Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tropical Snow Ride, God, Gifts and Giftedness

So we're well into 2006 AD and the excitement from those new year resolutions about knowing God better, godliness, new commitments and ministries still lingers.Some people got a good spurring on last weekend with The Campus Hub Vision Night on Friday and ARPC's Music Camp on Saturday and Sunday.

So while the good people from Red Bull and AXN swore to commandeer Club Street and fill it with fresh snow for snowboarders and their mad runs, big air and sick tricks and bring on Debbie Chia (claim to fame: Singapore's first participant in the Red Bull Music Academy) the night after, the rains came so we sloshed home for dinner. Someone whipped up luscious warm oxtail stew in full veal stock goodness with generous lashings of red wine leftovers from Christmas hampers and someone else brought yummy cupcakes.
And we had CDs from the HMV bargain bin

pots of tea (not beer, as in Chinese restaurants in England), while I opened the last of the Christmas cards and started on the Chinese New Year ones and talked about advertising for friends (here we go me dears. There'll be pre-CNY drinks on Wednesday
and about stock-taking, resolutions and ministries.

Every time there is a new evangelistic venture or new ministry set up, or when there is a ministry camp, or when people are making their resolutions for the year, the questions come up:"What are my gifts?", "Where should I serve?" or more basically "Why should I serve?".

Gifts and the Body of Christ
First, most people say, let's talk about gifts. Because we should serve according to our gifts. The popular, oft-quoted gift lists in the Bible are found at Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. But there is no mention that the gifts that are given to the church are limited to these 17-18 types. There are surely many others. More likely, Paul is selecting samples from the different sorts of gifts we might expect to find in any given church, a good cross-section of the skill categories by which the body of Christ is to be built up.

Most people, having lived for a number of years, have some sense of what they are good at or what their skills are. It could be writing, teaching and encouraging, serving, playing a musical instrument or singing, showing mercy or leading.

The World's Value on Gifts:I Am Gifted, So Are You!
Despite very recent reminders about loving truly and not conforming to the ways of the world, it's very easy to slip back into coveting what the world holds dear; adopting the world's view of what is important and its style and methods of getting these things.

The world values skills and exalts those they think are gifted. Giftedness is how the world tells us we find self-worth. If we are good at what we do, we are valuable and should feel good about ourselves. The explicit or implicit point of motivational speakers like Adam Khoo is that one can be lifted out of a meaningless life, lack of motivation for living and cesspit self-esteem by finding and understanding one's gifts, unlocking one's talents and becoming high achievers or geniuses (however defined). We are defined by our skills, talents and gifts and what we do with them.

But not so with us. It's too easy to follow the thinking of the world, especially when we aren't sure how to handle certain situations. With difficult teens for example, Christian parents have been heard to advise each other,"Oh, you must find out what he is good at, then praise him for it. You must tell him you love him very much because he can shoot basketballs/play the guitar well."

We are not to be like the world in valuing people for their gifts. We are to value them as our children and really, as children of God, for whom Christ gave his life, saved by the precious blood of Christ to have relationship with the Maker of the Universe. And it is in that stupendous relationship that we find meaning in life.

God's Purpose for Giving Gifts
Every Christian is given a gift by God. We all have different "gifts of grace" or charismata (Romans 12:6) (so in that sense if we are Christian, we are all "charismatic" Christians, for all Christians are given a gift of God's grace).

God gives us these gifts to equip us to fulfil a particular function within the church. The gift is not given for our own personal enjoyment. The gift is not our personal choice either, nor is it the choice of our parents: it is God who decides what gifts we have and he has given us those gifts in order that we may fulfil the role that he has designed for us within his church.

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 (Romans 12:4-5).

Each of our different gifts are important to the church. Not just the more public ones like the pastor-teacher or the evangelist or the musician. For the body is not made up of one part but of many.
If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:14-26)
So it is silly foolish and destructive to envy someone else's gift. It is a complete waste of time sit around pining away and wishing we had this or that gift, or spending obscene amounts of money, time and energy attempting to acquire the gift that we desire. We need all the different parts of the body, not 1,000 heads.

We must get on with using the gifts that we have and that God has bestowed upon us, do our part in the body of Christ that God specifically designed for us. No one is superfluous. Everybody counts. In that sense, everyone is indispensable because everyone is needed in the body of Christ.

The Use of Gifts
We are also tempted to conform to the pattern of the world and begin to think of our place in the Christian community, the church, in terms of prestige, in terms of personalities and popularity. But as soon as we start doing this, we cease to be the sort of church Jesus Christ wants.

Romans 12:3 exhorts us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but with sober judgement. That is, if we are to be part of the body of God, we are to think differently from the world. Our minds must be transformed from the mindset of the world.

We are tempted to conform to the pattern of the world in many ways. 3 obvious ones are:
The world tells us that we should do what we enjoy and be with people we like. So in church we flirt from ministry to ministry, always moving with our clique to the newest/most "in"/coolest ministry where everyone is fun to be with.

or we might be apathetic and lazy; bo chap; not caring less about the contribution we are making (or rather, are not making) in the body of Christ. It often masquerades as a form of humility,"Oh, I don't have any gifts; don't ask me to do lah". It may be that we aren't interested in doing the job because we are not prepared to give some of our time or energy on a regular basis, or that it is boring or low profile work. Perhaps we like our freedom to do what we want to do when we feel like it and don't want to be tied down by any responsibility or commitment.

But Romans 12:6 tells us that the authentic Christian response is just the opposite:"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us". And every Christian is gifted by God to fulfil a role that he or she has been alloted by God in the church. So we are not to let the world squeeze us into its way of apathy; whether you do the job or not does matter to God. And it matters to his body.

The body of Christ is not a cruiseliner where only a few work the ship while the rest lounge around sunbathing. It is a sail boat weathering a storm and trying to get to its destination and all hands have to be on deck. There is no place for stragglers.

Carnal Pride
the opposite error to apathy is that of carnal pride. We say,"If I don't do it, it won't be done properly". If we have responsibilities, we are tempted to take on more of them ourselves. In the world, we use our talents and skills to win power, promotion, popularity or status, to build ourselves up to No.1. Too often, we alert others to the work we are doing by complaining incessantly:"Oh...that secretary (or insert relevant employee or professional adviser) is so stupid/incompetent. What are we paying them for? In the end, I had to do this [insert task] myself! I have so much to do already. I'm sooo tired. I have to do [insert list of tasks]."

But in the church, we are not building ourselves up. We are using the talents and gifts which God has given us to build up others. It is a fundamentally different concept. We are not to use our gifts to minister to ourselves or build up our power, prestige or credentials.

An easy way to tell whether we are using our gifts in the wrong way is this: when we have done something "for the LORD" or "for the church", and we are not recognised by people for what we are doing, we hurt:"They didn't even have the decency to thank me", we think. That is a good sign that we are using our gifts to minister to ourselves rather than to the LORD, to inflate ourselves rather than equip his body.

The sober judgement that Romans 12:3 is talking about means choosing not to strive to be everything, nor sit back and let everyone else doing all things. It is recognising that there is a unique task that each of us has to accomplish for Christ within his body.

If we have a right estimate of ourselves, then we realise that all that we have are gifts from God. And it is our great privilege to be faithful stewards of everything God has given us. When we have a right estimate of ourselves, we realise that any gift we have is not due to our merit, but to God's grace and therefore we are to use those gifts as such.

Commitment and Balance
Notably, on the last night of his earthly life, Jesus was able to say to his Father in haven,"I have finished the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4); no more and no less. What a testimony of commitment and balance. Sober judgement means saying,"I am just a member of this body, and however multi-gifted I may be, whatever my gifts may be, however seemingly great or small my task may be, I am and always will be supremely merely one of many members of the body."

It is not my church. It is not your church. It is not our pastors' or leaders' church. It is the church of Christ. Therefore, I am not the head and you are not the head and the pastors and leaders are not the head, only Christ.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
See also David Jackman's good but somewhat scattered "Understanding the Church" for more useful thoughts.

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At January 25, 2006 3:15 pm , Anonymous expressboy said...

nice bloggin'!!!!!

thanks shadow man for reminder. especially for me from express stream. in my church even the pastor said you throw a stone, hit a scholar, doctor, lawyer, engineer, gifted programme student.....

At January 25, 2006 7:17 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My boy! Check out the diahrrea:

Street artists Yok and Draawer present Heed Weed. It is a collaborative project between the two artists, for the 1st time in a gallery setting. The duo will attempt to paint on almost everything bolted in the Asylum store ­ceiling, floor, walls and not forgetting the traditional wood and canvas of course.

Raised on beer and BBQs, Yok; the art school graduate was introduced to street art while on a trip to Europe and was inspired to start doing his own. Yok's characters are loosely based on gargoyles, in medieval times architects would place gargoyles on buildings to ward off evil spirits.

Borrowing from this thought Yok places his handmade paper/painted gargoyles on city walls. He gets a kick out of seeing people looking up at his work puzzled. Yok has been involved in many exhibitions around the world including Singapore and held a few solo shows in Australia.

Draawershares his hope, inspirations, nocturnal outburst, early morning excursions andattempts to challenge authorities through his Happy Chin® character, which has been painted,drawn, printed, sprayed and even sewn in various canvas, paper, wall and some unmentionables as in several group shows like the "I pity the dolls" in New York, Stickpop show in Mexico, Sketchel show in Australia, 44boards in Ohio,LMAC¹s zombies world tour and most recently,Curious Eidolon's Art + Heart Project in Melbourne,IDN Designedge 05 and Asylum's The Dinner Party in Singapore; his hometown.

So come to the The Asylum on 25th Jan and see art, meet people, heed weed and have fun - not necessary in that order.

At January 26, 2006 9:31 pm , Anonymous GEPper said...

expressboy, we are all gifted with gifts to serve each other.


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