A Call to Crucifixion

An encouraging article today that was too good not to share. I love this: “In summary, the following pattern will be observed in the life and ministry of virtually every believer. First, the triumphal entry – the initial excitement and joy of coming to Christ and being called by Him to some aspect of ministry or mission. Next, the crucifixion – total surrender and the refining fire of obstacles and opposition. Then, the resurrection – tremendous blessing and victory for those who faithfully serve Jesus Christ.”

In Christ,
Naomi

How to Witness to a Jewish Person (and other things Christians screw up royally)

A very funny and touching post from my Jewish sister in Christ, Melissa Presser.

I wanted to share tips on Gentiles witnessing to Jewish people as this seems to be a neglected outreach in many churches today.

God bless you for reading, enjoy. 🙂

What a friend we have in Jesus

The Lord kindly brought this old hymn to mind while I was sitting at work feeling a little down. It made me smile and was a comfort. I hope it blesses you too:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

(Joseph M. Scriven, 1855)

What are your spiritual gifts?

Inspired by Don Merritt’s recent postings on spiritual gifts (see http://lifereference.wordpress.com/), I took an online test to determine my spiritual gifts from a helpful website called SpiritualGiftsTest.com.

The test itself (for adults), which is happily free, can be found at:
http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/test/adult

What were the results? Interestingly enough, my highest scores were for:

  1. Knowledge (ie. loves the scriptures, connects the gospel to everyday life)
  2. Teaching (ie. studies the bible regularly, loves to explain the truth)
  3. Giving (ie. good steward, cheerfully and joyfully gives).

May I encourage you to take the test if you haven’t already determined what your spiritual gifts are! It’s an interesting, edifying, and humbling experience. I say “humbling” because I discovered today that I score quite low on the gifts of mercy and evangelism, which was not what I might have hoped for as a follower of Christ. Thankfully I’m just one member of the body of Christ so can be confident that there are others who are stronger in these areas who make up for my shortfall.

Some helpful points from the FAQ section of this website on spiritual gifts:

What is a Spiritual Gift?
A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to a person when they are saved.

How many spiritual gifts are there?
There is no complete list of spiritual gifts found in any single book of the Bible. Thus, we cannot conclude that what we have is an exhaustive list or that the Spirit of God has not given other gifts to the church. We do not want to limit God’s ability to give more gifts, He most certainly has, but we must be cautious when calling an ability a spiritual gift if it is not found in Scripture. SpiritualGiftsTest.com operates within the framework that there are likely many other spiritual gifts that have been given, but they should all connect categorically to those that are found in Scripture. For instance, a “gift of songwriting” could connect with the categories of exhortation, or evangelism, or a “gift of cooking” could be a form of the gift of serving and ministering.

We find lists totaling nineteen spiritual gifts in three different passages: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. There are other important passages as well. Paul seems to speak of singleness or celibacy as being a gift from God in 1 Corinthians 7, and some have also considered marriage as a gift in the context of this passage. Spiritual gifts are further mentioned in 1 Peter 4 which addresses the speaking and serving gifts in a general sense. As a note, we have listed and described the nineteen major gifts on our site, but we do not include all of them in our tests. We have excluded tongues and interpretation, miracles, and healing. The reason for this decision is that these are difficult to test for, and should be self-evident within the context of the local church body.

Who gives the spiritual gifts?
We see in the Scriptures that since the day of Pentecost The Holy Spirit has given each believer one or more spiritual gifts to serve God and His people. This is obviously why they are called “spiritual” gifts. However, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, we also see that the full Trinity is involved with spiritual gifts. And in Ephesians 4:7 we see that Christ gave gifts when He ascended in celebration of His triumph over sin on the cross and over death in His resurrection. Therefore, we can conclude that God distributes spiritual gifts by His Holy Spirit, but the Triune God is at work together in giving and empowering them. See Ephesians 4:7-13, 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, Hebrews 2:4

What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts?
The purpose of spiritual gifts is to glorify Jesus by testifying of Him and building up His church until He returns. A major part of this is accomplished by using our gifts to serve in love, and by bearing much fruit that lasts. See Romans 11:36, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11, Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10; John 16:13-14 and John 15:8.

How many gifts do I have?
Each Christian has at least one spiritual gift given to them when they are saved. Some receive more depending upon God’s will and calling in their lives. See Ephesians 4:7, I Corinthians 12:7, 11, I Corinthians 7:7, I Peter 4:10

What gifts do I have?
Only God knows – just kidding. We have developed a Spiritual Gifts Test to help you figure this one out. When you are done with the test, ask other Christians in your church or community that you know and trust to help you in discovering them. We also suggest serving in different areas and in different capacities in the church to figure out how you can best use those gifts to glorify God.

Does anyone have all of the spiritual gifts?
Nope! Each believer is given a gift or gifts according to the will of God, but no one has all of the spiritual gifts and no single gift is given to everyone. See 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, 1 Corinthians 7:7

How do I use my gifts?
The Bible tells us to use our gifts in love and in service to others. Every church needs believers with all kinds of gifts to serve and build up the body of Christ. We suggest you start by contacting someone in your church to find out where you can serve. Check out 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1 Peter 4:10.

What is the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift?
A talent is a natural ability or aptitude given by God to a person at birth. A spiritual gift is a supernatural ability given by God at rebirth. A talent can be anything from athletic ability to musical aptitude to artistic genius. God allows a person to use his or her talents for many different purposes and in many different capacities. When it comes to spiritual gifts, God opens up the ability of a person to be used by The Lord purposely and directly in His work. A spiritual gift can spring from a natural talent, or it can be a completely new ability that is “out of the ordinary” for that person. The main point is this: All talents and spiritual gifts come from God. He can use talents and spiritual gifts to fulfill His purposes and bring Himself glory. The main difference between the two is that only Christians receive spiritual gifts because only Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. As a believer in Christ, you are called to use your talents and your spiritual gifts for the glory of God.

Why don’t you test for every gift?
You may have noticed that we do not test for the spiritual gift of tongues or interpretation, as well as the spiritual gifts of healing and miracles. These four gifts are very difficult to test for in a conventional way. Merely asking a set of questions will probably not lead a person to discovering these gifts (i.e. “Have you performed a miracle?”). It typically takes exercising and experiencing them and receiving confirmation through the Holy Spirit and from other Christians to validate or confirm that a person has these gifts.

The absence of these gifts from our tests is not an indication or affirmation that we believe they have ceased. The opposite is true. We believe that the Holy Spirit distributes and empowers believers with all of the gifts as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). All spiritual gifts are meant for the edification of the church until Christ returns (1 Corinthians 1:4-7, Ephesians 4:11-13).

A person of prayer

Peaceful scene Months ago, Pastor Frank  said we should say to ourselves, “By the grace of God I will be a person of prayer.” At the time I knew my prayer life was sadly lacking but the Lord has since helped me to grow in this area and to see prayer as an essential work of faith. Prayer is in fact part of the Great Commission Jesus gave us in the book of Matthew:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-21)

Prayer is a way of believing people cooperating with God’s will to draw as many people as possible to salvation. Without the love and support of fellow Christians, however, I wouldn’t be growing at all in this area. I have found National Prayer Bank, a place where believers in Christ can pray for others and post up their own prayer requests, to be invaluable in this regard. The messages of encouragement and prayer that I have received from others have been a great source of comfort, especially when ministering to and praying for unsaved loved ones. Here then for your benefit is the link to this prayer site: http://nationalprayerbank.com/ Another wonderful site featuring Spirit-lead prayers for others is the Acts 12 Movement site, which I first heard about from a fellow Christian blogger, Levi Thetford (http://levithetford.com/): http://acts12movement.com/ May you find these sites a blessing too. What prayer resources or techniques have you found helpful in your Christian walk? Feel free to post about them here. Until next time, Lord willing.

Christian Book Review – @stickyJesus: How to Live Out Your Faith Online

I’ve been reading an enlightening book about sharing faith in Christ online. I wanted to share the following passage as it’s inspiring for those of us who blog and use other means to tell our stories online:

http://www.amazon.com/stickyJesus-Live-Your-Faith-Online/dp/1426741898

40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:40-41)

Simply through hearing, more than three thousand people confessed Christ that day. The disciples didn’t form a committee, write a communication plan, or hold a big conference (complete with a worship band) to figure out how to share the most incredible message in the world.

They told the crowd who Jesus was and how everyone within earshot could receive forgiveness, salvation, and the same Holy Spirit power that had lit up all of them. They walked onto the dusty streets of Jerusalem with believing hearts and the willingness to be consumed with and led by the Holy Spirit.

God could have done this without the disciples. Supernatural is supernatural. He could have let loose a light show on the streets of Jerusalem that day that would have left the masses speechless. But He loved us too much to leave us out of His story and His glory. He was and is a God of relationship, love, and community. He wants to raise His kids by experiental relationship, not dead religion.

The same holds true today. God doesn’t need you to share your faith to save the world. There’s no cape required. He’s almighty. He can touch any heart at any moment, anywhere, in any way He chooses. The glory and gift of this holy equation are that He has called you. He’s called you out of your stunted, insular self and into a limitless and vast relationship with Him. He will do a holy work in you and others each time you recount that story. Now that’s a transformational mission worth logging on for.

Surprised by Joy

I have been reading CS Lewis’s book “Surprised by Joy” and finding it very interesting and edifying. The book is unabashed in its description of Lewis’s personal life, which is really direct and refreshing. Lewis was one of my favourite childhood authors. I’m happy to say he’s a wonderful read as an adult as well. A beautiful passage ending his book:

But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe…that the old stab, the old bitter-sweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.

But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. “We would be at Jerusalem.”

Not, of course, that I don’t often catch myself stopping to stare at roadside objects of even less importance.

The Case for the Psalms

This afternoon the Lord Jesus’ Spirit gently prompted me to read the following book by N. T. Wright:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Case-Psalms-They-Essential/dp/0062230506

Widely regarded as the modern C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, one of the world’s most trusted and popular Bible scholars and the bestselling author of “Simply Christian” and “Surprised by Hope”, presents a manifesto urging Christians to live and pray the Bible’s Psalms.

Wright seeks to reclaim the power of the Psalms, which were once at the core of prayer life. He argues that, by praying and living the Psalms, we enter into a worldview, a way of communing with God and knowing him more intimately, and receive a map by which we understand the contours and direction of our lives. For this reason, all Christians need to read, pray, sing, and live the Psalms.

One passage in particular rang true to me today, which I wanted to share with people reading this site, as you might find it uplifting and hopeful too:

As Jesus Himself said in his fresh use of the same image, the seed is the Word of God, and however unworthy or muddled the one who sows it, it remains God’s word, and it will do its work, never failing to astonish us at its abundant productivity.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, for this inspiring little gem of a book. Highly recommended.

The Velveteen Rabbit – Lessons on Love and Eternity

My husband, who is not yet a believer in God, read an old children’s story today called “The Velveteen Rabbit.” He texted me later to say that it was “very enjoyable” so I decided to revisit the story to see what it had to say about the eternal themes of love and sacrifice.

It’s a very gently written book that I was planning to give to my two-year old niece Alexis to help shape her heart and conscience.

Some beautiful passages that struck me, that I thought others might like to read too:

“The Rabbit could not claim to be Real, for he didn’t know that Real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself.” This is our condition when we are alone spiritually, without God in the world. As it is written:

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world…(Ephesians 2:12)

“Real isn’t how you are made’, said the Skin Horse. “It happens to you when a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with, but really loves you. Then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and you have become very shabby. But these things don’t matter, because once you are Real you can never be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“Are you Real?” asked the Rabbit.

“Yes, said the Skin Horse. “The Boy’s uncle made me Real a great many years ago. Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again.”

What is this longing we have to be truly loved, in spite of our many defects, to be honoured in spite of the many actions we undertake that show simply that we do not deserve it? Where does the longing for transcendence over the bitterness of our earthly struggles come from? Hasn’t God placed eternity in our hearts? As the Bible teaches us:

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. (Ecc. 3:11)

And don’t we seek His face everywhere, like pilgrims setting out on a long and arduous journey for the faith we had so easily when we were little ones? The scriptures tell us that the longing for Christ is universal:

And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. (Mark 1:37)

Here then is our hope. We do have someone who loves us unconditionally in spite of our sins and difficulties: God. By accepting His love and being “born again” spiritually we can transcend our old, earthly nature and become truly Real. Just as the Velveteen Rabbit became Real due to the Boy’s enduring love for him. One of the greatest passages in scripture, from the book of John, reveals God’s beautiful promise for all people:

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:4-8)