“The Lord looked at Gideon and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?’ He said to Him, ‘O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house’” (Judges 6:14-15).

What is required of those that God would use in his service? Fortunately for us, he is not searching for those who are perfect, but rather, those who are doing what they can with what they have; the one aware of their own inadequacies; one possessing a healthy reverence toward God; one who fears God more than they fear others, determined to live life in obedience to the Father. Could it be you? It’s not the obstacles in front of us that block our way, but the excuses within us that hold us back.

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“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (Luke 18:17).

The obvious qualities of a child are innocence, trust, dependence, and loyalty. There are other implications, however. For example, there is the expectation that a child is going to grow up and mature. Just as any parent would be concerned about the stunted growth of a child, our heavenly Father is no less concerned when any of his children are not showing signs of growth, or worse still, when there is a digression in spiritual health. While doctors recommend an annual physical exam to monitor a patient’s well-being, the Great Physician would have us examine our spiritual health, in the light of God’s word, on a daily basis.

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“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Whether it’s children watching their parents, music students watching their instructors, young athletes watching professionals, or an apprentice observing a craftsman, we learn much of what we know through imitation. As followers of Christ, we are called to the highest standard of imitation — the imitation of our Heavenly Father. While we cannot be omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent, we can be “kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ also has forgiven us” (Ephesians 4:32).

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“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).

Hiding for fear of an entire people group seems a bit of a stretch. Out of an estimated forty to fifty thousand Jews populating Jerusalem early in the first century, only the High Priest, Caiaphas, and his power-holding band of leaders had any vested interest in this spineless little band of Jesus-followers. John, however, is being honest enough to share their overblown fear. Such is the nature of paranoia. We see it even today. Though research indicates that only 5-10 percent of any world religion, including Christianity, has a radicalized element of followers, paranoia leads us to believe that the threat is pervasive when, in fact, it is isolated. Either way, it is better to die in the path of service than to sit in our sanctuaries afraid.

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“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).

Jesus models for us a redeeming spirit in the midst of daily brokenness. The first word of the resurrected Christ to his disciples wasn’t, “I’m disappointed in you” or “You failed me when I needed you most.” He didn’t even say to them, “You had better repent, get your act together, and ratchet up your faith a few notches if you’re going to follow me.” Instead he offered a word of redemption, “Peace.” The world expects our judgement, criticism, and finger-wagging. What they least expect is an expression of grace. Try it, and you will be surprised at the doors it opens.

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“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

The life of faith and the mission to which we are called is of such magnitude that it cannot be done alone. The person of the Holy Spirit provides the resources necessary to engage the culture in ways that are engaging and effective. His is a power experienced only as we move out of our sanctuaries of defensive entrenchment and embrace and offensive approach that launches us unafraid into the intersection and brokenness of human affairs.

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“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

The present/future nature of God’s salvation makes our hope distinctive from the hope of which others speak. Hope is a word often used with a speculative tone — “I hope the situation improves. I hope things get better.” There is a haunting uncertainty it will not happen. The hope of faith, however, looks ahead with confidence and assurance. It is fixed upon the redemptive work of Christ, not the ever-changing circumstances of life. While ours is a hope for what lies ahead, it undergirds our life here and now. It is an eternal hope for today.

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