Ambassadors

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I wonder what it would be like to be an ambassador to some foreign place. I suppose at times I’d feel quite important, having been commissioned as an official representative by the leaders of my country. Other times, I expect I’d feel a bit lonely and lost, living in a place that wasn’t my home. Above all, I think I’d carry with me a sense of great responsibility, wondering who was listening, watching and assuming that my daily choices were typical of my countrymen.

The Apostle Paul considered himself to be Christ’s ambassador even when he was in jail. And in 2 Corinthians 5:20, he commissioned us, saying, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

This is an important calling! It’s issued not by leaders of our country, but by the Creator of our universe via his servant and messenger, Paul. Our ambassadorship isn’t an option. We represent Christ, every day, wherever we go and in whatever we’re doing—or not doing, “as though God were making his appeal through us.” God speaking through us is a heady thought.  How do we react to disappointment or mistreatment? What do we do with our spare time? What do our facial expressions convey when we don’t think anyone is watching?

Do you ever feel a bit lonely or lost in this world? A bit out of place? That’s to be expected, and Paul tells us how to handle it—be reconciled to God. It’s only through a closer walk with the Lord who loves us that we can fulfill our calling. When we’re trusting him in all things, we can get through the muck and mire that the world tends to dish out. Our response to trouble ought to be an immediate cry to our Lord for perspective, protection and direction—as long as we’re reconciled to him. If we’ve allowed our relationship to grow cold, to be walled off—perhaps by sin or selfishness—it’s easy to forget that he’s right there ready to help.

Most of us will never be asked to go live in some foreign place and represent our country. We’ve been commissioned, though, to an even greater calling. When you head out today, imagine yourself wearing the badge of a diplomat. (Okay, maybe they don’t wear badges, but you get my drift.)

Let your light so shine!

 

(Photo from Pixabay)

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No Bones About It (by Beth Smith)

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Have you heard these expressions?

  • “Man! I am bone tired today.”
  • “I can feel it in my bones.”
  • “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.” (Uh, oh, that usually starts an argument.)

King David mentioned his bones in the Bible: “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony” (Psalm 6:2).

When confessing his sins to God, David referred to his bones again: “When I kept silent (before I confessed) my bones wasted away through my groanings all day long” (Psalm 32:3 AMP). When he was restored, he expressed his gratitude by saying, “With every bone in my body I will praise him: ‘Lord, who can compare with you?’”(Psalm 35:10 NLT).

Let’s think about how to have healthy bones in a scriptural sense. David has already given us one way: we confess our sins and then let God forgive and cleanse us.

Here’s another daily requirement for our bones. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3: 6-8).

A third necessity for healthy bones is found in Proverbs 17:22. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If we don’t want dry bones, we need a cheerful heart. How do we get one?

  • Rely on the Lord for help, and be confident in him.
  • Live by the wisdom found in God’s Word.
  • Be kind and merciful to the poor.
  • Reverently worship the Lord.
  • And follow these wise words of Paul, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

We want to keep our bones healthy, and we don’t want to be boneheads. So let’s get some back bone and bone up on God’s Word. Let’s confess our sins and let God cleanse us. Let’s trust God and keep our confidence in him alone. Let’s seek a happy heart. We can do it! The Bible tells us so!

Faith and Presumption

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I was staying at my parents’ condo a few weeks ago and borrowed my mom’s Bible. She writes in the margins, making her Bible all the more precious and insightful. Here is the passage I was reading from Matthew 14:25-33. (Underlining mine.)

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Here is the note Mom had penned in the margin: “Peter knew he could not walk on the water unless Jesus told him to.”

Peter asked Jesus to call him out onto the water, and then he waited for Christ’s command. We can, in our own pride and presumption, begin to consider ourselves to be in charge of—responsible for—far too much. Our God is an awesome God, ready to help us accomplish great things, but not all things. We are wise to seek his will and keep our efforts within his calling.

Secondly, if we doubt or fail, all is not lost. Yes, Peter sank. But he also walked. And he was still brought back into the boat by the Lord.

What are you considering this week? Pray. Seek the counsel of a good friend and of the Bible and of God’s still small voice. Don’t take on some challenge just because it is there. It may be meant for another. But, if you are convinced that God is calling you to some task, step out of the boat! Our Lord won’t let you drown.

Shrek the Sheep

 

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You’ve probably seen the movies, may even have read the book, but have you heard about the sheep? Yes, Shrek is also the name of a famous sheep…on the other side of the world…New Zealand, to be exact, where the sheep population outnumbers the humans six to one.

We can safely assume that New Zealand shepherds are far smarter than their sheep. Thus, their sheep are best off cooperating with the one in charge. However, in the late 1990’s, Shrek the Renegade Sheep thought he had a better idea. Shrek decided he no longer wanted to be shorn. This was a foolish decision on the part of the renegade.

  • Long fleece can lead to overheating, limited mobility, and even disease.
  • Shearing also keeps older dirty wool from contaminating new growth.

Evidently none of that mattered to Shrek or, more likely, he simply wanted his own way and didn’t know any better. Big mistake! Want to know how big? Take a look at this photo. This is Shrek after hiding in caves, successfully avoiding six years of annual shearing.

Now, I ask you, does that look like a happy, healthy animal? When he was finally caught and shorn, the wool removed weight 60 pounds, enough to make 20 large men’s suits. Talk about carrying around extra baggage!

Are we ever Shrek-like? You bet.

  • When the Shepherd is ready to remove what we no longer need, or might even do us harm, how often do we balk, hide, or refuse to our own detriment?
  • When have we tried to hold on to what keeps us from healthy spiritual growth?

Surely we are always better off trusting the wisdom of our Shepherd, fully cooperating with the One in charge.

The next time I’m tempted to balk at what God is asking, I’m going to remember Shrek the Renegade, no make that, Miserable Looking Sheep and choose the Shepherd’s way over my own.

 

 

Mrs. Oswald Chambers

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I’m reading Mrs. Oswald Chambers, and my aim today is to urge you to do the same. It’s the story of Biddy Chambers, helpmeet to the man credited with writing My Utmost for His Highest. It recounts the life of faith that Oswald and his wife lived and explains how the famous devotional came to be. I’m savoring this book, reading a bit at a time in the quiet of each morning. It’s engaging, inspiring, full of history, and packed with wisdom. Let me share just a bit with you.

These quotes from My Utmost for His Highest remind me to renew my trust:

 

  • How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear?
  • It is God who engineers circumstances.
  • God…gives strength…only for the strain of the minute.

These quotes from Mrs. Oswald Chambers have taught me once again that we serve God in all we do, even the simple things, and that we ought to be ready all the time to lay down our own agendas.

  • Their day together still began in the early dawn hours with the Daily Light reading, prayer, and a cup of tea…Other people filled their days, but they remained mindful of each other. (p.115)
  • Biddy ran a ministry open to interruptions throughout her life…Fortunately tea and soup could always be stretched. (p. 59)
  • The secret to Biddy’s unflustered reactions to her lengthy to-do list and surprise visitors lay in her prayer time every morning. She gave God the day and watched it unfold in his timing with anticipation.
  • Oswald’s teaching was plain: When you were not sure of what God wanted, examine the situation and your options and then do the next logical thing. (p.127)

Each time I open the book, I learn something new. Of course, the same is true of My Utmost for His Highest. I hope you will add that devotional to your reading list as well. Biddy and Oswald were missionaries no matter where they were. They took difficulty and discomfort in stride as they served. They loved deeply—both Christ and those He put in their path. What a description of life well lived!

And how was the world’s bestselling devotional born out of their efforts? I hope you’ll get a copy of Mrs. Oswald Chambers and see for yourself! You can click here to read more about the book. There’s even a free download of the first two chapters available at the bottom left corner of the site.  

 

Forgiveness Follow-Up

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The very week I posted a blog on forgiveness, my pastor preached on the same topic. Many of his words were more eloquent than mine, so I’d like to share a few of them today.

What forgiveness doesn’t promise:

A free pass. Forgiveness doesn’t always bring release from consequences, no matter what our status in life may be. King Saul still lost the throne. King David still lost a child. And we still suffer the penalties of sin.

Restored relationships. Forgiveness doesn’t always lead to restored trust. We can forgive abusive behavior without allowing it to continue. However, if restoration is going to occur, it can’t happen without forgiveness.

Why we don’t forgive:

Conviction. Sometimes we don’t forgive because we are convinced that we are right. God needs to be the only judge of rightness. No one will ever be saved because of our judgement, but perhaps our forgiveness will draw someone closer to Christ.

Vengeance. When we seek vengeance, we are stepping in to do the will of God, and we are sinning.

Why we must forgive:

Obedience. We forgive because the Bible tells us to, and when we forgive, we are used by God.  (This could be a one-sentence blog, because that last line is all we really need to know!)

Our own sin. We forgive because we have been forgiven, and because we continue to need forgiveness.

How we ought to forgive:

Quickly. The sooner we forgive, the less likely we are to give our enemy a chance to create division in our hearts or our relationships. A brick or two can be removed easily. A brick wall? Not so simple.

Prayerfully. It’s hard to stay mad at our offenders while praying for them at the same time. Pray for those who have hurt you in big ways and in small.

Without forgetting. “Forgive and forget” is rarely possible. Furthermore, the miracle of real forgiveness comes in remembering the sin or brokenness of another and choosing to love and forgive nonetheless. If we forget sin, then what does it really cost us to love someone?

Thank you, Matt, for allowing me to share your words. What about the rest of you? What have you learned about forgiveness? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments box below.