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Faith Imagined: May 2008

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

May 25, 2008

Sacrificed, Stoned and Saved

In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."

Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. - Acts 14:8-20

I remember reading this and God told me that this is what happens to people who preach and teach the Gospel. People may hear them speak or read their books and be so moved that they will want to sacrifice to them, putting them on a pedestal instead of God. Other people might be so angered by them and their ministry that they will want to stone them and criticize them.

I remember thinking about all the people who I know in ministry. And it is so true. So many of us want to put them on a pedestal, and we believe that they are so much holier and more righteous than we are. We literally are more moved and in awe of them instead of moved and in awe of the awesome God that shines and works through them.

Other times we judge people in ministry and we want to knock them down because they aren't perfect or they aren't doing their ministry they way we want them to. We want to gossip and persecute them for anything that we see that isn't godly. We stare at every minute detail of their lives with our judging eyes just waiting for a reason to throw the first stone.

That's how Paul's ministry was. People wanted to sacrifice to him and others wanted to stone him. But, God whispered one more word to me during my meditation -- Saved! Yes, people will sacrifice to you when you share the Gospel and they may even stone you, but others may become saved from a meaningless and hopeless life and realized that God showed Himself to us 2000 years ago through Christ and still shows Himself today.

So here are the three things you get to look forward to when you start your own personal ministry:

1. You will be sacrificed to
2. You will be stoned
3. However, people will be saved

Those are the three S's of ministry!

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May 19, 2008

Never a Shepherd

I've been reading in the book of Samuel, and, finally, I've gotten to David's life. I've read and studied David's life several times, but I really just love the story. Today, I noticed something kind of interesting to me. In Samuel 17:20 before David goes out to bring his brothers food at the battlefield, the Scriptures says, "Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed."

When I saw the word "shepherd," I stopped. David had tended his father's sheep for some time, yet the never call him a shepherd. I looked back through everything I had read, but the Scriptures only say that David "tended his father's sheep." They never call him a shepherd. I thought that was interesting.

Then I told myself, "I bet he never goes back to tending the sheep again." David leaves the sheep with a true shepherd, and he is no longer needed in his father's fields. As I continued reading, David fought Goliath, befriended Jonathan, the king's son, joined Saul's service and never went back to the sheep.

What I realized is that many times in our lives we are doing jobs that really don't define us. God puts us in situations and positions that will lead to our eventual purpose, but those things should never make us feel like God's not fulfilling His promise.

Even before David was anointed king, he was never defined as a shepherd. God told Samuel while David was tending sheep, "I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." Even when David was just a boy and not even close to being able to bear the burdens and responsibilities of being king, God saw him as king.

God sees me as He has already promised me. Even though in my temporal mind I am not there yet, God sees me in the first stages of my promise. I feel discontent because the process of reaching my promise seems so long and tiresome, but I need to understand that I'm in my promise! I can be content and filled with joy because my obedience has led me to exactly where I am today. I cannot outrun God, or else I will mess everything up.

So I'm going to enjoy tending the sheep that God has given me for now and not worry about fighting battles or slaying the enemy until God calls me out from fields. Maybe while I wait, I learn how to play the harp and use a sling.

"The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out." - Proverbs 20:5

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May 11, 2008

A Mother in His Image

My twin sister and I were pregnant at the same time – I with my second baby and she with her first. I warned her how life-changing and difficult being a new mom was. For me, it was one of the hardest times of my life. Everything I took for granted was gone. The carefree and selfish life I loved vanished; and a beautiful, demanding little person took all of my attention.

It took me almost a year to actually enjoy singing, “Where are you sir” and “This little piggy went to the market.” I felt like a fraud of a mom because mothering did not come easily or naturally to me. I had to daily make a conscious effort to be a good mother. I tried to prepare my twin sister so she wouldn’t suffer the same guilt that I had. I told her that it would take time to get over the shock of having to care for someone else, and that the mothering-urges would kick in soon enough.

After my sister’s baby was born, she and her husband moved in with my family for a couple of months. My sister’s husband was starting a new job in another city, but they had to close on the sale of their house before his position started. I was excited to have my twin sister close to me for a few months before she moved away. I also thought I could help make her transition into motherhood a little easier.

During her stay, I was completely humbled by my sister’s ease into motherhood, and I wanted to take back every warning that I had given her. I had never seen someone live so selflessly for another person before. My sister’s joy of being a new mom never ceased. The twin sister that I’ve always known, that I grew up with, was completely transformed – she cheerfully embraced being a mother.

I remember just watching her after she had persevered through a long night of caring for her crying son. She had to sleep downstairs on the couch so she didn’t wake my husband and my kids. In the morning, she was holding her son in her arms, looking at her son’s face and simply adoring him. Her c-section incision still hadn’t healed, her nipples were sore from breast-feeding, she was living in a home with another family, she hadn’t gotten any sleep and she was a brand-new mother; but her face showed no regret, no aggravation, no entitlement and no despair. All I could see was joy and delight and gratitude and love!

At first I was so distraught. Why was my first year of motherhood so difficult? Why hadn’t the mother-instinct come to me so easily? Why did I have to constantly make determined decisions to be a good mother? I love being a mom! Why couldn’t I have been as selfless as my twin sister?

What I’ve realized from watching my twin sister and all the other mothers in my life is that God has gifted each one of us with different reflections of His character. We are all made in His image; we are all daughters of the King. We cannot allow the weeds of sin to strangle us and cause us to feel defeated. We cannot dwell on our flaws, our strong-holds or our mistakes. We must expose those dark areas to God, so His power may restore our weaknesses. If we set our gaze on Christ and obediently follow His example, then God’s glorious light will shine from our lives and outshine the darkness.

When I watched my twin sister hold her son that day, I saw a glimpse of how God holds me. God never gets mad when I cry all night. He never gets mad when I demand all of His attention. He never gets mad when I assert my needs over His. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God only looks at me with love and joy. God is a selfless Father who abounds with mercy, patients, wisdom and love. He has set high standards for me and never fails to lovingly correct me and bring me closer to Him. Instead of feeling inadequate when my sister shined the selfless character of God, I should have rejoiced! Knowing God is the sole purpose of life, and through my sister, I got to know Him better!

I look around me, and I’m overwhelmed. I see the nature of God sparkle from the lives of all the mothers in my life. We each are a beautiful crystal on an amazing and priceless chandelier. If we each shine the unique light that God has given us and not try to dim the light He has given to others, then we can be a radiant light for this world – reflecting the glorious image of God and illuminated the redemption of the cross. My prayer for myself and for moms everywhere is that when we reach heaven and sit at the foot of Jesus, He will tell us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you reflected my glory beautifully.”

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