Rejoicing or Being Anxious – Your Choice

Philippians 4:4, 6-7   4 ¶ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice …6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These are some of the most underlined verses in the Bible and yet one might say “Easier said than done”.  Do not worry about anything is huge statement.  We tend to worry or rather we tend to be anxious about things in our lives.  When we look at things around us and what is happening in the world it affects each of us in different ways.  We look at things from different perspectives.  The concerns we have about things vary and each concern and anxiety we have is personal and intimate to each of us.

For example, a mother or father who has a son or daughter in the military may be concerned they might be deployed and those who are deployed about their safe return.  One might be concerned about a teenager who has learned how to drive and is out with friends.  There is concern about finances and about health; about relationships within a family; about recovery from an addiction; about peace in the world.  Recently we went through a time of anxiety with the approach and the landing of Hurricane Irma and about family and friends in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.  And with the media sensationalizing it, some even experienced PTSD when it had past.

It is easy to be anxious, it is hard to give over our worries and anxiety and place our trust in God.  How can we as the Apostle writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” when all these things surround us?  It is because we have the assurance that God is always there with us and we can go to Him.  It is not that we will be devoid of things that might cause anxiousness, they will always be present, but that we have the assurance that God will provide the strength to get us through the things we face.

God always provides a way for us.  The answer to anxiety and worry is through prayer and supplication.  This doesn’t mean we are apathetic or inactive, it means we trust in whatever God gives us will be good and carry us through.  Having this kind of faith and trusting God will give us peace that passes all understanding because we yielded to God.  It will guard our minds and hearts from falling back into that anxiety and concern.  The Apostle Peter reminds us of this in his epistle;  1 Peter 5:6-7   6 ¶ Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.  7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.  So Rejoice always because we have a God who takes all of our anxieties when we pray and cast all our cares on Him knowing He loves us and will give us peace in our situation.

Going in Reverse

Going in reverse can have different meanings for different people.  For some it might give the connotation that all the progress that has been made is headed in the wrong directions.  For other220px-FIAT_500L_gear_shifts it might be just that, going backwards.  It is not hard to imagine going in reserve.  However this not what is intended here.  In fact it is something a different.  To go in reverse I would like you to imagine going somewhere to the same location in the opposite direction.  Okay so how does that work.

Most every morning my wife and I walk about three miles.  We have a specific route we take around our neighborhood.  We usually leave the house, go down the driveway and turn left.  As we round the bend there are two street that we call the “wiggies”.  Okay that is a made up word.  We basically walk around the block and continue our walk on the street we began our original walk.  When we reach the other section of our neighborhood there are four blocks we call the “wogs”. We follow the same path day in and day out.  Depending on the time we have we can shorten or lengthen our walks and still know how many miles we put in.  Sounds BORING doesn’t it.

One day we decided to change the direction of the path.  We did the “wigs” but did the “wogs” in the opposite direction.  It gave a different perspective of the houses we passed.  As we walked I noticed on one of the garage doors a Baltimore Raven football team symbol.  I had not noticed it before because of the way the garage faced. As we continued our walk we began to notice different things.  We noticed the color of the doors on a house for the first time.  Our observations of the same neighborhoods changed.  It gave us new insights. It wasn’t that anything changed about the neighborhood, we just learned more from our observation.

As in our Christian walk sometimes our daily walk can become just as routine.  It is not intentional but it does happen. We see the same people, we do the same thing, we become “rote” in our worship, in our reading, in our relationship with Jesus and we become more complacent.  It is during this time we need to reflect and reassess where we are and what we are doing.  Our complacency occurs because we are looking for something to generate excitement, to stimulate our senses, to challenge us more.  What we miss is who we are and how we are created.

Our worship and relationship with God is not about what we gain rather it is about what we give and why we give.  Jonathan R. Wilson in his book Why Church Matters sums it up this way: “[the gospel] who we are made to be and to be that which we are made to be…it is not about something we receive; not something we create but something for which we are created.”  It is recognizing it is not about being individualistic Christians but an individual in the body of Christ, His Church.  It is about using the gifts that God has created in us and provided not for our own benefit but the body of believers.

When we look at who created us, we come to worship God in a new and different way.  No longer does it become ‘rote’, it becomes exciting knowing He created us for His glory not ours.  We find our joy in the community and believers and in the encouragement of our part doing the work He asks us to do, not just what we want to do.

A good example of this is in the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon ” 4 When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God  5 because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus.  6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.”

Serving our Lord is not about our convenience or our personal and individualistic mission.  Serving our LORD is about being a part of a community of believers, being active in the body of believer within which we are in community, and about what He created us to do for His glory.

Sometimes Going in Reverse is good.  It gives a new perspective in our ministy and what He created us to do by being a part of the His body, the Church.

 

 

 

The Orchestra of a church

Great PerformancesRomans 12:4-5  For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

I remember when I was in elementary school in Manhattan Beach, CA., my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Middleton, introduced us to the arts.  It was a time when teachers could still expound on the arts.  Although I was rather young it made an impression on me.  She introduced us to different artists like Leonardo DiVinci, Raphael, and a lesser known artist Amedeo Modigliani.  Each of these artists had different styles and techniques.  Another area of art was music.  One of the field trips we went on was to see a symphony performance.  As we sat there before the performance began we saw the musicians enter with their instruments and take their seats.  At first it was a cacophony of noise as they warmed up. There were flutes, violins, violas, bassoons, horns, drums, chimes, cellos and other instruments.  Each had a distinct sound that permeated the air.  Each instrument was in the hands of someone who had a skill to play it.  As we sat there listening and wondering what was coming next, the conductor came out.  The instruments quieted, the conductor lifted his baton and the air was suddenly filled with a melodious sound.  No longer was it a cacophony of noises but it was sounds being lifted in harmony with each other.  Each sound accentuated and filled the piece of music that was being played with their own voice and no one instrument over powered the other; yet each could be heard filling air with their special part.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that all of us have spiritual gifts and talents that God has given us to use to accentuate His glory.  Churches like the orchestra are filled with people who have special gifts or talents that can touch lives in special ways.    Like a piece of music a single instrument can play the piece however the fullness and richness of  the music is lost.   It is when all the instruments are playing their part that the beauty of piece of music is experienced in its fullness and it is heard and felt by those present.  Churches too are made up individuals who can use their gifts and talents together, not individually, rather together so others may know the richness and fullness God’s presence and love.  Without unity the church will appear to be like a cacophony of people without unity.

What are your gifts and talents?  Will you use them at your church so it can glorify God and touch lives within your walls and outside in your community.  Let each of you join together and be a church where others will hear God’s orchestra in and through your place of worship.

All Things

All Things

Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 

Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Over the past weeks I have been reflecting on the past 10 years.  Ten years ago there was an uncertainty that filled my life and Tillie’s.  It was a time of transition knowing that our time at the church I was serving at in Texas had come to an end. It was a time of transition that was fast approaching not knowing what was to happen next and we had been given a date when the transition would occur.  The Rector had already hired my replacement and it was inevitable that I needed to find a new parish.  It wasn’t like there wasn’t any hope as the Bishop was helping to find a new position in the Diocese.  It was the timing that was the concern. The date we had been given was fixed and I had yet to find a new position. For me it was an uneasy feeling because six years prior I had been downsized from a position I had held for over ten years in the corporate world.  We had to trust God as we had when He provided a position that held us until we went to Seminary a year later. It was the same feeling when I graduated from seminary and did not have a position.  God again was faithful.  He had brought us through seminary; brought us to Texas and now it was a matter of where He was taking us. And so another phase of our journey with Christ began.

As time was slipping away we continued to pray trusting in God.  We knew that it had to be His will and not our just seeking another place to hang the priest collar and vestments.  I tell people that as the time was approaching I prayed fervently saying, “God if you take us out of the paradise of the hill country of Texas you have to place us in paradise”. The reality was I trusted God and knew I could not take just any position to fill the need.  It had to be a position that He called us to go and minister no matter where it was.  It was during this time a position in the heart of Texas opened; the town was literally five miles from the geographic heart of Texas.  So on the request of the Bishop we drove up one Saturday to see the town.

The town was a small Texas town.  The center of town was the town square.  It was defined by the streets that formed it.  It was a typical town square with the courthouse and city offices in the square’s center.  The day we went it was a windy cold gray Saturday and as we drove around the square we noted that multiple shops that encircled the perimeter of the square had gone out of business with only a few remaining viable and fewer still open for business on a Saturday afternoon.  While the BBQ we ate the Hard 8 Bar-B-Que (now closed) was good, it was not where God was leading us.  It was the same feeling we had after we interviewed at another church in the town where the revolution of Texas Independence had started.

As the critical time approached time seemed to march on faster than expected.  It was then I received a call from a parish in Central Florida. It was from a parish I requested my name to be submitted as a possible candidate.  It was in the same Diocese where we had begun our journey to my Ordination to the Priesthood.  First was the phone interview that seemed to last for about two hours.  It was just one of the many that the search committee was making.  Finally the call came they wanted a one on one interview so they flew Tillie and I out to Florida for a full two days of interviews.  When they sent us back we knew there were still more candidates they wanted to interview the same way.  The difference was when we got on the plane to return to Texas God spoke into our hearts this was where He wanted us. We knew that we knew He wanted us there.  It was the same feeling we had when we left seminary for the interview in Texas. In fact we had an offer from a church in Fort Myers before we went to Texas.   We knew that we knew.  Now all we had to do was to wait and trust.

Waiting is hard, trusting sometimes is even harder.  We have no control and it can be difficult when you are facing times of uncertainty when your livelihood and security depend on it. As time slips away you ask yourself, “Did we really hear the word of God speaking in hearts or was it our plan imposed upon God”? The only way to know is through prayer and having a deep intimate relationship with God.

Our faith is strengthened by not just reading God’s word but studying to learn more about His character and His love for us.  It is learning of His plan and trusting His word will accomplish what He purposes for us.  It is in this knowing we have the assurance of His will and not our projected will on Him.

When we place our full trust in the Lord, worry is lightened knowing through prayer and supplication we can make our requests known to Him.  It is because of His love for us and our trust and faith in Him we can have all the assurances He will accomplish His task for the good and for His purpose. And we can have the assurance that all things will work for His glory.

 

 

The Walking Stick

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Recently I went on a private retreat in the Valle Crucis, NC area.  While on the retreat I took time to explore the surrounding area and decided to hike some of the local trails.  As a flat-lander from Florida I did not take into account that it had been a couple of years or more since I visited Colorado.  As I started out, I took the walking stick that was provided by the place I was staying and set out on the journey.  I decided that I would attempt a semi or difficult trail that led to a outlook point called Profile View.  It was only about 2.5 miles from the starting point.  Off I went with only the walking stick and a protein bar in my pocket.  I left my small supply of water in my vehicle.  Enough said on that account.  While the view was beautiful at Fascoe point and Profile View (it is a profile rock exposure of Grandfather Mountain) the journey was difficult and by the time I returned the fatigue from lack of water had set in.  Note to self – take water.

The next day I decided to a hike to the falls that were located on grounds of the conference center and the hermitage where I was staying not thinking it was going to be a hard hike.  It would only be a little more than a mile to the falls and then return.  As started on the trail from the hermitage, an old logging road,  the hike was a continue descent down.  For about 1.5 miles it descended and descended through the forest that surrounds the area.  In the back of my mind I knew that I would have to ascend to get back to hermitage. Again not thinking, I did not take water nor did I take a walking stick thinking that would not be a difficult hike for this flat-lander.

Then the thought hit me.  It would have been good to take the hiking stick.  It would have helped going down and definitely helped headed back up the hillside.  As these thoughts were racing through my mind I noticed a broken branch about four foot in length with bark that was starting to decay.  It had been laying on the bed of the woods for sometime.  Lichen has started growing on the bark, the moisture had started to decay the bark and the wood but I picked it up and started using it.  When I made it to the falls I was thankful that I had found it as it aided my footing over some rough areas.  It was there that I started to scrape off some of the bark off where my handhold had been.  As I scrape it along the edge of large boulder a  portion of the stick that was rotten broke off.  As I continued using the edge this large rock to scrape the bark it revealed a solid piece of wood under it.

When I returned to the cabin I thought about how God had provided just what I needed.  There was something more than that; it had to do with the stick.   As I began slowly peeling the bark away with a knife down to wood and removing the layers of the bark it revealed the beautiful piece of wood underneath.  It wasn’t perfect, there would still more to do later, more refining, sanding and polishing.

God does that with us.  We are broken creatures due to sin in our lives and in the world.  There are many things in our lives that may have been traumatic leading to our brokenness or it may have been just that we hadn’t experienced a relationship with God. Even in our Christian walk we can still experience brokenness.

As I thought about this I wondered how many times someone may have just passed by the stick thinking it was just a decayed piece of wood.  I wondered how many people walk by others without seeing them.  And then I realized that is the way we are and it is God who picks us up.  We are broken pieces in a broken world yet though others might see us that way and not want to be bothered by us or do not see the decay of sin because of our facade, it is God who picks us up.  He is the one who removes the old and makes us new.  He is the one who refines us over time.  What appears to be useless He uses for His glory.    While the logging road was steep and I stopped many times along the way to catch breath, the walking stick provided exactly what I needed to complete the journey.

Yes God picks us up.  He refines and strips away our outer appearance that is left from the world to reveal His image in us.  As He refines us He uses us for His glory and to touch lives as He touches ours, to serve Him and not ourselves.

Along our journey with God we will see the broken branches of our lives like the walking stick.  The walking stick was God’s provision  helping me even in its less beautiful phase – from the time I picked it up.  God will do that in your life when we allow His hand to pick us up.

Beyond the walls

When I stationed in Germany in the 70’s I took advantage of visiting castles in the area.  One of them stood majestically over the Mosel River.  During the wine fest there was a reenactment  of the burning of the castle when it was under siege.  It was a spectacular display of the events that occurred.  Rockets representing flaming objects launched from a catapult until one finally hit the armory and a sparkling cascade flowed over the walls. Last summer, 2016,  I again had the pleasure of going back to Germany for a week and hiking the mountains surrounding Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  One of the trails I hiked led to the ruins of Werdenfels castle.  It is a castle in ruins with some of the walls standing.

Other imagines that most of us can relate are to the forts that were built along the eastern seaboard and those built as America transitioned west.  Some of the forts were built from stone while others were made from timbers.  Each was built as a place of defense, security and an exploration outpost.

One thing in common with all the castle and forts, whether standing or in ruins, are the walls enclosed a common area and were designed to protect those inside.  It was from these forts and castles that envoys went out to the surrounding areas.  Those who went out represented those who occupied the fort or castle. They would go out to explore, to check on those in the immediate area, and to share the message of the ruler or those in command.

Our lives in the church are similar.  The church for many is a safe place from the outside world.  It can be a safe place to share ideas with friends.  It can be a safe place to have fellowship with others.  It can be a safe place where outsiders remain outside and the cares of the world are at an arm distance.  It can a safe place where your needs are ministered to.

There is more to the church than just meeting our own needs.  It is the place where we learn about Christ, about His grace and mercy, how to help those in need as Jesus did.   We learn to become disciples.  The church is not a hiding place rather it is a place of refueling, refreshing, replenishing and preparing to go out into the world to share the hope we have in Christ.

If we stay within the walls of the church and not go out we will starve ourselves and the church.  Jesus gave us the Great Commission to go out and share. (Matt. 28:18-19 ESV) And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.   Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  In our Post Communion prayer we also pray, “Send us out to do the work you have given us to do…”  Let us go out and share the Good News, let invite those who need a safe place and share with the God’s grace, love, mercy, and hope.

 

 

 

Yo-Yo Times in our life

Many of us probably had or knew of someone who had a yo-yo at one time or another in our life.  It is fun to watch a child when they first get a yo-yo and try to use it.  They try to emulate someone they have seen playing with it.  Usually the first time they try using it, it falls from their hand dropping toward the ground and recoils upward and back down until it runs out of momentum.  As they watch and listen to their teacher, mentor, parent, friend or whomever they soon learn to make it continually go up and down.  With a slight flip of the wrist as it gets close down to the bottom of the string it recoils back to the top only to be caught by the hand that sent it down.  Each time they let it go and flip the wrist it returns to them.  Soon they learn that by flipping it down and giving it a gentle snap at the bottom it gains the momentum it needs return on its own.  The more they practice the better they become.

After receiving their first yo-yo they soon discovery there are different types of yo-yo; the classic, the Butterfly, and the modified and each one is unique and allows the person to learn different tricks.  Tricks like walking the dog, around the world, the forward toss, the elevator, the man on the flying trapeze and rock the baby to name a few.

This is true when we serve God and His church in ministry.  God is constantly calling us into ministry.  He places us in positions and ministries that we sometimes may not think about or are tenuous about trying.  Like learning to do something new with a yo-yo we have to learn and rely and trust in God.  It is our skills and the development of our skills, gifts, and talents that God wants to use.  We may not know how to incorporate them at first but God uses mentors to help us use our skills and our gifts.  It is through our mentors that God encourages us through the Holy Spirit to learn so we can continue to do His work in the world.  God may also use us as mentors to help someone along the way, like a person teaching someone a yo-yo trick.

When we accept God’s calling to minister we will also find times when we experience the yo-yo affect.  We will experience highs and lows.  There will be times of excitement and joy when we see how God has used us and how lives are touched.  Like the disciples whom Jesus gave authority and sent out two by two, they returned in amazement at what happened when they went to the villages.

We will also experience the lows as we hit speed bumps and hurdles in our ministry and lives.  We are not alone in these feelings.  Throughout scripture we find examples of those who experienced Yo-Yo times.  God revealed Himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai and gave him instructions to lead Israel out of Egypt.  Each encounter with Pharaoh he had expectations that Pharaoh would release them.  Nine times Pharaoh said no but when Pharaoh finally agreed Moses found himself with Israel’s people sandwiched between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army.  It was then that God prevailed demonstrating His power and giving Moses the confidence to lead the people through the Red Sea.

Samuel was perplexed when Israel asked for a king and when that king failed God instructed Samuel to go the house of Jesse to anoint another.   As each one of Jesse’s sons came forward, Samuel asked God if he is the one until finally David came before Samuel.   As king, David also experienced ups and downs throughout his life.

The Apostle Paul also spoke of the hardships of ministry being 2 Corinthians 4:8-9   8 … afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

All of us experience yo-yo times whether it is in ministry or in our lives.  We cannot let the fear of yo-yo times keep us from doing ministry and reaching out to others.  Whether it is in high times being held in His hand or times we struggle, we can always count of the Lord to walk with us through them.  From the mountain to the valley He is there with us and His mercies never cease.  They are new every morning.  Lam. 3:21-23 “21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Elevators, Escalators, and Stairs

How many times have you entered a multistory building and had the choice between an elevator, an escalator and the stairs?  Many places with multiple levels provide you with these choices.  The question we have to ask ourselves is “Which one do I want to take?”.

Each of these choices offer something different and each of us will give a variety of reasons to use one or the other.  Claustrophobic people would probably opt for the escalator even if it meant an extra few minutes of riding.  Others may opt to take the escalator for the more leisurely journey up observing the surroundings around them and taking in the view of each level or because it is more “acceptable” to carry on a conversation with a friend.  Escalators provide a great advantage and way to observe because of their openness and view they provide.

People in a hurry to get to the top of tall building will often wait a short period time for the elevator to get there hoping for an “express” ride to their floor while secretly hoping there are not too many who want to get on or off on the floors before them.  Each ride can also be a time when we take time to reflect on where we are going, where we have been, or what lies ahead.  While on the elevator it also provides an opportunity to quickly observe people in close proximity and more often than not without saying a word.  For some there is also a sense of relief when they get off the elevator – not having to say a word and rarely making eye contact.

Then there are the stairways.  This is a totally different journey.  Because they are in confined areas it is rare that you would meet someone along the way and when you do hear someone there is an apprehension that arises about who that person is and what they are like.  For some it is a sense of potentially impending danger.  For some simply it  is a time of solitude and definitely an avenue of physical exertion.  If you have a fitness device you can be sure it will add up the calories burned and floors you have accomplished.

No matter which journey you chose each is of these journeys is unique and the people surrounding us may or may not be the same people we see each time.  If we are shopping or visiting they will probably not be the same ones however if we work it that building or place there is a possibility they may be the same people.  Each time we take the journey the purpose will probably be different, and the end of the each journey will probably have a different result.  Even if we are going to the office or workplace, each journey will be different in some way if we really observe our surroundings.  Each day we face new challenges whether at work, home, in our community and yes even in our church fellowship.

When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ journeys and miracles each was different.  The disciples observed this while they were with Jesus and after the resurrection Jesus came back and gave them the great commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.  Each of them knew it would be a unique journey.  They did not know what they would encounter on that journey or they were to go.  We too, like the disciples, are called to a unique journey.  As the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 29:11) reminds us “that God has a plan for us” and God gives us His strength and His grace through the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the journey.  What we need to remember is there are many ways to celebrate the journey; the journey of sharing the Gospel.  Some will take the elevator, some will take the escalator, some will take the stairs.  Our journey may start one way i.e. the escalator and finish with the other.  God has given each of us a different callings to ministry.  We are all given different gifts that God will use so we can reach others.  We may start on the elevator and move to the escalator.  Some may even find themselves taking the stairway.  Our tasks may change but our race is the same, spreading the Gospel through building relationships with those we meet.  Knowing when and how to graciously accept changes can be exciting and some times painful.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that we should run a good race; finishing the journey thus running and finishing the race God has given us to run.  And when we get frustrated remember it is  – He [God] that began a good a work in us and who will see it to completion (Phil. 1:6).

Where does your journey begin, continue, or change?  Is it the elevator, the escalator, or the stairs?  No journey ends until we are called home by God.

Spring Training – Our Life with God

As a baseball fan I look forward to spring training.  Note I said I was a fan, not a die hard fan.  I am one  of those fans who enjoys the game, the atmosphere of the ball park, the smell of hot dogs, and of course the selection of beverages.

There are those who come to the ball park with all the statistics on each ball player.  They know the teams they have played for, their batting average, on base percentage and much more.  And when the game starts they pull out the score card and log each inning with great precision.  At the end of the day they pack up just like everyone else and go home either happy their team won or with hopes of a better outcome on another day.

In life we are all in spring training.  We hope for the successes in our homes, our families, our careers, and life in general, however; no matter how good we are, no matter what our skill set might be, we cannot guarantee that we will win or have success. The only thing we know is that the game will be played and we are part of the game.

While our focus seems to be to improve and to move forward there will always be a goal ahead that we may never achieve in this temporal world.  However there is a hope we have that will never leave us hopeless and that is our hope in God through Jesus Christ.  It is the assurance we have of His great love for us even when we strike out, pop out, get thrown out while trying to reach an extra base.  He is the one when we fail who He encourages us to keep going because He is with us.

In Nehemiah 9 we are reminded that God continues to shows us His mercies; Nehemiah 9:28  yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you rescued them according to your mercies.

We are all in spring training while we are here on earth.  We are all learning and building on our skills. Each one of us has special skills that God has given us.  As we grow in Christ He helps us to improve that skill and the gift God has given us.  God will not let us fail rather He will strengthen us if we allow Him.  As the Apostle wrote Philippians 1:6   “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”  It is in spring training that we receive encouragement to press forward and to press onward.  When we face an obstacle like a baseball player in a batting slump, we can go to scripture and seek God’s word.  When we make an error on the field of life we can go to God and receive His forgiveness and mercy.  Jeremiah reminds us in the book of Lamentations

Lamentations 3:22-23  22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;  23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (NRS)

How many time do we hear ourselves or someone around us say: “I can’t” or “I am not good enough.”  Maybe you or someone you knows says “I don’t know enough to do that or  teach that, or lead that”. Yet the Apostle Paul reminds us: “Colossians 3:16  16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”

Spring training like life is about gaining the skills to do God’s work but we have to be willing to enter into the process to be able to achieve the skills and the confidence to do God’s work.  God offers all of us a contract and we have the option of signing it or not.  We may not know what each step of the path will be or where it will take us.  We only have the assurance that God will be there, God will supply the skills and people to help along the way.  Yes there are times we will struggle and like a baseball player ground out, fly out, get thrown out at a base, make an error or strike out. And there times we will contribute to the winning score.  In all of this God will be with us when we “…press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 (NRS)

Just a Moment please

“Just a moment please”. How many times have you heard that phase?  It is said in many different ways.  That is especially true when we call a company for information or customer service.  Typically the number we might call will ask you to press certain numbers for a specific language preference.  Once you have selected the language there are other questions concerning the reason you are calling and ask you to select the number for that particular service.  There are times that our question might not fit any of the categories.  What then?  If you do select a category – right or wrong- most of the time the next thing you hear is, “All of our agents are busy at this time.  Your call will be answered in the order that it was received.  The average weight time is X number of minutes.”  I particularly like the one that states, “If you do not want to wait please enter you phone number and we will call you back in the order that we received your call.”  I have done that on a few occasions and when I finally receive the return phone call it is long past the wait time that was suggested when I first called.

There are other times we wait.  I remember when my son was about 4 or 5 and I first took him fishing.  I would cast out the line with a red and white bobber on it.  With excited anticipation we would wait for that first tug.  Sometimes the bobber seemed to float for what seemed an inordinate amount of time.  Ripples on the water would slowly lift and settle the bobber and hopes would rise with each ripple thinking it was an indication there was fish playing with the bait.  It was hard to wait for that full tug drawing the bobber underwater.  After waiting for what seemed like hours the first reaction was to try to set the hook while the fish was playing with the bait.  And when the fish finally took the bait and the bobber when under water the hook was set.  We practiced catch and release but the fun and joy of fishing together will remain in our memories.

Like waiting on the telephone or waiting for the fish to finally take the bait we learn through our experiences that God’s timing is the best timing.  It is hard to wait when you feel God is leading you to a new adventure, a new ministry, a new mission, a new phase in your walk with Him.  It is His timing and if we listen He will lead us.  The Israelites in the desert learned the lesson of following and being obedient to God.  He was the one who set the pace and in doing so dwelt with them.  As long as they followed His lead He was with them and blessed them.  For them it must have been hard like it is for us wondering when something was going to happen.  In the book of Numbers in the Hebrew Bible we get a picture of what it must have been like to wait on God to act.

Numbers 9:21-22  21 Sometimes the cloud would remain from evening until morning; and when the cloud lifted in the morning, they would set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they would set out.  22 Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, resting upon it, the Israelites would remain in camp and would not set out; but when it lifted they would set out.

In a society where we desire instant gratification it is hard for us to wait.  We do it because we have to do it and not always because we want to do it. Our nature is to get anxious and our patience wears thin and at times our hope wanes.  We ask “God where are you?” or “How much longer God?”  What is important to remember is God’s timing is perfect.  It is in His timing that we are being prepared for the task at hand.  What if David had become king immediately after Samuel had anointed him?  What if Joseph had not endured what he did when he was in Pharaoh’s court?  What if Moses had gone back to Egypt before God had sent him?

It is during this time that we learn, we prepare, and we listen to God’s voice.  It is during this time God solidifies His plan over our plan.  It is a time we learn to pray and discern His will.  Elijah thought his ministry was over but God had more for him to do.  Elijah hid in a cave seeking God. It was in the stillness that Elijah was able to hear God’s voice.  It wasn’t clouded by other sounds or distractions.  [1 Kings 19:12-13  12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”]

God calls all of us – not just some.  We are all called to do ministry for Him and share His grace, love, and mercy with the world.  What that call is is based on our gifts.  The good news, the gospel, is not passive it is active.  God will direct you; God will lead you; God will speak to you through the Holy Spirit; God will accomplish His purpose through you. And God may say “Just a moment, please”.