Wednesday, March 13, 2013


When you read the title of this post the first thing that probably comes to mind is Ebeneezer Scrooge, the mean old miser from Dicken's "A Christmas Carol". Scrooge's name is always used in a negative light about a person that is hardened, unloving and unconcerned about the misery of others.

I think there is a biblical purpose behind Dicken's using the name Ebeneezer. The name comes from 1 Samuel 7:12 Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—"the stone of help"—for he said, "Up to this point the Lord has helped us!" that was raised after the Lord defeated the Philistine army at Mispah.

What is the connection between the biblical account about the stone of Ebeneezer and Dicken's Scrooge? In the end, we forget this, Scrooge turned out to be a humble, loving and charitable man. It took the 'ghosts' to remind him of the past, his Ebeneezer stones, the present, and what the future might hold if he did not remember his 'Ebeneezer'.

Wikipedia details the plot of the story and ends with this:

Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart, then spends the day with his nephew's family after anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner. Scrooge has become a different man overnight and now treats his fellow men with kindness, generosity and compassion, gaining a reputation as a man who embodies the spirit of Christmas. The story closes with the narrator confirming the validity, completeness, and permanence of Scrooge's transformation.

God reminds us of the past to help us to become what we are to be. There are several points that can be taken from this.
  • God is not finished with us until He has fully developed Himself in us.
  • God sees a person for what he can become, not necessarily what he is at present
I pray that we might have the same perspective.

Monday, March 11, 2013

An Uncomfortable Peace

It would seem that the title of this post is an oxymoron but it asks an important question. Can you be at peace and yet be uncomfortable? Or another question is; 'Are we seeking comfort by God or peace with God?'

How do you understand the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)?

He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In most cases these appear to be saying that happiness belongs to those who are experiencing some kind of discomfort. Am I wrong?

Consider Acts 5:41 - rejoicing at disgrace, Romans 5:3-5 and I Peter 5:10 - glory through suffering, James 1:2 - joy in trials.

I have heard and read this story about John Wesley (I am not where this story came from, I cannot find it in his Journal
One day John Wesley was riding along a road when it dawned upon him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution. Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days. Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, "Can it be that I have sinned and am backslidden?"
Slipping from his horse Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault.
A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher. "I'll fix that Methodist preacher," he said taking a brick and tossing it over at him. It missed its mark and fell harmlessly beside John.
Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, "Thank God, it's all right. I still have His presence."

Many use this story, however true, to teach that we should expect persecution, and in fact if we are not being persecuted, we are not experiencing God to the fullest! I think the point of it is in the last sentence when Wesley says, 'Thank God, it's all right. I still have His presence.'. 

Peace in discomfort. A lot of people are living in discomfort right now, for a myriad of reasons, myself among them. Right now I don't think God is concerned about my comfort, He is more concerned about my relationship with Him and if a little (by comparison) discomfort will expand my faith in Him, I can greatly rejoice.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Eyes on Him

It has been a week and a day since I found out that I no longer had a job at Xerox. And it has been a week of praying and seeking God's will. Through the week I narrowed down my direction to three alternatives. I can't go into all of them in detail but the first and most obvious at the outset was to redo my resume and start a new job search. I was confident that God could produce a job that was close to what I had before in spite of circumstances of my age, out of date skills and with an urgency to replace my income I could not afford to be picky.

The second path is to start my own business. I could go back to contract work or Pam and I have previously discussed a viable idea that could become a very successful business. This would take work, risking some of our retirement savings and could take a long time before it becomes profitable.

Now the third I reserved for last because this is what I want to discuss here fully and deeply. As I stated last time I have been volunteering as a chaplain at Orangewood Children and Family Center, Orange County's Emergency Shelter for abused, neglected, abandoned and displaced children. Prior to that I served as a chaplain at Orange County Juvenile Hall.

I called a good friend who was a recruiter. I had not spoken with him for several years but he was quick to help me polish up my resume and give me solid advice about finding a job in today's market. I started to do some research regarding the industry related to our business idea and I made arrangements to meet with the Executive Chaplain for the ministry I am aligned with.

In my own wisdom I thought I should move all three paths and ask God to bless my efforts. That was MY idea. I was foolish to think that *now* God needs to give me guidance and direction when this very event, losing my job, was His guidance and direction. I had stubbornly held on to what was comfortable, familiar and easy.

There are a lot of things I could write but during my devotional time today, God spoke again. Here is a snip from a book I am reading, this was in the chapter called 'God's Invitation to Join Him in His Work'


God-centered living is characterized by: 

confidence in God; dependence on God, on His abilities and provision; a life focused on God and His activity; humility before God; denial of self; seeking first the kingdom of God, His righteousness; seeking God's perspective on our circumstances; holy and godly living.

(I removed the reference because I only want to communicate the thought, not the source of the idea.)

The same chapter referred to Psalm 81 where I read these verses:

10 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
11 “But my people would not listen to me;
    Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
    to follow their own devices.

And finally I infrequently read my favorite devotional My Utmost for His Highest ( Today's message (March 5th) refers to Acts 20:24

. . . so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus . . . 

Oswald Chambers writes:

If you have received a ministry from the Lord Jesus, you will know that the need is not the same as the call— the need is the opportunity to exercise the call.

If this seems a little disjointed and confusing it is only because it is hard to express all the things that God is doing in us right now. If only one thing comes from it all, God has our eyes singularly focused on Him right now.

Friday, March 01, 2013

It is not about me, it is all about God.

For 20 years I have been serving God as a volunteer with Pacific Youth Correctional Ministries. This ministry is dedicated to bringing the Gospel to youth that are incarcerated in correctional facilities (Juvenile Hall) mostly in Southern California but also around the world by training chaplains and volunteers anywhere there has been an interest.

For over 40 years I have searched for the place that God wanted me to be and do what God wanted me to do. I have served as an Worship Leader, Intern Pastor, Church Board Member, Bible Study Leader, Children's Worship Leader and now Chaplain at Orangewood Children and Family Center in Orange County.

In my last post I wrote about losing my job and being unemployed at the age of 60. Today I have come to discover a glaring flaw in my idea about my ministry, my service to God and my future. It is so simple but it took a crisis engineered by God to reveal it, to me at least.

It is not about me, it is all about God.

OK, you heard that before, and so have I so many times. I cannot tell you what it means to your ministry or service to God but I can tell you what I am hearing right now. In all these years I have searched the answer to the question 'How does God want to use me?' You know what, that is not God's number one question for my life.

God is not so worried about me, I am secure in His forgiveness, sealed in His love and destined for His home. God's desire is not to use me, my talents, my gifts, my whatever. His desire is for those who are eternally lost and need to find the kind of relationship I have with Him.

God is saying to me, 'it is not about you, it is about those thousands of kids locked up in juvenile halls across the country, it is about the thousands of kids living in emergency shelters across the nation.' This is where God has placed me and I think God is using this time in my life to clear up my fuzzy vision and get my eyes off myself and on to what is really important to Him, not to me.