How do you define a Christian? We all have our preconceived ideas. Of course they have to believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as their Lord and Savior. That goes every time. But what about the rest?
In our society we have images which pop into our heads. We might imagine a man in a suit and tie and a woman in her heels. (Or if you run in the circles I do, you imagine a man not in a suit and tie, and a woman in pants or jeans). In either case, we think of dedicated church goers, with Bibles in hand, leading in prayer, having solid families. Usually they are leaders in the community.
But is that all? Is everyone that way? What about Mark?
Mark is a man who is now in his seventies and had never been in a church until about four years ago, when he came and prayed to receive Jesus. His wife passed away much earlier, and he was very lonely. He lives in a small mobile home at the edge of the town with his grandson, whom he raised. (Now the young man is in his mid twenties, but he doesn’t work and counts on his grandfather for support).
Mark is a quiet man, but every now and then he’ll tell a story which gives us a glimpse of his life.There is a reason that he never learned to read. When he was in the second grade, his father took him out of school so that he could help with the farm chores. (They were sharecroppers). He worked hard, long hours on the farm. But that’s not all that he did.
His grandfather was a moonshiner. He had a still back in the woods, and when the old man had an order, he would have Mark travel by foot to deliver the brew. It was risky, so the young boy learned how to look out for the “law.” On occasion he might have to duck into the edge of the woods, so as not to be seen. This grandfather was a hard man. If the young lad didn’t make it back in time for dinner, he wouldn’t get his food. Food was served twice a day, and anyone not around for the meal would have to wait until the next one.
Mark later got married, had children, and raised a family. Over the years, his farming and moonshining gave way to factory work. He worked at a local plant, running machines, and doing janitorial work. His attendance record was almost perfect. One of his greatest possessions was a jacket which he earned as “Employee Of The Year.”
Mark told me that while his wife was alive they would “fuss a lot.” He feels bad about that. He says that “he didn’t always do what he should have done.”He’s glad that he can pray and that Jesus has forgiven him.
He has been retired a few years, but Mark still does odd jobs. And he walks. He walks several miles a day – sometimes to the store, to a working assignment, and sometimes to church. He loves to work and he loves to walk. It makes him feel better.
Mark doesn’t bring a Bible to church, since he can’t read it. But every Sunday, for the last few years, he has sat on the front row on the far right of the church. And every Sunday, he has listened attentively as sermons were preached or testimonies given. His heart is tender, as he kneels and prays at the altar. He wants to “keep things right with God.”
We need to broaden our perspective. We need to realize that out there – in the masses of people who throng by every day, there are other Marks. They might not look like they would be interested in Jesus. And they might not act like it. Yet within their hearts is a desire to connect with their Maker and to connect with the truth. They want to know what the Bible says, and they want to learn how to pray. They might be outside of the box we expect people to be in, but they are not outside of the box in Jesus’s eyes.
I don’t know about you, but I want to look for more of the Marks. I am asking God to open my eyes and ears to see and hear what he wants to tell me so that I can reach others who are seeking the truth. I’ll try not to judge by what my natural eyes see, but I will try to judge by my spiritual eyes.
Dear Lord, help me to do this. I know how special these little ones are to you. Help me to do this.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Proverbs 29:2.
Today is the day to make your voice be heard in our great democratic republic. Sometimes people may think that their voice doesn’t count.; it’s just one of many. But throughout history elections have been won by a few hundred votes. Remember the 2000 election? A virtual handful of votes in Florida decided the outcome. Just think if those few hundred had not voted, what would the outcome have been?
I have included some great historical quotes furnished by http:www.wallbuilders.com. They will inspire you to fulfill that great public trust we have been granted.
Pray and choose well. Then vote!
We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands; we have a check upon two branches of the legislature . . . the power I mean of electing at stated periods [each] branch. . . . It becomes necessary to every [citizen] then, to be in some degree a statesman, and to examine and judge for himself of the tendency of political principles and measures. Let us examine, then, with a sober, a manly . . . and a Christian spirit; let us neglect all party [loyalty] and advert to facts; let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government any more than in religion; take no man’s word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.
[John Adams, The Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, ed. (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977), Vol. 1, p. 81, from “‘U’ to the Boston Gazette” written on August 29, 1763.]
Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.
[Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), Vol. IV, p. 256, in the Boston Gazette on April 16, 1781.]
Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men.
[Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), Vol. III, p. 236-237, to James Warren on November 4, 1775.]
Consider well the important trust . . . which God . . . [has] put into your hands. . . . To God and posterity you are accountable for [your rights and your rulers]. . . . Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you. . . . [L]ook well to the characters and qualifications of those you elect and raise to office and places of trust. . . . Think not that your interests will be safe in the hands of the weak and ignorant; or faithfully managed by the impious, the dissolute and the immoral. Think not that men who acknowledge not the providence of God nor regard His laws will be uncorrupt in office, firm in defense of the righteous cause against the oppressor, or resolutly oppose the torrent of iniquity. . . . Watch over your liberties and privileges – civil and religious – with a careful eye.
[Matthias Burnett, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Norwalk, An Election Sermon, Preached at Hartford, on the Day of the Anniversary Election, May 12, 1803 (Hartford: Printed by Hudson & Goodwin, 1803), pp. 27-28)
In the days to come, I am going to be talking about our covenant with God through Jesus. That is something that many people either push aside or don’t understand. As Christians, we are in a “spiritual agreement” with God which opens up doors for us to live above many negative circumstances which come our way.
This covenant has been compared to a will which might have been left for us. If you are a beneficiary of a will, you don’t receive the inheritance until the will is probated. If you don’t know the will is available, you might go through your life without receiving your inheritance.
Our inheritance from Jesus is much the same. If we don’t even know that we have this covenant with Him, we may go through life without ever receiving all that He paid for. So what is in our covenant? Many things, and I will be talking about these in the next posts.
To give a picture of this inheritance, I want to bring attention to a study done by a man named Richard Dugdale in 1877. His study addressed the lineage that goes with righteous heritage. There has been much discussion about the details of the study, but there are enough undisputed facts that it seems that definite conclusions can be drawn.
The first man was Jonathan Edwards, who was born October 5, 1703. At age 13, he entered Yale University and graduated with honors. Entering the ministry, Edwards was largely responsible for the Great Awakening that swept across America, uniting the colonies prior to the Revolution. His famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” was sent across the land, bringing repentance to many. Later, Edwards became President of Princeton College.
Jonathan Edwards married Sarah Pierrepont, and according to A Study in Education and Heredity by A.E. Winship (1900), their descendants were incredible. They included:
1 U.S. Vice-President
3 U.S. Senators
13 college presidents
80 public office holders
This same study examined a family known as “Jukes.” In 1877, while visiting New York’s prisons, Richard Dugdale found inmates with 42 different last names all descending from one man, called “Max Jukes.” Born around 1720 of Dutch stock, Max was a hard drinker, idle, irreverent, and uneducated. He would spend many days not working, but drinking and fighting. Dugdale considered this man an atheist.
His descendants included
40 “physically wrecked by indulgent living”
130 other convicts.
The “Jukes” descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.
Now some people will look at this and conclude that education, hard work, and good morals contributed to the stark contrast in the two families. I agree that those things contributed, but I see the source of those attributes coming from God Himself. When people honor God and His word, they will be hard working, educated, moral, – and blessed.
Now am I saying that when your family has problems you are not being blessed? Absolutely not! Everyone has problems, but as we continue in our covenant with God, we will be able to overcome the problems. And we will see God’s hand on our children and grandchildren.
It’s something to think about, isn’t it?
Christians have often stayed away from politics. The process can be so negative, with all of the mud-slinging, each side seeming to slander the opponent with impunity. It often creates strife – even in families. When debate starts, people seem to dig in their heels on their point of view, and the divide gets stronger than ever.
When it’s so negative, some people just “stay out of it.” They want peace at all costs, so they just ignore the dialogue and pretend that nothing unusual is going on. After all, they say, “This is the world, not God’s kingdom.”
I have a different view. In fact, when I wake up every morning and count my blessings, one of the greatest is that I live in a free society. I don’t have to be concerned about the authorities stopping my Christian worship. I don’t have to dress a certain way, or limit the number of my children, or worry about my daughters and granddaughters being able to attend schools and pursue their dreams.
Because our nation has been blessed by God, their are many more perks we can list. Warm or cool houses, running water, electricity, good sanitation, ample food…the list goes on and on. We are truly a blessed people.
I’m quite sure that the reason for this is that our God has had His hand on our nation from the beginning. Even Christopher Columbus noted in his diary that He felt that Providence had miraculously allowed his small crew to make the journey to the new world. Later, when the first adventurers started coming to the new country, they were seeking a place where they could worship their Christian God freely. Then, when the first settlers signed the Mayflower Compact dedicating the new country to God, our nation was started in covenant with God Himself. What a significant foundation.
The ingenuity and creativity we have enjoyed, the entrepreneurial spirit we have demonstrated, and the standard of living we have come to expect, all have come from God’s blessing. We have had His guidance and protection from the beginning.
So why is it so important to involve ourselves with politics? We have been entrusted with a tremendous responsibility. In our free society, we have the right and responsibility to vote for the people who will lead us, make laws, and activate other decisions which affect our lives. For us not to vote, indicates that we don’t honor our freedom to do so. And for us to vote the way God wants us to, we need to know what the candidates stand for.
Successful democracy depends on an educated populace. We can’t afford to stick our heads in the sand and just hope that “God’s will is being done.” He is counting on us to pay attention and vote for His will.
So go beyond the surface, and find out what the candidates believe. Don’t just look at what they say, look at what they do.
As you do your research, ask yourself these questions. Do they honor this great country and the constitution, which many believe was inspired by God? Do they honor religious freedom? Do they honor all life – even the defenseless, like unborn babies? (Oops, I’m giving myself away). Do they want to provide opportunities for people to pursue their dreams, or do they want to control the process?
Listen to the debates, and take a look behind the rhetoric to assess the truth.
Then, make your plans to vote for God’s candidate on November 6. We need to exercise our right to vote. We don’t want to lose the privilege God has given us to live in this free country. A country which is free to strive for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
We often talk about faith, because “without faith it’s impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) We know that we receive all that he has for us by faith. (“Through faith and patience we inherit the promises”). (Hebrews 6:12). It pleases our Father to bless us with His presence and all that He has provided. But this is not all that there is to faith.
When we are walking with God, we will begin to feel His heartbeat and His purpose will grow within us. The purpose in His heart is not just for us to have a blessed life. His purpose includes eternity and all that implies. The first implication of eternity is who is going to be there. Are you? Of course you are. But what about your neighbors? Are they?
I want to challenge you to do something. Purchase a notebook and write down a list of people who come to mind who are not walking with God. Your family members, neighbors, co-workers (yes, even that mean one), and friends. Then pray over that list everyday. Lay your hand upon the page and pray for these people to have their eyes opened to the truth. Ask God to show you if there is anything you need to say to them. Do you need to share about your relationship with your Savior?
Every situation is different, so you need to listen closely to God’s direction. Many of those you know have been hurt by those who proclaim to be Christians. Perhaps legalism has crushed or frightened them. Perhaps the hypocrisy of leaders has disillusioned them. And of course, many lies have been perpetrated to confuse and discourage those who might be seeking the true God.
One thing is for certain – these people do not have the faith that they need to walk with God. They do not have faith that their prayers will be answered. They certainly do not know that God loves them and has a good plan for them.
So that’s where you come in. These people need your faith. They need your prayers. While you couldn’t save yourself from your sin, Jesus did that for you. Now you will extend His ministry by doing for others what they cannot do for themselves.
Ask God to open your eyes to this ministry of intercession. You will pray for those who can’t pray for themselves, asking God to show His mercy to those around you. He wants His grace to be available to all. When those around you don’t know how to pray for themselves, your prayers on their behalf are crucial to His plan.
Yet there is more. After you pray, you may need to share your faith or encourage those for whom you have prayed.Tell them of God’s love for them as individuals. Answer questions, pray with them, and be the ambassador of heaven you were called to be.
There are so many in our society today who really want to know the truth, but have never had it represented in a credible way. You can be that person they need to hear. They need your word, they need your prayers, and they need your faith. Will you be one who represents your Lord in the earth?
That’s the greatest purpose of your faith.
We know that we need to have faith in God to live our lives to the fullest. But how do we get it? Where does faith come from?
One day when my daughter, Leslie, was young, she came home from school very excited. As she slammed the door and threw down her books, Leslie told me that she had prayed with a friend to receive Jesus as Savior. She went on to say that she had asked Jack if he believed in his heart that Jesus was raised from the dead. He tensed every muscle in his body, scrunched up his face, held his breath, and gasped, “yes.”
Aren’t we like that? We feel as if we need to try harder to somehow conjure up the necessary faith. We strain harder, but it just doesn’t happen.
Well, there’s a reason that we can’t conjure it up. Faith doesn’t come that way. We can’t force ourselves to have great faith by tensing our bodies or holding our breath. Faith is a natural outgrowth of meditating on the word of God.
Romans 10:17 says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” So why two “hearings?” That word for hearing in the Greek is “rhema.” It refers to God speaking to you. In other words, when you read the Bible, God begins to speak to your heart. It’s truly a supernatural thing that happens. You read and meditate on the word of God and you begin to hear God speaking to you personally. As you hear that, you find yourself believing.
I believe that one of the greatest miracles in our world today is the Bible. God, over hundreds of years, spoke to men and gave them His wisdom. He laid down His plans and revealed His nature. Centuries before Jesus came to the earth, God spoke through Isaiah and others, telling of the sacrifice that Jesus would accomplish. At first people didn’t understand it, but later, when Jesus fulfilled the scripture, men were able to “get it.”
If you haven’t read your Bible much in awhile – or ever – I challenge you. Begin to read it on a regular basis. And don’t just read it. Find some scriptures which are especially speaking to you, and say them over to yourself throughout the day. Ponder them. Let them stay in the forefront of your mind. You will begin to believe what you are saying.
Just as the physical food you eat automatically becomes nutrition for your body, this spiritual food of God’s word will strengthen and develop your spirit and you will find yourself growing in spiritual strength. Your faith will grow by itself as you feed your spirit.
Life is truly an adventure when we nourish our spirits this way. God’s plan is such a great one, if we will just get in on it!