In Mark 4:3-8 Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who was planting some seeds. In Mark 4:14-20 he explained what it meant. He described four scenarios where the seed symbolises the good news about Jesus and the ground represents different types of people.
What kind of ground are you? Do you get dragged to church each week and sit there doing your best grumpy cat impersonation? Did you accept Jesus but got discouraged when life got difficult? Do you go to church on Sunday but live like the world for the rest of the week? Or are you good dirt? Do you read your Bible, love going to church and worshipping God, do you pray, are generous and serve others and tell them the Good News?
In Mark 4:8 Jesus said, But other seeds were planted on good ground, sprouted, and produced thirty, sixty, or one hundred times as much as was planted. Be good dirt and live a fruitful life serving Jesus!
The second part of 1 Corinthians 8 says, the same Spirit gives another the ability to speak with knowledge. Knowledge and wisdom are listed as two separate gifts. The Bible doesn't give us a clear definition of the gift of knowledge but I will attempt to make sense of it.
HELPS—Word Studies defines the original Greek word as 'functional ("working") knowledge gleaned from first-hand (personal) experience.' It's a bit like saying, 'I know about gravity because I fell out of a tree when I was six.' I know about it because I experienced it. I think that it's similar to someone having the gift of knowledge—they know because they have experienced it. Many people know that God loves them, but it's just a head knowledge. Other people have experienced his love in a powerful way and it has moved from being a head knowledge to a heart knowledge. The Holy Spirit gives us this knowledge, you can't learn it.
Here's another illustration. If you haven't seen snow you can still know about it—you know that it's white and cold, you could even imagine what it feels like. But if you have stood in the snow, touched and tasted it, you know about snow on a whole other level.
In my understanding, the gift of knowledge is linked to our experiences as the Holy Spirit helps us to understand them. It gives us a new perspective. Some people have the gift of seeing things from a God point of view, instead of a human point of view—I think that is part of the gift of knowledge. Hope that makes sense.
In 1 Corinthians 12:8 Paul says, The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom (Easy-to-Read Version). Here is verse 8 in several other versions:
To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice (Living Bible).
To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom (New International Version).
Some of us can speak with wisdom (Contemporary English Version).
The original Greek word for wisdom is sophia which translates to the 'art of using wisdom' or 'affection for wisdom' (HELPS Word Studies). Giftstest.com defines the gift of wisdom as 'the divine strength or ability to understand and to bring clarity to situations and circumstances often through applying the truths of Scripture in a practical way.' Put simply, the gift of wisdom is being able to understand and apply the Bible to everyday life.
Even though Jesus didn't appear until the New Testament, the entire Old Testament points to him. Colossians 2:3 says, God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ (Names of God). Christ crucified and risen is the wisdom of God. The gift of wisdom comes from the Spirit—no about of Bible study or theological studies can give you this wisdom, only God can.
As you reflect on this, can you think of someone that you consider to be wise? Do you know someone who understands the Bible and can explain it clearly?
John 6:35 says, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. A bit of context to this verse—Jesus had just fed 5000 people. Even though he had just fed them the night before, they were hungry again. I don't know if you have ever had to fast before a medical procedure or blood test, it doesn't take very long for your tummy to start growling and the hunger pains to set in. Jesus told the people, Don’t work for food that spoils. Work for food that gives eternal life (John 6:27). In New Testament times there was no canned food or refrigeration. Food had to be eaten fresh or be salted and dried to preserve it. Unlike literal food, Jesus lasts forever.
The bread of life that Jesus was talking about wasn't literal bread. He was referring to Spiritual food. He left his Holy Spirit and his Word, the Bible, for us - this is our spiritual food. Just like you have to eat literal food regularly, you have to eat spiritual food regularly too. This includes, but is not limited to, reading, studying and memorising the Bible, talking to God in prayer, fasting, worshipping, serving etc. How is your spiritual diet going? Are you malnourished? Jesus promises that you will be satisfied if you come to him.
Paul talks about the Spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (emphasis is mine)
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
There is a lot of controversy and confusion over the Spiritual Gifts. I don't pretend to have all the answers but we will have a look at them over the next few months. The important take-away from this passage is that God gives us gifts and equips us to help each other. You don't have to know which gifts you have to start serving—just start serving. Do you have any clue about what your gifts are? Stay tuned for more.
The Bible is like a torch. Psalm 119:105 says, Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take. Have you ever been walking around in the dark and stubbed your toe or tripped over something? It’s hazardous because you can’t see where you’re going. Life can be like that - there are so many things that can trip you up. The Bible is like a torch that helps you navigate a safe way through the hazards.
Galatians 5:19-21 warns us about some of life's hazards. The result of sin’s control in our lives is clear. It includes sexual immorality, impurity and wild living, worshiping false gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, having envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like this.
There are similar verses in Colossians 3:5-9, Romans 13:13, and Ephesians 5:3.
Galatians 5:22-23 shows us the way we should go, But the Spirit gives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
You can find similar verses in Colossians 3:12-14, 1 Timothy 6:11, and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18.
Are you using your Bible to help show you the way to go?
In 2 Kings 6, the prophet Elisha had been warning the King of Israel of his enemy's plans which had been revealed to him by God. The King of Syria (his enemy) was pretty upset about this and sent his soldiers to deal with Elisha. Verse 14 says he sent horses, chariots and a large army which seems overkill to capture one man. They surrounded the city where he was living. 2 Kings 6:15-17 says,
Early the next morning Elisha's servant got up, went out of the house, and saw the Syrian troops with their horses and chariots surrounding the town. He went back to Elisha and exclaimed, “We are doomed, sir! What shall we do?”
“Don't be afraid,” Elisha answered. “We have more on our side than they have on theirs.” Then he prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord answered his prayer, and Elisha's servant looked up and saw the hillside covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
The short version of the rest of the story is that Elisha prayed that God would make the men blind (which he did). Then in true Star Wars fashion he told them, 'You are on the wrong road; this is not the town you are looking for' (watch Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, if you don't know what I'm talking about). He led them into the city and asked God to open their eyes. Instead of killing them, they gave them something to eat and sent them back to the King of Syria. They stopped trying to invade Israel after that.
God reminded me of this story while I was on my morning walk on Boxing Day. Life can seem overwhelming when we look at it through our human eyes. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic, people get sick, some are unkind, many struggle with mental health concerns and other bad stuff happens on a daily basis. It's easy to be overwhelmed and lose hope. But Elisha prayed that God would open his spiritual eyes then he was able to see that even though they were surrounded by a hostile army, God's army was greater. 1 John 4:4 says, God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world.
Despite all the bad things that are happening in the world, God is still good. He is working, even if we can't always see it. I pray that God would open your spiritual eyes and you would see how God is working in your life and in the world.
You are an important part of the Christmas story because God sent Jesus to die for you. Christmas has become all about gifts, but the Bible talks about different kinds of gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:4-10 talks about the Spiritual gifts (I have added the emphasis).
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve, but we serve the same Lord. And there are different ways that God works in people, but it is the same God who works in all of us to do everything. Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person. The Spirit gives this to each one to help others. The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak with wisdom. And the same Spirit gives another person the ability to speak with knowledge. The same Spirit gives faith to one person and to another he gives gifts of healing. The Spirit gives to one person the power to do miracles, to another the ability to prophesy, and to another the ability to judge what is from the Spirit and what is not. The Spirit gives one person the ability to speak in different kinds of languages, and to another the ability to interpret those languages.
Gift giving at Christmas is usually reciprocal—you give someone a gift and they give you one. God gave you the gift of his Son, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The least you can do is to serve him with the gifts he has blessed you with. If you don't know what your spiritual gifts are yet, don't panic. You can start by loving and serving others. There are questionnaires that you can do to work out your spiritual gifts are. There are more spiritual gifts than those listed in 1 Corinthians. Perhaps we will look at some of them in the New Year.
Jesus is the reason for the season!
1 John 4:9
God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him.
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place. He calls us to love others like Jesus loves us—that's a lot. How can you show love to your family, friends, strangers and even your enemies this Christmas? Smile at strangers, give compliments, help (before you're asked), share your money and things, be generous with your time and attention.
Short and sweet inspirations for Christian teen girls.