Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Turning 30 (and there's nothing I can do about it)

I'm turning 30 this week. The anticipation of this day has loomed large over me for a while now. It probably started back when I was 26, passing the big two five and on towards the big three oh. God has wired me as a person who reminisces much, and contemplates the past often. I like to see where God has taken me, where He is now in my life, and where He is going with me. But I have to admit, I have feared this day for a while. 30. 30 is a big milestone. Other milestones (in no particular order) include your first day of school, first day of high school, 16, 18, high school graduation, first day of college, 21, college graduation, 25, marriage, becoming a Follower (not just a Believer), and alas….30. I can say I have lived a full 30 years thus far. I can also say that many of those years were not living for God and done in vain. I only can thank Him and praise Him that He did not leave me dead to my sin, but that He redeemed and adopted me into His Family.

I feel like an adult now (and I am not sure how I feel about that..). And of course, one could say that adulthood happens at 18 or something, but I am talking about REAL adulthood. Maybe I was an adult at, say, 24, but only insomuch as I made decisions for myself, but I was still learning about myself. Although I do not believe learning about oneself is ever over, I do feel that I have a good, core understanding of my gifts, failings, and identity. Being a husband and a soon to be father only expounds the issue.

They say that life truly begins after 30. Should I believe them? When I was younger I knew it all, and they said I didn’t know it all..they were right. When I was younger I said I wanted to be rich, they told me that riches weren’t everything (or anything)…they were right. When I was younger and had my life all planned out, they told me “you never know”…they were right. But what about life beginning at 30, are they right about that? Well, if life truly begins at 30 then I am in for a heck of a ride. Because I liked my younger days, and they were definitely filled. Would I have changed a lot? Probably. But as THEY say, those events shaped me into the person I am today.

So, 30 here I come. But I will still look back. Back to high school football games, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments (in which my missed 15-foot jumper is still stuck in my head), summer camps, choir tours, Argentina, the Group, “I Got Five On It”, proms, car accidents, chromies, Independence Day, Taco Bell (every day), Wednesday nights, Ben/Julie/Kulia, arguing over sports teams (Go Devils, Cowboys, Cubs, and Wolves), Les/Tyler/James Mc/Lynch/Tiwa, The SCR, bouncing, Vegas, Conversion, Seminary, overseas/over there, my supporters, finding Sweet Baby, marriage, the baby….Yes, I will still look back. But I try not to look with a gazing eye, wishing for those times again because they were so good (who can argue that life revolving around Taco Bell, hanging with friends, not needing to make money, etc isn’t good??!??!…). But rather I will use those memories to reflect on the journey God has me on, what His purpose was in that, and how to learn from it….

My journey has reached 30. Thank you Lord.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Spirit vs. Flesh: Spiritual Gifts

Lately, addressing the issue of spiritual gifts has come up in my life. I can say that although I periodically have theological shifts, evangelism theory shifts, and callings, I have noticed that my spiritual gifts have remained constant, only changing in how I administer them.

One spiritual gift that I have that is not specifically laid out in Scripture is: encouragement. I have felt the Lord use this many times in my life and as I interact with others. I have come to see that this gift of encouragement generally comes from my overly optimistic view of life and of others. I have finally realized that this gift manifests itself in the Biblical gift of: exhortation. Exhorting can be both for admonishment and encouragement; for building up or confronting. Life has been a fascinating journey with this gift.

I would generally say that exhortation is my main gift, the one I am most comfortable with, the one that come naturally. Other gifts that I use here and there include: discernment (which can go hand in hand with exhortation) and shepherding.

Recently I have been enlightened about the severe nature of spiritual gifts. I hope that you who reads this will ponder and think about what I am about to say if you haven’t already…but, I am guessing you have all have thought about it before, and thus I pray this serves as a reminder of the battle between Spirit and flesh.

I remember recently times when I was exhorting. I was talking about the Scriptural example of Economical Jubilee. I went round and round with this guy, sometimes coming to agreement, sometimes not. In another example, I can remember exhorting a loved one to godly living. I have also exhorted Christian leadership back to a life of prayer. The list can go on and on. As I reflected back on these instances where I think I was using my spiritual gifts, what I realized is that I often slipped into the flesh when exhorting. I ended up sinning as a result of trying to administer a spiritual gift! This confounded me! I then began to realize that there is a fine line to administering our spiritual gifts for God’s glory, or Satan’s. I have learned a hard lesson. I have learned that if I do things without love, the Spirit, grace, mercy, the fruits of the Spirit, then even when I think I am using the gifts God gave me, I am actually denying Him, being self serving, and sinning because I am doing them in the flesh.

So, I can either exhort someone in love and Spirit to follow God, or exhort in judgment and sin of the flesh.

I can either discern the path of Truth thru the Spirit, or lead astray in the flesh.

I can either shepherd in humility and meekness of the Spirit, or in the self-righteousness of the flesh.

God help me to overcome myself and administer gifts from your Spirit of love and give me eyes, wisdom, and a oneness of your Spirit to know when I am slipping into my sinning flesh.