May 2010 Taiwan Newsletter Text
What Do We Do With The Role/Gifts/Abilities God Has Given Us?
(1 Corinthians 11-15; Romans 12-13; 1 Peter 2 & 4; and Ephesians 3-4)
Do you know what these passages are about? Some of you might know. I do not want to get into all the controversies that can be connected to these passages or how sometimes these passages are used. Some people see spiritual gifts, some see God empowered abilities, and some see God given roles and careers. I do not want to enter that debate, but I do want to talk about these passages. Some of my research on church planting brought me back to these passages several times this month. When I took the time to read and pray through these Scriptures, I made a few observations that will apply no matter which interpretation you take on the whole. First, whatever these “things” are, it is according to faith, it is according to the grace given to you, and it’s function is for the benefit of people other than you. It is amazing how all of these “things” do something amazing no matter which way you look at it. You, “individually” have been given “something” from God which is to be used for “communal” benefit (1 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 12:6; 1 Peter 4:10; Ephesians 4:12-13). It stood out to me that these passages at the same time emphasized who you are as an individual, and at the same time emphasized who you are defined within community. Second, God purposely made me the way I am. I do not mean sinful habits and sinful desires. I am referring to the part of yourself that makes you who you are and gives you a place within community. If this is true of my strengths, this may well be true of my weaknesses as it was for Paul (2 Corinthians 11-12). I am not referring to sinful things as weaknesses; I am referring to things that I would personally have looked at myself and thought of as a weaknesses. For instance, my dyslexia and A.D.H.D. (I am merely reflecting my perception of my experience, this is not judgement on others who have dyslexia or A.D.H.D.). You could equally pick anything about oneself as long as it is truly a part of oneself. My point is to say that God made us the way He did for a purpose. We may not know or understand the what, or why, however we do know He lovingly made us on purpose. Third, these passages also show me that we are made for each other and intends for us to be built up by each other. I think; just as God the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and God Jesus the Messiah are one and a community to themselves. I think He/They enjoy Himself/Themself/Themselves, and He intends for us to to be community like He is community. Also, of course, for us to be community with Him. These “things” He has given us are for taking part in making that idea reality for us and as us, rather than just individuals.
Here are a few observations from that study of the above Scriptures.
Purpose of the Spiritual Gifts According to Context of the Passage:
“To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
“we have different gifts according to the grace given to us” (Romans 12:6).
“For the culmination of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7). “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Key Roles/Spiritual Gifts/Abilities in each Passage
1 Corinthians 12 - message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, healing, performing miracles, prophecy, and interpretation of tongues.
Romans 12 - Prophecy, faith, service, teaching, exhortation, contributing, leadership, and mercy.
1 Peter 4 - love for one another, hospitality, serve, good stewards, and speaking with God’s words.
Ephesians 4 - Pastor, teacher, prophet, apostle, and evangelists. The Journey Continues Inside And Out
(1 Corinthians 11-15; Romans 12-13; 1 Peter 2 & 4; and Ephesians 3-4)
My Journey Continues: Eight Months and Counting: One Small Step For Jesus One Great Leap For Peter
Physically: This month I have continued to exercise as much as I have free time to exercise. I probablyam progressing, but at this point I am hopeful but cannot really tell if I am progressing. The fact that I am exercising with a timeframe of six months to one year changes my perspective a lot. I feel good but pretty dizzy all the time. My hearing seems to be about the same.
Emotionally/Spiritually: This month I continued to trudge along physically, but I made a huge leapforward emotionally or spiritually or psychologically depending on your perspective. I think God was at work in me this month as I was studying the passages I referenced above, reading the book of Job, reading an article on “calling” by Dan Allender, spending time in silence and solitude, and listening to some of the lectures from two courses on lay counseling. I am hesitant to say something like, “God spoke to me” because I am frankly not sure. I definitely think God is guiding me and teaching me, but do not ask me to put my finger on exactly what God is doing/saying. I always cautiously take the advice of Proverbs 3:5-6 in these situations and acknowledge God as I proceed and put my hope in God’s willingness to correct me rather than putting my hope on my understanding as being faultless. That said, let me share with you what has been on my mind and heart, and what has come out of all this, this month. Reflecting on my findings in the Scriptures, I began to think about a few things I have struggled with since I was an elementary school student. I was angry with myself as I struggled to learn to read and was overly critical of myself. I thought to myself, “Why am I stupid and everyone else is so much smarter than me” (as I struggled with dyslexia and A.D.H.D which I got excellent help with from my school and my mother). I thought, “Everyone else reads so much faster than me.” Later in Junior and Senior High School that self rejection developed into self hatred and self condemnation. I still remember feeling like, “this life is so miserable, the sooner I die, the better.” That statement characterizes my thoughts and feelings as I transitioned from High School to college. Some people meet Jesus on a mountain top experience. I was in the cave underneath the lowest point in the valley where there is no light and no hope. It was that darkest of places where I never knew the light could shine that I found Jesus. Or, more accurately Jesus found me, I finally realized He was there all along. His Word told me He loved me and that I had value. “I have value!” I wept, fell on my knees, and began to follow King Jesus. I was so empty and hurt that when I had only experienced a little of Jesus; grace and love, I thought I was healed! I was like someone dying of dehydration thinking that first sip of water was all that was needed. I was like someone who had forgotten what it was to drink water. When I was in college, I remember fasting, spending times in silence and solitude, and pursuing Jesus with all my heart, with a single question in mind, “Is it really possible that you love me? Aren’t I just like all those pharisees that you rebuked?” Either His Word is true and I am loved, or have I just been believing a lie. I held onto the Word of God and was affirmed in holding onto the truth. A few years later I could finally hear Jesus leading me back to where I found Him. I thought I was already healed, but He showed me that my journey was far from over. It took moving to the other side of the world (Taiwan), going through culture shock, struggling to learn Mandarin Chinese, and struggling to build relationships with the Taiwanese people I had come to love; to bring to the surface remaining wounds buried as far out of sight as possible. God provided me with some amazing community, and provided some wonderful journey mates through grace groups to bring me another critical step forward on my journey. Now, I am beginning another step on that same journey. It began this month as the Scriptures and what I was learning was digested in my mind. I do not know where this will end up, but it will be good. That has meant re-entering the pain and re-entering that cave I left so long ago. The time I had in grace groups helped me re-enter that cave and look at that elementary school experience and say “I don’t, I won’t hate you.” I worked with lots of help from my brothers and sisters in Christ; worked to be able to love and accept that little child. Now, I re-enter the cave again with mixed feelings. But this time I bring wonderful news that enables me to love that little child in a whole new way. Before I strived to loved that child despite all his shortcomings and all the things that he/I is/am not but wish I could be. Now, I got to re-enter the cave to love that boy wholly, because I am a child of the King and because He made me this way on purpose. Because He loved first, I loved Him (Jesus). Because of Jesus’ love, I can love the person I hated more than anyone else in the world, myself. He gave me value and significance that even I had to acknowledge. I am talking about healing, not narcissism. My life is a story, Jesus is writing that story. That story fits within Jesus’ story. For the first time in my life I can see my weaknesses; the parts I hated so much, as an important part of the story. They are not merely things to be overcome or triumph, in spite of. These weaknesses are ways for me and for others, to see Him at work. I really believe in what He said to Paul, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). For the first time I can accept myself, even though I am not the person I once had dreamed I could be if God just enabled me. I have let go of that dream, and have taken hold of who I really am. Now, I can celebrate my weaknesses, and I can see my weaknesses differently. It will be exciting not to see how God works in spite of my weaknesses, but how God will work through my weaknesses. How my weaknesses could embolden others to catch a glimpse of just how great the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really is. How great is the God revealed in Jesus the Messiah. How great is God who fills me with His Holy Spirit and ordains me as one of Jesus’, fellow priests. I rejoice to be a part of a kingdom of priests in Jesus‘ priesthood (1 Peter 2). I finally see I am both an individual and I have a special place in God’s community. I am not useless (as I used to secretly tell myself)!!!! The lies no longer have power over me! I show you my shame so you can see God’s glory. Please keep that in mind as you think about what you just read. I am being vulnerable with you so you can see just how great our God is.
Month of May in Review
- Ting, from Craig’s N.T.U.T. Bible study was baptized in Xin Dian. Praise the LORD!
- I had a great time in Bible study and a birthday dinner with N.T.U.T. students.
- My Birthday, I’m twenty-nine years old. Had another great date with Jesus on a night hike in Taipei. Also got to spend time with my friends.
- Talked to a buddhist that tried to convert me to buddhism at Long Shan temple. So there is such a thing as evangelical buddhists. It was very informative. Good chance to understand better what people actually think. Buddhists use special Chinese vocabulary (like Christianese) that was difficult to understand.
- Listening to the Bible in Chinese. I am trying to have God write His Word on my heart. This month I continued to focus on the Gospel of John; which I am teaching through in my English Bible study at N.T.U.T. I also began focusing on getting through the Sermon On The Mount in Chinese. So far I have only made my way through the Beatitudes. I haven’t been learning very quickly, but what I learn I had to listen to fifty to a one hundred times. So even if I cannot get the Word accessible to my conscious mind; it definitely is in my subconscious.
- Re-wrote my personal ministry plan corresponding to my teams field ministry plan. We update these every year. Also, I thought this time was special because language school is no longer my primary focus. My path is lengthening!