Gifts are for Using (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 8, 2015)

My little brother and I fell in love with a pair of soft & cuddly plush puppets at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo one year when we were young. They were puppies, and if you held them in the crook of your arm, it looked realistic (in our imaginations, that is!). I liked the brown one, and he wanted the black one. Our parents surprised us with the pups as a gift, and we played make-believe games with those puppets for years. I still have mine to this day.

 

Think about some of the favorite gifts you have received in your life. The gifts that come to my mind are things that I wore, used, consumed, or played with. I can’t think of any gift that I ever left in its wrapping paper, unopened. The simple act of accepting a gift involves action.

 

The Bible says that God has equipped each of us, as believers in Christ, with spiritual gifts (see Ephesians 4:7, Romans 12:6a, 1 Peter 4:10). These aren’t just things to keep tucked away for a rainy day; we should be putting them into practice. 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Some gifts are to be used within the church, while others are for sharing with unbelievers, as well. None of the gifts are just for our own enjoyment, and none are intended to be hidden away.

 

Later in that same chapter, Paul uses the human body as an example of how our gifts are supposed to work in tandem with each other. It wouldn’t do much good if all of us were eyeballs, would it? We often talk in church-ese about being “the hands and feet of Jesus,” but if no one serves in a behind-the-scenes role as the brain or heart, then the hands and feet can’t get very far.

 

If you have never taken a spiritual gifts inventory, then it’s a useful (and perhaps revealing!) exercise. Confession: I used to feel put out that I always score high in Administration, because that sounded awfully dull. But then, God opened doors of opportunity for me to lead and serve in different capacities that were a good fit for me, and I was able to use my gifts in ways I hadn’t realized before. I encourage you to be open to however the Lord has equipped you, and give back to him by way of service to your church family and community.

Worth Waiting For (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 15, 2013)

When I was a kid, we had a tradition of opening certain presents on Christmas Eve night. My brother and I loved the idea, of course, because Christmas Eve seems so much closer than Christmas morning when you are a child. Waiting can be hard! The presents look so pretty under the tree, and you can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s that thing you really want … or perhaps it’s just a package of socks … but either way, the anticipation is mounting and you can’t wait to rip open the box!

Waiting is difficult in a lot of ways. I remember being 12 and thinking that it was the longest year on record; it seemed to take forrrevvvver to turn 13. I remember the few days between final exams and graduation, when the hard work is finally over and anticipation peaks. I remember being in the last few weeks and days of pregnancy, when you can’t sleep and can’t see your feet … the waiting is exhausting.

The Gospel of Luke tells us about a man who had waiting down to a science. In Ch. 2, Luke gives us a glimpse into the life of Simeon. We don’t know much about him, except that he was faithful to the Lord and was regarded as a good man. We assume that he was elderly, since he had received a promise from God that he wouldn’t die until he saw the Messiah, but the Bible doesn’t say how old he was. One day, Simeon went to the temple in anticipation. He was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and he knew that his waiting time was over. He got to meet baby Jesus face to face and cuddle him in his arms. The promise that Simeon had lived for was coming true right before his eyes!

I wonder if Paul had someone like Simeon in mind when he wrote Colossians 2:6-7 (CEV), “You have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord. Now keep on following him. Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.” You and I may not have received a specific word from the Lord like Simeon did, but we do have something special, and that is hope. We have hope because of that little baby cradled in Simeon’s arms. We have a promise of eternal life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus. That is something worth waiting for!