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Spiritual Gifts

Back in my first weeks here, we focused on 1 Corinthians 12 and the Body of Christ and spiritual gifts. And according to the Bible, every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift to use in service to the body of Christ. The spiritual gifts are given by grace and are not based on our worthiness or personal abilities

1 Peter 4:10-11 tells us “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” We also talked about spiritual gifts recently in Ephesians 4:11-16.

So, an important step in determining how to best serve in the church is for us to discover what our spiritual gifts are. Of course, we do not have to know what our gift is before we start getting involved in the church. In fact, we often discover our gifts in the process of serving. But there are some lists of spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, as well as 1 Peter 4:10-11.

One of the first things that becomes clear in these passages is the diversity of the gifts. Paul’s survey of spiritual gifts in Romans 12 includes different gifts than are found in 1 Corinthians 12 for instance. And when Peter spoke of the spiritual gifts, he did not specify them but rather listed broad categories of the types of gifts God gives. Whatever the specific use, each gift fits together with the other gifts, and they all work together as the parts of the body.

Here is a brief spiritual gifts survey compiled by Dr. Larry Gilbert from “How Many Spiritual Gifts Are There?” He puts them into 3 categories:

1. Miraculous Gifts

  • Apostleship (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)
  • Tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 30)
  • Interpretation (1 Corinthians 12:10, 30)
  • Miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10, 28)
  • Healing (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28)

2. Enabling Gifts

  • Faith (1 Corinthians 12:9)
  • Discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10)
  • Wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8)
  • Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8)

3. Team Gifts

  • Evangelism: passionately leading others to the saving knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4:11)
  • Prophecy: boldly and fearlessly proclaiming God’s truth (Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28)
  • Teaching: making clear the truth of God’s Word with simplicity and accuracy (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28)
  • Exhortation: motivating others to action, application, and purpose (Romans 12:8)
  • Shepherding: overseeing, training, feeding, coaching/leading (Ephesians 4:11)
  • Serving: providing practical help both physically and spiritually (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28)
  • Mercy-showing: identifying with and comforting those in need (Romans 12:8)
  • Giving: releasing material resources to further the work of the Church (Romans 12:8)
  • Administration: organizing, administering, promoting, leading (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28)

How do you find your spiritual gifts? Sometimes we rely on just taking a test, but speaker and author Tony Morgan says there is a better way to start. Rather than taking a spiritual gifts test, we need to be more cognizant of the people around us. Where do others need help? How am I compelled to respond?

In other words, we should just encourage people to be sensitive to the needs of others. When God prompts us to help someone in need, we will naturally respond to that need based on the gifts God has given us. The Holy Spirit will prompt a response. We just need to act. We do not have to wait for the church to create a program or ministry to respond. We can respond immediately, because we are the church wherever we are.

The Bible says we are given spiritual gifts for a purpose. All Christians everywhere should be serving God in their church community and looking for opportunities to serve both inside and outside the walls of our church building. Soon our Serve Opportunities (Time & Talent) will be coming out to give you an opportunity to live into your calling and giftedness at Nolensville First. 

It may be difficult to discover which spiritual gift(s) God has bestowed, but it is better to serve somewhere than nowhere! Often, the discovery of our gifts becomes clearer in the doing — as we serve in various jobs, we learn what we are good at and what we have a heart for doing. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said; “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” He was not wrong, because you will not get anywhere unless you start the journey. Let’s start using our spiritual gifts together.

Blessings in Christ, 

Geared Up for Life - Continued

Geared Up for Life - Continued

While the first half of Ephesians has a big-picture spiritual WHY focus, the second half of the letter focuses on practical applications and the HOW. Paul has worked to develop the theme of unity in Ephesians 1-3. Now he explains how that unity can be achieved starting in chapter 4.

He talks about the elements we Christians all have in common. Then he explains how even different spiritual gifts work together to produce a mature body of believers through the Holy Spirit.

We pick up the last part of our scripture from the end of August in Ephesians 4: "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." (Ephesians 4:7)

Once Paul has established the groundwork for the unity of the church, he goes on to explain the diversity within the body: The spiritual gifts Christ has given cannot be counted. They can be classified into types and categories. But there are varieties even then. For example, we serve a God who has created categories of trees — oaks, pines, palms — but within these broad categories we see individual species. Some trees grow well on sandy soil. Others struggle to grow in the crevices of granite outcroppings. Some are tall, others are broader, and still others have long branches.

Spiritual gifts are no different. God has made human beings wonderfully diverse. There are different factors like our physical build, temperament, how we were raised, our birth order, artistic, intellectual, and language ability, our emotional sensitivity, our spiritual aptitude, talents, skills, and abilities.

Then Paul talks in Ephesians 4:11-16 that the purpose of pastors and leaders is to develop ministry: “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:11-12)

In other words, the job of pastors, teachers, and other ministers is to equip, prepare, and train the believers so they can learn to function in their own ministries. This is the way that the church is built up; not by the leaders doing everything themselves, but by the leaders equipping the rest of the community at Nolensville First to function in their own ministries.

We succeed in becoming a healthier congregation when we equip and move into motivating, training, and deploying the people in our pews in a variety of ministries according to the gifts of each member, all of whom bring strength and depth to the ministry of the Body as a whole, and which bring about the maturity of the Body.

Then the purpose of ministry is to develop maturity; Paul says: “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)

Look at the description of the healthy, mature church that is talked about in verse 13 and the following verses:

· Unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus (13a)
· Attaining to the fullness of Christ (13b)
· Speaking the truth in love (15a)
· Growing up into Christ, the Head of the Body (15b)
· An infrastructure of joined and supporting bones, ligaments, and muscles, which can then support (16a)
· Sustained bodily growth (16b)
· Sustained development of increased strength and new infrastructure as needed (16c)
· With each part of the body doing its work (16d)

When this begins to take shape, we will not be "infants" who are tossed and blown about and manipulated. Then people will not be deceiving each other with surface-level stuff or "tell it like it is" bluntness which blows the other person away. Instead, we'll be "speaking the truth," but also speaking it "with love." They have to go together and often they do not. Honesty with tenderness and compassion will build Christ's church. 

The last phrase of this passage, "as each part does its work" (v. 16d), really brings us back to where we started. The job of the leaders at every level is to equip each part to do its work. Ultimately, each one of us as a member must commit ourselves to giving our time and energy to the gifts and ministries God has given each of us.

Very soon our Serving Opportunities (Time & Talent) will be available to see where it is that God is calling you to serve and live out your calling with the God-given gifts entrusted to you. When we can get this right, we will be well on our way to effectiveness of ministry and maturity at multiple levels.

But it requires each one of us to discover our own ministries and begin to practice them effectively ("so that the body of Christ may be built up") and diligently ("as each part does its work").

Are you ready to build up the Body of Christ?  There is so much we can do together. 

Blessings in Christ,

Geared Up for Life

Greetings and the grace of God be with you! 

Ephesians has been called “the queen of the epistles” by Dr. William Barclay and many other biblical scholars. This epistle, or letter, contains everything you need to explain the faith in one compact package.

Ephesians divides neatly into two halves. The first half, chapters 1-3, provide a theological foundation for the faith. The second half, chapters 4-6, focuses on the ethical dimensions of the faith: how do we live it out? It reminds us that faith is not simply about believing, but about living.

Many, if not most, scholars would tell us that it was not written by Paul, and that it was not really written to a specific church in Ephesus but was designed to be passed from church to church and community to community. Since is it not contextualized to any one church or community it becomes an even better guide as we seek to live out our faith as United Methodists by making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  

We will be looking at the two different parts of Ephesians. Think of it like the first half of a season of your favorite TV show. In the first three weeks of our “miniseries,” we will focus on the last word of our series: Gearing Up for Life. The first three chapters of Ephesians are the theological foundations of our faith. This is the why part of Ephesians. Why do we embrace this life of faith? Why have we been given this blessing, this opportunity, this grace? These are the core themes of our faith. 

Then the second four-week miniseries focuses on the first two words of our series: Gearing Up for Life. This is the how part of the letter. Because of the grace in the first half of the letter, these last four weeks are the how-to to live our life as God intended.

So, as we get ready to get back on the discipleship path, grow in our faith, and seek to reach out to our Nolensville community wouldn’t it be a great time to get ourselves geared up? A great time to gear up for the Fall for church with events like Promotion Sunday & Blessing of the Backpacks on August 7, our Block Party on August 14, Beersheba Retreat on September 16-18, and new Wednesday night opportunities (coming in September.) Or maybe it is starting a new year at school, a new job, or a promotion at work, or whatever.

The letter to the Ephesians is about gearing up, about making sure that our faith is not just a head thing but also a heart thing. It is about living out the faith and remember who we are and whose we are. It is about being good to be blessed and belong. It is good to remind ourselves that we are not alone, but a part of something bigger than ourselves.

I know that after moving at the beginning of July, experiencing my first Vacation Bible School here last month, trying to unpack in between everything else, and with all the other transitions like traveling back and forth from Hendersonville that I have experienced, I am ready to start a new time in our life together.  I need to get myself into another gear. Maybe you do too? 

Let’s do it together! Would you join me in reading Ephesians over the next seven weeks and seeing how it can gear us up for life? 

Ephesians: Geared Up for Life
Aug 7 Setting Our Hope (Ephesians 1)  
Aug 14 He is Our Peace (Ephesians 2)
Aug 21 Rooted & Grounded in Love (Ephesians 3)
Aug 28 A Life Worthy (Ephesians 4:1-16)
Sept 4 Speaking Truth (Ephesians 4:25-5:2)
Sept 11 Giving Thanks (Ephesians 5)
Sept 18 Armored (Ephesians 6)  

Blessings in Christ,

Let's build It Together

The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them. (Nehemiah 3:2)

One of the books of the Bible that has spoken to me most during this time of ongoing transition during the last two years is Nehemiah. The story of how Nehemiah asked to return to Jerusalem to rebuild after the Babylonian exile contains many lessons for all of us as we rebuild after our exile.

Chapter 3 is one of those chapters in Nehemiah that consists largely of unpronounceable names and long-forgotten people! It can be discouraging to come to a chapter like this and not recognize any of the names. But it tells the story of the work of repairing the gates and walls of Jerusalem that Nehemiah had been sent there to do.

The basic thing Chapter 3 tells us is that they all worked together. All through this account, you will find the phrase “next to him worked” so and so, and “next to them worked” others. Some of them worked more, others less, and, unfortunately, some did not work at all. They helped one another. Nehemiah had so marvelously organized this project that each one had a section of the wall or a gate assigned to him.

We also notice they worked near their home. Look at verse 10: Jedaiah made repairs opposite his house. Verse 23 tells of certain men who made repairs in front of their house. The important truth that emerges is that this is God's design for ministry. God has placed us all strategically where God wants us to be. Your neighborhood, office, or home is where your ministry should be as a follower Christ. That is why God put you there.

And then there is also where God has strategically placed you to be in the church community, too. God has sent you to Nolensville First to do something as God as sent me here, as well.  In John 15, Jesus said to His disciples that He had appointed them, and the word means strategically placed them. He had put them in the place where He wanted them to be. This is brought out beautifully in Nehemiah as we watch these people laboring in their own neighborhood.

One commentator has said: God is a great believer in putting names down. That is true. There are many chapters like this in the Scriptures. But that should really encourage us. It means that God has not forgotten our names either.

The central teaching of this chapter is that in putting lives back together, we need and must seek help from each other. This is a great chapter about cooperation. It illustrates the New Testament truth concerning the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12,  among others, teach that believers in Christ are part of a worldwide body, made up of many members. We belong to each other, and so we are to help one another and bear one another's burdens. This is portrayed in a very dramatic way throughout this chapter.

We learn from the New Testament that there are two things you cannot say any longer when you become a Christian. The first is, You do not need me. Everyone in the body of Christ needs everyone else. The second is, I do not need you. You and I do need others! It is the awareness of that truth that makes a church a living, warm, vital, and loving fellowship.

In the summoning of the people of Jerusalem to rebuild their walls and their gates, we learn that all the people were involved in the project. That portrays for us an important principle of the New Testament: that the ministry of the church belongs to everyone in the congregation. I do not know any truth more important for the accomplishing of God's work than that.

Susan, Hannah, and I look forward to being fully present in our ministry together as we move into the parsonage on July 6 & 7 after having traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the National Holstein Convention where Susan has been a leader for years (black and white dairy cows have always been a major part of Susan’s life.) 

There is something for everyone to do as we prepare for our last major opportunity this summer to reach out to our Nolensville community this month for Vacation Bible School. And getting ready to get back to everything in the fall. When we work together, we can accomplish amazing things that bring glory and praise to God’s name and continue to build the kingdom of God here on earth. Let’s build it one block at a time — together. 

Rev. Jeremy Squires,

The Apostles' Essentials

The Apostles’ Essentials

Greetings and the grace of God be with you all! 

This year, the first Sunday in June is Pentecost where we remember the Holy Spirit’s powerful presence coming down the on Apostles as tongues of fire. They have been trying to figure out what to do after Jesus’ death, His 40 days appearing among them, and now ascending back to heaven. Then emboldened by the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches and those who accepted his message were 3,000 that day. The Church had begun and it says in Acts 2:42 that the fellowship of the believers:

...devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

I love this insight into the life of the earliest church. And I believe it has a lot to teach us about being the church. Obviously, the circumstances are different between this early church in Jerusalem and the one that you and I are a part of. Not many churches go from 120 members to over 3000 in a single day. And no other church has had as many members who had physically followed Jesus, absorbing all He had to say and do, for up to three years. But what this verse records them as doing is something that I believe all of us at Nolensville First could benefit from and that is what we are wrapping our time around on Sunday mornings this summer. We are going back to the basics of what it means to be the church at its beginning. Acts 2:42 says they were devoted to:

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to prayer. For us today, the apostles’ teaching is found in the New Testament. There is no substitute to spending time together in Bible study and in prayer. We should be taking every opportunity to gather together to hear what God has to say in the Word and to commune and be in conversation with God in prayer. We should be excited about the opportunity to meet with God.

The other thing they did was spend time together, fellowshipping and eating together. They met together in large groups in the temple courts, and in small groups in homes. And they spent time together gathered around the Lord’s table, breaking bread. They were living the two greatest commandments, loving God and loving others.

While you can identify many other things that a church should be doing, I am not sure how effective they will be without these four. That may look different from church to church. And after all that we have been through over the last couple of years, I have found that when we get back to basics and remember what it is like to be a church community God can do amazing things through us. And when God’s people love spending time with God and with each other, good things are bound to happen. At the end of Acts 2 in verse 47 it says:

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

May that be our prayer, too, in our days to come of gathering as a church community. 

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Jeremy T. Squires

God sees you. God knows you. God loves you.

We are discovering right now in our Easter season sermon series that the ultimate longing of every human is to be seen, known, and loved. That is it. That is what we want and what we need. We need to know that there is someone out there who knows the real us, understands why we are the way we are and accepts us and all our imperfections.

We see it talked about in Psalm 139: God’s love story about how deep God’s love is for each one of us. We see it in different translations:

You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. (NIV)
Lord, You know everything there is to know about me. (Passion Translation)
O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. (NLT)
O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am. (The Voice)
Lord, You have examined me. You know me. (CEB)
(Psalm 139:1)

The writer of the Psalm is in awe of God. The God who sees, searches, examines, explores, and knows us, who marvels over our faces, our gifts, and our beauty. It might be hard for you to believe that, to imagine someone looking in love at all the mess we see in our lives. But, that one truth is fundamental to believing anything else at all about the love of God: That God sees us and knows us and loves us. 

Why do we crave to be seen, known, and loved? Well, God has designed each one of us to desire a relationship with our Creator, the One who knows us completely and loves us unconditionally. In Psalm 139:1-3, David shared his realization of the way God sees, knows, and loves God’s children: 

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off, You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

Look at what God does in these verses:

God searches and knows us. God understands us.

God is familiar with our ways. God completely gets what we say. 

There is no person on earth who can know us as God does, see us like God does, or loves us as God does. Just look at how much God cares as David describes in Psalm 139:17-18:

How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.

There is not a moment when God forgets us. God is never too busy to look our way. We never have to fear that God does not see or know us.

And then, on those days when you find yourself thinking: you do not matter and do not make a difference, remember, all you have to do is look to God. Rest in God’s deeper knowledge of who you are, how you feel, and what you need. When others don’t understand what you say, trust that God does. When you feel left out, concentrate on the love of God that brings you closer to God.

Then take the following three truths and plant them deep in the core of your being:

God sees you.   God knows you.   God loves you. 

Blessings in Christ, 

Rev. Jeremy Squires

What Is Holy Week?

What Is Holy Week?

We will soon enter Holy Week. In one sense, there is nothing special about “Holy Week.” For most people in the world, it is just another eight days each spring. But not for the faithful who are followers of Christ.

We have no mandate from Jesus or His apostles to mark these days for any particular observance. Celebrating Holy Week is not an obligation, but it is an opportunity. It is a chance to walk with Jesus down the Via Dolorosa (the way of sorrow and suffering) through the most important week in the history of the world. It is a chance to focus our minds on what gift was given to us and what was the price of that gift that we celebrate on Easter.

Holy Week and those events that happened in the life of our Savior are a major part of the New Testament. In fact, the final eight of Matthew’s 28 chapters are given to this one week, along with the last six of Mark’s and the final six of Luke’s. And in John’s Gospel, the essential half, ten of 21 chapters, focus on the final week of our Lord’s life, His betrayal, His trials, His crucifixion, and His triumphant resurrection.

So I would invite you to seize the possibilities of these last days of Lent. I ask you to consider how you might make the most of this week? These are some of the darkest and brightest days in the history of the world. In the chaos of our increasingly fast-paced and hectic society, Holy Week is a reminder to pause and ponder, to carefully mark each day, and not let this greatest of all weeks get lost like every other.

Perhaps pick a time each day — alone or with your family or small group — to slow down and savor what was happening during what we call the Passion week. Consider reading through a Holy Week devotional (there are many online and right at your fingertips on your phone) — or read one (or a couple) of the Passion narratives from the Gospels: Matthew 21–28, Mark 11–16, Luke 19–24, and John 12–21.

Block out several minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit. Seek to quiet your soul, and pray that God would meet you in the events and significance of this week. And spend a few moments in prayer after you read each one of these accounts. 

Then come out and join us for the start of Holy Week on April 10 with Palm/Passion Sunday when we begin the greatest story ever told once again. And later that week on April 14 for Maundy Thursday where we remember the Last Supper and the new commandment that Jesus gave to His disciples. And then on April 15 for one of the most powerful nights of the year: Good Friday and Tenebrae (a Service of Shadows).

One author suggests if you would like a specific biblical text to serve as a prayer focus for this week, try that God would make this prayer of Ephesians 3:16-9 increasingly true of us this Holy Week:

...that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Jesus’s step-by-step journey to Golgotha is a glowing revelation of the extent of His love. And in going all the way to the cross with Him, with every bruise, every puncture, and throb and stab of pain it is that we see most profoundly how deep the Father’s love for us. Romans 5:8 reminds us “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

May God use this week and beyond as an opportunity for you to be newly grounded in the love of Christ, remembering from the resolve of Palm Sunday to the goodbye and greatest commandment of Maundy Thursday, to the ultimate sacrifice of Good Friday, and finally to the triumph of Easter Sunday. And may you, as we are praying and focusing on Easter with Love Never Fails, know the love of Christ, in all its breadth and length and height and depth — and wonder upon wonder, be filled with all the fullness of God.

Blessings in Christ, 

Rev. Jeremy Squires

Our mission is to be a neighborhood church where people experience a life-changing relationship with Jesus in a welcoming church family empowered to go and serve the world.