Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an Opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith Is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
GREAT JOY?…….Really? I am afraid we do not always see it that way. This is a familiar passage that applies to all of us because we all have had or are currently experiencing trials. Some trials pass quickly and seem rather insignificant in the whole scheme of life. Then there are others that are painful and long lasting. The interesting thing about trials is that no one is exempt, not you, not me or even those in the ministry profession. Trust me, our FBM staff meets with many who are facing all kinds of trials, some having such overwhelming troubles that they are tempted to quit the ministry. Have you ever said, “Where is God in all of these troubles?” I have!
Let me take a personal turn at this point. Most of you know that Linda was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December of 2005. For the first 5-6 years most people would not have known. Even though Parkinson’s is not an aggressive disease, it is progressive. Now, more than 13 years later, Linda is seeing a lot of changes in her health. She has great doctors and wonderful medications that help people with Parkinson’s to have a fairly good quality of life. However, the disease does take its toll. It is our trial that we are trying to endure with joy, as James says.
Have we prayed for Linda? Yes, every day. Have we asked God to heal her? Yes, many times. Have we followed the instructions of James 5:13-15 to call the Elders of the church, to anoint her with oil for healing? Yes, on several occasions. Has God answered with a miraculous healing? Not at this point.
Have you ever asked God “why”? I have!
Have you ever said, “God, are you still here”? I have!
Have you ever asked God, “Do you hear my prayers? Do you even care”? I have!
Have you ever felt like just giving up? I have, and I bet you have too.
BUT WE ARE NOT GIVING UP! Why? Because God is still in control. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that whatever joys we have experienced here on earth cannot compare to the joys we are promised in Heaven! So…..WE ARE NOT GIVING UP!!!!
Recently in a pastor’s group that I facilitate, our conversation turned to sports. One of the young pastors was asking others in the group how hard he should push his young son to be involved in baseball. As I listened I started thinking about the importance that our society places on sports. Now don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy a lot of sports but mainly as a spectator. Although I do manage to get in a round of golf once or twice a year.
You see, when I was growing up music was my thing. I tell you this so that I can explain later what I am talking about. In junior high school and throughout high school, I played the trumpet. I was in the concert band, the marching band, and the dance band. I was also in the concert choir, swing choir, madrigal singers and the boy’s quintet. If it was musical I was in it, but sports found me as a spectator. However, I do remember those neighborhood baseball games that we played during the summer. As I recall they went something like this:
Two boys were chosen to be captains and they took turns choosing the guys that they wanted on their team. Finally it got down to the final two, of which I was one. I can still hear those words, “You take John and I will take Lyle.” Not only was I chosen last, but the tone of voice was somewhat humiliating.
It feels good to be chosen, even if we are chosen last. Even if we do not win the amazing award or get picked first for the team, far more important than any of this is that we are chosen by God. Read what God said in Isaiah 41: 8-10:
But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one.
I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying ‘You are my servant’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged for I am your God.
I no longer call you slaves, because a master does not confide in his slaves.
Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father has told me.
You didn’t choose me. I chose you.
I hope you will rejoice with me in being chosen to be on Jesus’ team. You and I are not on His team because of our skills or accomplishments, we are there because He redeemed us! (As always, thanks for being a part of the FBM Team!)
Have you ever had something break? Of course you have. It could be your car, your lawn mower or your TV. Recently our dryer broke, which surprised me since it is less than 2 years old. Recently I went into our pantry to get something off the shelf. In an attempt to get that certain item I knocked a jar of hot fudge sauce onto the floor, and you guessed it, IT BROKE!! It wasn’t a huge mess but just enough to be a sticky mess. Sometimes if we drop and break something we can actually glue the pieces back together and no one knows what we did, but this was not the case with the hot fudge jar.
What about people? Since none of us are perfect, we know that in some way we are all broken, and usually it takes more than super glue to mend those broken pieces. IT TAKES A SAVIOR. That is what Jesus came to do, take the broken pieces of our lives and put them back together again. Recently I stopped to visit a pastor who has been broken. When I first met him a few years ago, I assumed he had his life altogether but I later found out how broken he really was. I have not had any real contact with him until today. With the urging of the Holy Spirit I felt like it was time to break the barrier and I stopped to see him. I did not have an appointment but I did know where he works. He greeted me with open arms and a big hug and for the next several minutes we talked about his journey and how God has been mending his broken pieces. He has struggled with shame and with those who talked behind his back. His journey has not been easy, but God is the Mender of broken pieces.
Maybe you have someone in your own life, a friend or family member who is broken and you are praying, “God, send someone to help that person.” We all want to think that “someone else” will be there but what if God wants YOU to be the one who deals with the “broken pieces?” That was my experience today. Listen to the Holy Spirit. He may be asking you to help someone you know and love to pick up the broken pieces of their life.
I love what our team gets to do through FishBowl Ministries. We come along side of those who are hurting and broken and offer them Hope, Encouragement and Friendship! Thank you for continuing to help us do that with your prayers and generous financial support.
A Personal Reflection January, 2018
The Holidays are over, and as I write this letter we are half way through the first month of 2018. Yikes! Through the years I have written on several subjects both to inform you and also to encourage you in your daily walk with God. There are a few personal things that I would like to share with you this month:
*A big THANK YOU to all of you who pray for us and give financially so that the work of FishBowl Ministries can continue. This past year, our year-end giving was more than twice the amount of our usual monthly income! This helps us to start 2018 with a small reserve to meet the needs of ministry.
*I am so blessed to lead our FishBowl team of Len Sunukjian, Byron Burns, Tom Norvell and Greg Rhodes. These are men of great integrity and compassionate hearts for those who serve in ministry. During the months of 2018 our team will take turns in posting a newsletter or other words of encouragement to pastors on our website.
Please take some time and visit: www.fishbowlministries.org.
*Your continued prayers are greatly needed and appreciated. Join with me this year as I pray that God will continue to increase our influence across the county and also bring to us new personnel who have a passion to minister to those in ministry.
*One a very personal note, Linda and I would greatly appreciate your prayers on behalf of her health. She is in her 13th year of living with Parkinson’s disease. Even though she is still as active as she can be, this disease is certainly taking its toll on her. I know, and my Board continues to affirm, that Linda is my first priority of ministry. So pray with us that I will be a faithful steward in leading Fishbowl Ministries, spending time with pastors, and giving time and care to Linda as we continue this journey together.
*Pray for our fourth Music City Father’s Retreat, April 3-5, 2018. This is a gathering of 15-20 Christian Musicians along with a few pastor types. This continues to be a time of great fellowship, personal sharing, lots of music and reflecting on our lives and ministries.
In a recent sermon I heard, I was reminded of Caleb. There are five verses in Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua where we discover why Caleb was so effective in his life. Those verses tell us that Caleb. WHOLE-HEARTEDLY FOLLOWED THE LORD. That is my prayer for myself and all of us as we navigate through 2018!
Blessings & Peace!
The 7 Cent Gift
I believe that almost everyone likes to receive gifts. Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or a gift for no special reason at all, we all like gifts. By the time you read this letter, Thanksgiving Day will have come and gone and Christmas will be just around the corner. Sometimes the gifts we receive come in large packages, but often the smallest gifts are the most precious. A few weeks ago I was at Office Depot getting my October newsletter printed. There was an elderly woman in front of me trying to pay for her order. Her bill was $1.07. I seldom carry any change with me but that day I knew I had some in my pocket. I handed her 7 cents and said “Here is 7 cents so that you do not have to have all that change with you.” You would have thought that I had given her a diamond ring! She smiled and thanked me and moved on. (I have since wondered why I just didn’t pay for the whole thing. Next time I will be more sensitive.) It was a very small gift, but it made her smile. All that for just 7 cents. We never know what act of kindness will encourage someone who may need a lift that day. In my case all it took was 7 cents!
It is hard to believe that this year is almost gone. Fishbowl ministries is headed into its 6th year of praying for, encouraging and standing alongside all those in ministry. When a pastor says, “Thanks for stopping by” or “Thanks for praying with me”, or “Thanks for being my friend,” then we know why FishBowl Ministries is so important. I also know that Fishbowl ministries has been blessed with so many wonderful supporters who stand with us each month in prayer and generous financial gifts. We could not do this without you! Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:3-6 is my prayer for each of you:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
As you think about your year-end giving to your Church or favorite charity I hope that you will remember FishBowl Ministries. We want to end 2017 strong so that we can continue into the New Year, reaching out to pastors throughout the country. Maybe you can only give 7 cents or maybe you can give a large year-end gift. Either way, it will be greatly appreciated!
Blessings & Peace!