Blessings To Us, Blessings Through Us Whatever the Gift May Be

You could help with this message. In fact, whether or not it hits home will depend on you. Entirely. How open you are. How willing you are to act on the word. To start, would you help like this? Take out a hymnal from the rack. Just sit it on your knee. Then steady it with one hand, and with the other, rap lightly, like this. (Demonstrate at 1/second). Would you do that with me while I talk over the sound? I’ll cue you when. Ready? Go. (Rap.)

Do you hear it? It’s time. Time moving. Unrelenting Time. God’s unrepeated gift. Time is God’s first gift. (Stop rapping.)With the birth of light, time was born. Time is what makes our lives urgent. Time’s the only place where we can accept all the other gifts of God. The gifts of the Spirit. Either we use God’s gifts, or not. Share them, or not. Serve and please God through them, or not…in time. (Rap.) Time requires us to “press on toward the prize,” like the Bible says. Because for each of us, for all of us, time is a heartbeat. And it comes to an end. (Stop rapping.)

In the time you’ve got, or got left, don’t you want to know what you’re here for? I do. Don’t you want to know what God has in mind, and on God’s heart, for you? From you? I do. Wouldn’t it be just the most exciting adventure-in-discipleship you can imagine: to know and use your spiritual gifts to the fullest?!

Remember last week? We lifted the truth that God-in-Christ gives to us so the Spirit can use these gifts through us. (‘Member the kid who copped some coin – for candy – instead of giving his mom’s offering to church as directed? With his spanking came this lesson: we receive so we can recycle God’s love.) The great trick is to hit our S.T.R.I.D.E. ‘To put together our Spiritual gifts, Talents, Resources, Individuality, Dreams and Experience for God’s service and the good of God’s Kingdom. Every gift we need, we’ve got. Nobody’s left out of this giftedness through Christ. Not to discover and share our gifts is like identity theft. It robs us of who we really are in God’s sight. So we need to know about the gifts of the Spirit, and which ones the Spirit’s given us.

Wanna know what God wants out of us? Look what God can put into us. Such a treasure trove of gifts! At least three times, the New Testament gathers them up and lists them. Your bulletin insert this morning borrows a chart from the little workbook, Serving From the Heart. We’ll be using it tomorrow night at 7 PM to continue our conversation on giftedness. (It’s not too late, join us. It’s a great group.) You can see the lists from I Cor. 12, Rom. 12, Eph. 4. Some 19 distinct gifts. And given to every believer in a unique combination and intensity. You are gifted from this treasure store. Me too. And each one like nobody else.

I Corinthians 12 Romans 12 Ephesians 4

Why talk about these this autumn Sunday?

Well, because they are part of a more important scheme than all the defenses and offenses so many will watch on the football games today. God has set the cross of Christ on Calvary’s hill to defend us against all the wiles of evil and death. And God has coached and sent the Spirit with this playbook of offenses to take the field and the fight from the Opposition! Here’s the Spiritual Gifts team. Let the Wiley One call for confusion and the Spirit will run the Wisdom play. Blitz us with tragedy and the Spirit will counter with Faith across the middle and Compassion streaking down the sideline. Let the Otherside try to tackle the church with conflict and dissent, and the Spirit will send in the Apostles, called with authority to lead the church, and the Exhorters and the Pastors, who will encourage and protect it. (Let’s not do all nineteen of these!) Do you see the game plan?

In his Letter to the Romans, Paul tries to sum it all up by dividing the gifts into two broad categories: speaking and serving for God in the name of Jesus. Far be it for me to contradict. But I do believe it would help us locate our own gifts the better, to think of it in these words. The Spirit offers you and me the gifts of knowing, growing, showing and going.

Gifted in Knowing. An informed faith. Knowing your (Bible) stuff. Wisdom. A deep faith. Trust and Obey. Down deep discerning. You can just see who and what’s of God and not. But it’s a loving thing, not a judging thing. Does this sound like you?

Gifted in Growing. Some grow…tomatoes. Some grow disciples. Do you find yourself consistently encouraging others in faith? Do you tell your Jesus-story with ease, especially to those who have none of their own? Can you look at today and see where God is pointing for tomorrow? ‘Does your life guide others? In tight spots, are you often the one who communicates, who connects with those who feel misunderstood? Where’s that ability come from? Maybe the Spirit has gifted you as an exhorter, evangelist, prophet, teacher, tongue-speaker!

We can be Gifted in Showing. Pointing the way. Leading. The ones with the vision. Paul calls such saints apostles, administrators, leaders, helpers. Who’s led the way for you? ‘Helped you go where you wouldn’t have in faith? Do what you couldn’t with joy? Lifted you up when you were down, and set your feet on higher ground? Anybody say this about you? Dare to ask yourself, am I gifted by the Spirit in showing the way?!

Gifted in Going. Generous souls go first. Giving is their gift. You don’t ask, “How much do I let go?” You ask, “How much do I dare keep?” Healers go first. You enter other’s suffering and cannot help but relieve it. Mercy marks such souls. You can’t send to Louisiana, you just have to go! Not all shepherds are pastors. Many more are gifted at retrieving the lost, protecting the weak(ened) ‘See yourself in this mirror?

If we wanna know what God wants out of our life, the first thing to do is look at what God has poured into it. (And not.)

It’s time for us to take spiritual inventory. Time keeps moving for us all. That’s why knowing and using our gifts from God, for God, is urgent. The church has said it well. “We know not what a day may bring, but only that the hour for serving Christ is always near at hand.” We put another little sample in that bulletin insert of yours. Ten timely questions, I suppose. We ask, “Which sound like you?” We remind, “How you answer reveals your gifts.” It’s true. Tomorrow night’s conversation here at 7 will invite folks to look at a number of questions. Prayerfully answered, and properly grouped, they are a marvelous instrument for recognizing and ranking what God has placed within us personally. So we’ll know the better what God would hope to see and do through each of us individually. In everyday life. In church life. Remember how, when I began, I said that whether or not this message hits home depends on you? How open you are. How willing you are to act on the word. Well, how would your faith journey, your own discipleship adventure be changed, made new, if you took a little time? Just one of those sacred hours you and I have been given. To stop. Take stock. A little spiritual inventory. The Kingdom might better glorify God. The church, this church might better serve Christ. You and I might better know and fulfill God’s purpose for our own life. (What frustration might fall away!)

Two quick stories. A husband flies to the Caribbean on business. His wife’s to join him later. On arrival he calls home misdialing one digit. A recent widow, not his wife, on the line. Before she can speak, she hears, “I’ve arrived safely, dear. My trip, uneventful. The accommodations are acceptable. I can’t wait for you to join me. But be prepared, it’s very, very hot here!” Hmmm. ‘Poor widow. ‘Wonder if that phone call changed her ways? Prompted a spiritual inventory. Sharpened her sense of urgency. True story: A guy called me from a church I served 20 years ago. We caught up over lunch this week. Lovely. As he commented on the passing years, he mentioned a line I’d spoken long ago. After several tough deaths, I once asked that church, “What will someone-you-love ask be said of you at your passing?” That thought had stayed with him. ‘Helped him sort out the important from the urgent, the worthy from the not-so-much. That conversation led me back to Luke. “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”

What will be written beside your name in heaven’s book? A list of gifts, for sure. How will it be noted you knew and shared them?

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