Exploring new places and interesting people is a very exciting thing. During the pandemic lockdowns, many of us longed to get out and see something … anything … new and different. I can remember the thrill of watching new programs like Wandavision on Disney+. The concept, the storyline, and the setting were a breath of fresh air every week, and gave me an hour of respite from the housebound constriction of life indoors. My mind was able to go to new places and it lifted me up.

Today we will embark on an exploration on a familiar topic: the Holy Spirit. When you focus your reading on just that one subject, you will begin to notice things that may have easily been overlooked in previous studies. As you read this story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, look just at the references to the Holy Spirit and take your focus away from the impending arrival of John the Baptizer. Reading it this way will give us clues about the nature of our triune God:

Luke 1 (Common English Bible)

One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. 10 All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering.11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.

13 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. 

Clue number one: the Holy Spirit was upon John at his conception. What does this tell us about the activity of God? That God is present at the moment we are conceived, giving us every good gift we will need for the rest of our lives.

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? These are abilities that are born in you and should be used to serve God. Not everyone has your compassion! Not everyone has a desire to be welcoming and hospitable! Not everyone can sit in a finance committee meeting without falling asleep! (Guilty!) The things that you are “just naturally good at doing” are gifts of the Spirit.

Now we see what the Holy Spirit intended to do in John:

16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. 

Surely the work of the Holy Spirit includes reclaiming those who had fallen away from worshipping the Lord. This is an important message today! Many of us began to worship online at the beginning of the pandemic when churches were closed. We found ourselves worshipping from the comfort of our couch and pajamas. Then we began to just worship the comfort of our couches and forgot to tune in. Suddenly weeks had passed, and the habit of connecting with our church faded away.

He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

This insight into the activity of the Spirit of God announced God’s intention for all his children. This Spirit, present in both the Old and New Testaments, is given to us to turn our hearts back to God and our families, and confronts our disobedient behavior. This Spirit draws us back to right thinking. This Spirit works to make us ready for a relationship with God.

What is the Holy Spirit telling you today? Have you put your need to worship on a back burner? Has laziness overtaken you? Are you being nudged to change your behavior? Is God calling you to do something new with your time?

May the Spirit convict us all of our need for God’s righteousness and align our thinking with Christ.

PS I will be taking a brief sabbatical for the next two weeks, and I have scheduled devotions to upload on their normal days. They will appear on my website and the At Water’s Edge Facebook and Twitter pages. But I won’t be able to share them on Facebook as I usually do. How can you help? You can share them on your page! As they say, sharing is caring! Thank you for your support and your love of Scripture. See ya real soon!

New Day Sunshine by Michelle Robertson

Just Do It

I am getting ready to lead a training in my District for people who volunteer their time and their talent to serve on their church’s Staff Parish Relations Committee. This committee basically serves as the Human Resources group in the church. They are responsible for hiring, firing, evaluating, and supporting the paid employees of the church, including the appointed pastor. It is delicate work. It is important work. It is often painful work. All of our committees are equally important, and it takes a certain skillset to serve on each one.

Those who serve on Staff Parish Relations are usually gifted in administration, leadership, compassion, and faith. It can be one of the hardest committees to serve on, and I am so grateful for each person who answers the call to be part of this group.

We understand that God has gifted us with unique and individual abilities so that when we come together as the Body of Christ, we function well as a whole. Paul gave an excellent breakdown of the gifts that God imparts to each person in order that the whole might benefit:

1 Corinthians 12 (Common English Bible)

12 Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. You know that when you were Gentiles you were often misled by false gods that can’t even speak. So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, “Jesus is cursed!” when speaking by God’s Spirit, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

 There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

What is your spiritual gift? Are you using it to serve the Lord? Just as it is important to volunteer in an area where you have an affinity for that kind of work, it is also important to recognize places where you aren’t gifted, and say no when asked to volunteer. I once knew a man who served on the Finance Committee until he revealed that he never filled out an estimate of giving card and he gave his offering according to how much he liked the sermon. The spiritual gifts that this man lacked were faith and generosity. He voted down every budget the Administrative Committee proposed and had no business leading the church’s financial efforts. He wasn’t a bad fellow, but he was just not suited for that particular work in the church.

I hope and pray that you are serving God with your gifts in places were you are suited to work. Perhaps 2022 can be the year that you put your talents to work for the Kingdom. Do you like to sing? Join the choir. Do believe in the mission of your church? Volunteer for your Administrative Council. Are you a good, empathetic listener? Join the Care Team. Is holding babies your jam? Become a nursery volunteer so that tired parents can worship.

When you serve in areas where you are called, not only will you bless others, but you will be blessed!

BTW, check out this great post by my friend Shannon on the Imposter Syndrome.

Starfish and Paw Prints by Stacey Hanf


Have you ever engaged in a pursuit that you discovered was absolutely pointless after awhile? I have had projects that I had to abandon because I realized I was not suited to the task. Sometimes these experiences are life lessons about trying to do something outside of your natural skill set, also known as “spiritual gifts.” Learning about your own giftedness is a good exercise for everyone, and spiritual gift inventories are easy to find online. I know a fellow who has a significant job helping run a major corporation, and spends his Sundays working in Children’s Ministry. While he is perfectly capable of running any of the administrative functions of the church (and has, on occasion), the one place of serving that brings him joy is working with the kids. He is an incredible blessing to his church! When you work and serve in places that make you feel content, you know you are working in the place to which you’ve been called. If there is no satisfaction, it may be time to move on.

Psalm 127 comes along as a reminder that we must follow the Lord’s leading when it comes to many things: building a house (or church, or family), guarding a city (or church, or family), and doing hard labor (for the church, or for the family).

Psalm 127 (Common English Bible)

Unless it is the Lord who builds the house,
    the builders’ work is pointless.
Unless it is the Lord who protects the city,
    the guard on duty is pointless.
It is pointless that you get up early and stay up late,
    eating the bread of hard labor
    because God gives sleep to those he loves.

No doubt about it: children are a gift from the Lord;
    the fruit of the womb is a divine reward.
The children born when one is young
    are like arrows in the hand of a warrior.
The person who fills a quiver full with them is truly happy!
    They won’t be ashamed when arguing with their enemies in the gate.

I want to interject my thoughts on the second paragraph. I don’t think the psalmist means to say that ONLY by having children can you be truly happy. We know that is not the case. Many couples can’t or choose not to have children and are perfectly content with their lives. Having a child is not a guaranteed blessing when they are born into extreme circumstances. Indeed, Paul counsels against even getting married so as to not have distractions from following Jesus. (1 Corinthians 7).

But in those situations where children are wanted and welcomed, children are a gift from the Lord and a continued blessing for those who are called to be parents.

Are you laboring in vain right now with a task that has brought you no joy? Are you volunteering in an area that is wearing you out rather than lifting you up? If the Lord hasn’t called you to it, you are laboring in vain. Think about that, and perhaps take a spiritual gifts test to see where God wants you to serve.

God never calls us to a pointless mission … thanks be to God!

Spiritual Gifts Test

Breaking Dawn by Michelle Robertson

As One

Both the Old and New Testaments have a lot to say on the subject of unity. A study of this topic reveals that it is part of God’s design for his creation that his people will live together in harmony. He designed us to need each other. When you explore spiritual gifts as outlined in Romans 12, you can see his big plan…each one of us is a part of a greater whole. Each must do his part for the entire body to function well. This requires that we work together toward the mission that God has given us.

God also made each one of us to be unique. Our diversity can be our greatest strength, yet it is often our diversity that tears us apart. Free will affords us the opportunity to think differently, read differently, interpret differently, respond differently, and form different opinions and passions than our fellow believers.

Many think that in our current culture, unity is impossible to achieve. I disagree.

My cockeyed optimism leads me to hope that we can celebrate our differences as we work toward a mutual goal. Sometimes that requires people to focus on the singular mission and lay down the differences that separate us.

Other times that requires a clean and healthy separation of groups so that different-leaning sides might each prosper toward the singular goal, in a “divide and conquer” kind of way.

Psalm 133 elevates the unity of families. Living together as one is likened to expensive oil lavished upon a leader’s head…so lavish that it drips even down to the collar.

Psalm 133 (Common English Bible)

Look at how good and pleasing it is
    when families live together as one!
It is like expensive oil poured over the head,
    running down onto the beard—
        Aaron’s beard!—
    which extended over the collar of his robes.

This ability to live together as one is as pleasing as a refreshing dew streaming on a mountain, and forecasts the blessing of eternal life.

It is like the dew on Mount Hermon
    streaming down onto the mountains of Zion,
    because it is there that the Lord has commanded the blessing:
        everlasting life.

Living together as one does not imply robotic thinking of a singular hive-mentality. It is presumed that within the camp there will be different needs, different graces, different opinions, and different abilities. But when the families commit to finding the oneness of a common goal, it is pleasing and good.

All believers share a common goal: to proclaim Christ crucified. Every camp is called to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We are all tasked with baptizing, teaching his commandments, and telling everything we know about his salvation.

God so loved the WORLD (in all of its diversity) that he gave his only Son. That is our story and our mission. May we learn to set our differences aside as we focus on the unity of our calling.

That the World Through Him Might be Saved by Michelle Robertson

Essential Work

I have complete and total admiration for the parents who became overnight homeschool teachers when schools were closed all over the world due to the pandemic. My hat is off to you. To quote the Brits, I am gobsmacked! I can’t begin to fathom what it is like to sit at your dining room table, trying to complete your own work from home, and teach your children coursework that normally requires well-educated, highly trained professionals. My kids are grown now, but they would have been LOST. Not so much with the English, history, and social studies classes, but can we talk about math? Good Lord. Today’s math would have toppled me. I don’t think I could get past about 2nd grade math with a child. And I am being generous with myself.

Each of us has different gifts, given to us by God at our conception. I do well with words. My friend Greta is an amazing painter. Wende is a math wizard. (I would have needed her to FaceTime with my kids every day if she ever wanted to see me alive again.) Carol is a suburb musician. Everybody has something they are good at doing. We call these abilities spiritual gifts.

What are you good at doing? Do you use that ability to serve God in some way? What is your special spiritual gift?

1 Corinthians 12 (Contemporary English Version)

Now I want you to know that if you are led by God’s Spirit, you will say that Jesus is Lord, and you will never curse Jesus.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.

Many of you have a gift of giving. You are the ones taking casseroles around to people who need help. Others have a listening ear and offer compassion easily. Some build, some plan, some speak, some heal. When we pool our gifts together, we make our community stronger.

The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. Some of us can speak with wisdom, while others can speak with knowledge, but these gifts come from the same Spirit. To others the Spirit has given great faith or the power to heal the sick 10 or the power to work mighty miracles. Some of us are prophets, and some of us recognize when God’s Spirit is present. Others can speak different kinds of languages, and still others can tell what these languages mean. 11 But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us.

The pandemic has brought a new phrase to our society. We all know what it means to be an ”essential worker.“

Did you realize that in the Body of Christ, YOU are an essential worker? We can’t do this without you.

12 The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. 13 Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.

Take what you are good at doing and offer it in God’s service today. When we drink from that same Spirit of God, all are refreshed and renewed. God has already equipped you to employ your gift in his service. What are you waiting for? Somebody out there needs help with their math.

School’s Out for Summer by Carol Riggin