My wife, Donna, and I are in an interesting time in our lives. She is retired after decades of work as a teacher and reading specialist. I am trying to lead the,, and as well as doing interim ministry with a great church (the North Davis Church in Arlington, Texas) and a great team, Interim Ministry Partners. Plus, we are trying to keep up with aging parents, busy grandchildren, responsible grown children, children in the faith scattered around the world, and friends we love in several places.

Life is exciting, busy, and a bit confusing. However, my only requirements are to be able to have a good Internet connection, to be close to an airport where I can get places the Lord wants to send me, and have time with Donna. We love our house and our friends, but want to be closer to kids and grandkids. We are not sure what to do — stay or move?

For now, we are staying. That means keeping things going in our house. We love the house, but it's nearly 20 years old. That means we are replacing and fixing a few things regularly. Being a mediocre handy man by nature, I have intentionally tried to pick up some tools and tricks of the trade over the years.*

Doing the handyman jobs well is dependent upon having the right tools, a little experience, and learning a few little techniques! Since I've been around awhile and had good friends who were carpenters, I've accumulated a bunch of tools and several helpful techniques — fixing sheet rock, repairing fascia, light plumbing repairs, putting in a GFCI plug, replacing broken sprinkler system sprinklers...

Life in the church is a lot like handy man work. God uses our natural strengths, our insights from experience, and our Spirit-given gifts to fashion us into a special tool in "The Master's SIGnature Toolset" to be used for his kingdom work.** When each tool is used to do the Master Carpenter's work, then the church is built into something special where the Father's work is done in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

For this to happen, we must first offer ourselves to the Master Carpenter to be the willing tools in his hands (Romans 12:1-2). Yet far too often, three distortions about spiritual gifts keep us from offering ourselves fully to the Lord to be used in the Master's hands to do the Master's work.

First, despite all that the Scriptures tell us about how precious we are to the Father and how each of us is gifted to bless the Lord's people and do the Lord's work, many of us doubt our value and importance. Our adversary, the devil, will do everything he can to make us think that we have nothing to offer. He will remind us of every slip, stumble, and sin to make us feel inadequate and unworthy. However, the Lord has repeatedly told us that we are precious to him — "holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault" (Colossians 1:22 NLT) — and even when we do slip, stumble and fall, he can forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:5-10) and use the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to prepare us to be "thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Second, we can spend so much time trying to discover what our spiritual gift is — we fret and fuss trying to figure out exactly what kind of tool we are — that we never get around to being used to do any kingdom work. So here is an interesting reminder about using our spiritual gifts: we are never told to discover our spiritual gift. Instead, we are told to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices and then serve as we are given the opportunity (Romans 12:1-2). So if you are not sure what your gift is, try different ministry opportunities while intentionally offering yourself to the Master as a tool of honor "useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Timothy 2:20-21). The Spirit will make sure you are used and ultimately find the place you can best serve. The key is to offer yourself as a tool in the hand of the Carpenter!

Third, we can get so caught up in what gift is most important, or seeking a different gift we think is important, that we spend all our time arguing with others or with God about our gift. The Corinthians had turned spiritual gifts into a colossal mess because of this distortion of the Master's purpose. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the Master decides what kind of tool we are and how we will be used to bless his people:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

The key is to allow God to use us to bless our brothers and sisters in Christ, build up his people, and bring honor and glory to Jesus (1 Corinthians 14:12).

So let's offer ourselves to God to be used in Jesus' expert hands as a key tool in The Master Carpenter's toolset. When we do, the Lord uses us as he sees fit and his church is blessed and built up and we find ourselves useful to The Master Carpenter!

The Father longs to fashion us into a special tool in The Master's SIGnature Toolset.

* For example: So you need to move the striker plate on the door back 1/4 of an inch for a new lock and a tighter door seal? And you're worried the new holes are too close to the old holes for the screws to hold? Easy! A sharp drill bit, a little wood glue, a sharp knife, a box of wood matches, a box of toothpicks, a tack hammer, some sandpaper, and you can make the old holes go away. Cut off the match heads and lightly glue the matchsticks together. Tap them snugly into the old holes in the empty spaces. Carefully trim the match sticks flush to the door facing. Take a few wood toothpicks and break them in half. Lightly glue them and then tap them into any spaces left around the match sticks. Keep putting in the toothpicks until you cannot squeeze another one into the hole. Trim the toothpicks. Let the glue dry 3 hours. Sand the tapped in sticks smooth with sandpaper. You can drill the new holes and then snug up the new striker plate screws nicely. Ah! A perfect fit, no door rattling, and the lock fits snugly in place! Of course if you are a handyman, you already knew that!

** I like to talk about SIGnature ministry, or being part of "The Master's SIGnature Toolset" built around these three key principles:

  • Strengths — the capabilities we are given when we are conceived (Psalm 139:13-16).
  • Insights from experience — the abilities and perspectives we have picked up through God?s work in our lives (Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:13).
  • Gifts — Spirit-given gifts we are given when we become Christians or when the group of believers has a need (1 Peter 4:10-11; Romans 12:6-8).