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Friday, January 16, 2015

Oren and Naomi Hofstetter
Oren and Naomi Hofstetter

Note: Today we share our fourth message based on some musings about people we believe are worthy of admiration. At the end of each year we tend to hear of various lists and the results of polls taken. I heard one that reported the most admired people for 2014, most of which I see little to admire! We've never been a participant in such a poll but it did get us musing about people we admire. We hope today's message prompts your consideration of people you admire and why.

"Showing Honor"
Part 4

"The Blessing of Co-workers"

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"Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house" (Romans 16:3-5).

In the course of our spiritual journey we have met a lot of interesting people and heard many remarkable testimonies. It's a joy to see people serving the Lord in a wide variety of ways.

Those who have large or famous ministries might be among the first that come to mind. Perhaps they pastor a large church, write bestseller books, host a radio or television program and so forth. I could mention names here that many readers immediately recognize.

Or we may consider those who have remarkable testimonies of deliverance from the ravages of sin and now live a zealous Christian life. We have met many from this walk of life and indeed we rejoice that God saves to the uttermost and will use all who submit to Him.

But the vast majority of Christ's servants fit into neither of these categories. Of course all believers are redeemed from sin but many have testimonies of preserving grace, that is, the kind of grace that restrained them from going into degradation and sin. They turned to Christ at an early age, usually due to the influence of godly parents, grandparents, and others in their life such as Sunday School teachers, Youth Leaders and so forth.

Most of you reading this have never heard of Oren and Naomi Hofstetter. They've not been featured on the cover of People's magazine or appeared on Entertainment Tonight, to my knowledge. I'm pretty sure they've never won a Nobel Peace Prize or visited the White House.

They are an active ministry couple in our local church who serve the Lord in a variety of ways. They both turned to the Lord at an early age. They have a servant's heart and demonstrate compassion in the way they care for hurting and needy people. Yesterday they hosted a dinner for the elderly in what they call the "Golden Nuggets" which they have done now for over ten years. My mom especially looked forward to these luncheons when she was living with us.

Naomi was adopted at an early age, studied nursing, and for many years worked as a nurse in nursing homes before her retirement. Before his retirement Oren worked for Kellogg's, the food company familiar to most Americans. If not the cereal then you surely recognize their mascot, Tony the Tiger, who boasts about Frosted Flakes, "They're Grrrreat!!!!"!

As we observe the body of Christ, whether in our local church, churches that we have served, or churches that we visit, we have met many Christian workers like Oren and Naomi. Surely you have people like them in your church wherever you attend.

Faithful, hard-working servants of Christ were present in the New Testament church whose names are not mentioned in Scripture. Add to those unpublished names those who served all through the ages of the church.

What a blessing these folks are. We certainly appreciate pastors and church leaders. We admire famous evangelists such as Billy Graham and David Jeremiah, Christian vocalists that sing a great gospel message. We love to hear from one whose story includes a remarkable testimony of great deliverance from sin.

But the backbone of any effective church includes brothers and sisters like Oren and Naomi. Consider the active lay persons in your own church. Perhaps you are among them but would blush to hear it mentioned aloud. Brooksyne and I have talked on many occasions that rewards in heaven for faithful lay persons will surely supersede many who are vocational in ministry.

Our daily text refers to a New Testament couple named Priscilla and Aquila. They are first introduced in Acts 18 when Paul was in Corinth: "After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade" (Acts 18:1-3). Thus this ministry team first interfaced with Paul in the context of secular work (tentmaking).

Later they went with Paul when he departed for Syria and when they stopped by Ephesus along the way they settled there. (Acts 18:18,19). In Ephesus they met a budding young preacher named Apollos and discipled him explaining "the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:26). This is the last mention of them in the book of Acts. However the Epistles mention them several times beginning with our daily text from Romans. Several points are revealed about them that speak of their character.

Paul states that:
  • They are "my co-workers in Christ Jesus." What a distinction to have. Although they are not "famous" like Paul this married couple were his "co-workers". Anyone who has worked for Christ knows the blessing of having dependable, dedicated co-workers.
  • "They risked their lives for me" Paul does not specify the details of how they did so but this indicates their strong degree of consecration and commitment. Today we need people who will put their life on the line for the Cause of Christ.
  • "Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them" Obviously this couple left a mark on many and had far more impact than the brief mentions we have in the Scripture. What it reveals about their character is that people were thankful for them.
  • "Greet also the church that meets at their house" This indicates their leadership and hospitality.
They are also referenced in 1 Corinthians 16:19 where it again mentioned they have a church that meets in their home. The final reference is in Paul's final letter where he greets them (2 Timothy 4:19). This reveals their steadfastness.

Today we honor Christian co-workers, like Priscilla and Aquila, whether they're serving in our own local church or located across the seas. The mission of Christ is spread through their prayerful and dedicated efforts.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, we who believe are grateful recipients of earnest believers who dedicate their time, energy, giftings and resources to further our growth in Christ. How grateful we are for faithful Sunday School teachers, youth workers, for those who walk alongside us upholding and emboldening us when the howling storms of uncertainty, doubt and fear assail. We thank you for the many lay people who work behind the scenes to keep the church functioning and effective such as kitchen workers, treasurers, trustees, board members, Christian education administrators and on and on the list grows. As we see the value help us to do our part as well to make a spiritual difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.

One interesting note about this ministry couple is that after their first introduction as "Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla." They are always mentioned together and usually referred with Priscilla's name first (in four of six references). There are three reasons commentators give for Priscilla’s name being mentioned first: (1) Some speculate that she was converted before Aquila (2) Some say Priscilla was from an aristocratic prominent family in Rome (Her name seems to indicate this).  (3) Her contributions to the early church were greater than Aquila.

Although most readers would know Naomi is a Bible name you might not be aware that Oren is also a Bible name found only once in the entire Bible in 1 Chronicles 2:25. It means ash or pine. We have never met anyone else named Oren that we can recall.

Mary Lou Long:  About seven years ago Naomi reached out to a woman dying of lung cancer right here in Mount Joy, PA through a ministry she has served for many years, Love INC (INC - in the name of Christ). She involved our pastor (at the time, Pastor Bob Verno) and me, Brooksyne, in sharing the gospel with her and helping her to grow in Christ. It was a remarkable and brief journey of witnessing God's saving grace "just in time" for Mary Lou to be promoted to heaven.  Mary Lou's her story was so compelling I wrote her abbreviated story. You can read her account here. She was so pleased with the story she shared it with those who worked at the Hospice facility here in Mount Joy as well as many family members before her death. You can also read about her last days on earth here (footnote)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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