gift boxes over white background 3d illustration

In all my reading about charismatic issues and spiritual gifts, I have seen many lists and definitions of spiritual gifts.  There’s one issue though that seems really strange to me, and that’s the question of whether or not the list of spiritual gifts in the New Testament is comprehensive.  At my count, the New Testament lists 18 spiritual gifts:

For to one is given through the Spirit the (1) utterance of wisdom, and to another the (2) utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another (3) faith by the same Spirit, to (4) another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the (5) working of miracles, to another (6) prophecy, to another the (7) ability to distinguish between spirits, to another (8) various kinds of tongues, to another (9) the interpretation of tongues. – 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 Continue Reading…

I have heard it said before that the lack of modern day apostles is a large part of the reason for the struggles of the North American church, and I’ve also heard it said that the presence of modern day apostles are a large part of the reason for the struggles of the North American church. I don’t think both positions can be correct, unless they’re working with different definitions of the word “apostle”.

So what exactly is an apostle? Some suggest that a church planter is an apostle.  Some people suggest that they are an apostle.  Some people suggest that nobody after the first century could possibly be an apostle.  Some people suggest that everyone is, in some way, an apostle.  Before you toss your hands up in the air and reach for a painkiller, let’s take a quick, but thorough look at the Biblical usage of the term “apostle”:

Apostle(Not even close partner…)

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One balmy Summer day in 1997 Rita Rupp (57) from Tulsa Oklahoma, was on a lengthy road trip with her husband Floyd (67). For no reason in particular, she began to sense that they may be in danger. She started thinking, ‘What if someone hijacks our car and kidnaps us? No one even realize we’re missing for days, and no one would come looking for us.’ So she hatched a plan.save me

Rita wrote a note, just in case she got kidnapped. She scrawled the note in appropriately distressed handwriting, “Help I’ve been kidnapped. Call the Highway Patrol.” She also supplied her name and a helpful description of the van they were driving.

This eccentric emergency plan would actually have proven to be a pretty good idea in the event that at some point she had actually been kidnapped, and managed to dispatch the note before being incapacitated.

At the idea was rather harmless, albeit a bit quirky. Except for one unforeseen eventuality. Mrs Rupp’s paranoia would have remained her private problem if on a bathroom break at a gas station the note hadn’t inadvertently dropped out of her handbag. Oops.

A conscientious attendant found the alarming note and quickly notified the authorities who then immediately issued alerts, mobilized patrol vehicles, and set up road blocks in four states. (Here is the New York Times article that proves I’m not making this up).

All the while, Mr and Mrs Rupp were cruising along to their destination, blissfully unaware of the multi-agency, national rescue operation that been launched to save them.

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November 29, 2013

Clara’s Heart

by Jesse Johnson

Joe and Jo Portnoy are part of Immanuel Bible Church (the church I pastor), and this year they have been through a tremendous trial with their only child, Clara. On Thanksgiving they told our church how thankful they are for God’s goodness, for God’s salvation, and for the constant reminder that no story ends in this life. Below is a 10-minute video we watched about how this trial has strengthened thier faith, and made them even more thankful for their precious daughter, baby Clara.

November 28, 2013

Thankful to Whom?

by Mike Riccardi

Thankfulness is a funny thing.

By its very nature the giving of thanks cuts straight across the grain of the pride and self-focus of the natural human heart. When we are thankful for something, we acknowledge that we are in someone else’s debt—that there are good things in our lives for which it just doesn’t seem appropriate to pat ourselves on the back. We pause for a few days over Thanksgiving break to think about the blessings we enjoy—the way our lives, with all their challenges, trials, and disappointments, are actually much better than we could have accomplished for ourselves in our own strength, and much better than we know we deserve.

And that seems to be the case even for unbelievers. It seems the knowledge of God and His Law that is written on their hearts (Rom 2:14–15)—the knowledge of His invisible attributes that He has clearly made visible by ordering the world as He has (Rom 1:19–20)—gets just a little bit harder to suppress (Rom 1:18) as they perceive the loveliness and virtue in thanksgiving. The inherent, objective pleasantness of the reality that someone other than themselves is most fundamentally responsible for the good things they enjoy bursts forth into their consciousness, causing them to humble themselves and thank someone else for them. Even the most prideful person will admit, if he’s honest with himself, that, strangely enough, it feels good to be thankful. We enjoy giving thanks. Something just feels…right… about it.

And that’s because we’re tapping into the reality that life isn’t most ultimately about us and making much of ourselves. We’re catching a glimpse of the reality that absolutely everything that we have—from our part-time job to the air we breathe—is owing to the beneficence of Another. You see, we are designed to humble ourselves in the presence of Someone infinitely more worthy than us. And we are designed to give praise and thanksgiving to Him for the comforts of this life. The pleasure we feel in thanksgiving is a parable from the God of the universe that teaches us that our glory is not the goal of our lives, but that His glory is.

And so if you’re reading this and you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, can I ask you to stop and think about why, at this time of year, it feels right to deflect the glory? Would you pause a moment and think about why in the world that is? You truly feel, and therefore say, the words, “I’m thankful for ______.” But have you ever asked yourself whom you’re thankful to for those gifts? Indeed, that they are gifts and therefore have come from a Giver?

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As we all prepare to spend some time today reflecting on things we’re thankful for, let us remember that there is no virtue in treasuring the gifts at the expense of treasuring the Giver. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). This Thanksgiving, recognize that Whom you’re thankful to matters infinitely more than what you’re thankful for.

The greatest gift of all—the gift for which we should all be most thankful—is the Father’s gift of His perfect, innocent Son. His beloved Son, whom He gave to die on the Cross in order to pay sin’s penalty in the place of sinners like you and me. Who rose from the grave on the third day in order to bring true, spiritual, eternal life to all those who forsake their sins and depend entirely on Him to provide their righteousness before a Holy God. Jesus is the One who makes Thanksgiving possible. This Thanksgiving, let’s give Him the glory and honor for that.

Let’s be thankful for the gifts we enjoy. And let’s be thankful to the God who gives them.

(Reposted from Thanksgiving, 2011)

Last week a federal judge ruled that the long standing practice of churches (and synagoges, mosques, dioceses, etc.) giving their pastors a housing allowance was unconstitutional. This story is likely to pick up steam in the media, and my experience with this topic is that most people (including many elders and pastors) have no idea how housing allowances work, or why they are there to begin with. So here are some FAQ’s about housing allowances and the recent ruling striking them down:   Continue Reading…