Monday, February 17, 2014

What Are Your Gifts?

Jennie’s right. This is hard.
I’ve avoided writing about this week’s Restless study lesson for three days.
They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud. — John Flavel
I don’t want to talk about gifts.
Because, the thing is, I know myself fairly well. And, honey, it isn’t pretty. My focus for the last several years has been to grow in my relationship with Jesus and to ask God dig into my heart and heal brokenness as the Holy Spirit has convicted me over and over again of the things that needed to change. Repenting my way through journals and journals. Asking Him to reveal Himself to me, to gift me with a greater longing and inloveness for Him, and to plant in me a convictable heart. Asking the Holy Spirit to shine the light on all the places where I hide, or lie, or try to camouflage with a fig leaf and a winning smile. Seeking friendships with women who depend upon the Word and who press into deepening relationships with God. Asking those trusted ones to speak into my life and going hard after being changed by grace. Asking Him to burn away whatever is dead and useless. Asking the Lord to redeem my brokenness and use every bit of it for His glory. It’s been a season of seeking God and repenting, and seeking God more and repenting more.
So, gifts have gone by the wayside. Ignored. They’ve gotten dusty to the point that they feel sort of… pathetic, weak, and fruitless. Like they were last used a lifetime ago. That’s embarrassing.
I think I’m afraid to talk about gifts partly because not only have I not been very fruitful for several years, but also because at some point I stopped believing I had any left to offer. It also has to do with the fear of appearing arrogant as Jennie and I discussed on our Author Live-Chat, and partly because of plain old fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of not being wanted, fear of inability or inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of the mocking voices that would say, You can’t do that! Who do you think you are? You don’t belong! And I’ve feared opposition, making a fool of myself, disappointing God and disappointing others.
I don’t know what your fears are, but I know if they aren’t from God they are from the enemy, and they need to be taken apart. — Jennie Allen
It helps me so much that at the beginning of the story of young Joseph (Genesis 37:1-11), we meet him as a spoiled brat tattle-tale! He’s the puffed up braggart bringing Dad (Jacob, the manipulative “tripper” or “deceiver” who wrestled with God in Genesis 32 and whom God renamed Israel) bad reports of his half-brothers… but, whom God uses anyway! That is good news, friends! The Bible is filled with stories of sinful, flawed, broken, normal people that the Lord radically and beautifully transforms for His purposes.
(Next week we’re going to talk about what God did in Joseph’s life in order to transform him, prepare him, and position him and let me just say ahead of time that it’s also good news, but it won’t feel like it because it involves suffering and loss, mistreatment and pain.)
Some of Joseph’s issues stem from Jacob/Israel, that’s true. He was loved more than any of his half-brothers. He was treated better than them. He got better gifts. (Which reminds us parents: favoritism doesn’t do kids any favors!) It was pretty much a given that his brothers would hate him. Why wouldn’t they?
But, not all of it was Daddy’s fault. Joseph made matters worse for sure. Totally aside from the human mess, though, Joseph was ordained with the supernatural gift of dreaming spiritual dreams and being able to interpret them. That part was ALL GOD!
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul teaches about spiritual gifts and that we, the Church, are to operate in unity since we are one Body. We are to celebrate one another’s gifts! We are to deeply value and honor one another. We are to use our gifts for the benefit of everyone else. They’re not meant to beat others up with, or to feel proud or ashamed about, or like we are above or below others in significance.
Our gifts’ primary purpose is for building up others. — Jennie Allen
I love how Jennie points out that right after Paul teaches about gifts and the unity of the Body of Christ, he goes straight into teaching about love. That without love we are just noise, noise, and more noise. We are nothing. And, we gain nothing.
And, yet I still struggled through this week’s lesson. If something could possibly distract me, it did. Out of frustration, this was my Facebook status:
Why is it that whenever I sit down with my Bible to study and write, the phone buzzes like mad with calls, emails, and texts, and my dogs bark relentlessly? Why does my brain think of everything on my To Do List? The laundry is done. My room and desk are clean. I’ve prepared today’s meals. I have cleaned out drawers, emptied the trash, wiped down countertops, made a phone call, and written a thank you note. I’ve prayed and meditated, showered and dressed, and decided I don’t need a manicure.
Good grief, woman! Just write!
Talking about gifts is hard. Asking others what your gifts are is hard. Writing about gifts is hard!
I can ask my friends what my faults are, my sins, my blind spots, areas where I need to stretch, grow, and mature in any day of the week and twice on Sundays. But, asking “what are my gifts”? That feels selfish, self-centered, praise-seeking, and yucky.
So, I don’t want to talk about my gifts. It’s weird and uncomfortable and I feel squirmy. But, here I go anyway…
James 1:17
What if the things you love to do actually converge with God’s will? - Jennie Allen

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God, we love You so much! Thank You for endowing us with particular, supernatural gifts and talents. Thank You for getting under the hood with us as we explore what You have for us to do and be for the purpose of bringing You glory. Open our eyes to see how we may love and serve You more. Expand the boundaries and knock down walls. Help us to be brave and help us to always be humble. Teach us to celebrate one another’s gifts and to cooperate together as one Body. We want to give you all the glory, Abba! We adore You! Amen.

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