James 1:17 (NIV) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
It was a typical Wednesday morning. My (Melissa) 7-year-old was desperately trying to convince me that he was too sick for school, (but not too sick for a day of video games on the couch) so he was moving at a snail’s pace when it came to dressing and assembling his backpack. And, quite honestly, I wasn’t moving much quicker. All of this compounded made us late getting out the door. Which meant I would have to fight even more traffic in the school drop off line.
There was only one thing to do after a morning that started like this. So I pulled into the drive through lane at Starbucks. Surely a hot, steamy vanilla latte would make everything better! Apparently every other person in town had the same idea that morning as I inched forward in the lane for minutes that carried on for hours. My frustration grew. My patience waned. And my day was quickly spiraling from bad to worse.
Finally arriving at the window, I took my coffee from the barista and offered her my debit card for payment. She shook her head.
“No charge today. The lady in front of you paid for you coffee. Have a great day.”
And she waved me on my way.
Wait. What? Someone bought a cup of coffee? For me? But why? And what had I done to deserve this generosity?
Not a thing. Simply pulled into the drive through lane to buy a latte. What a wonderful gift! And on a day when I could really use it! My mood lightened immediately and I couldn’t wait to share this wonderful turn in my day with everyone!
Then I heard a faint stirring in my heart accompanied by a loving whisper.
“Never forget. My gifts, too, are always offered to you – gifts of grace, of forgiveness, of peace, and of salvation. You don’t need to do anything to deserve them. You don’t even need to pay for them. That’s already been taken care of. You only need to accept them.”
Wow. What a powerful reminder.
In my heart I know that all of God’s gifts are given to me – and given freely. But, oh, how infrequently it is that I take the time to relish those gifts, to let those gifts be the catalyst for my day, to share these wonderful – these life-changing – gifts with everyone.
Even when we are at our worst, God’s gifts are still ours. Even when our mornings start on those paths that we feel we will never be able to redirect (with our without coffee), His gifts are there to lift us up and carry us through.
This week, will you join me in praising and thanking God for these gifts? For these good and perfect gifts? For these gifts that we don’t deserve, but have been given to us so generously?
Let us always be reminded:
John 1:16 (NIV) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
What if We Were All the Same?
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." (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
Verse 7 makes it clear that each of us has been given spiritual gifts. The verses don't say that we were all given the SAME gift. The verses say that there are DIFFERENT kinds of gifts and service. Thank goodness we are all not gifted with the same gifts. Can you imagine if we were ALL gifted with leadership? I can't even imagine the conflicts that would bring!
Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) is? You can take this simple survery here to find out. We have been given spiritual gifts "to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." (Ephesians 4:12)
It is important to know the areas of gifting you have for so many reasons:
1) To Know Your Best Area(s) of Service: When we are serving where our spiritual gifts best fit, we are most effective. We may serve in other areas and do well, but we only have a short time here on Earth. I want to make the most of my time here and glorify God in the way He designed.
2) To Understand Our Relationships: Just like understanding our love languages, it is important to understand the spiritual gifts of those whom we are in a relationship with. It will help us better understand their thinking processes, why they do certain things, and why they are pulled in certain directions.
3) To Focus Your Growth: As we grow and mature, we want to do that in the most effective way possible. There are thousands of self-help and information-filled books out there. We can take a multitude of different courses. We could spend hours trying to grow in so many different ways. While we SHOULD be growing as a whole, it is helpful to focus our growth on the areas of strength (your gifts) to reach people best for Christ and encourage others. For example, I have not been blessed with the gift of hospitality, but one of the gifts I have is teaching. Right now, I only have a small amount of time each day to focus on growth. I could spend that time pinning about ways to make others more welcome in my home, or I could be taking courses or reading how to be a more effective speaker and writer. Honestly, it brings me so much more joy to be learning how to use my unique gifts more than someone else's. (Although I do take a few moments to pin pins about hospitality, just in case someone is brave enough to come over for dinner!)
This week, I urge you to discover your spiritual gifts. Once you have done this, spend time in prayer asking God how you can use your gifts to glorify Him. It is one thing to pray and listen for His answer, and it is another to actually listen and obey Him. Once you are given your answer as to how and where to serve, it is then your responsibility to follow through and do what He has called you to do. We will discuss more about what that might look like on Friday's blog post.
When He has the key to our hearts, we are giving Him the place of honor and power.
Galatians 2:20 says:
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
This verse is all about dying to self. Giving God full control of ALL aspect of your life. I have been struggling with this for years, but God keeps reminding me of this verse.
Proverbs 8:17 says:
"I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me."
Are you diligently seeking the Lord daily? I know that I don't as often as I should. The days when I don't end up crappy and I am miserable.
Jeremiah 29:13 says:
"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."
The Lord holds the "key" to our heart. Seek Him and find Him waiting patiently and lovingly for you. He wants only the best for us.
Proverbs 4:13 NLT says:
"Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life."
His instructions are our key to life...eternal life with Him in heaven. Guard your hearts from evil. The Devil is lurking about waiting for our moments of weakness. Pray often.
Psalm 73:26 says:
"My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
You and over 115 million of your closest football friends probably tuned in to watch the Super Bowl last night. Official viewership numbers are expected later today, but the viewership is expected to set a record for the most people watching ever! And that's not the only record that the Super Bowl last night may have set. The Super Bowl is purported to be the largest venue for human trafficking of the planet. With a huge influx of tourists, the message boards to arrange meeting and ads for sex online were hopping to keep up with demand.
And disturbingly enough, most of the demand is for underage girls.
Often prostitution was viewed as a voluntary profession, but attitudes have been evolving to recognize that many women are raped and physically and psychologically assaulted as a way to be forced into prostitution. They are trafficked for sex. Several studies suggest that between 60-80% of women enter into prostitution in America before the age of 18.
It's our daughters and their friends, our next door neighbor girl with the bad home life, and the rebellious runaway teen who is just looking for some fun. It's happening everywhere around the world, and often times right under our noses.
Sex trafficking at the Super Bowl and in your town. Biblically, should we do something about it or care? Yes and yes.
The Psalms and Proverbs, and New Testament are full of instances that should inspire us to act.
Psalm 82:3-4 says, "Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (NIV)
Proverbs 24:11-12 says, "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?" (NIV)
And if those verses aren't challenging enough to move us to rescue the oppressed and those being led away to death, and that we will be held accountable for our actions...
Jesus himself even interacted with a few loose woman of his day. The woman at the well in John 4 (read it!) was very likely a loose woman in town. She had five husbands and was currently living with a man who wasn't her husband. If she wasn't the town prostitute, she was certainly considered a sinful woman by everyone in town. Jesus met her right where she was at and spoke truth into her life. He revealed himself to her. He loved her when many didn't. And she in turn told everyone about Jesus!
And the woman who was caught in the act of adultery in John 8 (read this one too!) who was about to be stoned? Yep, Jesus talked to her as well. He rescued her from death, forgave her, and told her to go and leave her life of sin.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us to see him everywhere. He says that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him. And whatever we don't do for the least of these, we don't do for him.
Prostitutes and pimps just may well be considered the least of these in our modern world. What are you doing for the least of these?
Read the challenging verses in our devotional this week, and let them speak to you. Consider the problem of sex trafficking in your world. What would God have you do?