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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #9- SOLITUDE) (con’t)

In this ninth area of STUCKNESS, we are thinking about our need for the spiritual disciplines which will help us grow.  For some of us, we give precious little time to the area of SOLITUDE.  Alone time with the Lord is really important.  He can speak to us when we are quiet and just with Him.

I’ll admit — as an introvert I really like the idea of SOLITUDE.  Just give me my dog, my laptop, and a good cup of Starbucks (and occasional visits from my wife Linda), and I’m pretty happy.

But SOLITUDE is only one of the dozen spiritual disciplines that I need in my life.  We mentioned the others in our last post (the inward disciplines are: meditation, prayer, fasting, and study. The outward disciplines are: simplicity, solitude, submission, and service. The corporate disciplines are: confession, worship, guidance, and celebration). Which of those practices do you find easier to incorporate into your busy life?  Which seem impossible?

Our text for this area of STUCKNESS is Mark 6:30-34 where we read,

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Doing and saying are important in the Christian life, but so are resting and eating!  Jesus invited His disciples to “come with me.”  They didn’t need to escape Him, but the crowds.  “Come with me by yourselves” — This was not an evangelistic invitation to bring others along. This invitation was strictly for Jesus’ disciples.  “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place.”  We underestimate how much our souls need quiet, don’t we?  “… and get some rest.”  Soul-rest is hard to see but spiritually lethal when it is missing.  This reminds me of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  How’s your rest going?

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #9- SOLITUDE)

My daughter Amy and I are introverts.  We don’t care for crowds; we like our SOLITUDE.  In fact, she says she going to get me a t-shirt that says, “Introverts Unite!  By yourselves!  Alone!  At home!”  (I’d wear that t-shirt!).

In an extroverted world, we introverts are often thought anti-social (and we pretty much are).  How do Christians get STUCK in SOLITUDE?

What we are thinking of are the Christian disciplines that ought to mark healthy, Jesus-following lives.  SOLITUDE is one of those practices that can draw us closer to Jesus.

The classic treatment of the spiritual disciplines is the work done by Richard Foster in his Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (Harper, 1998).  He divides the disciplines into three categories.  The inward disciplines are:  meditation, prayer, fasting, and study.  The outward disciplines are: simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.  The corporate disciplines are:  confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.  You won’t agree with all that Foster says about these practices, but each has biblical support and is valuable for the believer who doesn’t want to get STUCK!

Our text for this area of STUCKNESS is Mark 6:30-34 where we read,

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Let’s think about this passage for a moment.  Note that the apostles had been quite busy doing what Jesus had commanded and teaching others. They were so busy in fact that they did not have time to eat.  Jesus invites His disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (v. 31).  They needed SOLITUDE.  They needed rest.  They needed to be away from the crowds.  Jesus’ invitation to His followers is refreshing.  He knows our frame, our weaknesses, our need for quiet and rest.  Just being alone — with Him.  Have you tried that lately?  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #8- SERMONS!) (con’t)

Is preaching passé?  Some would say that SERMONS are no longer needed by the saints.

Bible studies, discussion groups, casual conversations are all well and good — but we need the authoritative proclamation of God’s Word!  The saints should be committed to good SERMONS, but sometimes we get STUCK!

We get STUCK with poor preaching, with inadequate study, with irrelevant sermonizing.  [I’ve put together some suggestions for improving one’s preaching in my small booklet “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!”  Just send me your email address and I will send you that pdf.]

Let’s think a bit more about our text from Acts 17:

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Paul and Silas preached in the synagogue!  They preached Jesus and gave evidence that He, indeed, was the promised Messiah.  We often confine our preaching to our churches, to our turf.  How about proclaiming the good news about Jesus in other forums?

There is one other point that this text is making that we dare not miss.  We don’t get even a hint that Paul objects to the Bereans’ examining the Scriptures to see if what he said was true!  He was not afraid of his message being biblically evaluated.  And we should not fear that either.  It is a noble act for others to compare what we say (even in the context of a sermon delivered from a podium at the front of the church) with the rest of the Word of God.  And that will keep us preachers from getting STUCK in our own opinions!

 

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #7- SUCCESS!)

“I’ve had great success being a total idiot,” Jerry Lewis once said.  This ground-breaking comedian and philanthropist died this week at the age of 91.  Sometimes SUCCESS becomes a kind of quicksand for the Christian.

I will deliver a message on SUCCESS to the saints at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, GA (website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com) on September 24, my last Sunday with those friends.

Jesus-followers gravitate from a kind of prosperity theology that says God always wants us wealthy, healthy, and successful to a kind of poverty theology that says we are to suffer for Jesus, live austere lives, and eat only locusts and wild honey.   Both theologies are wrong.  Should the follower of Jesus seek SUCCESS — and what kind of SUCCESS ought he or she to pursue?

Of the 51 uses of the word “success” in the Bible, all of them are in the Old Testament!  There is not one occurrence of that word in the New Testament.  The idea of being successful is there in the New Testament (in verses such as Phil. 4:13, Mt. 16:26-27, Lk. 16:10-11, Rom. 12:2), but the emphasis seems to be more on faithfulness and rewards for living life for Jesus.  In the Old Testament, many of the uses of “success” have to do with military victories (such as I Sam. 18:5, 14; I Chron. 12:18; 2 Chron. 26:5).

Here is the main text we want to look at:

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5)

How does this text relate to SUCCESS?, you might ask.  SUCCESS in life will be judged by the Lord Jesus at “the judgment seat of Christ.”  The Apostle Paul makes it quite clear that there are only two states of existence for the believer:  either “at home in the body [and] away from the Lord” or “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  We are presently “away from the Lord,” seeking to please Him with our lives, striving to live by faith and not by sight.  SUCCESS is striving to please Him whether at home in the body or away from it!  How are you trying to please the Lord today?  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #6- SHARING) (con’t)

Most of us Jesus-followers get STUCK when it comes to SHARING our faith with others!  These messages are being delivered to the saints at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, GA (website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com).  My tenure there as preaching pastor will end on Sept. 24 (sniff).

In the issue of SHARING our faith with others, we need to focus on having conversations (not necessarily conversions) with others and show that we are open to listening to their stories.  The text we have been looking at is I Peter 3 which says:

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

It’s a whole lot easier to SHARE our faith when we are asked about it!  And the questions that ought to come up (according to this text) would something like:  “How can you suffer so patiently?”  “Why aren’t you afraid of being harmed by others?”  “Where in the world do you get your hope?”  “I’ve heard rumors that you are misbehaving.  Are they true?”

Our lives ought to provoke questions!  If we are not provoking questions and stimulating curiosity, it might be argued that we are not sufficiently living Christian lives!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #6- SHARING!)

Counting today (Aug. 27th) I have only five more sermons to give at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Atlanta.  They have found their new pastor and Linda and I are filled with rejoicing — and deep sadness.  It has been a wonderful 1 1/2 years that we have been able to serve them.

I believe there are areas that get us STUCK in the Christian life, and we have considered five of them so far:  SALVATION, THE SCRIPTURES, SIN, THE SAINTS, and SERVICE.  Let’s now look at SHARING.

Do you find it difficult to “share” your faith in Christ with others?  Me too.  Several truths have helped me in what we Jesus-followers call witnessing.  The first is that I am committed to conversations not necessarily conversions.  I would be thrilled if I saw more people converted to Christ, but I see my witness as sowing the seed, nudging people closer to Christ (as my friend Al McKechnie says).

If I am pursuing conversations, talking about Jesus becomes a whole lot easier.  Why?  Because I can LISTEN instead of talk!  This leads to a second truth that has helped me and it is this:  People want to tell their STORY.  If you or I simply show that we are interested in them, they will often open up and tell us about their lives, their families, their struggles.

Let’s take a preliminary look at our main text for this issue of SHARING:

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (I Peter 3)

Wow.  This text tells us that we will suffer in this world, not for doing evil, but for doing good!  And Peter’s point is how we respond to unjust suffering.  Do we grab the Yellow Pages and find the best lawyer we can to sue those who are harming us?  No!  Peter gives us very practical advice:  (1)  Don’t be afraid of them!  (2)  Get your heart right in putting the Lord first in your life!  (3)  Be ready to explain why your hope is in Jesus!  (4)  Make sure your behavior backs up your beliefs!  (5)  Trust the Lord and His will for you — even if it involves unjust suffering!  Anyone trying to harm you?  (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #5- SERVICE) (con’t)

One of the primary areas where Christians get BOGGED DOWN in the Christian life, it seems to me, is in SERVICE!  And God’s Word has much to say about the spiritual gifts God has given by His grace to Jesus-followers who want to dig their way out of this area of STUCKNESS.

This is my last series of sermons for Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta. They have found their next senior pastor and he will begin his SERVICE in several weeks.  We have looked at three of the four passages on spiritual gifts.  In this last post on SERVICE, let’s look at I Corinthians 12:

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

Yes, this is an entire chapter devoted to SPIRITUAL GIFTS.  We can only make a couple of comments on this central passage:

(1)  First, note the prominence of God the Holy Spirit! The gifts are “of the Spirit.” Though the gifts are different, the Spirit is the same who distributes the gifts. These “manifestations” of the Spirit are given “for the common good” (vv. 1-7)
(2)  Second, a variety of gifts (I count nine) are mentioned here: a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues (vv. 8-10).
(3)  Third, we are one Body with many “parts” and each should respect God’s sovereign placing of each part in the Body (vv. 11-26).
(4)  Fourth, a second list is given by the Apostle Paul (apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues) to show that we have different gifts and must work with one another in love (vv. 27-31).

May I ask you, faithful reader, what is your primary SPIRITUAL GIFT, and are you using it for the Lord?

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #5- SERVICE!) (con’t)

Would you say that sometimes you get BOGGED DOWN in your SERVICE in the local church?  You find too many other Chrsitians doing very little — and you’re exhausted with all that you do?  Or, you’re not sure where or how to SERVE, and you’re becoming increasingly frustrated?

This is my last series of sermons for Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta.  They have found their next senior pastor and he will begin his SERVICE in several weeks.

But we want to continue our study on spiritual gifts.  We’ve looked at  Romans 12 and Ephesians 4.  Let’s look at the third (of four) passage on this critical area: I Peter 4.  There we read:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

What a powerful paragraph!  As Peter anticipates the “end of all things,” he advises the believers to be alert, “be of sober mind so that you may pray.”  The highest challenge is to “love each other deeply.”  Why?  Because “love covers over a multitude of sins.”  All believers are to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”  And each believer should use their gift to serve others because we are to be “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

What “form” has God’s grace taken in your life?  How are you to SERVE?  Two specific gifts are mentioned here: SPEAKING and SERVING.  For those with the gift of speech, they are to speak “as one who speaks the very words of God”!  For those who SERVE, “they should do so with the strength God provides.”  And why do we SERVE God with the various forms of God’s grace that He has given us?  So that “in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”  That’s why we SERVE!  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #5- Service) (con’t)

One area in which believers get BOGGED DOWN concerns SERVICE!  We are often self-centered consumers who want to know, “How is the church going to serve ME?”

This series (which we are preaching at Crossroads Fellowship Church; website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com) deals with topics which often cause the Jesus-follower to get STUCK!

But we have been saved to serve!  Ephesians 2:8-10 make it clear that, although our works can’t save us, once we are saved we are to do good works for Him!

There are four major texts on spiritual gifts — Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and I Peter 4.  Let’s take a look at Ephesians 4 this morning:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until 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.

There is so much here.  Just a few points:   (1) The Christian life involves living a life worthy of your calling, an attitude of humbleness, gentleness, patience and love.  The goal is to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  (2)  That unity or oneness is balanced by different gifts given by Christ to all believers.  (3)  Some of those gifts are: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.  (4)  Why are those gifts given?  To equip God’s people for works of service, to build up the body of Christ, to move toward maturity and the “fullness of Christ.”  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #5- SERVICE!)

“It is a truth that stands out with startling distinctness on the pages of the New Testament that God has no sons who are not SERVANTS.” (H.D. Ward)  Even though this is a great quote, I’m not sure I agree with it!

We are going through ten topics (which we are preaching at Crossroads Fellowship Church; website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com) which sometimes BOG DOWN the believer in Jesus.  Our next topic is SERVICE.  The biblical ideal is that every son of God, every daughter of God, should see himself or herself as a SERVANT!  But that is often NOT the case!

Too frequently we are simply consumers.  We want to know how the church and its members can serve US.  What programs are available?  Will the senior pastor visit me if I go into the hospital?  Will the church help me if I have financial problems?  Marriage problems?  Challenges with my children?  What’s in it for ME?

The better and more biblical question is WHAT’S IN ME FOR HIM?  How can I serve the Lord Jesus in the one thing that He is building today — His church?  And this is where SERVICE comes in!

We are talking about spiritual gifts and how every Jesus-follower has at least one spiritual gift which is to be used for building up the Body of Christ.  The four major texts on spiritual gifts are: Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and I Peter 4.  Let’s spend a few minutes on Romans 12 this morning.

For 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 faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Please notice a couple of points from this passage:  (1)  We are to think of ourselves soberly (we are to be neither filled with conceit nor weighed down by self-doubt), for God has given “faith” to each of us.  (2)  That “faith” (in this text) seems to refer to different functions in the Body, different gifts which are to be used to the greatest extent possible.  (3)  The gift has not been given to simply be opened and admired, but to be used!  (4)  Seven gifts are mentioned in this text:  prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy.  Do you have any of these seven gifts?  Please write down your gift in the comment section below (to be continued)


 
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Posted by on September 23, 2017 in christian growth

 

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