Archive for the “Spiritual Gifts” Category

There is so much in Ephesians 4 that could draw our attention today, and I’ve been reading it and listening to teachings about it and was beginning to despair a bit. So much good stuff, and so little space (and time, I’m afraid) for blogging. That’s when it occurred to me that what I needed to do was sit back and ask God what was most important for today. Yes, all of it is important, but what is on God’s heart for today’s blog? My attention was immediately drawn to verse 3:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)

Paul urges the Ephesians to “make every effort.” He doesn’t write “consider the benefit of.” He continues in the vein of verse 1 in which he wrote “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Part of living worthy of our calling is to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

It means that we make peace a priority. It’s more important than the person who is right winning. It’s more important than you winning or me winning.

The word translated “make every effort” could also be translated “be diligent”. The word translated “to keep” could also be translated “to preserve”. Be diligent in preserving the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. We are to be aggressively watchful to protect, preserve and maintain the peace. I like the word “preserve” because it has more of a sense of caring for something – nurturing it and protecting it.

Peace needs that kind of care. It doesn’t come naturally. Division and strife come naturally. Peace must be sought after and preserved. Paul explains why in later verses, but first let’s look at the unity we have. Paul continues in his letter:

4There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)

We may look different and we may act different, but we are part of one body (the church) and there is one Spirit who is alive in us. We have all been called to one hope – our glorious redemption in Christ with an eternal home in heavenly realms. We worship one Lord, share one faith and one baptism. Yes, we may practice that baptism ritual in different ways, but each baptism represents a dying to our old self and a raising up with Christ having been cleansed of our sin and made alive with Christ. We all serve one God and Father and He is sovereign over all, through all and in all. That’s omnipresence – He is everywhere at all times. That’s unity and when our focus remains on that unity and our spirit is sensitive to the Spirit which lives in us, we are held together with a bond of peace.

Still there’s a need to make every effort. Because while we have unity, we do not have uniformity. God has gifted each of us differently.

7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it…11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:7-13 (NIV)

Christ has given each of us a measure of grace and a variety of gifts. The problem with this is that in our sinfulness, we tend to see things through our giftings instead of through God’s eyes. If we are gifted in teaching, we think that the church’s resources (for example) ought to be focused on teaching God’s Word to young disciples. If we are gifted in evangelism, however, we think the church’s resources ought to be focused on the lost. Throw apostles and prophets and pastors into the mix and you have a church board meeting that easily turns from keeping the bond of peace to keeping their portion of the budget intact (and growing).

But God has apportioned the gifts for a purpose – “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. All gifts are required for that to happen. If we become so focused on our own gift that we diminish others, we disrupt the unity of the body and we damage the body’s ability (and our own ability) to be built up, become mature and attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. We are no longer living a life worthy of our calling. Even if we are called as an evangelist, if we diminish the other gifts, we are no longer living a life worthy of our calling because that calling is first and foremost to mirror Christ, to become like him.

We have skipped over verse two so far. Let’s look at it now in two translations:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Ephesians 4:2 (KJV)

Although we are called to use our gifts, we are also to be humble (lowly) and gentle (meek), patient (longsuffering) and bearing with one another in love. The Bible describes two people as being meek – Jesus and Moses. Our definition of meekness and the historical definition must be radically different. We tend to think of meekness as timidity. Scripture uses the word differently. It has more to do with gentleness than timidity. It is a humility, not a fearfulness or shyness. When Paul encourages us to be meek, he is encouraging us to be more like Christ.

Patience means putting the needs of others before our own needs. It means that my agenda isn’t more important than your agenda. Longsuffering means we don’t expect or require that our priorities or needs be met instantly. We wait patiently. We don’t get angry quickly. We place love as a higher priority and bear with one another. Again, Paul is encouraging us to be more like Christ.

As we mirror the attitudes and behaviors of Christ while using the gifts He has given us, we maintain unity of the body.

Friends, let’s make every effort to reflect Christ to one another.

There is so much more in this chapter. In preparing to write this blog, I found this three-blog series that I wrote about this chapter about a year ago. Click on the links below for more on Ephesians 4:

Worthy. Who Me?

Live Worthy

Live Worthy, Part 2

Let’s live a life worthy of our calling!

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20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
          Romans 9:20-21

3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
          Romans 12:3-8

Are you happy with the way God made you? Or do you long for a better singing voice, or greater organizational skills. Do you wish you had curly hair or straight hair or more hair? In my family, my siblings always thought I had all the brains and I always thought they had all the common sense. None of us were happy with the way God had created us. (Now just for the record, I didn’t get all the brains and they didn’t get all the common sense. I’ve come to understand that as an adult, but childhood images of one’s self can be hard to shed.)

God has created each of us uniquely to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us. He has custom-made us to fill the hole in the universe that He created for us to fill. If we don’t fill it, it will just be a void – a place in time and space that is empty, waiting for the perfect fit to come and fill it.

We have such a tendency to be dissatisfied with ourselves, when what we ought to do is celebrate that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God for His purposes (Psalm 139:14, Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 2:10).

I cannot fulfill God’s purposes for me when I am wishing I were or trying to be someone else. That either makes it really crowded in the space that God’s created for them or makes my space seem ill-fitting. But when I celebrate and grow in the person God has made me to be, my space begins to feel just right for me. In fact, my space probably expands a bit because I fill it so well.

How insidious is this desire to be other than we are! While writing this blog I began to look up a Scripture. It was the Ephesians passage I referenced above. But I didn’t know it was in Ephesians. So I started using the search feature in my Bible software. In the meantime, I asked my husband for help. He immediately gave me the reference I was looking for. The words that came out of my mouth next are the exact opposite of what this blog is about! Aargh! I immediately said, “I wish I could do that.” Well, yes, it would be nice to have the recall of Scripture that my husband has. But God hasn’t wired me that way. I have read and studied Scripture as much as he has. I have applied myself to memorizing it as he has. But unless I continually review those memorized passages they are easily lost from the front of my mind. He, on the other hand, has probably not reviewed Ephesians 2:10 lately. He just learned it once and now he knows it. He just knows where to find whatever it is he is looking for. And the truth is I’m jealous of him because I have to research to find those passages that I already know or once knew. I need to keep a good concordance or search feature nearby. Does that make him smarter than me? No, it just means he was created differently and for different purposes. And instead of wishing I were like him, I want to pursue the place God has uniquely created me for.

There is a flip side to all of this. Just as we ought to celebrate and grow into the person God created us to be, we ought to be very careful to not try to fit anyone else into a slot that God has not created for them. Phil and I served as co-pastors for a short time. We work very well together. Where one of us is strong, the other is weak and vice versa. We submit to one another according to our areas of strengths and God’s leading. During the time that we were pastors, our supervisors tried to force each of us into roles for which we were not created – roles in each of our areas of weakness. It made for an exceedingly difficult experience for all of us. In fact, the affect it had on Phil and I was that it made us feel like failures and doubt the abilities God has given us. We were not, in fact, failures. We were just the proverbial square pegs being required to fill the round holes. Had we been given the freedom to let Phil fill the holes that he was created to fill and me fill the holes that I was created to fill, the needs of the church would have been met as God intended them to be.

When we force someone into a role that God has not designed them to fill, we not only are working against the plan of God for that person’s life, but we are assisting in making them ineffective for the Kingdom of God. As a coach, we ought to look for the best in each person, celebrate it, water it and nurture it.

So this week, my goal is to do just that – in myself and in others. Lord, let me celebrate the woman you have made me to be, trusting that you have created a perfect hole for me to fill. Let me also see others as You see them, celebrate who they are, and encourage them to grow into the person you’ve designed them to be.

I invite you to join me in celebrating God’s creation – you, me and those around us – uniquely created to fulfill God’s purposes.

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The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork. She [the ostrich] lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider. Job 39:13-18, emphasis mine

When I read this scripture I am amazed at God’s joyfulness at each unique thing He has created – each bringing Him joy in their own way. He doesn’t judge the ostrich for her lack of sense and wisdom or her inability to fly like the stork. He simply acknowledges it as part of how she was created. But then He points out the joy that is her own. He says, “But, Oh, when she spreads her wings to run, she laughs at the horse and rider.” That brings to my mind the picture of a woman riding a horse as fast as it will gallop, her hair flying behind her while she’s laughing in the wind at the fun she’s having. The laughter of sheer freedom, joy and even victory. That’s how the ostrich feels when she runs. And God, in writing about it, takes great joy in the ostrich for what He has given her, without finding fault in her for what she may lack.

I think God sees all of us similarly. We each bring our own unique joy to Him. He is not critical of our human frailties because He knows how we were made. We beat ourselves up for our failures before God, not really expecting ourselves to be perfect all the time – just this time. But God knows how we were made and He expects more failure from us than we expect from ourselves. And He has made a provision for it through His grace.

I’m not excusing sin. Sin is serious and we need to repent and return to God. But not all failure is sin. Sometimes, failure (or perceived failure) comes just from doing something God has not endowed us with the wisdom or good sense to do. Instead, he’s created us to shine in other areas, and when we find those areas, our service brings us and God great joy.

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