Christians Under Construction – Week 11

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week eleven:

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Bill Gentry Jr. couldn’t contain himself. With the allowance he was about to receive from his father, he had now saved enough to buy the skateboard he had had his eye on for almost 4 months. He had been exceptionally disciplined in his spending over that time period, not buying the little things that had caught his eye every now and then. In short, he had a plan, and he stuck to it!

This was very unusual for Bill, as money seemed to burn a hole in his pocket. So much so that on occasion he had little or nothing left for his Sunday School offering. He felt bad about it, but he couldn’t help himself. However, this time was a different story.

“How did you do it Bill?”, asked his little sister Mary. “You’ve never saved up for anything before, no matter how hard you tried.”

“I don’t know Mary”, Bill responded. “I guess I just wanted this more than anything else before.”

The object of our desire is all important. The same holds true in Christian stewardship. So what is our desire when it comes to money? Is it a big house, nice car, unforgettable vacations? None of those are bad things. Some of us have them. However they should not be the “object of our desire.”

Well, what about providing for our families, or saving up for our children’s education? Are those the “object of our desire?” Worthy causes, yes, but still not the object of our desire.

Our Bible verse for this week helps us understand the answer. It states both what should and shouldn’t be the object of our desire. Reread it now. The object of our desire is not money itself, or even the things it buys. Rather, the object of our desire is God himself because, as the verse says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” We saw that promise kept in living color when Jesus was born. We saw it again when Jesus was crucified for our sins. We saw it once again when Jesus rose from the dead so that we too might rise — the object of our desire, our Savior.

Bill Jr. had a plan that he put in place because he really wanted something. His desire for it was greater than anything he had felt before. If our desire is for our Lord, then that desire should influence all that we do, including our budgeting.

Our current sub-theme for our Christians Under Construction series is, “The Builder’s Budget.” Yes, God has a budget that he has asked us to fund. How do we go about doing that? We make a plan. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up.” It’s a simple plan, but effective. And the only way any plan that we make can be successful is if the object of our desire is our Savior.

Discussion Questions: What kinds of things have you saved up to buy? Was it hard to resist spending that money on other things along the way? Why? If Jesus is the object of our desire, how should that affect our decision-making and planning? Does God ask us to neglect ourselves or our families to fund His budget? Will God provide for all of your needs? If so, what Bible verse tells us so?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Hebrews 13

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are the object of our desire. May our lives revolve around you and only you. For we know that we were the object of your desire simply by observing your life, death and resurrection. Your grace amazes us. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 10

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week ten:

Deuteronomy 8:17,18 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.

Marilyn Gentry and her daughter Mary were browsing through a local bookstore looking for that perfect gift for a relative. They went from section to section hoping that a particular title would jump out at them and scream “I’m the perfect gift!” They went from travel to biographies to computers and so on. Most sections were of equal size, until they came to a section called “self-help.”

“Mom,” Mary asked, “what is ‘self-help’ and why are there so many books about it?” She had noticed titles like, “Be All You Can Be,” “The Perfect You,” and “I Don’t Need Nothin’ From You.” Marilyn had noticed the same thing. The only thing missing was the familiar yellow covered book titled, “Self-Help For Dummies.” But as she turned the corner, there it was!

“Mary, that’s an excellent question. I guess a lot of people want to know how to make themselves better and without anyone else’s help. Maybe they want to feel better, or be richer, or fix all their own problems.”

Mary, remembering back to her Sunday School lesson the day before, responded, “Why do you need so many books about that? The simple answer is God! When God spoke to Moses he told him to remember that no matter how strong you get or how much money you make, God gives you the ability to do those things.”

“You are absolutely right Mary. God is the answer. If you think about it, he gave us the clothes we are wearing. He gave us the car that we drive, because he gave us the ability to earn money to buy it. In fact, all the money that we have is really his.”

Mary quickly responded, “Yeah, and it’s too bad all of the people who buy these books are spending that money trying to find an answer that’s in that section over there.” She was pointing to the Bible section.

Mary was indeed right. Our ability to increase our wealth or better ourselves does not rest in selecting the right book or method or uncovering the “secret.” Our ability comes from God and is tied up in one not-so-secret secret — Jesus. Because of Jesus, God has been so generous to us. He has given us all that we need and more. He has given us the ability to work. He has given us possessions. He has given us eternal life.

So as God says in our passage, “remember.” Remember God when we work. Remember God when we decide how to spend what he has given us. Remember God when we think about what we deserve – death, and what we will get – eternal life. Wonderful things to “think” about. Wonderful things to “live” about.

Discussion Questions: List ways that you have tried to “make yourself better.” What has God given you the ability to do? Does the Bible teach that we should not “help ourselves”? If not, how does it tell us to do so? Is it wrong to work hard to earn more money? Why or why not?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Deuteronomy 8

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the ability to work, to earn a living, to support ourselves. We owe it all to you. May the works of our hands always give glory to you. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 9

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week nine:

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.

Bill Gentry and his son Bill Jr. were enjoying a fall afternoon together in a small fishing boat, as they liked to do on occasion. Bill was an avid fisherman and had been trying to pass on his enthusiasm for the sport to his 12 year old son. Bill Jr. had come to enjoy the activity as well, especially the “worm part.”

Their favorite spot on the pond was very close to a small waterfall that dropped about 4 feet and fed a small stream that went south for about 2 miles until it simply became nothing more than a muddy patch of ground. Bill Jr. turned to his father, just before he was about to throw his line into the water, “Dad, why does that stream eventually dry up into a mud hole?”

“Well Bill, that’s because its source, this pond we’re fishing in now, is so small. It simply doesn’t have enough water in it to support a very big stream that goes very far. Now a river like the Mississippi has any number of sources, all of which are rather large lakes. That is why it can go from the top of our country to the bottom and spill into the Gulf of Mexico.”

Bill Jr. thought for a minute and then said, “So the size and strength of the stream depends on how good the source is?”

“Exactly right Billy,” replied his father.

This week, we begin the second phase of our three part Stewardship emphasis, “Christians Under Construction,” with a new focus on “The Builder’s Budget.” In this series of devotions, we will look at the treasures God has given us to care for.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when talking about any kind of stewardship is the source of the thing we are asked to take care of. Over the past two months we looked at spiritual gifts. It is important for us to remember that those gifts were given to us by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the source” of those gifts. Remembering that teaches us how to treat those gifts and underlines their purpose.

Now as we focus on the treasures that we have, especially the fiscal ones, we will also want to be mindful of their source. James put it very well, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” These gifts are from God, who has entrusted their care to us. He has given us the money we have. He has given us the ability to work for it and now wants us to be smart about its use — in other words, stewardship.

We will all be in good shape if we simply remember the source — a powerful and gracious God who has not only given us fiscal treasures, but eternal ones. He gave us His son, the source of our eternal hope, and object of our faith. Remember that the source of all the good things that we have is not ourselves, but our God. That will, in turn, help us determine how to be good stewards. As Bill Jr. said, “The size and the strength of the stream depends on how good the source is.” Our source is God, and our streams can be mighty powerful.

Discussion Questions: How powerful can large rivers be? How can they hurt or harm things? How might a lake or pond dry up? Compare that to what might happen to us if our source of blessings were to “dry up.” Respond to the statement, “Everything I have I earned with my own hard work.” Should we ever be proud of our own accomplishments? Why is the source of our strength, gifts and treasures so important to remember?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: James 1

Prayer: Dear Father, you are the source of all good and perfect gifts. We praise and thank you. You have looked down on your children and blessed us so richly. Please help us to always remember that you have entrusted us with all that we have. May we be wise stewards to your glory. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 8

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week eight:

I Corinthians 12:11 All these (gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

It was fall cleaning and everybody in the Gentry family was expected to be outside either working in the yard or cleaning up the garage. It was a family tradition. The last Saturday in October was the time to make a final attempt at getting everything ready for the winter. All the leaves needed to be raked, flower beds weeded and groomed, garage straighten and swept, snow shovels taken out of the shed and snow blower given a tune up. Nobody escaped the rather lengthy work list. Little Mary Gentry had raking responsibilities, while her older brother Bill Jr. was asked to tidy up the garage. Mom Gentry was busy grooming the flower beds, and Dad orchestrated the entire work effort. The tradition continued into the evening when they all went out for pizza and felt a sense of accomplishment over what they did together – as a family.

Over the past two months we’ve been talking about spiritual gifts in these devotions. We’ve covered many aspects of them. Where they come from. What they are. How to use and develop them. How varied they are. Today, like the Gentry family over pizza, we’d like to reflect on what we’ve done together in the past and what we can do together in the future.

The Gentry family used their skills, talents and gifts to accomplish something. Our church family does the same thing. One need look no further than our own grounds to see evidence of that. One need look no further than all the other groups that meet for Bible study, fellowship, service, church leadership, etc. to see evidence that a coordinated activity is going on.

Does our congregation president or pastors deserve all the credit for orchestrating our gift use and activities? They’d be the first to tell you, “NO.” Our Bible verse today says there is only one responsible for giving gifts and orchestrating their use. Paul said, “All these (gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” This is one of those wonderfully comforting Scripture passages that doesn’t really sink in until you think through it a bit. The Holy Spirit is in charge of our day to day activities. Not us. Not the pastors or president, and most certainly not the devil. It’s the Holy Spirit. He gives. He determines. Wow.

He has taken a personal interest not only in our activities, but in each and every one of us. The Holy Spirit determines that spiritual work needs to take place and gives people the appropriate tools to do the work. He gives them the motivation to do the work and finally orchestrates the work. The result is a family that works hard together — a family that can then enjoy a slice of pizza together or a soup supper and praise God for the opportunity to serve Him.

It’s nice to be part of family, isn’t it? Work together, play together. For eternity!

Discussion Questions: What kinds of “work days” does your family have? Can you think of more benefits to these works days than just “getting the work done?” If so, what? What “tools” can you bring to work days?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: 1 Corinthians 12

Prayer: Lord, you have provided us with many gifts. You have provided us with others with whom we can work. We celebrate both. But above all we rejoice over the eternal life we each have because of your Son’s death and resurrection. We work for him. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 7

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week seven:

Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in fear of the Lord.

Bill Jr. pounced on his mother Marilyn as she came home from shopping one Saturday morning, “Mom, mom, I grew an inch so far this year!” In the Gentry family, it was a tradition to mark all the children’s heights on the back of the laundry room door to track their growth.

“That’s great Bill, it must have been those nutritious meals I’ve been feeding you,” his mother replied. “Well I don’t know what it was but I hope I keep going!”

“Bill, there are many ways to grow. Sooner or later you will stop physically growing, and may actually shrink a bit.”

“Shrink?” Bill interrupted, “I don’t want to shrink. How come?”

Marilyn paused and said, “Life just tends to wear people down as they get older. Our bodies get tired. It is really because of sin. If we weren’t sinners our bodies would stay strong and healthy. In fact, we would never die. But because we are sinners we get weaker, until we die.”

Bill thought for a minute, and then said, “You mean like Grandma? I’ve seen some of her pictures when she was a lot younger and she looks so different now.”

“Yes, like grandma. But the good news is that even though we get weaker and weaker on the outside, we can get stronger and stronger on the inside. You could say, while our outside shrinks, our insides grow.”

Now Bill was really confused. He said, “Wouldn’t you just explode after a while?”

Bill’s mom could see the perplexed look on her son’s face. “What I’m talking about is growing spiritually. That takes place on the inside. And it does have a lot to do with what you eat. Not only do our bodies need food to grow, our faith does too.”

The light bulb finally went on in Bill’s head, “I remember. We learned about this in Sunday School. Mrs. Morse was talking about the early Christian church when we were studying Acts. She said that the Holy Spirit strengthened that church and it grew by leaps and bounds. She explained that the way the church did all that growing was by reading, studying and believing the Bible, and by sharing it with each other.”

“Yes, our church exists for the same reason,” Marilyn responded. “We hear God’s word, we study it, we share it and we all grow stronger together. Even though we all get older and our bodies get weaker, we get stronger on the inside. God does that through His Word. And when we grow in number, that is the reason. We share God’s Word. So in a way we do explode. We explode as we get filled up with God’s Word and the more it fills us up, the more we have to share it –the more people we want to share it with.”

Bill, somewhat satisfied with the conversation said, “I guess I don’t care if I stop getting taller, but I never want to stop growing on the inside. It’s a good thing there is Sunday School tomorrow. I can tell everybody I am growing this year, inside and out!”

Discussion Questions: What happens to our bodies when we eat food that is bad for us? How is sin like bad food? List ways that you can “eat spiritual food?” Is it possible to eat too much spiritual food? How does the spiritual food that we eat affect the spiritual gifts that God has given us to use? How have you helped someone else grow “on the inside?”

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Acts 9

Prayer: Dear Father, increase our appetite for your Word. We need to eat. We need to grow. Thank you for the food and the faith. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 6

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week six:

Ephesians 4:15-16 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Jesus Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Marilyn and Mary strolled down the hall at the local mall on Saturday in search of the perfect gift for Bill. Mother and daughter loved this time together, since not only was it “just the girls,” but it was shopping!

As they left one store, Mary noticed a rather small man walking with a noticeable limp. “Mommy, that man walks funny.” Marilyn had noticed the man too. “Mary, it looks like one of his legs didn’t grow as fast as the other one. So when he walks he dips and rises depending on which foot is hitting the ground.”

Mary quickly responded, “I’m glad my legs are the same length. He must be very sad that he can’t walk like everybody else.”

“Mary, did you see his face? He didn’t look sad at all did he? In fact, he was smiling from ear to ear.”

“But mom, why would he be happy?” asked Mary. They walked behind the man for a bit, until he walked into the Robert Mitchell art gallery. “Those paintings are beautiful” both Marilyn and Mary thought to themselves. As they walked past the entrance, they heard the person at the cash register call out to the limping man, “Good morning, Mr. Mitchell.”

Mom turned to Mary and nodded, “He’s happy because he is able to use other things that God has given him.”

Mr. Mitchell, Marilyn and Mary all were quite different people. One couldn’t walk very well the others could. Some couldn’t paint very well, one of them could.

This is also the way it works among God’s children. He created us different physically and emotionally. He gave each of us talents, sometimes very unique ones. And as the Bible reading for today explains, we are all growing. In other words, we are all under construction.

We may all be very different in many regards, but we are all the same in one very important way. We are all a part of the same “body,” and the head of that body is Jesus Christ. Yes, some of us walk with limps. Some of us paint well. Whatever we do, whatever talents God has given us, we are all connected by one central nervous system — Christ. He is the head. He directs our lives. He gives us ways to “grow” our gifts. He gives us ways to use our gifts. And he provides his church with all the talent needed to function.

Paul said, “as each part does its work.” If some of us aren’t very good at preaching or teaching, others of us are. If some of us aren’t very good at encouraging each other, others of us are. Appreciate the diversity God has given you and His church. Just as your legs do something very different than your arms, so we each can provide very different services to God. The church needs legs AND arms. Both are important. YOU are important. Jesus Christ made it so by dying for you on the cross. God the Father made it so by creating you just the way you are. The Holy Spirit made it so by giving you spiritual gifts, and enabling you to use them.

Discussion Questions: Blind people typically have exceptional hearing. Why? What talent would you like to “grow?” How might you go about helping others to grow their gifts? Explain why the church needs to use the talents of ALL of its members. Does using your spiritual gifts make you smile “ear to ear?” Why or why not?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Ephesians 4

Prayer: Lord, you are the head of the body. Thank you for making us members of that body. You have made each of us unique and called each one of us to use our gifts. We want to answer that call. Help us to do so. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction – Week 5

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week five:

2 Thessalonians 1:3 – “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”

Marilyn Gentry was putting her daughter Mary to bed. The evening ritual was for mom to read daughter a bedtime story after prayers and then lights out.

As Marilyn left the room and closed the door, Mary shouted “I love you.” “I love you too sweetheart,” replied Marilyn, “very much.” “How much mommy?” asked Mary. Marilyn paused, “That’s hard to say Mary, but it’s a lot. More and more each day.”

Now Mary’s curiosity was peaked. “You mean you love me more today than you did yesterday?” “I guess so,” said mom. “I don’t know why, but I just do.” “I love you more too mommy.”

Marilyn went to bed that night with a smile on her face, knowing her little girl really loved her, and she really loved her little girl. In her prayers that night, she thanked God for that love, and asked that both her love and her daughter’s love would continue to grow.

The apostle Paul expressed similar thoughts when he wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica. He wrote, “We ought always to thank God for you.” Paul saw that there was a growing love among those people, and that’s a wonderful thing to watch! He wanted to offer that prayer of thanks to God, because it was God’s doing that their love for each other was growing, just as it was God’s doing that mother and daughter loved each other so much.

The reason that the Thessalonians love for each other was growing was that their faith was growing. That was also God’s doing. He is behind our spiritual growth. He puts faith and love in our hearts. What wonderful gifts!

He does the same for us. He grows our faith and love with His word. He grows our faith and love through each other.

Discussion Questions: List things we do that make it tough for people to love us. How do we grow our faith? How do we grow the faith of others? What might cause us to love somebody “less” each day? Are those valid reasons? How does the use of our spiritual gifts increase our love or faith? Why does God love us so much?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for those who love me and those I love. Continue to grow that love. Continue to grow my faith. I love you Lord. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction Week 4

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. It was originally developed for a congregation stewardship series and intended as a weekly resource. I thought I’d republish here for those interested in using them. Here is week four:

2 Timothy 3:16- 17 All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Bill Jr. had finally saved up enough allowance to buy the model airplane he had his eye on for months. He had done odd jobs around the house, saved every penny of his allowance and always reminded himself how wonderful it would be to possess this new toy. On the Saturday afternoon after he had made the big purchase, his father, Bill Gentry, found his 12 year old son on the floor of his room crying.

“Bill, what’s wrong?” asked Bill Sr., bending down to lift his son’s chin. “I can’t make it work,” balled the distressed boy. “None of the pieces fit together right, and I think I broke one, and, and…” he let out another howl.

“Now, now, Bill, don’t cry. We’ll figure it out. Did it come with directions?” “I don’t know, I never thought to look. It looked so easy at first.” Bill Sr. responded half compassionately and half trying to hide his smile, “Well, don’t you think that might be a good place to start?”

He knew in the back of his mind that if his wife, Marilyn had been there, she would have fired off a comment like, “typical man!” He was thankful she was not.

So far this month we have been taking a look at how God has given each of us spiritual gifts to use in His service and the service of others. We talked a little about how special those gifts are and what some of those gifts might be. One thing needs to be made clear. Just because we may know what those gifts are, doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to use them. In other words, we need directions.

The obvious next question is, where can we find those directions? That is clarified for us in today’s Bible verse. It says that one of the reasons that God gave us the Bible is so that “the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Bible is our instruction manual for teaching us what our gifts are and how to use them. God provides better directions than any manual we have ever read, and he teaches us in many different ways. The Bible is very straightforward and addresses real questions with real answers. Funny, it almost knows the questions we need answered before we ask them. That’s because God knows what we need to know.

The Bible also provides excellent illustrations about how to use our gifts. Think of some of the parables Jesus used. Recall stories of people like David, Abraham, Moses, and Paul who could teach us a few things about how they used their spiritual gifts. What a wonderful guide to living life! And nobody should be afraid to ask for directions –men, women or children.

On occasion you will find instruction manuals that aren’t very clear, or complete. The Bible isn’t that way. In fact, not only is the Bible clear and complete, it’s compelling. It tells us how to use our gifts, and gives us motivation to do so. It tells us of Jesus, his death, his resurrection and his love for us. After reading that Good News, we want to use what God has given us “for every good work.”

Discussion Questions: Describe a time when you read directions and were even more confused than when you started. What can happen if you don’t read directions? How can that be dangerous when learning about spiritual gifts? In the verse for the day, what part of Scripture does it say is “useful”? Put together a plan to read “all Scripture.”

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading:2 Timothy 3

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for the Bible. Each piece of it is so valuable in helping us learn about you, your love and our Savior. Help us to use your word as a tool to instruct us and equip us for every good work. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction Week 3

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. Here is week three:

Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

Today was Mary Gentry’s birthday. She had waited 364 days in eager anticipation of turning six, as this meant it wouldn’t be long until she could be in kindergarten.

“Mom,” Mary shouted, running into her mother’s bedroom first thing in the morning, “is it really today? Has my birthday FINALLY come?” Marilyn Gentry, still trying to wake the sleep from her eyes responded, “Yes, Mary. It is today. But what time is it?”

Mary, now jumping up and down on her mother’s bed, screamed, “5 o’clock.” Mom replied, “Oh Mary, it’s Saturday. Mommy needs a bit more sleep if we are going to have that big party later this afternoon.”

Mary, totally ignoring her mother’s request, said, “Can I open some of my presents now? Can I? I can’t wait to see what I got!”

The afternoon finally arrived, and none to soon for Mary. She tore into her presents. Wrapping paper was flying everywhere. Before long she was done. She had no time for cake or conversation with the relatives who had arrived. She grabbed her gifts and was later found asleep with each one spread around her – totally exhausted from playing with her new toys.

Christians, in a way, have experienced the same excitement that Mary did on her 6th birthday. When we were born, or rather, reborn on our baptism day, we were given gifts. No, not the kind that our relatives or Godparents might give us, but gifts from God. And these gifts came in two varieties — the gift of faith and the gift of spiritual gifts. When we had that first birthday we were given the gift of faith by God. That faith, put into us by the Holy Spirit, knows Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. He is the one who paid the price for our sins. The gift of faith is much like a birthday gift from loving parents. It is usually the best gift we receive and the most appropriate for us. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need, and through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he gives it to us – eternal life.

Faith in Jesus however was not the only thing we received at that first birthday of ours. God tells us that he has also given us different spiritual gifts. These gifts are only given to his children. They include things like the ability to serve, teach, encourage, contributing to the needs of others, giving, leadership, showing mercy and many others.

If we were baptized as babies, we probably didn’t know what to make of these gifts God had given us. We may not even know we have them. But two things are certain. Like Mary we should be very excited about receiving them and even more excited to use them.

Read Romans 12 again and determine for yourself what spiritual gifts you have been given. Ask others what they think your spiritual gifts may be. And then plan on using them until you lay exhausted on the floor from enjoying their use. What a blessing they are from God.

Discussion Questions: What makes your baptism so special? Can you think of ways that you can celebrate your spiritual birthday? Which spiritual gifts do you think you have? How about those around you? How are these spiritual gifts different than other gifts you receive?

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Romans 12

Prayer: Father in heaven, you have given each of us very special and precious gifts. We thank and praise you for the best gift of all, the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus. But you didn’t stop with that gift. You kept on giving. Now help us to use the gifts you have given us. May we use them to your glory. Amen.

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Christians Under Construction Week 2

Family-DevotionsChristians Under Construction is a series of devotions designed for family use each week focused on Christian stewardship. Here is week two:

(Please set aside an evening this week to use this devotion as your personal devotion or family devotion.)

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Bill Gentry loved his job. He worked as an advertising executive in one of the city’s largest agencies. He spent his days working with companies trying to help them create advertising campaigns, commercials and billboards. Much of what he did was to observe large companies and try to learn from their approach to advertising. One of his favorite companies to watch was Nike. “What creative campaigns they come up with!” he told a number of his associates. He especially liked their “just do it” campaign. It was simple and to the point, but you remembered it and you remembered who told you to do it – Nike. It meant that with those shoes you could do it…jump high, run fast, be like Mike, whatever. Bill was so impressed by the concept that he told others to “just do it”, he told himself to “just do it.” It was motivational for him.

Then on one Sunday morning he heard his pastor say the same thing. His pastor was talking about Ephesians 2:10, and in it he described one of God’s very own creative campaigns – God’s “just do it” campaign.

He listened intently and learned that God tells each and every one of us to “just do it” too — to do good works, God wasn’t trying to sell shoes however. He didn’t make a shoe that he claimed could make us run faster or jump higher. He didn’t stamp a swoosh on anything to identify it as something cool and hope we’d buy it. What God did do was make us. He calls us his “workmanship.” And rather than stamp us with a logo, he put faith in our hearts, a faith in Jesus our Savior.

What’s even more amazing is that he didn’t roll each of us off the same assembly line. God made each one of us by hand, gave us each faith, and determined ahead of time the “features” our model had. Wow! Each of us is unique with our own feature set.

God is so much more creative than we can even imagine! It is those God-given features that identify us as God’s workmanship–that we are made by Him and for Him. And it is those features, those spiritual gifts, that determine exactly what God wants us to do.

We don’t have a swoosh. We don’t even have to wear a cross, Christ already wore one. We simply need to “do it.” That shows the world who made us and to whom we belong. It shows God that we love him and are grateful for his craftsmanship.

God too says “just do it.” “Do what I’ve enabled you specifically to do. Do those good works I’ve prepared in advance for you to do.”

Be sure to read next week’s devotion to find out some of those “features” that God has built into us. For a sneak peak, you’ll want to read the “Family Reading” verses for today.

Discussion Questions: What have you ever been compelled to “just do?” Do you have other mottos that you live by? List some of the “features” you think God has given to you. Discuss why everybody has different spiritual gifts.

(Note to parents: You may want to review the facts of the story to reinforce the lesson.)

Family Reading: Romans 12

Prayer: Father in heaven, you have made each of us with different gifts, but you crafted each one of us with love. Please help us be like Christ, who did it for us, who paid for our sins on the cross. Help us to do good works, those which you have prepared for us to do. Amen.

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