Category Archives: Christianity

Embracing God’s Gift Rather Than Twisting Our Blessings

These words from Hosea have resonated with me for nearly 20 years (Hosea 11:1-11),

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
    the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
    a little child to the cheek,
    and I bent down to feed them.

“Will they not return to Egypt
    and will not Assyria rule over them
    because they refuse to repent?
A sword will flash in their cities;
    it will devour their false prophets
    and put an end to their plans.
My people are determined to turn from me.
    Even though they call me God Most High,
    I will by no means exalt them.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
    How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
    all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
    nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
    the Holy One among you.
    I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the Lord;
    he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
    his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come from Egypt,
    trembling like sparrows,
    from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
    declares the Lord.

First, we notice that it is God who figuratively taught Israel to walk. This is an act of grace. The creator of the universe endows his created ones…his children…with abilities and blessings. God freely gives these things.  That makes these gifts and blessings an act of grace.

There are several words in the Greek New Testament that are translated “gift”. Two of them are connected with grace. Charis, the word for grace, can be translated gift in a few instances and the word most often used for grace is a variation of the word grace – charisma. The word we typically use to talk about someone’s charm didn’t mean that initially. It didn’t even mean that someone had a gift. Charisma was the gift itself and it was a gift freely or graciously given. Again, this points us back to the connection point between our gifts and God’s grace in giving them. The gifts we have, even the abilities we have are given by God and come with great responsibility – to use them in a way that honors the giver.

Now we have choices to make with the blessings and abilities we have. Do we use them for God and what God desires or do we twist them and use our abilities and blessings for selfish, even godless purposes? We see Israel doing the second in these verses where they take there figurative ability to walk and figuratively run from God to chase after the idols.

Embedded in these verses is the stone-cold truth that any blessing God gives us can be manipulated for evil rather than embraced and used for the God good intends. There is a human tendency to twist any gift God gives us. We are masters of self-interest. Ingrained in our flesh is to take any good thing and twist it up into something that no longer resembles the initial beauty it had when God presented us the gift. Any ability God gives us can be twisted, taking pure and holy blessings and abilities and turning them into weapons for spiritual warfare against other people. God give us the ability to speak and with our mouth we can use that grace-filled and profound gift and hurt others and curse God with it.

Even worse, we can see the people God puts before us as an inconvenience or an obstacle rather than a person with true dignity and value. When Peter and John saw the man begging at the temple gate they didn’t trip over him because the saw him…I mean really saw him. They looked right at him and brought him wholeness because this man had value too. What did they do? They took their God-given, Holy Spirit empowered ability to heal and used it for blessing.

What helps us get in tune with our gifts and helps us use them in a godly way? The Holy Spirit helps us with this. The gifts of the Holy Spirit in the early church were called “charisma”. As Christians it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the spiritual gifts we have as the adopted children of God. It is the Spirit who helps learn to walk and even run in a spiritual sense. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. This too is a gift…a charisma. It is all grace and should be used accordingly.

So the next time you are tempted to use your body, your ability, and your resources for sin…all things given gracefully by God…think about it again and make sure you are using them in a manner fitting of the one who gave you those things!

What Do We Know About Joseph?

The New Testament doesn’t give us an awful lot of information about Joseph but we do know a few things from what we have in Matthew, Luke and John. First, we know that Joseph was Jewish and a descendant of David and originally from Bethlehem. Matthew tells us that in his genealogy in Matthew 1.Continue Reading

Christian Weapons

Paul constantly reminds us of the challenges of living in this world and the resistance we constantly face due to the principalities and powers of darkness that are exerting their influence in the world each and every day short of Jesus’ return. Sometimes Paul talks about this as a race we are to run thatContinue Reading

Re-envisioning the Manger: 7 Common Misconceptions about the Nativity of Jesus

A few fun facts about the ancient world and the birth of Jesus. 1.  Mary wasn’t necessarily about to give birth any moment on her way to Bethlehem. The classic image of Mary riding on a donkey about 11 months pregnant probably wasn’t the case. Luke 2:4-6 – “4 So Joseph also went up from theContinue Reading

Receptivity of the Tax Collectors, Sinners and Others Who Understood Their Helplessness

Those most expected to respond often don’t and those who are unexpected appear out of nowhere. I have seen this countless times in ministry where you are praying for God to impact the congregation expecting it to come through certain people. The next thing you know there are people you never expected doing the thingsContinue Reading

Getting to Know Jesus

More and more I feel the desire to get to know Jesus better. I have known about Him my whole life. I committed my life to being a disciple of Jesus years ago. I remember him every week around the Lord’s table. My desire to get to know Jesus only grows. I want his thoughtsContinue Reading

Being Direct

Every eldership I have ever worked with I have told up front that I will trust them and that I expect for them to tell me anything I would need to know including any criticism that they are directing toward me. This is a very important thing to establish in any important relationship. Often weContinue Reading

Psalm 51:5 Does God Create “In Utero Sinners”?

“Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.” – NRSV “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” – NIV “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” – NASB, ESV, RSV What is going on here? The firstContinue Reading

The Cost of Overcomplicating the Gospel

The more we expand the Gospel to include things it didn’t include in the New Testament the more we lose heart and hope. The more jots and tiddles we include under the umbrella of “gospel” the less sure we become of our salvation. The more neurotic we get about soul, turning into a constant spiritualContinue Reading

Past, Present and Future Components of the Lord’s Supper & Our Spiritual Formation

Past “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” – Exodus 12:14 “and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. DoContinue Reading

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