Beyond Definitions and the Labeling of Our Spiritual Gifts

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Beyond Defining & Labeling Spiritual Gifts to Using Them as Everybody Does Their Part
Many churches have classes about spiritual gifting to help people understand the special divine empowerments God provides to enable them to effectively serve. It’s particularly good when that teaching gets beyond providing definitions to showing the bigger picture of how everybody has a part in the health and growth of the Body (Eph. 4:16).

Looking for a lesson plan to do that? Check out the Everybody Has a Part Curriculum.

We do even better when we help people identify the spiritual gifts they’ve been given. That can be done as part of a class or through other discipleship and/or mentoring efforts.

Looking for a spiritual gifts test?

Get Beyond Defining and Labeling Spiritual Gifts to Actually Using Them

Knowing about spiritual gifting and being able to label our gifts is good but it isn’t enough. As a church, we need to plug people into ministry in ways that line up with the spiritual gifts God has given them.

Begin by knowing what spiritual gifts best suit the ministries in your church.

Strategically plan ways to communicate gifting needed for the various ministries and recruit accordingly.

Be intentional in following up with people.

  • Confirm that the person is gifted in accordance with test results and serving in a place that truly fits.

We’ll take this time and effort when we grasp God’s design for the Body and His intent for everybody to do their part. It can no longer simply be about filling positions but rather an ongoing emphasis, and even expectation, of serving in accordance with the way God has gifted us. That takes a culture shift.

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God Communicates with Audiovisuals

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Jesus is an Example of How God Uses Audiovisuals to Communicate

We have a God who delights in communicating with us. He speaks to us through His Written Word, the Bible, to help us know Him better and to equip us (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He also communicates with audiovisuals as seen in Scripture. One of the greatest examples is Jesus coming to earth as God Incarnate. — “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being …” (Heb. 1:3)

Other Examples of God Using Audiovisuals

Below you’ll find a small number of examples where God used visuals to represent His ways, of what He can do, has done, and will do.

  • Adam/Eve (tree to represent human choice/free will of man)
  • Moses (burning bush, staff, stone, plagues, etc.)
  • Israelites (ark of the covenant, temple and the altar, etc.)
  • Prophets (bones, a harlot, rod, bottle, figs, etc.)
  • Jesus (objects, writing on the ground, dirt, etc.)
  • End Time (seals, trumpets, bowls, horses, etc.)
  • Heaven/New Heaven (throne, jewels, streets of gold, etc.)

Why God Communicates Audiovisually

We have a purposeful and creative God who employs a variety of means to communicate. Since He made us, He know that we learn best the more senses we use. He meets us where we are, taking something familiar to help us better understand the unfamiliar. Sometimes He want to reinforce a truth so the more senses He engages, the better we retain it. Other times He may simply want to get our attention.

Warnings About Visual Representations

God said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Ex. 20:4). It is one thing to let visuals represent His ways or the truth He is communicating, and another for it to represent God Himself. Graven images that represent Him should never used.

God knows that we human beings would be too quick to substitute the pretend image for the real Person. To think that we would let lifeless wood, stones, gold, silver, or bronze take His place might seem absurd. Remember the golden calf during the Exodus. Remember why the Israelites were sent into exile.

Further, nothing could ever adequately depict His greatness and glory. Our visual representations of God would always fall short. Only God could come up with a visual aid adequate to represent Himself — Jesus, God Incarnate, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3).

Inferences for Communicators of God’s Word

Audiovisuals should be used but purposefully to reinforce truth, not merely to entertain or hold attention. We must carefully choose visuals that enhance the lesson and not take the spotlight. And, audiovisuals should never supplant the teacher or preacher. Remember, we have a personal God who communicates audiovisually but also relationally.

Check out this helpful resource, Tips for Choosing & Using Audiovisuals Worksheet, which uses an acrostic to communicate thirteen tips.

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Lessons from the Wise Men

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Lessons from the Wise Men's Reaction to the Christ ChildAfter Jesus’ birth the wise men, or magi, inquired in Jerusalem, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Having been instructed to go to Bethlehem, for that was where the prophets had written, they went on their way. When they saw the star stopping over where the Christ child was, “they were overjoyed” and seeing Jesus, they “bowed down and worshiped him”. Then they presented Him with their gifts. (See Matthew 2:1-12)

The Wise Men’s Reaction to Seeing the Christ Child

The wise men knew enough to follow the star, undoubtedly already having some kind of awareness of God’s intent for Jesus to come into this world. This was confirmed when they inquired about Him in Jerusalem. When they finally arrived, worship sprang from the great joy they felt at having found the prophesied One.

Lessons for Us:

God told the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13) — Just as the wise men didn’t give up their pursuit but wholeheartedly and earnestly pursued Him till they found Jesus, so we too need to seek no matter where the journey of life takes us. We may need some help along the way but His star will reappear and He will be found.

Worship is the logical reaction to an encounter with Jesus. He is worthy of all honor and praise. He is the One of whom many prophecies have been fulfilled (Lk. 24:44-47; Heb. 1:1-3; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). He is the One who would bring salvation from the penalty of our sin and one day reign supreme, having overcome death, sin, and the evil one.

The Wise Men’s Offerings to the Christ Child

Out of a heart of worship, the magi presented their gifts. “… they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matt. 2:11) They gave Him what they had of great value, perhaps not realizing that their gifts may well have represented Jesus’ life as the King of kings, Great High Priest, and our Suffering Savior.

Lessons for Us:

But, what gifts do we have fit for a King? What can we give in return to the One who intercedes on our behalf so that the penalty for our sin is forgiven? What can we offer the One who gave His all for us? The Apostle Paul urged believers in Rome, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom. 12:1)

He doesn’t need our worship. His worth isn’t dependent on what we offer Him. If it was, He wouldn’t be God. But, He wants us to seek Him so we can be in a relationship with Him. He doesn’t want a forced homage from us but one that springs from a heart of joy at having followed His star and found Him just as Scripture says.

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Jesus … God With Us

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… they will call him Immanuel — which means, “God with us.” (Matt. 1:23)

What a powerful description of Jesus — “God with us.”

Reflect on the Significance of Immanuel, God With Us

Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, let’s look at each of the three words in that highly significant name given to Jesus.

GOD with us.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Heb. 1:3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (Jn. 1:1-5)

God WITH us.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:14)

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:6-8)

God with US.

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet TO ALL WHO RECEIVED HIM, TO THOSE WHO BELIEVED IN HIS NAME, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (Jn. 1:9-13)

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)

Let’s make sure the One we celebrate is more than a baby in a manager. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us!

For More About Jesus: Christology Resources

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Don’t Despair, Get Creative

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Whether teaching, leading, or serving in any other capacity, we face situations that could seemingly limit what we can do in ministry. Before we despair, let’s remember that we serve a creative God who wants us to join Him and not be limited by what is seen or known to us. God might simply want us to go in a different direction.

Faith in a Creative God Able to Do Immeasurably More
We put our faith in a God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). Remember, “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

Are finances tight? Get creative.
Are facilities less than ideal? Get creative.
Are schedules busy? Get creative.
Are workers few? Get creative.

An Acrostic about Getting Creative

We’re talking about creativity guided by a creative God. So, ask God to guide you in the process and to open up the realm of possibilities before you. This acrostic shows what He might use to help you be creative:

C – Challenge: going beyond what is comfortable

Don’t be afraid to step our in faith and take risks.

R – Resourcefulness: thinking through alternative means or uses

Don’t get locked into tradition.

E – Experimentation: trying something out of the usual

Don’t be afraid to try something on a trial basis.

A – Adaptability: willing to make changes

Don’t be rigid and stick with the way you’ve always done it.

T – Teachableness: continuing to learn

Don’t assume you’ve ever arrived.

I – Imagination: brainstorming all sorts of possibilities

Don’t be bound by logic or past experience.

V – Variety: using different means

Don’t do things the same way every time.

E – Evaluation: seeking how you can improve

Don’t forget to learn from what you’ve done.

May we trust our all-knowing and all-wise creative God to guide us. May we depend on our all-powerful creative God to enable us to go where He leads us.

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We Need More?

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Need More? Learn to be Content
In this world of economic distress, we tend to want “more” — more money, more jobs, more physical security. In the church, we want “more” as well –- more attendance, more giving, more workers. All of that might sound good but is it what we need most? Maybe we need to shift from what we need more of to what we need most. Then, we can be content no matter what we have.

The Apostle Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13)

Shifts From What We Need More Of to What We Need Most

Our perspective changes when we live like God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). We already have what we truly need so let’s focus on what matters most.

  1. We need to shift from a focus on external needs to the internal.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23)

Do we want to be “more” of who God wants us to be, “more” of the person or Church who will truly be used of God to make a difference in today’s world? Then we must walk in Spirit so He bears within us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:13-26). These qualities enable us to act and react with truth and grace in times of both plenty and want

  1. We need to shift from a quest for fulfilling earthly needs to seeking first the kingdom.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:33)

As His Church, are we more concerned about “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” or about the physical structure in which we meet? This world isn’t our real home. Ultimately the perishable will be “clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53-54), so why do we give priority to our earthly needs? When it’s about His kingdom, we don’t need to engage in all the political maneuvering to get what we need. Rather, we cast our cares on the Lord knowing that He will sustain us (Ps. 55:22).

  1. We need a shift from being more concerned with “things” we need to the people around us.

Above all, love each other deeply … . (1 Pet. 4:8)

Do we see the crowds of people around us in need of Jesus’ love and compassion (Matt. 9:36) or are we more focused on our programs, activities, and personal needs? Without love anything else lacks real merit (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Jesus said that “all the Law and Prophet hang on” two commandments — loving God and loving people (Matt. 22:37-40). With love as our priority, people trump things.

No matter how difficult life might seem, we can find the psalmists experience to be true in our own lives when we make that shift from what we need more of to what we need most.

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Ps. 16:8-11)

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