We Are Ambassadors
From: Our Daily Journey
For many years, I held on to the dream of one day adopting a five-year-old boy from Russia. “Why such a specific desire?” a former colleague once asked me. “Because,” I explained, “Close friends adopted a five-year-old orphan from Russia and he’s amazing!” Samuel, the young boy from Russia, continues to be an (unofficial) ambassador for his native country.
The actions and attitudes of citizens, whether positive or negative, can significantly affect how others perceive their country of origin. That’s why it’s so important that those of us who profess to follow Jesus remember—at all times—that “we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’ ” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
As ambassadors, we’ve been given a “fearful responsibility to the Lord,” to represent Him in a manner that persuades others to know Him too (2 Corinthians 5:11). Our motives should not include seeking attention and applause for ourselves or our ministry, but to glorify God through our words and actions (2 Corinthians 5:12).
As ambassadors, may we grasp that we are empowered by Christ’s love, that He died for all, and that we’ve died to our old way of life (2 Corinthians 5:14). In response, by His strength, our aim should be to no longer live for ourselves but instead to live for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). This is an important charge as others are watching us and will make assumptions about what it means to believe in Jesus based on what our lives reflect.
What an extraordinary gift we have from God! He saved us from our sins, made us right with God through Christ, and permits us to be part of His work of reconciling people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18). Yes, we are His ambassadors.
|June 15, 2018
Does God Even Care About Me?
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29 (NIV)
A good friend’s father abandoned the family when she was young. As a result, she struggled relating to God as her Father. Another friend’s dad was harsh and critical. It took years for her to feel unconditionally loved by God.
As a young Christian, I was thankful I didn’t have major issues with my father. Although my dad wasn’t a Christ-follower, he allowed my mom to take me and my little sister to church. And though he never said, “I love you” nor attended any of my school performances, I knew he loved me in his own way. My father was a good man, hardworking and faithful to his family. However, he was an uninvolved presence in my life.
So if I had a problem, I went to my mother. If I got into trouble, I called my mother. When I wanted advice, well, you can guess whom I called. This didn’t seem odd to me.
For years I congratulated myself on navigating my father’s distant personality with minimal negative impact. I was deeply aware it could have been worse, and I thanked God for a happy childhood. It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I pushed a little deeper into relating to God as my heavenly Father, based on my earthly experience.
Back then I’d heard everyone (even those with great dads) has some kind of “father issue” with God because of their human (and inherently sinful) earthly fathers. While I wanted to dismiss it, I decided to revisit the topic. Could it be true for me? Was there something missing in my relationship with God?
As I dug deep, I discovered that although I was confident of God’s love, I didn’t really trust Him to be there in times of trouble. Would He step in if I had a problem? Does God even care about me?
Every question revealed the same disturbing truth: I didn’t really, truly, deep in my heart, trust God. Believe in? Yes. Love? Yes. But … trust? The words were easy to mouth, but my heart wasn’t singing the same tune.
This realization shed light on so many issues that hadn’t seemed troublesome enough to address. Like why I had trouble praying for myself. And why I had so much fear for myself and my children, or why I neglected to seek God’s wisdom in decision-making.
Seems I really did have “father issues” that affected my intimacy with God. I didn’t know what it was like to have a father to turn to in good or bad times. But I wanted to learn. I desperately wanted to know God as a perfect Father.
So as awkward as it felt, I made some changes.
I intentionally got more personal in prayer, even addressing God as “Dad.” (Mark 14:36) Faced with decisions, even small ones, I asked God for advice. (James 1:5) And when fear started to well up, like when I navigated a fear of flying, I declared, “I don’t trust the pilot, I don’t trust the mechanic who tightened the bolts, I don’t trust the weather, I trust YOU!” (Psalm 91)
Little by little, my faith and trust grew. I took doubtful thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and intentionally exchanged them with thoughts that affirmed God’s trustworthiness to help in times of trouble.
I also took today’s key verse to heart: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29). It took years to rewire my thinking with the truth about God’s ability and willingness to be my heavenly Father. And honestly, I’m still a work in progress.
When I slip back into my independent ways, I must choose to believe what’s true: I have a Heavenly Father who wants to be my hero, champion, protector and confidant — if I’ll only let Him.
Dear heavenly Father, You’re perfect in all Your ways. Your Word says You are a loving father, and I long to know You that way. Only You know the gaps in our relationship based on my imperfect understanding of You. Please reveal them to me, and help me work through them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Always Building and Watching
By: Michele Howe
“The God of heaven will give us success.” Nehemiah 2:20
Lately, I’ve been relating a lot to the Old Testament character Nehemiah who felt physically exhausted, emotionally spent, and spiritually opposed (and I’m not trying to rebuild a wall — just be faithful to the small stuff God has called me to do). As I read about the circumstances surrounding this unflinching soul who labored long and hard despite opposition from many forces, I am struck by this man’s focus on his objective to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (no matter what).
No doubt, Nehemiah, like all of us, caught the glorious vision of restoring what enemies had destroyed, for God’s honor and as a testimony of hope for the future of God’s people. When he realized the depth of destruction that had occurred, Nehemiah sat down and wept. Sound familiar? I wonder how many of us have the same reaction to — the national news, our local news, even to daily reports from our closest friends and family?
Of course, the appropriate reaction to any report of injury, loss, and destruction is to sit down and weep. But Nehemiah didn’t stop with the natural reaction; he took the news of the catastrophe and went straight to God.
Nehemiah’s bold prayer of faith, of great expectation even, is the kind of prayer I’m offering up to the Lord these days because I know my one and only hope lies in the deliverance that God alone can supply.
Reading about the days that followed Nehemiah’s gathering of workers and supplies, I marvel at not only how hard they worked, but how they worked — each one with his weapon in his hand. Nehemiah and his people were always building and watching. In other words, they had a job to do, but they were wise enough to stay on alert to the dangers that always accompany a work of faith (seen and unseen).
“But I (Nehemiah) prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.'” (See Nehemiah 6:9)
Nehemiah, terrific leader that he was, proved himself strong in faith as well as street smarts. He knew instinctively what I often forget. God can call us to a work; but it’s up to us to make sure we have our equipment, our supplies, and our weapons at the ready because opposition is always lurking just outside our line of vision.
For me, when I have a job to do, my best work (for God) comes only after I’ve counted the cost and prepared for the task at hand. For all of us, preparation comes in many guises … and there’ll be a price to pay, a burden we willingly take on, and sacrifices we’ll gladly make the moment God calls us. And yet, we can only complete the job with God’s sovereign intervention.
He puts the burden upon our heart to accomplish for Him something we can only do through Him. Each step of the way, with our hand upon our weapon (of faith), He gives us the gift of conscious reliance upon His moment-by-moment provision. We’re only truly suited for serving well when we truly understand the depth of our dependence upon Him.