finding your fit - discovering your god-given abilities

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  • 8/9/2019 Finding Your Fit - Discovering Your God-given Abilities

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    This Bible study booklet was written by Rev. George A. Kohl with gratitude for those who consulted and edited. Rev. George A.

    Kohl may be contacted at Belmont Street Baptist Church, 25 Belmont Street, Worcester, MA 01605, [email protected], 508-

    753-0312.

    All Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978,

    1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House and Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd. All

    rights reserved. The NIV does not capitalize pronouns related to deity and these materials do. To remain faithful to the NIV, no

    changes were made when the NIV was being quoted.

    PREFACE: Attentively read the Scripture passage at the top of each page and the reading material

    that follows. Work through all exercises as instructed. Mark the places where you have questions for

    your mentor or group leader. As with everything in life, you will only get as much benefit out of this

    study as you put effort into it. The purpose of this material is to help you understand the special

    abilities God has given you with which to serve Him and the body of Christ. Students will probably

    have to invest 30 to 60 minutes for most readings. You may not be able to work at the pace of a

    reading a day. A judgment on pace will be made by the mentors or group leaders in consideration of

    the students. You will need a separate notebook in which to record some of the exercises.

    Finding Your Fit DiscoveringYourGod-GivenAbilities

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    Reading 1

    A Local Manifestation of Christ

    Ephesians 1:15-23

    Just as Jesus Christ walked the earth in a physical body two thousand years ago, He still

    walks the earth today in a corporate body known as the church! What an awe-inspiring thought!

    God Himself is invisible and without a body (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:15; John 1:18) though some

    people have been permitted to see visible manifestations of Gods presence in which He has revealed

    something of Himself. For example, Moses saw a manifestation of God in a burning bush, the peopleof Israel in the pillar of fire and Ezekiel in his vision of the wheels within wheels.

    God became visible when God the Father sent God the Son into the world. Jesus Christ is

    the image of the invisible God(Colossians 1:15). He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact

    representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3). He became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John

    1:14). He appeared in a body (1 Timothy 1:16). To know what God is like one only needs to look

    at Jesus Christ during the thirty three years He spent on the earth revealing the invisible God to us.

    For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9).

    Christ now continues to reside on the earth in a body. It is not a physical body but a corporate

    body called the church and the body of Christ. And he is the head of the body, the church

    (Colossians 1:18).

    In the New Testament letters, the church of Jesus Christ is frequently referred to as the body

    of Christ. Sometimes it is referring to the universal church of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15-17;

    Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4; 5:23, 30; Colossians 1:18, 24; 2:19) and sometimes it refers to

    a local church (Romans 12:6-6; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:12-16, 25;

    Colossians 3:15). The universal body of Christ consists of all believers in Christ, whether in heaven

    or on earth, who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit between the day the Spirit came at

    Pentecost and the day of Christs return. The local body of Christ consists of all believers in a certain

    region who meet regularly for worship, fellowship, and partnership under the authority of its spiritual

    leaders. The local body of Christ is a visible and tangible manifestation of Christ in the region in

    which it resides.

    Unlike being the exact representation of the invisible God that the Lord Jesus was when Hewalked the earth, the local church is an imperfect representation. We are too often full of sin,

    impurity, selfish ambition, bitterness, hatred, discord, factions and the like. Sometimes we have a

    spirit and character exactly the opposite of Jesus Christ. When people encounter a local church, they

    should feel something like what they would have felt if they encountered Jesus Christ on the streets

    of Galilee. That is why the Holy Spirit is at work in the church to produce the spirit and character

    of Christ--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control

    (Galatians 5:19-23).

    Certainly no church will ever be perfect this side of glory. If a person is looking for a perfect

    church or nothing, he will have to settle for nothing. The church always lives on a sub-standard level

    of representing Jesus Christ. The Lord is at work in His church so that the church and its people can

    become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ(Ephesians 4:13).

    Heart Checkup: When people encounter your church, do they feel something akin to what they

    would have felt if they encountered Jesus Christ on the streets of Galilee? How well does your

    church reflect the spirit of Christ?

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    Reading 2

    The Lords Blueprint for Maturing His Church

    Ephesians 4:7-16

    One day I was going to visit someone in a large, brand new hospital complex and I got lost

    in the hallways. I asked a nurse for directions and she kindly had me follow her. We went into a

    strange little hallway that connected the building I was in to another. When I commented about the

    strangeness of the hallway, she agreed and informed me that the blueprints for the two buildings

    were miscalculated by seventeen inches.Any builder knows the importance of good blueprints. We have an important blueprint for

    the building up of the church in Ephesians 4:7-16. It explains how a church can increasingly attain

    more ofthe whole measure of the fullness of Christ. It explains how your church can become a

    better manifestation of Jesus Christ in its region.

    First, the Lord gives spiritual gifts to each of His people. This is what Paul means in this

    context in Ephesians 4:7. It says, To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

    God has given a spiritual gift to each of his children. We will have much more to say about this

    throughout this course. For now, just take note of the fact that God has given each of us special

    abilities with which we can serve God and others in and through the ministry of the local church.

    Each believer is gifted to make a unique contribution to the spiritual health and growth of the local

    body of Christ.

    Second, the Lord places gifted leaders in the church to develop His gifted people so that they

    advance His work in and through the local church. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-

    teachers train God's people to do the Lords work (vv. 11-12). The training involves things like an

    understanding of Gods Word, the application of Scripture to all areas of life, the cultivation of a

    heart for God, the liberation of the soul from sinful strongholds and past hurts, the discovery and use

    of ones spiritual gifts, the development of ministry skills, and so forth.

    Think of a professional coach you admire in any sport. Did that coach give the players their

    talents for the game? Not at all. God gives out the talents. A coach simply develops the God-given

    talents of the players so that they play to the best of their ability as individuals and a team. Likewise,

    gifted church leaders develop the already gifted people God places among them to serve Him andothers to the very best of their abilities.

    Third, the developed people of the church do the Lords work. In other words, in Gods

    blueprint, all the members of the local church are to do works of service (v.12). They all get involved

    in loving and serving non-Christian people, evangelizing the lost, stabilizing new believers, teaching

    and training, mentoring and apprenticing, worshiping, loving and serving the brotherhood of

    believers. In other words, they all use the spiritual gifts to fulfill the local churchs God-given

    mission to make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ.

    Finally, the results of everyone making their unique God-given contribution is that the local

    church becomes a healthy and mature group of people. As the Apostle Paul put it in Ephesians 4, the

    gifted leaders develop the gifted people so that they serve God and others in and through the local

    church so that the body of Christ may be built up spiritually (v.12). The passage then goes on todescribe three traits of a healthy and mature churchit experiences relational harmony centered

    around Christ (v.13), it takes on more of the character of Christ (v.13), and it becomes less

    susceptible to doctrinal error (v.14). Notice that this blueprint for spiritual maturity only happens as

    each part does its work(v.16).

    Heart Checkup: If each must do his part, are you making your unique contribution to the spiritual

    health and growth of your church? What are you doing?

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    Reading 3

    Body Parts

    1 Corinthians 12:14-31

    As a curious child, I watched my grandfather repair his car. He held a tiny piece of wire in

    his hand and said to me, Here is the whole problem. Can you believe it? This great, big car cannot

    work unless this tiny piece is properly installed. That was amazing to me. Every part of a car is

    important and so is every part of a church. As we saw in Gods blueprint, the local church can only

    grow strong, healthy, and mature as each part does its work(Ephesians 4:16).The Bible makes this point by using the human body as an analogy (Romans 12:4,5; I

    Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:12-16; Colossians 3:15). You saw this in your Scripture

    reading today in which every believer was described as a body part a hand, foot, eye, ear, and so

    forth. Think about the analogy for a moment: When some part of the body is missing, that body is

    not fully functioning. It is the same way with the local body of Christ.

    Imagine someone who had one kidney, one lung, no legs, one arm with no fingers, and no

    eyes. That person is going to have a difficult time doing things that come so much easier a person

    who has all of his faculties. And how much less a church going to accomplish for God if numerous

    parts are missing or not functioning!

    What about you? In which category do you think God would place youunemployed,

    underemployed, over-employed, misemployed, or properly employed? The unemployed are those

    who consider themselves to be part of a particular local church but do nothing that contributes to the

    advancement of the Lords work through the church. The under-employed contributes something to

    the advancement of the Lords work, but could and should be doing more. The over-employed are

    the conscientious and hardworking people who are trying to compensate for the unemployment or

    underemployment of others. As a result of doing too much, they get overextended and do not do as

    good of a job as they should at what God has gifted them to do. In time they are likely to grow weary,

    quit, and join the ranks of the unemployed. Furthermore, the overextended inadvertently deprive

    someone else of the joy of serving Christ. By the misemployed I mean people who are not spiritually

    gifted to serve in the ways they do. By the properly-employed I mean people who know what their

    spiritual gifts are, are using them in an effective way, and get pleasure out of serving Christ in thisway. One of the purposes of this study is to help everyone become a properly employed individual

    in the Lords work. Just as the good coach of a team sport puts each player in the position for which

    they are best suited, church leaders do the same with their congregation.

    Heart Checkup: In which one category do you think God would put you unemployed,

    underemployed, over-employed, misemployed, or properly employed? Why do you think the way

    you do?

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    Reading 4

    Unemployment and Underemployment

    Readings Inserted Below

    Thirty percent of the worlds six billion people are either unemployed or underemployed. I

    wonder what percentage of Christians are unemployed or underemployed in the Lords work. God

    wants all of His children to be properly employed in His work. As the Lords blueprint says, the body

    of Christ grows healthy and mature as each part does its work(Ephesians 4:16).

    There are many different reasons believers feel justified about being unemployed orunderemployed in the Lords work. The most common reasons are listed in column 2. Read down

    column 2. Place a check (T) in column 1 for each reason you use to excuse yourself from giving

    yourselffully to the work of the Lord(1 Corinthians 15:58). Next read the scriptural responses as

    found in column 3. When you have completed the scripture readings, put a check in column 4. When

    you are all done working through this chart, write out some thoughts or action steps in a separate

    notebook.

    1 Column 2 Column 3 4

    U Common Reasons Scriptural Responses U

    Ive been uninformed about the

    Bibles teachings regarding how

    the body of Christ becomes

    healthy and mature.

    Read and meditate further on Ephesians 4:7-16.

    Ive been unaware that God has

    given me spiritual gifts with which

    to serve Him and others in and

    through the local church.

    Read Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-10,

    27-30; and 1 Peter 4:10-11.

    I have doubts about the use of myspiritual gifts being necessary for

    the spiritual health and growth of

    my local church.

    OR

    I do not think I have anything

    significant to offer to the body of

    Christ because I have not been

    formally trained, ordained, and/or

    placed in a formal ministry.

    Read Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-10,27-30; Ephesians 4:7-13; and 1 Peter 4:10-11.

    I have misguided priorities. Christ

    is not the most important person

    and priority in my life.

    OR

    I feel unworthy to serve the Lord. I

    know that there are areas of my

    life in which I have lived or am

    living contrary to Gods will and

    feel uneasy about serving the

    Lord.

    Read Colossians 1:15-16; Luke 9:23-26; 10:27;

    14:25-35, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Romans 12:1-

    8; Philippians 1:21; and 1 John 1:5-10.

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    I have served the Lord in the past

    and have gotten emotionally

    exhausted from doing so. I do not

    want to find myself in that

    position again.

    Attentively read about the ministry of Elijah in

    1 Kings 18:20-19:18. Think about some lessons

    you can learn from Elijah that apply to your

    situation. Then get some rest and get back to

    work for the Lord with a purer heart and at a

    sustainable pace.

    I have served the Lord in the past

    and gotten wounded in the battle

    by things like the ungratefulness,

    gossiping, backbiting, criticizing,

    hurtful words, lying, or slandering

    of others.

    Meditate on Matthew 18:21-35. Then meditate

    on Luke 23:32-38 and Colossians 3:12-14

    together.

    I am going through a very difficult

    season of life (illness, grieving,

    suffering, loss, failure etc.), am

    emotionally drained, and feel like I

    do not have energy with which to

    serve the Lord.OR

    I am suffering from the effects of

    aging. I am losing my energy,

    health, and/or mobility.

    9 Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. There are different

    seasons of life, some that are productive and

    others that are not. Read Psalm 103:13-14 to

    understand that God understands our limits

    better than we do. Dont forget that Gods

    strength is also made greater in our weakness.Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Even though you

    may have lost energy, health, and mobility, you

    can still be a tremendous influence on the

    people around you just by the gracious and

    peaceful way you suffer and speak of Gods

    goodness and faithfulness. One thing of

    tremendous influence that you can still do is

    pray. Read Mark 11:20-24 and you will see that

    prayer can have more influence than all of our

    action plans being perfectly executed. Read also

    Isaiah 40:28-31 and pray for a renewal of

    strength.

    I fear having to suffer for the cause

    of Christ if I go public about my

    faith and get involved in the

    Lords work.

    Timothy feared having to suffer for Christ

    because of his involvement in the Lords work.

    He wanted to quit and take on a lower profile.

    Paul addressed this matter in his letters to

    Timothy. Read 2 Timothy 1:3-14; 2:1-13; and

    3:10-4:8 .

    I feel like I failed the Lord in a big

    way in the past. I feel ashamed anddisqualified to serve Christ.

    Do a brief biographical study of John Mark

    using the following Scriptures. Read Acts13:5; and 13:13. Apparently John Mark

    repented of his unfaithfulness and wanted to

    rejoin Paul and Barnabas. Read about the

    dispute between Paul and Barnabas over

    John Mark in Acts 15:36-40. Later in life,

    Paul had a reversal of opinion. See 2

    Timothy 4:9-11.Realize that John Mark is

    the man who wrote the Gospel of Mark.

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    Reading 5

    Over-Employed

    Exodus 18:1-27; Acts 6:1-7

    Like Moses, some believers are over-employed in the Lords work. They are trying to do too

    much. They assume God is calling them to do everything they are capable of doing. They see a need,

    judge that they are capable of doing something about that need, and unthinkingly set out to do it.

    They do not realize that they are not called by God to do everything they are capable of doing. There

    are at least four negative consequences to being over-employed. Jethro mentioned two negativeconsequences in todays Scripture reading and I will mention two more:

    1. Weariness: Jethro warned Moses that he would grow weary. He might weaken his health or just

    emotionally burn out. The same can happen to us.

    2. Dissatisfaction: Jethro warned Moses that he would not adequately meet the needs of the people

    and that they would complain. The same can happen within our churches.

    3. Deprivation: People who overextend themselves inadvertently deprive others of the earthly and

    eternal rewards of serving Christ.

    4. Mediocrity: Because we all have limited time and energy, people who overextend themselves do

    a mediocre job of serving the Lord instead of serving to the best of their ability. This retards the

    spiritual health and fruitfulness of the body of Christ.

    What can be done to avoid these negative consequences? Jethro suggested that Moses recruit

    gifted and godly people to assist him. He suggested that he set up a ministry structure in which they

    would be responsible to judge cases over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens! Moses

    himself would only deal with the most difficult cases. Moses followed Jethros advice.

    We see a similar scenario in Acts 6:1-7. The Apostles were convinced that God had called

    them teach the Word to Gods people and to pray for Gods people. In addition to that, they took on

    the administration of a large widow feeding program. Thought it was not Gods plan for them to be

    doing this, they saw a need, judged that they were capable of meeting the need, and unthinkingly set

    out to do so. Being overextended with responsibility, they were inadequately meeting the needs of

    the people and the people started complaining. So they delegated the responsibility of the feeding

    program to gifted and godly people. The results were spiritual and numerical growth in the body ofChrist.

    Each believer should have three involvements in his local churcha worship involvement,

    a fellowship involvement, and a partnership involvement. Your partnership involvement is an area

    of service in which you work with others to advance the Lords work in making more and better

    disciples of Christ. Through careful thought, prayer, and counsel, each believer should discern what

    God wants his primary involvements to be. Careful consideration should go into all of our

    involvements. We want to make sure we avoid the four negative consequences of weariness,

    dissatisfaction, deprivation, and mediocrity.

    Heart Checkup: What do you sense God wants your primary worship involvement to be? fellowship

    involvement? partnership involvement? What are your other church involvements? Are you involvedin too much? Are you doing your primary involvements to the best of your ability or are you settling

    for mediocrity? Do you find yourself growing weary? Are people dissatisfied with the way your

    ministry is meeting their needs? Are you inadvertently depriving others of blessings God intends for

    them? What changes do you think god might want you to make as a result of this reading?

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    Reading 6

    Misplaced

    1 Corinthians 12:4-7

    Many people are employed in jobs in which they are not happy. One of the major reasons so

    many people are unhappy is because their abilities and aptitudes are not well matched to the jobs.

    Their skill set and aptitudes would really fit better into another type of job. Dissatisfied employees

    often go to vocational counselors who assess their temperament, aptitudes, skills, and interests in an

    attempt to match them up with a more fulfilling job.Within the Body of Christ the Holy Spirit serves as our vocational counselor. God has given

    every Christian abilities with which to serve Him and others in and through the local body of Christ.

    Though never fully attainable, the ideal situation within the body of Christ is for every believer to

    be serving in a place for which God has given him the abilities to serve effectively. The purpose of

    this course is to match your abilities to your service for Christ.

    In one of the churches I served we had a teacher who was determined to teach the Word of

    God to children for the rest of his life. The problem was that he did not have the God-given abilities

    to do it very well. His heart was golden but he was not gifted. His students did not want to be in his

    class and their parents complained that their children were not receiving good instruction. So I met

    with this gentleman on a number of occasions about this. On one occasion I found out that as a child

    he wanted to be a public school teacher but did not get accepted into any college he could afford. He

    had to settle for manual labor but was bent on teaching children. He once told me that one of his

    heroes was a woman who taught children until she was 86 years old. He was in his forties when I

    met him and he wanted to be like her. I could sense that he was not going to be easily dislodged from

    his teaching position so I decided to work with him to make him a better teacher. I sent him off to

    teacher seminars and gave him reading materials. Nothing changed. He just did not have the God-

    given ability to teach and was misplaced within the body of Christ. Eventually he was replaced.

    Some people, like this teacher, are misplaced within the body of Christ because they have

    put themselves in a self-appointed place of service instead of a God-appointed one. We need to

    honestly assess and accept the abilities God has and has not given to us. We need to follow His lead

    in putting them to work in the body.In a Spirit-structured church, believers honestly assess the abilities Jesus Christ, the head of

    the church, has imparted to them and put them to work in the church for the good of the church body

    as you saw in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. The gifts in verse 4 are Holy Spirit-given abilities with which

    to serve God and others. The services in verse 5 are ministry structures the Holy Spirit has created

    in which we use our gifts. And the workings in verse 6 are the fruits of our labors that are produced

    by the Holy Spirit.

    Through this course, you may find that you are misplaced in the body of Christ, serving in

    an area of ministry for which you are not gifted. Sooner or later, you need to make a switch. The

    sooner you make the switch, the better for both you and your church. At the same time, make your

    switches in consultation with your church leaders so that the changes are not disruptive to the

    ministry of the church.

    Heart Checkup: Think about all you are doing to serve the Lord in and through your local church.

    Do you have God-given abilities with which to perform those areas of ministry? Honestly now, why

    are you involved in the areas of ministry with which you are involved? What are your real

    motivations? Are you perhaps misplaced?

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    Reading 7

    God-Given Abilities

    1 Corinthians 12:1-3

    As you can see from what we have studied so far, knowing and using our God-given abilities

    is important to the spiritual growth and fruitfulness of the local church. This is one of the reasons

    the Apostle Paul said, Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant (1

    Corinthians 12:1).

    To overcome ignorance we would need to arrive at an accurate interpretation of Romans12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:4-16; and 1 Peter 4:10-11. There are several good books

    on the subject. The one that helped me the most is Your Spiritual Gifts by C. Peter Wagner.

    When you were born, God placed abilities within you to do some things better than the

    average person. We generally call these natural talents. You may have talents that are yet

    undiscovered because the circumstances that would unveil them have not yet occurred in your life.

    Some talents may have been discovered but are lying dormant for any one of a number of

    reasonslack of opportunity, laziness, failure to walk with God, health problems, life-controlling

    issues, burnout, and so forth.

    When you were born again, God placed some new abilities in you that we call spiritual gifts.

    Every believer has at least one spiritual gift. Romans 12:6 says, we all have different gifts, according

    to the grace given us. The Apostle Paul said,Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given

    for the common good(1 Corinthians 12:7). The Lord gives spiritual gifts to each one, just as he

    determines (1 Corinthians 12:11). It is indisputable. The Lord has given at least one spiritual gift to

    each believer.

    A spiritual gift is a special, God-given ability with which the believer can serve God and

    others in and through the local church. Our God-given abilities will have much to do with

    discovering Gods unique calling and purpose for our lives.

    We do not need to get hung up on drawing distinctions between our natural talents and

    spiritual gifts. We were created for the Sovereign Gods purposes from the very start of our lives.

    He has custom designed us to fulfill His unique calling for our lives. That involves endowing us with

    various natural talents and spiritual gifts. We should make all of our God-given abilities availableto Him. There is no practical value in distinguishing between natural gifts and spiritual gifts. The

    Holy Spirit can take all of our natural abilities and transform them into spiritual abilities.

    Heart Checkup: How aware have you been about the fact that God has given you special abilities

    with which to serve Him in and through the local church?

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    Reading 8

    How Many Spiritual Gifts Are There?

    1 Corinthians 12:27-31

    There are several listings of the different kinds of spiritual gifts in the Scriptures (Romans

    12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 12:8-10, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11). Bible students wonder

    whether God intended the various lists to give a specific number of gifts or just to give us an idea

    of the kinds of things that can be spiritual gifts. If you were to lay these lists out side by side, you

    would make two observations. First, there is some overlap in the listings and, second, each list hasone or more gifts not found in the other lists. It is possible that God intended for us to compile all

    the lists and determine a definite and limited number of gifts. It is more likely that He was just

    communicating the kinds of things that can be spiritual gifts. Any talent, strength, and ability that

    has the potential to advance the Lords work can be considered a spiritual gift.

    As we seek to make an exhaustive listing of the spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the

    Scriptures, we face a few issues. The first issue is that of definitions. Obviously, to make a list of the

    spiritual gifts we must have some kind of working definition for each gift. It is difficult to know the

    exact meaning of some of the gifts because the Scriptures do not give us much data with which to

    create a precise definition. When I do present my listing of spiritual gifts below, you will see

    Scripture references next to them. The definitions a Bible student arrives at for each gift must be

    based on those Scriptures. For most of the gifts, all we have to work with is the definition of the

    word itself. For some of the gifts, we get a bit more information. At the same time, I would

    emphasize that a precise definition is not as important as knowing and using your God-given abilities

    no matter what name you assign to them.

    The second issue we face in listing out the spiritual gifts is that of synonyms. A different

    word may be being used for the same gift in another listing. For example, the gift of helping (1

    Corinthians 12:28) and being merciful (Romans 12:8) may very well be synonymous.

    The third issue we face is the mention of spiritual gifts (Greek, charisma) that are mentioned

    outside of the listings Ive mentioned above. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 the Apostle Paul

    refers to celibacy as a spiritual gift. He says,I wish that all men were (single) as I am. But each man

    has his own gift(Greek, charisma, spiritual gift) from God; one has this gift, another has that.Therefore, I include being celibate in my listing of spiritual gifts.

    Having been given the freedom not to limit the list of spiritual gifts to a fixed number, some

    writers see preaching, music, missionary, voluntary poverty, hospitality, craftsmanship, exorcism

    and intercession as spiritual gifts. In Appendix 1 I provide a listing of strengths that are useful in any

    group. To me, the important thing is that we identify the strengths and abilities God has given us and

    that we surrender them to His purposes. Precisely labeling them is a secondary matter.

    Having said all this, I submit to you my listing of the spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture.

    When we use the Spiritual Gift Assessmenttool I created, you will see my definition of each gift.

    1. Administrating (1 Corinthians 12:28)

    2. Apostleship (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)3. Being celibate (1 Corinthians 7:7-8; Matthew 19:10-12)

    4. Discerning (1 Corinthians 12:10; Acts 16:16-18; 1 John 4:1-6)

    5. Evangelizing (Ephesians 4:11-14; Acts 8:5-6, 26-40; 21:8)

    6. Exhorting (Romans 12:8; Acts 14:22)

    7. Trusting (1 Corinthians 12:9)

    8. Giving (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 13:1; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 9:2-8)

    9. Healing (1 Corinthians 12:9,28)

    10. Helping/Being Merciful (1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:8; 16:1-2)

    11. Interpreting tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10,28; 1 Corinthians 14:13-19, 26-28)

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    12. Knowing (1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 13:1)

    13. Leading (Romans 12:8)

    14. Miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10,28)

    15. Prophesying (1 Corinthians 12:10,28; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; Ephesians 4:11-14;

    Romans 12:6; Acts 15:32; 21:9-11)

    16. Serving (Romans 12:7)

    17. Shepherding (Ephesians 4:11-14; 1 Peter 5:1-3)

    18. Teaching (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-14; Romans 12:7)

    19. Speaking in tongues (Acts 2:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:10,28; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40)20. Dispensing wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8)

    Looking at this list of God-given gifts, you will notice that some are special abilities.

    Ungifted people will probably never be able to do these things well if they are not starting out with

    some natural or supernatural abilities. These include administrating, apostleship, healing, speaking

    in tongues, teaching, interpreting, leading, performing miracles, and prophesying. You will also

    notice that most of the gifts are areas in which we are all commanded to grow spirituallyserving,

    giving, discerning, and so forth. While we do not need to draw distinctions between natural talents

    and spiritual gifts, we should draw a distinction between spiritual gifts and spiritual growth. Many

    years of growing in Christ can and should give one maturity in these areas. Ive been a Christian

    since 1970 and have spiritually grown much since then. I feel like I may possess an above average

    ability for discerning, giving, shepherding, and dispensing wisdom. I see these more as a matter of

    spiritual growth than spiritual giftedness. I say this because I have not always possessed an above

    average ability in these areas. On the other hand, I have always been above average in my abilities

    to teach, exhort, lead, and, maybe, administrate. Do not confuse your spiritual growth with your

    spiritual gifts. In a few ways you are getting a head start over others. You start out the Christian life

    with an above average ability in a few areas. Most likely, those are your spiritual gifts.

    Possessing a spiritual gift obligates a person to use it and not possessing a particular gift does

    not excuse anyone from any Christian responsibility. All Christians have a responsibility to discern,

    give, evangelize, trust God, show mercy, and serve whether or not they are spiritually gifted in those

    ways. Spiritual gifts simply increase the chances that certain functions are accomplished within thebody of Christ. They also provide the church body with concrete, real-life examples to emulate. As

    we who are not gifted in a particular area observe someone who is gifted in that area, we see an

    example of how we are to live. This modeling is a great aid to our spiritual development. This is part

    of Gods purpose for placing these spiritual gifts in the church body.

    Heart Checkup: Do any spiritual gifts that you possess immediately come to mind? What Christian

    responsibilities are you neglecting because you do not think you are spiritually gifted in those areas?

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    Reading 9

    Uniquely Gifted

    1 Corinthians 12:7-31

    Did you know that everyone possesses a unique set of fingerprints and a unique voice? I think

    that is also true of our mix of spiritual gifts.

    According to the Scriptures, every believer has at least one spiritual gift. Experience in

    working with people shows that God gives multiple gifts to most believers. The idea of multiple gifts

    is not contrary to anything the Scriptures teach.It is helpful to keep in mind that two believers may possess the very same spiritual gift yet

    it may be stronger in one person over the other. For example, two believers may possess an above

    average to teach. While both may be above average, one may possess a superior gift of teaching than

    the other.

    It is difficult to discern how strong ones ability must be before it is considered a spiritual

    gift. All I can say is that we should simply take all of the abilities God has given us and use them to

    accomplish His purposes. In so doing, we will be using our spiritual gifts whether we realize it or

    not.

    The various kinds and strengths of gifts that the Lord puts in each believer makes everyone

    unique. If we imagine that there is a definitive list of 26 different spiritual gifts, that everyone posses

    one to six gifts, and that they can all vary in strength, it is easy to see how the Lord could make us

    all unique. Think about it this way: How many unique words can you create with 26 English letters?

    How many different songs could you write with 26 notes? My guess is that each believer is a

    combination of gifts as unique as his fingerprints or voice patterns. There may be others who are

    similar to you, but perhaps there is no one is just like you. You have a unique contribution to make

    to the health and growth of the body of Christ. You have a unique calling from God.

    Ive heard people wonder if our spiritual gifts are a permanent part of who we are or if God

    gives them to us temporarily in different times and circumstances. What did you observe in 1

    Corinthians 12:12-31? It seems like we are a fixed part of the body of Christ. It does not seem like

    we are an arm at one stage in our life and a foot in another. If we are an arm, we are an arm. If we

    are a foot, we are a foot. Just as you do not wake up with a different set of fingerprints one day, evenso you will not wake up with a different mix of spiritual gifts, making you a different part of the

    body. It seems that we are a particular part of the body for our entire lives and God sovereignly

    determines what part you will be.

    There are only two verses of Scripture that can lead anyone to think that we have anything

    to do with the selection of our spiritual gifts. They are 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 14:1. These verses

    tell us to eagerly desire spiritual gifts. The Greek word for eagerly desire iszeloo. Our English

    word zeal comes from this Greek word.Zeloo can mean to desire or to be zealous about. The

    problem is, if we translate it to mean to desire in 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 14:1, we create an

    inconsistency between these two verses and the many verses that teach that God sovereignly

    distributes the gifts as He pleases (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, 18, 24, 28; Romans 12:3, 6; Ephesians 4:7,

    8, 11; Hebrews 2:4). On the other hand, if we translatezeloo to be zealous for, we arrive at atranslation that is perfectly consistent with the whole passage.

    We should make one other thing clear. There is no indication in Scripture that any gift is only

    given to one gender. While God may put gender limitations on the exercise of spiritual gifts in

    certain situations, He gives all the spiritual gifts to both men and women without discriminating.

    Heart Checkup: Do any spiritual gifts that you possess immediately come to mind? How clearly

    do you recognize that you are uniquely gifted and uniquely called of God? How sure are you that you

    are making your unique contribution to the health and growth of the body of Christ?

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    Reading 10

    No Longer Given?

    Hebrews 2:1-4

    There are two extremes within evangelical Christianity that need to be avoided. Some think

    that Christians today should be experiencing all the signs and wonders that the early church did. If

    we are not it is because we lack faith in God or are facing some other spiritual malady. That is one

    extreme. The other extreme is to think that large portions of what the Scriptures say about spiritual

    gifts are irrelevant to the modern church because God is no longer distributing certain gifts. We willdeal with these extremes in the next few readings. For this reading, let us discuss whether or not God

    has stopped distributing some of the spiritual gifts.

    There are some sincere Christians who believe that God is no longer distributing any of the

    sign or power gifts such as speaking in tongues, interpreting, healing, and performing miracles. They

    also believe that He is no longer distributing any of the revelatory gifts such as prophesying and

    supernatural knowing.

    Their first argument is that these gifts served only a foundational purpose in the church. Now

    that the church of Jesus Christ is founded, these gifts are no longer required. They rely heavily on

    Hebrews 2:3-4 in their argument. It says,How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?

    This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord(Jesus), was confirmed(past tense) to us (the

    readers of this epistle) by those who heard him (the Apostles). God also testified to it(past tense) by

    signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will .

    If you pay attention to the tenses used you can see that the author of Hebrews considered the

    announcement and the confirmation of the gospel to be in the past at the time of his writing.

    Therefore, many believe the purpose of the sign gifts was to confirm that Christ and His apostles

    were from God. Since they are no longer around, there is no need for them to be confirmed by sign

    gifts today.

    A second argument used by some who believe God has ceased distributing certain gifts is that

    the New Testament letters, written at a later date, do not make mention of the sign gifts. Corinthians

    is the only letter that mentions the sign gifts. Later listings of spiritual gifts such as those found in

    Romans, Ephesians, and 1 Peter do not list the sign gifts. They view this as evidence that God wasalready starting to phase out the sign gifts before He finished giving us our New Testament.

    I am among the Christians who think these arguments fall short of dogmatic certainty.

    Because the power and revelatory gifts had a foundational role in the establishment of the church

    does not mean that was their only role. Cant speaking in tongues and the interpretation thereof still

    be a sign to unbelievers and still be edifying to the church? Cant the gift of healing still serve a

    helpful function in restoring Gods servants to health and service? Wouldnt it be helpful to get a

    direct word from God from time to time? Wouldnt it be helpful to get spiritual insights into matters

    that would otherwise be pure mysteries? But why would the Scriptures devote space to giving us so

    much instruction about speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, prophesying if all these things

    were irrelevant to us?

    The position that some gifts have ceased falls short of dogmatic certainty to me. Im goingto err on the side of saying that these large portions of Gods revelation are still relevant to the

    modern church. At the same time, I do not like to say one that a gift must be active today. God is

    completely sovereign in the distribution of spiritual gifts. He can deactivate or reactivate a gift at any

    time and in any place. I would not be surprised if God placed genuine sign gifts among us today, nor

    would I be disappointed if He didn't. Im not an advisor to God. I am His servant and am seeking to

    be a faithful servant.

    Heart Checkup: What do you think? Has God stopped distributing certain spiritual gifts?

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    Reading 11

    Apostles Today?

    Ephesians 2:19-3:6

    The twelve Apostles that Christ appointed (Luke 6:12-16) are all dead. It appears to me and

    some Bible scholars that Matthias, James the brother of the Lord, and Paul were added to this highly

    esteemed group (Acts 1:26; 1 Corinthians 15:7-9; Galatians 1:19). As you saw in todays Scripture

    reading, they laid the foundation for the church of Christ (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). Exactly which

    twelve will have their names inscribed on the twelve foundations of the heavenly city (Revelation21:14) is a matter of wild speculation.

    It is worth noting that others, besides the twelve, were considered apostles in the Scriptures.

    In Acts 14:14 Barnabas is considered an apostle along with Paul. In Romans 16:7 Paul considers

    Andronicus and Junias to be outstanding among all of the people who are apostles. In 2 Corinthians

    8:23 Titus and others were considered representatives (Greek, apostolos, apostles) of the churches

    and an honor to Christ. In Philippians 2:25 Epaphroditus is considered to be a messenger(Greek,

    apostolos, an apostle) of the Philippian church. In 1 Thessalonians 2:6 the Apostle Paul speaks of

    Timothy and Silas as apostles of Christ(1 Thessalonians 1:1). It should also be noted that there is

    enough grammatical flexibility in these verses and that they have been the topic of much discussion.

    In my attempt to be as faithful to God and His word as I can be, I have difficulty limiting the gift of

    apostleship to the early church. That would make 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 irrelevant

    verses of Scripture to the modern church.

    As I pay attention to the tenses of Ephesians 2:20 and 3:5, I can see how a case can be made

    for saying there are no more apostles and prophets today. I think the failure in this kind of thinking

    is to believe that the word apostles always and only applies to the twelve. I believe some members

    of the body of Christ have an outstanding, God-given desire and ability to take the message of Christ

    to people who have not yet heard the Gospel. They would fit the definition of apostles. I believe my

    definition allows for 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 to remain relevant verses of Scripture

    to the modern church.

    I do not want my definitions of an apostle to do anything to diminish the high level of

    authority God gave to the twelve Apostles and the important role they played in the outworking ofGods revelation. At the same time, in the spirit of keeping the Scriptures relevant to the

    contemporary church, I prefer to leave the gifts of apostleship and prophesying in existence, to give

    them solid definitions, to allow God to distribute them if He chooses, and to evaluate whether

    anything in the contemporary church matches those definitions.

    Heart Checkup: What do you think? Has God stopped distributing certain spiritual gifts? Has He

    most certainly stopped distributing the gift of apostleship?

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    Reading 12

    Tongues Today?

    1 Corinthians 13:8-13

    Some members of the body of Christ have an exceptional, God-given ability to miraculously

    speak messages from God in foreign languages they have never learned. Other members have the

    God-given ability to accurately translate what is being spoken by someone speaking in tongues even

    though the interpreter never studied that language.

    No spiritual gift has caused more controversy in the contemporary church than the gift ofspeaking in tongues. One approach that some Christians take in solving those problems is to say that

    tongues have ceased. Does God give out the gift of speaking in tongues to people today?

    A person's interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 will determine whether or not they believe

    God is distributing a genuine gift of speaking in tongues today. Where there are prophecies, they will

    cease; where there are tongues they will be stilled...when that which is perfect is come, then the

    imperfect will disappear...Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face.

    On the basis of these verses, everyone agrees that one day the gifts of prophesying and

    speaking in tongues will no longer be needed. Furthermore, everyone agrees that day will be when

    that which is perfect is come. There is disagreement among Christians on what is meant by that

    which is perfect.

    Some sincere believers believe Paul meant that that which is perfectis a reference to thecompletion of the New Testament books. Others believe that which is perfectis a reference to the

    second coming of Christ. Those who believe that which is perfectis the completed Bible believe that

    the gift of speaking in tongues ceased in the first century with the completion of the Holy Scriptures.

    Those who say that which is perfectis referring to the second coming of Christ believe that since

    Christ has not yet returned the gift of speaking in tongues must still be in existence.

    I am among those who see that which is perfectas referring to the second coming of Christ.

    In the first place, that is the first impression I get from the language of the verse. In the second place,

    the idea of a completed New Testament strikes me as a foreign concept to the readers of the New

    Testament letters. It strikes me as a concept that is read into this verse and does not naturally emerge

    from it.

    Still there is something interesting about the Greek tense in verse 8. It says the gift of

    speaking in tongues will be stilled. That means it will one day cease or come to a stop. In the Greek

    it literally says, tongues will be stilled of themselves. Therefore, a case could be made for tongues

    to cease on their own sometime before the Lord's return. Even so, who is to say when those tongues

    will cease of themselves? Will they cease at the completion of the New Testament or 100 years

    before the return of Christ? The viewpoint that some gifts are no longer needed falls short of

    doctrinal dogmatism.

    I am not one to say that the gift of speaking in tongues is or is not active today. God is

    completely sovereign in the distribution of spiritual gifts. He distributes them as He wills. He can

    deactivate or reactivate tongues at any time and in any place. Im not one to tell God what He is

    allowed and not allowed to do. I am His servant and am seeking to be a faithful one.

    Heart Checkup: What do you think? Has God stopped distributing certain spiritual gifts? Has He

    most certainly stopped distributing the gift of speaking in tongues?

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    Reading 13

    Healing Today?

    1 Corinthians 13:8-13

    There are not many Christians who doubt Gods ability and willingness to heal people

    through prayer. But some doubt that some members of the body of Christ have an exceptional, God-

    given ability to serve as a human instrument through whom God supernaturally and instantaneously

    restores health to those who are ill. Some traveling faith healers and televangelist stir up the passions

    of the controversy by their flashy sensationalism, bizarre behaviors, doctrinal errors, moral scandals,fund-raising tactics, lavish lifestyles, fraudulent practices, and lack of accountability. Nonetheless,

    we ask: Is God still giving out the gift of healing today?

    We must grant that the bodies in which we live are mortal, and are highly vulnerable to

    illness and injury (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). This being understood, God still heals sometimes. He

    heals because the body is an important part of who God made us to be (1 Corinthians 6:13, 19-20.)

    Living life His way generally brings health to our bodies and longevity to our lives (Exodus

    15:25-26; Leviticus 7:12-16; 26:14-16; 28:15-61; Proverbs 3:7-8; 4:20-22; Ephesians 6:3). While

    God has a unique plan for each life (John 21:15-24), He has designed most of us to live for 70 to 80

    years (Psalm 90:10). When our bodies fall prey to illness or injury, it is natural for us to seek healing.

    In fact, God built the human body in such a way that it naturally goes to work at restoring health the

    moment an illness or injury strikes. Sometimes that is sufficient. Sometimes the body needs theassistance of medicine or a miracle from God.

    We should pursue healing because we are living under the New Covenant, in the final major

    era of human history, and in the age that has experienced the long awaited outpouring of the Holy

    Spirit (Isaiah 63:9-14; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; 37:14, 27; Joel 2:28-30; Acts 2:17-21;

    Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:13; Hebrews 1:1-2; James 5:3). God healed his people even under the

    Old Covenant. David praised Him for being the One who heals all my diseases (Psalm 103:3). New

    Covenant believers should expect more than believers expected under the Old Covenant. We are not

    living in heaven yet, but with the presence of Gods Spirit among His people, this era is to be a

    foretaste of the life to come.

    Some Christians think the gift of healing went out with the twelve Apostles (Hebrews 2:3-4).

    I disagree. The need for this gift is still with us so why wouldnt the gift still be with us? And the

    Spirit is still with us, so why not His gifts? As Ive already mentioned, I prefer to leave as much of

    the New Testament as relevant to the New Testament church as possible. I think it is likely that God

    has given the body of Christ some people who have the gift of healing. At the same time, I say that

    He can deactivate or reactivate this gift at any time and in any place. He does not need my

    permission for anything He chooses to do in all of His wisdom and sovereignty.

    Heart Checkup: What do you think? Has God stopped distributing certain spiritual gifts? Has He

    most certainly stopped distributing the ability to heal?

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    Reading 14

    A Miracle a Day?

    Matthew 13:53-58

    One well known televangelist used to say that God wanted His people to experience a miracle

    a day. Like others, he insisted that God wanted to do as many miracles today as He did when Christ

    and His apostles were walking the earth. He blamed the lack of miracles throughout church history

    on a lack of faith on the part of His people.

    People who think this way will frequently turn to Matthew 13:58 where it says that the LordJesus did not do many miracles at Nazareth because of their unbelief. The thinking is that the thing

    that prevents God from working today as He did then is our lack of faith.

    If you really stop to think about it, over eighty percent of the miracles in the Bible happened

    in three brief time periods: (1) the ministries of Moses and Joshua, (2) Elijah and Elisha, and (3)

    Christ and His apostles. The first spurt of miracles lasted approximately 60 years. The second lasted

    about 70 years. The third lasted about 50. Between the first spurt and the second there were about

    530 years. Between the second and the third there were 760 years. Since the third and today there

    have been about 1900 years. In about 6370 years of human history, approximately 180 years were

    spent with God doing extraordinary spurts of miracles through a very limited and special group of

    people. (In other words eighty percent of the miracles recorded in the Bible took place during less

    than three percent of the history recorded in the Bible.)If you look at the big picture you will see that most biblical miracles took place in three

    concentrated periods of time. I think you would agree that these three spurts were significant in

    Gods revelatory plan: (1) the giving of the Law, (2) the introduction of the Prophets, and (3) the

    establishment of the New Covenant. There can be no doubt that God did miracles between these

    spurts but that they are far and few between. A miracle that follows by the flip of a page in your

    Bible may be separated by decades or a century in history. On the basis of this analysis, I think there

    is a feeble basis for saying that God must work today as He worked in the first century.

    The verse that leads some to insist it is Gods working today as He did in the apostolic age

    is John 14:12. There the Lord Jesus said,I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what

    I have been doing. He will do greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

    All agree that because I am going to the Fatherrefers to the sending of the Holy Spirit. In

    other words, the Lord Jesus is saying, When I go to the Father and send the Holy Spirit to you, you

    are going to be able to do greater works than the ones I did.

    The debate is over what He meant by the word works. What did the Apostle John mean by

    the use of the word works in John 4:34; 5:17,36; 6:29; 9:3,4; 14:10 and 17:4? While the word

    works certainly includes miracles, it is far from limited to miracles. Works include everything that

    God commands us to do and say. To evangelize, baptize, congregationalize, stabilize, train, and

    mobilize are all works. The local body of Christ will be able to accomplish more than the body of

    Christ accomplished when He walked through the dusty roads of the Holy Land.

    The next debate is over the word greaterin John 14:12. Did the Lord Jesus mean greater in

    wonder, greater in number, or greater in nature? I dont think the Apostles and early church didmiracles that were greater in producing awe and wonder than the Lord Jesus did when He walked

    the face of the earth. I do, however, think the Apostles and early church did miracles that were

    greater in number than those done by the Lord Jesus while He was here on earth. With the definition

    ofworks being all God leads us to do, there cannot be any doubt that the body of Christ has exceeded

    in quantity the works the Lord Jesus did during His short ministry.

    Heart Checkup: What do you think? Should the church today be experiencing all the signs and

    wonders that the church experienced in the days of the Apostles? If we not are experiencing such

    signs and wonders, is that indicative of a spiritual problem in the contemporary church?

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    Reading 15

    A Miracle a Day?

    Mark 16:14-20

    There are those today who claim that what happened at the time of the Lord Jesus and His

    apostles is happening today. In many ways I believe it.

    When I was in Northeast India, I heard many testimonies of miracles. I talked to one man

    who everyone knew as an absolute cripple just six weeks before my visit. He stood before me as

    strong and stable as any other man. On that visit I heard of numerous other supernatural miracles aswell. Many people experienced healing. What impressed me was how confidently the people could

    testify to the before and after condition of these individuals. I felt like I was living in a page from the

    Acts of the Apostles.

    I have heard mission strategists say that many more miracles are experienced in those areas

    of the world in which the Gospel is penetrating into new territory. This is certainly true in my trip

    to Northeast India. The Gospel had only entered that tribe of which I spoke about twenty five years

    before my visit. People were still coming to Christ in large numbers.

    Missiologists also say that miracles are far fewer in numbers in those areas of the world in

    which the Gospel is making no headway or came long ago. I live in the United States and that

    statement also matches my experience where I see little that resembles the Acts of the Apostles.

    Some say it is happening here as it did in Acts. I think there is good reason to be skepticalof such claims. We live in a day when some miracle workers have been exposed as pure frauds.

    Furthermore, unlike the miracles recorded in the Bible, many claims to the miraculous have not held

    up under scrutiny. Also, we seldom hear the testimonies of people who are disillusioned with God

    and the body of Christ as a result of Christians overstating claims to the miraculous. Sometimes

    Christians get all excited about miracles on the scantiest of evidence. When the claims of Gods

    people exceed the reality, they are bearing false witness. Look at the miracles of Christ and His

    apostles! There was no denying them! Even their enemies did not deny them!

    I am not trying to imply that we should not look for God to do miracles today. I am saying

    we have no biblical basis for saying that He must. The Sovereign and All-Wise One can deactivate

    or reactivate His wonders whenever and wherever he chooses to do so.

    I know God does miracles today. I have been the recipient of a few and I have heard many

    testimonies I cannot deny. I am not calling for skepticism. I am calling for discernment and serious

    Bible exegesis. As the body of Christ we must stop to realize that we have an affect on the reputation

    God gets on this earth. We must be people of integrity. We do not want to give people false hope and

    cause people to become disillusioned with God.

    Heart Checkup: What do you think? Should we expect to experience the miraculous on a regular

    basis?

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    Reading 16

    The Miracle of Tongues

    Acts 2:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:18-25

    The issue of speaking in tongues causes much controversy within the body of Christ all over

    the world. Therefore, we shall take a special and closer look at this gift.

    Part of the controversy has to do with the definition of the gift. As I have studied the

    Scriptures, I have arrived at the following definition: The gift of speaking in tongues is the ability

    God gives to some members of the body of Christ to supernaturally speak in known humanlanguages that they have never learned. The gift of interpreting is the ability to supernaturally

    translate someone speaking in tongues even though one has never learned that known language.

    There is no doubt about the fact that the tongues being spoken in Acts 2 were known

    languages. The Day of Pentecost marked the beginning of a new day in the involvement for God the

    Holy Spirit in human history. Those who were filled with the Spirit that day began to supernaturally

    speak in known foreign languages. If you carefully follow the pronouns, the they who spoke in

    tongues were the Apostles of our Lord. If you count the list, they spoke in at least thirteen different

    languages (Acts 2:7-11). There is no doubt that tongues at Pentecost were known human languages

    being spoken by men who had never learned them.

    There is no basis for making a distinction between tongues in the book of Acts and 1

    Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, there is every reason to believe that tongues are known humanlanguages being supernaturally spoken. The burden of proof rests with anyone who thinks otherwise.

    Certainly, 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 makes this clear. It says that the gift of speaking in tongues is

    primarily for the benefit of unbelievers just as we see it was on the day of Pentecost.

    If I am an unbeliever who knows Russian and I attend a church service in which someone

    who does not know Russian supernaturally speaks it, he would have my attention. And, if another

    person, who did not know how to speak Russian, stood up and supernaturally gave an accurate

    translation of what was said, the miraculous nature of that interaction would certainly arouse my

    interest. I might fall down and exclaim, God is really among you! That is what the gift of speaking

    in tongues is intended to do.

    As an unbeliever, it would not impress me if one person in the meeting stood up and uttered

    something that sounded like a language but meant nothing to me. It wouldnt impress me if someone

    else stood up and offered an alleged translation of what was spoken if I had no way of verifying the

    accuracy of the translation. I might be tempted to say These people are out of their mind!

    I have read some reliable testimonies of people speaking in known foreign languages they

    had never studied. This kind of thing strikes me as being a genuine gift of speaking in tongues. I fear

    that most of what passes for speaking in tongues today is nothing more than free vocalization.

    Free vocalization is a linguistic term used to describe a connected sequence of speech that

    sounds like a foreign language but is not. It has been discovered that people of all persuasions--

    Christians, non-religious pagans, cultists, occultists--are capable of freely vocalizing. It is something

    almost anyone can learn to do. Once one learns how to freely vocalize, the ability can be exercised

    at will and is accompanied by a euphoric feeling.Those who have scientifically studied free vocalization say the phonology of such speech

    tends to be closely associated with the speakers background and does not have the linguistic

    structure to transmit information or meaning. When a person is freely vocalizing, they may speak

    fragmentary portions of known languages. Scientists have observed that when this happens the

    people have heard that language somewhere in their background -- usually in their early childhood.

    Lets make sure we do not confuse the Scriptural gift of the Spirit with free vocalization.

    Heart Checkup: What do you think? Is the gift of speaking in tongues as described in the Bible as

    miraculous of an ability as described above? Do you think that much of what passes for speaking in

    tongues in the church today may actually be nothing more than free vocalization?

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    Reading 17

    Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

    James 1:2-8

    In the New Testament we have been commanded use our spiritual gifts zealously (1

    Corinthians 12:31; 14:1; 1 Peter 4:10); but there are no Scriptures that tell us how we are to discover

    them. As a general rule, if something is a gift from God, it will stand out as above average in contrast

    to your other abilities and the abilities of others. There are, however, four biblical principles that can

    help us with the discovery process: (1) Ask God for wisdom, (2) experiment with different ministriesof interest to you, (3) objectively assess yourself, and (4) ask others to assess you.

    First, ask God to give you wisdom. The Apostle James tells us that we are to ask God for

    wisdom, expect He is going to give it to us, and wait for His reply (James 1:5-8). In the case of

    spiritual gift discovery, you can ask Him to show you what spiritual gifts He has given to you. You

    should then expect that He will reveal your gifts to you. After all, why would He want you to know?

    He has promised to generously give you all the wisdom and guidance you need in His time and in

    His way.

    Second, start experimenting with the various areas of service to the Lord. Try a variety of

    things you think you are capable of doing. Try things that are of interest to you.

    Have you ever tried to steer a parked car? It is very difficult to turn the wheel. It is so much

    easier to steer a car that is moving. In the same way, it is so much easier for the Lord to steer yourlife if you are moving instead of sitting down and awaiting a word to drop from heaven.

    Third, objectively assess yourself. We say objectively because we are not good assessors

    of ourselves. It was in the context of speaking about spiritual gifts that the Apostle Paul gave the

    following piece of advice: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of

    yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you (Romans

    12:3-5). Let me stress several things before we actually do a spiritual gift assessment.

    Be as objective as you can about the assessment. Pray that God will help you to be as honest

    with yourself as you can possibly be.

    Do not see any of the questions as an evaluation of your character. We are looking for those

    above average abilities God has placed in you.

    Plan on limiting yourself to three or less spiritual gifts. You are looking for the three (or less)

    top abilities God has placed in you.

    Dont take it personally on the assessment if most of your answers are no. Each of us is not

    much more to the body of Christ than we are. In terms of God-given abilities, your spiritual

    gift mix is just a very small functioning part of the body of Christ. A spiritual gift assessment

    can be an ego-deflating exercise for those who think they should possess all the gifts as

    opposed to a few. We are notmuch more than we are. That is why we need the rest of the

    body of Christ.

    Do not confuse your spiritual growth with your spiritual gifts.

    Do not let this self-assessment deceive you into thinking that you can identify your God-given abilities without the assistance of others. We still need the input of others.

    Heart Checkup: Have you been praying and asking God to make known to you the God-given

    abilities He has placed in you? If so, keep it up. If not, start. What kinds of service have you tried?

    What should you try?

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    Reading 18

    A Self-Assessment Exercise for Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

    Romans 12:1-8

    Directions: Thoughtfully, prayerfully, and honestly work your way through each of the definitions

    and descriptions listed below. Place a check (T) in front of each statement that is true about you.

    Keep thinking and praying about this until you have identified one, two, or three of your strongest

    abilities. Keep in mind that after this self-assessment you will be seeking the feedback of others.

    Outreach Abilities

    Apostleship: Some members of the body of Christ have an outstanding, God-given desire and ability

    to take the message of Christ to the people who have not yet heard and received the Gospel.

    9 I notice and think about segments of people who have never heard the message of Christ.

    9 I think about ways that these unreached segments can be reached.

    9 I get involved in reaching unreached segments.

    9 I get pleasure out of reports of unreached peoples coming to faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

    9 I get upset when my fellow Christians seem unconcerned for unreached segments.

    9 I am more passionate about reaching unevangelized peoples than most believers.

    9 I keep challenging believers to be more concerned about those who have never heard the Gospel.9 I am willing to takes risks for the sake of getting the Gospel to unreached segments.

    9 I sense God is calling me to reach unreached people.

    9 I know how to rely on God for all my provisions, protection, and productivity.

    Evangelize: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to

    verbalize the Gospel to unbelievers in such a clear and persuasive way that they often respond by

    calling on Christ to save them.

    9 I enjoy frequent contact with non-Christians.

    9 I yearn inside for non-Christians to trust in Christ as Savior.

    9 I pray for the salvation of the non-Christians I know.

    9 I am very aware that God is active in the world bringing unbelievers to Himself.

    9 I am optimistic about non-Christians coming to faith in Christ.

    9 I find it easy and natural to speak of spiritual matters with unbelievers.

    9 I seem to find more opportunities to witness than most of the believers around me.

    9 I often challenge unbelievers to examine the claims of Christ and respond to them.

    9 I have a strong desire to see other Christians share their faith more often with unbelievers.

    9 I get upset when Christians dont share their faith with non-Christians.

    Power Abilities

    Miracles: Some members of the body of Christ have an exceptional, God-given ability to serve ashuman instruments through whom God performs unexplainable, supernatural wonders that bring

    attention to Him, His messengers, and His message.

    9 I get excited when the church or individuals face impossible circumstances.

    9 I get inspired in difficult circumstances to give God the opportunity to demonstrate His abilities.

    9 I have felt the urge to be used as an instrument in Gods hand to perform His wonders.

    9 I have more faith in Gods ability to do the impossible than most of the believers around me.

    9 I have been used of God to perform signs and wonders.

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    Healing: Some members of the body of Christ have an exceptional, God-given ability to serve as a

    human instrument through whom God supernaturally and instantaneously restores health to those

    who are ill in a way that bring attention to Him, His messengers, and His message.

    9 I get the urge to pray for healing when I encounter sick people,.

    9 I long to give God the opportunity to demonstrate His ability to heal.

    9 I sense God wants to use me to bring healing to others.

    9 I have more faith in Gods ability to heal the sick than most of the believers around me.

    9 I have been used of God to miraculously bring healing to the sick.

    Speaking in Tongues: Some members of the body of Christ have an exceptional, God-given ability

    to miraculously speak messages from God in foreign languages they have never learned.

    9 I get the urge to yield my mind and tongue to God to have Him miraculously speak through me.

    9 I have spoken known human languages that I have never learned.

    9 I get enthused about this miraculous ability being used by God as a sign to unbelievers.

    9 I am sure I have spoken in other languages and not just freely vocalized.

    Interpreting: Some members of the body of Christ have the God-given ability to accurately translate

    what is being spoken by someone speaking in tongues even though they have never studied that

    language.

    9 I have miraculously understood other known human languages that I have never learned that werespoken by someone with the gift of speaking in tongues. .

    Trusting: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to trust

    in Gods ability and promises for the provisions, protection, and power necessary to advance the

    Lords work in peoples lives, the church, and the world.

    9 I have an above average faith in Gods ability to do the things He has promised in His Word.

    9 I have an above-average ability to believe that God can overcome all obstacles and setbacks.

    9 I get excited when given the chance to let God demonstrate His awesome abilities.

    9 I persevere in prayer until God delivers on His promises.

    9 I experience more answers to prayer than most of the people around me.

    9 I experience a relatively anxiety free life as the result of my trust in God.

    9 I get upset when my fellow believers experience anxiety because of a lack of trust in Gods Word.

    9 I strongly believe that we limit what God can do by our lack of faith in Him and His Word.

    9 I frequently encourage people to trust God for their needs.

    9 I am usually optimistic about achieving kingdom-minded goals.

    Revelatory Abilities

    Prophesying: Some members of the body of Christ have an exceptional, God-given ability to receive

    direct revelation from God that strengthens, corrects, encourages, and comforts His people.

    9God speaks directly to me in dreams, visions, or strong impressions placed into my mind.9 These dreams, visions, and impressions are clearly distinct from normal brain functions.

    9 The messages God gives me strengthen, correct, encourage, and comfort His people.

    9 Sometimes God has revealed future events to me that have happened.

    9 I see people becoming better disciples of Christ as a result of the revelations God gives me.

    Knowing: Some members of the body of Christ have an exceptional, God-given ability to

    supernaturally know things that could not be known apart from direct revelation from God.

    9 God gives me insights into people and situations that cannot otherwise be known.

    9 I have frequently seen how those insights have proven true.

    9 I have seen how this supernaturally revealed data has helped to advance the Lords work.

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    Formative Abilities

    Teaching: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to

    accurately and clearly explain and apply the Word of God to the lives of His people in a way that

    it is understood, trusted, and obeyed.

    9 I have the ability to inspire people to want to study the Word of God.

    9 I help people to clearly understand biblical concepts.

    9 I am able to take profound topics and make them more easily understandable.

    9 I hold the attention of most people when I teach them.9 I seem to have a good understanding of where students are and where they need to be.

    9 I live what I teach and set a good example for others to follow.

    9 I encourage others to live their lives as I live mine.

    9 People are more obedient to Gods Word as a result of my teaching.

    9 I get a strong sense of satisfaction out of seeing lives transformed as a result of my teaching.

    Exhorting: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to make

    a difference in peoples lives by telling them what they really need to hear in order to live for God.

    9 I freely warn and confront those who are doing the wrong things.

    9 I freely praise, affirm, and compliment those I see doing the right things.

    9 I am courageous enough to tell them what they need to hear to grow spiritually.9 I enjoy encouraging the discouraged, weak, and fearful.

    9 I am bothered when people fail to encourage those in need of encouragement.

    9 I get upset when others fail to confront people who need to be confronted.

    9 Ive noticed my exhortations make a difference in peoples lives.

    9 Ive noticed people tend to take my words to heart.

    9 I get pleasure out of seeing lives transformed as a result of the words I speak.

    Dispensing Wisdom: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given

    ability to know the practical will of God for a group or individual in particular circumstances in

    which uncertainty or conflict appear.

    9 I make good assessments of others situations.

    9 I tend to get down to the heart of matters with precision.

    9 I enjoy problem solving and am usually good at it.

    9 I frequently have people look to me for advice and guidance.

    9 I often have helpful insights and advice to offer people when they come to me.

    9 I get a strong sense of satisfaction when I see lives being transformed as a result of my counsel.

    Discerning: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to

    accurately discern if a person, message, or action is of God, of the devil, or of human origin.

    9 I am perceptive and hard to fool.

    9I am bothered when others are undiscerning and gullible about certain beliefs and activities.9 I see beyond charisma, smiles, glitz, and spiritual facades to what is taking place in the heart.

    9 I probe until I have discerned the origins of certain beliefs and activities.

    9 I seem to have an above average sense of evil, the devil, and demons.

    9 I get deep satisfaction when involvement with evil and trouble are averted by my warnings.

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    Shepherding: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to

    take responsibility for the spiritual welfare and maturity of a small or large group of Gods people.

    9 I am often appointed to provide spiritual direction and care over a group.

    9 I jump at the opportunity to provide spiritual direction and care for groups.

    9 I am highly conscientious about providing spiritual direction and care for the groups I lead.

    9 I tend to nurture and mother the groups under my supervision.

    9 I care deeply for the entire well being of the people that fall under my care.

    9 I recruit others to care for the needs of those within the church.

    9 I get upset when I see people that are neglected.9 I seem to have more of a shepherding heart than most of the Christians around me.

    9 I get deep satisfaction when I see the people under my care growing spiritually.

    Caring Abilities

    Being Merciful/Helping: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given

    ability to feel deeply for people who are weak, needy, or suffering and to take practical action steps

    that will alleviate their situation.

    9 I tend to care more than the average Christian for people who are suffering.

    9 I get great pleasure from alleviating the hardships and suffering of others.

    9 I enjoy sharing my knowledge, skills, time, attention, and whatever Ive got with people in need.9 I may not be able to meet someones whole need; but I refused to do nothing.

    9 I am bothered when others seem indifferent to the needs of the weak and needy.

    Giving: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to cheerfully

    and generously give of their money and possessions to meet known needs.

    9 I get pleasure from being able to give of my money and possessions to meet the needs of others.

    9 I am not always able to meet a whole need, but I am always determined to give something.

    9 I believe God has prospered me so that I would have money to meet the needs of others.

    9 I believe God put it in my heart to live a financially disciplined life for the benefit of others.

    9 God gives me extra money beyond my basic needs with which to help others and causes in need.

    9 I seem to give away a greater percentage of my income than other Christians in my salary range.

    9 I get upset that more believers do not give more of their money to people and causes in need.

    9 I can see how God uses my generosity to help people feel loved by Him and the body of Christ.

    9 I can see how my generosity advances the cause of Christ.

    Organizational Abilities

    Leading: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to cast a

    God-given vision for the future of a small or large group of Gods people, inspire the people to

    pursue it, and provide general direction toward its fulfillment.

    9I am often appointed into leadership roles.9 I often jump at the opportunity to provide leadership to a group.

    9 I seem to have a clear sense of Gods preferred future for a group.

    9 I tend to inspire people to pursue goals and take action.

    9 I find that there are usually a group of people around me willing to follow where I lead.

    9 I can sense what needs to be done to accomplish a vision or goal.

    9 I have a sense of which action steps are more important than other action steps.

    9 I have a good sense of how to organize people to accomplish the goal.

    9 I get satisfaction out of others becoming better disciples of Christ as a result of my leadership.

    9 I seem to accomplish tangible results when I lead a group.

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    Administrating: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to

    understand and execute the detailed action plans required for a church or a group within the church

    to accomplish their God-given vision.

    9 I like to see groups that operate smoothly and efficiently.

    9 I get enjoyment out of organizing things.

    9 I am bothered when groups are disorganized and inefficient.

    9 I get excited about the goals our church leaders establish.

    9 I enjoy developing action plans that accomplish the goals of our church leaders.

    9 I have a good sense of what action steps need to be taken first, second, third, and so forth.9 I am often given responsibility for the management of time, space, people, and money.

    9 I find myself wanting to advise people regarding action steps that need to be taken.

    9 I get excited when I see people becoming better disciples as a result of my managerial abilities.

    9 I seem to produce good results when I manage things.

    Serving: Some members of the body of Christ have an above-average, God-given ability to do the

    humble, needful, and practical tasks necessary in order to help a group accomplish their

    responsibilities and goals.

    9 I get great pleasure from helping church leaders get the work of the church done.

    9 I like to help our church leaders by doing smaller tasks so they can focus on bigger ones.

    9 I am always willing to do whatever I can do to help the ministry of the church.9 I tend to volunteer for tasks quite readily.

    9 I get upset when more people do not volunteer to do simple practical tasks anyone can do.

    Heart Checkup: Keep thinking, praying, and honestly working your way through the above

    assessment. With 1 being your strongest ability, 2 being your second, 3 being your third etc., list your

    potential gifts in order of strength below. Dont forget, the Scriptures do not give us an exhaustive

    listing of gifts. You may have strengths and abilities not in this lists. As mentioned in an earlier

    reading, some writers see preaching, music, missionary, voluntary poverty, hospitality,

    craftsmanship, exorcism and intercession as spiritual gifts. See Appendix 1 for a very different listing

    of usable strengths. The important thing is that we identify the strengths and abilities God has given

    us and that we surrender them to His purposes.

    1. ______________________________________

    2. ______________________________________

    3. ______________________________________

    4. ______________________________________

    5. ______________________________________

    6. ______________________________________

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    Reading 19

    Feedback From Others

    Matthew 25:14-30

    A God-given ability will usually stand out as an above average ability in contrast to your

    other abilities and the abilities of others. If t