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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thrive Where You Are Planted

Jesus once said that He was the vine and that His disciples where the branches. St. Paul later said that people would be grafted in.

That’s Christians today, disciples of Jesus that have been grafted in. Created by God and recreated when  saved from sin.

God saves us from our sins by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fruits of Jesus’ salvation are given to us by grace. Along with this grace comes gifts. The Holy Spirit creates faith in us and also gives us talents and passions.

God then plants those who receive His salvation in specific places. He calls them to churches, communities, jobs, schools, etc. in order to reflect His glory and tell the Good News about Jesus.

When we use our gifts of the Holy Spirit we reflect the light of Christ to the world.

The world is a dark place. It is darkened by sin. Not necessarily specific sin but sin in general darkens this once bright and good world. Misery, despair, tragedy darken this world – from earthquakes in Haiti to mudslides in California to mass murder in Nigeria.

But disciples of Jesus Christ are called to reflect His light into this dark world. Food, water, medical and construction talents can be used in Haiti. Homes can be opened to people displaced in California. Hope, prayers, and justice can be brought to Nigeria – just to name a few examples of using the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. And God then gives us gifts and plants us in a specific place use those gifts.

We could use the gifts, talents, and passions for ourselves. But we wouldn’t enjoy a fulfilling purpose in our lives. We would be like Narcissus in Greek mythology – focused on ourselves to the point where we miss out on truly living.

Or we could use our gifts in service to someone else. There’s a song lyric that says “love isn’t love until you give it away.” That’s the idea of using our gifts, the idea of thriving where we are planted. It isn’t for our own needs but for the needs of others.

And we’ll find that if we live this way, our own needs will be met – in a more fulfilling and complete way than we could imagine!

Where you are is where God intended for you to be. Thrive there. Find strength and power through His Word and Sacraments. Reflect His light and love by using the gifts He’s given you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Up and In or Down and Out?

Have you ever notice the directions at the end of Matthew 3 and in Matthew 4?

When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit lend him down to the Jordan, down into its muddy waters. And then the Spirit led him out to the wilderness.

But then Satan shows up. He leads Jesus up to the highest point of the Temple and then up higher to a mountain peak.

It seems to me the Holy Spirit leads us down and out in order to show us the love of God, our gifts, and our mission to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But Satan wants us to look inward and to strive upwards to higher levels of success, power, fame, and riches.

After the temptation of Jesus, He goes up a mountain and gives a sermon – a sermon that, at its foundation, tells us that we’ve got it backwards. The first shall be last. The rich shall be poor. The persecuted shall be blessed.

Then notice what it says about Jesus after He finishes this sermon on the mountain.

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. Matthew 8:1 ESV.

Jesus may have taught on the mountain, but He led down in the valley. People learned from Jesus on the mountains, but they follow Him down in the valley.

Jesus came down from heaven. He became one of us. He died and rose again to bring us out of the valley of death.

And He has called us to go right back down and bring this Good News to others.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Live Now

We have been given “gifts” in proportion to the grace given us by God.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. Romans 12:6

But being given a gift is not the same as actually using a gift.

Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins. Because of His sacrifice, we will spend eternity in heaven. That’s a “not yet” kind of thing. That will happen in the future. We will go to heaven “some day.”

But in John 10:10 Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

That is both a “now” and a “not yet” kind of thing.

To live an abundant life, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give us gifts. Gifts that are meant to be used.

But we if don’t use what we have been given, it is like waiting in an airport during a snowstorm. We have tickets to a tropical paradise, but paradise is delayed.

Now, I like waiting in an airport, at least for a little while. You can explore the shops, some unique to airports. There’s different kinds of food places, usually unique to the location of the airport. There’s usually a book store – one of my favorite places on earth.

So think about it. You can eat food you normally wouldn’t have opportunity to eat. You can read about exotic lands or epic adventures. All while you wait for your time in paradise to begin.

But it gets old and stale after a while, especially the longer you wait. There eventually comes the time when you get tired of waiting and want that tropical paradise vacation to begin.

This is what our lives are like if we don’t use the spiritual gifts we have been given. Instead, we just wait around for heaven to start. And as wonderful as heaven is going to be, there will inevitable come a time in this life that we’re going to ask the question that author T.S. Eliot once pondered, “Where is the life we have lost in living?”

We will have the abundant life that Jesus came to bring us as we use the gifts we have been given. So identify those gifts. Explore those gifts. Use those gifts.

© True Men Ministries 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Use It

For Christmas my wife and sons got me an iPod Nano. What a great imagegift! It looks great. It can hold just about all my cds plus audio books. It will hold several podcasts. It has an FM tuner and it even records video! It is a great gift!

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It would be a great gift, if I actually used it. It wouldn’t be much of a gift at all if I never took it out of the box or just left it on my night stand and never used it.

And if I never used it, that would mean three things:

A. It isn’t being used as my family intended for me to use it

B. I’m showing ingratitude to them

C. I waste the resources that they used to give me this gift.

It is the same with the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us. They are given to us out of the love of God in Christ Jesus. But they are intended to be used! They don’t do much – if any – good if we don’t use them.

After Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead to forgive us our sins and give us new life, He ascended into heaven. One of the reason He ascended was in order to send the Holy Spirit to us. And the Holy Spirit gives us gifts, talents, passions to use in this life.

What for? To make disciples of all nations, according to Jesus in Matthew 28. To grow in our own faith and to help others grow in their faith.

Identifying those gifts is not easy. There is a Spiritual Gifts Discovery Tool developed by the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod that my church is using (you can find it here at the Redeemer website).

Once you identify your gift(s), it is then up to you to use them. That is so important! It isn’t enough to just believe the Holy Spirit gives gifts. It isn’t enough to know what your gift is. You must use it.

And when you do, you will begin to find your purpose in this life. You will begin to find fulfillment, even in these fearful times!

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