Not Alone

Acts 6

April 24

Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

As I read through Act 6 today, I am reminded that we were never meant to do ministry, serving others, all on our own might. We have been designed to be ministerial alongside others. 

The number of followers of The Way was increasing daily. In fact, the size had reached a critical juncture. 

In ecological terms, it’s referred to as “carrying capacity”. A habitat can only support a certain number of any kind of species depending on the natural resources available. 

Likewise, we read in Acts, that the number of believers was becoming so great, and including a wonderful mixture of cultural backgrounds, that peoples’ needs, specifically widows, were not being met. 

The leadership knew that people had basic physical needs as well as spiritual needs that needed to be provided for. They had to ask themselves, “What’s the best use of our time”? They realized that they could not forsake one for the other.

Once they determined the best course of action, even more people were ministered to, both physically and spiritually.

As we go about the Lord’s business serving others, we need to first ask ourselves, am I attempting to go it alone, or am I willing to work alongside others? The next question to consider is are you serving in a way that not only meets the needs of others, but that will have the greatest impact?

What I am NOT saying is that if a task isn’t one of your spiritual gifts that you can excuse yourself…however, we are informed in multiple passages within the New Testament that we all have a part to play and some individuals are better suited for some areas of ministry over others. 

When everyone is working collaboratively, and doing it in such a way that suits how God has uniquely designed us, we can have an exponential impact on the growth of God’s kingdom. 

How can you serve others, with others, for the Kingdom?

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Consider who you do ministry with? Thank them for this partnership.
  2. Do you too often try to go it alone? What is the dangers of working alone? What is the blessing in working with a partner or team?
  3. Are there jobs caring for the physical or spiritual needs in your church or community that aren’t getting done? How can you, with a partner or team, help meet those needs?

Humility

Romans 11-13

I am a fairly humble fellow.  I do not stand out in a crowd.  I do not try to draw attention to myself.  In fact I don’t like attention.  I don’t consider myself arrogant and  I am very aware of my flaws.  And yet, there are still times when I allow myself to feel superior to others.  Maybe we all do that at times?

No matter how many flaws we have, all of us are better at something than someone else.  And in those moments where we take notice of that, it is easy to allow our egos to puff up a bit, isn’t it?  Maybe that is even especially true for those, like me, that are more keenly aware of our shortcomings than our triumphs.

Paul touches on humility several times in chapter 12, and typically when I read these passages, I instantly think about people that are very arrogant, and think, “this doesn’t really apply to me,” or “I’m doing fine in this area.”  But then (sometimes) I think about the thoughts that I opened with.

Beginning in verse 3, Paul says, “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.”

 There you have it.  Each of us should NOT think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  Well then how highly SHOULD we think of ourselves?  Frankly, I would say pretty high, because we are each pretty incredible creations of God.  And we have each been blessed with many abilities and talents.  But as Paul points out, we have all been given DIFFERENT abilities.  And it is key to remember that we have been given those abilities.  We didn’t do anything ourselves to acquire natural abilities.  Some people are born with great musical talent.  Others with sharp intellect.  Still others with amazing athletic skill.  Paul here is speaking primarily of spiritual gifts, but all abilities and talents are indeed granted by our Creator.  I really appreciate when I see gifted athletes giving credit to God for their abilities during post-game interviews.  I am not always sure how sincere they are, but the message is true regardless.

In verse 10, Paul says to Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one other above yourselves.  This is an outward extension of humility, and here, should be motivated by love.  How often do you honor others above yourself?

Finally, Paul comes back to humility again in verse 16.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”

We should not just be showing humility to the people we are comfortable being with, or the people that are “our kind of crowd.”  We should be showing humility to, and honoring above us those whom we would consider to be of low position. 

Again, this is the example Jesus left for us, and it is a humility that is motivated by love, which Paul sums up perfectly in verses 9-21.

So, think of yourselves very highly, as an amazing creation, but do not think of yourself more highly than someone else.  That is when you are thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.  It’s about recognizing that God has given each of us different gifts, to be used to His glory.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 11-13.

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Romans (chapters 14-16).

Love others and tell them about Jesus

1 Corinthians 12-14

Happy December everyone!!

Most everyone following this blog has probably read through these passages today… each chapter could have its own devotional!  Within these we have the passage on Spiritual Gifts, we have the Love chapter, and we have one of the more argued and misinterpreted verses regarding women in the church – all in one day! 

The not so crazy thing about all these chapters is how at the heart of each of them, there is one message that prevails: Love others and tell them about Jesus.  Whether it is an outsider, a fellow believer, a spouse, or anyone you meet… we are told to show them love and tell them about Jesus.

When discussing the spiritual gifts Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body being placed exactly where God wants them (12:18) and remaining united within the Church (12:25).  I have usually heard these verses used to showcase why everyone is equally important within the Church and that you should never compare yourself or your gifts to someone else’s.  However, Paul gives a pecking order in verse 28: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages…   At first this can seem a little harsh, especially if you’re a helper or someone who speaks another language!  And it is harsh, if you stop reading there.

In chapter 14 Paul continues “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.”  Paul is telling everyone that the main goal is to spread the message of Jesus, and love others.  He doesn’t say it’s bad to do any of the other tasks or fill other roles within the church, in fact in the previous chapter he describes at length why it is so important for everyone to be unique and do the work God intends for them.  What he is also saying here is that it is everyone’s mission to tell others about Jesus and the fact that he is coming back.  Just as every part of the body functions independently with the purpose of living daily, every part of the body of Christ must function independently with the message of the Kingdom coming.

This message continues even in chapter 14 verse 34, when Paul writes that the women of the church should be silent and submissive.  In these verses it is important to remember the historical context in which Paul is writing.  At this time, women did not hold places of leadership, and women did not *generally* have a role in proclaiming the message.  Additionally, the church in Corinth had women who struggled to act as godly women, partially because their husbands and other leaders in the church also struggled to live righteous lives.  I do not think that Paul is hating on the women, but rather explaining that when the church is struggling and in need of repair, the gossiping, adulterous, and unrighteous should not have a say in the direction of the church.  He is describing the importance of church leaders to be focused on the mission.

The call to prophesy is not one to be taken lightly, and Paul wants to make sure that the church understands that.  It is also one that the church is called to eagerly strive for, for the sake of the Kingdom.  Chapter 14 verse 24 reads “But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or uninformed person comes in, he is convicted by all.  The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, ‘God is really among you.’”

Let that be our goal as the Church, that anyone who walks in will have no other inclination but to fall down in worship of our great God because of our focus on His mission! 

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 12-14.

Come back tomorrow as we together finish 1 Corinthians with chapters 15 & 16.

But how do I know what my Spiritual Gift is?

1 Corinthians 12

1 Cor 12 27

Do you ever think God sits up in heaven, listening to us, and just smacks his forehead?  I do.

Think about this:  He is so amazingly gracious and wonderful that He supernaturally equips believers with gifts to make life better for all of us.  But instead of doing that…we sit around and take Spiritual gift inventories.

Head smack.

1 Corinthians 12: 4-7

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Want to know how God has gifted you?  Here’s the super-complicated, algorithm-created, surefire way to find out.  Ready?

Try stuff.

Ta-da!

Seriously.  Try stuff.  See what fills your bucket.  What makes you light up.  What energizes, instead of drains you?

All believers are called to serve in lots of ways.  We’re all expected to demonstrate some amount of wisdom, knowledge, faith and discernment.  We are all supposed to serve through giving, helping, teaching, and working.

While I can serve by mowing the lawn or doing dishes, I don’t feel particularly pumped after doing so.  But my friend Cheryl does.  Serving others in these ways invigorates her and motivates her to do more.

Cheryl will step in and lead a class if needed, but she doesn’t love it.  I love (insert many hearts here) it.  Teaching fills my bucket, it drains hers.

So put down the Spiritual gift inventory and start doing.  Ask God to help you find your sweet spot.  I’ll bet He won’t say no.

“you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

 

-Susan Landry

Investment 101

investment 101

Matthew 25

Jesus just finished telling his disciples to expect His return. Now he tells parables about how we should prepare for the return. It’s always nice to have concrete instructions. These ones are in the form of parables, but they aren’t terribly cryptic.

The first parable is about a wedding. There are a bunch of people waiting to meet up with the groom so that they can go to a feast with him. Initially, there are ten of these people patiently waiting. They were expecting him to arrive during the day, but on his way, he was delayed. Once the sun fell, only five of them stayed to wait for the groom because they were prepared for darkness. They thought ahead and brought extra supplies.

In this parable, Jesus is the groom and we are the virgins or bridesmaids waiting for his arrival. Notice that initially there were many who expected his coming. Most of us reading this believe that Jesus will come back. There have been times in the past when a biblical scholar has declared that he deduced the time at which Jesus would return (you can find a nice list of these occurrences on Wikipedia). I imagine many of the people who ended up believing these claims were disappointed when the proclaimed date rolled by without ushering the Kingdom of God. Many of them probably fell away from faith because they had expected their groom to show up during the day, yet they failed to wait through the night. The same is true now. Even if we don’t see an exact date for His return, we must continue to wait. We must be especially aware that soon the sun will set. Darkness will fall. But that doesn’t mean that the groom has forgotten his people and his feast. In fact, darkness will certainly precede His coming.

The second parable is about a hedge fund manager. This man gives his underlings various amounts of seed money and expects them to use it wisely. More precisely, he expects huge returns out of them. Two of his employees manage to achieve returns of 100%. The final employee merely broke even. Of course, the manager is happy with the first two. The returns that they managed are nearly unheard of. For example, to get a 100% return on your investment today, you would have had to invest in Apple stock 5 years ago (more precisely, April 17, 2014). The parable doesn’t tell us how long the manager was away, just that it was a long time. Long-term investment is one of the safer ways to grow your money and short-term investments are considerably riskier. Perhaps the third employee knew this and said, “Rather than take a loss on my boss’s money, I’ll just sit on it.” Perhaps this employee thought his manager would only be gone for 3 months. If he had invested in Apple stock three months ago, then he would have lost 27% of what he invested. That wouldn’t make the manager terribly happy, but the 0% gains that he presented still provoked the manager’s anger. The manager said that he would be gone for a long time, but the third employee didn’t take that to heart and decided to do nothing.

Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers. The Holy Spirit is the investment that Jesus gives us. The Spirit gives us each special gifts. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul lists a few of them: prophecy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading, showing mercy. These are the talents that Jesus gives to us. He expects us to invest these gifts for the long-term. This might mean pursuing one person for years to show them the Love and Truth of Jesus. In can be risky to try to convert someone in a day, like a short-term investment. You win that person over, but you could also completely ostracize them forever. This short-term investment is certainly not ideal compared to the safer returns of long-term investment in people. Jesus wants to get returns on the gifts that he gives to you. So put them to use for the long-term.

The final parable is like the first two. Some will claim to know Jesus, and some will serve Jesus. Those who serve will be like the sheep, separated from the goats and placed at the right hand of the King. Those who never believed, or who believed but refused to serve, refused to make a return on the investment that Jesus gave them, will be tossed out. They will be tossed out just as the devil himself will be tossed out. But the righteous, those who invest wisely, will receive eternal life.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Increasing Fellowship with Other Christians

1 Corinth 12 19,20 revised

Has your faith or walk with God ever felt like it has fallen in a rut? Have you ever questioned whether God is listening? Have you ever questioned your faith in general? I will be completely honest; I can say yes to all of these things, but I have moved on from them, and I know God is listening, I am strong in my faith and I feel like my faith is constantly growing. You might ask what got me to this point, and truly it is my fellowship with other Christians. Being surrounded by other people who believe in what I believe and know how to comfort me and support me in my faith is so incredibly important for me, but why does God say fellowship is important, and why should it be added to your list of resolutions?

Todays’ verses are Ephesians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 12:14-31

Ephesians 5:19-21 tells us to share psalms and hymns, sing together and give thanks for everything God has done for us. These verses tell us to worship God together, not only because it will bring joy to God, but because it will bring joy to me and to those believers around us.

1 Corinthians 12:14-31. These verses talk about the body of Christ; we as believers and followers of Christ are the body of Christ and we are all a part of his church. We are all important and we all have a purpose. These verses say that no one part of the body can say that there is no need for another. Each piece has a specific purpose, and this was done intentionally. We are given spiritual gifts from God, and these verses also touch on that. Some people are teachers, some are apostles, some are prophets, some do miracles, some know many languages, some are good at administration and planning. None of these are more important than the other, they are just different and they are necessary for a fully functioning body. This is fellowship. When we spend time with other believers we begin to see their strengths and their gifts, when we spend more time with them, our own faith and relationship with God can be strengthened. When we spend more time with each other we are supported in our faith and our walk. We work as a team in many different aspects, and we know that we are not alone. Fellowship with each other is incredible important.

Now that you know the importance of fellowship and working together, you may be wondering how you can be more intentional in this area of your life. My suggestions are to attend church if you do not already. If you do, see if your church has a weekly bible study or youth group. If they do not have these ministries already, talk to your pastor about how to start one and how to organize one, you may not be the only person interested in creating more fellowship opportunities amongst the people in your community. I truly hope you have a supportive community, and if not I pray that one is given to you soon. Thank you for reading today, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow.

-Jana Swanson

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