Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Standing in the Gap" and Becoming a Positive Influence on Other Women

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly influencing other people through our words, behaviors and attitudes. Most people, and certainly all “born-again” Christians, hope that they are a positive influence on others. Sadly, though, there are times when any one of us can have a negative influence on other people for a variety of reasons. But as women of God, we should constantly focus on a being a positive godly influence on those around us by shining our Christ-light on others and by sharing God’s Truth with people.

One of the ways that Christian women can be a positive influence is to constantly watch our words, our attitudes and our behaviors while making sure that we are living the way that Christ has asked us to live. We can also focus on Kingdom service and specifically focus on helping other women in need. But, whatever Kingdom service that we choose in our Christian walk, we should determine to be a positive influence on other women, as well as a godly influence on others. However, we should also determine to be both a positive and godly influence during our Active Relational Christian Mentoring by engaging in positive words, attitudes, and behaviors during sharing, caring, teaching, and support opportunities for those in need.

There is a phrase in the Christian world that you may have heard: “standing in the gap’. This phrase is synonymous for someone standing in the breach or the space that has opened up in a protective wall; especially a wall which was originally established to keep out the enemy. So, what does the phrase “standing in the gap” mean, and what is a “gap”? Well, a “gap” is a space, hole or opening in the continuity of a wall or fence. Farmers sometimes have to repair the holes in their fences that were put up to keep the farm animals in and to keep other animals out or to keep people from trespassing. The hole or space in the fence or wall is usually made by either a deliberate breach or from the breaking away of deteriorating material in the fence or wall. In ancient cultures, many cities had high protective outer walls made of stone that surrounded the cities to keep out intruders and enemies. Additionally, it was common to have men on top of the city walls watching out for the enemy in order to be able to warn the inhabitants when someone tried to breach the wall. The wall was also often inspected to make sure that there were no holes in the wall by which an enemy could enter. If there was a hole, someone had to stand in the gap until the repairs were made to the wall to ensure that intruders or enemies did not surreptitiously enter the city.

In the Christian world, there is a spiritual significance to “standing in the gap”. For our spiritual enemy is the devil and his minions, and he and his cohorts are constantly looking for a way into our hearts and our souls. In fact, the Apostle Peter wrote: “Be of sober spirit, be on alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, …– (I Peter 5: 8, 9. NASB). Sometimes, though, we need help resisting the devil and help in dealing with this world’s unexpected suffering. In other words, we need someone to “stand in the gap” for us, because we cannot do it all by ourselves.

There are times when we may need a prayer warrior who can through intercessory prayer “stand in the gap” to offer prayers of protection and provision. Maybe we just need someone to be there for us to give us emotional support; someone who can “stand in the gap” when we have emotional troubles or fears, trials of sickness or personal problems, or financial loss. But, whatever the reason needed, Christian women are to be there for other women to not only “stand in the gap” but to be a positive influence on the other women. Certainly, those who engage in Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM) can help others while they provide needed positive influence, as they “stand in the gap” for a mentee or friend.

As Christian women, we need to “stand in the gap” for others so that through faith, the Word of God, and additional prayer we can provide protection against the satanic forces that try to mess with individual lives and that try to work to destroy God’s love in this world. In order to do that, we need to help build up biblical and prayerful walls of protection around our families, friends, mentees, and fellow church women. We can do this by praying for them regularly, by providing intercessory prayer, by helping them search the Word of God for answers and strength and by being a positive and godly influence on their lives. But, in order to be a godly influence,we must speak God’s Truth in a loving and caring way. Furthermore, Christian women need to set good examples of resisting the devil ourselves. For, other women need to see that we are resisting the devil by refusing to be lured into Satan’s traps of sensuality, deceit, gossip, and the lies of this world. We can teach others to test the truth of every situation against the Truth of the Bible, which is God’s Word. Moreover, by living for the Lord and serving Him through Active Relational Christian Mentoring and other fruit producing Christian services as well, we can not only be both a positive and a godly influence on others, but we can “stand in the gap” in certain situations to help others overcome the enemy.

Godly Influence and Standing in the Gap

Even one person can make a difference in the life of another. But, as a group of people who care and work at doing things for others and the Lord, Christians can have a great impact on many other people. In fact, Christians are the ones who can make, and who have made, a very large difference in this world. For Christians have helped to establish God’s moral laws and ethics by which we are to live. Christians have also shown the world what empathy and caring is all about as they have developed charitable organizations to provide for the poor and needy. More importantly, Christians have been a positive influence on the individual lives of many people by showing love, care, concern, peace and hope to those who are lost. But, most important of all, Christians have shared the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and His Salvation to a dying world, so that many will now spend Eternity with God when they die. We can make a positive difference one person at a time.

Throughout God’s Word, the Bible gives us many examples of people who have made a difference in the world by their positive influence on others and their ability and willingness to “stand in the gap” for others through their dedicated mentoring activities that have Christ as the foundation. Indeed, there are many examples of changed lives in this world because of the influence of godly people in both the Older Covenant/ Testament and then in the Newer Covenant/ Testament after Christ, the Deliverer and Savior, came to earth. In fact, there are many examples of the influential behaviors of both men and women within the recorded history of the Bible. Each recorded example of an individual being a positive influence shows how one person can contribute to the betterment of an individual or of a nation. Furthermore, the Bible records more than one example of how one woman has made a great difference in the lives of either one person or has ultimately made a difference in the lives of many through her influence and her willingness to “stand in the gap” when others needed help.

In the next couple of weeks, we will look at women in the Bible who have had a great influence upon another person or have even influenced many people. Some of the women we will look at will have also have had a great influence upon the nation of Israel. But, along the way, we will also see the damage that can occur to others and to a nation simply because of the negative influence of a single woman. For just as there are those who are godly and try to live for the Lord, there are those, too, who live for the world and for what they can get out of the world. Unfortunately, these people only care about themselves. We will also see that in each of these cases, the type of influence that a woman has on another person or a nation is through the words, behaviors, and attitudes of that woman. Unquestionably, we all have a choice as to whether or not we want our words, behaviors, and attitudes to be a positive or negative influence on others, and that choice is shown specifically in the actions of the first woman from the Bible that we will discuss.

Rahab’s Willingness to “stand in the gap” and Her Ultimate Influence on the World.

Consider Rahab, in the Older Covenant/ Testament, who was a prostitute when she came into contact with God’s people, the Israelites. Perhaps you remember the story. It starts with the Israelites, who with Moses’ help had escaped Pharaoh’s bondage. But eventually they ended up wandering around in the desert for forty years because of their disobedience to God and their lack of faith in His love and protection. At the end of their forty years of wandering, the new leader, Joshua, brought them into The Promised Land. But there were many people in the new land that wanted to kill them, including those in the city of Jericho, which was the first major city they encountered. Little did they know, but a prostitute within the city would help them overcome and take this city.

Rahab was actually a well-known prostitute in the city of Jericho, but because of what she had heard about God, she ended up changing her ways, and she ended up helping to save a nation. In fact, even before the Israelites came across the Jordan River and entered into The Promised Land, Rahab had heard of all the mighty things that God had done in bringing His people out of Egypt and saving them from warring foreign people and famine over the last forty some years. She began to have faith in God through what she had heard, but she acquired even more faith later when she saw the walls of Jericho fall, as she was a first-hand witness to the works of God. But even before the walls of Jericho came down, Rahab played a crucial role in saving the Israelite nation. For, when Joshua sent two spies to reconnaissance the town of Jericho, Rahab hid them in her home so they would not be killed. When asked why she was hiding them, Rahab said, “… for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now, therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth.” – (Joshua 2: 11,12. NASB).

Later, after hiding them, Rahab helped the two Israelite spies escape and then misdirected the soldiers who were searching for them, so that the Israelite spies would have a chance to get away. All Rahab asked for in return was that when the city was taken that she and her family would be spared. The two spies gave their word, and later Joshua and his men kept their word and spared Rahab and her family. Then, after Jericho fell, Rahab and her family lived with the Israelites and worshipped God. Amazingly, Rahab was used by God to save the spies from the soldiers, but more importantly, God used her to begin the Israelites’ dramatic conquering of The Promised Land, which would lead to the established nation of Israel and coming of the promised Savior.

The influence that Rahab had on the Israelite nation was dramatic. But, her influence did not stop with the taking of the city of Jericho. Because of her faith, Rahab would not only save a city, but she would also begin to worship the One and only true God. In fact, Rahab’s faith in God became known down through the centuries. For many years later, the Newer Covenant/ Testament’s book of Hebrews mentions Rahab in the chapter on faith. It is in this book that the author of Hebrews said, “It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute did not die with all the others in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” – (Hebrews 11: 31. NLT).

Although she was a Gentile, Rahab became one of the ancestors of David and Jesus Christ. For, after she was rescued from Jericho, Rahab later married an Israelite, named Salmon. The two of them then had a son named Boaz, who eventually married Ruth, the Moabite. Together Boaz and Ruth had Jessie, who was the father of King David. Of course, King David was an ancestor of Jesus Christ. But, rather than list all of Christ’s genealogy tree, I will leave it to you to read the Scriptures. If you want to know all the ancestors of Jesus Christ, on both sides of His family tree, you will need to read The Gospel of Matthew starting with the first chapter and The Gospel of Luke, starting with the third chapter.

The point that I am making with the story of Rahab, though, is that she probably never thought that her faith in God or her life as a redeemed person would have any effect or influence on the lives of others. But she, indeed, had a great influence on the outcome of the attack on Jericho, because she “stood in the gap” for the Israelite spies by hiding them and then later by misdirecting the soldiers who were searching for them. Without her faith and willingness to act and to put her and her family in harm’s way for the Israelites’ sake and for God, the spies could have been killed and she and her family could have been killed with those in the Jericho.

Providentially, Rahab was chosen by God to be the instrumental influence by which the town could easily be taken. Rahab still had a choice in the matter, because she had free will to act or not. Fortunately for her and her family she chose to not only believe in God, but to help the Israelites as well. However, God had even greater plans for Rahab’s faith in Him. Providentially God had also placed an Israelite man in Rahab’s path. Eventually, they fell in love and chose to marry. Thus Rahab had a great influence on the spies, on Joshua, and on the man she married as well as on others she encountered. She specifically had great influence on the taking of Jericho, and on the nation of Israel as she became an ancestor of King David and Jesus Christ.

In this story of Rahab, God is showing us that it doesn’t matter what kind of person that we have been in the past, rather it only matters what kind of person we become in our relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. God works through ordinary sinners like you and me. In fact, God uses all kinds of redeemed people to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world and to individuals specifically. As Christian women, we just have to be willing to be used by God to influence others for the Kingdom of God and to set a Christian example of Truth and integrity for others around us. Active Relational Christian Mentoring is just one of many ways Christian women can be of service to the Kingdom of God by serving the needs of other women, by “standing in the gap” and by being a positive influence on others through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Influence of Naomi on Ruth, the Moabite, and on the nation of Israel.

As I mentioned earlier, the Bible is full of stories on active influential mentoring and on “standing in the gap” for others when needed. One such story is of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi was an Israelite woman who moved with her husband and family to the country of Moab during a famine in Israel. One of her sons eventually married a young lady named Ruth. Ruth and her family, though, believed in many gods. However, with Ruth’s husband’s belief in God and her mother-in-law’s mentoring of her, Ruth began to see God for Who He is; the One and only God of the universe. But, just as things seemed to be going smoothly, tragedy struck Naomi, Ruth and, Naomi's other daughter-in-law, Orpah. First, Naomi’s husband died and then shortly thereafter, both of Naomi’s sons died, leaving both of her daughters-in-law widows too.
At first, Naomi was inconsolable, but eventually with the help of her daughters-in-law, she began to take charge of her life. She had to make a decision about staying in Moab or returning to Israel. Finally, she made the decision to return to Israel, because there was a chance that a Kinsman Redeemer would come to her aid and take her in. Without help of some kind, either through a Kinsman Redeemer or re-marriage, most widows would either have to become a prostitute or beg for food. Certainly, Naomi did not want that for herself or for her daughters-in-law.

 Admittedly, Naomi had become bitter because of her situation in life, but even at that, she became an influence on her daughter-in-law, Ruth. For, no matter how desperate she was, Naomi must have trusted in God to help her, because she was willing to go back home having then just a little faith and a lot of hope that a Kinsman Redeemer would step forward to help her, i.e. someone from her or her husband’s family would take her in. Although she asked her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and find new husbands, Ruth refused, saying, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go wherever you go and live wherever you live.  Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.  I will die where you die and will be buried there. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” – (Ruth 1: 16, 17. NLT).  Naomi accepted Ruth’s devotion and help, for with the help of her daughter-in-law the trip would be easier and safer with the two of them together.

The trip back to Bethlehem, Israel would provide time for Naomi to talk Ruth about many things and would provide time to influence Ruth to trust in God. Naomi probably, talked to Ruth about God and about the traditions and the different culture that Ruth would be entering into in Israel, as many of those traditions and their culture were connected directly to God. Stories about God’s provision must have been told to Ruth, for it was with God’s establishment of a provision for a Kinsman Redeemer that widows could survive. This was the main reason that Naomi was returning to, Bethlehem, Israel.

Then, when they finally got to Bethlehem, the first evidence of God’s provision was seen, for they had arrived just in time for harvest season. Naomi explained to Ruth that God had also made a provision for those who were poor to be able to eat, if they were willing to work. Certainly, God did not want anyone to starve. But, God did not provide for hand-outs just because a person was poor.  Rather God had created all people to work; even those who were poor could work to eat. Although the work was hard, Naomi explained that they would not starve, if Ruth was willing to go out into the fields and walk behind the harvesters stooping over to pick up the barley or wheat sheaves that were left behind on purpose for the poor to harvest. Sometimes the harvesters also accidentally dropped some of the sheaves, and these, too, could be picked up. This kind of work was called “gleaning”. Naomi then told Ruth how best to do the work and how to protect herself from the harvesters who might try to take advantage of a young woman. So, Naomi told Ruth to always walk with the other young women who were also gleaning in the fields outside of Bethlehem. All of the talks that Naomi had with Ruth would influence how Ruth perceived God, His providence and provision, and the Jewish culture.

As you can see, Naomi was having a great influence on Ruth. Well, actually they were both influencing and being there for each other. When one was down, the other “stood in the gap” for her. Moreover, when Ruth needed safety advice it was Naomi who “stood in the gap” and helped Ruth to understand what she was facing. Furthermore, it was Naomi who explained to Ruth about the customs and traditions of the Israelites. Later, when Naomi discovered that Ruth was getting more Barley than she should have because she had caught the eye of the owner of the field, it was Naomi who told her to only “glean” in that field. Then, when Naomi discovered that the owner of the field that Ruth was gleaning in was Boaz, a relative of her husband’s, she became very excited about what God had done for them. Naomi praised God for His provision! This was also God’s providence at work, because Boaz could become their Kinsman Redeemer. Again, Naomi influenced Ruth by asking her to go to Boaz and to ask Him if He would become their Kinsman Redeemer.

The rest of the story is biblical history as well as a love story. You see, Boaz had already fallen in love with Ruth, so when asked if he would become their Kinsman Redeemer, he gladly accepted the responsibility of these two women. However, because of his love for Ruth, Boaz would later ask Ruth to marry him. Within a few months or years of their marriage, Ruth gave birth to a son she named Jessie, who would become the father of David, who was the second king of Israel. An entire book in the Bible entitled “Ruth” tells of this mentoring story and the caring love that developed between these two women. Had it not been for Naomi’s mentoring of Ruth, though, the historical outcome could have been different. But, because of Naomi’s influence on Ruth and their ability to “stand in the gap” for each other when needed, a beautiful love story eventually developed between Ruth and Boaz.

We all have influence. But we all have choices that we need to make too. One of those choices is whether or not that we will live for Christ and share the Gospel with others. For, it is in our living for Christ and sharing the Gospel message that we can influence others for Christ. It is also in living for Christ and in becoming fruit producers for the Kingdom of God that we can help other women to become all they can for Christ, themselves and their families. Only in empowering other women to be all they can be for the Lord, can we become empowered to become all that we can be for the Lord as well. Our daily influence has great ramifications not only on individuals we help, but on the world too. Remember, Christians make a difference in the world. But, if we refuse to be a positive influence, or if we fail to stand up for God’s Truth, we are ultimately willing to allowing our world to disintegrate before our very eyes.

What Has kept the World from Disintegrating Completely into Hate?

God sent His only Son into the world to Save us all. It is through Jesus Christ and the message of His love and sacrifice that we have all been given a chance to truly live both now and in Eternity in Heaven after we leave this world. For, Christ is the true Redeemer. He is the Savior who changes our lives for the better and the One who gives us peace and love in our hearts. Only through Christ can we understand the difference between good and evil and understand the spiritual battle that is being waged each and every day.

Although Satan has attempted throughout history to destroy any evidence of God and His love, He has failed. Satan even attempted to get rid of all evidence relating to the resurrection of Christ, but he couldn’t. Why, has Satan had such a hard time getting everyone’s focus off of Christ? The reason is that when another person comes to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, their hearts and their lives are changed forever. As a result of this change, they tell others of the wonderful peace and rest they get through Christ who cleansed them of their sins. They tell others about the Eternity of God, which they have entered into the moment that they asked Christ to come into their lives. Moreover, they now should be a positive influence upon the world and upon others that they encounter. Christians should also be able to “stand in the gap” for those Christians who are struggling and for those who need the support of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For those reasons and many more, Satan has not been able to destroy any evidence of God and His love.

Unfortunately, Satan is all about hate, destruction, and hurt. He weaves his way into the lives of those who are hurt and feel abandoned by the world. He has to hurry, though, because he doesn’t want them to get a chance to hear the Gospel message and feel the love that Christ has for them. So, he twists the truth and then appeals to the greed, the lusts, and the many other human desires such as the desire for drugs that dull the senses and for those things that can take us down the path to destruction. If Christians do not “stand in the gap” for those who are vacillating between evil and good, many other humans will be lost. We have to stand in the gap by praying, by being a positive influence, and by telling the truth even when political correctness tries to keep one from the truth. You see, Satan has taken something that sounds good in theory, but in reality is actually his way to attempt to destroy the Christian foundations of our country, and he is using that political correctness to keep Christians from speaking the Truth. Remember, Satan only wants people to hate each other so that God’s people will be destroyed. He doesn’t want Christians to have any influence on other people. In a roundabout way, political correctness fuels the ideas of hate, destruction and hurt by emphasizing the negative aspects of our culture and limiting the influence that Christians can have on others.

Once upon a time, the things that were wrong in our society were being worked upon and even though it was a slow process (remember Satan always stirs up trouble if he can), yet in some ways we were making progress. Christian’s wanted to help others to understand God’s Truth and His love. Then, along comes Satan’s political correctness, and those with different ideas started wanting to not only have their ideas heard, but they want their way right now. They also want to take away the right of those who disagree with them to express their beliefs and opinions. 

One example of Satan's attempt to impose political correctness is with Atheists. Atheists have always had the right to disagree with Christians, and the right not to worship God or to not pursue any religion. But now Atheists want Christians not to be able to express their beliefs or to not be allowed to be an influence on anyone. Suddenly, with Satan’s help Atheists are now influencing the liberal political judges to rule against the freedom to worship God. 

If Christians want to continue to be the positive influence upon the world, Christians are going to have to serve the Lord through such things as Active Relational Christian Mentoring. We are going to need to “stand in the gap” and pray for and help those who are struggling. Are you willing to serve the Lord and become a fruit producer for the Kingdom of God? I know you can do it. You can reach out and mentor another for the Lord and help another woman become all that she can be for God, herself and her family. You can be a positive and godly influence upon another woman and you can “stand in the gap” when she needs additional help. 

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