A Lenten Reflection: Gifts versus Strengths

March 4, 2012

Last week’s Daily Office readings for Lent included the well known passage at the end of 1 Cor 1 that talks about God humbling the wise:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV)

Today while doing a bit of blog browsing, I found a great post by Jon Bloom at the Desiring God blog (the ministry of John Piper and his associates) which talks about the difference between gifts and strengths.  It struck me deeply:

Lots of books have been published and numerous tests developed to help us identify our strengths.

The closest biblical parallels are texts like Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Romans 12:6–8, and others where we are given lists of gifts “that differ according to the grace given to us” by God. And we are urged to use them for the benefit of the church.

But note that even here the Bible tends to refer to “gifts” rather than “strengths.” The difference in focus, I think, is important for us. We tend to think of our strengths as inherently part of our identity. Strengths are our value-add; our competitive edge. But gifts connote grace. A gift does not originate with us. It’s something we receive from God and steward for his sake. Therefore our gifts are not so much our identity as our offering. And since God has given us these gifts, he’s not obliged to always put us in places where we can use them fully.

In fact, God frequently places us in positions where we struggle and feel weak for the very reason that he receives particular glory by showing his strength through our weaknesses.

This motif is woven through redemptive history: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Why? “So that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:29). God shames human strength to humble humans.

Read the full blog entry here.

It is this line that most struck me:

Therefore our gifts are not so much our identity as our offering.

May God grant us grace this Lent not to glory in our own strengths and talents, nor to demand of Him that He give us opportunity to use those strengths, but may we humbly rejoice in the gifts of GRACE He has poured out in our lives, and offer ourselves afresh to God and wait on His Spirit for opportunities to serve in the strength HE alone provides, that HE ALONE may receive glory!

Lent Prayers: A Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

March 4, 2012

This was posted a few days ago by Christine Sine at the Godspace blog, which is always a good source for resources and reflections during major liturgical seasons.

Righteous God, compassionate and generous one,

Who forgives our sins and always has mercy.

Shine your light on our faces,

Fill our hidden darkness with your healing light,

Breathe on us afresh and grant us life.

God you are always ready to forgive,

Bend down and hear our prayers.

Respond to our repentant cries,

Purify our hearts and cleanse our souls, 

That we may honour and serve you in all our ways.

God you are a covenant making God,

Who gives assurance of salvation and faithfulness.

May we see your signs in the wilderness,

Believe your promises in the midst of temptation,

And willingly follow your call into the kingdom.

Lord of life, touch and transfigure us,

Let your love grow strong and deep within us.

May your compassion bloom in us,

Your righteousness bear fruit,

Your generosity encourage us to share.


You can find all Godspace blog’s Lent meditations and resources here.

Mark 8:31-38

March 4, 2012

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned around and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:31-33)
      Holy Spirit, when our friends recognized a hard road they must follow, keep us and guide us so that we do not offer false and worldly counsel that would lead them aside from the path you have marked out for them.

      Father, you asked Jesus to go to the cross and he willingly accepted that. Thank you.

      Jesus, thank you for being steady in the face of temptation to turn aside from the path the Father asked you to walk.

When he had called the people to himself, with his disciples also, he said to them, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? ” (Mark 8:34-37)
      Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12) Jesus, please help us daily keep “our eyes on the prize” — the crown of glory laid up for those who win through to victory in you.

“For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the son of man also will be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 )
      Jesus, help us daily rejoice in your call to us and walk out our salvation and our call in fear and trembling as Paul did. And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. (1 Corinthians 2:1-3)

A word received: Look to me; keep your attention on me.

Sunday: 24, 29 * 8, 84; Gen. 41:14-45: Rom. 6:3-14: John 5:19-24
HC: Mark 8:31-38; Romans 8:31-39; Genesis 22:1-14; 16 or 16:5-11
Monday: 56, 57, [58] * 64, 65; Gen. 41:46-57: 1 Cor. 4:8-20(21): Mark 3:7-19a

      Notes from the Front Line

***** Start now reading and reflecting on the lessons for Sunday so that you can receive all that God has for you (John 2:13-22; Romans 7:13-25; Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19:7-14).

Albany Intercessor

Christ Church Schenectady Prayer Table Report

March 4, 2012

Christ Church Schenectady Prayer Table Report, Saturday, March 3, 2012, 9:20 – 10:30 a.m. Torre Bissell and Mark Pasko on State St. and Bob Baker and Sandra Tiaz on Albany St.

+–indicates received a wooden cross made by Dennis Adams of North Carolina
Please pray for God’s blessing on Dennis Adams and his family. So many are blessed by the crosses he makes for us to hand out.

State St.

Andrew — “Good health.”

Cathy (older woman) — “I’m cold.”

(Girl walking by) — “Pray that He will keep me safe.”

+Rumar (young man) — “For the community.”

+Robert — “To have a good living.”

James (older man) — We prayed that he will be safe and warm. In the past he has stopped and prayed for God’s blessing on us and we have prayed for him and with him at the Schenectady City Mission.

+Charles — “My family”

+Joe — “Job”

+Manuel and +Rishi — They ask for God’s blessing on an invention by Rishi’s brother Vee. Manuel and Rishi drove up in a van. They had missed seeing the prayer table on Albany Street and knew to come here to State St. Rishi’s brother Vee told them about the prayer table some time in the past.

+Debbie — She asked prayer for her mother +Marianne who has advanced dementia. We prayed that Marianne would have even a few lucid moments each day when she would know the love of God. She also asked prayer that her kids would be saved. Debbie has gotten involved in a relationship with an unsaved man named Bob. She accepted God’s forgiveness for her sins.

Steve brought +Brian (young man) to the prayer table and said, “Here is a lost sheep.” Brian said, “I’m not a lost sheep.” Brian gave his life to Jesus again.

+Dan — He asked for a blessing for himself and everyone else.

Albany St.

Emmanuel — “Wisdom, strength”

Evonne — She asked prayer for a job and for child care full time.

Susan — She asked prayer for her mom, her dad, and Jon, that God would restore them to a church.

Tanisha — She asked prayer to be able to keep her job and remove temptation to follow evil.

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