Is anyone else frustrated by the materialism that Christmas has become? We say we’re celebrating Jesus’ birth, but I wonder if he’d be happy with the way we “celebrate?” If you go to someone’s birthday party, do you get the presents? How did we get this turned around? Are we really helping our kids by giving them everything they want? Why aren’t we giving to Jesus instead of each other? We have some friends at a church called Ecclesia in Houston who decided to do something about it. Led by their pastor Chris Seay, they are taking a different approach to Christmas. It’s a conspiracy to take back the true meaning of Christmas. Chris says that he believes that 100 years from now, people will look back at the way Americans celebrate Christmas and feel about the same way we do about the practice of selling indulgences. They’ll be disgusted. Anyway, they are focusing their giving on Jesus. Instead of buying gifts for other people who don’t need them, they are taking the money they’d spend on gifts and giving it to “Living Water International.” They provide people in 3rd world countries with clean drinking water. I think it’s good idea and I bet Jesus likes it too.
Another assignment was to write about how we can more effectively use our gifts and God-given personality in our lives.
I should begin playing guitar and singing more often around the house. Maybe even write some songs for Kasen. Miranda has been after me for years to play more often and specifically wants me to play for Kasen. I’ve just gotten lazy about getting the guitar out, so this is one area that I could easily make a change in.
I use my gifts and talents all the time in church. I teach Bible Studies, lead groups, step out in faith on certain projects, and I lead the congregation in worship on Sunday mornings with the musical abilities God has given me. My personality comes out in everything I do. I often wish I had more opportunities to teach outside of the youth program. I could certainly be more effective in using my gifts if I could arrange for some other people to help in the areas where I’m not gifted. This has been difficult, because volunteers are hard to come by, but I will make it my goal to find some help with attendance, finances, organizational/administrative stuff. This would free me to do the things I’m gifted in – looking into the future with faith, teaching, leading/training others, thinking creatively, etc.
OK – So evidently in class the other night (while I was in the hospital) Dr Ayers, gave a journal entry assignment to write a letter to God describing how we feel about our spiritual gifts and what areas we should improve. Here we go:
Gosh, that’s not near enough of a salutation, but there aren’t enough words to truly give You the greeting that You deserve either. I want to take a moment to express my gratefulness for the spiritual gifts You’ve given me. Growing up, I would never have guessed that I’d be the man I am today. Your presence in my life has truly been transforming and the gifts You’ve given me have been a huge part of that work. I was the kid who hid behind the curtain in elementary school, and now You’ve got me in front of groups of people telling them the good news! In this latest assessment, it seems that You’ve given me the gifts of leadership, teaching, and faith. Although I’d never taken this test before, I’m not surprised by the results. When I looked at the results, they resonated in my soul. You have truly made me this way and in discovering these gifts, it’s as if I had known them all along – like uncovering something that was already there. I’m so excited and feel so blessed that You have given me the privilege of being a steward of these things and I’m excited to see how they will be used. What places will You carry me to use them? How will You craft them inside of me so that they will become sharper instruments in Your hands? Lord, help me to completely surrender to You. I do not want to be a bad steward. I would love to one day see You and hear the words “good and faithful” used of me in regards to how I used these gifts. Lord, it may be strange, but I also want to thank You for giving me the weaknesses that I have. I am clearly not very good at serving, giving, or compassion and so those are great opportunities for me to grow. They will also be areas where I can learn to trust in the body of Christ and grow by watching them. I understand that these areas are probably areas where I will get myself in trouble, areas where I will fail, and be criticized, but these are also opportunities. I will be able to demonstrate my love for You by being obedient in these ways. These may very well be the greatest demonstrations of my love for You. It’s my prayer that I will be able to honor You in all of life. I want to honor You by working within my giftedness and efficiently serving You, but I also want to honor You in the ways that make me uncomfortable and probably don’t come as easy to me. Allow me to bring You glory with how I live. Thank You for breathing life into my bones and giving me these opportunities. It’s a privilege to be by Your side and to serve You. It’s an amazing honor for a finite sinful man like me to be given such beautiful opportunities to make eternal differences by being a steward of these gifts. I don’t want to let You down, but I’m gonna need Your help. I also trust that You will help – so Thanks for that too.
Over the years, I’ve done quite a few different spiritual gifts assessments. The one we did tonight in class was a “blind” test. (One where you don’t know what gifts you’re answering about) It also included a large list of gifts and defined them a bit differently than the one I normally wok with. Here are the scores I got tonight:
The test I normally use only checks for what they describe as the “motivational gifts,” which includes only 7 gifts: Teaching, Perceiving, Exhortation, Administration, Giving, Serving, and Compassion. Each time I’ve taken that one I end up with Exhortation and Teaching as my highest scores. Interestingly enough they define exhortation a little differently – in this test, it is a combination of encouraging and pastoring. The test I took tonight pretty well matches what I’ve seen before if you take that into account.
Certainly interesting results considering the kinds of things God has been placing on my heart lately. Hmm????