Posts in Category: Christian Living

The Monotonous Missionary

I want to do something spectacular for the Lord. I want to be used in a mighty way like the biblical heroes before me. I want to preach and have a Day of Pentecost movement follow with thousands trusting the Lord as their Savior. I want to write a book that transforms lives across the country. I want to write a song that touches millions like Chris Tomlin. I want to lead the church I pastor to become a force in our local community and in the world. I want to lead my marriage to be that romance and spiritual force that others would want to pattern their marriages after. I want to raise my children to change the world.

But instead last night at home I played Hungry Hippos, took out the trash, and plunged a stopped-up toilet; and, that afternoon at church I typed up a bulletin and checked to make sure the heat wasn’t left too high.

Called by God. Challenged from Scripture. On fire and wanting to change the world, but doing the monotonous and mundane.

I thought I was alone, but I heard a testimony Sunday that makes me believe many other Christians feel the same way as I do. They want to fight the good fight, but instead are fighting the ho-hum. On Sundays, sermon after sermon and song after song tell us to die to ourselves and give our all to God, but we have to then go home and cook lunch. Then clean-up the dishes. Then mow the yard or do the laundry.

The testimony was from two college students who have their heart set on being vocational missionaries for the International Missionary Board. The couple had spent six months on an international mission trip, and they were reporting back to our church. They shared how they headed to Southeast Asia on fire to share the Gospel and to be used of God to peel back the darkness of that nation. They had trained and prepared. They had prayed and prayed. They had many people supporting them financially. They had far more praying for them.

But they spent their days doing the mundane. Since there was not processed food the meals that normally took fifteen minutes to prepare here in the States turned into two hours or more. They dealt with sickness and spent time bouncing to doctors and translators. There was plumbing issues in their apartment that took them three days to correct. The city they were in at times would lose power for week or more at a time which limited what they could do.

The cultural and language barriers were so difficult to cross that in that six month time period they were only able to share with a few individuals.

They had died to themselves and given their all to God. Their all still couldn’t transcend the daily grind and their all was not much in the wake of the vast lostness they faced. Yet God was pleased and glorified with their obedience and efforts. Although they didn’t get to do the spectacular, ministry was done through their faithfulness in the monotonous.

This revelation shook me to the core — God doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need me accomplishing the remarkable, but He invites me to participate in His work. He is going to do and accomplish His Will, but through His grace He invites us along for the ride. All we have to do is be faithful. All we have to do is the daily grind. All we have to do is the mundane.

Therefore I will be content to be a monotonous missionary.

Will you?

I See Fire and that is How We Should See the Christian Life

It was not merely for entertainment that Bunyan expressed a walk with Christ as a pilgrim’s journey, nor was it for Tolkien who illustrated the Christian life with a quest through Middle Earth, neither was that the case for Lewis who captured it with fighting battles alongside a mighty Lion in the land of Narnia. Bunyan, Tolkien, Lewis, and others chose tales of daring adventures because such an adventure is the reality of the Christian life.

I am afraid that only a few would agree with that reality. What about you?

Have you been taught that the Christian walk is an adventure? I hope so.

Have you experienced it for yourself? If not you are missing the fullness of a life in Christ.

As a kid and young teenager I thought Christianity was so booooooorrrring! To me a life following Christ — was enduring a sermon, singing old songs, not having fun, and following rules. It was saying no to fun and avoiding any excitement. I thought following Christ made someone weak, and that it kept someone from experiencing life. Then I got out of the pew and experienced a personal walk with Christ myself. I also began to learn about Christians who have come before us — those who laid down their life and gave everything for the cause of Christ.

Through that I began to find that following Christ was like falling into a rabbit hole, transporting through the back of a wardrobe, and leaving the shire.

Even though I have experienced a bit of the adventure and do believe that a walk with Christ is definitely such a journey I find myself forgetting. I’m afraid that Bunyan’s picture in Pilgrim’s Progress is not the image western Christians have in their mind when they think of Christianity. Even if they do view an adventure to be had it is reserved for someone else.

I am a huge music fan with quite the eclectic taste. The other day my careful “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” on Pandora led me to Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”. The song is from the soundtrack to one of the Hobbit movies. “I See Fire” tells of the band of dwarfs and the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, journeying to reclaim the dwarf homeland. It tells of the dangerous perils and exciting twists. Immediately, I fell in love with the song with lyrics like: “If this is to end in fire then we should all burn together watch the flames climb high into the night,” and “And if we should die tonight then we should all die together raise a glass of wine for the last time.” Check out the song for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mllXxyHTzfg

The song conjured up images of a band of brothers giving their lives to what they believed in. It drew pictures of danger and excitement.

I instantly thought what if we sang this at church? Minus the parts about the “eye of the mountain” and “Durin’s sons” wouldn’t it be amazing if the collective voice of the church rallied to face the fire together.

Now I doubt our worship leader is going to go for it and my congregation may not be that keen on singing Ed Sheeran, but I wish that we could regularly view our walk with Christ as an adventure. I wish we would see our mission of the Gospel like the quest of the dwarfs and Hobbit to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon. I wish that as followers of Christ we would see the reality of the exciting life in Him. I wish we would see fire for that is how the Christian life is meant to be lived — an adventure, quest, or journey.

 

 

Steps to Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

It is important to discover your spiritual gift. Discovering that gift is not an exact science but would be best described as a journey or a process. Here are some ideas to help you find your gift:

 For the Christian Who has Served in Ministry:

Pray: Put your heart in neutral, and pray for God to reveal this to you.

Read Scriptures of Spiritual Gifts:

  • What makes your heart leap?
  • Which one do you think describes you?
  • Write this down

 

Examine Your Service:

  • Ask yourself out of all the areas you have ministered and served which did you enjoy the most?
    • not where you were out of fear
    • not where it was easy
    • but what gave you the greatest peace and satisfaction
  • In which ministry or area of service did you excel?
  • In which ministry or area of service did you see fruit in your own growth and to others?
  • In which ministry or area of service did you improve?
  • Is there an area of ministry that you have been drawn to but have been afraid or not had the opportunity?
    • If so take the plunge go for that, try it for a while and then review it compared to the other places.

 

Ask Trusted Christians:

  • Ask someone(s) who has worked with you in ministry what your strengths, weaknesses, and where your gift maybe.
  • Ask someone(s) who supervised you in ministry – pastor, staff member, team leader, ministry director.
  • Ask a Christian friend
  • Ask a family member (they will be able to tell you what you talk the most about, your passion)
  • Ask your spouse (they will be able to tell you what you talk the most about, your passion)

 

Complete Inventories…

  • Complete spiritual gift Inventory/Test. Like this one [here]. The score sheet is [here].
  • For placement and fine tuning…
    • Complete interest inventory
    • Complete talent inventory
    • Complete experience/training inventory

 For the New Christian or a Christian Who Has Not Served:

  • Pray for direction and a starting point
  • Read Scriptures of gifts see where you are drawn.
  • Complete a Spiritual Gift Inventory/test. Like this one [here]. The score sheet is [here].
  • Complete interest inventory or simply list your ministry interests.
  • Complete talent inventory or simply list your talents and skills.
  • Complete experience/training inventory or simply list what God has already allowed you to learn.
  • Start where those results direct, but try numerous ministries.
  • Once you have tried different areas of service follow the steps for Christians who have served.

List of Spiritual Gifts

The Spiritual Gifts as Listed in Scripture:

Administration 1 Corinthians 12:28 – The God-given ability to provide organization within the church. The scriptures often uses this word in reference to a ship’s captain. In the same way, those with the gift of administration pilot the church or ministries within the church by designing action plans and carrying them out efficiently. See Acts 6:1-7, 27:11; Luke 8:2-3; Mark 15:40-41.

Discernment 1 Corinthians 12:10 – The Holy Spirit given ability to discern whether certain behaviors or teachings are of God or come from man or Satan. This gift of discernment is crucial in aiding the church to deal with false doctrines and theologies. Christians with this gift clearly discern between people are self-serving and true servants of God.   “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” ( Ephesians 6:12). Also see Matthew 7:15, 6:21-23; Mark 13:22, 23; 2 Peter 2:1-3, and 1 John 4:1-6.

Evangelism Ephesians 4:11-12. – To declare, announce, proclaim good news—namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ.     The people who are blessed with this spiritual gift are able to turn the hearts of men and women to the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus.   Typically they speak from their own compelling experiences with Christ and are able to lead many to become born-again followers of Christ. See Acts 8:26-40; Acts 21:8; 2 Timothy 4:11-12.

Exhortation or Encouragement Romans 12:8 – This supernatural ability enables the one so blessed to comfort, strengthen, guide challenge, console, aid and rebuke Christians to endure hardships and remain faithful to Christ and the Word of God.   See Acts 14:22; Romans 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Timothy 4:13; and Hebrews 10:25.

Faith  1 Corinthians 12:9 – The supernatural trust in God with child-like, unquestioning confidence that God will work-out His purposes in every situation.   Such faith stubbornly believes that God is going to intervene even through the circumstances are exceedingly dark and circumstances point to the contrary. They simply and trust God for His chosen outcome.   See Acts 5:1-11; 6:5-7; 11:22-24; 1 Corinthians 13:2; Hebrews 11:33-34.

Giving   1 Corinthians 12:8 – The God-given ability to give liberally, generously, cheerfully, and sacrificially of one’s money or possessions for the sake of the body of Christ. It is done quietly, without drawing attention to self, and often live and work to give. Christians with this spiritual gift do not attach strings to their giving, and typically are looking for needs within the church which others may overlook.   Such givers may be very well to do, and enjoy the abundant blessings of God. See Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; Acts 4:36-37.

Healing 1 Corinthians 12:9 – The gift, through the intervening power of God to miraculously restore physical, mental, moral, or spiritual health to an individual. Such healings often relate directly to the faith of the individual healed. God still uses some Christians as His instruments of healing.   It should be noted that it is God who heals. No man or woman has the personal power to heal another.   See Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 8: 16-17, 28-33; 13:15; Luke 5:17, 20; 6:19; 7:1-10; 8:42-48; 9:2, 11, 42; John 12:40; Hebrews 12:13; James 5:16, 20; 1 Peter 2:24.

 Helps 1 Corinthians 12:28 – The spiritual gift which supernaturally enables a Christian to aid and assist in meeting the needs of another. The giver of helps is compelled to give help and typically feels blessed and finds fulfillment in so doing.   Such helps are graciously accepted by the one in need. Helps can be differentiated from the gift of service because those with the gift of helps usually attach themselves to a particular individual, ministry, or cause. They service like one with the gift of service, but have apecific person they assist. Usually have an element of encouragement as well.  See Psalm 21:1; Matthew 25:34-40; Luke 8:2-3; Acts 9:36; 20:35; Romans 12:7; 16:1-2; 1 Corinthians 16:15-19.

Knowledge   1 Corinthians 12:8 – The Holy Spirit brings an understanding of and spiritual insight into the Word of God, circumstances, and events which is beyond natural understanding. Such Christians are able to use this Spirit-given understanding to communicate timeless truth of God in a dynamic way and thereby strengthen God’s people in righteousness and commitment to His purposes. See Matthew 10:18-20; Acts 5: 1-11; 17:11; Romans 11:33; 2 Corinthians 2:2-3, 11:6; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 2:3.

Leadership   Romans 12:8 – This person is usually takes charge showing the way, and finding creative, innovative and challenging leadership. Others willingly and happily follow such Christian leaders. They also have the God-given ability to provide a vision for the church, and establish long-range goals and visualize outcomes. Is often skilled in group dynamics and develops effective communication and harmony within the body of Christ. See 1 Timothy 3:4, 5:17; Titus 3:3, 14, and Hebrews 13:17. Also see the book Nehemiah, and scriptures relating to King David.

Mercy Romans 12:8 – Showing great mercy and compassion for those who are in distress. This gift brings with it the ability to empathize to the point of “taking on” the pain and difficulty of the other, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual.   Both the bearer and recipient of this Christ-like mercy experience relief. See Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 9:41; Luke 10:33-35; Acts 9: 36; 11:28-30; 16:33-34; James 12:15-16.

Miracles   1 Corinthians 12:20, 28 – The powerful energy of God works through these gifted Christians. Typically these Christians don’t set out to intentionally work a miracle but are led by the Holy Spirit to do a certain act, and something miraculous occurs.   Often miracles occur in answer to prayer. This gift is similar to the gift of faith with the exception of not knowing what is happening or that God is using them as His instruments to accomplish something wonderful. When miracles occur the only possible explanation is God’s divine intervention. See Exodus 17:16; Matthew 8:24-26; Mark 16:14; John 12:1-11; Acts 27:38-44; Acts 3:1-10; 5:9-11, 12-16; 9:32-35; 13:8-11.

MISSIONARY (Apostle) 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11 – An ambassador, one sent out as an herald of the Lord. This person has the supernatural ability to call non-Christians and build a church or churches. They are every effective in equipping the saints for ministry to the honor and glory of Christ—all through the power the Holy Spirit. May not necessarily be the conventional missionary but rather someone who has a ministry beyond one particular local church. Usually the “apostle” gift will be coupled with encouragement, prophecy, administration, evangelism, teaching, etc. Those with this gift often have an entrepreneurial gift.  See Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 2Corinthians 12:12; Acts 14:14; Romans 16:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:6. MISSIONARY (Apostle): APOSTLE Gk. Apostellō. An apostle is one sent on a mission or with a commission, an ambassador. One who is sent with a message, hence a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastor (shepherd) Ephesians 4:11-12 – The Greek word for “pastor” is poimen and means “shepherd.” It is a gift which enables the individual to care for, oversee, protect and spiritually nurture, a body of believers.  This gift is not limited to “the pastor” but is imparted by God to Christians within the body who are deeply and passionately involved in nurturing groups within the church toward spiritual maturation.   Some teachers and leaders of the various ministries of the church have the gift of pastoring. See John 21:16; 10:1-18; Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; and 1 Peter 5:1-5.

Prophecy (preaching) Romans 12:6 – This gift is very dependent on the Word of God and those who have it preach the word with clarity and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Christians with this gift are often very articulate in proclaiming the long-standing truths of God’s word through fresh Spirit-led insight and inspiration. When they speak, people hear.   The church is built up, and equipped to reach the lost and dying world. See Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Acts 2:14-40; 15:32; 17:30-34; 21:9-11; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28; 14:1-3; Ephesians 4:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:5.

Service Romans 12:7 – Christians with this spiritual gift love to serve in any task, menial or profound, and typically do so quietly not wanting recognition from others.   They do not seek positions of status or authority, but engage in loving, caring acts which meet the needs of others and bring joy to those they serve. Always alert for what needs to be done they are quick to act, not waiting for someone else to join them or show them what to do. Christians so-gifted often display a stamina which is remarkable, and willingly spend their own money to get the job done. See Matthew 4:11; Mark 1:31; Luke 10:38-41; 22:26-27; 17:8; John 12:2; Acts 6:1; 1 Corinthians 16:15-16.

Teacher   Ephesians 4:11 – These Christians radiate enthusiasm and loving devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.   Foremost in their hearts is the effective communication of God’s gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ and God’s will for righteous living. Simply stated, when these gifted Christians teach bible truths, people learn and respond to the truth. Believers are strengthened in their faith; unbelievers come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and demonstrate their salvation through changed lives. See Acts 18:24-28; Acts 3:1; Romans 12:28; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 2 Timothy 1:13; James 3:1.

Tongues 1 Corinthians 12:10 – The Biblical gift of tongues is first given on Pentecost as noted in Acts 2:1-15. It has to do with the gifted person speaking in a previously unlearned language or languages. These languages were known by others who were present, who clearly received the message of “the wonderful works of God.” Many were amazed and their hearts were prepared for a message preached by the Apostle Peter in which thousands were saved and baptized as seen in Acts 2: 16-41. Obviously tongues were given by God as a sign to unbelievers, Acts 14:22. Paul is concerned that if the whole church speaks with tongues, those who are unbelievers and have come to be informed will think the people of the church are out of their minds, 1 Corinthians 14:23-24. In many churches today, people speak in tongues, but the Apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 14: 1-4 that it is better that a person prophesies, edifies, exhorts and comforts people. The person who speaks in a tongue only edifies himself. In Acts 13: 1 Paul says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels….” In Acts 14: 15 he speaks of praying and singing with the spirit. Many people pray in a private prayer language which they have not learned and which they do not understand. Many claim great peace and a sense of closeness with God by praying in this way.

Wisdom 1 Corinthians 12:8  – This spiritual gift enables the believer to give practical applications to both natural and God-given knowledge.   They often bring a clear understanding of what to do in daily living and in ministering to others in light of the everlasting truths of God’s word. They often feel compelled to speak their mind in such a way as to jolt other believers into a clear understanding of God’s will and an appropriate response.   When these Christians speak people in the church listen because their spiritual insights are profoundly accurate. See Matthew 12: 10, 18-20, 42; Acts 6: 3, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 2:6-13; Colossians 1:18; 3:16; James 1:5; 2 Peter 3:15.

Find Out Your Gift by following these steps [here].

 

The Missing Dialogue from the Prodigal Son Story

Of course, Jesus would be an awesome blog writer. His posts would be perfect and perfectly concise unlike those here on graytotebox.com. That is the way His parables are in Scripture, but in the Parable of the Prodigal Son I believe we would be naive to think that we have the whole conversation between the father and son.

When the lost son returned home from his rebellion, amazingly his father full of grace, welcomed back his son and immediately restored him to his pre-rebellion status. The squanderer of the father’s wealth was forgiven and offered full restoration. The son was clothed in a fine robe, provided sandals, and given a ring signifying he belonged to the father — probably the same ring he threw at his Dad when he left. Then there was a huge welcome home party.

The younger son’s role in the parable ends there and a non-analytic reading of the story leaves us with the picture that after the celebration the son went back to his room and his old bed, turned on his big flat screen and fired up his Xbox. The next morning he slept-in and got up to a big breakfast and returned to all of the former blessings he enjoyed as the son of a wealthy father. The parable can leave us thinking that the son returned without much struggle. I believe that is true on the father’s end, but I believe there is a missing internal dialogue of the son.

We know that the son struggled feeling that he should be restored as a son, but we would be presumptuous to think the internal struggle ended when the robe was wrapped around him.

The forgiveness and restoration provided by the father had to be hard for the son to swallow.

Don’t you imagine?

Even as his father led him back to the house with his arm around his back the son had to be quivering in fear. There is no doubt he was wondering what his dad really thought. Could things be like they were?

The celebration would have helped kept the son’s mind off the past, but when there were quiet moments his mind probably began to wonder what everyone really thought about him. No doubt the greetings with family and old friends were awkward.

I imagine he returned to his room that night and was unable to lay on his bed. He had got used to sleeping on the ground so he laid on the floor instead of his bed. He probably couldn’t sleep that night and for several nights afterwards. I picture him laying on that floor staring at that ring. Thinking of how much he hurt his father, thinking about how much money he had blown. He probably even struggled not running off again. I’m sure he took on more jobs around the house hoping to repay his father in some way, thinking he needed to earn the forgiveness he had been given.

I’m sure in the back of his mind he thought to some degree that one day the punishment would come.

His father would snap.

God would get His due.

Karma would bite him in the butt.

I’m sure he didn’t tell his dad the whole story and sat on pins and needles at times thinking that more had been revealed. As he walked out on to the porch he would have to relive that moment he left his dad. When he sat at the table for a meal he remembered breaking his father’s heart asking for the money. He probably struggled every time he went to town wondering what the people were whispering. He struggled going to church because he felt everyone was judging him.

He had been forgiven and restored. He had been justified — he would not receive the punishment he deserved. His father had shown mercy, grace, and love. But living each day and trusting that forgiveness was a struggle. I believe there is much missing dialogue in the story of the prodigal son.

In the same way if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior then you have been forgiven. You have been justified, you will never have to pay the full price for your sins. God has shown you mercy, grace, and love. But living in that forgiveness each day and trusting that forgiveness is a struggle. It is a struggle for all of us. It is the missing dialogue in many of our stories.

We all have had our prodigal moments, maybe even years, but when we return God takes us back. The ring he regives is ours for eternity. His forgiveness will never run out on us.

The same faith that we reached out and took initial forgiveness is needed for the daily understanding of forgiveness.