Being who we were created to be


So this week Pastor Rich and Pastor Rudy co-preached a sermon for Easter Sunday as we had a bi-lingual service.  It was a great thing to experience and be a part of.  And although I really don’t understand a lick of Spanish, I am proud to be a part of a congregation that uses the gifts and talents of its people and is trying to reach out more than one people group.

In a way that is what the sermon was about too.  It was stated in the sermon that our lives are filled with meaning and what we do in this life is important to God.  I believe this to be 100% true.

mattGod has given us each talents, gifts, hobbies, things we enjoy and more…and he wants us to use all of that to the best of our ability.  We are created as unique individuals.  God wants us to enjoy this life and bless others while doing so.  Even the things that seem minor to us, sometimes God can use them when least expected.

I experienced that this week.  I was able to go to the Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game yesterday.  As a CRAZY-WACKO SPORTS FANATIC it was awesome to say the least.  Sports is a hobby for me.  It is something I enjoy to the fullest.  Although I am not sure what role God played in making me like this, if any at all, I do believe that He can use it for His glory.

As we were driving to the arena one of the people in the car, all of whom knew I was a Christian, looked over at me and asked if I could pray for a family member of theirs.  I won’t mention the details due to the fact that it was asked to be kept private.  I was a bit shocked at first, then realized how cool of an opportunity that was.  I listened, I affirmed their thoughts, and I agreed to pray for them and the family.  The point being is that having the chance to bless someone else and glorify God in the process can come in the least likely of places and through the oddest of avenues.  My love of sports and being who God created me to be provided that opportunity to be used by God.

Are lives are filled with meaning and even the little things we do are important to God.  Enjoying our life now is a good thing.  God cares about it and so should we.  Because of the Resurrection we have a purpose.  Without it our lives as believers would be a meaningless existence.  Because Christ came back from the dead, we now have a reason to carry on.  That reason is to share the gospel.

We are to share that good news with everyone we know.  It may appear in small forms.  It may take time.  It may be just planting seeds.  But even a prayer for a family member of someone may brighten up their day and they may come to realize that their life has value too.  And maybe even if we enjoy the little things like our hobbies, it will allow the Holy Spirit to use us in ways we never thought possible.


Welcoming Prophetic Preaching


This past week, Rich Hagopian preached on I Corinthians 14:1-25.  I was challenged by his take away point of, are we exercising our gifts to encourage, strengthen and comfort others such that people who encounter our congregation say, “God is among you.” In particular, Rich emphasized that we are an “embodied word” people who through our gifts of helps, compassion and other forms of service, live out the truth of the gospel. We tend be a people who do the truth, rather than talk about it, which is probably a good place for someone who is like me to be. In an academic world like Ohio State, we can often think that to simply talk about something or even to think right about it is enough. But talk doesn’t feed the hungry or comfort and heal the sick or provide transportation to those who need it.

Bob Trube2At the same time, I was struck by some of Rich’s earlier comments on the nature of prophetic speech as “forthtelling” and how this is a form of speaking God’s word that lays bare the secrets of our hearts, that brings conviction of where we’ve missed the mark, and that even expands the church as those who do not believe hear a word from God in a compelling way. In some circles, this is called going from preaching to meddling!

I hear lots of messages in my work. It is easy to get into a “been there, heard that” mindset. One of the things I’ve appreciated about Rich (and others who preach at Smoky Row) is that it is apparent that he has sought to really listen to the text to hear what God is saying for our congregation. I am surprised by how many times on a Sunday I am surprised by new insights and challenges Rich brings to us. I’ve found I have to go home and do business with God. Sometimes I’ve found myself chewing on things all week. I think we see in such preaching a “prophetic” element.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:1 encourages the church to desire this gift. One of the things I wonder is whether part of desiring such a gift is welcoming its expression, which means welcoming the Spirit of God to meddle in our lives through the preached word! In the African-American church tradition, it is thought that the effectiveness of the sermon is as much the congregation’s responsibility as the preacher’s. Here are a few of my thoughts of what it might mean for us to desire and welcome prophetic preaching in our midst:

1. It means we pray for whoever is preaching, for their preparation, for their protection from attack and distraction, and that God would make clear to them His word for us. It seems this is something to pray for whenever we pray for our church.

2. It means praying for ourselves, that we would have open ears and tender hearts and enlightened minds to receive what God has for us. It might mean that on Saturday night or Sunday morning we spend time asking the Lord to help us with this.

3. Sermon time can often be day-dream time (or even nap time–true confessions!) for me. What do I need to do to come attentive to hear what God might say through the message? Maybe it means getting adequate sleep. I’ve started using the outlines to take notes–that helps me listen. For others that could be a distraction.

4. The other issue for me is whether I keep reflecting, keep thinking about what I’ve heard after Sunday morning. Re-reading the scripture text and going online to read or listen to the sermon again can help. Reading (and writing!) these posts can help. Our “going deeper” discussions in life groups are especially important in becoming accountable to each other for what God is saying.

It strikes me that God will likely not give what we don’t welcome. In our welcome of prophetic preaching, we also position ourselves to be a community where others may say, “God is among you.”

“Spirit-Given” Gifts


This past Sunday (message link here), our pastor observed that when we speak of “spiritual gifts” we really are speaking of Spirit-given gifts. That is one of the points Paul makes in his teaching on gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. One Spirit gives gifts to all followers of Christ.

Bob Trube2I thought this was a helpful observation for several reasons:

1. As Rich mentioned, “spiritual” in our culture can mean anything and everything and some of our associations don’t mean what the apostle meant.

2. “Spiritual gifts” may sound like gifts that inhabit some vaguely spiritual part of our lives. “Spirit-given” gifts remind us that these gifts originate in God and not in us.

3. “Spirit-given” gifts are actually gifts expressed through bodily actions like speaking or administering, or caring for physical needs of others. They don’t exist in some vague, ethereal realm but their expression is just as real as baking, writing software, snow-plowing, or painting.

4. “Spirit-given” provokes the question “why”. We might be inclined to just “have” spiritual gifts but when you are entrusted with something you have to ask why it was given to you. Paul makes it clear that these are given to each for the good of all. We can’t keep them to ourselves.

The question for most of us is discovering what gifts we have been given. The SHAPE guide is one way to get at this. Along with this, I’ve found two other ways many people discover their gifts One is when we see something that needs said or done that is patently obvious to us and no one else seems to step forward. What is obvious to us is not always obvious to others and this may be a sign of God’s gifting. On the other hand, sometimes others see what we can’t and one of the gifts we give each other is affirming the gifts we see in another.

What both have in common is throwing ourselves into the life of our community. We may find ourselves doing things we never thought we were capable of, which in fact are “Spirit-given”. Someone recently shared that the “sweet spot” in life is where God’s call and gifting on us, our passions, and the world’s needs meet. Here’s to living in the “sweet spot”!