The Holy Spirit – Gifts

As part of my research into a sermon on spiritual gifts I came across this very helpful blog by Sam Storms which I commend to you! The original, and other blogs are found here –

www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/what-s-my-spiritual-gift

Other, more conventional spiritual gift discovery sites are found here –

www.Giftstest.com

www.Commonground.co.za

One of the more debilitating obstacles to life in the local church is the fact that people are obsessed with discovering their spiritual gift and frustrated that they have not as yet figured it out. So they do nothing. I want to recommend an approach to you today to overcome this. Stop gazing at your navel and step out and serve someone. Let your gift find you.

I’m not opposed to the use of spiritual gifts inventory tests. But I think both Scripture and common sense would have us take a far more practical, almost pragmatic, approach to discovering our spiritual gifts, an approach that is at its heart need-based. Let me explain what I mean.

The next time you’re in church or in a small group or just hanging out with other believers, pause momentarily and ask a few questions, such as: Is anyone physically hurt or suffering from chronic pain? If so, take your hands out of your pockets, lay them on your brother or sister, and pray for God’s healing power.

Is anyone you know distraught or discouraged? Are some finding life too frustrating to bear? If so, take them out for a cup of coffee and listen to their story. You don’t have to theologize about their predicament. They’re not looking for explanations. They just want someone who cares enough to spend a few minutes with them. Just listen to them. Then love them.

Is anyone struggling financially with few prospects to get them out of the hole? Do something courageous. Give them your last $100 and trust God to supply your need.

Is anyone confused about some verse of Scripture they just read in their devotional time? Perhaps you’re just as befuddled as they are. So sit down with your friend and put your heads (and hearts) together, make use of a concordance, a study Bible, perhaps a commentary, and pray for the Spirit to shed light on your thinking.

Is anyone struggling with sin (well, of course they are!)? Offer to pray for them. But before you do, sit quietly together and ask the Lord to guide your thoughts and speak words of wisdom to your soul. If you sense something, or a thought comes to mind, share it with them. It might be the key that opens the door to their heart and brings freedom from bondage.

Does the person you just prayed for report hearing voices in their head? Do they struggle with paralyzing shame, virtually bombarded on a daily basis by accusing thoughts and self-contempt? If so, speak the Word of God over them with authority. In the name of Christ, command any demonic spirits to leave and never to return. Pray for them to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit.

Is anyone overwhelmed by the clutter in their garage and that ever-increasing mountain of dirty laundry? Offer to spend Saturday with them, helping out, picking up, washing, drying, folding, and putting away clothes.

None of this sounds especially spectacular (well, maybe some of it does). So what am I getting at with these questions? Simply this. If we spent less time obsessed with some introspective search to identify our spiritual gift(s) and more time actually praying and giving and helping and teaching and serving and exhorting those around us, the likelihood greatly increases that we will walk headlong into our gifting without ever knowing what happened. God will more likely meet us with his gifts in the midst of trying to help his children than he ever would while we’re taking a spiritual gifts analysis test.

So, look for a need and meet it. Find a hurt and heal it. Be alert to the cry for help and answer it. Listen for the voice of God and speak it. Identify someone’s weakness and overcome it. Look for what’s missing and supply it. What you’ll find when you do is the power of God, the energizing, enabling, charismatic activity of the Holy Spirit that will equip you, perhaps only once, but possibly forever, to minister hope and encouragement to those in need. So, if you’re still wondering what your gift(s) might be, act first and ask later.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

The Holy Spirit Unites

This blog post links to a sermon preached on Sunday 14th October 2018 – Listen below

 

Have you noticed how our society craves unity? Jeremy Corbyn turns up at Glastonbury and promises to unite the country. Football clubs bear the name ‘United’. Universities by their very name promise unity in diversity. People search for it in sex, music festivals, sporting events or religion. Why? Because we are made in the image of a triune God who is the essence of unity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

And yet rather than unity, we often experience division. In our own bodies and minds. In our relationships, both with people and the God who made us. In fact, you can argue that the dominant theme in the Bible is the search for unity. Of a God who responds to disunity by sending Jesus…’and through him to reconcile to himself (re-unite) ALL THINGS – making peace by his blood on the cross’ (Colossians 3:19). In the new heavens and new earth, we will be perfectly united with God.

 

In the meantime, God has a chosen model of showing unity to a unity-hungry world. A model the world should look at and find irresistible. What is that model? The local church! And it is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that such a disparate, sinful group of people could ever show unity. Because our unity isn’t around preference – we’re not called to uniformity. We are not called to be a black church, a white church, a working-class church, a ‘modern songs only’ church. The earliest example of this came after the Holy Spirit came on the believers at Pentecost. Straight away we see the church coming together, sharing their things, eating together, breaking bread together and so on (Acts 2:42-47). The result? ‘The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’.

 

Have you given up hope that this kind of life might happen to you? Well please don’t – because by the power of the Spirit we can know this unity, this love, this generosity! In fact, it’s in our vision statement – ‘to be a growing community of people – from different backgrounds, stages of life and experiences, including the vulnerable – who are one family in Christ Jesus’.

 

Ephesians 4:1-13 gives us some pointers as to how this unity comes about. We are united as a family, and the fruits of the Spirit contribute to our being a loving family (e.g. in verse 2 –  humility, patience and bearing with each other). We do this through the ’bond of peace’; being at peace with each other is like the mortar between bricks – it holds us together in love.

Secondly, we are united in our calling to become more like Jesus ‘until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (v13-14). In fact, the gifts of the Spirit are given for this purpose – that we might present each other perfect in Christ.

Finally, we are united in our calling to be on mission – our unity shows God to the world. We’re saying – heaven will look a bit like this! When we are united…’then the world will know that you sent me (Jesus) and have loved them even as you have loved me’ (John 17:23).

 

So, in summary, the Holy Spirit unites us in our calling as the family of God on mission. But we only get the power to live like this when we look at Jesus. The role of the Holy Spirit is to point us to Jesus and it’s as we look to him that we are given power to love one another and show him to the world. He didn’t come to die for us as individuals. He came to die for his church. We can only have unity of the Spirit because of Jesus – he was broken so we might be whole; torn in two so that we might be united as one. That’s why we celebrate communion, eating broken bread. That’s why we drink wine which represents his blood – his lifeblood in us gives us power to live in a way which doesn’t always come naturally!

 

So, are you in? Are you present in your local church? Do you go out of your way to be with others who aren’t like you, even when it isn’t comfortable? Are you living at peace with others? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us Jesus more and more, that we might together receive power to live as a united family sharing Christ with a broken world.

 

Written by John Greenall

Being Colour Blind

posted in: Bible, Tony Thompson | 0

In two separate contexts in the last week I have heard Christian leaders say that they are “colour blind”, by which they mean that when they look at someone they do not see their colour, or their background, they just see a person. I understand what they are saying, but are they right? Is this a helpful way of thinking and talking? I know it is potentially controversial, but I have concluded that we shouldn’t be colour blind and in fact it is only white people who would even suggest it!

The reason I think it is unhelpful is that it assumes that we are all equal, which is not the case. In the eyes of God all are equal, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3v28 but is not yet a lived out reality in our world, or even in our churches.

It ignores the fact that our society is rigged to give some people advantages over others. This is not just associated with colour, there are issues associated with “class” and wealth, and gender. We are not all equal, and not recognising this is unhelpful, especially when it comes from those who have all the advantages. As Paul also says we should remember the poor. Galatians 2v20

Reni Eddo-Lodge says,

Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

This video powerfully demonstrates the truth about privilege, it is only short and worth watching.

There are all sorts of statistics, which I will not bore you with, that demonstrate the advantages that white men from a middle-class background have compared to others. i.e. people like me! I think that Jesus and the Bible challenges those who come from privileged backgrounds to acknowledge that and seek to uphold the cause of those who are less privileged.

We need to speak more about “white privilege” more than being colour-blind! I did so at a conference I spoke at recently and the shock I had was that some in the audience, people of colour, were astounded that I would do so as a white man, they had never heard a white person acknowledge that before.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Breaking the Silence on Child Abuse

posted in: Book Reviews, Tony Thompson | 0

Child abuse is something that I am aware went on but until recently had little understanding of the impact it has on the individuals affected and the wider society. Breaking the Silence on child abuse by Robert Stevens greatly helped my understanding and is essential reading for anyone who has been abused and anyone in pastoral ministry.

Nobody really knows how many adults were abused as children, either sexually, physically or emotionally. Estimates range from 5 to 25% of the population. The devastating long-term impact of child abuse is only beginning to be widely understood, Robert Stevens was himself abused as a child, but it took around 40 years for him to come to terms with its impact.

Being a workaholic, or perfectionist, alcoholic, drug addict, self-harmer, or even helping others, fighting for a cause, hiding in a community can all being common coping mechanisms. But until the underlying symptoms have been addressed, these coping mechanisms simply keep a lid on the trauma caused by abuse.

Not everyone who suffers in this way has been abused, but for many the root cause is abuse. Until that abuse has been dealt with battles with addiction will never be won.

Robert describes the symptoms he suffered,

There is a reoccurring deep-seated fear of being controlled again and a fight never to allow that to happen. When it is not fear of being controlled it is an anxiety of being abandoned…… hopelessness of no way out… anger of injustice of it all…… being odd one out, different from normal people. Fear, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, self-loathing and more….. At times, it is overwhelming.

It is a struggle with the distrust of people and often those who are an authority figure or who are loved ones…..

He also gives clues as to how to deal with the feelings and even walk free. The common theme seems to be changing how we view ourselves and the world.

When a wave of emotions sweeps over us like a tsunami tell yourself – don’t expect anyone else to do anything; step aside and ask what is happening; do something constructive.

Changed emotions are a side effect from a change in thinking.

Accept from the Master-Creator that I am an awesome creation because God is an awesome Creator. It is tough for survivors to accept that they are awesome. I have been given a life which God has prepared and permitted in every part. I am chosen by God, made holy by Him and dearly loved by Him.

Desperate lows can be turned into determined highs. Distrusting our emotions can lead to a deeper dependence on the Lord.

We need rest from all the sin that has been done to us. My scars are displaying his grace and his power. I have always thought that those who shine the brightest have been polished up by past suffering.

It is not an overnight transformation but a time-consuming restoration through the different stages.

Healthy mourning. I was not responsible for the injury to me as a boy. It was their sin not mine. I am not responsible for being abandoned. I am responsible for my own journey of restoration. I should grieve the loss as if I were grieving the death of a close friend. Claim back the emotions of my loss and the emotions of my freedom.

Having worked through these issues over years Robert is very honest about the issues he still faces,

I still experience feelings of rejection because I still catch myself thinking that I am different. Battle for right thoughts. Can’t do anything with feelings but thoughts can be arrested.

Can be over-sensitive and harsh words slip out of our mouths on a daily basis.

I have found it difficult to forgive what I see as needless offences of a few Christians.

He realistically admits, Others can shoot us in the back, but we can also shoot ourselves in the foot when we misinterpret what someone has said.

There are also warnings for those who seek to help,

Victims of trauma are not helped by well-meaning people who want to organise life for them or dictate a road of recovery to them. They need to take control themselves.

Work in a team so that you do not become depended upon (or worse you depend on them), and so that you yourself have the support and wise counsel from others.

Keep Jesus and people, not projects central.

These are just some of the highlights.  All in all, a very important and helpful book.  I have ordered copies for all our leaders.

 

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http://keithjones.co.uk/breaking-the-silence-on-child-abuse-9781846256066/

 

 

Written by Tony Thompson

The Holy Spirit Empowers

This blog post links with a sermon preached on Sunday 23rd September 2018 – listen below

 

Corrie Ten Boom stood speaking to a crowd of people on forgiveness, when the worst guard at the concentration camp, the one who had been particularly cruel to her and her sister approached her and asked for forgiveness.  

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

 

 

 

 

What do you think of, when you think of powerful people?  World leaders, super heroes, the wealthy, celebrities… the list could go on.    

God’s Kingdom is topsy turvy; Power in the Kingdom of God looks differently to the way the world views it.  The kingdom demonstrates empowerment differently. Its purpose is not for personal gain, its fruit look meek, even poor in spirit, it’s servanthood and sacrifice.

Yes, it includes the supernatural, yes, it transforms brokenness, yes, it is influential, life-changing and powerful.  God empowers us – weak, full of flaws, imperfect. Why? So we can’t glorify in our own greatness but point directly to Him.

2 Corinthians 4:7-8

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 

Jesus fully god, fully man demonstrated his power through sitting with the most despised and the ignored, he demonstrated his omnipotence through weakness.  He was beaten and whipped, spat at and abused. He died a death reserved for the lowest of the low. His weakness has had such a powerful impact that it is rejoiced in over 2000 years later.  

Empowerment is God giving us the authority and power to see things transformed, in our own lives, in our towns and in our communities.  

Empowerment is not being bound by hatred or bitterness; but being free to love and forgive even our worst enemy.

 

Written by Linda Geevanathan

The Influence of Willow Creek Community Church

posted in: In The News, Tony Thompson | 0

Over the Summer we had a preaching series on “Heroes of the Faith”. I spoke about the influence that Bill Hybels, the leader of Willow Creek Community Church. (You can listen to the sermon below).

 

 

The extent of the influence is demonstrated by looking at the 8 values of Willow Creek, I would hope we would hold them all!

 

  1. Lost people matter to God, they therefore matter to us

 

Willow Creek started as an outreach ministry and are still organised and give priority to those who do not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus. I guess this was one of the things that drew me to Bill in the first place. I too felt called to help the church become relevant to those who have not been brought up in the church.

 

  2. Fighting injustice and working for peace. Living out Jesus mandate makes church complicated, but it is a price worth paying.

 

Willow Creek is involved in an amazing number of mercy ministries in the US and across the world. In their context they are accused of being political which doesn’t endear them to everyone. Too a lesser extent this is true for us. We have a growing ministry “Good News to the Community” which seeks to live out Jesus mandate. No doubt this will expand.

 

   3. Radically inclusive, reaching all nations, ages and social backgrounds.

 

The Willow Creek story is like ours, starting out as predominantly a white church middle class church it has purposely sought to broaden its base and is now a fully integrated community. We have been on the same journey.

 

   4. Becoming fully devoted followers of Christ. 95% not enough.

 

Just going to church on a Sunday is not enough, the whole of our lives need to be devoted to following Jesus.

 

   5. Women and men serve according to spiritual gifts 

 

Willow Creek would have a different emphasis on spiritual gifts than we have, but the principle that God has given each of his follower’s gifts of grace that we should use in the service of Him is something we would have in common.

 

   6. Steward resources wisely and generously, it is part of discipleship.

 

This is something that I recently realised we had not been emphasising enough. We need to be talking about stewardship as individuals and as a church. How we use our resources is a true sign of where our hearts are.

 

   7. Gather regularly for worship, teaching and prayer.

 

In a context where there are so many different demands on our time maybe we should be giving a greater focus on encouraging people to give a priority to gathering as the people of God midweek and on Sunday’s. This is something that Willow Creek have realised they need to do.

 

   8. Dependant on and courageously obedient on the Holy Spirit 

 

For a church that is not known as a Charismatic Church Willow Creek and Bill Hybels have emphasised the need to rely on the Holy Spirit in a way that would surprise many. We would want to echo that focus, we must depend on the Holy Spirit and be courageously dependant on the Holy Spirit.

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