The Gift of Being “Likeable”?

Romans 1:8-15

Some older but interesting statistics show that some born-again Christians might be a bit confused in regard to what the Bible says about spiritual gifts.  According to the Barna Research Group, Ltd, “… the percentage who say they have heard of spiritual gifts but do not believe God has given them one jumped from 4 percent in 1995 to 21 percent in 2000.  When asked to identify spiritual gifts, only 30 percent of born-again adults listed gifts named in the Bible.  Other respondents named gifts not found in the Bible, for example, a sense of humor, listening, patience, a good personality, friendliness, poetry, church attendance, and being “likeble.”  Nearly half (46 percent) were either unaware of gifts, claimed they did not have one, or could not identify their gifts.”  (Source:  Barna Research Group, Ltd. quoted in Discipleship Journal, July/August 2001, p.14.  – for more current stats (2009) check out:  http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/211-survey-describes-the-spiritual-gifts-that-christians-say-they-have )

I think that some of those newly listed gifts (sense of humor, “like-ability”, etc,) are not Spiritual Gifts in that they aren’t used to serve the body so much as the individual.  A true Spiritual Gift is a gift that you can’t wait to get to church to share with others.  It is the fresh baked cookies shipped to a college dorm room.  It might have one student’s name on it… but it is earmarked for sharing.

Paul had this attitude:  “For I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”  Pauls says that when he gets to Rome he can’t wait to unpack his suitcase so he can show them what he brought them.  He in turn would be blessed with what God had given them to share.  The faith of everyone would be strengthened as a result.

Maybe the reason more people don’t like attending church is because they feel like they don’t have anything to share with others when they get there.  At least 25% of the church feels they are gift-less.  Who wants to go to the party empty handed?

Take time this week to visit the major passages on gifts:  Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, & 1 Peter 4.  If you are a follower of Jesus you have been granted a gift by the Holy Spirit… given to you so that you might help build up the body of Christ.  And it is a gift that goes beyond personality and temperment…

Go ahead… Open your gift!  But remember to share!

I’m Going and Nothing Will Stop Me

Romans 1:1-7 

Paul begins this incredible letter with these words:  “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”  With these few words he reveals his identity and his passion.  If you were writing that sentence, how would it read?  For me it would be:  Wayne, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be a pastor/teacher and set apart for the gospel of God.  Do you know your spiritual gift?  Do you live by a sense of calling that drives you to mission?

Novelist Graham Greene once wrote:  “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets in the future.”  I  believe that is a moment in our spiritual childhood when the door opens and lets in the future… reveals to us our calling.  Maybe you are singing in church… and it dawns on us that God is calling you to lead worship.  Maybe you are making a point in a Sunday School class and someone suggests that maybe God has called you to teach.  Maybe a friend calls and you comfort him or her over the phone and you find just the right verse and pray just the right prayer that seemed to help… and you realize: Maybe God wants me to be a Christian counselor.  It maybe that you are called to be a school teacher, or a scientist or movie director, etc.   Whatever it is… pursue it with passion!  Preaching the Gospel is what gets me up in the morning.  It is what gets me through the hard times.  Seeing the light come on in someone’s eyes is my satisfaction in life.

How about you?  Do you have the passion of Paul?  It is never too late.  Luis Palau tells the story of a time he was in upstate New York for a week of prayer with several Presbyterian churches.  One night it snowed so heavily that only a few hearty souls braved the weather to attend the meeting.  An older gentleman approached him just before the service, limping and walking slowly with a cane.

“Young man,” he said “can I talk to your before you leave the area?  You’re staying with friends of mine from college days.  May I see you?”  “Yes,” I said, and we set a time.

After the service I rode home with my host.   “Luis,” he said, “that was Dr. Smith.  He’s the most famous ophthalmologist on the East Coast.  He’s always been in the church, but he’s never been happy.  And now he wants to talk to you?  This is marvelous.”

On the day of our meeting, we all sat down and began to chat.  After a cup of tea, he asked my hosts to leave the room.  “Young man,” he said gravely, “I’ve got to ask you a question.  When I was at university, John R. Mott, the well-known missionary, came to our school and challenged medical students to go and help the poor in certain parts of the world—in the Middle East and in Afghanistan.  I felt the Lord sending me out, as well as my brother.  But when I told my family and my fiancée, they all made fun of me, booed me down.  When I graduated from university, I came out with really good prospects.  I turned down the Lord’s call and married my sweetheart—we’ve been married now for forty years.

“But you know something, young man?  I’ve now retired, I’ve made my little money, I’ve written my books—but my son is going to hell because of me.  He’s an atheist.  For forty-two years I’ve never had a day of peace in my life.  Now I’m an old man and on my way out, because my illness is serious.  I want to go with my wife to Afghanistan to try and help the many people with poor vision.  But my wife refuses to go.  And now I want to ask you a question, and I’m going to act on your word:  shall I go, or shall I not go?”

Oh boy, Luis thought, what a decision to make.  He felt an impulse that he hoped came from the Lord, and put his arms around this gentleman and said, “Doctor, you go.”

           He clung to Luis and began to weep.  “Oh, Lord,” he cried, “I’m going!  I’m going and no one will stop me.”  Then he prayed a prayer and left.  And that was it.

Six months later Luis called up his former hosts and said, “How are you doing?  And how is Doctor Smith?”  “Haven’t you heard?” his friend asked.  “No.”  “He’s in Afghanistan with his wife.  He’s like a teenager all over.  He is so excited.  He returned to the States once already to visit the big pharmaceutical companies, pick up tons of medicine, and take it all  back to Afghanistan.  He’s working for a while with a missionary, and he says he’s never been so happy.  But his body’s falling apart.”

The following Easter Luis visited New York for a week of evangelism.  There was the doctor, his body a wreck.  He could hardly talk by now, but he met Luis at a luncheon.   “Luis,”
he whispered, “thank you for making me go to Afghanistan.  I redeemed all the lost forty-two years in just one year!   I’ll never see you again except in the presence of the King, and I’ll see you there.”  About two months later the faithful physician went to be with the Lord.  (High Definition Living, pp. 138-140.)

It’s not too late to proclaim the Gospel with clarity, purpose and passion!

Friendly Skies?

Psalm 3

I am not afraid of flying, but I must admit these admission from pilots gave me pause for thought:

* “The truth is, we’re exhausted.  Our work rules allow us to be on duty 16 hours without a break.  That’s many more hours than a truck driver.  And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can’t pull over at the next cloud.”

*“It’s one thing if the pilot puts the seat belt sign on for the passengers.  But if he tells the flight attendants to sit down, you’d better listen.  That means there’s some serious turbulence ahead.”

*“There’s no such thing as a water landing.  It’s called crashing into the ocean.”

“People tend to think the airplane is just flying itself.  Trust me, that’s not true.  It can fly itself sometimes.  But you’ve always got your hands on the controls waiting for it to mess up.  And it does mess up.” (From “Fifty Secrets Your Pilot Won’t Tell You,” Reader’s Digest, November 2010, pp.93-101.)

Hope those frank admissions don’t cause you to cancel your Delta or Southwest reservations!  They won’t for me… not because flying is safer than driving or because of the latest safety features or because I’m all that braver than other people.  I will fly again, because I’ve solved the safety issue in my heart.

David was frightened when he wrote Psalm 3.  “O Lord, how many are my foes!  How many rise up against me!  Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him.”  Look at the superscription for this Psalm:  “A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.”  David was facing family problems, a threat on his life, and questions about who in his kingdom was allied with him.  He truthfully states:  “My adversaries increase!”  And yet David had already by this time in his life settled his security issues.  He writes “But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.”

There is an old phrase that used to be popular:  God is my co-pilot.  I ride with the security that my hands are not on the controls.  He is my pilot… and He never has to pull over to a cloud to get some rest.