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Lessons From a Bird Nest, Part 2

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Imagine the scene…Your 25 year old able-bodied son comes over for dinner. You’re excited to have him visit. He sits down at the table. As he recounts his day you cut the steak and vegetables on his plate into small pieces. You pick up the fork and begin to feed him, bite by bite, wiping his mouth often. Then you pick up his sippy cup and give him a drink. Does this scene sound familiar in your house? I certainly hope not! And yet metaphorically, it gets played out over and over in the church.

We Have to Learn to Feed Ourselves
Recently I shared about the baby birds I watched grow up in a nest under the eaves of my home. (Read it here) The newborn babies were frequently fed by their parents. As the baby birds grew and matured they learned to use their wings to fly. Then they learned how to hunt for food and feed themselves on a daily basis. They have now left the nest and someday soon they will likely have their own babies. The adult birds will be responsible to feed themselves and their little ones until the new babies mature and the cycle is repeated. 

This model can be likened to our spiritual journey. When we’re new believers we are often fed much of our biblical truth by others, not having our own solid foundation to stand on. Then slowly we learn to feed ourselves through reading the Bible, prayer, service, worship, and remaining in Jesus (John 15). As we become more mature it is still good, helpful and encouraging for others to teach us but we mostly “feed ourselves” from our own time seeking God. If we want a truly vibrant relationship with God, we have to remain in Him daily…not just one hour a week on Sunday mornings. Ideally, as we grow and mature we should be taking someone else under our wing as a disciple to help them to grow, like Jesus did.

But sometimes we get stuck in the spiritual “baby stage”. All we want is for someone else to feed us, pray for us, tell us what we should do, tell us what the Bible says. It seems easier that way because we don’t have to be fully responsible for ourself and our decisions. As one blogger put it, Babies are immature physically and mentally, but we expect them to develop. If they don’t, there is a problem. The same is true for followers of Jesus. We are supposed to be maturing in our spiritual walk, becoming more like Jesus. How can we do that if we don’t really even know what the Bible says? If we’re constantly relying on others to meet our basic spiritual needs? Paul admonished the “infantile” Hebrews:

“By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.”(Hebrews 5:12-14)

It’s Time to Put on Your Big Kid Pants
Here’s the thing….we need you! The church needs you and the world needs you. If you stay spiritually immature you aren’t living out the potential God created in you. God gave you a particular personality and gifts to glorify Him and reach out to others. We need your gifts, your wisdom, your maturity. We need you to be healthy in your marriage, modeling to your kids what God teaches, living out the wisdom of God’s words in your life, helping others to grow more like Jesus, sharing the good news of eternal life.

This week let’s begin doing the things we need to do in order to grow and mature spiritually so we can fully be who God created us to be and bring as much glory to Him as we possibly can! I encourage you to spend time daily reading the Bible, praying, listening for God’s voice, worshiping Him, serving others. As we do these things we will be encouraged and we will also find that we are automatically growing spiritually, just like a branch connected to the Vine.

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Help! I’m an Introvert with Extroverted Spiritual Gifts

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Hi, my name is Rayni and I’m an introvert.

I used to attend Introverts Anonymous, but usually no one would show up and if they did they didn’t want to talk. (Okay, that was joke). But being introverted is a serious business that many people don’t understand. In college I lived in a dorm on the top floor. Many mornings I chose to walk down the seven flights of stairs just so I didn’t have to say hello to anyone in the elevator. Today, if I see you in the grocery store and you haven’t seen me first, I will most likely immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction with great gusto so I don’t have to talk to you; even though I may like you.

What I’ve just shared probably sounds a bit odd or even mentally ill to all of those bustling extroverts out there. But I know the introverts are tracking with me. So, what is an introvert to do when God has clearly given you spiritual gifts that require interacting with people? You know, those “pesky” gifts like teaching, counseling and leadership that require you to be in front of or with people rather than behind the scenes?

Take Short Trips Out of Your Comfort Zone
After college I worked for two years at a church as a Campus Pastor. Looking back it is my favorite job I’ve had but at the time it was a bit overwhelming as an introvert. I regularly interacted with college students, led services and preached sermons when the pastor was away; and mentored, counseled, and prayed with students. It was a great growth experience but I found that I was continually living outside of my comfort zone with all of this “other people required” interaction.

I’ve learned that it’s a good thing to sometimes step outside your comfort zone, especially when God is leading you to.That’s where you grow. But if you constantly live outside your comfort zone its easy to go into survival mode rather than abundant life mode. Learning how to have healthy boundaries in this area will help you to live fully in the gifts God has given you.

Fill Up on God’s Strength
It’s no joke that God is full of limitless strength (Psalm 147:5) and that He wants to partner with us in using the gifts He created in us. God is glorified when we are authentically who He created us to be. I continually rely on God’s grace and strength to help me step through any fear associated with using my gifts. I invite God into the situation, ask Him for wisdom, guidance and help. He always comes through. He’s reliable like that. And it’s for His glory anyway. So, don’t be afraid to step out with God to use your gifts even if you’re feeling weak. God’s not weak. And I seem to remember some guy named Paul talking about how God’s grace is sufficient in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It Is What You Make It
If I let myself get psyched out about walking up to someone new at church and striking up a conversation, I will probably make a last minute turn into the restroom to avoid them. But if I just relax, don’t think about it too much and simply say hello, more times than not it turns out just fine. In my heart I want to reach out and be welcoming. Sometimes I let my introvert tendencies get in the way, and often I reach out anyway.

I am always glad when I get past my issues and do the things God has placed in my heart to do. You can talk yourself out of doing something good or you can just step out and do the thing. It is what you make it. That goes with walking in the other extroverted gifts God has given me as well. As soon as I surrender it to God, and take that first step through the fear, my heart comes alive with doing what God created me to do. There is much joy in that. And there is much triumph in trusting God enough to make that first step.

I Want God More Than I Want His Gifts

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Yesterday I was talking with God and I told Him that I want Him more than I want to use the gifts He has given me. And I would like for that to be my desire for the rest of my life. I “want to want” God more than anything and everything He gives me.

I want Him.

Now, don’t misunderstand…I do want the spiritual gifts God has given me and I do want to continue to use them. God gave them for a reason: to bring glory to His name, to draw people to Himself and, amazingly, to give us a way to partner with Him in all of this. These gifts He has given us are good things to be used for good purposes. I whole-heartedly encourage you to use your gifts, like I wrote about in my last post.

But….

Sometimes our priorities can get out of whack, can’t they? Sometimes we desire to use our spiritual gifts more than we actually desire to know God or to spend time with Him. Maybe we are unconsciously working for God’s approval…when we already have it because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Perhaps we enjoy the attention we get from using the gifts. Or maybe we feel exempt from ministering to hurting individuals we meet on a daily basis because we use an “important gift” in a large group setting on Sundays. Whatever the case we need to return to the joys of walking with God in the cool of the garden. As one of my pastors asks, “Did you marry God for His money?” Did I marry God because I love Him and delight in Him or am I in this relationship because of the stuff He gives me?

In the midst of those questions, these sentences from Paul call out to me:

“God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what He has done, collecting a following for Him. And He didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.” (1 Corinthians 1:17, Message)

And then this verse dropped into my heart:

“My question: What are God-worshipers like? Your answer: Arrows aimed at God’s bull’s-eye.” (Psalm 25:12, Message)

All of this confirms to me that God heard my genuine heart’s cry of wanting Him more than gifts or status or fame or stuff. He alone is worthy of my praise.

“God-friendship is for God-worshipers; They are the ones he confides in.”
(Psalm 25:14, Message)

So…If you are a God-worshiper, you are aimed at God’s bulls-eye (which I take to mean the center of His will and purpose). Also, if you are a God-worshipper, you are a friend of God and He wants to confide in you.

Isn’t that brilliant!? God is awesome in the true sense of the word!

This week as we lead up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, our Messiah, let’s take some time to evaluate our heart and our priorities. Have we turned away from our True Love? If so, just turn back to Him…He is lovingly waiting.