Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who are you and what did you bring?

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"There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord." (1 Cor. 12:4-5)

Imagine for a moment that you are going to a party at a friends house. You're group of friends have all decided to meet at a friend's home on a certain day, at a certain time and bring some food for everyone to share.

As you walk up to the house and ring the bell, you'd probably think of all the good food you were about to eat and all the laughter and fun that you would take part in all evening. Your friend opens the door and says, "Who are you and what did you bring?"

The expectant smile on your face has turned to a confused expression. You try to think of something to say, but you stammer responding to the odd question, "I brought cookies?" The friend you thought knew you, says "Oh, ok.", snatches the plate from your hands and slams the door.

You are shocked and stunned. How could your friend not know who you are? Why would they take what you brought to share and leave you outside on your own. This evening of spending time with people who know you and enjoying the gifts of food and friendship has turned out upside down. Instead of being with friends where you are known and welcomed; you are in a place of disillusionment and questions.

There are two big questions that people spend a great deal of time trying to answer throughout their lives: 'Who am I?' and 'What is my purpose?'.

There are many places and people who like to tell us who we are and what gifts we bring to the world, but how do we know who to listen to? In seeking advice about our gifts and purpose, it's very important to ask people who have our best interest in mind and can be trusted. Some people take personality quizzes online, ask friends opinions, or seek out advice from family members. While trusted friends, mentors and family can be some help in answering these questions, it's important to allow time and space for soul searching, prayer and careful observation to find the individual answer to the questions, "Who am I" and "What gifts do I bring to the world?". It's important that we don't overlook seeking God's direction and guidance when considering who you are and how your skills can be used for his purpose. Too often the voices that speak the loudest are the ones that we listen to. But the voice of God is one that is still and quiet: "...but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." 1 Kings 19:12b

It's also very important to remember the vast creativity of God and how that effects the limitless gifts and abilities that are given to us.

In scripture, many gifts are listed: (Romans 12): exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching, (Corinthians 12) administration, apostle, discernment, faith, healing, helps, knowledge, miracles, (Ephesians 4)evangelism and pastor. The gifts God gives are not limited to the ones on this list, but if you are looking for a place to start they are helpful.

As you consider the questions of: "who you are" and "what your gifts are"; allow your heart and mind to be open to allow God's still, small voice to speak to you.Thankfully, finding the answers to these questions is not like interacting with a would-be-friend who only invites you to the party because they want cookies. There is time to think, ponder and re-think these big questions, "Who am I?" and What gifts do I bring to the world?".

By the way, God's door is open - even if you don't think you have any cookies to share.
(Group activity: Place a paper on the back of each person. Challenge the group to write something positive about each person in the group on the paper. Make sure each person participates and emphasize that the comments must be encouraging and positive. Don't allow the participants to read the papers right away, but read the following scriptures and discuss the questions below. At the end of that discussion time, allow the group to read their papers. Then ask them how might their affirmations be put to work as gifts from God. Ie.(Romans 12): exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching, (Corinthians 12) administration, apostle, discernment, faith, healing, helps, knowledge, miracles, (Ephesians 4)evangelism and pastor.)

Scriptures to unpack the questions:
Who am I? What gifts do I bring to the world?

(Romans 12:4-6a)Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

"1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." 1 John 3:1

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

"11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Other questions to consider:
What is something you love to do? Is there a way that God could use that as a gift? What are life-giving activities for you? (Things that make you feel good, alive, and energized.)

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