Sunday – February 16, 2020 Book of Acts –Acts 6:1-7 “Waiting on the Widows”

Sunday – February 16, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 16, 2020

Acts 6:2-4
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

Someone has said, “If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it because you will spoil it!” I often tell the new members class, “I promise that if you join this church, we will at some point offend you.” Or, as some wag put it, “To dwell above with the saints we love, O that will be glory! But to dwell below with the saints we know, well, that’s a different story!” To have been in the early church would have been a wonderful experience to see God was working in powerful ways. But the early church was not a perfect church. We’ve already seen the problem of hypocrisy, with Ananias and Sapphira. Now Luke shows us another problem that occurred in the midst of this phenomenal growth: a complaint arose that threatened to split the church.

It is significant that the apostles did not say, “It’s time that we divide the church up into the First Hellenistic Church of Jerusalem and the First Hebrew Church of Jerusalem.” They never considered division as an option. Even though these two groups had diverse backgrounds and even different mother tongues, they wanted to work this problem out in a spirit of unity, not division.

Not even the apostles could do it all. They were gifted and called to the ministry of prayer and preaching the Word. They were not control-freaks, who had to direct every aspect of church ministry. They were willing to delegate responsibility to other godly men who could deal with the problems.  One key to solving church problems is to recognize and implement the division of labor on the basis of spiritual gifts. No one man or group of men, however gifted, can carry on the work of the local church. It is only when every member gets involved in serving in accordance with his or her gifts that the church will be strong.

The church is primarily an organism—the living body of which Christ is the head. But all organisms are organized. It is a mistake to over-emphasize organization to the neglect of organism. It is also a mistake to over-emphasize organism and neglect proper organization. The solution was the blend between apostolic direction and congregational participation. The apostles did not choose these seven men; they delegated that job to the congregation after giving the necessary qualifications. The congregation brought the seven back to the apostles, who validated the choice by praying and laying hands on them. The church is not a democracy, but wise elders will involve the congregation on important decisions. The entire church must be functionally under the headship of Jesus Christ, seeking to honor Him and follow His will.

Sunday – February 9, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 5:12-42 “The Great Escape”

Sunday – February 9, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 9, 2020

Acts 5:19-20
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

The early church in the Book of Acts experienced the Lord’s power through the many miracles performed by the apostles, and through powerful witness and the resulting powerful conversions of the Jewish population of Jerusalem. Jesus had told the apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them to be His witnesses and Peter testified to the Sanhedrin that it was the Holy Spirit in them that was the source of their power (5:32).

Many say that if the church would only repent of her sins and have faith in God, then we would again see miracles on a par with these recorded in the Book of Acts. But I believe such thinking not to be in line with biblical teaching. It was not every church member who was performing these miracles, but rather the apostles and a few other leading men in the church. The purpose for God granting these miracles was to confirm the gospel message and to authenticate these men as God’s messengers in these early days of the church.

While God obviously still does mighty miracles in our day if He so chooses, to argue that it is His will to do them as a common occurrence is to ignore the overall teaching of God’s Word. Many fail to note that while the apostles performed many great miracles, and the angel miraculously delivered them from prison, the angel did not spare them from being flogged. (There is a bit of humor here: since the Sadducees did not believe in angels, the Lord sent one to deliver the apostles!) God did not deliver James (12:2) or Paul from prison (Acts 24:27) or spare them and most of the other apostles from martyrdom. Paul did not heal Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20) or tell Timothy to claim healing by faith for his frequent stomach problems (1 Tim. 5:23).

On the one hand, we should never limit God’s power by our unbelief or by our rationalistic theology. We should pray in faith, knowing that all things are possible with God. Yet on the other hand, we should submit to the fact that it is not always His will to deliver us from illness, persecution, or death. Above all, we should be people who are “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:11-12). I would point out that you don’t need steadfastness and patience if God miraculously delivers you! We see God’s mighty power in our text, not only in the miracles of healing, but also in the disciples rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Sunday – February 2, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 4:32 to 5:11

Sunday – February 2, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 2, 2020

Acts 4:32-34
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

I once heard of a group of untaught Christians who took our text so literally that they were seriously thinking of taking the life of one of their members who had committed a serious sin. While I appreciate their zeal to do what the Bible teaches, I think they have misapplied Luke’s account of Ananias and Sapphira. On the other extreme, there are many more who would like to simply set this passage aside. Actually, there are many who would like to set aside our text and its implications because it exposes a good deal of shoddy thinking and outright sin in the church. Let’s face it; none of us are really inclined to add this passage in Acts to our list of “happy texts” in the Bible.

Luke tells us that “great grace was on them all” (Acts 4:33). While “great power” seems to be restricted to the apostles, who performed many signs and wonders, “great grace” appears to be evident among all the saints. God was showering His grace upon the Jerusalem church, at least in part due to the unity of the believers, as evidenced by their caring for one another in their financial needs. For various reasons these were not easy times for those living in Jerusalem, the result being that many of the saints in Jerusalem were in financial straits. It is not merely generosity which prompts those with financial resources to give, however; it is a deep unity among the saints.

Barnabas is an excellent example of what Luke has just described. Verses 32-35 provided us with a general statement regarding the health of the church in Jerusalem. Verses 36 and 37 provide us with an excellent example of the attitude of the saints in the church toward the needy and toward their own material possessions. Barnabas had a piece of property which he sold, and then brought the proceeds to the apostles to distribute as they saw fit. This is the way it was supposed to be, the way Luke had just described it in more general terms.

Giving is a by-product and outgrowth of Christian unity. Our text begins with Luke’s description of the church at Jerusalem as being of “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). Sharing flows from unity, and it also enhances unity. The term “fellowship” is frequently used in reference to sharing financially with others. Our text helps us to understand why “fellowship” is often financial but always is partnership. Our union in Christ makes us all partners, so we should desire to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sharing should not be limited to material possessions. We should also be liberal in giving our time, our energies, and our spiritual gifts to those whose needs we can meet.

Sunday – January 26, 2020 Book of Acts – 3:1-26 “A Lame Excuse For Preaching the Gospel”

Sunday – January 26, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 26, 2020

Acts 4:1-3
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Most of us don’t know much firsthand about persecution for the sake of Christ. The threat of someone rejecting us or thinking that we’re weird is enough to make cowards of us when it comes to witnessing. We don’t know what the council said by way of threats, but if Peter and John continued to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they would pay a severe price. But rather than saying, “Yes sir, we’ll be more restrained in the future,” they said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19).

There are two common misconceptions that we need to keep in mind regarding opposition or persecution for our faith. The first is that if we’re faithful to the Lord, He will protect us from persecution. I’ve heard many Christians say something like, “I don’t understand what’s happening. I was faithful to the Lord, but I’m being attacked by my co-workers or friends. Why isn’t the Lord protecting me?” The Old Testament prophets were bold and faithful witnesses, but many of them were persecuted and killed. John the Baptist, the twelve, the apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself all were faithful witnesses who suffered much because of their faithfulness to God. Paul promised, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

The second misconception is that persecution comes mainly from those outside the church. We expect the world to oppose the name of Jesus, but for some reason, we are surprised when those who profess to be Christians that attack us. But it was the religious establishment that opposed the prophets. The religious leaders opposed and crucified our Lord. Here the religious rulers lead the opposition against the apostles. The Sadducees were mainly wealthy priests who wanted to protect the status quo in order to preserve their wealth and influence over Jewish affairs. The chief priest and the high priests were all Sadducees, along with the captain of the temple guard.

As then, so it has been down through church history. Opposition to those who preach the gospel and who uphold God’s Word often comes from the religious establishment, whose power and privileges are threatened. In countries where the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church are strong, they are the source of most opposition to the gospel. In our country, theological liberals, who deny the resurrection, are often our main opponents. But, Spirit-filled witnesses are bold to obey God rather than the religious establishment, even if it means persecution. If we want to be confident witnesses, we must daily be filled with God’s Spirit.

Sunday – December 29, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-13 Pt 3 “The Holy Spirit at Pentecost”

Sunday – December 29, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 29, 2019

Acts 2:1-2
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”

God purposed to send His Spirit to the church during the Feast of Pentecost because this Old Testament feast foreshadowed Pentecost. Paul calls attention to this relationship between Old Testament institutions and New Testament realities in Hebrews 10:1 “For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship.”

The Feast of Pentecost (or, more commonly in Old Testament terms, the “Feast of Weeks”) was to be celebrated 50 days after the offering of the first fruits. In this way, we can see that Pentecost followed Passover, but was actually 50 days after the offering of first fruits. It occurs in the third month of the Jewish calendar, which would be during the months of May or June on our calendar.

Like the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the offering of Israel’s first fruits followed shortly after the observance of the Passover meal. The presentation of the first fruits always occurred on the day after Sabbath, or Sunday. Sunday after Passover was also the day our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, the first fruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). Fifty days later, Israel celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. This was the end of the barley season (the Old Covenant?) and the beginning of the wheat harvest (the New Covenant?). It was the time when God identified Himself with the church, the time when He endowed the saints with power so that they could carry out the Great Commission. It was the time when God came to indwell His saints in a way that was more intimate than any saint had ever experienced it. It was the time, thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, when God could now indwell those who were not yet free from sin and its corrupting influences. God dwells among and in His people, sinful though they will be, because of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

What does Pentecost mean to us? The story of Pentecost in Acts 2 tells us how our Lord is now present with His church – through the Holy Spirit, whom He has sent. Pentecost assures us that God is present with His people, even though we are not yet sinless. We are forgiven sinners, who will one day be freed from the suffering and groaning that is the result of sin (Romans 8:18-25). But through the atoning work of Christ and the abiding of the Spirit, God is with us in a way that no Old Testament saint ever knew. He is with us, not only to teach, comfort, and guide us, but also to empower us to carry out the Great Commission. What news could be better than this?

Sunday – August 4, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 20:41-47 “The Son of David”

Sunday – August 4, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 4, 2019

Luke 20:41-44
Then Jesus said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

In April of 1984, at 9:47 AM, hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Britons suddenly leaped in the air. They had been convinced by astronomer Patrick Moore on BBC radio that the planet Pluto would pass directly behind Jupiter at that moment, producing a gravitational pull on Earth that would make people feel lighter. Minutes after 9:47, the switchboards at BBC lighted up. One woman said that she and 11 guests had floated around the room. A man called in to say he had hit his head on the ceiling. Had any of the bounding multitudes looked at a calendar before they leaped, they would have realized it was the first day of April… (Reader’s Digest [4/85]).

That was a harmless and humorous deception. But one area where deception is neither harmless nor humorous is religion. Satan is a master deceiver. One of the most common complaints that you hear from those who avoid church is that the church is full of hypocrites. Of course, so is the world; but it is true: the church is full of hypocrites. Satan makes sure of that. He deceives many into thinking that they are right with God when really, they are not. He uses these hypocrites to keep others away from true Christianity. We need to make sure that we understand what true religion is and that we steer clear of false religion.

The intent of Jesus was to show His audience in the temple courtyard that neither they nor their teachers of the Law understood their own Scriptures. They rightly thought that Messiah would be the physical descendant of David, but they wrongly thought that he would be just a great man, a political Savior, who would bring in an age of peace and prosperity. Jesus wanted them to see that the Messiah (or Christ) would not only be David’s son, but also David’s Lord- God in human flesh. They needed a right view of Messiah so that they would not be deceived by false religion.

To know who Christ is—that He is both David’s son, a man born of the flesh; and, David’s Lord, the eternal God—is one thing. But each person must respond to this truth by trusting Christ as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord, even as David did. On this occasion, Jesus did not answer the question He posed nor did He call for a response. He just left His audience to ponder the implications of the question for themselves. But the clear implication is: If Jesus is the Messiah and Messiah is Lord over such a great man as King David, then should not I submit to Him as my Lord? True Christianity is not just believing intellectually that Jesus is the Messiah or that He is your Savior. True Christianity means believing in Jesus in the sense that you follow Him as Lord, so that in thought, word, and deed you are growing to be more and more like Him.

Sunday March 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Why Religious People Reject Christ” Luke 4:14-30

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Luke 4:28-30
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.”

As we study this portion of God’s Word, we need to take it to heart that most of us are religious people or we would not be in church this morning But being religious does not guarantee we will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If anything, it increases the likelihood we will reject Him. It was the religious crowd in Nazareth that not only reacted against the sermon by Jesus, but they went right from their “church” service to try to shove the speaker off a cliff. I trust that no one here would do that (I will keep my eyes open), but still, we must be careful to examine our own hearts, so that we do not imitate the religious people of Nazareth in their hostile rejection of Jesus.

Any qualified male could read the Scripture and expound on it, so Jesus stood up to do this. There is debate about whether He deliberately chose the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, or whether it was the assigned portion for that day, but Luke seems to hint that He picked the passage Himself. The initial response to Jesus’ sermon at Nazareth was favorable, although rather superficial. They were speaking well of Him and were amazed at the smooth manner in which He communicated. As sermon critics, they were giving the “hometown kid” good marks on His delivery and style. “Not bad! I can see why we’ve been hearing good reports about the young man. He’s a polished speaker.”

But it wasn’t long until the nodding heads began to stop, and the approving smiles turned to frowns. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. “Who does He think He is, making these claims about fulfilling this Scripture? He’s implying that His message applies to us! We’re not poor or slaves! We’re not blind and downtrodden! How dare He imply that He can be our Savior, as if we even needed one. If He really is so great, then why doesn’t He do here some of the miracles we heard that He supposedly did in Capernaum? Then we might believe in Him!” They were initially impressed by His style, but they took offense at the substance of His sermon. Their offense soon turned to rage and rejection.

Let’s apply this point to ourselves: It’s easy to accept Jesus on a superficial level. We hear that God loves us and that Jesus cares for all our needs, and that’s true. So, we welcome Him into our lives. But at some point, we begin to get a bit uncomfortable as we realize Jesus is confronting our pride and self-righteousness with His teaching. Rather than building up our self-esteem, Jesus begins shining the light of His holiness into the dark, hidden closets of our soul. We begin to see that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). At this point, you have a crucial decision to make. You can dodge the hard truths of the Bible, either by throwing out the whole thing or, as many people do, by finding a church where you hear more soothing, comfortable messages. Or respond to the leading of the Spirit. God’s way is that we face the hard truth about ourselves and submit to Jesus as Lord.

Sunday – November 12, 2017 Series Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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Ezekiel 36:26-28
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

It is true that we cannot “have it our way” when it comes to church, but rather we must function in ways that are consistent with sound doctrine, and which are obedient to the principles and commands of Scripture, illustrated by apostolic practice. We have been given certain terms like elders and deacons, and we have seen how the early church functioned. But let us not err by concluding that being a New Testament church is primarily a matter of terms and forms. The essence of a New Testament church is more a matter of the heart.

The New Testament church is made up of those whose sins have been covered and atoned for by the shed blood of Jesus, and who now have hearts of flesh, rather than hearts of stone. The New Testament church is one in which the Spirit of God dwells, empowering Christians to play their unique role in the body of Christ so that our Lord now ministers to the world through His body, the church. We can use all the right terms and have all the right forms and traditions, but fail to be a New Testament church because we lack hearts that are filled with faith, hope, and love – not to mention many other attitudes that should characterize the Christian (like humility, servanthood, joy, and thanksgiving). This is why a church may not have all the right terminology or just the right forms, but may nevertheless manifest the life of Jesus.

A New Testament church manifests Christ to the world. Through the presence and power of Christ, the church ministers to itself and then to the world. Thus, the church is not just about principles and procedures, but about people, people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, who have been joined to the church, and who are divinely indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. A New Testament church has New Testament life and power. It not only carries on the work of Christ, it manifests His character. The heart of a New Testament Christian (and a New Testament church) is the work of God’s Spirit, the outworking of the New Covenant inaugurated by the shed blood of our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. It all begins with Jesus, just as it ends with Him. I pray that you have trusted in Him, and thus have become a part of His church.

Sunday – October 29, 2017 Series Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 29, 2017 Download / Print

1 Corinthians 7:17-18
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.”

In our study on the Church and how we should go about “serving church,” a question has been raised by several people in our fellowship, namely the role of women in ministry. Clearly, the role and ministry of women plays a vital part in the spiritual life and ministry of the church. Since there are many who have not experienced the way we “serve church,” now is an opportune time to explain how and why we practice our ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church).

The biblical teaching concerning the ministry of women in the church is strongly opposed by those outside the church (our culture), as well as by all too many who profess to be in the church through faith in Jesus. This is very disturbing and needs to be challenged from the Scriptures. It is my opinion, in order to reach a culturally and politically correct view of the role of women in the church, one must either ignore or deny clear biblical commands and instructions. Either that or these clear texts must be interpreted in a way that is frightening in its implications. If clear teaching on the ministry of women can be cast aside by mishandling Scripture, what other “unacceptable” doctrines will follow?

I must confess, I approach this subject with a greater than normal sense of uneasiness. It is not an uneasiness based upon doubt, for I am confident that what I am about to teach is the clear and consistent teaching of God’s Word. Neither am I uneasy because I fear that someone will come along who will cast this message aside as sloppy scholarship or as the ranting of a chauvinist (which is what some would say about Paul). I am uneasy that speaking so directly will cause someone to turn me off before they have actually considered whether or not what I am saying is true to God’s Word.

It is only fair for me to inform you that a number of my colleagues in ministry (outside our church) will likely disagree strongly with my conclusions. Thus, I am apprehensive because I do not wish to show disrespect or disregard for a number of my good friends and excellent bible teachers who hold different views on this issue. Nevertheless, I believe that what I am about to say needs saying. I only ask that you persevere with me through both lessons and consider whether or not this teaching is true to God’s Word. I trust that the Word of God through the ministry of the Spirit of God will speak to you. I don’t expect all to agree, nor do I believe that those who do agree will necessarily apply the Scriptures in the same way as I would. But I do hope and pray that these texts of Scripture will cause you to reflect on these important matters, and perhaps encourage you to make whatever adjustments are necessary and appropriate in both doctrine and practice to be true to God’s Word.

Sunday – October 22, 2017 Series Week Six: “Spiritual Gifts in the Meeting of the Church”

Sunday – October 22, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week six: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 22, 2017 Download / Print

1 Corinthians 14:39-40
Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

There is great debate in the Church today over the use of spiritual gifts in the meeting of the Church. All too often we try to restrict and control the use of the gifts in such a way as to make them seem like we are college students trying to decide on a career choice. We must revise our thinking concerning spiritual gifts. Most often the subject of spiritual gifts is taught in this way: We all have a spiritual gift or gifts. We are to study the Scriptures to find out what the list of options are and how each gift is defined and recognized. Then we must determine what our gifts are and develop them. Finally, we are to find a ministry where our gifts can be put to use.

While there is some truth in this view of gifts, it does not seem to square entirely with what Paul teaches about spiritual gifts. If all of the spiritual gifts are not listed in the New Testament, there must be other gifts as well. All of the gifts are not neatly defined (e.g., the “word of wisdom” and the “word of knowledge” in our text). Further, the form these gifts take (ministry) and the fruit (results, effects) are not the same for those who have the same gift(s).

I suggest we reverse some of our thinking and reject much of the remainder. God has given us a number of clear commands such as those outlined by Paul in Romans 12:9-21. Let us begin by focusing on these commands, and obey them in whatever circumstances God brings our way. In the process of obeying His commands, we will discover that God has given us a ministry, a place of service. Rather than waiting to know our gifts and then seeking to serve God and His church, let us do the things God has commanded, trusting Him to empower us and produce supernatural results through His Spirit. We should give priority to those aspects of ministry which God has given us in which the power of His Spirit is evident. This does not always mean “success” as the world defines success. It is where spiritual fruit has been produced, where the gospel has been proclaimed, and where God has been glorified. Let us not agonize over the name or the label of the gift, but let us strive to develop the gifts God has given us (2 Timothy 1:6), and employ them as good stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10-11). Let us never take credit for what God has accomplished or take pride in God’s work in us or measure spirituality by one’s gifts.

Let us be confident that if we are a Christian, God has an important place of service for us, and He will provide us with all the means necessary to fulfill our calling. Spiritual gifts assure us that the body of Christ needs us and will suffer without us. Spiritual gifts enable us to do what God requires of us.