Spiritual Gifts vs. Super Powers


I recently listened to a very interesting podcast on This American Life about the human fascination with superpowers. We have superheroes with all kinds of superpowers.  The first segment deals with what our desire for super powers says about our personality.  Would you choose flying or invisibility?  How you answer this question says a lot about your personality.    The better part of our nature says we want to choose to fly — but the darker side of our nature might lead us to choose invisibility.  I think John Calvin would agree that our sin nature has tremendous power over us — and this Calvinist truth about the human condition is well-illustrated in various portions of this podcast.

in another part of the podcast we are introduced to Zora.  Zora is about 30 years old and likes to hang out in bars dressed like Wonder Woman. She was over 6 feet tall and very powerfully built. She had a vision for her life at age 12 and she devoted the next decade of her life to developing as many superpowers as she could. She started to keep a list of skills to master and she had tremendous drive and motivation.

The list included martial arts, electronics, chemistry, metaphysics, hang gliding, helicopter and airplane flying, parachuting, mountain climbing, survival— Weaponry, rafting, scuba diving, CPR, first aid and mountain emergency medicine. Bodybuilding, major physical conditioning, archery, demolitions, and explosives. She wanted to learn how to hunt animals and track men.  Throwing stars and compound bows and throwing knives, camel, elephant riding. Evasive driving and stunts.

And the most incredible thing about all of this is that Zora accomplished nearly every item on the list.

To keep up with the goals set by the list, she sped through school. Starting in the seventh grade, she began completing entire school years during the summer term and finished high school by the time she was 15. She got her BA at 18, a master’s at 20, and completed the coursework for a PhD in Geopolitics by the time she was 21. She wanted to live like Indiana Jones, spending half her time in the classroom and half her time saving the world in the jungles of Peru.

After finishing the course work for her PhD, Zora decided to quit school, disappointed at the lack of cliff-hanging adventure in her doctoral program. And since superheroes who live in the real world need jobs, she decided to seek employment at the only place that would allow her to put all the skills from the list to use. Zora wanted to become an agent in the CIA.

But she got rejected by the CIA. She was stunned but after a couple of years regrouped and ended up getting hired by an international private security company doing intelligence and counterintelligence sting operations. She was able to put a lot of her skills to work but after a few years realized at the core of her being she was afraid that people didn’t really like her very much.

So she decided to take classes in dancing and storytelling and public speaking and conversation skills and feminine appeal (if you know what I mean). I was very moved by her story and the way she told it.

But it also got me thinking about the difference between Zora’s quest and the journey that I am on and the journey that I hope many of you are on.

Zora spent her life acquiring various skills and superpowers to fill up a void that was in her life. She seemed like a good person who wanted to do good things with her life – but she was missing the gospel – she was missing grace – she was missing the gift of the Spirit in her life.

Because I am preaching these days on the Holy Spirit, I thought  a bit about how the gifts of the Holy Spirit are different than superpowers. The gifts of the spirit are powerful but not in the same way. They are not used for the sake of physical domination but instead they are for personal transformation. The gifts of the spirit are more humble and not very flashy.

Healing, encouragement, teaching, serving … these gifts of the spirit are so that people can come to know and love and serve and obey the Lord Jesus so that they can be drawn more deeply into God’s eternal embrace.

Here’s the link — I hope you will check it out.  Let me know what you think of it.


It’s pretty long so you will probably need to put it on your listening device so you can do other things while listening.


On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is always a complicated day for me in worship.  On the one hand I want to make sure that we give thanks for the good things the gift of motherhood offers us.  On the other hand, I can’t help but think about the sorrows that are also present for many of us on this particular day.

I finally found a short piece that hit the nail on the head for me in terms of explaining my concerns as a pastor on Mother’s Day.  It is an Open Letter to Pastors on Mother’s Day and I’m sharing the link below.  I read a short section of the piece in worship yesterday and many people expressed appreciation for it.


Please let me know what you think of it.  Thanks.