True Encouragement

Grace, Holy Spirit, Ministry, Romans No Comments »

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is… encouraging, let him encourage.” ~Romans 12:6-8

When brothers or sisters in our community of faith are hurting, the greatest grace we can offer is comfort or encouragement in the middle of whatever it is they are suffering. A person doesn’t need advice or correction or rebuke in the middle of pain. And he doesn’t need empty words. What he needs is the freedom you give him to crawl inside a hug and feel the embrace of our God. When we’re in pain, we need others to just listen, to just be present. We need friends and family to listen to our grief and fears, to help us sort everything out, and to encourage us not to lose hope.

Think today about the people who have touched your life with this gift of grace. Maybe you’ve experienced some special comforting lately. Perhaps today is a good day to thank them for the wonderful ways they’ve been a vessel of God’s mercy and care.

Or maybe this is one of your stronger spiritual gifts. Maybe today is the perfect day to assess the needs of the people around you. Take a few minutes today to discover who might need your encouragement in their struggles. And then bless them with the mercies of their heavenly Father who lavishly pours out his gifts on his children.



True Teaching

Holy Spirit, Preaching, Romans No Comments »

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is… teaching, let him teach.” ~Romans 12:6-7

Those who are gifted to teach in the Church are called by Scripture to teach the truth. Obviously, teaching won’t bear fruit, regardless of the skills and abilities of the teacher, if the content of the efforts is false. This reminder is especially needed today when it seems more and more people in and out of the Church are much more interested in having their ears tickled than in being challenged by the radical call of God’s Word.

Secondly, teachers are responsible to prepare as well as they can to give their students as much substance as possible. The styles of teachers will vary, of course. But each teacher must be accountable to the community of faith for his or her best. Christian teaching is no place for flying by the seat of your pants. We are called to diligence in our studies.

Third, we use our teaching gifts from God best when we are genuine about how we teach. We must walk the talk. We have to be for real. We have no right to talk about the Scriptures unless we are personally willing to be confronted by them and to invest our whole beings into doing what they say. The impact of our teaching should be that others want to put God’s truth into practice. And we all know the best way for people to learn is through the examples of those who teach them.

God’s Holy Scriptures are such a treasure — bursting at the seams, exploding off the pages with new things to discover about God’s love and our place in his story. And we are all, to some extent, teachers. Parents and grandparents are constantly teaching. Bible class teachers and Gospel preachers qualify. Whenever another person is watching our modeling of our faith, we are teaching. We are teachers. It’s a gift that is to be nurtured by faith in God and in faithfulness to our Christian community.



True Serving

Central Church Family, Holy Spirit, Ministry, Romans No Comments »

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is…serving, let him serve.” ~Romans 12:6-7

One problem with being a servant in God’s Church is that the person gifted to serve sometimes doesn’t realize how important his or her gift really is. He hesitates to even offer it. She might seek other gifts instead. The servant isn’t leading visible, out front, out loud, center stage ministries and he feels unimportant. Un-needed. She might feel small in God’s Kingdom.

Part of that is the Church’s fault.

We place too much emphasis on the bigger and louder gifts. We exalt the more visible and high-profile graces from God. Those gifts get more ink in the church bulletin. But in God’s economy, all spiritual gifts are exactly the same.

God can move mountains when you stuff a toy dog for a child at “The Bridge.” God can mend broken hearts when you move furniture and change out sheets and pillowcases at “Martha’s Home.” God can heal wounded souls when you sing at “Another Chance House.” God reveals his glory when you serve someone in his name.

All these gifts are critical to the community of faith. If they’re not exercised — or properly appreciated — we lose some of what we are intended by God to be because we’re not operating at full strength. We’re not functioning as a whole body.

Holding the songbook for the older lady next to you is an exercise of a spiritual gift. It’s just as important as what the preacher’s doing up there. And, probably, a whole lot more meaningful to her.



True Prophesy

Bible, Preaching, Romans 4 Comments »

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” ~Romans 12:6

According to what we know of Scripture and history, culture and context, prophesy has much more to do with  “forth-telling” than “fore-telling.” Real prophesy — way back then and right now today — means applying the message from God to the current situations of our times. And I think God’s Church today desperately needs a renewed emphasis on this kind of prophesy.

A resurgence of true prophesy would cause us to take firmer stands against the evils of the world. God’s people would speak out against injustice, violence, aggression, war, unfaithfulness, and crime. We wouldn’t allow lying or back-biting or gossip or pride or greed to corrupt our congregations. We would speak more and act more in ways that indict and convict, liberate and transform.

The key to prophesy, though, is to realize that it’s always been intended for the Church. Prophesy is first to God’s people, only secondarily for the rest of the world. Study Isaiah and Jesus, Amos and John, Habakkuk and Paul — that’s the way it works. Only when God’s people are changed by prophesy can they then offer the message to the surrounding community. As we truly learn to live as members of one another, our alternative lifestyle will ultimately challenge the culture around us. But only as we become a truly Christian community with a truly biblical lifestyle will that work.

The Church needs more prophets. We need more men and women proclaiming the powerful Word of God. Even when they don’t feel like it. Even when they know that Word is going to upset some in the faith community. Even when a situation seems to be a lost cause. We need more prophets exercising their God-given graces according to their faith. Then our God, who promises his Word will never return to him empty, will bless both us and this world as we preach and teach, trust and obey.



God’s Not Done

1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Baptism, Galatians, Philippians, Romans No Comments »

So, you were baptized! Great news! Praise God! Hallelujah!

What happens between now and the time you’re saved?

Your salvation is a process, right? Lots of wonderful things happen at baptism: you confess that Jesus is Lord and you put all of your faith and trust in him to remove your sins; you commit to follow in Christ’s steps as a loyal disciple; you become one with Jesus as you die and are buried and are raised up with him in baptism; you receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit living inside you; you’re initiated into the Lord’s Body, the Church of Jesus Christ. All that happens at baptism. Justification. Reconciliation. A righteous standing before God. Peace. Joy.

But that’s not the last step. In as many ways as you can imagine, baptism has never been the last step.

We are being saved.

Being saved means being changed into the image of Jesus. It means being shaped into his character, being formed into his nature. It means we spend our lives “working out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12), we are predestined by God to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29), we are to bear the likeness of the Christ from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49). Paul says he agonizes and prays “until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). We are all

“being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

God is saving us by making us like Jesus. Being saved is becoming like Christ. Acting like Christ. Talking like Christ. Thinking and behaving like Christ. Sacrificing and serving like Christ. That’s our salvation. That’s God’s good purpose and what God is doing with us today.

And that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not an immediate thing.

None of us is done. Our salvation is not complete. None of us. There’s nobody alive God is finished with yet. Until the day you die or the day our Lord returns in glory — whichever comes first for you — until that last day, our God is working in you to give you more humility. He’s renewing your mind to make you more sacrificial for others. He’s transforming your attitude and your actions to better reflect the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

If we’re not careful, we can view our baptism as God’s completed work. We can think we’ve already arrived, that we’ve changed enough, that we’ve done enough, that we have nothing else to learn or do until we’re saved. We might think, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s done with me what he wanted to do.” Or, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s got me in his holy holding area until I die.” Or, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s put me in neutral here until I get to heaven.” It might be arrogance, it might be complacency, it might be ignorance — all three are killers!

You need to know that God is not done with you yet. You need to be aware that God is still working on you. I don’t care how long ago you were baptized or how many great things you’ve done in the name of Jesus, God still has things to teach you. He still has things to show you. He is still changing you and he is still very interested in seeing you grow and in using you for his good purposes.



Putting Silly Girls on Notice

Central Church Family 2 Comments »

I don’t know yet who did it. I’m not certain. But I think I have a pretty good idea.

I thought maybe they were mushrooms at first. We’ve had an unusual amount of rain lately and it has been unseasonably cool. Are those mushrooms? No, those are marshmallows! Forty or fifty of those huge marshmallows in my lawn on little wooden stakes. Some of them had faces drawn on them with Sharpie. And they were facing the house. Creepy.

And a bunch of little plastic green army men stationed on the walkway leading up to our front porch. Advancing. Guns pointed at the house. A few of the men had made it as far as the flower box on the front porch itself.







And a bunch of little glow-in-the-dark stars on the mailbox.

Addie? Brooke? Grace-Anne? Courtnie?

You and your partners in crime are now officially on notice. So are a couple of adults who are old enough to know better. Hannah? Aleisha? At the very least, you two are wanted for questioning. But you silly little teenagers, be aware. I know where you live, I know what cars you drive, and I know where you’re going to be tonight.

Thank you. That is all for now.

Mr. Stanglin