move over Bob the Builder

2015-09-28 11.25.34I have acquired a new skill. I am now a construction engineer, having built a building. Those who know me well will be somewhat surprised that I have acquired this new skill and hopefully impressed at the results. (The picture of the shed here is the said construction).

Of course my construction engineer skills and qualifications are a bit ropey. I had to follow a set of instructions that came with the components for the shed that had been delivered to our house. At times the instructions weren’t as clear as they could have been, sometimes the components didn’t fit together quite as well as they should have, and in a couple of occasions I had to improvise. However at the end of the process there is a small shed in our back garden that has not fallen down (yet). And I have a sense of accomplishment (and perhaps a little bit of pride – not too much, just enough to allow for a little ostentatious humility when people compliment me on it).

If I had not had the components premade and the instructions to try to follow there is no way that I would have managed to build a shed that was anywhere near the quality of the building that now graces our back garden. I did once build a bin store from scratch, although that did involve buying a premade fence panel, cutting it down and rebuilding it before putting the corrugated plastic roof on so, on reflection, even then not everything was built from scratch.

There are some people who have the skills, experience, talent, vision and desire to design and construct things from scratch. Most of us need a little help (or a lot!) and simply stand back in admiration and all at what these people create. We are happy with what we are able to do with our limited abilities and premade components but we know that it pales into insignificance next to a real artisan’s work.

But that does not mean we are untalented. It just means that our talents don’t lie in that area. We all have gifts and talents (some of us have yet to discover or fully explore them) and it’s a good thing that we all have different ones. After all if everybody was a Master Joiner we might have some amazing furniture and buildings but if nobody was able to work with metal we would not have cars, aeroplanes, washing machines and so on… If everybody was good at making cakes but nobody could cook anything else the current obesity problem would seem insignificant.

You might think that you got any gifts and talents but the Bible disagrees. Included in lists of spiritual gifts are things like hospitality, administration, caring for others, and encouraging. The apostle Paul says that love is greater than any spiritual gift.

Never look down on yourself or consider yourself less worthy than others (whilst maintaining a healthy humility). God’s Spirit is developing your character to bear fruit that lasts and makes a real difference. When we follow Jesus Christ his Spirit is working with us and within us to help us to become the best we possibly can be: the person God created us to become. God does not make mistakes and he wants to take your gifts and talents and skills and personality and experience and use them, enhance them (and perhaps even give you new ones) in order that you might be blessed and be a blessing.

And he wants to add all that you are and all that you are becoming to those around you so that your gifts and skills will blend with theirs to multiply the blessing further. Are you up for that?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

just what I wanted

giftIt’s been a bit quiet here recently hasn’t it? I had some time off between Christmas and New Year and decided to take a break from blogging too. I hope you are not too disappointed… but despite popular demand I am back!

So how was Christmas? Were there enough socks, aftershave and handkerchiefs to last until next Christmas? How about the blokes? (boom boom) I wonder what the most useful present was? Which will be cherished most? Which gift will still be significant this time next year?

Did you assume that the questions in the previous paragraph were all about the gifts you received or the ones you gave? As I was reflecting in anticipation of writing this bloggage I did reflect on the gifts I had received – on the generosity of those who gave them to me; the surprise when I unwrapped some of them and they were unexpectedly ‘just what I wanted’; on how useful they will be; on how the vouchers have been spent already (and we’re just waiting for the postperson to come with them). And it struck me that by giving gifts to others we can multiply that experience. It was not just about me as recipient but me as giver: how does it feel when someone appreciates a gift that we give?

And then I got to thinking about God (as I do). The Bible describes him as generous, loving to give, gracious and desiring to give good gifts. I often think about how God has been generous to me, but have not stopped so often to think about how it makes God feel to be generous, to give gifts, and to bless us. If it’s anything like we feel when we have given a gift and it’s ‘just what I wanted’ then it’s no wonder that heaven is a place of joy! If you can cope with the anthropomorphism, can you imagine the smile on his face as he sees us using the gifts he has given?

But what if the gifts that are given are put away in a cupboard and forgotten until the next charity collection or jumble sale? We would not tell the person who gave them to us that this is what we have done with their generous gift, would we? Or what about those things we plan to take back to the shop – ‘have you got the receipt?’ is not the most gracious response when receiving a gift! So what about those things that God has given you which you have put in a cupboard and forgotten about, or those things you don’t think you want or need? Here are just a few to get you started:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control, forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, generosity, hospitality, administration, teaching, encouraging, building others up, faith, hope…

Why not get them out, dust them off and use them for the purpose for which he has given them – that we might be blessed and be a blessing.

Happy New Year to you all.

fruitful gifts

Dear bloggists

I hope that you did not feel too short-changed by yesterday’s bloggage. I could not resist being a bit cheeky and hope that it might have at least caused the corners of your mouth to curve upwards slightly. Today I am getting a bit more serious…

"I want yours!"
“I want yours!”

A while ago I wrote a poem about prayer-envy (it’s the prayer pome if you scroll down on that page). I could have written a similar one about preaching envy, pastoring envy, memory envy and so on… There are so many people whose gifts as Ministers are so much better than mine. I am not saying this out of false humility (my family will tell you that!). I am not saying this because I actually have the envy I have hinted at above. And I am not saying this because I am have issues around self-esteem. I am saying it because it is true: there are many Ministers who are better at these things than I am.

But while I may not be as good as them, God has still called me, equipped me and wants me to get on with being the best I can be as his Spirit encourages, trains, supports, inspires and transforms me. He has given me the array of gifts he has given me in order to fulfil the task to which he has called me: and he wants to help me to make the most of them. He wants me to learn, to grow, to improve, to emulate what I see of Jesus in others and his Spirit is at work in me to help that happen.

And that’s where the rubber hits the road. I should not try to be the other Ministers, I should not try to do things in the same way that they do them. But if I see something Christ-like in them I should ask for God’s help to be like that. It’s not about emulating behaviour, but about character-transformation.

Sometimes it seems to me that we make an unnatural division between spiritual fruit and spiritual gifts. God gives all of us gifts and talents. But believe it or not we can use them in ways that are ungodly – in ways that are unlike Jesus. He wants us to use them lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, revealing his goodness, faithfully, gently and with godly self-control. God’s spiritual gifts and fruit are intrinsically linked. If I can do that more and more I will be happy, content and relaxed.

Be blessed, be a blessing.