Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Being that Window and Its Shining Light Through Which Others Can See Christ

Do you remember shortly after President Obama took office that he went on a tour addressing the foreign leaders of the world? It was at that time that President Obama told the world that America was no longer a Christian nation. Of course, all true Christians were horrified. We were horrified that an American President would denigrate his own country to the world. But we were also horrified, because in our heart of hearts we were afraid that the growth of Christianity throughout America had indeed slowed down. Was Christianity becoming marginalized? Then we began to think: How could this happen in a country founded on God? Could it be that Christians were no longer letting other people see their Christianity or Christ-light? Could it also be that those who were secular non-Christians truly thought that America was no longer Christian, because they did not see the light of Christ shining within and without in the lives of people professing to be Christians? Were Christians just being tolerated and laughed at for their so-called Christian life?

Certainly, no Christian wanted to believe that this great country, which was founded on God and put into existence by God, was actually slowly turning its back on Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. So, a few Christians began to look at the make-up of our nation and the actual daily culture that America now expresses within all fifty of the states. What many discovered is that over the last fifty to sixty years, Christians have slowly acclimated themselves to the secular world in such a way that it is now hard to distinguish true Christians from the secular world. Certainly, it can sometimes be hard to see the difference between Christians that live only for themselves and good secular people trying to do what they personally believe is right. It is also hard to see the difference between some so-called Christians who are living like the average non-Christian on this planet and those people who are living for only today and what they can get for themselves. That is because many people professing to be Christians seem to be living just for what they can get for themselves too.

In looking at the Christian make-up of our nation, it is obvious that most professing Christians today fail to live out their faith as the Bible tells them it should be lived. For the Scriptures tell us: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him, and established in your faith just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude.– (Colossians 2: 6, 7. NASB). Instead most people, and even some truly devoted Christians, do not want to stand out as different from others. Consequently, many Christians can no longer be spotted by their god-honoring dress, their actions, their manners, or righteousness, let alone by what they believe when talking to others. Here again, though, the Bible Scriptures tell us that we are to “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” – (Colossians 2: 8. NASB).

Sadly, there are many Christians who have been taken captive through worldly philosophies and empty deception. Still other Christians do not want to “rock the boat”, so to speak, by standing up for what they believe in, which is the truth of the Word of God. Instead, it is easier for them to go to church on Sunday morning, (if indeed, they still feel it is important to worship God in community fellowship at least one day a week), and then do what they want to do the rest of the week. For some, Sunday has become the only day of the week that many Christians let others see that they are professing followers of Christ. However, for the rest of the week they cannot be distinguished from other people on their jobs and in and around their community.

Observing the Lord’s Day, Sunday

Why should Sunday or the Lord’s day of rest for man be so important to Christians? Well, Sunday used to be a day to rest from work and a day to concentrate on God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Here in America, and for many years, it was unheard of for Christians not to go to church on both Sunday morning and Sunday evening. For Christians tried to live adhering to God’s commandment to “Remember, the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  -- (Exodus 20: 8. NASB).

The Sabbath for Christians is on Sunday, the day of the week when the Lord was resurrected from the grave and conquered eternal death. Indeed, most Christian families in times past went to church on Sunday morning and then had a big noon meal while fellowshipping with extended family and friends. The afternoon was then spent resting or focusing on God and on getting spiritually prepared with Bible study to go to church again Sunday night. Going to church twice in one day not only helped Christians re-connect with God, but it helped us to reconnect with our family and neighbors while enabling us to build life-long relationships that we enjoyed and relationships that could also be used when life threw us a curve or hardship. This Christian fellowship and connectivity gave Christians the knowledge that they not only had God in their corner, but that they had other Christians in their corner as well who could be there for them when times got rough.

The Bible tells us that the early Christians of the first century “… regularly assembled together in the temple in their united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts.” – (Acts 2: 46. Amplified). Because of their example, over the centuries Christians have assembled together on Sunday to worship and learn more about the Lord, and for centuries many met in their homes to fellowship and partake of food. However, we have seen a huge departure from this custom as Christians now have their time taken up by so many secular responsibilities and well as secular desires. Consequently, close Christian relationships with other church members are few and far between.

Many times, our church related relationships with other Christians became a type of Active Relational Christian Mentoring; empowering others to be all that they can be for the Lord, themselves, their family and their friends. That is because, Christians knew they were to encourage each other, teach each other, bear each other’s trials, sponsor others, and were to give emotional support when needed. As a result, and in years past, many communities were filled with Christians whose lives became a window through which others in the community who did not know Christ could see Jesus. Many of our American communities could be considered to be Christian communities with church attendance being high within all the denominations.

Wednesday Night Church Services and Prayer Meetings

By the time Monday morning came around, church going people had been refreshed in the Word of God and were now ready to face the work week and the trials that come from living in a fallen world. But, to keep them from back-sliding and to help maintain their focus on living for Christ, Christians again gave up their Wednesday evenings for the Lord by attending Wednesday night church services or prayer meetings. This mid-week church service reinvigorated Christians by helping them to focus on their devotion to the Lord and by taking the focus off of themselves. Instead they again put their focus on the Lord and on the needs of others. This focus and refreshing in the Word of God enabled most Christians to be able to both mentally and emotionally get through the rest of the week, as they relied on the Lord while looking forward to going to church yet again on the following Sunday morning.

What happened to those days of attempting to live daily for Christ and of truly expressing our belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior? What happened to most of the Christians who focused on living out the truth of the Word of God and whose lives had become an open window through which others could see Christ? Well, many things happened, including careers, personal desires, the busyness of our technologically empowered lives along with the invasive non-Christian secular views that have come into our homes via the television and eventually through other media. Soon all these things and the many others exciting possibilities for the use of our time began to entice those who were paying only lip service to Christ to miss the Sunday night church services for a show on television, or for preparation for the Monday morning job, or for a myriad of other personal reasons. Fulfilling our own selfish desires gradually became more important than attending church or telling others about Christ. Additionally, preparation for jobs or careers and the need to climb the ladder of success kept many other people from attending church on Sunday night.

For years, it was much easier to set aside the time to attend Sunday morning and Sunday night church services. One of the reasons that Christians did not have to juggle their Sunday time with other activities was because the Sunday Sabbath did not have to vie for a position in our lives. Most people knew that Sunday was the Lord’s day and a day of rest. Moreover, originally our Christian heritage and culture kept businesses or stores from being open on Sunday so there was not the temptation to stay away from church. Furthermore, most of the stores in our communities were either run by Christians or the store owners were influenced by other Christians to keep the Lord’s Day of rest. Gradually, though, stores began to stay open on Sunday just as they did throughout the week which was made all the easier by states that no longer had laws regarding not opening stores on Sunday. However, as more and more opportunities to do other things became available, people eventually voted down Sunday closure laws. It seems that many people no longer wanted to set aside Sunday as a day of rest or to worship for the Lord. They wanted to do things when they wanted to do them such as shopping on Sunday. But, with stores opening on Sunday a whole new can of worms emerged. Now, employers needed people to work in their stores on Sunday. Conversely, stores being open on Sunday now meant that those who needed extra work to make ends meet, or who just wanted extra pay, could receive a better paycheck if they worked on Sunday. These stores enticed people who might not have missed church to now do so for various reasons including getting more money from working or Sunday  or shopping.

At first, most employers respected the desire of those who wanted to go to church on Sunday and so allowed Christian employees and those who wanted the day off to attend church, to do so. However, in some cases, instead of asking their employer for Sunday off so they could attend church, some Christians just opted to work all day on Sunday for the extra pay and thus they missed both church services. Whatever the excuse given, this meant that many people chose to no longer attend church on Sunday. In many cases, both parents and teenagers were now working on Sunday. The example the parents set for their children would be felt generations later as well.

Unfortunately, stores being open on Sunday also affected the non-Christians as well, because some people that might have entered the church doors to meet Christ, no longer had the opportunity to do so even if they had the desire to do so because they worked on Sunday. To make matters worse, instead of fellowshipping with other Christians after church or with their families, many Christian people now chose to go shopping after church on Sunday. This was easy to do, because the states now allowed the stores to be open on Sunday, so almost anything that people wanted to purchase could now also be bought on Sunday. Stores opening on Sunday also enabled many people who might have just worked five days a week to take six day a week jobs and work on Saturday, because they felt they still had Sunday as a day off from work before going back to work on Monday. They could now do their shopping on Sunday too. Sadly, for many people, there was no longer a true week-end to be had. More and more people chose to live as they wished while acclimating themselves to the convenience of the secular culture. In other words, everyone “started doing what was right in his own eyes.” -- (Judges 17:6. NASB). God was no longer first in their lives.

Sliding Down a Slippery Slope

This slide, from Sunday church going Christians who focused on the Lord and the needs of others, to Christians who found every excuse in the book to avoid going to church happened gradually but with selfishness for one’s own needs. Many so-called Christians and even true Christians who wanted to do things their own way, were now petitioning their pastors and church leaders to not have Wednesday church services either. So, no longer did many denominations hold Wednesday church services or prayer meetings. Along with Christian fellowship going down the drain, the mid-week refresher service that focused on God and prayer for others was gone. Christians could now go throughout the entire week without spending any time in the Word of God or without thinking of God. In the busy world in which we now live, this meant that many people did not go to church except on Sunday morning, i.e., if they could still fit attending church into their schedule. This also meant that the influence of the convenience of the secular world was becoming stronger and stronger on Christians, with many Christians no longer letting their life be a window through which others could see Jesus. Moreover, many Christian lives could no longer be distinguished from the lives of non-Christians.

Technology with Facebook, the I-phone, and the internet with its emails, etc. has even taken more and more of our time away from Christ and from our attempting to live for Him. Add to that, the liberal colleges and the young people who have chosen through either their lack of knowledge about God and Christ, or through their professor’s warped views of believing there isn’t a God and the professors’ subsequent propaganda to turn students from God and their parent’s godly beliefs and we have a world that doesn’t want to acknowledge God and His Son. The result is that we now have at least a couple of generations of people who are only “doing what is right in their own eyes”. With their selfishness, they can care less about other people and they certainly don’t care about God. Obviously, they don’t believe in God and even refuse to listen to those who believe in Christ. The politically correct campus students and media have further denigrated Christianity while Christians have not stood up to them.

To make matters worse, this political correctness along with the addition and growth of liberal politics and the liberal media of the secular world that tells people how they should think has given us an America that has now become a country that no longer stands up for God and Christ. Moreover, most true Christians have decided to just live and let live, because it is too much effort to be different from the rest of the world. Many Christians may worship the Lord, but will still often fail to establish Christian relationships or fail to speak up about God and Christ when given the opportunity. By doing nothing, we have allowed Christianity to be marginalized and in many cases shunned. What can we do to change the status quo? What can we do to keep our country from truly becoming that non-Christian country that Barack Obama spoke of on his apology tour?

What Can We Do to Return to Our Christian Roots and Share Christ With Others?

As Christians, we have some serious choices and decisions to make. We can continue to act as if we are scared of the rest of the world and that we cannot do anything about the direction that our country is going? Or, we can return to our Christian roots and outwardly and vigorously live our lives for Christ, while sharing the Gospel message with as many people as we can. Certainly, just allowing our Christ-light to shine through our kind words and actions is important, but there is more to being a Christian than just living daily for ourselves and hoping that others will see Christ in us. Yes, we are to be that window through which others can see Christ, but not everyone will automatically look through the window. Sometimes, we need to raise the window sash and then stick our heads out of the window to tell the others about Christ.

Sowing for the Lord

The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that they needed to share the Gospel with others. Sharing the Gospel is a type of sowing, for we are sowing the seeds of Salvation and the hope of eternity for those who are lost. The Apostle Paul said:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So, then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are the household of faith.”  -- (Galatians 6: 7-10. NASB).

Obviously, God cares about how we live our lives. Not only does He care about our personal conduct, but God cares about the motives that are lodged in our heart. What motivates you to do the things that you are doing? Are you listening to the Holy Spirit and following through to do as He has asked, or are you listening to a selfish, “me only” heart that wants to fit in with what the rest of the world is doing? We all have to ask: are we doing the things that we are doing because we care about God and others, or are we doing whatever we are doing just because we want what we want, or we want others to think that we are good? There is so much that every woman can do for the Lord and much does not even require a great deal of time. We just have to do the work of the Lord for the right reasons and with and open window.

God tells us that He sees our hearts and our sowing. He also tells us that we reap what we sow. This means that if we do not open our window and tell the world about Christ, we obviously will not be able to lead others to Christ. At the same time, what we do with our own life has consequences, and we must bear the consequences of our choices. So, if we choose to emulate the world in which we live rather than be that Christian who lets others see Christ in us, we will also reap what we have done. Right now, Christians are reaping what we have failed to sow, which has resulted in a country with less and less Christians who truly want to make a difference.  Consequently, we are now living in a country that refuses to live by the truth of the Word of God and God’s Ten Commandments. Why? Well, for 50 or more years, Christians have acclimated and assimilated themselves into the secular world and have allowed their conduct to become that of the secular world rather than that of living for God. Christians have gradually accepted the secular world’s views on philosophy and other things that are ungodly. We have also failed to tell others about Christ, i.e., we have failed to share the Gospel message, so we have fewer and fewer people becoming Christians and living for Christ.

We are Reaping What We Sowed

What are we reaping from the life that we are supposed to be living for God? We bear the consequences of doing nothing and of allowing ourselves to be assimilated into the world’s behaviors and ways. If there is any doubt we have reaped what we have not sown, just look around at the America that we are living in right now. Sadly, there are more people today in America that have not heard of Jesus Christ’s gift of Salvation than in years past. We have even allowed immigrants to come into our country without reaching out to teach them about God and Christ. Thus, they have not assimilated into our American culture nor have they found Christ, but are instead living their own culture in America, and many times that is living without God and His Son.

Why have we Christians pulled our heads into our shells or closed our windows and drawn the blinds thus refusing to allow Christ to be seen and talked about in our lives? Could it be that we are afraid to be ridiculed or perhaps we just don’t care about the Salvation of others? If either of those answers are true, we have essentially closed our doors and windows to sharing Christ with others. How sad!

Christians, though, can change how they react to the world. In fact, there are many ways that we can tell others about Christ and speak up to show others how to live for Him. There are also many ways in which we can help our country focus again on God and on what the founding fathers established for us through God’s enlightenment to these men who founded this godly country. Obviously, for those who do not know God, they need to be taught about Him. They need to understand that there is a different way to look at the world than through the eyes of the evil one, i.e., the devil who wants this fallen world to be destroyed through our self-absorption, our need for self-gratification, our personal lies, our desire to control others through man-made laws that benefit the few instead of the majority, through political shenanigans, and ultimately through our pride and need to be right even when we are wrong.

Reclaiming Our Christian Nation

So, how do we go about reclaiming our nation as a Christian nation that loves God. Certainly, we have to show others that we love them and then we need to teach other people how to live outwardly and truly for Christ once they are saved. We need our churches to focus on teaching people how to devote themselves to God and how to reap the benefits of that devotion. Life will not become less than, but will rather become more joyous and blessed when we give God the Sabbath Sunday that He has set aside for us to rest, refresh, and refocus on Him. Moreover, Christians will be strengthened to get through the week, if they are willing to again give God the Sabbath Sunday. But, first we have to be willing to give up some things for “me” in order to live fully for Christ. At first, giving up some of the candy of the secular world can seem like a sacrifice, but eventually giving more of our time to God and His Son, will be seen as a blessing that keeps on blessing us every day.

We can also go about reclaiming our nation as Christian nation that loves God by engaging with another individual one person at time. Sowing the love of Christ can easily occur when we engage with one person at a time, but it has to be a concerted effort by all Christians to do so if we want a quick change in how people live and in what they believe. By concerted effort, I mean that every Christian must first decide to be of service to the Lord and really mean it. Every Christian and their denomination must focus on sharing Christ with the world around them. In fact, if every Christian just decided to make living for God and His Son a priority in their life, then every Christian would be able to actively mentor or share the Gospel with at least one other person. The message would then grow exponentially! For every person with whom we share the Word of God, will lead to another person who will then be told of the Gospel message and who can then go and tell another person. Just as importantly, we also have to teach each other how to live the Gospel and what it means to share the Word of God with others. In fact, the Word of God tells us to not only share the Gospel, but to teach others about Christ. For Jesus specifically told us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  -- (Matthew 28: 19, 20. NASB). Over the years, though, we have just failed to do so, which has led to fewer and fewer people being introduced to Christ.

Obviously, mentoring and sharing about Christ takes time, but if all Christians were suddenly determined to truly live for Christ by living out the Word of God daily, we could make a difference in this world. And, if all Christians chose to mentor or to tell another about Christ, it could be like those old-fashioned revivals where many people came to know Christ as their personal savior during a particular week of revival services at church. Think about it: What if there were those type of revival mentorings and sharings happening everywhere in the United States at the same time? Couldn’t we see hundreds if not thousands of people come to know Christ as their personal Savior in a short period of time?  What if all Churches got back to holding revivals every two – three months? (When was the last time your church hosted a week-long revival with great advertising and with Christians inviting people to come?) How many people could be introduced to Christ, especially, if the Christians in that church went out into the highways and byways to invite and encourage their friends and acquaintances to come to the revival? There will always be some church leaders and lackadaisical Christians who will say that a revival is a waste of time, but even if just one person accepted Christ as their Savior, that is one more person into the Kingdom of God and Heaven. How could that ever be wrong?

We couldn’t stop there with just that one week of revival, though, because there would still be plenty of work to do for the Lord and for the renewal of our country’s faith in God. As true followers of Christ, we would also need to actively and relationally mentor those who were newly saved; mentoring them in discipleship and learning about the Word of God. Christians would need to make time to be there for the newly saved, especially during those times when Satan and his minions tried to mess up the newly saved’s lives through pain and suffering, or when the trials of this world or the secular media as well as their so-called friends tried to humiliate or make fun of them for choosing Christ.

Salvation is just the glorious beginning.  Next comes living for Christ and learning how to share the joy of Salvation with those who have not as yet found Salvation. Indeed, there is joy in sharing the Gospel message with others. We just need to be willing to open our windows and shout the message to those passing by.

Teaching Others How to Live For Christ

Obviously, Christians need to teach others about living for Christ. We have to teach such things as the Apostle Paul explained to the Galatians when he said: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing: so that you will  prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as light in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.”  -- (Philippians 2: 14-16. NASB).

In order to change the way America is perceived, Christians would also need to teach each other and teach the new Christians what it means to live for Christ, by focusing on living out the words of God. For example, such things as meditating on the Word of God, i.e., the Scriptures, would need to be explained to the newly saved. New Christians would also need to learn how to pursue an even closer walk with the Lord. Such things as fasting, and making the time to fellowship with other Christians would also need to be promoted. As, the Bible teaches, Christians are to do both. For, fasting strengthens the Christian personally and brings us closer to God. Fellowshipping with other Christians also keeps us focused on living for God and at the same time encourages the support and love of the entire body of Christ.

Next, both new and longtime Christians need to be taught what “resisting the temptations of this world” means. First, Christians need to be taught that resisting temptation starts with not getting close to our temptations in the first place. It is just like fire. Even though a fire may be contained within a hot stove that is used to warm a cabin in the winter, if we go too close to that stove and lean upon it, we could get severely burned. Staying a safe distance from the stove assures us that we don’t get burned. It is the same with all the temptations in the world. We need to stay a safe distance from those that could draw us into sin.

The devil, or Satan as he is also known, delights in putting as many temptations as he can in front of each person. Moreover, with the help of his minions or fallen angels Satan researches our desires and weaknesses in order to put in front of each person the exact temptations that he has geared specifically for them. That is because, Satan wants each person to be as close as possible to their own personal temptation so that he will have the best chance of capturing that person in a sticky web that can ruin their lives here on earth.  But, if Christians study the Word of God, if they meditate on the Word, and if they have Active Relational Christian Mentoring accountability partners who can help them to stay away from a particular temptation, they can make sure that they don’t succumb or get to close to a particular temptation to succumb. Focusing on God, living for Christ daily, and sharing the Gospel message along with attending worship services and fellowshipping with other Christians gives both new and longtime Christians less time to be enticed by Satan’s temptations.

Being that Window and Light Through Which Others Can See Christ

I could go on and on, but I will end this week’s blog with the words of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians about being that Window through which others can see Christ. Paul commended these fairly new believers, the Thessalonians, on how they were living and sharing the Gospel with everyone they met. Certainly, Christians today can learn a great deal from the Thessalonians. For they were persecuted for their belief in Christ and faced constant tribulation. Yet they refused to stop preaching the Gospel and they refused to quit living as Christ wanted them to live with righteousness and kindness.

Just like the Thessalonians we can become powerful witnesses for Christ. Moreover, Christians can live each day with righteousness and kindness, showing the world that one who lives for Christ can be filled with goodness, joy, and happiness no matter what the world throws at us. We just need to find the courage to express our belief even in a world that ridicules us. Now, let’s read the introduction to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians to get a glimpse into how we are to live for Christ.  Paul wrote:

… To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come.”  -- (I Thessalonians 1: 1-10. NASB).

Christians everywhere need to spread the word of the Gospel. We need to tell our personal salvation stories and live in such a way that the light in our window to the truth about Christ and the gift of Salvation can be seen. That means too, that we are to shine our Christ-light not only through our window, but we are to take it with us everywhere we go so that others can see Christ in us. Furthermore, it is more important than ever that Christians everywhere make a concerted effort to share Christ with others and to let the world see Christ in us. You can do it! You can make a difference through Active Relational Christian Mentoring, through evangelism, through friendship, through your church or by engaging in any other services for the Kingdom of God.  If you are a Christian, please start sharing Christ with others today!

Something to Think About if You have not Yet Asked Christ into Your Heart

Blessings of the Cross:  Day 17
by Stormie Omartian

The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those
who hope in His mercy. Psalm 147:11

I’ve spent many years learning to understand
what was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross, and
it simply means that Jesus took all that I have coming to
me—pain sickness, failure, confusion, hatred, rejection,
and death—and gave me all that He had coming to Him all
His wholeness, healing, love, acceptance, peace, joy
and life. Because of God’s grace, we can pray the prayers
of salvation. All we have to do is say, “Jesus come live
in me and be Lord over my life.”
Grace has to do with it all being Him. He does it.
Not us. Grace is always a surprise. You think it’s not
going to happen, and it does. If it weren’t for God’s grace
and mercy, we wouldn’t even be saved for the Bible tells
us, “by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8) and
“according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).

As long as you are alive, it is never too late to ask Christ for His mercy and grace. You, too, can ask Christ to forgive you and ask Christ to come into your heart. But, once your heart quits beating, it is forever too late. Today is the perfect day to give your heart to Christ. You can do it! You can give your heart and life to Christ.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rising to Our Highest Potential in Christ; From Ordinary to Extraordinary

Last week, I spoke to you about our need to recognize our true potential as God created humans. God has created each of us with special attributes and the potential to do the things that need to be done in our life and for the Kingdom of God. Indeed, there isn’t a person on earth who does not have the ability to rise to heights beyond their greatest imagination, because God gave each person the ability to serve Him and others in some capacity or another. Moreover, God created us ordinary mortals to fulfill our God “created” potentials and to serve Him. In fact, no matter how ordinary we feel or how handicapped that we are, God created each of us with specific attributes along with the goals that we can each reach. As I said last time, “we just have to be willing to serve the Lord and rise to our highest potential for Him.”  

Every life has worth. But, to really discover our particular worth, we need to acknowledge the One and Only God and His Son, Jesus Christ, who died and arose for our sins, so that someday we can spend eternity with God and Christ in Heaven. Through our salvation, we can discover what we can do for the Kingdom of God and His people. Obviously, there are good people of worth who do great things throughout their lives such as inventors, economists, builders, etc. But, to have great worth in the eyes of God, we have to first recognize His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior. Then, the things that we do for others and to represent Christ here on earth has even greater meaning for our eternal lives, because we are representing Christ in all the we do and we are helping others to find salvation too.

Even when a terribly handicapped person seems to just be existing, there is great potential for their life to touch and affect another’s life and to make a difference in someone’s life journey. The other person sees the strength and determination it takes for this handicapped person to just exist, i.e., in order for this person to just live. In such cases, that handicapped person’s life becomes a motivation, an influence, or an example of the human strength and resolution to just be who they were created to be.  Moreover, as I said before, sometimes it is just by a person existing or by sharing their life with another that they can give another human hope, insight, strength, joy, love, etc. that they would not have ever received had it not been for that one individual created by God who crossed their path. So, no matter how ordinary you feel that you are, you have the potential for greatness! For in some manner or another, God created all humans to be great.

The Bible is full of seemingly ordinary humans that God created who rose to their potential of greatness. Sure, many made mistakes, but they rose above those mistakes to become what God created them to be. God told us their stories within the pages of the Bible so that we could learn from them. So, let’s take a look at a few of the ordinary individuals that are listed in the Bible. Their stories and their lives touched not only the people around them long ago, but even though they are long gone, their lives are still touching us today. As we look at these different individuals, try to discover what they did to contribute to the Gospel message. What were they able to accomplish by believing in and obeying God? What did each individual person do, to contribute to the Kingdom of God? How did they rise above their weaknesses to become more than they ever thought they could become. Then, think about what you can do to contribute to God’s Kingdom. The first ordinary person that we will look at is a man named Gideon.

(As usual, I have written a long blog. But, I have also divided the blog into sections so that you can read one section at a time at your convenience. I hope that you won't give up on reading this blog, because it is important for each of us to understand just how extraordinary our lives can be if we will just choose to live for the Lord.)

Gideon, an Ordinary Man

The Bible is full of true stories about ordinary individuals who became more than they ever thought they could become simply by listening to and then doing for the Lord. One of those interesting, but ordinary individuals was Gideon. For the full and very interesting story of this man, you will need to turn to the book of Judges and look at chapters 11-16. Although I will try to give you a quick synopsis of this story, I encourage you to read all about Gideon on your own in the Bible. However, before I tell you about Gideon’s story, I need to give you a little background about the Israelites and Gideon so you will understand why the Lord asked Gideon to rise up to his created potential. (Remember, in the last blog we learned that God created each of us with great potential, if we will just choose to live up to our potential).

For a little background, I need to tell you how the Israelites and Gideon got to where they are at this moment in time. After the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt by God and Moses, whom God chose to lead the Israelite people out of Egypt, the Israelites then disobeyed God. Out of fear they refused to enter into the Promised Land. As a result, they ended up wandering 40 years in the desert until all of that first generation of people had died. Then their children, or the next generation of the Israelites, finally entered into and settled in The Promised Land.

As the Israelites came into and settled into the Promised Land, God told the Israelites to run out all the evil tribes that believed in false gods, because God did not want these ungodly tribes to influence the Israelites in any way. But instead of running off all the ungodly tribes, the Israelites allowed some of the tribes to stay in the Promised Land with them. Consequently, the Israelites were constantly being influenced by all the ungodly people living among them; the people whom they had failed to run out of the land. Eventually, the influence of these ungodly people completely took the Israelites’ attention or focus off of God so much so that later generations of the people living in the Promised Land now started living for themselves, i.e. “doing what was right in their own eyes”, and worshipping their neighbor’s idols or false gods. When this happened, God became angry with the Israelites and decided to discipline them by allowing one or the other of the neighboring and warring ungodly tribes to invade their land and capture them. When this happened, the Israelites were then oppressed or became the slaves of the invading tribe.

Eventually, after much persecution, the Israelites recognized their sinfulness, repented, and then called out to God for help. Obviously, they were desperate for help, so they promised to again worship only God, if He would just rescue them from this slavery or oppression. Of course, God heard their cries and then raised up a judge to save them from their oppressors. In this case, a judge was more than just a judge to adjudicate civil matters. He/she was also a warrior or could lead and help the Israelite men to rout out the oppressors.

After God raised up a deliverer who saved them from the oppressor, the Israelites would finally have their freedom again. For a several years, the Israelites would again live up to their promise to worship only God. But then several years later and after several new generations of Israelites came along living for themselves again, there would gradually be a forgetfulness by the newer generations about their ancestors promise to live for God. They would also gradually see no problem with intermarrying within the ungodly tribes who were living amongst them. Moreover, these later generations would again start living only for themselves and “doing what was right in their own eyes”.  Just as importantly, these later generations of Israelites also couldn’t remember or simply chose to ignore what God had done for their grandparents and great-grandparents, so it was easy for them to begin to live for themselves and in the process, fail to worship God. Of course, they were influenced, too, by the ungodly tribes living among them. Consequently, some of the Israelites would again begin to marry into these ungodly tribes, thus weakening even more their devotion to God. So, the cycle of disobedience and then falling away from God would start all over again.

As a parent, we should be able to understand how saddened and angry God would become with His children. God had done great things for them. He even brought them out of their slavery in Egypt and now this is the way they treated Him. Where was their appreciation and their honor of God?  To make God’s disappointment even worse, God had given them chance after chance to correct themselves, but then the time would come again when God had to discipline the Israelites for their disobedience. Discipline comes in many forms as all parents know. We know that the discipline of our children should fit the situation so that our child or our children will not do the same thing again. We hope that the discipline will keep our children from doing the same thing again. They are supposed to learn from their mistakes.

Certainly, the Israelites should have understood what slavery and economic oppression was all about, especially since word of mouth was the way that they kept their history and told stories relating the events of their families and previous generations. In other words, each generation would have told the next generation of the story of their escape from Egypt with God’s help. Eventually, those who could read and write would record the incidents for their posterity. Because the Israelites repeated this story and other rescue stories over and over again, they should have been able to understand that God used discipline that incorporated more slavery or economic oppression to get their attention. Obviously, God hoped that this type of discipline would get their attention and cause them to do that which is right and true. Sadly, within a few generations, the people would lose interest in worshipping God and start to follow the false gods of their neighbors. When they started “to do what was right in their own eyes,” God would again allow the Israelites to be captured by a foreign foe and oppressed for a period of time until they repented and called out for Him to help them.

After several years of oppression, and in some cases it took many years before a new generation of people would finally realize that they needed God’s help, the people would finally repent and call out for God’s help. God was always waiting for them to recognize His power and support. So, when they called out to Him with sincere true repentance in their hearts, God would again raise up a judge warrior to get them out of the mess they were in.

Over a period of 410 years, the Israelites received help from at least 15 judges, i.e. ordinary men, who rose to their highest potential to save the Israelites from their oppressors. Gideon’s time came about the fifth time that this cycle of falling away from God had occurred, for the Bible tells us that yet again “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, (so) the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.”  -- (Judges 6: 1. NASB).

The Midianites

The Midianites were economic oppressors. They would allow the Israelites to plant their food, but when it came harvest time, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east swarmed in to take their harvest. In order to avoid these scavengers the Israelites would make dens to hide in and find caves in which they could hide and store their produce. But, sometimes the Midianites would come suddenly and strip the land. In fact, the Bible says that the Midianites and their comrades would “… camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locust for number, both they and their camels were innumerable, and came into the land to devastate it.

So, Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord. Now it came about that when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord on account of Midian that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel and he said to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel. ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.’”

 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out the wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.’”  -- (Judges 6: 12. NASB).

Obviously, Gideon was no valiant warrior. In fact, he was hiding in the wine press and beating the wheat there so that the Midianites did not see him or take the wheat. But the Lord did see Gideon as a valiant warrior, because the Lord knew that this ordinary man was going to accomplish great things for Him and his people. Gideon, though, did not see himself the same way that the Lord saw him. Instead, Gideon saw himself as weak and scared. That is because like so many of us do, his focus was on the present moment and the circumstances that he and his people found themselves in. How could such a lowly ordinary man be or become a valiant warrior when in his own eyes he believed that he was little and weak?  So, Gideon said to the Angel, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us over to Midian.
The Lord looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”  -- (Judges 6: 13,14. NASB).

Gideon, though, was not convinced that he could accomplish anything, let alone rescue or deliver Israel from the Midianites. So, Gideon said to the LORD, “O LORD, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manassah, and I am the youngest in my father’s house. But the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”  -- (Judges 6: 15, 16. NASB).

Gideon believed that not only was he not capable of rescuing the people, but he wondered how the LORD could choose someone from one of the least people groups within his tribe of Manassah. Gideon then pointed out to God that he was also the youngest in his father’s house, meaning; why didn’t the LORD ask one of his older brothers to do this task instead of Gideon. But the LORD had prepared Gideon to do this job ages ago when God created Gideon. God knew that Gideon would be able to rescue his people even though Gideon did not know that he was capable of doing so. In fact, God is the secret to all people’s success throughout the Bible as well as the source of all the success in our daily lives. If God is for us, then we will succeed. Indeed, God will never ask us to do something that we can’t do.

There is much more to Gideon’s story, but let’s jump to the conclusion of this miraculous event. Gideon finally accepted God’s call for him to rescue his people. Then the first thing Gideon did was to prepare the men of Israel and himself by tearing down the town’s altar to the false god of Baal. He wanted all the people to realize that there was only one God and that they were no longer going to worship a false god.

Then the Midianites and their cohorts arrived as they had for the past several years; the Midianites, Amalekites and sons of the east assembled themselves together camping in the valley of Jezreel so they could swarm in like locusts and grab all the harvest from the Israelites. The Bible tells us that “… the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him, and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Napthtali, and they came up to meet them….” – (Judges 6: 34, 35. NASB).

Then Jerubbaal (that is another name for Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’” (So, the Lord told Gideon that he had too many troops or people with him. If they used all the men that had come to help Gideon, Israel would think that it was through their own power that they had overcome the Midianites, et al. So, God did not want Gideon to take all the men with him that he had assembled. Eventually, through some unusual techniques, God winnowed down the 32,000 men or troops to just 300 men who would go with Gideon into battle.)

So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands, and Gideon sent all the other men of Israel each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. Now that same night it came about that the LORD said to Gideon, ‘Arise, go down against the camp (of the Midianites), for I have given it into your hands.’” – (Judges 7: 1-11. NASB).

Now, this ordinary man had to be afraid. Gideon wasn’t a skilled warrior and he didn’t really understand how he could defeat all the men that were camping in the valley of Jezreel. But God could read the heart of Gideon and God knew that Gideon needed reassurance, so he told Gideon to take his servant and sneak up outside the Midianites camp and just listen. God told Gideon, “… you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.” – (verse 11).  So, that is exactly what Gideon did. What he overheard was one man relating a dream to another man. In this dream the man said that “a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned upside down so that the tent lay flat. His friend replied, ‘That is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.– (Judges 7:13, 14. NASB).

When Gideon heard this, he worshiped the Lord and returned to his camp. There he divided the 300 men into three companies that could then surround the Midianite’s camp. Gideon then gave each man a trumpet and an empty pitcher with a torch inside the pitcher. Finally, Gideon said to the men, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’ … When the three companies blew their trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their rights hands for blowing, and Gideon cried, a sword for the Lord and for Gideon.’– (verses 18, 20. NASB).

The Midianites and their cohorts were completely confused and this entire group of scavengers or raiders ran from their camp even as the Midianite and Amalekite men set their swords against each other. Gideon’s men captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and killed them. Everyone knew that it was Gideon with only 300 men who had with the power and strength of God, succeeded in doing what it should have taken at least 32,000 or more men to be able to do. But with God, anything is possible, even for an ordinary person like Gideon!

What God Expects From Us

Just like Gideon, we have the ability to do the work of the Lord even if we don’t think that we are capable. God only asks us to do that which He knows that we can do. Remember that God created each of us to be more than we ever think that we can be. For, just as God asked Gideon to be a valiant warrior, we, too, can be that super empowered person to work for the Lord through Active Relational Christian Mentoring, through our church work, through Bible studies, through missionary services, and throughout many other areas of service that we were created to perform. We just have to step up and ask God what He wants us to do, then do it.

In many cases, like with Gideon’s army, God may first reduce our physical resources, so that we have to rely entirely on Him, rather than relying on ourselves or others. But whatever our needs are, God will provide. Even our personal handicaps can seem to be a reduction in our ability to do something, yet if we trust in the Lord and let Him lead us, that handicap my actually be the beginning of something great that we can do for the Lord and others. Life is not so much about what is or is not possible, but is about what is actually possible through the Lord.

Even those children who are born not being able to talk or move, have been given something special by the Lord. For, just in existing, they will bring love, perseverance, joy, insight, discernment, and many other things into the lives that they touch. Yes, there can be pain for them and their family, but it is often pain that creates strength and humility as well as caring and love within a family. This strength, humility, love, and even moments of joy can spread over into the lives of the friends and acquaintances that know them. So, whatever perception you have of yourself or others, take the time to look at yourself through the eyes of God. He loves you and wants you to live up to the potential that He created within you. 

Other Ordinary individuals who have done Extraordinary Things for the Lord and Others.

The Bible is full of true stories about ordinary individuals who became more than they ever thought they could become on their own, just from listening to the Lord, obeying Him, and actually doing what they were created to do. In fact, throughout history, there are stories of men and women who have risen above their ordinariness to do things that have made a great difference in the world and in the lives of others. I often think about all the true Christians in World War II who risked their lives to hide and smuggle Jews out of Germany and certain death. These were just ordinary individuals who listened to God through the reading of their Bible, through prayer, and from listening for the Holy Spirit’s voice speaking to them. There are many other people, though, who have risen to their potential from trying to fill their need or the need of someone else at a particular time. Such was the case of those that God listed within the Bible. The stories of these ordinary individuals are within the pages of the Bible to show us how to live and to show us what not to do in life, as well as to tell us what we can do when we depend upon God for our strength.

Below is a fairly short abbreviated list of just a few men and women who obeyed God and were able to achieve what God created them to do for others and for the Kingdom of God and His people. They rose to their highest potential for the Lord.

1.     I will start with Adam and Eve. Although they ended up sinning and being kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve populated the earth and taught their son Seth about God. They taught their son Cain too, but he chose to ignore God and to do things his own way, which led him to kill his brother Abel and to then be sent far away from his family. Although, they had many weaknesses, Adam and Eve did what they were created to do. They were created to populate the world so they and their children and grandchildren did that. They were also created to love God and to tell their children of the wondrous God who loved them. Unfortunately, they failed to do that in so many different ways. However, at least one son, Seth, got the message of the importance of God.

2.     Who could forget Noah. Because Noah was a godly man, God called Noah seemingly out of the blue to build an ark that would hold his family and many animals when the earth was flooded.  For 120 years, Noah preached to the people to change their ways and to believe in God, but the people were evil and refused to believe. At the same time, it took Noah 120 years to build an ark large enough to hold his family and all the animals that God wanted him to put on the ark. You can read about this ordinary man who became extraordinary, within the book of Genesis, in chapters 6-9. Noah rose to heights of greatness by listening to God and doing what he had been created to do.

3.     Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, recognized that there was only one true God even though the rest of the world worshipped many different false gods. Abram not only recognized God, but he also fellowshipped with Him and listened to God’s direction for his life. For, when God told Abram to leave Ur of the Chaldees and travel to the Promised Land, Abram unquestionably arose and over several years made his way to the Promised Land. Abram, however, was just an ordinary man, though probably comfortably wealthy. However, he gave up his prestige and his city life to listen to and serve the Lord. So, Abram along with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot and their servants and livestock left to follow God’s direction for Abram’s life. Instead of ignoring God, Abram heeded God’s call. You can read about this ordinary man who was created for exceptionalism. His story is located in the Bible within the book of Genesis, chapters 11- 25.

4.     Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, was the younger son of Abraham’s son, Isaac. Jacob was certainly an ordinary young man, but with some deceitful ways. One day Jacob decided to steal his twin brother’s birthright in order to get what he wanted in life. Yet, Jacob also heard from God (See Genesis, chapters 25-35), and in listening to God, he eventually turned to God and gave up his deceitful ways. In fact, this ordinary man finally decided to devote himself to the Lord. Along the way, Jacob was blessed with twelve sons who also were all just ordinary men, who along with their goodness, were also filled with selfishness, meanness, and deceitful ways. Still they, too, were used by God, who used both their strengths and weaknesses to advance the position of their younger brother Joseph within the land of Egypt. This allowed time for Hebrew people to grow in numbers.

Although Joseph’s brothers did not know that their negative attributes such as jealousy and sibling rivalry would lead to the forming of a great group of Hebrew people, their evil intentions were turned into good. In fact, God used these ordinary young men along with their weaknesses of jealousy, hate, and sibling rivalry, to put into motion events that would lead to their and their family’s lives being saved years later.

5.     The ten older brothers plotted to do away with Joseph, who was the next to youngest son of Jacob’s. Nine of Joseph’s eleven brothers plotted to kill Joseph. Yet, the strength and wisdom of one of these ten older brothers, finally led the other nine brothers to instead agree to just sell Joseph to some Ishmaelite traders. This would get rid of Joseph without actually killing him. So after buying Joseph, the Ishmaelite traders took him to Egypt where they sold Joseph to one of Pharaoh’s Egyptian officers. Joseph worked hard for the officer trying to always do what God wanted him to do. But, through no fault of his own, he ended up in prison to die there. However, God had other plans for Joseph. Joseph was given a chance to help the Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt when Joseph was allowed to explain a disconcerting dream that Pharaoh had. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s ability to explain his dream when no one else could that he released Joseph from prison. Furthermore, because of Joseph’s wisdom and mathematical abilities the Pharaoh appointed him second in command to only him.

During all this time, Joseph had great fellowship and communication with the Lord, and as a result, this ordinary man was able to rise to greatness and save his entire Hebrew family, including the brothers that had tried to kill him and their servants and workers from a worldwide famine. For, it was through Joseph’s godly knowledge and personal love for God that Joseph and his insight as well as his obtaining the position of the second in command was able to help Egypt become the only country that would have enough grain stored up when the famine came. Then, when the famine finally came and his brothers came begging for food, Joseph not only gave them food for their entire clan, but he forgave them. He was also given permission by the Pharaoh to bring his entire family and their servants into Egypt, giving them the best farming land in Egypt. So, for nearly 400 years the Hebrews prospered in Egypt and their numbers grew. They actually became large enough in number to become a nation at some point in time.

Unfortunately, a new Pharaoh, one who wasn’t there when the Hebrew people initially came to Egypt and settled, became afraid of the ever-increasing or ever growing numbers of the Hebrew people. This new Pharaoh was afraid that the Hebrews would rise up and try to overthrow the Egyptians. So, the Pharaoh decided to oppress the Hebrews and make slaves out of them so he would have control over them. This Pharaoh even tried to kill the babies that were born to the Hebrews. Perhaps this is the first example of full-blown anti-Semitic bigotry and hatred stemming from the fear of these people and the difference in their life-style.

6.     Moses: Then God again provided away to save the Hebrew people through another ordinary person. This time it was through a child who grew up to live to his fullest potential. This child, who would be named Moses by a princess, would save the Hebrew people from destruction. By following God’s direction, Moses would lead the people while God protected the Jewish people from a deranged Pharaoh. First, though, Moses would have to be kept alive to grow up to be that leader. In order to keep him from being killed by the Pharaoh who had ordered the deaths of all the Hebrew baby boys, his mother hid Moses in the bulrushes where he was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. She rescued him, named him, and then raised Moses in the palace with many privileges. But, Moses still came to know that his people were really the Hebrews.

One day when Moses was out in the area where the Hebrews were working as slaves making bricks for the Pharaoh, Moses saw a Hebrew man being abused by an Egyptian overseer. Suddenly, Moses became angry and killed the man. Then Moses had to flee for his life, or he himself would have been killed. He made it to the land of Midian, married and lived there for 40 years as a farmer and shepherd of a flock of sheep. But one day God chose to address and use this ordinary man, with his murderous background and perhaps even a vocal stutter, to rescue the Hebrew people from Egypt and the Pharaoh. Those forty years in Midian were used by God to prepare Moses to become a leader. More importantly, he had to learn to follow God’s precise directions in order to save the Hebrew people.

Moses became devoted to God and followed His directions which highlighted the power and greatness of God. He was able to get the Hebrew people safely across the Red Sea and to Mount Sinai where God again used Moses to give the people His commandments and laws. Then Moses brought them to the entrance of the Promised Land. But the people were afraid and refused to enter into the Promised Land. They would end up wondering for 40 years in the desert before their children, but not them, would get to enter into the Promised Land. (Read the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers to learn more about Moses).

7.     During the trek from Egypt to Mount Sinai and while wandering in the desert, God provided Moses with another ordinary man, in the man Joshua, who became Moses’ right hand man and warrior. Along their journey, Joshua helped defeat the warring tribes that wanted to destroy the Hebrew people, i.e. the Israelites. Later, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land and helped them to rout out most of the evil ungodly tribes that had settled in Canaan.

Relying on God, and once inside the Promised Land, Joshua divided up the land giving a portion to each of the different Israelite tribes. He then set before them the standards that they were to use to worship God and live righteously. Unfortunately, successive new generations of Israelites did not always heed the ways that God wanted them to live. In many instances, they lived for themselves and did what was right in their own eyes. To help the Israelites and to give the successive new generations another chance to do what was right in the eyes of God, God used 15 ordinary Hebrew men over the next 410 years to judge and guide Israel. These judges were leaders and warriors who were able to save and bring the Israelites back to worshipping God. Joshua’s story can be found within the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua.

8.     One of these judges, as I mentioned before, was a man named Gideon. But like all the other judges, Gideon was just an ordinary man. In fact, all the judges were just ordinary people who stepped up and provided godly service to the LORD while saving the Israelites from themselves and their enemies. It would be through these judges that the Israelites would return to serving and worshiping the one true God for period of time before they again forsook the LORD.

9.     Without going into great detail, the Older Testament is filled with ordinary people just like you and me who rose out of their ordinariness to achieve or accomplish great things for the LORD. For example, there was Jephthah, who was the son of a prostitute. He delivered Israel from the Ammonites in Judges 11. God gave him the inner strength and ability to lead the Israelites and save them from their oppressors.

10. Then there were the ordinary women who did great and mighty things for the LORD, like Deborah, who was a judge who saved the Israelites from King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite king. The death blow to Sisera, who was the King Jabin’s commander, though, came from another ordinary woman named, Jael. She had the courage to use a tent peg and drive it into the head of the sleeping Sisera, instantly killing him. (See Judges 4).  Jael was just a housewife who knew that the Israelites were being pursued by the Canaanite king and his commander. She was willing to stop Sisera for the Israelites.

11. There was also Hannah, a simple wife and homemaker who wanted to have children but was barren. After prayers and a heartfelt promise to give her weened child over to the priest to be used for God’s purposes if God would just give her a son, God gave Hannah a son. Indeed, Hannah kept her promise and gave her son, Samuel, into the hands of Eli the priest to be used by God as a judge and prophet for the Israelites for many years. (See I and II Samuel for the story of the entire life of Samuel, who grew up to be a great man of God).

12.  Among all the ordinary people of the Older Testament were the two women, Naomi and Ruth. It was through the Active Relational Mentoring done through Naomi for Ruth that Ruth, a Moabite woman, became a believer in the one and only God. In fact, little did either woman know, but Ruth would become the great-great grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus. Ruth’s faithful trust in Naomi and her obedience to her, meant that this ordinary woman would come to know God personally and would leave a legacy that has had far reaching results on the world. If each Christian were to live their life for God, our ordinary lives would have even greater significance than they do now. Are you listening to and living for God?

13.  Of course, we cannot forget the simple shepherd boy who came forward and used his slingshot to kill the giant Philistine, Goliath. David was just an ordinary young man or teenager who rose to the occasion to do the job that God had created him to do. He was there to kill Goliath and to become the king of the Israelites after Saul died. To read about David’s inspiring, but very human life, read I and II Samuel and I Kings, as well as I Chronicles. David also wrote many of the Psalms.

14. Although we cannot name every ordinary person within the Bible who became significant, we cannot forget two other women. The first woman is Esther, who was a just a simple slave girl. Yet, she was chosen to be the Queen of King Xerxes and ended up saving the lives of all the Jewish people throughout the nation. She and her uncle, Mordecai, were able to stop a planned Anti-Semitic massacre that did not take place, all because this one woman, Esther, chose to stand up and do that which God had asked her to do. (The entire exciting story is found in the book of Esther.).

15.  In the Newer Testament, we cannot forget Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary was just an ordinary young girl, whom God chose to be the mother of His Son, Jesus Christ, who would be the Savior of the world.  Mary would be the mother of Christ. Little did Mary know that she would be given such a honor and responsibility, but she gladly accepted her responsibility even though it meant that many people would not believe her and would simply think that she and Joseph did not wait until they were officially married to get pregnant. Instead of bemoaning her lot in life; that of having her friends and neighbors think that she had become pregnant before the completion of her marriage to Joseph, Mary stepped up and praised God. Moreover, Mary gladly did what the Lord asked her to do. Mary even praised the Lord and sang a song now called the Magnificat in which she glorified God in song for what He was going to do for the world through Christ, His Son, the child that she was carrying in her womb. (See Luke 1: 48-55). Mary had been created for an amazing position in life.

16.  Certainly, we cannot forget to mention Joseph, the earthly father of the Son of God. He accepted Mary and took on the responsibility of raising a son that wasn’t even his. But, Joseph knew that he had been given a special honor in raising Jesus. He knew that this boy was God’s Son.

17.  Finally, we cannot forget to mention the disciples. Each disciple was an ordinary man. Each one had baggage and each one had strengths along with his weaknesses. But, they had each been created for the role that they were going to play in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Take a few minutes to read the Gospels in the Newer Covenant/ Testament to get to know these ordinary men better. From the fishermen, to the tax collector, and Simon the Zealot, as well as all the others in between, God chose these particular ordinary humans to be the voice for Jesus Christ once he went back to Heaven after He arose from the grave. These men were just like men today, but they recognized the Savior. They believed and trusted in Jesus Christ as the living Son of God. Then they were willing to do the work of telling the world about Him even if it meant that they would die for the truth.

        People today rarely die for telling the truth, especially not in America, yet we are still afraid to reach out and tell the truth about Christ being the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But no matter what stage you are in life and no matter where you live in the world, you can be more than you ever thought you could be by simply reaching out to share the Gospel and all God’s truth with those around you. Please remember that you were created to be exceptional long before you were born. In fact, David said of God, “You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”  -- (Psalm 139: 13-16. NASB). Are you living out those days for the Lord?

Obedience to God

None of us know how many days we have to live on this earth. But, if we know Christ as our Savior, we know that we will one day live with Him forever. If you have asked Christ to come into your heart and to save you, you now have an obligation to tell as many people about Christ as you possibly can and to be of service to the Kingdom of God. Moreover, there are many ways to tell others of Christ just as there are many ways you can reach out and help others or to be of service to God. You were created to be more than you may have ever thought you could become. For God created you to be more than ordinary. You can be extraordinary simply by loving others as you love yourself and by doing the work that God has created you to do.

Take some time to pray about your attributes and what God would like you to do with those attributes. Perhaps you are to mentor others. Perhaps you were created to be a nurse to the sick while your actions show them the love of God. Perhaps you were created to be an office worker who lets others see the face of Christ in your behaviors and actions. No matter what job you have, or what lot in life you are holding, you have opportunities to be a light in your small part of the world for Christ. You can think outside the box and then rise to your highest potential as you live out your created abilities for the Lord each day.

Obedience to the Lord, is the most important thing that we can do while here on this earth. Being obedient can be expressed in many different ways, but it all boils down to asking the Lord what He wants us to do and then doing it. Remember too, that no matter what God asks you to do, He has prepared you to do it and He will be there to help you accomplish the task that you were created to do. And if you are afraid to do what God asks you to do, think upon some of the ordinary people, like Gideon and Hannah within the pages of the Bible who stepped forward and did what they were supposed to do. You can do it! You can be obedient to the Lord. You can even actively mentor another for the Lord.

Don’t forget about the greatest example of obedience, which was the obedience of the Son of God. Jesus Christ came to earth in human form to accomplish the goal of saving our eternal lives. He did not give up when the task seemed more than He could stand. No, Christ did not give up! He was obedient to the Father. Jesus went to the cross so that we could have eternal life. Although we will probably never be asked to give up our life, the least that we can do is to live our life in such a way that others can see Christ in us and want Him in their lives too. Remember that you are more than ordinary. You are a creation of God’s that can do great things for the Kingdom of God. You can do it! You can live your life for God through service and love shown to others.

Blessings of the Cross  Day 9
by Billy Graham

He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5: 8

The main reason Jesus died on the cross was
to save us from our sins. But the New Testament also
stresses the importance of His suffering as an example for us.
The Greek word for example comes from ancient
school life, and refers to something written down by the
teacher, so it could be followed and copied exactly by a
child learning to write. Christ is our copybook. We look
to Him as our teacher, and by His suffering He gave us
an example to follow, so we can learn how suffering is to be borne.
How did He bear it? By not giving in to despair or
doubt. By looking beyond it and seeing the glory that
was to come. By knowing the Father was with Him and
would use His suffering for good. The same can be true for us.
The author of Hebrews writes, “Consider him who
endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you
will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3, NIV).

Yes, consider Him.