Inadequacy

This morning I read about the three servants, who were each given different amounts of money to steward. Let’s say one had £10, the second £5, and the third £1. The one who had £10 used it wisely and was given ten cities to take charge of. The one with £5 got five cities, but the one with £1 gave it back and said to his master: “You are a hard man, and I was afraid of you” (Luke 19:11-27).

There’s a similar story in Matthew’s gospel and the measurement’s in talents, which makes me think of the gifts and talents we’ve been given. Have you noticed that someone who’s afraid to use their gifts tends to have very little self-worth?

I’ve been given the ability to write songs. I’ve made CDs with them on because I think if God enabled me to write them, He must want people to hear them. I totally understand not wanting to draw attention to yourself, and so does Jesus. After all, He said: “If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honoured” (Luke 18:14), but you don’t have to use the gifts God’s given you in a flashy, attention-seeking kind of way. Someone might have the gift of hospitality. They could hold a big, lavish banquet and invite the whole neighbourhood, or they could invite a couple of people to lunch on a Sunday. In either case, they’d be using that gift.

Have you ever thought about God’s commandment: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Matthew 19:19)? If you’re going to love another as much as you love yourself, then surely, first you have to love yourself and appreciate what you’ve got to offer as a person.

If you struggle with feelings of inadequacy, like I do sometimes, can I encourage you to bring them to God? Ask Him what He sees in you – what it is He loves about you. If He’s given you something you feel you can use for His glory, please let Him give you the confidence to do that because the world around you really needs to hear your voice.

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31 Jesus-Benefits: Holy Spirit

“I will send you the Helper from the Father; He is the Spirit of Truth … When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come” (John 15:26, 16:7).

If I had to put them in order, this benefit would be in my top 3. I don’t take for granted that:

Jesus ascended to heaven so that we could have the Holy Spirit.

It would be such a burden to try to live the Christian life in our own strength, without God’s Spirit. Jesus knew how important the Holy Spirit was. Before His ascension, He doesn’t want His friends to do anything except wait in Jerusalem until they “Receive power when the Holy Spirit comes”. We wouldn’t have the power to live the way God wants us to without His Spirit. In his letter to the Romans, Paul takes it even further by saying that anyone without the Spirit of Christ doesn’t belong to Him. Sometimes the illustration is used of a hand in a glove. The glove can’t do anything on its own, but with a hand inside, it can do as directed. Similarly, we’re unfruitful on our own, so we need God’s Spirit in us for that to change. His Spirit equips us for what He’s called us to do. We can have the gifts of the Spirit – tongues, prophecy etc, and all His fruit. Like Jesus’ followers at Pentecost, have you had your own experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

“A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church” (1 Corinthians 14:4).

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If you’re reading here and thinking these posts are very regular, it’s because roughly 2,000 of us from around the world choose a topic and blog every day throughout October – 1 month, 1 topic, 31 days. There are some good series over on the Write31Days site if you want to have a peak at other people’s. Anyway, Dayspring wants to thank the amazing readers who’ve supported us by hosting a giveaway. You could win a $500 shopping spree on their website (Christmas cards, Christmas presents, sorted). Happily, it is open to international readers. You’d have to pay for postage and any customs charges, but still, $500 is pretty generous. Just follow this link if you want to enter; I’d love it if one of my readers won.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Surprise Gifts

Day 4 of Write31Days and what I love about God is that before you get to know Him, you couldn’t possibly imagine the things He might have for you to do.

He can give you giftings you wouldn’t have without Him.

I wanted to write songs before I was a Christian, but couldn’t. I even listened to a radio-series featuring people like Ray Davis from The Kinks. I hoped I might learn something, but it went over my head. Then, after becoming a Christian, I went to a song-writing workshop. Someone prayed for me at the end, and 3 days later I was in the shower and started singing a song I didn’t recognise: My first original song, “To do Your Will”, which you can listen to here.

“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!” (Matthew 7:11).

The Languages of Angels

Speech/language/words.  This week’s prompt from Kirsten gives me an excuse to tell you something I’ve just picked up on.  A bit of background:  I’ve read “The Five Love-Languages” before.  I didn’t see anything wrong with a single person reading a book about marriage, because I thought the lessons I learnt from it could be helpful in other relationships, such as friendships.  The author obviously agrees because he’s now written editions specifically for men, single adults and parents.  I haven’t read those, but the book “God Speaks Your Love-Language:  How to Feel and Reflect God’s Love” intrigued me.  I thought:  How can we express our love to God in the language of physical touch, when He’s not physically present with us?  So I read the book, and the small-group study guide at the end pointed me to 1 Corinthians 13:

“I may speak in different languages of people or even angels” (verse 1).  I wondered:  If God speaks our love-language, is it possible that angels speak the five love-languages, too?  Suddenly, into my mind came these examples.

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Words of Affirmation:  These were spoken to Gideon.  “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” (Judges 6:12).  The angel Gabriel also used them when he visited Mary.  “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God” (Luke 1:30).

Quality Time:  In Genesis 18:1-22, angels spent quality time with Abraham before their visit to Sodom.  He even washed their feet and gave them a meal!

Gifts:  In 1 Kings 19:5-8, an angel came to Elijah with gifts of bread and water at a time when he was weak and tired.

Acts of Service:  Hebrews tells us that angels are serving spirits, and they served Jesus in the wilderness when He’d finished being tempted by the devil.  In one of my favourite books, “Appointment in Jerusalem”, an angel carries Lydia’s toddler to safety.

Physical Touch:  In the garden at Gethsemane, an angel strengthened Jesus.  In my other favourite book, “The Shaming of the Strong”, an angel calms five-year-old Amelia when she’s lost in a storm.  An angel appeared to two of my friends when they were struggling financially.

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Can you think of Biblical or modern-day examples of angels speaking the five love-languages – words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch?  Have you ever thought which of these makes you, or someone close to you, feel most loved?

Building on What we Have

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“Elisha answered, ‘How can I help you?  What do you have in your house?’” – 2 Kings
4:2.  God could help by giving us what we don’t have, but He does that by building on what’s there already.  Maybe God uses what we have to show us we’re precious, making our unique qualities part of His creative process.

31 Days of Song: “This Good Day”

I’ve had the first part of Psalm 127 in my head the last few days.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this is a Psalm by Solomon – the king who asked God for wisdom above everything else.

“If the Lord doesn’t build the house, the builders are working for nothing.  If the Lord doesn’t guard the city, the guards are watching for nothing.  It is no use for you to get up early and stay up late, working for a living.  The Lord gives sleep to those He loves” (verses 1 and 2, New Century Version).  You know when you come home, snuggle up in bed and escape into sleep?  You can do that because God loves you, so I’ve chosen this song today as a reminder that every day is a gift from Him.

The song is by Fernando Ortega.  He does some good songs and has one of those very recognisable voices, so if I hear one on the radio and think it’s by him, it usually is.

Giving Is … Offering Yourself

Thanks for joining me for this “It’s About Giving” series, and I want to say a big thank-you to Compassion Bloggers for the idea.  I’ve really enjoyed thinking what I associate with giving and what we can learn from the Bible about it; I hope you have too.  This will probably be the last blog I write for 2012, so thank you very much for reading this year.

We had communion at church today.  I wasn’t expecting to, and I love communion, so it was a nice surprise.  Jesus tells us to take communion in remembrance of Him, and this time of year, I’m remembering the beginning of His earthly life more than the end of it.  As the bread was passed around, “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” was played on the keyboard.  The verse that came to my mind, we missed out when we sang it later, but I’ll share it here:

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breast full of milk,
And a manger full of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall before,
The ox and ass and camel,
Which adore.

Angels adored Jesus that first Christmas; shepherds adored Him; wise men adored Him …  The writer of the carol obviously thinks, and I would agree, that even the animals adored Him.

I can’t say this thought is my own, but it’s from a sermon my friend preached a few years back.
Do you know that as well as gold to symbolise His kingship, frankincense to point to the fact He was God, and myrrh to signify His death, the wise men gave another very important gift?  Their worship.  “They entered the house and saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him” (Matthew 2:11).  One of my favourite writers, Sharon Jaynes, says the sacrifice they made to go on their long journey to find Jesus was also a gift.

Giving is offering yourself.  So whether it’s the gift of a long journey or our adoration, let’s offer ourselves to Jesus in 2013 and beyond.  Are you with me?

Giving Is … How we Respond

I’d like you to think about the story, the true story, of ten men who had leprosy.  In Jesus’ time, this was a very serious disease; there was no treatment for it.  People with leprosy were declared ‘Unclean’ and sort of quarantined – put in an area away from everyone else.  Just before Jesus entered a village, He came to the place on its outskirts where the lepers were, and He told them to show themselves to the priests.  People with any form of skin disease would do this, and the priest would decide whether their condition had improved, but this time was different.  On their way to see the priests, all ten men were completely healed, but only one of them came back to Jesus.  The Bible tells us he shouted praises to God, bowed down at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him (Luke 17:15-16).  And Jesus asked:  “Why was this foreigner the only one who came back to thank God?”

 

Do you see?  Our response to what we’ve received can be a gift.  When you think of Jesus leaving all the glory of heaven to come into this world, knowing His purpose was to die on a cross to take our punishment for the things we’d done wrong, how do you react?  He didn’t hold onto selfishness; He didn’t hold onto what He could have been; He put all of that down – for us; He gave His everything for us.  In response, will we give Him full control of our lives – of all that we are?

 

And let’s come back to finances again:  I don’t know where you live this Christmas season, but maybe you’re like me.  Maybe you have a roof over your head; clean water at your fingertips; enough food to eat; the clothes you need to keep warm; a church where you can meet together to read the Bible and worship God.  So when you see others who don’t have those things, what’s your response?  Well, here’s how you could respond.  As you read that little list, which of those things were you most grateful for:  Was it the house you live in?  Then why not consider providing emergency shelter for a child and family ($50)?  If it was clean water, you could help build water reservoirs for children and their families ($23).

 

As I’ve said before, I know Christmas can be a difficult time of year.  Compassion want to use their gift catalogue this month to raise money for children in poverty, and I want to help them.  They tell me nobody knows my audience like I do, but to be honest, I don’t know every one of my readers.  (I’d love to get to know you better, so please, always feel free to comment.)  I don’t know who’s going to stumble across this post, and I don’t know what their financial circumstances are, so I’ll just leave you with a question.

 

Giving is how we respond.  Remembering what we’ve already said this month about giving cheerfully and using what you’ve got, will you search your heart and think what you want to do about Compassion’s gift catalogue?  Are you happy to pass it by, or will you bless somebody else, as a thank-You to God for all that He gives?