Available And Out Of Gas

Oswald Chambers said-

“Ministering in everyday opportunities means being God’s special choice to be available for use in the seemingly random surroundings He has engineered for us.”
~My Utmost for His Highest

This quote actually played out in my life a while back-

A few years ago, Josh Stump from Nashville & I were in Joplin MO launching a new church plant. On the way back to the Tulsa Airport we ran out of gas in a sparse area of the country. Ultimately my AAA membership provided 4 gallons for us, Josh walked back with a 1 gallon container of gas which we didn’t immediately need. But we were on the road less than 5 minutes, and saw another car pulled to the side, it was a mom and child out of gas with their blinker lights on. We stopped, poured in the gallon of gas, enough to get her to the next exit. what seemed to be such an inconvenience for us (running out of gas) may have served another purpose. Were we there at the right place, at the right time, just for this mom & kid?

Poor examples we may be, but God had engineered, through seemingly random events, this coincidence and connection… simply because we’d made ourselves available.

Make this your prayer this week:
“Father-I am yours to use without having to ask my permission.”

Today I Believe

Lord, You have always given bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor, today I believe.

Lord, You have always given strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak, today I believe.

Lord, You have always given peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart, today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am, today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden, today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here, today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now, today I believe.
– Northumbria Community

New Seasons: Life, Change and Opportunity

There are times, seasons, for stability, maintaining, even plodding forward, step by step, further, onward, steadily.

There are other moments in time, we anticipate, that are the changing of a season. For some the anticipation and enjoyment of summer is the highlight of their year. for others it may be signaled by the falling leaves and colder weather. Some of us simply enjoy change, whatever season the changes bring!

There are other seasons in life as well.  Ecclesiastes chapter 3 reminds us:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…

Like our calendar year, we experience the coming, going, and returning of many of these seasons while also moving through the overarching seasons of youth, prime, and maturity.

Lately I have been praying about a new season in life. New seasons bring changes, changes bring new opportunities if we can recognize them for what they are. I have seen seasons come, go, and come again, similar but different, new, even if familiar.

Surprise Me, Lord

“Surprise me, Lord.”
My imagination can be finite, He is infinite. I need to practice relinquishing (the idea that I have any) control, live more by faith, and learn to receive today as it is, not as I think I would have it…So, I pray “Surprise me, Lord.”

Thine is the Kingdom and the Power

During the Temptations in the desert one of the the temptations was the offer for all the kingdoms of this world to become Jesus’ if only he would bow down and worship Satan, But at The Great Commission Jesus says “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. All authority is now Christ’s. As the Apostle Paul writes:

He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
& brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves
– Colossians 1:13

So, here’s a real clarification; Satan has a dominion, and Jesus truly has a kingdom. The words used here are totally different. A dominion is a power or authority, but a kingdom is something altogether different. A kingdom is The Power and The Authority. Satan has a dominion, but no “kingdom”. He has authority only because man allowed it to happen, but he is not The Authority.

Saint Augustine explains Jesus’ authority this way:

“The devil found Christ innocent, but none the less smote Him; he shed innocent blood, and took what he had no right to take. Therefore it is fitting he be dethroned and forced to give up those who were under his power” – Saint Augustine

The idea is that God Our Father by Jesus Christ is a liberator. He is rescuing people from the dominion of darkness and bringing them into His Kingdom and His Lordship.

Saint Phoebe the deacon

Here is a wonderful Saint to spotlight for Mother’s Day. We encounter Phoebe as we read through the book of Romans, her life as a mother to the church and a deacon of the church translates through the centuries to our own day and time.

Paul refers to Phoebe as a deacon of the church in Romans chapter 16:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

-Romans 16 1-2

The word at the end of verse 2, “benefactor” specifically lends meaning towards being a guardian and a protector of others. Clearly, Phoebe exemplified caring, helping, and protecting others as a follower of Christ, all things to aspire to. A calling to ministry in the diaconate is not necessary to be a mother, but those who care, help and protect others are often called mothers, or “mom” even when those cared for aren’t their own children.

I have been a part of the church a long time, and there have been many good women, mothers of the church, who have mirrored the qualities of Saint Phoebe the deacon. The church is better for it. Celebrate these ladies today!

Show Me Your Heart

I laugh that a social media status can show the condition of our heart and attitude.  We’re very good at complaining and grumbling as it seems to come naturally.

Grumbling defined:

  1.  To show one’s unhappiness or critical attitude.
  2. To make complaining remarks or noises under one’s breath.
  3. To murmur or mutter in discontent; complain sullenly.

In the book of Exodus we see account after account of God’s miraculous move on behalf of His people. (parting the Red Sea, feeding them with manna, water in the desert, provision time and again) however, Moses, and God, had to put up with the children of Israel’s horrid complaining:

-They grumbled because they didn’t have enough water.

-They grumbled because they didn’t like the wilderness.

-They grumbled because they thought Moses was a bad leader.

-They grumbled because they missed Egypt.

-They grumbled because they weren’t yet in the Promised Land.

-They grumbled because they thought God had let them down.

…it was a real “Festivus” BUT we are the same way, often we complain, and we think we’ve been forsaken by God 5 minutes after seeing goodness, even miracles, from His hand.

What do you find yourself guilty of complaining about?

Reading about the Day Laborers in Matthew chapter 20;

The owner of the Vineyard went out to hire workers at -9am, Noon, 3pm,  and 5pm…

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first. ’The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.

So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner… But he answered one of them, I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Jesus is trying to show us The Way of a Disciple. Not of complaining but being thankful.

In this story we see:

  • God is just. No one will be underpaid
  • God is generous. Everyone will be surprised
  • God sees differently than we do

We may say, “What did you do and accomplish?” But God says, “Why did you do it?”

We may say, “What’s the bottom line?” But God says, “Were you doing it for me?”

We may say, “Show me your stuff.” But God says, “Show me your heart.”

How to have a Thankful Heart

1)Thank God for the Blessings Your Have Already Experienced.

2)Don’t Judge Yourself by the Way God Treats Someone Else.

3) Practice Contentment and Thankfulness

What are you thankful for today?

Discipleship scripture: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.                          – Philippians 4:11

Incognito Jesus

The 2 disciples on the Emmaus Road is a fascinating story in the gospel of Luke. It is the 3rd appearance of the risen Christ, following his appearance to Mary Magdalene (who first thought he was the gardener), and his second appearance that included the other women. Peter and John had seen the empty tomb but not the risen Christ.

The road to Emmaus is the 3rd appearance of the risen Christ. It occurs in the afternoon or early evening, just a few hours from the first two appearances. Cleophas and a friend, are walking to the city of Emmaus when they are joined by a stranger, for they did not recognize Jesus, who asked them what was wrong and why they seemed so sad.

They were surprised at the stranger’s seemingly lack of knowledge of the recent events in Jerusalem where a powerful young prophet had been maliciously condemned and crucified. They were heartbroken as so many hopes had been dashed, and a great deal of the Jewish population had suffered the trauma.

But then Jesus, still incognito, with great detail, taught them from Moses through the prophets how this was to be. Here’s a quick snapshot of what Jesus may have covered, in part:

4 O.T. scriptures about Jesus’ suffering:

  • “… then they will look on Me whom they pierced.” – Zechariah 12:10
  • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Psalm 22:1
  • “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'” -Psalm 22:7-8
  • “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; … the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” Isaiah 53:4-5

So here in our story Jesus shares with them the word, and then at the table here shares the sacrament, the wine and the bread. The last time he had done this was at the last supper. Here Jesus shares the word, and then the sacrament. And if you notice, both parts of the journey to Emmaus are clearly seen our services when we preach the word and celebrate communion. Though they did not first recognize him, these 2 disciples had just encountered the risen Christ, they were some of the first to see him…

In the garden man’s disobedience came in the form of a meal of fruit eaten from a forbidden tree, but here the FIRST MEAL of NEW CREATION is a sign of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ’s body and blood as he breaks the bread and blesses the wine. Afterwards–They asked each other, “Didn’t our hearts kindle within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem, and they continue to relate what they had experienced.

Earth Day & Saint Francis

Well before the establishment of Earth Day Saint Francis praised God for creation in the following canticle:

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.
Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.
Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
– you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.

Saint Patrick & Forgiving Trespasses

The story of Saint Patrick is a fascinating one, and has something to teach us today.

He lived in the 4th-5th century; born in Britain- his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a church leader. Patrick was kidnapped and  enslaved, taken from his family at 16, and made to be a pig-hearder in Ireland.

One day he escaped, and worked his way back home to Britain on a ship. Returning to his family, then he felt called to be a priest, which took him to Rome. One day he had a vision-heard the voice of the people of Ireland calling him “Return and walk among us once again.” The people who had enslaved him for several years, keeping him from his family, making him live outside as a pig herder… What would make it possible for him to do this? He not only forgave them, he returned to them as a missionary-priest.

WHY we find it difficult to forgive:
Ask non-christians to quote Jesus’ teaching, and “forgive your enemies” is one of the most quoted. It’s one of the core teachings that drew Gandhi’s admiration. Yet, universally, people struggle to forgive. Why do we find it so difficult to forgive?

We have a sense of justice, as long as it applies to everyone else, whereas we would rather have mercy, grace, and forgiveness applied to our injustices.

Patrick, when out in the countryside by himself, would recite any thing he could remember. Any scripture, any song, any psalm, any prayer. What’s one prayer almost every believer knows? The Lord’s Prayer, no doubt Patrick had this in his heart and his mind.

Matthew 6:12-15
forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us…If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

That’s what made it possible for him to return to Ireland and it’s people.

What happens when we don’t forgive: Someone said it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.  Dr. Robert Enright is a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He found in his research that unforgiveness causes cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, cancer & psychosomatic illness.

Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

When we live in a state of non-forgiveness it can effect us mentally, spiritually, and even physically. But developing the spiritual discipline of forgiving, the power of forgiveness, can set us free and heal us.

Jesus’ example to us in Luke 23 verse 34: Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

When Christ hung on the cross and said “Father forgive them-“ he meant me and you as much as he meant the soldiers at Golgotha that day. If we are truly His disciples then we continually seek to develop the discipline of forgiveness in our live, following Jesus’ example. Saint Patrick exemplified this well in his life and ministry, making his enemies his friends.