Saturday, June 23, 2012

Moving The God Files to a new site

Hi everyone!

I've decided to move my blog over to wordpress (sorry google).  I'd love it if you would consider following me on wordpress!  Check out the new look and content here!

In addition, you can follow me on these other social media sites if you're interested:

Thank you for all of your support, and God bless!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Eugene Peterson's The Message

Hello all!  It's been a while, but God has been good.  I have been inspired to discuss some important topics.

I'm attempting to research The Message by Eugene Peterson (The Bible in Contemporary Language).  I know I'm a few years behind, but I have yet to research The Message for myself and see if it is really a trustworthy translation of Scripture or if it's something a little more sinister.  My friends, mentors, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are all torn on this issue, so I feel it's important to discuss.

It's become clear to me that The Message is becoming a standard part of the Christian experience.  Many churches and Bible studies quote The Message and call it God's Word.  The effective marketing around The Message aims it toward young adults and "the average person", presumably one who is not familiar with Christian lingo.  This means that this version has permeated popular culture.  The Message is not going away any time soon.  

Despite Eugene Peterson's personal statement that The Message should be considered a "reading Bible" and not a "study Bible", people seem to be treating this version as THE Bible, and claiming that those who don't trust it are at best close-minded and at worst legalistic.

Now, I've seen great teachers argue over the slightest word change in the more standard Bible versions.  It seems that those who have studied the ancient text know the subtleties of the language and the danger a misrepresentation could pose.  Most of the Bible versions I have read have an entire committee of scholars, pastors, and editors that have spent endless hours pouring over every individual word of the text so that these discrepancies do not occur.  These scholars have a reverence about their work; they are accountable for their translation.  They seem to believe that there is no difference between a "reading Bible" and a "study Bible".  God's Word is life or death and is not to be taken lightly.

So the most nagging question in my mind is, why does Eugene Peterson claim to have the education and skills to translate the entire Bible on his own, and dramatically different from everyone else?  But the most important question is: can believers and unbelievers alike take from The Message and know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior?

There are three main arguments I can see about The Message, and they are mutually exclusive.  If one is true, the others cannot be true simultaneously:
1) The Message is a trustworthy and divinely-appointed translation of Scripture.  The paraphrases do not take away from essential doctrine.
2) The Message is at best a human book inspired by Scripture.  Its purpose is to lead people to Truth, and encourage them to read the real Bible.
3) The Message is a deceptive version of Scripture that is infesting our youth and our churches.  It will eventually be accepted as a standard Biblical version, and doctrine will be based on it because it is accepted as a Bible by publishers and pastors alike.

I intent to research these questions and arguments to the best of my ability.  I imagine I will learn a lot about other versions of the Bible along the way.  During my initial stages of research, I have seen some pretty severe claims against The Message.  What disappoints me is that most of the propaganda against The Message appears to be wildly biased and some claims against the character of Eugene Peterson are unsubstantiated.  The propaganda I've seen so far supporting The Message is based on Peterson's accurate translation of the ancient text, quotes from popular and trusted Christian superstars supporting this version, and some very clever marketing.  

At this point in time, I do not fall into any of these 3 camps above.  I am researching, and I pray that my quest will be untainted by bias.  I have no agenda; I simply seek truth.   I hope that what I find can help others as well.

If you have questions or arguments as well, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me at

Monday, March 12, 2012

Genocide in America

"Rather than being ‘actual persons’, newborns were ‘potential persons’. Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’." ¹

This quote is from a controversial article in The Journal of Medical Ethics, authored by medical ethicists at Oxford University named Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. It made popular rounds on social media sites through an article in The Telegraph. ²

The main point of Drs. Giubilini and Minerva seems to be that imperfect infants should be allowed to be terminated on the basis that they are broken and an “unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.” ¹ In other words, if the human life costs valuable resources to maintain and won’t contribute back to the society in valued, measured ways, the life is not worth enough to maintain and should be allowed to be thrown away without repercussions.

This would target any child with any genetic disease or disorder, like Down syndrome. In the mind of some, these babies cause a drain on society: they live, they don’t work, they don’t contribute, and they suck money away from healthy humans.


Drs. Giubilini and Minerva's opinion is nothing new. Claire Rayner wrote an article in The Independent's Opinion section back in 1995. She states that she wants to give parents the right to choose whether or not they want to burden themselves and others with their baby's syndrome.

"The hard facts are that it is costly in terms of human effort, compassion, energy, and finite resources such as money, to care for individuals with handicaps... People who are not yet parents should ask themselves if they have the right to inflict such burdens on others, however willing they are themselves to take their share of the burden in the beginning. "³

Rayner's argument does not favor the position of those who wish to keep their child. She ends this paragraph with, "The right to choose implies the duty to choose as unselfishly as possible, surely?" ³

This implication will undoubtedly become an expectation if after-birth abortion comes into effect, especially if language like "if [parents] have the right to inflict" is used. That phrase casts blame on the parents who are willing to keep a disabled child, as they are allowing their child to inflict others with the child’s less-than-perfect existence. It won't be long before their decision to keep their baby is frowned upon by the general masses rather than pitied.

The medical world has a knack for catching the attention of the media, for good or ill. In this regard, politicians and pro-abortionists will play this angle and prey on ill-informed fears and misconceptions by claiming that disabled children take valuable resources from healthy children; your healthy children. We are all directly or indirectly affected by the "unbearable burdens" of disabled children.


The most alarming aspect of the article by Drs. Giubilini and Minerva is that it doesn't just stop at babies with health issues. “What we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” ¹

This is where the pro-abortionists seem to depart from their original claims. Most in favor of abortion claim that killing fetuses is not like killing a person because the baby is dependent on the mother and therefore not a separate being. Once the child is born, it ceases to become a "choice" and becomes a human. The pro-abortionists believe that life can be forfeit even after the child is brought to term on the basis that a child is human, but not a person with automatic values and rights.

"Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal."¹

"Rather than being ‘actual persons’, newborns were ‘potential persons’. Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’."¹

'Merely being human' extends to an alarming number of people when brought to its full logical context.


What’s next? Our country would save millions of dollars of funding by stopping research on Alzheimer’s patients and “compassion killing” those patients instead. After all, the sick and elderly eat away at our medical costs and they hardly provide useful substance to our society. According to the logic of Drs. Giubilini and Minerva, sick elderly patients and the mentally disturbed might not even be considered persons. They define a ‘person’ as “an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” ¹ Will the sick and elderly be denied a say in the matter and treated as infants on the basis that they do not offer "basic value"?

In the 1800's, slave owners enslaved and murdered the Africans on the basis that they were less than human. In the 1900's, the Nazis blamed the economic distress of Germany on the "genetically impure" Jews, who were then systematically murdered. In the 2000's, the world murders innocent children in the womb and considers murdering newborns on the basis that a baby is only a "potential person" and not an "actual person". How far will we go? Who will determine what makes a human a "person" with a "moral right to life"?

There are whole foundations dedicated to remembering the horror behind the genocide committed by our forefathers, and yet the idea of after-birth abortion is proposed and seriously considered. Humans are repeating history by making the same basic mistake of devaluing a human's life and finding that to be a good enough reason to kill him.

As Dr. Cox states so eloquently in the Scrubs Pilot episode, "Pumpkin, that's modern medicine. Bureaucratic nightmares, paperwork out the a--, and advances that keep people alive who should have died years ago, back when they lost what made them people."


What will our country do about the after-birth abortion proposition? How will the medical community respond in the next few years? The editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Prof. Julian Savulescu, said, "The journal would consider publishing an article positing that, if there was no moral difference between abortion and killing newborns, then abortion too should be illegal."² This is a good point, and it's not clear if he intended to make this point or not. If our country responds and says that after-birth abortion is horrible, then shouldn't that negate the logic behind abortion?

Abortion has always been political and it has ultimately been about convenience and money. There are two things that I've noticed about the articles by Drs. Giubilini and Minerva and Claire Rayner: they both come down to defining these children as unacceptable burdens, and they are not the original proponents of after-birth abortion.

These people did not come up with their ideas all by themselves. In fact, their ideas can be chillingly logical if viewed from the mindset that life without acceptable purpose is not to be valued. You will find some extremely consistent people who believe genetically imperfect babies should be terminated, the sick should be put down, and the elderly disposed of. This is nothing new.

So where do we draw the line? Can our country continue to believe that it can both value life and destroy it? We will find that we must accept all or nothing. What after-birth abortion comes down to is this: A child is not worth protecting if it somehow doesn't have the potential to aid those who decide its fate.

The world has never deteriorated into this mindset. It has always been hypocritical: it will protect three-legged puppies and turn around to murder the Down syndrome baby. The people who propose murder will always consider that their good fortune -- their sound, reasoning mind -- is somehow their own doing, as if they created themselves in their mother's womb and now have the right to decide the fate of children in the wombs of others.

Let this article serve as a warning to us. The world has always found ways to commit the same evil under a different name by blaming the victims. This name is now known as "after-birth abortion". Don't be fooled -- it is nothing less than genocide. The question is: will you fight it?


¹Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?" Journal of Medical Ethics (2012).

² Stephen Adams, "Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say." The Telegraph (2012).

³ Claire Rayner, "ANOTHER VIEW: A duty to choose unselfishly. " The Opinion section of The Independent (1995).

⁴ "Simply Scripts: Scrubs Pilot."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Discouraging Evil: Why?

I've been contemplating why it's important to discourage evil in our society. I see so much dissension among political, religious, or socio-economic groups when it comes to questions of morality. I try to navigate through these murky waters by standing true to what I know is Truth, what I know is God's expectation. But though I know it, and I live it with Jesus' help, the rest of the world around me crumbles into darkness. I want to shed a ray of light, but it's overwhelming to think of fighting a popular opinion when you know you'll be crucified for it. It's times like these that Satan will sneak in and say the dreaded W word to me: Why?

Why should we fight something when people are so passionate about sinning? Does it really make a difference whether we allow something like divorce, porn, or gay marriage to exist in our society? After all, people will sin. People will have adulterous affairs whether we discourage it or not. What harm does it do to make it (it being anything sinful) socially acceptable as long as we as Christians don't encourage it or allow it to permeate our lifestyles? It's not like we're killing anybody. If it's something really serious, like abortion, then we'll take a stand.

"It's not like" are probably the most dreaded words after "why". They stem directly from complacency and apathy. When we stop caring what the world around us reflects, we stop caring about the way the world reflects God. God created this world, and though God is not responsible for the sin in this world, a huge reason against believing in a loving God is "Why?" -- Why would God let this happen if He were so good and loving?

God is reflected through His people, which is one huge reason why it's so important that Christians must not be hypocritical and reverently follow God's standards. But if Christians stop there -- if they think that holiness is extended only inwardly, toward the self, then their efforts to make a positive impact on this world may very well be twisted into selfishness. What starts off as a pure desire to serve God might become warped and turn into an external action that serves to bolster the internal desires of the individual. It gives way to the belief that one must "prove" one's holiness by acting holy.

This is what Jesus warns us against in Matthew 6:1-4
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who ses what is done in secret, will reward you."

and again in Matthew 23:23
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices -- mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness."

Our desire to give of ourselves should be a natural reaction to the fullness we have in Christ. Pslam 23:5 says "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over." When our cups run over with God's love, we can't help but bleed tears out of our hearts for the lost. The holiness God grants us reaches outwards to others.

Our basis for doing good should not be simply about "following orders", it should be about compassion: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. We must be aware that Satan is constantly attacking our motives. If we fall into the trap of believing that our good works are to satisfy some pre-ordained quota by God, then what is our motivation for fighting evil? If we do not have compassion for those who fall into evil, then our external motivation to fight turns inward, and we think of only how the world's evil will affect us -- me and mine. Some even excuse the evil because of this lie: "Allowing this will only affect the people who participate in it." No, not true.

Allowing evil will inevitably affect all people, because it is a poison to an already sinful society.

I am reminded of a disturbing article I just read about the Ashley Madison internet dating site that is specifically for married people to look for a partner to enter into adultery. The founder and operator of the site, Noel Biderman, said one of the most disturbingly "logical" things I have heard in a long time:

"Biderman is quick to explain why his business isn't hurting anyone. "You eradicate Ashley Madison, you're not going to eradicate infidelity. That's what allows me to sleep at night," he says. "If you think that all affairs happen on Ashley Madison, you're very naive. The majority happen in the workplace. People are thrust together, that's where they happen." In that context, Biderman likes to argue, affairs can be much more damaging, by causing meltdowns at work, becoming public, and blowing up marriages. Ashley Madison and its clandestine, more transactional approach, he says, is actually a marriage saver, a public service of a kind." (bold inserts mine.) Article called Cheating Inc. written by Sheelah Kolhatkar, found at this link:

Why fight this? It's true, isn't it? Some married people will commit adultery, whether this internet site exists or not. What is the real damage that it is doing? According to Noel Biderman, it's not causing damage, it's actually helping save marriages. His logic is simply that people are programmed for sex, and if they are not satisfied in their marital relationship, it is way too messy to divorce, especially if the "business transaction" side of the marriage is working fine. The best option is to sleep with someone willing, but keep the marriage bubble intact. People will be much happier for it, because as he is quoted saying in this article, "Monogamy, in my opinion, is a failed experiment."

(I'd hate to be that guy's wife.)

This is how Satan works. He points out a flaw in society and shows you how unreasonable it is to expect anyone to actually follow some "golden standard" by a god that may or may not even exist. He then attempts to get you to accept that this "flaw" isn't a flaw at all, it's just an unfortunate bias of society that will change with time. The real flaw is people hindering the pursuit of pleasure and happiness.

I can't help but think of this passage and pity Biderman:
Matthew 18:7
"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!"

He might see his business as harmless and opportunistic, but he is making it easier for people to be tempted by their carnal passions and end up in hell. True, I cannot blame every adulterer on Biderman. He is right that they would most likely commit adultery through another means. When there is a will, there is a way. But the damage he is causing through his methods of stealthiness, lies and his encouragement of evil is destroying his soul as well as the souls of countless others. The temptation garnered by easy sex and the prospect that "everyone else is doing it" is too strong for people without Christ.

Partner-hopping humans has been a problem even in Jesus' time. The Samaritan woman at the well is an example of this. She desired to fill that hole in her heart with men, and she could not. It is heartbreaking. Is it horrible, and completely inexcusable? Yes. But it is also heartbreaking. These people are hurting. They do not know Christ, and Satan is waging war on them so that they will never be receptive to the idea that life without their pleasure and happiness is a life worth living. We must pray for them, and we must fight against evil and injustice.

Christians are instructed to be the light of the world, to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to serve the needy and lost. It is difficult to see anyone as poor outside of the socio-economic class structure. In truth, all people lacking Jesus are lacking abundant life. These people are poor in spirit, which is much worse than being poor on a monetary level. When evil is allowed to flourish, then these lost people tend to embrace it as acceptable, or desirable, which will further destroy their spirit. What should we do to help?

As Jesus so boldly proclaims in Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:
"The Spirit of the Lord on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good new to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Oh God, that you would give us your holy compassion!

Why should we fight? If you are lacking a passionate answer, may God transform your heart. If you have an answer, may God embolden you to fight.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Proverbs 21:21 devotional

I get a daily Bible verse from, and I always get it in two translations: KJV and NIV. Sometimes the KJV is just too florid for my understanding, so I get it in two translations. The other day the verse was Proverbs 21:21, and I read it in several different translations and found it fascinating.

Whoever pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity and honor. (NIV)

He who pursues righteousness and loyalty
Finds life, righteousness and honor. (NASB)

He that followeth after righteousness and mercy
findeth life, righteousness, and honour. (KJV)

The substituted words are "love, loyalty, mercy". It struck me as interesting that there was such a difference in these translations. How are these substituted words similar? I am not familiar with the original language, so forgive me if my interpretation is less than academic. I am merely stating what the Holy Spirit related to me for my own personal understanding.

One of the most consistent words is "righteousness". He who pursues righteousness will inherit this wonderful promise. But righteousness is not enough, you must pair righteousness with love, loyalty, and mercy. This two-fold requirement reveals the nature of God. God is holy, God is righteous. But God is more than a flawless being; His love is what drives Him to make His children righteous in His image, so that they may share in eternal life with Him. If you think about what God's love is, it's an extension of His mercy, which He bestows upon us in the form of grace. His grace will never fail, and He will never run out of grace. This is the loyal promise of God: that He will pursue you faithfully to the end of your days, bestowing upon you his mercy, grace, and love. He will teach you His righteous ways so that you may pursue it passionately; He has changed your nature so that it desires a life of righteousness and love rather than self-centeredness and sin.

If you pursue God for who He is, and you will find life, prosperity, and honor. The definition of "honor" is this: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions. The definition of "prosperous" is this: Having success; flourishing. Why does the NIV say "prosperity" rather than "righteousness"? I suspect it has to do with the several references to righteous people of God flourishing. See some Pslams below:

Psalm 92:12 "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon"
Psalm 72:7 "In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more."

Go back and read Proverbs 21:21. Isn't this an amazing promise of God? If you pursue Him, He will bless you.

The unbelievers do not know or understand this promise, but it is extended to them as well. If in their hearts they pursue the attributes of God -- His righteousness, love, loyalty, mercy -- God will reveal Himself to them. He desires that none of His children perish. They too have the chance to find life, and it is our duty to lovingly show them the way through our actions, both spoken and unspoken. Sometimes we don't realize how much of a positive effect we have on a non-Christian friend when we simply treat them with courtesy and kindness. They notice when you "Love your neighbor as yourself," whether you realize it or not. The Christian life is about showing the nature of God whether people expect you to or not; in fact, you must show Christ more-so when people expect you to do the exact opposite! Matthew 5 has all sorts of interesting things to say about a Christian's behavior. I encourage you to go read it as a refresher.

Let us pursue righteousness and love, not only for our own spiritual growth, but for the sake of those around us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Having a heart of worship

What does it mean to have a heart of worship?

John 4:23-24

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Paul frequently refers to worship as something other than abstract artistic creativity. Paul encourages his readers to praise God through their actions -- by living a godly life and loving others, you are worshiping God.

Romans 12:1
"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."

Romans 15:5-7
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

The phrase "living a godly life" often seems to be met with a brief stint of unattainable panic in many Christians. If your heart is in the right place, that is, if your heart is willing to sacrifice all else for the glory of Christ, then God teaches you how to glorify Him in the simplest of manners. The way you great your co-workers, the way you respond with patience to a difficult person, the way you conduct yourselves in your careers or at school -- these are all actions that show Christ to other people. It's really amazing how people receive a genuine act or word of kindness from others; it seems to be magnified tenfold when Christ is behind it. If you're living a Christ-like life, it simply means that you are allowing Christ to live through you. All of the glory automatically goes to Him, because you recognize that you cannot be holy on your own.

God's people must be wary of turning into people who worship rules rather than God, as the author of Colossians warns about:

Colossians 2:20-23
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

How can I worship God in every day aspects of life?

I believe your spiritual gifts go a long way in determining your tendencies toward worship. Feel free to read the previous post about spiritual gifts! I often find that those who are gifted to administrate take joy in administration; it is their spiritual act of worship. They are doing exactly what God has called them and blessed them to do.

Music (and all art in general) is another form of worship that is universally recognized. Even if you don't prefer to sing or play an instrument, just listening to music and worshiping with your heart can be suitable. It really depends on who you are. Visual arts are also extremely powerful. I witnessed people who were silently acting out prayers with their bodies, and it was extremely touching and effective. One of my favorite poets is Gerard Manley Hopkins; his words paint a beautiful picture of God.

Nature is one of my favorite forms to worship God. Nature is so undeniably powerful that there is no possible way for a human to claim it as his or her own. I frequently recall this verse: 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 "
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." It is impossible for me to claim that I created the power of Niagara Falls or the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. I am so overwhelmingly small compared to Nature, and yet its smallest function is tinier than me. The God who created photosynthesis is the same God who knows every hair on my head. The God who created the galaxy is the same God who gave me a body that is miraculous in itself. Have you ever just stared at a leaf and considered its integral function in the world (much like an individual human)? How did it get there, how does it know when to change colors and circulate water to its veins? Nature at once brings me back to my rightful place and reveals to me the beauty and complications in humanity.

Intelligence is another form of worship. I think science is a very powerful way to glorify God. I don't see how you can study the galaxy and not be humbled. How can you know exactly what minerals were needed to create a substance, exactly what made it possible for life to be sustained on earth, and not think of God? Science is a very powerful tool for a Christian, as is philosophy and other areas of intelligence. I encourage you to check out this very interesting video if you have time called Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell:

Prayer, quiet times, and fellowship are obviously very important forms of worship. Finding a community of believers to grow with is one of the perks of being a Christian! Speaking directly to God is really as good as life can get. How magnificent is it that we have a God who hears, who responds, and who encourages us to keep coming back for more?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Battling Inadequacy with Spiritual Gifts

As a musician in a conservatory, I know what it's like to deal with inadequacy. My colleagues and I struggle with it almost daily. We are in the business of expected perfection with imperfect results. Sound familiar? The church is very similar. I do not mean to suggest that Christians inevitably sin; I am merely saying that Christians are not God. As faithful as we are to God, we do not possess all of His attributes. I think this is obvious. However, God did bless us with spiritual gifts, an evident manifestation of a part of himself. These gifts allow us to help others in a world of imperfection. Satan will always work to make Christians believe that they are not making a difference in the world, and many times he will attempt to make the Christian feel inadequate in the face of evil. This is far from the truth -- Christians have spiritual gifts, and they have a whole team of people who have different spiritual gifts to help them battle for souls.

What is the difference between a spiritual gift and a natural-born talent or skill?

Many times people are confused by spiritual gifts. They think that the things they are naturally good at are spiritual gifts, like playing the violin or teaching chemistry. While those types of things are certainly skills and talents that God has blessed us with, it does not necessarily mean that they are spiritual gifts. Just because a Christian is a virtuoso violin player does not make him or her an automatic worshiper. A spiritual gift is bestowed by the Holy Spirit after conversion to Christ; it's often something you did not realize you had the knack for, or it is an extreme enhancement of a born talent. Oftentimes it aids you in times of crisis, or in unexpected events. It always blesses people, and it is never used for self-interest. Some people who open up their home to friends in need or strangers do not even recognize they have the gift of hospitality; they assume all people do this because it is common courtesy. Others experience a blatant increase of wisdom by the Holy Spirit in times of crisis. It is typically very clear to those witnessing the gift in action that the person is spiritually endowed. This is one of many ways for God to show his glory on earth. He works through the weak to reveal His strength.

What are the different types of spiritual gifts?

I am not going to explain each individual spiritual gift. There are several excellent resources out there for further research. I read a fascinating book on spiritual gifts. It was one of those old and forgotten books in my parents' library, called Rediscovering our Spiritual Gifts: building up the Body of Christ through the Gifts of the Spirit by Charles V. Bryant. It reminded me of the Myers-Briggs personality test, as it was a deep analysis of spiritual gifts.

Here are some Bible verses concerning gifts your reference:

Romans 12:4-8 "4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13
"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:

“ When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

Battling inadequacy on the personal level:

I firmly believe that Satan tries to use our spiritual gifts against us. I have the gift of wisdom, but I am lacking discernment. Sometimes I mourn this, as discernment would be very useful at times! I go to my brothers or sisters who have discernment and get their help, as I cannot do everything on my own. God created us to be in a community of believers, and He uses the analogy of a body to explain it to us in 1 Corinthians 12. I am only one part of the body of Christ, but my part is essential to my community. I stop mourning that I do not have certain gifts whenever God reminds me that I am not alone in my ministry, and I cannot expect myself to single-handedly save the world. That's ridiculous. But that is what Satan tries to get Christians to believe. He whispers lies of "you're not good enough, your gift is useless here, you failed this person because you weren't what they needed".

A friend once told me that her faith was saved by a mutual friend's unrelenting persistence. Our friend had been with her through thick and thin, and it seemed as though everyone else had abandoned her. I felt truly horrible that I could have done something more than I did, and I felt that I must have neglected my duties somehow. But God reminded me that I had my own situation do deal with -- I was pursuing somebody else with unrelenting persistence and saving their faith. God orchestrated it so that every person was taken care of during this time. We each have our own battles to fight, and God makes them clear to us through time and prayer. We cannot be everything to everybody; the only person who can fulfill that is Jesus.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 "27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way."

Every gift looks different. Every combination of gifts is different and can be used in unique ways. We must remember that all gifts are relevant and important, no matter how small they seem. We are all an integral part of the body of Christ, and each gift was given for a reason. Prophesy might seem more flashy than Administration, but the prophet would never have been able to organize an event without the administrator, thus making his prophesy useless!

1 Corinthians 12:20-22 "But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary."

Battling perceived inadequacy in the church:

There will always be those upset with the church. You know the type. They feel like Christians aren't out-going enough, or they should be trying harder to save Africa because homeless kids in America aren't enough. Some Christians get tricked into believing their own church isn't working hard enough simply because they are not tackling every single major issue in the world.

The sad reality is that churches have limited resources. Churches must maintain the emotional, spiritual, physical health of all of their members, as well as reaching out to the lost, as well as spearheading some major issue God laid on their hearts. Churches would do well to remember that they cannot save the world single-handedly. It is okay for a church to focus on one major issue and do it well, as opposed to depleting resources by being spread too thin. There are other churches and organizations that are dedicated to solving world issues. If God makes it clear that He wants the church to have a team dedicated to solving starvation in African children as well as finding homes for homeless children in America, then God bless! There is nothing stopping you, as God will find you the resources you need. People with the gift of generosity will find their gift out soon enough if they haven't already!

Recognizing strengths

I encourage you to think about the gifts God has given you. How have you used them lately? Do you have a Christian friend or mentor who know you well enough to tell you which gifts they think you have? It is very encouraging to hear what your strengths are from someone you love and respect. Dwell on what God has accomplished or will accomplish through you. Spiritual gifts are extremely powerful tools, and they are given and driven by God himself. We can use them to fight evil, to fight the lies of Satan and spread Truth to those lost in the world. Praise be to God that He would trust us with such a precious gift!