I Corinthians 14:12 “So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spirtual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”

Spiritual gifts are given as a result of God’s grace and not by any effort or merit on our part. These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to teach,serve and encourage others…not us. Each one of us is given a “pattern” of gifts unique to our talents and passions. That word pattern is similar to how each shot-gun has a unique shell pattern, and brings me to my little story.
My father was a firm beliver that his three girls should learn to handle guns, and so many a Sunday afternoon were spent shooting clay pigeons. As we became older, boys started coming around, and if we liked them, they’d be invited for Sunday Dinner. After Dinner our Dad would ask the young buck if he’d like to shoot a few clay pigeons. They would all jump at the chance to show off to us girls, and being the good hosts, we always let the boy shoot first…then we’d take over! Depending on how the young man reacted determined whether we’d date him again or not. We laugh about it now, but several future husbands passed the clay pigeon test.

Acts 21: 12-13 ” When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered.’Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ “

Paul’s friends were beseeching him not to go to Jerusalem and certain arrest. His friends reactions were very human and kind of selfish…they wanted Paul safe. But the Holy Spirit was also speaking to Paul, and he knew this is where he had to be.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit will speak things into our lives that we absolutely know are true, but when we share them with others they discourage and plead with us to reconsider. At that point you have to make the decision of who you will listen to ..God or man. Therefore, Listen carefully, if you know it’s from the Holy Spirit, don’t allow others to dissuade you from fulfilling your ministry.

Psalm 1:1 ” Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

The temptations of this world are sneaky, they won’t hit you over the head and drag you off to their lair. Instead,they start by just enticing you as you innocently stroll past. But if you chose to keep walking past again and again, before long that allurement has you stopped dead in your tracks, mesmerized and drawn in by it. Soon you’re dwelling in the middle of the temptation and it has become a way of life. This verse states that blessed or happy is the man who does not allow temptation to become sin. Happy is that person who just keeps walking!

Daniel 6: 3 ” Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”

Daniel did such a great job at work that he excelled above all others. So exceptional was his character, work ethic, and spirit within him that the king had taken notice. What a testimony in the work place Daniel had! It’s easy to be that super-spirtual person in church on Sunday, but the ugly truth usually comes out of us in the cold , harsh light of our work place. The reality of what comes out of our mouths and how we conduct ourselves will speak volumes to our co-workers. I encourage you to take your exceptional qualities to work tomorrow…you will be noticed!

Psalm 78: 70-71 ” He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people…”

They are bringing the sheep down from the mountains now to their Winter pastures. I was able to observe a large flock over the weekend in temporary grazing. A single stretch of electric wire around the perimeter, several dogs, and a lone shepherd kept watch over 300 sheep. I was amazed at how calm and peaceful the animals were. They seemed to feel very secure within the boundaries knowing the shepherd was there to protect them. God knew David would lead His people with the same integrity and wisdom as he had shown up in the mountains with his own flock. And in turn Israel would know peace.

Romans 5:3 “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

When the troubles of the world are crushing us under their weight, our typical reaction is not that of joy and gladness in the moment. Rather, we moan, complain, and cry about the injustices of life. But if we would step back for a moment and try to see the big picture…The God Picture, things might take on a more eternal view. The affliction or distress creates in us patience as we wait on the Lord. That patience is proof that our character is being changed for the good. And finally, with a more God-like character, we can view our sufferings through His eyes with expectation and confidence, knowing He loves us.

Lamentations 3: 31-33 ” For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring afflication or grief to the children of men.”

The term “willingly” comes from two Hebrew words which mean- from His heart. God doesn’t want to bring hardships into our lives, but He may do so in order to teach, convict, and bring us into a right relationship with Himself. We, unfortunately, have to live with the circumstances of wrong choices we’ve made. But the wonderful news is that despite how much we mess up, the Lord’s great love for us never ends…it is new every morning!

II Kings 4:1 ” The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘ Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’ “

The widow had come to Elisha for help. Elisha looked at her and replied,”How can I help you?” In other words, “I don’t have any money!” Elisha had relied on the Lord for all his needs. Thus his next question showed his faith was not deterred by his lack of funds. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” Answering from her “lack of” mindset the widow replied, “Your servant has nothing there at all…except for a little oil.” Elisha then said, ” Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars.” Elisha was asking the widow to stretch her faith in what little she thought she had, to what God could do with it. He was urging her not to limit God. Just like her, how many times do we limit God by looking at our lack rather than at the limitless possibilities at our Lord’s disposal?

Psalm 20:4 ” May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

My son and his wife were looking for a horse several years ago for their young daughter, Natalie. This tiny cowgirl had definite ideas of what the horse should look like…right down to the name, which had us all baffled as to where this 4-year-old came up with the name ” Swirl”. On a visit here they went to look at a horse that sounded promising. From the start the horse was the color and pattern Natalie had said she wanted. It’s work history was very solid as to comfortably put a 4-year-old up in the saddle. Finally, my Daughter In Law jumped up on it and rode off bare back. While standing there, Mike asked the owner what the horse’s name was. The man smiled sheepishly and said the kids had named it Swirl. At that moment Mike knew this was Natalie’s horse. So I ask you, if God would give a little girl the desires of her heart, why wouldn’t He give them to you? He wants to fulfill them…just ask.

Matthew 9:17 ” Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Old wineskins are rigid and unyielding. On the other hand, new wineskins are flexible, and able to receive the newly pressed wine. The wineskin changes as the fermentation process happens…they expand as the wine ferments, stopping when the wine inside is perfect. We must never stop growing until the God-given purpose inside of us is perfected. Just as at the Wedding in Cana, Jesus has saved the best wine for last and He’s looking for new wineskins to put it in. He can’t use that which is old…He’s looking for new vessels to contain His new works. Are you willing to be that new wineskin?

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