Reflections

Reflection Series: Tithing

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The Church is often associated with certain duties or responsibilities to be carried out by its members. Apart from evangelizing, tithing is one of the most notable examples, recognized by Christians and non-Christians alike. However, as is the case with many issues concerning the Church, over time this holy responsibility has been misrepresented, misconstrued and misunderstood.

Why is tithing so recognizable to non-Christians? One possible explanation is that tithing concerns money: “our” money. And since Churches often are in need of assistance to operate, the plea for financial assistance is one often made from the pulpit. The key in this is the word “our.” To sinful man there is nothing more powerful than the allure of money. Money promises to fix problems. Money promises to cure diseases. Money promises to supply happiness and security. Many people have a stronger faith in money than in God Himself. And since we have to work for our money, the request to give away some of that hard-earned money is oppressive. We are willing to part with our money, as long as there is an element of investment involved that could benefit us. We feel justified in parting with our money if there is a possibility that the parting will result in our gain.

Tithing is different. Tithing involves faith. It aids things that will go unseen by our own eyes and will almost certainly benefit someone else and not us. With this in mind, most people when asked to tithe at Church feel comfortable tossing spare change into the basket, but feel unmoved to reach for a bill or a check. We view our money as “ours.” Thus, we often find ourselves responding to the request of the church to tithe unmoved, unimpressed and unwilling to give anything at all.

Tithing is an established command of God to His people in the Bible, and as is the case with God’s commands, it is not easy or possible through man’s power or effort. A true act of tithing is only possible with God’s hand firmly behind the believer. Otherwise, tithing will eventually result in resentment, frustration, bitterness and anger on the part of the giver. Therefore, a true act of tithing should be giving with four distinct characteristics. Tithing should be:

1) Giving that is Just

2) Giving that is Constructive

3) Giving that is Painful

4) Giving that is Joyful

Join us for the next four weeks as we explore this issue of tithing and what God’s Word says about its role in Christian life.

Hell: A Place of Delusion

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This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of delusion.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

Most people can relate to chasing the elusive, longing for more and settling for less. We desire fellowship, love, and presence, and often drive it away or can’t hold on to it when we have it. The tragedy is that for all our awareness of our problems, most of us do little to change the state we find ourselves in. We go year after year chasing things that repeatedly leave us dissatisfied. We go year after year making choices that do more to isolate us from others than unite us with them. If we know this to be true, why don’t we do anything to change and stop the cycle?

The answer lies at the center of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. While the Rich Man is open to his suffering and loneliness, what he isn’t open to is his desire to leave the place he is in, or to admit to where he is. Not once does he ask Abraham to take him out of hell. He instead requests satisfaction be brought to him in hell. He even believes that he remains the master to Lazarus even after Lazarus is in the Kingdom of God and the Rich Man in hell. The Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about his problems and his fate.

The terror of hell does not end suffering and loneliness. The scariest aspect of hell is that the Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about himself and his condition. In the same way an addict will deny the damage they have caused to themselves and others, an occupant of hell is forever in denial. The nature of sin is such that a person bound in it is so obsessed with, so fixated on themselves that although they suffer and although they are unhappy, they are addicted to the very suffering and loneliness they want to escape.

Sin tempts us with things that God knows will not satisfy us. But under the influence of sin we are willing to damage anything, anyone, even ourselves to have them. Sin creates delusion, and hell is the end result of sin in a human life, cementing eternal delusion on what is good for them and what they actually need.

Only Lazarus is named in Jesus’ story. This detail is not subtle at all, if one sees that the choice to only name Lazarus was made in the context of a lesson regarding hell. The named man Lazarus has an identity. He is real. He is accepted. He is loved. He is forever at peace with the Father, as Lazarus. The unnamed “Rich Man” is eternally anonymous. He does not know who he is. He does not know what he needs. He does not know how to fix what he knows is wrong. He is eternally separated from the God who gave him life, left to live out eternity in isolation, forever searching for what he will never find. His life was consumed by wealth that replaced God as the focus of his worship. Thus, his eternal state in hell echoes the priorities of his worldly life. In eternity as in life, he was simply “the Rich Man.”

Hell: A Place of Loneliness

This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of suffering.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

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Last week we discussed the suffering of longing and emptiness that all people can relate to. If asked what remains as another fear common to all, most would likely answer, “loneliness.” We humans were created for fellowship. Even before we were brought into this world, God designed us for fellowship with him.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Genesis 1:26-31

Then, being brought into this world by our parents and family, we were born and raised to be “with” people, loved, cared for and nurtured by them.

As we get older and our lives separate from family and home, we find ourselves apart from people more than we find togetherness with them. While independence does have its place in human development and is an integral part of finding unity with the Father who created us, fellowship with people is where we are given the fullest sensation of what we were designed to experience. Thus, being constantly alone is a fate that most are terrified and tormented by.

The Rich Man, aside from his eternal dissatisfaction and longing for relief from his suffering, is completely alone in hell.  He is left alone to ponder both his condition and the absence of a solution to his suffering. He is alone, with no one to listen to his problems, no one to offer any empathy or compassion.

When confronted with Church or Christianity, many people view both as a burden. For many people (especially in the modern Western world), individuality and the freedom it seems to give them is enough to give them the brash and prideful overconfidence to look God in the face and say to him, “I don’t need you! Leave me alone!” But we learn from the Rich Man that hell is a place where we are finally given our way. Hell is a place where God hears our request for isolation and gives us what our hearts desire. In effect, we request to be alone and God ultimately respects our desires and leaves us alone. Therefore, where many people view hell as a sort of large jar with people scrambling like insects to escape, only to find the judgmental, jealous and cruel God firmly tightening the lid, according to Jesus, hell is quite different. Hell is a place that the people residing there have in their heart of hearts requested, and who have received what they demanded.

We are often our worst company, our worst comforter and our worst coach. On the other hand, Jesus Christ came into this world as “Emmanuel.” Jesus is, “God with Us,” and hell could not be more radically different. Hell is “Man with Himself.”

Hell: A Place of Suffering

This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of suffering.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

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Describing hell as “a place of suffering” is obviously nothing new. Most people with no experience with Christianity would agree. Throughout the years, hell has been depicted in art and the media as a fiery place of torment and torture. When most people hear the word, “hell,” immediately they think of demons, devils, screaming, fire, blood, all under the terrifying and brutal umbrella of “suffering.” An oft-used tactic from the pulpit has been to illuminate these images in the hopes of scaring the congregation into an increase in attendance or in giving. Not all churches deploy this strategy, of course: many pastors illuminate these images out of sincerity to the truth that hell is a terrible place that we should be terrified of. However, whether used from a self-centered or Christ-centered pulpit, hell equals suffering.

Reading the passage in Luke’s gospel, some might be surprised to learn that the Rich Man is actually speaking from inside of hell. Aside from the mention of the burning that apparently consumes the Rich Man, the stereotypical images of hell are mysteriously absent. Where are the demons? Where are the torture tools? Where is the terrifying Satanic imagery?

What we do find is in many ways more terrifying and far more relatable. In the place of the physical suffering we often equate with hell due to the plethora of images depicting torture, we find that his suffering has much more to do with satisfaction. He has a thirst that cannot be quenched. He feels a burning sensation from within that he cannot escape. This is the suffering of hell that Jesus illustrates in this story. And it is this idea of suffering that should connect with all of us.

While most of us can live out our lives avoiding physical torture, what none of us can avoid is the internal desire for satisfaction that we can never satisfy. We all want things we cannot have, and we all have felt that aching pain of lusting after something that is forever beyond our reach. From infancy there is nothing more torturous or cruel than the idea that there is something that we are being prevented from having. What we learn from the Rich Man is that hell is where that complete dissatisfaction goes on eternally. Hell is a place where we can never be satisfied and will remain forever unfulfilled. Jesus teaches that unity with him and the Father is where we, as the children of God, find complete fullness, where our cup is allowed to overflow. Therefore, hell is a place where God is absent, the occupants remaining out of reach of that fellowship with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, forever suffering an eternal emptiness. Hell is Godless and thus, utterly hopeless.

 

Reflection Series: Hell

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Heaven and Hell. Some people assume Christianity is a religion which, if followed carefully and precisely, guarantees entrance into a personal heaven of safety, peace, love and joy. Some assume that Christianity poses impossible commands and rules that ultimately doom us to the looming hand of a judging God, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to throw us into a fiery eternity in hell to punish us for not being perfectly like him. While these assumptions are incorrect and based on sources outside of the Word of God, this two-pronged understanding of Christianity’s take on the afterlife is prevalent in today’s world.

As is the case with many topics, we have very little actual description of hell as it is mentioned in the Bible. However, one can argue that not knowing the entire scope of hell actually is a sign of God’s grace, in saving us the complete and detailed nature of hell. What we do know is that hell is a place God desperately wants us to avoid and we in turn should have a strong desire to avoid it.   In the Bible, God paints a picture of hell with few colors, but the colors he does use are enough for what we need to know about this place called “hell.” The Bible teaches us that hell is:

  • A Place of Suffering
  • A Place of Loneliness
  • A Place of Delusion

By examining these three aspects of hell we can hopefully come to a better understanding of why God gave his Son for us in order to spare us of this terrible place.

While there are many references to “hell” or “gehenna” in the Bible, our examination will focus primarily on the passage of scripture found in the Luke 16:19-31. Jesus’ description of the Rich Man and Lazarus provides us with more than enough to come to a complete understanding of hell.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

 Luke 16:19-31

Join us for the remainder of the reflection series next Thursday.

Spiritual Gifts: Healing

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For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on healing.

In the same way that Prophecy and Vision come with stereotypes and judgments on the part of those outside of the Church, the idea of “healing” has also gone quite misunderstood. The gift of healing, like Prophecy and Vision, was a major part of Jesus’ ministry and the Apostles’ teaching and was well represented in the early Church. For us to dismiss it as something done in the past but not available to our present Church is illogical.

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. -Matthew 10:7-8

The gift of healing is for us in the Church to possess now, not simply to reflect back to in nostalgia as something done by our forefathers. While some are gifted with the gift of healing in dramatically physical ways, most people go their entire lives without seeing an actual physical healing in person and assume the absence of frequent resurrections and blind-to-sight healings as proof that the gift of healing simply does not exist anymore.

To assume this is to completely misunderstand the purpose of healing taught by Jesus for His Church to exercise. The purpose of the gift of healing is to express the impact of God. This impact is a visible, public transformation from old to new. However, this transformation from old to new cannot be reduced to simply the transformation of the physical body. In fact, Jesus Christ was adamant that our physical body means very little. The purpose of the numerous physical healings that Jesus conducted in the Gospels was not to discourage or intimidate by comparison. Those healings were conducted for Christ’s ministry and the people of that time, to fulfill the prophecies that illustrated the nature of the Messiah’s return, which would be characterized by physical transformation:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. -Isaiah 61:1-29

While physical healing and transformation is still present in the Church today and some are gifted in this area, the true healing available to all those professing faith in Jesus Christ is of a different nature.

Jesus Christ was clear that healing is impossible without his presence and his word. In his Word lies the power of God to transform and save the lost.

2When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” -Mark 9:25-29

While most will never see a dead body raised physically, the sharing of God’s Word to someone outside of the presence of God is more powerful than physical resurrection. Anyone raised from the dead in this world still faces the challenge of sin. However, sharing the Word of God that results in a life born anew and a new creation in Jesus Christ represents the ultimate healing. There is joy in this world when a dead body is raised. However, according to Jesus, there is immeasurable rejoicing in Heaven at the resurrection of a life dead in sin, reborn and resurrected with Christ and transformed in his image.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. -Luke 15:1-7

Physical healing means absolutely nothing as long as the sin within the body is unaddressed. The priority of Jesus’ healing targeted sin, not the body. Finding God in the words of Jesus Christ and His gospel is the true pearl, the true prize, the true goal. In this way, the Church today has been blessed with the privilege of spiritually raising the dead to life through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. -Philippians 1:18-26 

Spiritual Gifts: Prophecy and Vision

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For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on prophecy and vision.

Numerous stereotypes obstruct the true Gospel of Jesus from effectively healing the world. One such stereotype is that all Christians claim to possess secret knowledge of the future. With the frequent prophetic pronouncements of certain evangelists concerning the coming Rapture or Second Coming of Christ that are invariably debunked, the non-Christian world has come to view the idea of Prophecy and Vision as something in which the “extreme,” “fundamentalist,” or “crazy” Christians dabble.

While “extreme” or “crazy” are not necessarily fair, “fundamental” is a word that says more than most who use it casually are aware of. In fact, the presence of prophecy and vision is absolutely fundamental to the nature of God and is a fundamental characteristic of the Church. Prophecies concerning God’s people have been spoken since the beginning and continued to be spoken following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The early Church exhibited the gift of Prophecy and for us to assume that at some point between the 1st and 2nd century, the gift of prophecy simply ran out, like air slowly leaking out of a balloon, is  justifiably labeled “extreme” and “crazy.”

However, the gift of prophecy is one that can never be used to glorify an individual. While the gift of tongues is uniquely personal in nature, the prophecy is a collective and corporate gift. This gift is not for the gifted but for those whom the prophecy concerns. In all situations where the gift of prophecy is used, there is one underlying purpose for words spoken: to express the divine authority of God in all situations and circumstances. Prophecy does not illuminate the power or knowledge of the prophet. Rather it often bypasses the prophet and is aimed directly at the listener. Prophecy exists simply to remind us of the past, present and future nature of the living God, the great “I am.”

The gift of prophecy is rare to most people in the Church these days, and that begs the question, why? In my opinion, the answer lies with a closer examination of people professing the possession of spiritual gifts. People who chase after spiritual gifts are often hungrier for the gifts than for God himself. Thus, the sinful temptation to fake the actual spiritual gift for the sake of possessing one becomes increasingly powerful unless the Holy Spirit Himself is allowed to intervene. As a result, the gift of teaching can often be faked by charisma, knowledge and preparation. The gift of healing can often be faked by the presence of lighting, volume, adrenaline, emotionalism and again, charisma. The gift of tongues can often be faked by the presence of emotionalism, corporate enthusiasm and again, charisma. On the other hand, prophecy is verifiable. Prophecy cannot be faked. The gift of prophecy is powerfully alive in the Church today but, like the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, can only be given, blessed and used by God Himself.

Spiritual Gifts: Tongues

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on tongues.

The gift of tongues is often a polarizing topic of discussion. Some Christians are raised understanding that the speaking of tongues is commonplace in the Christian life. However, others have lived a Christian life for many years and have never been in an environment where the speaking of tongues ever occurred. Since two separate groups living lives devoted to God can have such different experiences in regards to the speaking of tongues, why has it become so synonymous with the gifts of the Holy Spirit? While “speaking in tongues” can be left for a different time, at its heart, this particular gift has very little to do with “words,” “sounds,” or “body language.” In fact, at the heart of speaking in tongues is simply “worship.” Worship that is not corporate, but deeply personal and intimate.

When we read the account of Pentecost where the Apostles were baptized by the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues, what is most important is not so much that they were “speaking in tongues” but that for the first time they were caught up in deeply personal worship, not simply for, but with the creator God and according to his will. This worship was unique to them personally and was not necessarily for the benefit of the group.

The gift of tongues is entirely about the personal celebration of God. While all Christians possess a deep joy in being Christian and being known by God, someone with the gift of tongues has a specific means by which to express that particular celebration of God. When the non-Christian world uses the phrase, “speaking in different tongues,” they do so to express the presence of different languages, accents or dialects. Thus, speaking in tongues is known by everyone, Christian and non-Christian, as a way of communicating that is uniquely understood by one group but not by another. The gift of tongues is similar within Christianity. For example, someone who has been gifted to compose music for the worship of God has a unique ability to craft melodies to produce a song that glorifies God.   While most people might not understand the process of songwriting, composition or musical theory, when hearing the final product in the music, it is clear that God is beautiful and beautifully good to us. Similarly, if a person finds true celebration of God in creating recipes that illustrate his provision and creativity in a delicious and beautifully nutritious meal, this also is a tongue that many people cannot understand the intricacies of, but can all come away worshiping the creator God as a result thereof.

While there are many who do speak in tongues, Scripture tells us that if traditional speaking of tongues does not express a celebration of God, then as Paul has said, it is simply the sound of an obnoxious cymbal.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Associating the gift of tongues with music or food might seem radical, but I believe that these unique abilities in all of us achieve the designed purpose of speaking in tongues in the first place. That purpose being the personal expression of personal celebration of God. Some people possess a unique quality, skill or even tongue that allows them to experience this deeply personal worship and in turn bring glory to God by sharing that gift with others, while never assuming that all must possess that gift in identical form.

 

Spiritual Gifts: Teaching

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on teaching.

As Jesus said, in order to spread the message of the Gospel to a fallen world, there must be teachers to assist people in understanding challenging teaching. The gift of teaching does not rest on a foundation of successful research.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

   the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. -1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In fact, the gift of teaching has very little to do with knowledge. The gift of teaching goes beyond the mind. This gift is strengthened and powered by wisdom: not the wisdom of men but the wisdom of God. A person gifted in the area of teaching can go beyond well-rehearsed lessons or sayings. They instill in the learners something deeper than mere mental assent. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the teacher channels the wisdom of God in the same way that Jesus did during his ministry. Jesus was able to see things that no one else could. He could see the heart of the issue before anyone else seemed to know the topic. It is this very nature that is given to an individual blessed with the gift of teaching.

The gift of teaching enables the teacher to teach to the heart, the place that needs teaching the most. The gift of teaching also enables the teacher to speak clearly to a variety of listeners. In the Gospels, Jesus’ effect on hearers is not limited by the demographic of his audience. Jesus spoke clearly to every heart ready to listen. The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach clearly and succinctly, in a way that differs from man’s teaching of spirituality, codified and complex philosophical webs of theological nonsense that result in confusion and not liberation. God always desires to be well understood.

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ -Jeremiah 33:3

The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach about God in a way that achieves this goal.

 

Communion: The Sacrifice

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For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

Last week we discussed the provision of Jesus about Communion.  This week’s reflection discusses the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

The death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are at the heart of communion. While the Christian life must be marked by joy in the new life found in Jesus Christ, at the foundation of the Christian spirit is constantly awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that a Christian life should be overwhelmed by grief concerning the sacrifice. Absolutely not. To know his sacrifice is to know his resurrection, and to know his resurrection is the ultimate joy. However, in order to experience the life-giving power of the empty tomb, one must also confront the weight of the sacrifice that preceded it.

As Jesus sat at the table about to break the bread and pour the wine, once again, he found himself completely alone in the understanding of what he was about to do. For three years, Jesus repeatedly alluded to, and in some instances stated outright, the price he was going to pay on the cross. However, he alone understood the weight of his mission. On the night he broke the bread during the last supper, Jesus was staring directly at the cross, again isolated in the knowledge of what was soon to occur. Jesus could foresee the fists. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the spit. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the verbal abuse. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the crown of thorns. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the nails. The Apostles could not.

Jesus could foresee the dehydration, the asphyxiation, the loneliness. The Apostles could not.

The practice of communion is not simply the reflection on the death of a good friend. The practice of communion recognizes suffering that we will never understand. To practice communion is to reflect on the sacrifice of God for children who have defiantly refused to sacrifice anything in return.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

In communion we reflect on the fact that Jesus had no reason to sacrifice what he did aside from his desire to see us reunited with the Father in the same way he has always been. In communion we acknowledge that we have done nothing to deserve what we have, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been given more than we ever could have imagined. We are fulfilled and satisfied in ways that only God has foreseen. Communion is a celebration of new life; it is only a celebration because at one point it was the greatest loss the world had ever known.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)