“Mr. Ambassador, You Have A Phone Call”

Standard

 

“Ladies and gentleman, the Ambassador of the United States.”  This is a greeting that you may hear if you have the opportunity to attend a State dinner at the home of the US Ambassador.  Now, I have never attended a State dinner, but I do remember touring different ambassador homes in Washington, DC when I was young.  I didn’t know at that time what an Ambassador was, but what I did realize is that the homes they lived in were HUGE.  I thought that whomever this person was, he must have been important.

Did you ever have to represent a group of people anywhere?  What I mean is, did you have to reflect the statutes or rules or position of a group? If you ever accepted a leadership position at your workplace or in your community, you were certainly representing a larger group of people. What does all of this mean?  Well, you may not have had a title of Ambassador, but that is what you essentially were. What is the meaning of Ambassador?  Generally speaking, an ambassador is a respected official acting as a representative of a nation.  Now, you didn’t represent the United States of America, but you represented a group of people.  You were chosen because of your leadership or knowledge and were given authority from the group to reflect the official position of the group.

Going back to when I was a kid, I knew that the Ambassador must have been an important guy, but I didn’t have any idea what he did.  I just liked his big house.  He even had a staff working for him.  WOW.  His job is so important that foreign government officials would call on him.  Maybe he has the “Secret Red Phone.”  As a kid, I watched way too much TV.

Anyways, did you know if you are a Christian, something similar has happened to you?  Yes. You are an Ambassador for Christ.  Your actions, character, and words should embody that of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The work of an Ambassador in Christ means that everything we say and do represents the King.  We have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” according to 1 Thessalonians 2:4.  We are entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).  We as Christians carry with us the message of mercy and reconciliation to a lost and dying world.  Jesus lived this ministry on earth.  Jesus acted on behalf of His Heavenly Father demonstrating mercy and reconciliation to those He met.  Jesus was an Ambassador of Mercy.

You may be asking, “How can I represent Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father as an Ambassador of Mercy?”  Well, here are a few things you can try.

  • Start looking and listening for other people’s needs. Like the needs of people in your neighborhood, your work, even your family.  My mom and dad were very good at this.
  • Don’t be offended by their sins. We all sin and fall short of the Glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)  Grace and Mercy are unconditional.  They are deserving of that same unconditional love that you have received.
  • Choose your words carefully. As Ambassadors in Christ we need to choose our words wisely when communicating God’s truth.
  • We must value saving people over keeping rules. I value rules but sometimes some of the “rules” are more tradition than Biblical. Jesus often times set aside typical decorum and rules if it meant reconciling someone to His Heavenly Father.

I will conclude with this quick story.  From about the time of my high school graduation (1973) to July 1999 I led a life that wasn’t good.  I was messed up and had lost everything; including my wife and home.  I worked because I had to.  A man I worked for demonstrated being an Ambassador in Christ to me on one particular Friday afternoon.  I had decided that day to take my life and I wanted this man to send me home from work.  I had it planned.  It was the one year anniversary of my divorce from my wife.  We were married 21 years.  We had two great kids, but my life was messed up and my marriage had fallen apart.  So I asked this man to send me home because I couldn’t keep my mind on my work.  That way I could go home and take my life.  Well, instead of granting me my wish, this man who was my boss asked me if he could pray for me.  I sat down, he took my hands and he prayed.  Two days later, on Sunday, I found myself at his church and I gave my life to Jesus Christ.  This man’s name was Mark.  His prayer was my Miracle of Mercy.

 

As Christians, we are called to be Ambassadors of Mercy.  We represent Jesus Christ in this world.  Just like Mark, we need to see the greater picture.  We need to set aside what may be the easy solution and really step into the Miracle.  I live today because Jesus died for me and rose from the dead.  My sins were forgiven.  Mark represented Jesus on earth and my life was forever changed as a result of that.  Whose life will you touch as an Ambassador for Christ?

Have a very blessed weekend!

George Leonhardt
Blogger, Writer

Advertisements

High School Dreams

Standard

 

When I was in high school I always wanted to be involved in student activities.  I wanted to be a sports star.  I was a fan of baseball and football.  I watched plenty of it on TV, but the reality was I was not gifted in athletics.  It was a dream to play a varsity sport, but I just didn’t have the necessary physical skill.  That didn’t bother me so much because I knew that in advance.  But there were other student activities.  There was student council, student clubs, office aides, and library aides.  None of these really interested me.  I dreamt of being an athlete.  I wanted to be on the field with the crowds cheering.  I wanted that validation that I was somebody.  Our high school was very large.  There were 715 students in the senior class when I graduated.  Those other student activities didn’t excite me.  I thought that there was no way I could fit in with the people that already had positions and served in these activities.  They were “Brainiacs”.  They appeared far smarter than me.  Their skill and intelligence intimidated me.

Here is my point.  I was scared to be in a student activity that was not part of a team.  In a large school, the athletic teams were huge.  The football team included over 100 young men.  I figured if I could participate on that team, I could get lost in the crowd in case I made a mistake or did something wrong.  It was a team sport.  We all would share in the good and the bad.  Being a student admin would put me out front by myself.

Well, God has a way of using less qualified people to serve for His purpose.  Or better yet, God worked in my student life to show me that His plan was not what I thought.  I didn’t have a relationship with God while in high school.  I was pretty quiet.  Just did what I was told.  I had my circle of friends, but I wasn’t very recognizable.

Opportunities began to open up in a young man student club called Key Club.  I looked from the outside and thought that these guys again were too smart for their own “britches”.  I thought for sure I couldn’t fit in.  Until one of my friends, Paul, asked me if I would like to come to the next Key Club meeting.  I thought why not.  I attended and liked it.  I found out this group was very active in the school and the community.  I enjoyed helping others. I enjoyed working with outside organizations to reach the less fortunate in my community.  I was happy.  Well, soon I was finding myself in the Key Club leadership and after 1 year was elected Key Club President and served two years.

God called me into an activity even though I didn’t know it.  God created me and shaped me with a purpose.  God has things planned for us that we don’t always know but we can be assured it is for our good and His glory.

I had a lot of failures in my high school years.  I didn’t live a life at times that anyone would say was good.  “If you knew me, you wouldn’t like me” is something that I would say.  Though I found success in student activities that wasn’t the life I was leading.

The Bible tells us in Exodus that Moses also felt unqualified when God spoke to him from a burning bush.  God called Moses to deliver the Israelites from 400 years of slavery.  Moses had some failures.  He killed an Egyptian soldier who was mistreating one of the Hebrew slaves.  He took matter into his own hands.  But Moses was part of the royal family.  How could he do that?  Moses fled to the wilderness.  (Exodus Chapters 3 & 4)

Had Moses’ failure disqualified him from being used by God?  Absolutely not!  The parting of the Red Sea is pretty spectacular!  Failure is not a disqualification to be used by God.  I too thought my failures outweighed my abilities.  I was quiet and just did what I was told.  I couldn’t play varsity sports because of my physical inabilities.  My dream was shattered.  I thought I wasn’t smart enough for the student clubs.  These fears were real to me.  But thanks be to God, His plan was in fact to use me in life to impact others in a far greater way than I could’ve imagined.

God had His hand on me when I didn’t even know it.  Looking back to my high school years, I see a very quiet and defeated young man being used to touch other’s lives.  What?  That doesn’t make any sense.  In the world’s view, it doesn’t.  From a heavenly perspective it makes perfect sense.  It was always God’s eternal plan.  It was God’s incredible Mercy.

The Apostle Paul explains this very clearly.  Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28 NIV)

 So what’s the secret to being used by God?  I had no idea what it was.  But I have learned some things along the way.

  • It’s all about God’s Mercy. Mercy is undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness.
  • I don’t have to prove my worth. It’s God’s plan.  It will be fulfilled.  God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
  • I don’t have to sit and wallow in my mistakes. We all make mistakes.  Because of God’s Mercy, I know I can move on.
  • I must be real. I have to be myself.  I can dream but need to realize that maybe my dream is not God’s dream for my life. It simply may not match who God created me to be.
  • It’s NOT about me. “Me. Me. Me” is pride.  The Apostle Paul said that the message was not about him, but rather Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 4:5)

  • Use my plan to help others. That is exactly what God did.
  • Stay focused on eternity. I must remain usable to God.

Friends, God continues to lead me in His eternal plan.  I have been used to lead ministries, to speak to large groups about Jesus, to touch a community both here and abroad, and to be a part of impacting lives for Jesus.  Who knew that it all began with the quiet kid in high school?  God can use anybody.  My mistakes and failures didn’t disqualify me, rather they were equipping me when I didn’t even know it.

If you want to hear a tremendous and impactful message by Pastor Aaron Taylor on The Miracle of Mercy – God Can Use Anybody, click on the podcast below.

http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy

God didn’t want me to lead our high school football team to victory.  He had better plans.  Which is good because I would have had a hard time beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.  He’s pretty good. 😉

Have a great rest of the week!
George Leonhardt,
Writer, Blogger

The Storage Room of the Heart

Standard

Do you have a storage room? Or maybe it’s a storage closet? If you are like me, you also have a storage desk drawer and sometimes a chair that is deemed the “storage chair” – unintentionally, of course. What do you keep in your storage room? Right now, I have my items for college, an old dresser, old toys, a keyboard, and even some cob webs. In my desk, I have a few decks of cards, coin wrappers, old birthday cards, and some art projects from elementary school. These places hold things I’m not quite sure what to do with. When I am cleaning and find something that does not have a dedicated place, it is thrown into the storage drawer/closet.

When I was packing for college this past school year, I decided to go threw this storage drawer. After I got started, I immediately regretted it. The only items it was storing was junk that I really did not need anymore, but had a hard time getting rid of. About halfway through, I realized that my “storage” drawer had actually become a place for me to hide the junk that I did not want to look at constantly. It bothered me that, for all this time, I was using this space for clutter when I could’ve been using it for something else. After I cleaned out the drawer, I felt so relieved. It was difficult to throw away some of the keepsakes I had in there, but I realized they were holding me back from utilizing the space I had more efficiently and productively.

Our hearts can sometimes relate a lot to our storage rooms. When something happens, we store it in our hearts, either good or bad. Sometimes we store a lot of “junk” in our hearts that can be toxic to our relationships; both with others and God. This stuff does not come from just anywhere though. It does not just appear. It’s usually when we have been wronged or when we’ve given into sin. Things like bitterness and anger are examples of the toxic things that can be stored in our hearts after being wronged.

In more case’s than not, when someone wrongs us, our first reaction is to hold it against them. We end up holding the hurt in our hearts, the ultimate storage room. The longer we hold the hurt, the sooner it turns to hate. It then rapidly increases to anger and bitterness.

The heart is such a vital organ. Through it, the rest of our body receives the oxygen it needs. When it is cluttered with too much toxicity, the heart is contaminated and can often result in a heart attack or other medical problems. It’s prohibited from functioning like it was created and designed to function. It’s the same with our spiritual hearts. If we allow “junk”, such as anger, bitterness, and hate to be stored in our spiritual hearts, it will begin to create more problems.

Proverbs 4.23 tells us to, “guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life”. Church, we need to guard our hearts. One way of doing that is to not store up the negatives in our heart. You may say: “but it’s hard to not let myself get angry, or hurt, about something someone did to me”. That is why we are commanded to forgive,  just as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4.32).

Allowing the bad things to be stored in our hearts gives the enemy a foothold to do more damage. When we forgive, as Christ has forgiven us, we are actually releasing the hurt to God and allowing Him to begin a healing within us.

As Pastor Aaron has been preaching about The Miracle of Mercy these past few weeks, we have to recognize that the definition of mercy includes “unearned forgiveness”. Pastor shares what forgiveness really is and how to apply it to our lives in the message preached this past Sunday.  http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy  I encourage you, set aside some focused time where you can check it out and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the storage room of your heart. Remember… it begins with mercy and forgiveness.

Jenny Bushnell,
College Student, Blogger, Writer

MOM! He hit me!

Standard

Growing up, we all have this theory of forgiveness embedded into our heads. It’s like when you were playing with your sibling and it broke out into a name calling fight because he won the game of battleship. When mom finds out, you know what she made you do. You each had to apologize and respond by saying: “I’m sorry, I forgive you.” If you didn’t, well, you were either threatened to be put in the corner or mom would tie you to your sibling until you made up.

It was such a simple thing to say… “I forgive you” as a kid. We didn’t look into how being called a mean name by our sibling affected us. We didn’t dwell on the mistake that they made after they apologized. And quite honestly, we probably forgot all about it and went back to playing battleship like it never happened… except now you know not to do it or else you’ll get in trouble.

That is kind of how Christ’s forgiveness towards us works. But in a much more sincere and greater way. God is not One who harbors our sins and mistakes; quite the contrary. The Bible actually says:  “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103.12 | “Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” Micah 7.19

Listen, our human nature is imperfect. We are sinners. Even once we’ve come to Christ we find ourselves approaching God quite often for His mercy and forgiveness. We are a people who NEED Jesus and who NEED the Mercy and Forgiveness of God. Period.

Similar to our childhood arguments, when we confess the wrong that we did against God, our Creator, He forgives us. Not just because He can, but because He wants to – no strings attached. We are His creation and He longs to see us prosper in the things that He has put before us. He paid the price for our sin when He was on the cross. Not only that, He experienced the full wrath of God and separation from God in that moment when He cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (abandoned) Me? ” (Matthew 27.46)  For a Savior to do that?! That’s MERCY. That’s forgiveness at its pinnacle. Because of that singular act, now we never have to experience that same separation and wrath from God. Mercy… what a gift!

In today’s culture we think of forgiveness as something that has to be earned. That we have to go through some type of “punishment” in order to truly receive it. Or we have to do some “work” to merit God’s forgiveness. But there is no cost to receive the forgiveness of Christ. There is no punishment waiting for you. There is no work you can do to ever earn it. God is the God of second chances.. and third chances.. and fourth chances.. and so on. It is all free. I’m living example and recipient!

Not only does Christ want to give us His forgiveness, and give it to us freely, remember… He also forgets our sin. He does not hold us to it. When you were 16 you may have asked your parents for a car. Let’s say they gave you one. A really nice one… a brand new one as a matter of fact. You loved it. But one night you weren’t paying attention and lost control of the vehicle. You spun out and hit a tree. You are perfectly fine, your new car on the other hand, is totaled. If you were to ask your parents to give you another brand new shiny car, they are most likely going to say no and you’ll get a hand-me-down, or no car at all. Why? Because they’re keeping in the back of their mind your car wreck.

The forgiveness of Christ is just the opposite. When we “wreck” or mess up and are forgiven and ask for another chance, the slate is wiped clean. We get to start fresh. He doesn’t hold it against us that we sinned in the first place. Isn’t that such a gracious thing for Him to do? Who else does that? What other God is doing what Jesus does?! He is seriously AMAZING!

We serve a gracious God who offers forgiveness at no cost. He holds no record of wrongs. There is no file in Heaven that has every sin we ever committed at the exact date and time it was committed – those would be some pretty big files.

So be encouraged! As we continue to learn about the “Miracle of Mercy” it is important to understand how our God is merciful and forgives us. Check out pastor Aaron’s sermon this week “Mercy Forgives” to learn why it is important to understand and accept the forgiveness of Christ.  http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy

Remember Church, just like with your sibling, God is going to forgive you and go right back to playing… well, you know what I mean. All with no cost to you and all in the name of love. WOW.

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger, College Student

Pity IS NOT Compassion…

Standard

I have been blessed to live without need due to having a good job for most of my life.  But I have also been blessed to live “in need”.  There was a time where I had no place to live, I had no food, and I had expenses beyond what I could take care of.  I have had much and I have had little.

You may ask how I can say that I’ve been blessed in both cases.  Certainly when we live in abundance it’s easy to say that we are blessed.  But when we are in dire need, can we say the same thing?  I have learned that we can.  Years ago I was at a point in my life where I had lost everything.  I won’t go into that story, but I had made choices that led to my destruction.  But there was a reason for me to be in need.  The reason was so that I could see the blessing.

Sometimes it takes the hardest situations in order for your attention to be captured.  That was me.  When I lived in abundance, I felt that I could conquer the world.  And unfortunately I lived like I could too.  Then the day came when I realized that the world had hit me with its best shot and I was down for the count.  I was knocked out.  My undefeated record was shattered.  When I woke up, I had lost everything.

I was at times pitiful.  Yes, the successful young man was now down and out.  The world would call me a loser.  People around me said that they felt bad for me.  People even said that they would never want to be in the place that I was in.  Maybe some would even said that I “had it coming”.  I don’t know. I was pitiful.  The friends and family that I had around me found great pity for my situation.

Have you ever thought of what you would do if all you had were the clothes on your back with no place to live?  That was where I was.  I had two beautiful children.  My situation led me to a place where I couldn’t see them any longer because I had no place to call home

There is a difference between pity and compassion.  I had heard a lot of pity in people’s voices.  I didn’t know that there was even an attribute called compassion.  Until it happened.  Mercy was poured out on me and over my circumstance.  Out of nowhere, compassion came into my life.

A friend of mine at work heard of my situation and was moved with compassion.  You see, mercy is compassionate.  It’s not like pity at all. Mercy stepped into my situation.  This man found it important to see that I would recover.  He gave me a place to live.  Well, I had a bedroom and a bathroom in a house that was being refurbished.  I didn’t have to pay for anything right then, but when the house was finished, I would be given the chance to rent it and continue living there.  If not, I would have to leave.

It was unbelievable to me.  Someone cared enough to act.  Someone looked beyond my situation and saw the greater need.  I had learned something of great value that day.  I realized that compassion was real.  It was so much more than pity.

Compassion is to enter into someone else’s pain, to enter into their suffering to relieve them from that pain and lift them out of their painful situation.  This reminds me of the story of the leper in the Book of Mark, Chapter 1, verses 40-45. “A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’  “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.   “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

This leper lived a life where everyone had pity on him.  The Bible says that he had to announce himself to everyone as “Unclean” upon seeing someone, as written in the Law. (Leviticus 13:45) But no one would show him compassion until the day the leper came to Jesus.  Jesus, filled with compassion, reached out His hand and touched the leper and he was healed.  The leper asked if Jesus was willing.  He knew that no one else was willing.  The people had pity but kept away.  Jesus not only told the leper He was willing but touched him.  Jesus stepped into the leper’s pain, his humiliation, his circumstance and immediately changed it.  My coworker stepped into my pain, humiliation and circumstance and immediately changed it.

More importantly, Jesus did the same thing for you and for me.  He took upon Himself our sin so that we could live again.  Jesus took upon Himself our pain, our humiliation, our circumstance and changed it when He died for us and rose from the grave.  Jesus looked upon each of us and was moved with compassion.

If you would like to hear the powerful message from Pastor Aaron Taylor on the Miracle of Mercy – Love in Action, please click on the podcast link below.

http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy

Friends, who are the ones you see that need compassion.  Are they physically challenged?  Are they financially challenged?  Have they lost everything and need a place to call home?  Who are the ones who think that they don’t belong here or they’re not worthy of anything?  The leper asked Jesus a question: Are you willing?  The question today is are we willing?  Can we care enough to act?  The Bible says this, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

George Leonhardt,
Blogger, Writer