Monday, March 18, 2013

Saint Patrick: A Patron Saint of Forgiveness

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NASB).

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a man who lived Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them.”  Through his forgiving heart, he found his destiny and changed a nation. 
Patrick was actually not from Ireland; he was born in Britain.  As a teenager he was taken captive by a marauding band of druids and taken to Ireland.  Druids were a people who practiced sorcery and human sacrifice and were know for their cruelty.  Patrick lived enslaved among this people where he was provided with little food or clothing, but he continually prayed to his God.  After six years, he escaped and returned to Britain and then traveled to France to study for the ministry.  Sometime later, in a vision by night, Patrick saw a man carrying letters for him.  The letters are entitled, The Voice of the Irish.  As he started to read them he imagined he heard the people who had enslaved him, as with one voice, call out, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.“  Patrick responded to the call and the rest is history.
We can learn two things from the life of St. Patrick.  First, God often uses adversity to bring us to himself.  It was in the time of his captivity that he fervently sought his God.  Second, frequently it is forgiveness that is the pathway to our destiny.  Saint Patrick once said, “If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me.”  If St. Patrick would not have been willing to return good for evil, he would not have fulfilled his destiny and Ireland would have remained unchanged.  Will it be any different for you and I. Without forgiveness we will never traverse the rocky cliffs of man’s imperfections.  It is necessary to change our hearts and also the catalyst to change the world.
Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing


Friday, March 15, 2013

Tribulations: Part Of The Territory

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (I Corinthians 10:13 NASB).  

            God has promised that He will not allow any trial to be more than we can handle.  The question is; how does God do this?  Does He limit the temptation or increase our ability to endure? 
            The commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “for either our testings will be in proportion to our strength, or strength will be supplied in proportion to our temptation.”  In other words, he will either limit our trial according to our ability to endure, or increase our ability to endure consummate with the level of the temptation.   I am not sure how others view this, but I think I prefer the first scenario over the second one.   Unfortunately, at least in my own life, it appears God may lean toward increasing our perseverance rather than eliminating he source of my tribulation.  Why do you think God does it this way?  Let’s see of we can gain some insight by looking at an incident in the life of the Apostle Paul, a man pretty familiar with suffering.
            For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life (II Corinthians 1:8 NASB).  He was in pretty dire straights.  What was God’s purpose?  Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead (v. 9).  He was learning to trust in God.  The One who had raised the dead could do anything.  Often it is only when we come to the end of ourselves (our ability cope) do we find out that God is sufficient.  “Our extremity is God’s opportunity” (MH).  Anytime we come to end of our own ability to manage a crisis, we find out that God is there.
            How much is too much, in relation to trials and temptations?  God answers this question, not us.  On most every occasion where I told the Lord, I can’t do it anymore; I was wrong.  I found out I could.  God knew me better than I knew myself.  The period between feeling like I couldn’t and knowing I could, was a time of  transition from self-sufficiency to a God dependency.  It is not rocket science my friends, God gives us the experiences we need so that we will not trust in ourselves, but in Him.

Pray with me.  Lord, give me the grace to trust in You.  In Your name, I pray.           

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing


Monday, March 11, 2013

Would You Rather Be Great Or Useful?

Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ (Judges 9:8-9 NASB)
There is a simple answer to the question posed in the title.  I want to be great and useful.  But if you had to choose one, which would it be?
The context for the scriptural passage is as follows.  Abimelech, the son of Gideon’s concubine, has through self-promotion and manipulation become the King in Shechem of Israel.  He found worthless mercenaries to be his followers.  They traveled to the house where Gideon had lived in Ophrah and killed all of Gideon’s seventy son’s, save the youngest, Jotham.  When Jotham returned and learned of slaughter he climbs to Mt. Gerizim and cries out a fable, a story where plants and animals take on human characteristics to teach a moral lesson.
The story went something like this.  The trees ventured out to find a king.  The olive tree along with the fig tree and grapevine were the three main characters. They were valuable to the economy and added beauty of this area.  Reign over us, olive, fig, vine plants.  But they refused, choosing to be useful rather than just to exercise authority.  Finally, the same question is put to the bramble (thorn bush) (v.14); reign over us.  The bramble bush replied, come and take refuse in my shade.  Bramble was neither useful nor beautiful, but accepted their offer and promised to provide what it did not possess, protection from the desert sun.
Jotham was drawing a comparison between the character of Gideon and that of Abimelech.  Gideon, when asked to rule over Israel, refused the offer. “I shall nor rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD will rule over you” (Judges 6:23 NASB).  Gideon could serve better as a judge rather than a king.  The Lord was their King. He chose to be useful not just great.  Abimelech, on the other hand, though not useful or fruitful sill lusted after greatness. It has been said, if your find people looking for authority give them responsibility.  If you find someone looking for responsibility give him or her authority. 
 I am not suggesting that you cannot be great and useful.  You can serve by leading, as many a pastor or spiritual leader does every day.  But I do submit to you that godly leadership will involve the relinquishment of many private interests and advantages for the good of those who they serve.  And a thorn bush is ill prepared and motivated to make these types of sacrifices.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gideon: God's Underdog

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’  (Judges 7:2 NASB)

            In Israel’s battles with their enemies God seems to delight in placing them as an underdog.  George Otis Jr. at the Second Lausanne Congress On World Evangelization said, “God rarely calls his people to fair fight.”  In this verse He tells us why.  There is the tendency in the human heart toward pride and to say that through my power and abilities the enemy was defeated.  So God creates circumstances where the Church seems to have a lack of human expertise or resources with which to engage in spiritual warfare.  When God brings the victory everyone involved has to say that it was God and not man.  
            This story is rife with symbolisms of how God enjoys taking common and ordinary things and making them mighty for Him.  The dream in this story (v. 13-15) was about a barley loaf.  Gideon was a thresher of grain and the analogy of a barley loaf was an appropriate symbol to represent him.  A loaf of grain by itself is not going to defeat the Midianite army, but with God all things are possible.  As Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With A Mission has said on many occasions, “little is much if God is in it.”
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong (I Corinthians 1:27 NASB).  It is through these weak and foolish vessels that can accomplish the most dramatic miracles.  In these acts of God’s providence, not only is the strong shamed but also the God of heaven is glorified.  God does it His way, using ordinary and imperfect people like you and I, and His way is the best way.
            I would be remiss if I did not mention one human capacity or ability that Gideon did exhibit, obedience.  Imagine what would have happened if he had changed just a little of the details of God’s instructions.  What if he had called foolish the directive to sent three hundred warriors against the hordes of Midian and then added to this number.  What if Gideon had called torches and trumpets weak implements for waging warfare and deviated slightly from the plan?  In my years with Youth With A Mission we heard and practiced, you do the possible, and God will do the impossible.  I learned it was my job to obey, and it was God’s job to take care of the results.  Though not without some feebleness of faith, Gideon obeyed the Word of the Lord.  When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands” (Judges 7:15 NASB).  Midian was routed and everyone knew that it was not about Gideon but a about Gideon’s God.
Pray with me.  Lord, help me to obey you, and allow you to take care of the results. 
                              In His name I pray.  Amen

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing