaw-breakers (candy) for the trip home. The Lord got 15 cents. Well, when the young sinner returned home, mamma smelled those jaw-breakers on his breath. And she sniffed out what happened to those 25 cents. Now, mamma had a sturdy knee. She it put to good use with this wayward lad. It was one of only two spankings ever administered to this preacher-to-be. That spanking came with a message, never forgotten. Mamma cried out to her son, while administering a little attitude adjustment. "Don't you know? If God can't give his blessin's through you, he'll quit givin' 'em to you!"

Blessings to us. Blessings through us. That's our focus, the next few weeks. Gifts of the Spirit, the Bible says. These spiritual gifts are promised and delivered to all of us believers, Scripture assures. They are given to us for the up-building of God's Kingdom, beginning with us here. Some gifts, we see in others. Some, in ourselves. Some, others see in us. Sometimes we recognize and employ them well. Sometimes we don't recognize them at all. Way too often, in our everyday lives, our workaday lives, our church-lives, we find ourselves laboring at this, all the while gifted for that! Wouldn't it be something if our church-life helped us identify our gifts? And then, served as a laboratory for developing and using them for the sake of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom? "Don't you know? If God can't give his blessin's through you, he'll quit givin' 'em to you!" Mamma was right. So let's get to it, right now.

This is exciting! In Jesus' name, the trick is for all of us to hit our stride. That's S.T.R.I.D.E. A memory-helper for recalling that our Spiritual gifts, Talents, Resources, Individuality, Dreams and Experience combine. They empower each of us to serve Christ and care for each other. Paul's Letter to the Romans helps us get it together. He counsels, "Don't be conformed to this world." What's the most consistent message the world lays at our door? You can't. It's not in you. It's not possible. No. But for those who believe, God says, "Yes." The cross was the ultimate no. But the empty grave is the ultimate yes. Nonbelievers conform. Believers, followers, disciples are transformed. God's yes in the resurrection garden makes us over again. He delivers on the promise that the Spirit will come to every one who believes. That's us, folks. And the Spirit never comes empty handed. He comes with at least one gift for each of us. And often more than one! Paul urges us, no, commands us, to take a serious, spiritual inventory. To "think soberly" of ourselves and what we have been given. ('You done that lately?) He says how we use the gifts we've received is the way we worship God-in-Christ all week long.

We didn't have these gifts at birth. They come when we are born again into a living faith in Jesus Christ. They are added to the talents poured into us when we are "intricately wrought" (Ps. 139) in our mother's womb. Were all this not enough, there are resources to which we all have access. I don't mean just money here. I mean education. What we learn from school to hard knocks. I mean the network of all our friends, contacts and associations that will allow us to do what God desires. "I've got a friend," is often the introduction to how God's will is done. (Ask BJ Keister, whose golf buddy got him to just the right doctor at just the right time to save his life!) Add to our resources, our dreams. They are part of our giftedness for God. Isn't that Pentecost's promise? And there are no age limits. "Your young see visions, your old dream dreams!" And then of course, there's our unique experience. No one else can give this gift to God or to others. Because no one else has lived your life. It is like a star in the heavens, shining in God's eye, unrepeatable, unforgettable to heaven, unimaginable to earth. And yours alone to give. Wow! We have what it takes for God.

Every gift we need, we have received in each other. Now it's just a matter of letting God use through us what he's given to us. You wanna be the best you can be? For yourself? For those you love? For those with whom you live and work? You wanna be the best you can be in your discipleship to Christ? And for his church in this place? It's all about matching up gifts and needs, callings and dreams. If you're frustrated, disappointed, disillusioned, burned up or burned out, it's pretty likely you're out of touch with your gifts, haven't hitched them to your dreams, haven't compared them to God's calling in your life! For mercy's sake I can't tell you his name. But he owned a farm he named for the weather-on-the-day-he-bought-it. 'Gave his life to it, and to his wife. (Apologies to Jimmy Stewart, this was a wonderful life.) But the one thing he was born to do, he said, he never did. Never a father. A few weeks before he passed he wept to me, "I never was what I always was. So I'll die alone, with no one to give my treasure." I could not agree, but I did understand. Then there was Eva. "God didn't give me that much," she said. "I was never gifted. Except with the gift of Jesus. I didn't deserve him. So I've spent my life giving him away. And yet he comes nearer to me every day!"

Whew, we've been at it at least 10 minutes, Rev., and I still don't know what these gifts of the Spirit are! There are several Bible lists. The longest is in I Corinthians. Faith itself is a principal gift of the Spirit. In the power of the cross we're reminded, "All things are possible through faith." The ability to know and speak truth and wisdom. These are sometimes in short supply. But the whole church, our church is gifted with folks with these gifts. Healing. Don't think it's a foreign, frightening, (or sometimes phony) thing. There are souls in this room who can cure a toothache with their smile, and you know them. Healing begins there, and makes it way to miracles. We got miracles workers right here! How gifted we are! Miracles are moments when God's love comes clear. We have folks who are gifted at that in many a conversation and kindness. Prophesy and discernment. Seeing God in this moment, and seeing him in the moments to come. Need I name names? Adults who can speak youthese. That's tongues! Teaching. Helping. Leading. Even you, even I, have at least one of these gifts! Here's the thing: How does what you do at home, work, school, church, even play, match up with your personal, particular gifts? Are you who-you-are, for God, in Jesus Christ, in your life?

Nobody here is left out in giftedness. To fail to see this is to be a victim of the ultimate (and saddest) identity theft! God in Christ is waiting for us to become who we actually are! This is key to our personal spiritual journey. And to the journey of our church. Most of us don't think of ourselves as gifted. At least not spiritually. We would count it a lack of humility. A vice, not a virtue. Prideful. And most of us have been taught, early and often, "Pride goeth before a fall." But Peter echoes Paul in his 1st brief letter. "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. Whoever speaks, as one who utters God's own word; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength God himself supplies; so in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." (I Pet. 4: 10-11) Everyone sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism is included. That, we are promised. (Our point here is not that others can't be gifted, but that believers are, as promised in Gods' Word.)

I meant it when I asked. Wouldn't it be something if our church-life helped us identify our gifts? And then, served as a laboratory for developing and using them for the sake of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom? "Don't you know? If God can't give his blessin's through you, he'll quit givin' 'em to you!" Long ago, that Mamma was right. Lots of us fear having their identity stolen. Over the web, through our credit card, even the doctor's office. There's talk about it all over. But when was the last time you thought about your identity, your very own personal giftedness, in Jesus Christ? You can lose it by just setting it aside, without paying attention. (Kinda like your car keys or your glasses.) You can let the world steal it by telling you you're nothing special. (Yet, Christ died for you!) You can trifle your identity away ill-using, or abusing your gifts. This is identity theft of the soul. To help prevent it, we're taking the next several Monday nights from 7-8 PM to have a conversation together about spiritual gifts. We'll identify our own. We'll explore putting them to use here and elsewhere. I invite you to come. To share. To learn. To do. What God has given to us, he has a passion to share through us! And he has promised by his Son, we have what it takes! Praise God!

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