The Very Least of all the Saints

Photo by, CLH

by: Carole L. Haines

I woke up feeling like I’m so unworthy this morning. All my shortcomings came out of hiding yesterday and were glaring at me like neon signs telling me I am not worthy of being used by God. 

I cried out to God in my weariness and asked for Him to speak to me this morning. I woke up attacked about past issues. Things I thought long gone or overcome. I prayed. 
“God, please help this cycle stop, both within me and from without. I am so exhausted Jesus from the battle. I am the most imperfect human on the face of the earth. Can you really use me?” 

 Paul felt this way about himself, did you know that? He wrote: 

“I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given.” 

This is found in the middle of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 3. here’s the context. 

 “The Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all people as to what the plan of the mystery is which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things.” (Ephesians 3:6-9) 

The apostle Paul, whom God used to write more of the New Testament than anyone else, called himself, “the least of all the saints.” Ever felt like that? Well, I sure have, and That stench was heavy on me this morning.  

There were three things which spoke loudest to me in this passage 

1) I was made a Minister by God, not people 

2) The ministry He gave me was according to His grace, not my ability 

3) This Ministry is according to His Power, not my strength. 

I cried out in my discouragement and God heard my cry and answered me right away. That was the First Passage of Scripture I opened to this morning. Our God is so, so good to us. He hears the cry of each of our hearts. He deeply cares for our longings and our transformation. None of us wants to stay “stuck” in the past. Only God knows how to free us and move us forward. Even I, “the least of all the saints,” is useful in His Kingdom, for His Glory. So are You, Dear Believer. So are you. What a mighty God we serve. 

God calls us as He sees us

Painting by: Carole L. Haines

By: Carole L. Haines 

11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” 13 Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did the Lord not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.” 14 And the Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this strength of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” 15 But he said to Him, “O Lord, how am I to save Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” 16 Yet the Lord said to him, “I will certainly be with you, and you will defeat Midian as one man.” 

I just love the story of Gideon. A man who considers himself the least amongst his people, is the one God chooses to defeat the current enemy of Israel. God didn’t rebuke Gideon for his response of, “The Lord has now abandoned us!” It’s almost as if God sees Gideon’s response as strength, because He says, “Go in this strength of yours.” Gideon was hiding in a winepress from his enemy, barely scratching out an existence. But then God shows up. 

Oh, don’t you just love these true stories of how God shows up. I love to hear other people share about how God met them in a dark place of struggle in ways they were not even looking for. I have those stories too. But one of the most important things in this story, is how God greets Gideon. He doesn’t greet him as he is now, but as he will be when he puts his trust in The Lord. “Hail valiant Warrior!” How amazing that God changes our name from what we say of ourselves, how we see ourselves, to His view of us.  

I used to be a grumbler and a complainer, then I read the story of Barnabas in the book of Acts.  

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 owned a tract of land. So, he sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 
 (Acts 4:36-37) 

I asked God to make me a daughter of encouragement instead of a Grumbler. Now my whole Ministry is based on encouraging others. He called me as He saw me, His “Daughter of Encouragement, His Song of Joy.”  Dear Believers, ask God to show you who you are in His eyes. Stop believing all the lies. God calls us as He sees us, and it’s a wonderful thing. 

Our Banner of True Freedom

by: Carole L. Haines

Happy Independence Day! This is how we were greeting each other just a day or two ago. We were celebrating Freedom, and O how I take it for granted. This all got me thinking, “What is Independence? What does Freedom really look like?” 

Independence means-self-rule, self-government, self-reliance. 

Freedom is defined as- the power to act, think, or speak as one wants without hindrance or interference. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.  
We have heard an awful lot thrown around lately about personal freedom, but is a person truly free, by doing whatever they want? God’s Word answers that question this way.  

“Do you not know that the one to whom you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of that same one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”  (Romans 6:16) 

I think many people are under the impression that the Bible is a book about Sin. But Sin is not even one of the top 20 most common words in the Bible.  

The Top 5 Most Commonly Used Words In The Bible 

1. Lord7,000-8,000x

2. God- 4300 x

3. Man – 2750x

4. Israel – 2750 x

5. People – 2270 x

(July 28, 2017 by The Bible Answer) 

Sin isn’t even found in the top 20. But sin is what separates us from God, our demand to have our own way. We can see from the above list that the most commonly used words of the Bible have to do with God and mankind. God is a Being of relationship, aptly demonstrated in the person of the Trinity. The Bible is the True Story of God’s creation and redemption of this world, and mankind, in particular. 

God does not try to save us from sin because He is a Kill-joy. No, God knows that sin leads to destruction, addiction and enslavement of ourselves to whatever we crave that is not of Him. God did not create us for these things. Having these things may feel like freedom at first, but then the vines of addiction and obsession begin to grow around us and tie us to that tree. The more we hold onto to sin, the tighter its grip on us becomes, until we are trapped and can’t cut ourselves loose. This has been my personal experience, but I believe it is a universal story. Jesus died to save us from ourselves and all that separates us from God. 

The Bible is a roadmap to freedom, peace and true inner joy. Follow its road signs and guideposts and you will not be lost wandering in the Desert of Sin. Most of my freedom has been won regarding my desire to have my own way, in some form or fashion. Here is what the Apostle Paul was inspired to write regarding that truth:

13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

On the 4th of July we fly our Country’s Banner, the American Flag. God is Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord our Banner; as described in the Story of Moses and the Battle with the Amalekites ( Exodus 17:8-16). Let us fly the Banner of His Love and Redemption high on the pole of our everyday lives. Only living under the Banner of God brings true freedom and Independence. 

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