Serving

The Peter Principles: Peter’s Formula for Using “Spiritual” Gifts

There are four major biblical contexts that discuss what we commonly refer to as ”spiritual gifts.” In chronological order, they are 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12:1-8, Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, and 1 Peter 4:10-11.

It is notable that the explanations of spiritual gifts become increasingly simple as the New Testament progresses. 1 Corinthians 12-14 provides a very detailed discussion, especially of revelatory and sign gifts. Romans 12:1-8 builds on the grounding of the previous eleven chapters, and considers how gifts contribute to the overall functioning together of the body. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians focuses in the first three chapters on how the believer comes to have every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, and what are the implications of those blessings. In the remaining three chapters, Paul challenges believers to walk in those blessings. Throughout the letter, Paul emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Finally, in 1 Peter 4:10-11, Peter offers a very simple formula for the use of gifts and their purpose.

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Serving Students Stay - Part 3: A Plan for Teaching the Word

From VOICE, May/Jun 2015. Used with permission. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Some youth leaders leave youth ministry too early because they don’t have a plan. Without a plan that recirculates (yet leaves room for current and various studies throughout each year) the youth pastor continues to grow and grow, and brings kids with him, and then it becomes harder and harder to “start over” with a new group of kids.

Choosing topics to study month-to-month or week-to-week is an exhausting way to plan and teach, and it is impossible to duplicate. This kind of haphazardness (that we all have experienced to some degree as we figured out who we are in ministry) needs to be addressed so we don’t keep losing good leaders.

For some, youth ministry is just a stepping-stone to another ministry; I am not addressing those men. I am addressing the young man who is just starting out in youth ministry, with goals to change the world or at least the next generation, and plans to stay in youth ministry until God changes his passion. I am also sharing ideas with those who have been in youth ministry for years, yet struggle with continuity or structure and that fact is sapping their enthusiasm for the ministry they feel called to.

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Serving Students Stay - Part 2: Let the Simple Be Profound

From VOICE, May/Jun 2015. Used with permission. Read Part 1.

I have a concern about one concept that is affecting all of the various ministries in the church, but I want to specifically focus on youth ministry and how this concept is affecting and changing it. My area of concern is what I am going to call intellectualism.

I define intellectualism as the process in which growth can only be realized and achieved by utilizing fresh, newly discovered information in contrast to the simple and profound. It is the concept that you must always teach something new rather than something simple (that is, the Bible). Though the exploration of new truth, and exposing ourselves to ideas that we previously did not know, is a good practice and a needed part of spiritual growth, intellectualism creates an adverse climate in youth ministries and churches across our nation. Intellectualism looks down upon the simple, yet profound, teaching of the Word of God in favor of teaching new ideas with fresh methods.

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Does Every Believer Have a Spiritual Gift?

The phrase “spiritual gift” is only employed five times in the NASB New Testament. In Romans 1:11 (χάρισμα ὑμῖν πνευματικὸν—charisma humin pneumatikon) it is in reference to something Paul wanted to impart to the entire church at Rome. In 1 Corinthians 12:1, Paul prefaces the entire discussion of manifestations of the Spirit with the expressed desire that the Corinthians be aware of spiritual gifts. But while the Greek includes spiritual (πνευματικῶν—pneumatikon), it does not include any term for gifts.Thus, while the NASB reading implies that the context following 12:1 is a discussion of spiritual gifts, the Greek does not necessarily support that implication. In 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 12 likewise, the NASB includes the phrase “spiritual gifts,” but the Greek only includes the term “spiritual” (πνευματικά/πνευμάτων—pneumatika/pneumatōn) and no term from which the NASB translates “gifts.”

Finally, in 1 Timothy 4:14 Paul warns Timothy not to neglect the spiritual gift within him. In light of the limited number of references in the NASB (five), and the even smaller number of actual references in the Greek (two), there is no biblical data to support the idea that every believer has, specifically, a spiritual gift. On the other hand, there is data that supporting every believer’s having a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7).

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They Also Serve

These are busy days for our little family—days filled with scout meetings, schoolwork, doctor’s appointments, and ministry. I’m also in the final months of a book project; so on top of it all, I find myself experiencing a curious strain of nesting syndrome. My mind is a whirl of spreadsheets and marketing concepts, of deadlines and trying to merge multiple callings into one. I’m learning and relearning how to be mother and wife and lover and writer and daughter and teacher and friend.

And most of the time, I feel like I’m failing on all counts.

Every morning, I wake up with more on my “to do” list than is humanly possible, and every night I go bed having proven it. But instead of simply acknowledging my limitations, I regularly feel discouraged and overwhelmed. In fact, I have been feeling this way so often that I finally had to face a harsh reality. I am a prime candidate to join that particular type of support group that meets in musty church basements. I need to draw my chair up into the circle and when it’s my turn, bravely stand and say, “Hello, my name is Hannah and I have a messiah complex.”

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Were First Century Christians That Much Better?

One of the most interesting words in the English language is hagiography. One of its definitions is the one I have in mind, an “idealizing or idolizing biography.” The idea is that once someone has died, we remember the individual as being better than he or she actually was. This adjusting of memory and idealization of those who lived before us is common throughout the human race.

But people “back then” were really not as wonderful as we think they were.

This is universally done with the folks who made up the very early church. Although the very early church had its strong points (the Apostles were around to teach and lead, God worked some unprecedented miracles like raising the dead, etc.), the people who made up the early church community were far from wonderful.

The case of Corinth

Consider the words of the New Testament itself about the believers who made up the family of faith. In Corinth, we notice a man sleeping with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:1) while fellow Christians in the church accepted this brother as someone in good standing. The Corinthian church was divided into factions, each following the unique perspectives of a famous Christian leader (1 Cor. 3:4-5).

Things were so bad at Corinth that during their carry-in dinners members were consuming all the food before all arrived; some even became drunk while they waited (1 Cor. 11:21). The Corinthian Christians invented the “happy hour.”

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Serving God on Earth: A Unique Opportunity

Written for The Body Builder, the church newsletter of Highland Park Church. Used by permission.

We have recently seen a number of our dear folks promoted to glory. It is hard to say “goodbye” to loved ones, even if we know they know the Lord and are happier than they have ever been.

Believers in heaven are rejoicing before the throne of God, serving Him night and day. Revelation 7:13-17 describes a scene in heaven, perhaps referring mainly to believers who will be martyred during the coming seven-year Tribulation:

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,

   “they are before the throne of God
   and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
   will shelter them with his presence.
 ’Never again will they hunger;
   never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
   nor any scorching heat.
 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
   will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
   ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (NIV 2011)

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