Gifts In Community

Today is Saturday, August 5, 2017. Day 21,695. Fourteen days until S’s and J’s birthday!

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke
BrainyQuote

The word of the day is consuetude, a noun, meaning, “custom, especially as having legal force.”

Today is Mead Day! I’m a huge fan of mead! Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage, resembling wine, but heavier, and honey-based. Hence, it is very sweet and thick. It’s also quite hard to find. Each year, when we visit Scarborough Renaissance Festival, I make sure to grab a glass at one of their beverage sellers.

I had to work late, yesterday, but only until about 5:30, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last two Fridays. We had a nice evening at home, just eating our dinner and watching TV. Then I played Fallout: New Vegas for a little while on the Xbox 360. I think I might be getting close to finishing that game.

The Red Sox pulled off a win over the Other Sox when Mitch Moreland hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning. They are now three games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. The Rangers didn’t fare so well, losing 8-4 to the Twins. They are in fourth place in the AL west, 18 games out. They are only 4.5 games out of the wild card spot, but if they continue to play just below .500 ball, they aren’t going to make it this year. And with the mediocre pitching they have (made even worse by dumping Yu Darvish for virtually nothing), it’s not likely to get better.

Today, we have some preparation to do, in order to get ready for the floor people to begin on Monday morning. C bought some plastic totes to start putting stuff in, especially from shelves that will need to be moved. Some shelves won’t have to be unloaded, as they will slide easily. Others, such as the cabinet full of records in our bedroom, certainly won’t slide and will have to be emptied out.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; 
sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! 
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.

Psalm 66:1-3
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:22
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
Psalm 92:4
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 
You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

John 14:27-28
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

(From Practice Resurrection)

It’s been a while, but I’m getting back to this book, as I am close to completing chapter 2. This chapter focuses on part of Ephesians chapter 4. Paul is instructing us that we need to grow up, to come to maturity, in Christ. One condition of growing up is that we “take up responsibilities commensurate with our strength and understanding.” In order to exercise these responsibilities, we have to have received the Spirit of Christ, which he sent to us at Pentecost, ten days after the Ascension.

We grow up in “a profusion of gifts.” Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8) Jesus, upon ascending to the right hand of the Father, has launched his rule by giving gifts. These gifts “turn out to be ways in which we participate in his kingly, gospel rule.”

Whether we realize it or not, we understand the language of gifts. We begin as a gift. “We don’t make ourselves. We don’t birth ourselves.” And immediately after we are born, we begin getting gifts. Food, clothing, shelter, all of these things are gifts to us from the beginning of our lives. Paul even says, in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?” (The Message) Eventually, all of these gifts begin to develop and mature into strengths and responsibilities. This begins in what we know as adolescence, one of the more awkward periods of our lives. But awkward and turbulent as it is, it is the time when we begin to grow into adult responsibilities, using the gifts that we have received, thus far. It is when we begin to learn to exercise the gifts in community.

Paul begins to list gifts. In Ephesians 4:11, he lists five: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. “These are gifts that equip us to work alongside and in company with Jesus.” They are given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (v. 12). “We are being invited into a working relationship in the operations of the Trinity.”

One thing is important to understand, and I find that I have agreed with Peterson for many years on this. “Too often the gifts have been understood individually, conferred on us to be used as we have willingness and aptitude and inclination.” Peterson flat out says, “This is wrong.” As we remember that the work is the work of the Trinity, and we are invited to be fellow-workers with Jesus, Peterson says, “Any one of us, at any one time, may be given any of the jobs. We are in on this together. This is not specialty work–this is the community at work.”

Paul lists gifts many times in his letters. No one list is definitive. No one list names all of the gifts. John Stott has counted at least twenty distinct gifts in the writings of Paul. Some are very noticeable and dynamic (if you watch carefully, you will see that these are the ones highlighted by the more “charismatic” fellowships), while some are quite unsensational, such as doing acts of mercy. “The diversity of gifts adds up to a unity of function. There can be no rivalry among either gifts or the gifted.” That last sentence is so very important, and we fail at it so often. If we begin to see ourselves being jealous of other peoples’ giftings, we are completely out of sync. And, yes, I have been there, so I can speak from experience. If I’m looking at someone else and judging whether or not they deserve that gift or whether they are “doing it right,” I am absolutely wrong! I am focusing on the wrong things, altogether. We must be together, we must be for each other, and if someone has been given a gift by the Spirit, we should be encouraging.

I will say that we can’t rule out the possibility that someone might think they have a gift that they don’t really have. That’s a different topic that won’t be covered here.

“What Paul insists on is that everything we do in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Spirit is an obedient exercise of some aspect of the work of the Trinity that we get in on as we become mature enough to do it.” We must never think that we are doing it on our own, in our own power, or that we are the originator of these gifts. Remember Paul’s words in Corinthians. “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”

Father, I pray for the spiritual sensitivity to be aware of the giftings that you give me, and the assignments that you give me as I live in community with other Christ-followers. May we all be the same in this. All of us are, at any given time, gifted with different gifts, strengths, and responsibilities. Likewise, we all have different weaknesses. May we recognize these and know that all of us together can make a cohesive unit that can operate with great efficiency and productivity in your Kingdom. Let us be for one another, encouraging one another in the diversity of gifts that we have. And let us never get arrogant about our gifts, but humbly acknowledge that you are our Source for everything.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

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