Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spiritual Gifts Part 1


In 1 Corinthians 12:11 its states, "All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills."

This verse suggests that God gives spiritual gifts to believers as he wills. So how do you know which spiritual gift you have, and how do you even know what the different spiritual gifts are? And why do we have them anyway?

Knowing Your Spiritual Gifts

There are plenty of spiritual gift tests out there, like this one, but below is how I believe you can figure out what your gift is without having to take a big test.

  1. Analyze your own areas of competence within these categories; ask yourself, “What do I think I do best?”
  2. Find out what others think you do best.  Listen to what others say about you and ask others what they think your strengths are.
  3. What do you like to do best?  God does not want you to be miserable (Philippians 2:13).  People often think that serving God means something boring and horrible, when in reality, God wants you to be happy.  If He wants you to do something, He will make you want to do it.  Do not always assume the will of God is distasteful.
  4. Be willing to try and see.  Sometimes, you can discover your spiritual gifts by trial and error.  Volunteer for jobs around the church. 
  5. When you do determine what your gift or gifts may be, develop them for the good of the Kingdom, and use them to the maximum capacity for the body of Christ.  Do not try to develop gifts you do not have, you will just make yourself miserable.
Why do we have spiritual gifts?

Spiritual gifts are supernatural endowments of specific abilities given to believers by the Holy Spirit which enable them to effectively serve the Body of Christ. Paul explains that our gifts work together for the good of the Church just as each part of the body works for the good of the individual (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-8).  Paul uses this analogy because the body of Christ is like the human body. Just as some parts of the body rely on other parts to function, Christians are to work together, relying on one another so that they may all function in unity. 

Christians are not to be in competition with one another over spiritual gifts.  The church cannot function properly if the members do not work together.

What Are the Different Gifts

The Bible lists the following gifts:

  • Teacher
  • Pastor-Teacher
  • Ministry/Mercy
  • Administration
  • Evangelism
  • Encouragement
  • Giving 
  • Faith
  • Apostleship
  • Prophesy
  • Knowledge
  • Wisdom
  • Discerning Spirits
  • Speaking in Tongues
  • Interpreting Tongues
  • Miracles/Healing
Some have argued that all gifts are listed in the Bible while others have said that the Bible only lists some of the gifts.

In our next post we will discuss the use of each of the gifts listed above and whether or not the Bible is exhaustive or if there are gifts not listed in the Bible.

So what gifts or gifts do you think you have at this point?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Importance of History


Why is it important to know history?

Both of my grandfather's fought in WWII. I would be willing to guess that many of you reading this also had relatives who fought in a war at some point in history. So why is it important for us to remember what they fought for and why?

I would argue that it is for the same reason that it is important that we learn about history in all fields.

When we stop remembering our history, we tend to repeat past mistakes.

Though I would also argue that knowing history is not just important for the sake of not making the same mistakes again.

History is interesting. It is important to know history because it is through history that we peer into the world of the past. We learn new things and begin to connect the dots that take us from where we were, to where we are.

But history does more than this. History helps us know who we are. Put differently, when we forget our history, we lose our identity. We have no connection to what has made us who we are now. We have no measure by which to move into the future.

How is history important to Christianity?

Much of the material in the Bible was written to provide us with historical information. It is about people who lived in history...namely Jesus. History helps us know whether or not we are being true to the message and calling of Christ.

History helps the church see where God's people have been. It also helps us to see what the church has done wrong. History reminds us of our need for redemption. It reminds us that we are always drawing closer to God or pulling away from him.

History is what shows us that we have been saved. I once was lost...but now...

History helps us to serve God better and to love God more deeply.

History is an important tool, a form of art, it is an educational treasure trove. History is what binds people together. It is what allows cultures to progress. The lack of history leads to moral decay among nations. History keeps us moving forward. History is a significant part of the over-arching DNA of humanity. History reminds us of who we were and helps us aim for who we want to be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nihilism and Objective Truth

From Under the Red Hood

I really like the Joker. He is one of my favorite villains, the reason is simple: he is evil for the sake of being evil. He is wicked because he chooses to be wicked. Many villains are a product of their circumstances. They are the way they are because at some point they were victims. But not the Joker...he is just one bad bad man.

Something else interesting about the Joker that makes him such an intriguing character is that he is a nihilist. Nihilism is belief in nothing. Nihilists have no loyalties to anyone or anything and often have an inclination to destroy things. Social and political institutions are typically what nihilist think need to be destroyed the most.

Nihilist believe that there is no meaning in life and that there is more pain than good.

Nihilism is the belief that traditional morals,beliefs, and ideas have no value.

So why is it important to understand nihilism? Because nihilism is a way of seeing the world. It is a way of seeing the world void of objective moral truth. A world without objective moral truth is a world without virtue. It is a world without honor. It is a world without conviction.

I am not suggesting that many people are becoming nihilist and that we are headed towards mass chaos. But it is interesting to note that the philosophical idea of nihilism has trickled to the public in the form of relativism. It is interesting to see how our culture is continually moving towards truth with no foundation. As we move away from objective truth, culture becomes corrupt.

C.S. Lewis recognized (back in the 1940s) that even when we deny objective truth, we still desire to have the good effects that objective truth brings to culture. He describes it like having an organ removed in surgery and still expecting the body to function as if the organ was left intact.

What kinds of truths are objective? What kinds are not? What truths have you embraced that are not universal? How does your acceptance of these truths negatively effect universal principles?

Has our culture, like the Joker lost sight of meaning? Lost sight of virtue? Has it begun to embrace destruction?


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Religious Freedom and Liberty

Is religious liberty really under attack?

Some might argue that it is based on mandates to remove religious symbols from public offices, mandates for employers regarding contraceptives and healthcare, or even just as a result of perceived threats against religious beliefs or practices.

While it may be under attack from some in our country, I am not too worried that all our rights are being taken away. The main reason for this is that a majority of people are still religious.

So what is religious liberty? In short it is freedom to believe and practice a specific faith.

I believe that religious freedom is important, not just for Christians, but for followers of all major religions. Humans should have the freedom to choose whom they will worship. They should also have the freedom to choose how they will worship.

As such, people should be able to live in peace with followers of other faiths.

I believe it is important to be able to have civil discussions with others about their beliefs and that it is appropriate to share our own beliefs with others.

However, it is not appropriate to force our beliefs on others. It is not appropriate to discriminate against another person because he or she has a different belief.

This should be unpacked. I Baptist Missions organization should not be required to hire a Hindu to work in their mission because he or she holds different beliefs. In other words, religious groups can require adherence to certain beliefs and practices among its employees. However, that does not mean that Hindus should not also be allowed to create mission organizations.

In some cases, it may even be appropriate for groups of different faiths to work together. In the event that there is a hurricane and Muslims, Jews, and Christians desire to provide relief workers, they should be able to help the devastated community together without compromising their own beliefs.

Religious freedom is important because rules apply across the board. If Mormons cannot send missionaries door to door, neither can Christians. We should stand up for one another in the pursuit of religious freedom.

The limits of this freedom are centered around other constitutional rights. No group has the right to do things that stifle another person's freedom.

What are your thoughts or questions about the issue of religious freedom?



Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Problem with Pornography


Today I would like to explain why Christians should avoid pornography.

First, pornography does not bring fulfillment. Pornography is a substitute for a real healthy relationship. When one views pornography, he or she is never satisfied, because there is no relationship with the object upon which one focuses attention. Whether it be in the form of a magazine, a picture, or a video, it does not communicate with the viewer, thus the viewer is never satisfied.

Second, pornography de-humanizes. The body is sacred just as the soul is sacred. When someone is consumed with a cheap form of art that objectifies people, making them less valuable than any whole person should be, it causes the viewer to cease from seeing actual people with whom the viewer interacts as whole people. It causes the viewer to objectify even the people involved in his or her life.

Third, it becomes an idol. When one seeks something to fill a need that the object cannot fill, then the result is that the person begins to seek it more and more. Eventually, the thing perceived to meet a need becomes the most sought after thing in a person's life. When this happens, the person elevates that thing to a position in the heart that should be reserved for God alone. The thing becomes an idol. Idols lead us away from our creator, away from our purpose in life, and away from healthy relationships with other people.

Christians should desire to honor God with their bodies and in their minds. When a Christian chooses to honor God he or she must view people as sacred. Christians must see individuals as whole people, not just flesh and not just as a means to an end. Christians should also strive to keep God first in their hearts, something that cannot be done when we elevate idols that draw us away from our Creator. Finally, Christians should seek healthy relationships with people who can meet the needs that pornography cannot. Those needs include being able to be vulnerable, being able to trust, being able to share, and being able to give of yourself to others and receiving the attention, time, and affections of the other person in return.

To learn more about the problems of pornography and to understand why it is an epidemic in this country, I encourage you to read the following two documents by Dr. Jim Denison who leads the Forum on Truth and Culture.

http://www.denisonforum.org/component/jdownloads/download/9-gods-top-10-rules-for-love-and-marriage

and

http://www.denisonforum.org/component/jdownloads/download/10-sports-illustrated-swimsuit-edition-and-the-plague-of-pornography

If you believe you may be struggling with sexual addiction, complete the following self test to see if you might need to get help from a professional counselor:

https://www.recoveryzone.com/tests/sex-addiction/SAST/index.php

The above test is for all people, the below test is specifically designed for women:

http://www.freedomeveryday.org/am-i-a-sex-addict/sexual-addiction-test-women.php

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Poverty

Islamabad
In the Bible, Jesus states "For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me."

Here Jesus makes a statement in reference to helping the poor after someone uses an expensive perfume to anoint his feet. In context he is defending the person who has shown him great honor, but his claim that there will always be poor in need of help speaks to a universal situation that has existed since the earliest days of humanity.

In our world today, over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day (that is less than $1,000 a year). Approximately 80% of the worlds population lives on less than $4,000 a year (or less than $10 a day).

22,000 children die each day as a result of poverty. Nearly 1 million people die each year as a result of malaria; 90% of those deaths occur in Africa.

2.6 billion people live without proper water sanitation. Over 1 billion people do not live with adequate supply of water. 1.8 million children die each year as a result of diarrhea due to the lack of proper water sanitation.


These statistics may speak greatly about the lack of proper nutrition and development in third world countries, but our own is not free from problem.

In the last decade, the poverty rate has risen 40% in the Dallas area alone. The median income of single parent homes also fell $28,000 a year in 2000 to $19,500 a year in 2012.

What exactly is poverty?

Poverty is defined as living below the standard comfortable norm in a society, usually as a result of the lack of money. Typically those living in poverty have no sufficient means of support. The impoverished often suffer from a number of health concerns such as diseases like malaria, they battle hunger daily (currently over 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night), they tend to be under-educated and in some places have no opportunity to go to school or learn to read (lack of education also leads to higher rates of juvenile delinquency), and often have little to no consistent shelter (over 100 million children in the world are considered street children).

Another problem related to poverty is the increased risk for abuse such as being sold into slavery and becoming a victim of human trafficking. Much of the human trafficking problem is associated with sex trade and prostitution.

Some of the major causes of poverty are linked to political corruption (especially in third world countries), lack of education, choosing to grow tobacco rather than other kinds of foods, and even food dumping when not done for relief in emergency situations.

Nearly 50 Million in the U.S. are now in Poverty

What is the Christian responsibility for helping to alleviate poverty?

In the Old Testament, the Law states in Leviticus 19:9-10, "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God."

In other words, it requires those with all they need to purposely leave some grain for the poor to reap without charge.

Later, Leviticus 25:35 commands, "If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you."

In other words, the people were to aid the less fortunate with food, shelter, and clothing.

Proverbs 29:7 states, "A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge."

The idea behind this proverb is that a righteous person is not to take advantage of the poor, but to stand on their behalf and provide to them the support needed to have the basic necessities all humans require to survive.

Thus Christians should, take from their excess to aid those who are less fortunate. They should aid in providing food, shelter, and clothing, and they should refrain from taking advantage of the poor.

I would also suggest that Christians do what they can to help educate and equip those in poverty to stand on their own. I have also written before about the need to provide access to clean water.



On a final note,  while over 3 Billion people live in physical poverty, over 4 Billion people live in spiritual poverty. There are approximately the same number of Christians in the world that there are of people who live without proper water sanitation. As you think about helping those who are less fortunate, think also about what you can do to help those who are spiritually destitute. Think about how you can help meet both spiritual and physical needs. Think about how your aid to the poor can also open the way for the kingdom of God.


Sources:

http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-global-poverty

http://keranews.org/post/dallas-poverty-has-skyrocketed-over-past-decade

http://www.globalissues.org/issue/2/causes-of-poverty

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stealing

NY Times (Interesting Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/health/11klass.html)


What does the Bible say about stealing?

Exodus 20:15 says, "You shall not steal."

This is pretty straight forward, but there are other passages that aid us in our understanding of stealing.

Romans 13:7 reads, "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed."

 In other words, we do not steal because it is dishonorable to do so.

There are many forms of stealing. One form of stealing is plagiarism (taking someone else's work and passing it off as your own), another form of stealing is robbery (such as taking candy from a gas station, or lifting a magazine from a stand). 

We should not take things that do not belong to us.

In our current society, this raises questions about downloading movies and videos, making poor use of our time at work, and about giving ourselves to the Lord.

In what ways do you refrain from giving others what is owed them or taking something that does not belong to you?

Two websites that are geared towards helping children and adults with this issue are listed below: