The Way I See It: Spiritual Gifts

The way I see it… (open to argument!)…

When you let Christ come into your life, when you seriously commit to Him, the Holy Spirit comes into you and begins to work His magic as He transforms you from the inside out. The Bible gives a list of what the Holy Spirit begins to do inside of each person as a result of them surrendering their life (these are cryptically called the Fruit of the Spirit):

“But the fruit [result] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Then, as an added bonus, followers of Christ receive what the Bible calls Spiritual Gifts. Essentially they are God-given abilities that are only apparent when a person is following Christ. Not everyone receives the same gift(s), but everyone receives at least one. There are many more gifts mentioned throughout the Bible, but this verse includes quite a few:

“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:8-10

So here’s where my musings come into play.

IT’S LIKE WAR – A METAPHOR

The Fruit of the Spirit is God’s way of training us from the inside out. It’s like bootcamp, but instead of a drill sergeant drilling us to prepare us for battle, build our resiliency, learn to use our weapons, and get us whipped into shape, the Holy Spirit speaks to us in a quiet voice to try and do the same thing. He befriends us and slowly coaches us towards His ultimate goal: to make us loving, joyful, peaceful, steadfast, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Ultimately He’s preparing us for the spiritual battle that the Bible talks about. Even if you aren’t sold out for Christ or don’t go to church, I’m sure you’re familiar with the whole “devil on one shoulder, angel on the other” idea. It’s kind of like that, just not as simple.

Every follower of Christ received the above “training,” armor, and a weapon (see more on the armor of God). But not everyone has the same mission to accomplish, so we need some sort of special training and/or tools to accomplish that job. This is where spiritual gifts come into play. We can think of our gift(s) as a tool or weapon, like a homing missile or a sniper rifle, specially assigned to a niche group of people to accomplish a very specific mission.

So as a Christian, when I go into battle (which is each and every day as soon as my eyes open), I’m supposed to bring with me all of my training (fruits of the spirit), my armor and basic weapon (armor of God), and the special resource used for my specific mission (spiritual gift). If I go into my mission unprepared, you can bet I won’t succeed.

GOD GIVES US PIECES OF HIMSELF

Going back to the Fruit of the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts… something occurred to me this morning. God isn’t just the supplier of all these things, but he IS all these things to the fullest extent. He IS and HAS the qualities and abilities described in the verses above. So when you become a part of His family, He literally starts giving you pieces of Himself. Kind of a cool way to think about it 🙂

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Do not let your heart be troubled

My mom used to tell me when I was a little kid that I was choosing to have a bad attitude. She tried to teach me early on that my attitude was my choice, and I had control over it despite the circumstances. Often I had a bad attitude because something wasn’t going my way or I didn’t have control over the situation. But how I dealt with those feelings was always my choice, she said. I hated it when she said that, because it was always so much easier to blame her or the situation for my tantrum.

Even now, I still throw tantrums. I’m still very much a baby Christian. I’ll throw a “spiritual” fit and get frustrated with God because of all of the work He’s doing on my heart. He’s taking the time to teach me a lot about myself, Himself, and how the world works, and to be honest, it’s resulting in me often feeling spiritually and emotionally drained. And that exhaustion often leaves me frustrated with myself, God, and the people around me. When I’m not frustrated, I’m mopey and pouty. I don’t really have a reason to be… but I still like throwing my baby fits.

But the “mature” side of me knows what the Bible says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” John 14:1

Our pastor brought up this verse during his sermon on Sunday. I know it well, but it hit me in a funny way on Sunday. And as I was laying in bed this morning pouting about my circumstances (even though, like I said, I don’t really have a reason to pout), God reminded me of this verse. “Do not let…” If I don’t let something bother me, I have a choice. Which means I have a choice over whether or not my heart is burdened.

But how do I make that choice?

I don’t know the Bible through and through, but one thing I’ve seen from the passages I know is that our thoughts have power. Anxiety, lust, jealousy, pride, and anger all have physical manifestations, but they begin in the mind. David pleaded with God:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Where our thoughts go most often is where our heart is. The things that I think about the most are probably what I’m putting first in my life. God is often not far from my thoughts… but I tend to focus on the hard parts on my journey with Him more than the easy parts. I put my God-approved troubles and experiences above my God-given strength and encouragement. He is so good about sending me reminders and demonstrating how easy His yoke is (Matthew 11:30), but even still, it is so easy to let my heart be troubled and focus my thoughts on how hard life is.

A friend of mine made an art/photo collage for me a few weeks ago that has this verse affixed to the middle. It’s something I seriously need to take to heart and live by:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

On a more personal note… I sit here typing this, being all “spiritually mature” with my Bible verses, after throwing a tantrum last night. I was up late pouting, went to bed pouting, and woke up pouting. But then that verse, John 14:1, came to mind. I know it was God, slapping me gently and reminding me that I didn’t have to be a baby. Dang it.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m up, down, and all over the place when it comes to my walk with Christ. Most of the time I’m in the middle, and I feel like my high points are getting higher as I spend more time in prayer and reading the Bible, but I’m still soooooo far from where I want to be. I know that I’m not who I’m supposed to be yet. There is still so much that God has to do within me. He’s done a lot these past 6 months, but He’s only getting started. In some ways that’s encouraging, but it’s also a harrowing idea to entertain because there have been so many difficult steps these past few months already. However, I have an idea of the person God is growing me to be. I can almost see her… and I want to be her, really badly. I get glimpses of her when I’m really on fire for Him… selfless, gracious, pure in deeds and thought, and most importantly, a champion for Christ. But I’m very far from that ideal right now, so I guess God and I are going to keep working (Philippians 1:6)…….

Who Am I?

I’ve been doing a lot of seeking lately: seeking out Christ, learning about myself, and trying to figure out what God’s will or purpose for my life is.  And for those of you who know anything about the process involved behind those things, you understand why I’ve been having a rough time lately.

The more I dig into who I am and who God created me to be, the more I’m learning exactly who I’m NOT. I’ve learned lately, and it’s come as no surprise, exactly how many issues I struggle with. That list keeps getting longer. And many of these issues carry side effects that I’ve long categorized as being parts of my personality. For example, I am a very loyal friend. I’m learning that intense loyalty, beyond what is normal or healthy, is a result of codependency. As I struggle with codependency and battle to find healthy boundaries, I will learn that not all people deserve my loyalty, and I will learn when and how to distance myself from unhealthy people.  I had clung to many of these traits, assuming they were strengths in my personality.

The person who I thought I was relied so many things other than Christ, that as I learn how to depend on Him for my needs instead of other people, so much of who I thought I was is disappearing. And that leaves me sitting here thinking, so who am I really? If so much of what I thought I was is a byproduct of sin and doing things my own way, what’s left?

So then I’m at this simple question again of “Who am I?” While I’m not sure yet, God knows, because He made me, and He has a few things to say about it in the Bible. I found a cool article from which I’ve pulled a few of the below bullets. I suggest reading the whole thing.

  • I am God’s child (John 1:12)
  • I have been set free from condemnation (Rom 8:1-2)
  • I have been given a sound mind (2 Timothy 1) and wisdom (Ephesians 1:8)
  • I am a light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14)
  • I am sheltered under his wing–protected (Psalms 91:4)
  • I have a hope that is sure and steadfast (Heb 6:19)
  • I can come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb 4:1)
  • I can do all things through Christ (Philip 4:13)
  • I cannot  be separated from God’s love (Rom 8:35-3)

While this list does little for helping me figure out the spiritual gifts, passions, and heart that are unique to me, it gives me a launching point from which to go from. These things remind me that I am WORTH me going through the struggle of learning about myself. God has a plan for me, and whether the world considers it significant or impactful,  I recognize that it’s still MY plan, mine. And no one else gets the privilege of walking in the steps God’s outlined for me.

Love Letter to God

Hi Daddy,

I love you. I love you for who you are, not what you do. I love your smile. I love your laugh. I adore your sense of humor. I love how you can whisper something to me in a crowded room and make me smile, and no one else understands, because you only told me. I love how you catch the corner of my eye when I least expect it and surprise me. I love that you’re always around.

I love that you are honest with me. You are genuine. I love the compassion in your eyes. I love that you LOVE everyone, and you are kind to them and love them with more strength than I could ever understand. I love that you always know exactly what to say or do to calm me down. I love that when I start freaking out, you wait patiently for me to come talk to you. I love that you always know exactly what I need.

I love that you let me yell at you, and you don’t get mad or yell back at me. And I love that when I come back on my knees, crying and apologizing for yelling at you, you take me in your arms and whisper to me, “I love you, Hannah. And I forgive you.” I love that you adore me, despite my irrationality and self-centeredness. I love that when I ask for your forgiveness, you give it freely and don’t hold it against me. I love how patient you are with me. I love that you have seen me at my worst, but when you look at me, you see me as my best.

At this moment I want nothing more than to do you proud. I want to be able to step into your thrown room and walk up to you confidently, knowing that my Daddy owns the place. I want you to come running to me, sweep me up off my feet, and say “Hey kiddo, welcome home!”

I wish I were home, with you, in Heaven. I’d love to see your face and crawl up in your lap, so you can wrap your arms around me and tell me that the fight is finished, and then I can rest. Then I could look up into your eyes, and everything would be complete. I can’t be with you now, I know that. But until then, I know you’re here with me on earth. And that’s enough. I’ll fight for you.

Oh, and thank you for the flowers. They are lovely 🙂

 

Love, your baby girl,

 

 

Romans 8:39
“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 1:12
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Saved

Christians are saved. “Saved.” It’s a word that the church uses so overabundantly that I’m sure everyone else is sick of the word and its connotations. I grew up hearing Christians being described as “saved” and God being described as the “Savior”. It made sense, because that’s what I was raised with. A “Savior” “saves”. Ok, got it.

But I don’t think I ever understood it. And I’m not sure that people can really understand it to its full extent until they’ve really begun to drown. I’ll explain what I mean by that.

It’s hard to put into words, but there are times where I am so overwhelmed with crap that I can’t breathe. Like I’m drowning. It’s my own crap: my failures and my imperfections. Sometimes I get so sick of myself that I can hardly stand it, because my mind exhausts itself with its manipulative cons and superwoman antics. I try to do and be everything. It’s also the crap of the world. I look at the pain that my friends and family are in, and I go through their struggles with them. The girl (this girl) who used to keep the world at arms length suddenly can’t keep healthy reins on her empathy. It all adds up to an incredible amount of crap that’s hard to carry around to work, school, and church.

But coming back to the crap: it’s too much sometimes. A lot of the time. I feel like I’m literally drowning, suffocating, beneath a tower of burdens that I’m not strong enough to carry, like a pile of bricks pushing me under into the ocean.

And that’s when I know I need a Savior. It’s not enough to say that God has saved me from my sins, like the churches preach. It’s definitely not enough to just say that He saved me from Hell, so I get to spend eternity in Heaven. That’s all churchy BS. It’s true, but there’s so much meaning lacking behind it. Where’s the love? Where’s the grace and mercy? Where is GOD the Father?

My Savior saves me when I honestly can’t breathe and when I don’t have the strength to cry one more tear as my head hits the pillow. He strokes my face and wraps His arms around me as I cry out of desperation or frustration. But most importantly, He picks up the crappy bricks that I’ve been carrying, tosses them aside, and pulls me from the water so I can finally breathe.

The cool thing about God the Savior is that He doesn’t just save us from our “sins” or our screw-ups. He saves us from our pain, our temptations, our regrets, and our inadequacies. That doesn’t mean that those things won’t still be a part of our lives, but we don’t have to be weighed down by them. We don’t have to drown under their pressures.

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 14:29-31
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Toddler Christians

I spent most of Thursday angry with God. There was even a moment where I was running through my house, screaming at Him. I then stopped, realizing that screaming in a close-knit condo complex was probably a bad idea. After waiting for a minute, half expecting someone to come knocking at the door or the phone to ring, I decided it was safe to keep on yelling. So I did. I told God exactly how I felt.

It’s been a long time since I last threw a temper tantrum, but I was definitely throwing one on Thursday. As I ran through the house screaming, I remarked at how spiritually young and immature I felt.

I’ve written before on how I’ve started feeling like a new Christian. Those feelings have only gotten stronger as I go through my weeks. I used to stand firm in my faith; it was something I could always rely on, and I took a lot of pride from it. I was GOOD at this whole “Christian” thing. But now things are different. I’m back to basics:  figuring out what faith is, how I’m supposed to feel about things, how I’m supposed to live out my faith, and what a relationship with God is like.

I feel like I’m spiritually walking around, running into things, and stubbing my toes like a toddler. I used to know the Bible really well, or I thought I did. I know the verses, the stories, and the people. I’d been raised in church, so I had Bible trivia down pat. But now I’m reading everything for the first time, seemingly. I know the words, but the words take on actual meaning now. They’re not just a cool phrase or a “food for thought” tidbit.

And on top of that, just when I think I know how to approach something, God comes alongside me and correct me in His soft, encouraging voice. There have been many times where God has corrected me. I’ll be struggling with something, and just when I think I’ve figured it out, He sends a person, song, or sermon to adjust my thinking. I’m usually not too far off base, but He keeps reminding me that not only do I not know everything, I don’t know anything. He’s teaching me daily humility. It’s hard to be cocky and proud when I keep running into things and making a fool of myself.

So I apologize in advanced if I appear clumsy or if I spend a lot of time licking my spiritual wounds and tending to my bumps and bruises. I might be a bumbling mess for a while. But I know that eventually I’ll stop getting knocked around so much, once I  develop a little more balance and coordination.

The King and I

During summer 2011 I enrolled in a 14-week class that my church offered called “Experiencing God”. We went through a workbook by the same name, written by Blackaby, Blackaby and King. It was an eye-opening process for me; I was at a stage in my life where I was really ready to see God, to EXPERIENCE Him in a way I hadn’t before. I was also at a personal crossroads and was looking for His direction in my choices.

The study had a ripple effect on many things in my life, but one of those ripples was an idea that I’d always been taught growing yp, but I had never embraced or understood it before: When we pray, we should expect an answer from God.

I didn’t know what “expect” really meant until now, though. Was I supposed to just be determined that God was going to respond to me in His small, quiet voice eventually, if I sat in the silence for long enough? Was I supposed to open my Bible to a random page, pick a verse with closed eyes, and try to interpret it to fit my situation? Was I supposed to go ask the wisest Christian I know their opinion, and go with it? How was I supposed to know when and where my “answer” would appear? What was I supposed to DO?

This past week has been intense. God has been teaching me more in this past week than He has in the past year of my life. And it’s only getting more exciting. But what I’ll pull out of those ramblings for the purpose of this blog post is that GOD RESPONDS. He not only responds to prayer, but He responds to our thoughts and ideas.

After my last blog post, “Just Show Up,” was published, I went to bed and opened my Bible. I usually read two chapters a night, unless I’m especially on fire. The last section I read was from Luke 17:

 7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

I sat there and cried like I often do these days as God’s power washed over me. I was amazed that God had listened to my rambling thoughts just an hour before when I wrote my blog post. Those thoughts hadn’t even been expressed in “prayer mode”… I had just been thinking. And I was amazed that He sent me to a part of His Word where I could find His thoughts and His words about the subject.

So, this is what “expecting” looks like: It’s listening, everywhere and to everything, but not trying to FIND the answer. There have been times this week when I’d hear a verse in a worship song that speaks to what I’m experiencing. It encourages me and puts little joy in my heart. Sometimes I’ll be talking to a random stranger or a friend, and they word something just so, and I know that what they said was a hint to me from God (for an example, see the 5th paragraph in my post “The Godly Condition” about not being able to let God down). Or I’ll open my Bible to do my nightly reading, and something LEAPS off the page at me, and I can’t help but sit there in amazement.

I’m not wise, but I am a quick learner usually. One thing I’ve seen these past few weeks is that when God really shows up, and when He speaks and I’m listening, it’s very hard to miss because it clicks in my heart and my head. When I’m aware of His power and His caring concern over the details of my life, I know when He’s telling me something. It has been a daily exchange between the King and I.

But I’m learning to DO less and TRUST more. I need to stop trying to do the right things to find the answers to my prayers…

I need to TRUST (there’s that word again!) that if I keep living on God’s path, He’s going to walk by my side. Then I won’t have to go looking for Him when I need some advice.

The Godly Condition

I love it when Paul says in Romans 7:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

That kind of describes the human condition, doesn’t it? Struggling with what we know is right and wanting entirely do what is right, yet we do what is wrong time and time again? I wish I could always obey the small, quiet voice in my head that is my mother, God, my conscience, or the part of me that is really trying to please those who think I’m perfect (ha!). But I never do.

I was reminded by a friend this morning of something I had forgotten, and I had been struggling against it up until she said something. She said off-handedly “I try [speaking about being a “good” Christian]. I really do. And then I get discouraged because I think I’ve let God down. But then I feel stupid, because seriously, ‘I let God down?!’ Like the God of the universe was counting on ME?!” Note the excessive inflection. I love her to death for her candid enthusiasm for life. I sat there and chuckled, because she hadn’t known what was running through my mind as recent as last night, and God had just used her words to comfort my heart.

I’ve spent the last two days stressing. It’s what I do when work is boring or there’s no one around to talk to. I stress. I have a lot of things up in the air right now, so I was freaking out about all of the unknown variables. But then God showed up in a another friend’s life last night, and I had the privilege of being one of the first people she decided to share it with. As she told me, I became overwhelmingly aware of God’s power and mercy. I sat there and sobbed for an hour, crying out to God, apologizing for my lack of trust and faith in Him. He had just moved a mountain in my friend’s life, and I was whining about car repairs. I remember saying to Him, “I’m sorry for letting you down.”

Then, over a cup of hot coffee with the first friend this morning, God reminded me through a few simple exclamatory sentences of how I should feel about my thoughts and actions. And I had to apologize again, but for better reasons than the first time. Sometimes I feel like a toddler in my relationship with God. I’m always crying, always running into things, and I often stare at the big world with wide-open eyes like I’m seeing it for the first time.

But like Paul, I don’t always understand what I do or why I do it, because often what I want to do and what I do are two different things. Often what I know I should be thinking (I can’t let God down because He is not depending on me) and what my gut reaction is (I’m sorry I let you down again!) are two different things. But then God, as my father (though I prefer the more technical term “Daddy”), in His quiet and gentle nature corrects me and forgives me, and I’m humbled.