An Ambassador of Christ

{How I have learned you don’t get to go to Costco for yourself--or Target, Walmart, church, vacation, anywhere without putting Jesus first.}
I was ready with my list for my bi- month trip to Costco. Those special choice goodies our family loves and all of those “stock up your shelves” household items were organized on my list. The parking lot would be traversed, the crowed isles navigated, and the checkout lines conquered. Soon my entire shopping cart would be neatly loaded into my car. Oh yay! Mission accomplished!
But wait. I forgot something. I knew I should do it. Whether it’s shopping, fixing dinner, or whatever-- God has taught me an important lesson (more than once and sometimes the hard way.) I need to pray. For every big or small act in my life, I need to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. Why is that you might ask? Because as Proverbs 11:2 says: “When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.” My experience is if I don’t think I need to ask for God’s help to do everything; I will be humbled for lack of wisdom to do anything the way He wants.”
Because as my Pastor JO at the Heart of the City Church preached: “You no longer belong to yourself if you are a Christian. That’s the deal. Jesus Christ died and gave you life in Him. Now your life belongs to Him, as your Lord & Savior. All the time, in every way, you are on this earth to be His Ambassador and do God’s will and purpose.” Period. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:20.) A very important fact to remember, no mater what we are doing.
But, honestly, sometimes I forget to pray. I falsely think it’s all about me. My list. My schedule. My plans and accomplishments for the day. I believe that I am in control as the poem “Invitctus” by William Ernest Henley proclaims: “I thank whatever gods may be. For my unconquerable soul…I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Ha! Then God steps into my little self-absorbed world, with His still, quiet voice and says: “No! No, Tonie, you are missing the mark here. Be careful.”
Yet, I occasionally ignore the Holy Spirit’s voice because I am preoccupied or just disobedient. For a Christian this is never a smart decision. And as I mentioned, sometimes my actions could be described by the lyrics of DC Talk’s song: “(Some people have to learn,) The Hard Way.” The result is not always a pleasant experience, I might add.
One time, my daughter’s friends asked me what my most common, personal experience was with God. I didn’t have to think about my answer. I have learned from experience if I do not put God first, He will humble me. He is faithful to do this because He loves me. Not always fun; but a relief that He loves me so much that He cares about everything I do.
So, this is what happened on my recent Costco shopping venture. It started out pretty normal. I approached my goal with determination. Get in, get my stuff and get out. Quickly, because I had other places to go and things to do. Right? Right. You might have had this mindset yourself, a time or two.
And to be fair, the whole experience just snuck up on me. (In truth, it’s called “not walking in the spirit; allowing your flesh to rule.”) That was easy to see with 20- 20 hindsight.
The first thing I did was cut in front of a gentlemen in a wheel chair to grab the last offered sample of a chocolate almond cluster. He never knew had happened. And I am ashamed to say it got worse. Much
For a moment, I noticed my husband looking at me strangely. But I would not be deterred from my self- imposed agenda. I was in too much of a hurry to worry about anything. My next tactile maneuver was to cut in in front of two grade- schoolers and grab three different samples of granola bars. (Hey, I was hungry, too.)
Next, I slyly shoved my cart in front of a mother with a baby in her car, holding onto a preschooler. My eyes were on the delicious ice cream bar samples and I could not be deterred. I vaguely remember glancing at my husband, again, as he shot me another look of disapproval. “What is his problem,” I wondered to myself. I am shopping!”
Then everything focused into a bright, crystal clear streak of light leading to the adjacent sampling station. Charging forward with my cart in high gear, I raced over to see my all-time favorite Costco item. “Raspberry Chipotle Sauce.” I love it so much. But Costco only has it during special seasons. Crunchy sesame-seed crackers topped with herbed cream cheese and the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce mesmerized me. I was entirely captivated by the vision when I accidently ran my cart into the back of an older lady’s heel. No matter. I was on my way to one of the most delicious gourmet delicacies in my life. Nothing else mattered at this point.
I got in line. Thoroughly enjoying my sample as I crammed it into my mouth. Stuffing a second sample into my mouth, I began to explain all of my favorite uses for “Raspberry Chipotle Sauce” to the product demonstrator. “It’s perfect for grilling vegetable or appetizers with melted swiss cheese and toasted, buttery walnuts on rosemary flatbread basted with olive oil,” I told the trapped server, as others waited behind me in the line.
Starting to share my secret recipe for Raspberry Topped Cheesecake made with the sauce and fresh
raspberries; I suddenly felt someone tap me on the shoulder.
I was annoyed, “What could this guy possible want to tell me about my beloved ‘Raspberry Chipotle Sauce”? Doesn’t he know that I am very busy and do not want to talk to him now,” I lamented to myself. Because I can only hear out of my right ear, I was also very irritated to have to turn away from the demonstration cart and face him, so I could hear what he was trying to tell me. “Yes,” I said, tersely, “Can I help you?” (OK. I confess I was rude)
“You, ah, ah, you have something hanging out of the back of your pants,” the brave man whispered into my ear. He really looked embarrassed. Then I realized that I vaguely recognized him as being someone who attended my church. (I do not think he knew who I was, however. Praise the Lord!)
Next, I did what anyone who was not thinking about their actions would do. I pretended to ignore him. He did not give up. “What is his problem? Can’t he see that I don’t want to bothered,” I thought as he tapped me on my shoulder a second time.
“Listen, lady you have something white hanging over the waist band in the back of your pants,” he leaned in to tell me, as I turned all the way around to hear him, again. My face turned a vivid shade of red. Now I was angry! Stiffly, without looking at him, I put two bottles of the sauce into my cart and stomped off to the restroom.
When I looked into the mirror at the back of my pants, I saw the white flag of glory disguised as a very long trail of toilet paper hanging down for all the world to see. Well, you can only imagine how mortified I felt. “Slinking quietly into a stall, I heard that familiar, still quiet voice say, “Tonie, what are you doing?”
Good Question, I told myself as I began to try and think rationally about my actions. “Oh, Lord,” I cried out in my throne room of prayer, “Help me!” Immediately, I recalled how I had sped through Costco for the last hour by pushing everyone out of my way. I felt convicted. And very repentant. Seriously, what in the world had I been doing? It’s like I had temporarily forgotten that I had been a Christian for the last 39 years. It was then that I remembered, Jesus is always faithful to humble me because: “He will perfect that which concerns me.” (verse) Just like I told my daughters’ friends. Thank goodness.
A song came to mind I used to sing a long time ago titled: “We Are One In the Spirit.” Part of the lyrics are: “We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord, We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored. And we pray that all unity may one day be restored. And they will know we are Christians by our love. By our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love. By our Love.” I doubt if anyone in Costco knew I was a Christian on that day in Costco.
I prayed for forgiveness from the Lord. For all the people I had treated so terribly. For not praying for the Holy Spirit to let Jesus’ love shine through me. I know in my heart that “it is not longer I that live, but Christ that lives within me.” (verse) But I need to be reminded.
I don’t have a choice to act the way I want. Because my life no longer belongs to me; I became Jesus’ when He died on the cross and paid the price for my sins as my Lord and Savior. Note to self: “Watch and pray, Tonie.” (verse) Or as my daughter says, “How quickly the mighty can fall.” Hummmm?
Yes, I am an “Ambassador for Christ,” (scripture verse) wherever, I go, and I pray in the future I will always remember that and strive to glorify the Lord in my earthly body. He is Lord of All (scripture). And praise the Lord for redeemed shopping.
I know in my heart that “it is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives within me.” But I need to be reminded. I don’t have a choice to act the way I want. Because my life no longer belongs to me; I became all Jesus’ when He died upon the cross and paid the price for my sins as my Lord and Savior.
Note to self: watch and pray, Tonie. Consciously walk in the sprit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. I am an Ambassador for Christ, scripture wherever I go. I pray that I will always remember that and gloriy Christ in this earthly body. He deserves to everything from me. He is Lord of All, my Lord and Savior.
And praise the Lord for redeemed second chances and Christ- centered shopping trips to Costco (or anywhere.) And frankly, I don’t want to be humbled again, the way I was in my single-minded pursuit of Raspberry Chipotle Sauce. I am pretty sure God has a sense of humor and love in dealing with me. But I hope that I really learned the lesson about walking in the Sprit and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh (i.e. crazy shopping mentalte.) It was, uh, let’s just say, an unforgettable shopping experience. Thank you, Jesus.