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The World Needs the Gifts Lying Dormant in You

A long time ago I asked a friend to give me some advice about what I should do with my life. He said:

Be the person you have always wanted to be.”

That sounds so simple and obvious but often the simple is profound. He meant start doing the things you need to do now to lay a foundation for living out the deep desires and gifts God has designed in you. Sometimes we choose or feel forced to put our gifts on the back burner for a period of time. And often we need to re-arrange our priorities or renew our focus in order to bring these gifts back to a full boil in our life. It’s important to take the time to do this because God created certain gifts in you that He wants you to use to glorify Him. We also usually feel more fully alive when we are using these gifts. And…the world needs the gifts lying dormant in you.

Where Do You Begin?
Several years ago I was in a job in which I constantly felt drained and had a long commute attached on top of it. I let myself become bitter and way too focused on myself and my own misery. Previously, over many years, I had served in different areas of leadership in the church. But at this point, even though I wanted to serve…I felt exhausted. I wanted to write more but often couldn’t find inspiration in my small amounts of free time. Eventually I left that job for something better suited for me. I wanted to start serving in the church again but I wasn’t sure of the where and how. So, I decided to start where I was, as a member of a small group Bible study.

I made a decision to change my mindset from being a “mere group member coming to sit and receive” to starting to look for ways to serve and use my gifts within the group. We hosted it at my house. Hospitality. I showed up prepared with something to say. Thinking like a Leader. I was open to God using me to speak into the lives of the other group members. Teaching and Encouragement. After a year I started leading a women’s group. The next step. Even if you’re not in a place of leadership, start having a leader’s attitude and begin using your gifts right where you are. Don’t wait!

Everyone in the Body Has a Gift to Share
The Bible tells us that every person has been given gifts from God to build others up and to glorify God. We should be using them!

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

While it’s good to be using our gifts at weekly worship gatherings, these gifts aren’t and shouldn’t be limited to the four walls of the buildings we call church. Remember that we, as followers of Jesus, are the church. Now, let’s use every gift He has given us for His glory no matter where we work and live. At work, at family gatherings, small groups throughout the week…wherever you are!

Have You Disqualified Yourself? God Hasn’t
We can be hard on ourselves, can’t we? If you’ve done something that makes you feel like you’re now forever disqualified from ministry and God can never use you, I encourage you to return to God and surrender your failure to Him. Ask for His forgiveness. And then receive it. Now, move forward and start using your gifts again to the glory of God. You’re in good company. Look at the life of almost every person in the Bible and you’ll see how they blew it multiple times, but God didn’t give up on them. Just step out in faith. God will meet that faith with His power! Remember…

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

So…
+What makes your heart sing? What are the gifts God has given you? If you don’t know, ask God to show you. He will. Also, ask other people who know you well to point them out. Most likely, they will be able to naturally, or supernaturally, call out the gifts in you.

+Not sure where to start using your gifts? Simply start in the place you’re in right now.

+Ask God to give you the courage to step out and be the person He created you to be.

Prayer
God, thank you for redeeming my life through Jesus and for creating gifts and a deep desire in me to use those gifts. I surrender myself and these gifts to You. Help me to identify these gifts and to begin using them, right where I am, for Your glory. And I ask that You will also open up new opportunities for me to use these gifts. Amen.

The Sheltering Tree of Friendship

“The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described friendship as ‘a sheltering tree.’ What a beautiful description of that special relationship. As I read those words, I think of my friends as great leafy trees, who spread themselves over me, providing shade from the sun, whose presence is a stand against the blast of winter’s wind of loneliness. A great sheltering tree; that’s a friend.” -Chuck Swindoll

Friendship As a Sheltering Tree
I love that description of friendship being a sheltering tree. Over the years I have so often felt sheltered by friends as I’ve experienced difficult, sad and confusing situations. My friends are so wonderful and faithful…there to listen, encourage me and offer wise advice. I feel protected by my friends. I feel sheltered by them. And I also shelter them, as well. Just like it is a relief to retreat under a big tree on a hot summer afternoon, it is truly a relief to be cared for and protected by a friend. But what about those times when we are in a transition, find that we don’t have as many “real friends” as we thought we did, or simply have a hard time forging the bond of friendship?

Be a Friend!
Several years ago when I moved to a different state and was the “new person in town” looking to make friends, a close friend challenged me that if you are looking to build new, meaningful friendships, you should focus on being a friend first. He said, “So many people are looking for a friend to meet their needs. Stop looking for a best friend and be a best friend to someone.” I like that. Often it’s easy to feel like a victim if people aren’t reaching out to us. Yes, we all want to be reached out to and feel special…and in a healthy friendship there is mutual caring and giving….but during those times when we are forming new friendships and not many people seem to be reaching out to us, take the initiative to reach out to others. Take the time to be a friend.

Showing Honor in Friendship
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NIV.) Jesus demonstrated ultimate friendship when He laid down His life for His friends…us. When He was living on earth He would continually demonstrate love for His friends and show them honor by sharing His entire life with them. He was open, vulnerable and was Himself with them. He also spent time healing them, listening to them, encouraging them, lovingly correcting them when necessary. Jesus did have healthy boundaries where He spent time on His own, but He really took the time to invest in the people around Him, and to become close friends with many of them. I am convicted that I dis-honor my friends when I am slow to respond to them, don’t return phone calls, and don’t make an effort to keep up with their lives. I have noticed this recently with people who don’t live locally and who I have been friends with for a long time. It is easy to take them for granted and to be lazy in a friendship, but I really want to make a commitment to continue to honor them and maintain our friendships.

Jesus Offers Us His Friendship
Shortly before Jesus went to the cross He told His closest friends on earth, “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” (John 15:11-13, MSG.) Not only is Jesus teaching us how to care for one another, He is naming those of us who follow Him as “friends”….and He cares for us.

So…
+What can you do to reach out and be a friend to others?

+Are you friends with Jesus? Is there something holding you back from accepting His gift and offer of friendship?

+Have you become complacent in keeping up with long-time friends? What can you do this week to show them honor and to reach out to them?

Prayer
God, thank You for creating friendship! It is so special and truly is a sheltering tree. Help me to reach out to others to form new friendships and to be intentional about honoring my friends and staying a part of their lives. Help me to take time for friendships. Most of all thank You for Your personal and precious friendship and for demonstrating through Jesus how to be a true friend. Amen.