Sunday, September 22, 2013

Run out of Gas Lately? I did! Time to get refreshed

Alright, I know this imagery is pretty well known and written about, but once it happens to you, you a reminder is always helpful.
Running out of Gas

My gas light had been flashing at me for the whole day. That night I saw I was below empty and gave myself a reminder that I needed to fill up the tank the next morning, but it really wasn’t a problem because my gas gauge had been down that far before and I knew I had about 30 more miles before I would truly be empty. The next morning however it had all slipped my mind and I did nothing all day. The truth was I never even noticed my gas light was flashing at me. Why would I notice it? I had seen it a million times and never run out of gas. I was fine! It was about 5:30 in the ‘Prevening’ as Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory has coined the term, and I was delivering dinner to a couple in our church who both just had surgery. The woman met me in the driveway so I left the car running and met her with the food. She invited me inside so I went. We talked for several minutes and then said goodbye. Returning to my car I remarked to myself that the engine seemed pretty quiet. I got inside, the air conditioner was still running and the radio was on. I buckled up, put the car in gear, pressed the gas peddle and… nothing. My car wouldn’t move. I had run out of gas! Never in my life had I run out of gas. Not even in college when I was notorious for driving on an empty tank. So what was I going to do? I sat there with my seat belt on saying to myself, ‘Well I guess I will call my wife and have her bring the gas can.’ I knew however that this would be difficult as dinner was literally being put on the table and she would have three kids to get into the car. Then I thought, maybe the parishioner has a gas can with a bit of gas for his yard work. I went and asked and luckily they did have gas. I put about a quarter gallon in and drove straight to the nearest gas station. When I got there, the atm/credit card machines were down and they were only accepting cash for gas. I HAD NO CASH! I prayed my little amount of gas would get me to the next station and by God’s grace it did. I filled my tank, went home and told my family all about it.

                The God thing about running out of gas is two fold. First happening at the home of someone who had both a Gas can and gas in the can. God seems to be taking care of me this way lately, thank you very much! Second, it happened the evening before I was leaving for the day to go to a one day retreat with other pastors and church leaders to refresh and rejuvenate ourselves. I realized that I had been running on empty for quite some time and if I did not get away to fill my spiritual tank I would have nothing left for the church, my family  and spiritually run out of Gas myself. Thank God this one day retreat was the pit stop I needed to be re
freshed and encouraged to run the race of ministry for which I had been called. Isaiah 40:31 tells us, ‘But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint’ Paul continues this line of thought when he writes in Philippians 3:13-14, ‘Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’

I encourage you as a follower of Jesus to not let your tank run out of gas, but take time to rest in the lord, renew your strength and continue to press on toward the prize.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 87 For the Love of Money: A Tale of two perspecetives (Pastors of L.A. and Pope Francis)

For the love of Money: A tale of two perspectives

Ok this is going to be a long post. After not posting on the Essential 100 challenge for awhile, this is a doozy. When I came upon reading 87 about ‘The Love of Money’ I was really challenge.

I do not know about you, but I could have seen this coming. On the Oxygen network this fall is a new reality show called, “Preachers of L.A.”. This show follows six ‘mega Church’ pastors and what is called their ‘Mega-lives’. The trailer for the new reality show indicates that that it will follow these six pastors in their ministry and their lavish lifestyles. If you want to know what the show may focus on just look at these quotes from the Oxygen Channel’s trailer for the show:

1.       "The Bible says I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. I believe that," declares Bishop Clarence McClendon, one of the stars of the show.

2.       McClendon, whose weekly international broadcast reaches some 250 million homes, believes "there is no other kind of Gospel" except the prosperity gospel, according to a release from the Oxygen network.

3.       P. Diddy, Jay-Z, they're not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses," says cast member Bishop Ron Gibson, a former gang member who now ministers to 4,500 people each week at Life Church of God in Christ.

4.       "The Bible says that those of us who sow among us should reap from us, that's implying that preachers should be taken care of," says Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary of Huntington Beach Pastor Jay Haizlip, who is also on the show.

Another cast member is described as follows:

“Cast member Bishop Noel Jones, who was born into extreme poverty in Jamaica, now lives "on a hilltop with a view of the Pacific Ocean, Malibu at his feet, and across the street from the former home of the late L.A. Lakers owner, Jerry Buss," according to his biographic information shared by Oxygen.”

Part II

What holds all these pastors in common is not their ministry, but their lavish lifestyles and belief that God’s desire is for those who follow him will prosper.

Recently, as I was reading day 87 of the Essential 100 challenge, I was confronted with Paul’s writing to Timothy regarding Pastoral leadership and ‘the love of money’. In 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”


I will be so bold as to declare to things:


1.      I love money. I love the security it brings, the comfort it brings and the lifestyle it brings. But this too, as the writer of Ecclesiastes would say, is vanity. To love Christ is to forsake money. You can not serve two masters.


2.      God specifically does not want money, possessions or anything else to impede our relationship with him or our mission of spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom of heaven; which is freedom in and through Christ.


I want to end with comparing two stories from this week, the Pastor’s of L.A. with Pope Francis and ask which of these ministers most truly reflects the heart of God and the ministry of Jesus Christ.


1.      Those six Mega Pastors on Oxygen


2.      Pope Francis asking his clergy, “What Would Jesus Drive.” And asking them to be more humble.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Secret Pain of Pastors, "Why did I ever agree to do this!"

This is a very interesting article on the true difficulties of being a pastor. In essence it gives a detailed look at how stressful a pastor's life can be based on all the things he or she must deal with as a pastor on a daily basis. I invite you to take a look and then respond by giving your pastor a word of encouragement whether you think they deserve it or not or whether you like them or not.

Readings 26-29 The Book of Judges: The cycle of Sin and redemption

The book of Judges is a microcosm of the overarching theme of the Bible. God calls his people to relationship and for a while the people accept and follow him. Then the people fall away from God through pride and selfishness. Without being in relationship with God their lives begin to suffer. God is no longer able to protect them from themselves and outside forces. Then in their oppression the people repent of their pride and selfishness and return to a relationship with God. Now God can provide for them and he does so. God redeems his people and once again they are in right relationship. Soon the people begin to fall away again in their pride and selfishness. It is a cycle that never ends and to which the law of Moses has no power to stop.
I am hoping you not only see this pattern in the Bible, but in our own lives. I do not know about you, but I live a life of extreme comfort. I may not be flush with cash, but I live in a nice home, have food on the table, two cars and opportunities to enjoy myself. I am doing extremely well. Yet it is in this comfort and ease that we become most susceptible to selfishness, pride and arrogance. We are susceptible to rejecting the need for a protector and provider. So I reject him. I may not think that I reject him, but by relying on my own strength and failing to go to God in thanksgiving for all he has given me and my family I say, ‘Look what I have been able to do.” I turn to myself and thus reject God. This grieves God as he longs to be my foundation and provider but can not do so as long as I limit him and even reject him.
But God is so amazing that even though he can say, ‘I told you so.’ when my selfishness and pride cause my life to come crashing down, He judges not except to hold me in his arms and say, ‘how I have missed you.”
So as we read the book of Judges, may we know that this book is for each us in that God does not desire our lives to end in sin, civil war and exile as it did with the nation of Israel. God desires to be our ‘Judge’, our protector, our redeemer, our king. Let us think of those places in our lives in which we need to turn over to God and the areas of our lives in which we need to thank God for the redeeming gift of Jesus Christ and follow him in good times and bad as our Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Day 25: Reading the Bible every day is impossible! Nothing is impossible with God; ask Joshua!

We are one quarter of the way through our Essential 100 and I was wondering something. Have you actually read twenty five daily bible readings? Are you where you need to be to finish the E100 bible challenge on time? Here is the truth, reading the bible, even for five minutes a day is not as easy as Fr. Rob said it would be. How do I know? I have missed a few days. Ok so I have missed six days. Of course when I do miss I make it up the next day or over the next few days.

The truth is about this time we begin to get slack with our reading and even wonder if it is worth the effort. If you have made it to the twenty fifth reading you will find that it is the point in the story of Israel in which after their forty years in the Desert they have crossed the Jordon to claim the homeland that god has promised. Big problem though; there are already people living in the land. These people are numerous, have armies and cities with big giant walls. How in the world are the Israelites ever going to establish themselves in this land it is seemingly impossible. The first obstacle is Jericho, the city with massive walls. God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to take the city. One problem though. With their technology there was no way to take it. The walls were too thick.

                Yet Joshua was obedient and moved as the Lord commanded. When he did so God came again and showed that what is impossible with man is possible with God. He had Joshua do some parading around the city which in itself was silly and could do nothing to actually penetrate the city. Yet God told Joshua what to do and what the outcome would be. So Joshua commanded his army to march around the city in faithfulness to God’s command and what happened? God brought down the walls of Jericho, the Israelite army rushed in and took the city.

                So if God has called you to participate in the E100 challenge, trust in him to accomplish this task and be obedient in doing so. This is not only true with our reading, but in every part of your Christian life. Throughout the Bible was God’s continued call upon Christians is not to a good and happy life, but to obedience. By being obedient God’s people become Holy. By becoming Holy, we are reside in the divine will of God. This is where we have always been meant to be.

                So take off your shoes my friends, be obedient to his call to holiness for you are standing on the Holy Ground of God’s word.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 18: Pharoah's Heart became hard."

Day 18: ‘Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not let the people go.’ Exodus 8:32.

From Chapter’s 7 through 11 in the Book of Exodus, eleven times we read some form of these words, ‘Pharaoh’s heart became hard’. Eleven times! These chapters are of course from the ten plagues sent by God upon Egypt to prove to Pharaoh that the God of the Israelites demands their freedom. Ten plagues in all and all because Pharaoh’s heart was hardened to the will of God and to the welfare of God’s people

                If I am honest with myself I too have a hard heart many times and it causes bad things to happen. My bad experiences, my hurts, my difficulties taken together can harden my heart toward God, his direction and will for my life. My heart also becomes hardened to people in my life who hurt, harass and even simply annoy me. Maybe worse of all my heart has become hardened toward those whom I have been called to love such as my family, parishioners, and the least of these in society.

                The tragedy of hardened hearts are two fold. First are broken relationships. Marriages do not fail overnight. It is often a progression of little steps. A harsh word here, lack of follow through there, you know how it often goes. Until one day the marriage is over and the couple wonders how they became so distant and hard hearted toward one another. Sadly the same is true with God when we harden our hearts. We begin so close and one day we find ourselves distant wondering if we will ever be close again.

Second, the result is God’s will can not be accomplished. Think of it as a football team who is fighting with each other and not understanding and anticipating each other’s play calls or actions on the field. The result will be a team that can not accomplish their goals of moving down the field and scoring touchdowns. So too with us and God if we are not in communication, in strong relationship with God, we can not hear, reside in or accomplish God’s will.

                Hardening our hearts inevitably leads to broken relationships and broken roads. But the Good News is that with God all things are possible. God gave pharaoh nine opportunities to soften his heart towards his will and his people before the final plague that resulted in his son’s death. God never stops trying and never gives up on us. Yes there are consequences in our lives due to the hardening of our hearts, but even in our brokenness God is always attempting to soften our hearts. It is never, ever too late to soften our hearts. Our future may now be different, but God can and will bless it wherever we are.

All we need to do is to say yes to God; the easiest and hardest action toward God that we will ever do.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 16 Moses: Born to Lead or shaped to Lead?

The story of Moses is about God freeing his people, of fulfilling his promise of giving them their own land and making them prosperous and free. But it is also about leadership. It is about a man shaped by God to lead the people of Israel to that freedom and homeland that God promised. If you look at the story of Moses’ upbringing it is so obvious that his leadership later in life was directly impacted by his early life, his early struggles, his early blessings, his early sins and his time in the desert.

                Moses was prepared for leadership simply by the life he was born into through no fault of his own. Growing up in the court of Pharaoh would have made him familiar with the pharaoh himself and how to deal with him. He knew the Egyptian law and the Egyptian God’s. Yet he was also a Hebrew and knew he was a Hebrew. This helped him understand both world’s. Because of this Moses was not quite of either of the worlds. To the pharaoh, he was still an outsider and the Hebrews he was a sellout. So in many ways he was isolated and had to be his own person. This too prepared him for leadership in that he had to trust in God’s call and his gifts for that calling. He could stand apart and yet identify with the people he was called to lead and with those they needed to be freed from.

                Moses was also shaped by his time in the desert herding sheep. He knew the trials of the desert, how to read the topography, where to find shelter, water and food. He knew the safety of a harsh and barren land. By learning to guide sheep in the desert he learned to guide people as well.

                God shaped Moses to be the leader of His people simply by the life he led before called by God through the burning bush. How has God shaped you? How through the unique gifts and experiences in your life can you serve God. For God has certainly gifted you and he has certainly shaped you. Seriously think about it. Like Moses you were made for a purpose and God has shaped you for that purpose throughout your life. Now prayerfully ask God what his purpose is for you and do it! God has been shaping you to do it your whole life.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Revenge or forgiveness, the future of His family, his people, his nation is helld in the balance

Joseph meets his brothers: Genesis 42

How do you face those who harmed you? This was the question Joseph faces when his dreams come true and his brothers bow before him begging for food in a famine. The scene actually plays out the way we often dream about when we think of those who have harmed us. We want them to bow down to us with their fate in our hands. We dream of meeting out justice for the harm that was done to us. Joseph lives out this dream and holds the lives of his brothers in his hand.

Today we read about the meeting of Joseph and his brothers, we read that Joseph wept at the weight of the moment. But what we do not see yet is what he does with the lives in his hands. Though he weeps, Joseph is confronted with the ultimate dilemma we actually face every day. Do we live for revenge or do we live to forgive?

The Christian answer is to forgive, but in my experience this is amazingly difficult. Sometimes forgiveness takes a lifetime because of the deepness of the pain. Sometimes the harm is ongoing and we are still currently being victimized. Sometimes the pain and the anger is all that we have to hold onto in the world. Sometimes the person who hurt us in no way deserves our forgiveness because they are not sorry. Forgiveness is really, really hard.

                 I believe this is why Joseph wept. I believe the weight of the choice before him and the struggle of his heart brought the weight of the world upon him. Looking into the eyes of his brothers he had to ask himself if he could see beyond the hurt and see how God plan was bearing itself out in not only himself, but also his brothers.

            So what about us. Can we look beyond the pain and offer forgiveness. In tomorrow’s reading we will see that God’s plan of the Israelites blessing the world can not happen without Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers. So how is God wanting to move in your life, in our church, in this world through forgiveness. I truly believe that the way God works most perfectly is through forgiveness. It is the center of His love for us, the center of the work and person of Christ, the center of all salvation History.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Covetousness and righteousness: Joseph and his brothers


I never had much growing up and boy did I know it! I hear lots of stories about people growing up poor but never really knowing what that meant. That was not me. Maybe it was my personality. Maybe my perceptions. Maybe it was the way I was made to feel. Whatever it was I did not like it at all and it really shaped me as a person. Even today I struggle with covetousness with what God has given to others and not recognizing the gifts God for the gifts he has already lavished on me.

Reading the story of Joseph I read a story of jealousy and covetousness. I read a story of brothers competing for the blessing of a Father who clearly and vocally favors another. I read a story of anger and destruction because of the damage that comes from coveting what belongs to another.

I have a theory about coveting. It goes a little something like this. Apart from having no Gods before me and making no false idols, the admonition of no coveting is the most important of the ten commandments. “Why whatever do you mean Fr. Rob? I don’t think coveting is as important an issue as stealing, lying, adultery and definitely not murdering.” Oh yeah? So tell me, would you lie, steal, commit adultery and murder if you did not covet? If you truly did not covet what belonged to your neighbor you would have any need to lie, steal, lust or murder. That is it. Simple. No coveting translates into contentedness with what God has given you and joy with God’s blessing on others.

Our story of Joseph and his brothers, at one level, is the story of covetousness and the resulting destruction that inevitably follows. But in a more profound way it is the story not of covetousness, but of righteousness. It is the story of God’s amazing nature in that what Satan meant for evil (covetousness, adultery, lying, stealing) God uses for Good. All things are under God’s divine control even if evil gets inflicted upon us, God transforms it and changes it into something more amazing than we could have ever imagined. To save his family from starvation and fulfill God’s promises for descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky, God took a slave boy and made him the king’s right hand man.

If he has a plan it is going to get done. So trust in God’s plan even when everything goes to Potiphar(pun intended) and remain righteous to His purposes and promises for your life.

Tomorrow’s reflection will be on ‘What You meant for evil, God will use for Good’ and the bombings in Boston at the marathon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God heard Ishmael's cry, but tested Abraham

God Heard Ishmael’s cry but tested Abraham: a reflection on our Day 8 reading from Genesis 21:1-22:19.

I know that if you are reading this devotion you have already moved on from the Birth and ‘Sacrifice’ of Isaac’ and are reading today about Jacob and Esau. Most of you know I was on retreat for four days and I dedicated myself to this retreat and did not have the opportunity to blog. However during my retreat I still read my bible for the E100 challenge and I was struck powerfully between God’s Blessing of Ishmael, His testing of Abraham and the dramatic difference between God’s response to the two.

                Ishmael was the offspring of Abraham’s disobedience to God’s promise. Abraham and Sarah, though responding to God’s call to go into a new land and to initially trust in God’s promise to make their offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky, basically lost trust. Yes Abraham trusted God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Yet the trust in those promises was strained as time went on and Abraham in fear of his own safety allowed his wife to be taken as a wife by another and then attempt to have a child with a woman who was not his wife.

This is just a wandering thought, but maybe Abraham’s lack of trust had the consequence of straining his relationship with God and God needed to find a way to reestablish that trust. Though incomprehensible to us God accomplished this by asking Abraham to give back the very promise that started it all.

On the other hand God’s response to Ishmael was to have mercy. The text does not say he was testing Ishmael or his mother, but that he heard his cry and had mercy. This tells me that God is a redeeming God. He did not cause Ishmael to be cast out, he did not cause the trauma that was placed upon him. But God looked down on him and had mercy.

Oh how I behave like Abraham and need God’s blessing like Ishmael. I need the redemptive power of God to come upon me and fulfill His promises. Yet in my own disobedience am I really prepared to receive what God needs to give to me to bless me and fulfill His promises for my life. Am I really ready to see the true consequences that my lack of trust in the fulfillment of God’s promises are in my life and the lives of those whom I dearly love.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Building for ourselves or building for God

My friends I will be away on retreat for the next four days and will be blogging again beginning Monday. Enjoy:

Building for ourselves or for God

Pride cometh before the fall. Or more specifically from the Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” When I read the story of the Tower of Babel the word that came out to me the most was the word ‘Ourselves’. “Come let us build OURSELVES a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for OURSELVES’.

I was reminded in my reading that there is a complete difference between building something for ‘ourselves’ and building something because God called us to the task. The first focuses on us, the second upon God. Over and over and over again in the Old Testament we read of pride creating broken relationships. This has come in many forms from Sampson, to King Saul, King David and beyond. All these people began with God on their lips and in their hearts. They began with the intention to Glorify God. Yet in their success they began to think too much of and for their own glory.

When we are called by God to a task or to build His Kingdom, be wary that it is our pride that often gets in the way and derails God’s plans. God led Joshua and the Israelites to victory in the battle of Jericho and then immediately sent Joshua to Ai to defeat that city as well. As Joshua gathered three thousand men to assail the city, God stopped Joshua and said ‘take only three hundred with you. This way when you are victorious with only three hundred men you will know that it was not by your strength or ability, but because of me and your obedience to my call.

Challenge: Think of ways in which we declare that instead of working obediently for God’s glory and his calling we have built up a Tower for ourselves and for our own name. If you find anything give it over to God and pray for his direction and his glory to be made manifest.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

God's discipine and God's promise: Genesis 8 & 9

          Parenting is really, really hard work. Tonight we had to put our oldest girl (almost 4) to bed without any of her night time privileges. No books, no game, no bed time snack. This has been the most grievous repercussions we have placed upon her in her almost four short years. And you know what; it was really, really hard to do. All Amee and I wanted to do was hug her and give her coveted ‘privileges’. There was lots of crying and not the crocodile tears kind, true heartfelt crying. You know the kind of cry that says I don’t understand, I am so sorry please let me have my privileges. I asked her over and over if she know that I loved her, but that her behavior towards her mommy lost her all her privileges. She tearfully asked me how she could get them back and I had to tell her that tomorrow she would have them back, but tonight there was no way to earn them back. She simply needed to go to bed. If you are a parent you know how hard it is to punish your children, but you also know that standing firm is the responsibility of a parent so to teach our children the need for proper boundaries.

The story of the flood is the story of discipline, but it is also the story of salvation. It is a story of destruction, but also a story of restoration. It is a story of promise and a guarantee that the punishment for our sins will never lead to destruction as long as we return to God. We made a promise to Rose that tomorrow would be a new day, that her privileges would be restored. The rainbow is God’s promise of restoration. It is his parental promise that though our sin has repercussions, it will never change His love for us or his desire for us to be in a right relationship with him and with his creation.

Think today about God’s grace, but also about how we respond to that Grace. Especially when that grace looks more like punishment than freedom. So how will we respond to God’s grace? How will Rose respond to Mommy and Daddy’s grace. We hope with the understanding that the boundaries we set are in order to give her freedom and life and in so doing give us all the proper boundaries to be in a right and loving relationship with one another.

In Christ,

Fr. Rob+

The rippling effect of brokenness and sin and the redeeming power of God, Genesis 3 & Genesis 6:5-7:24

This morning as I looked out upon the pond in my backyard, I noticed how still the water was. By mid-morning the wind has usually kicked up and created waves, but often in the morning the surface of the water is like glass. As I looked out upon the water what I believe to be a fish came up from under the surface and created a little splash. Ripple in the water moved quickly from the spot of the disturbance and soon the whole area of the pound was moving. What once was as smooth as glass was riddled with ripples.

In our readings yesterday which Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden we see the ripple effect of Sin on God’s beloved created. So much so that by the time we get to Noah in Genesis Chapter six we read that, “Every Inclination of his (man) heart was only evil, all the time.” The result being God’s plan to destroy all living things. Not just people, but all living things because His heart had become ‘grieved’ by what he had made.

The truth of sin is that it has repercussions. Often these repercussions harm ‘innocent’ people whom we never intended to harm. We may believe that sin is personal and no one’s business but our own, but no matter how much we try to deny it sin hurts others around us. It has repercussions. Bad things happen to good people because of us.

The deepest tragedy of sin is brokenness. Brokenness of relationships, brokenness of people, brokenness of dreams and vision, a brokenness of God’s creation.

The Good news though is that God has provided a way to heal us of this brokenness and even more importantly a way to heal us of our sin. It all has to do with the child of the woman in chapter two who will crush the serpent. Jesus is the answer to sin. We will see later in the story of Noah that wiping creation out is not the right solution. Sin will always be present. The answer is Jesus. The answer is trusting in the power of Eve’s offspring to crush sin and Satan under his foot. The answer is forming a relationship with God through Jesus and allowing this relationship form all our other relationships and form ourselves.

Thank you Jesus for the work of the cross to overcome sin and death; which are the wages of sin. May we ever vigilant in knowing the repercussions of our sins, ever trustful in the work of Jesus Christ to return us and all creation toward a right relationship with God, and ever joyful in God’s healing power in our lives and in this world. Amen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 1: Genesis 1:1-2:25 In the Beginning

Day 1 of the E100 challenge:

In the Beginning…Thus starts the Bible. In the Beginning! I can not tell you how glad I am that that the Bible doesn’t start with, “Once Upon a Time…” That would make it sound like a fairytale, a story that though fun to read and to hear is not true or real. In the Disney Animated feature Brave, the heroine Merida’s mother is teaching her the importance of history. When Merida responds to an important legend in their clan’s history with a flippant, ‘That’s a nice story’. Her mother irately responds that, ‘Their not just stories, Merida. They are Legends and legends ring with truth!”

C.S. Lewis writing about the importance of myth to the Christian story and its truth says this,

“In the enjoyment of a great myth we come nearest to the experiencing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction … When we translate we get abstraction – or rather, dozens of abstractions. What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality (truth is always about something, but reality is that about which truth is), and, therefore, every myth becomes the father of innumerable truths on the abstract level. Myth is the mountain whence all the different streams arise which become truths down here in the valley; in hac valle abstractionis ["In this valley of separation"]. Or, if you prefer, myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with that vast continent we really belong to. It is not, like truth, abstract; nor is it, like direct experience, bound to the particular.”

So as we read the creation ‘Story’ at the very beginning of the Bible in which we see God creating the world in six days we might ask ourselves is this the beginning of ‘The Greatest STORY ever told’? Or is it something more. Is it myth? I believe the creation story is the myth God uses to help us understand in our limited way the truth of how he created all things. As Lewis states Myth is the father of innumerable truth.

What we are reading this morning is the truth and this truth illuminates our understanding of the whole Bible. God created this world and created us in His image to be stewards of this world. God created this world through the work of the Holy Spirit. God ordered this world according to His plans and purpose. God made mankind to be in right relationship with him and each other. All which God created is Good. These are just a few of the truths we receive from the Creation ‘story’ first two chapters of the Bible.

Question to prayerfully consider:

How does God guide us into knowing His Truth?

Fr. Rob+

E100 Challnge devotions

E100 Bible Challenge!

Hello St. Luke & St. Peters friends,

If you are reading this you have chosen to take the E100 Challenge through Scripture Union and read the breadth of the Bible in 100 days. This is a program of Bible reading that is intended to give you a broad understanding of the Bible, it's important themes and events.

You have also decided to take the extra step to see what your pastor might be thinking about in regards to the bible passages we are reading together. For this I thank you and pray that my comments on our readings will be both helpful and illuminating. It is my intention to offer devotions on three or four times of our readings each week.

I invite you not to just read this blog but to comment on them in the comment section with your own thoughts on the readings we are sharing in reading together.

May God bless you in your Bible reading over the next 100 days.

In Christ,

Fr. Rob+

Monday, March 4, 2013

So I made the local paper last Wednesday along with the new minister at First Baptist of St. Cloud. I am betting that we could have switched the names and no one would have been the wiser since our responses to the same questions are sooooo similar. It's all about Jesus and creating a missional focus for the church.

Two oldest churches have newest ministers
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Around Osceola
Thursday, 28 February 2013 07:56
By Sam Gilkey
For the News-Gazette
Two of St. Cloud’s oldest churches have new ministers as the  year begins.
Robert Longbottom, 38, began his ministry as rector of St. Luke-St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Feb. 3 following seven years as rector of St. John’s Church in Ogdensburg, N.Y. Vince Manna, 63, became pastor of First Baptist Church Jan. 13 after serving as interim pastor for a year. He previously was outreach pastor at First Baptist Church of Orlando.
Both men were asked about their churches and how they see their ministries in separate interviews.
What was the deciding factor for your move to this church?
Robert Longbottom: God told me this is what he wanted for us. There was a lot of prayerful time and going through the interview process seeing if the vision God has given me for ministry is compatible with where God is leading his people here. When it was clear our visions were compatible, God led me to come. One of the big factors was that the church was warm and inviting.
Vince Manna: I was asked to come here to fill the pulpit last January (2012). When I drove in the parking lot the Lord said, “this is the church I want you to shepherd.” So, I’ve been waiting for it to happen for a year.
What are the strengths of this church?
R.L. It focuses on creating a sense of family for those who come     here. There is a willingness not to embrace change, but to embrace transformation. Also a spirit-filled eagerness to do God’s work. An eagerness to be missional with some training.
V. M. They are a bible-believing church. They love the Lord. They have a (103-year) history in the community. It is a community church which makes it easier to reach out to people.
What are the weaknesses?
R. L. One of the weaknesses is that you can’t see it from Canoe Creek Road. We are the best-kept secret in town. We have been in transition. But now that we have found a new leader whose intent is to empower the people to be the church, that weakness will be turned around.
V.M. Because of the leadership (pastor) turnover we are now embracing the vision of this church and what God wants us to do here. And so, it just needed someone to direct it.
How do you see your role as leader?
R.L. First and foremost to love the people. Secondly, the pastor is called to lead the people. To give them a vision, a hope and a future. Bringing the ministries and people of the church together and moving forward into a missional mindset. The great commandant is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. The great commission is to go into all the world, our community and share the love of Jesus Christ in a tangible way and being more of a part of reaching out to the displaced families who are so prevalent.
V.M. I am to teach, lead, care and protect. Local churches are directed by the Holy Spirit to minister to the community they are in. So there is a vision for this church to be, what the Bible love God, and love each other, to go into the world and make disciples, and to be a church that is one of fellowship. Every person is important to God, and therefore to us. We are teaching the church how to intercede, how to pray God’s will, and then we do it. The other aspect is leadership training. Giving a vision of who we are as God’s people and how we fulfill God’s purposes in our life. What does the Bible say? That’s what we want to do.
Have you formulated a vision for this church?
R. L.  Empower the people to do the ministry and practice the gifts God has already given them. My first goal is organize the eagerness into a focused, tangible mission and help the church to know its mission.
I want to develop the leadership of the church...and help them to understand the passion already here. The first year is about discerning God’s will.
V. M. Our mission statement is: connect people with Jesus Christ, one person at a time. We do that through our worship, teaching, discipleship,  fellowship and evangelism. Just Bible basics. (We carry it out) through the pulpit and discipleship. Leadership is influence. I am teaching people how to influence others for the kingdom of God.
What occupies your leisure time away from the church?
R. L. I am married, have two girls, ages 3 and 18-months and one child on the way. I look forward to knowing more about St. Cloud and what, as a family, we can do together.
V. M. I spend time with my wife and family. We love being outside together. One of my hobbies is reading the Bible.

Authentic Christianity

Fake bishop tries to crash secret Vatican meeting


Authentic Christianity! Let’s face it, people know the real thing when they see it. Or at least after a brief encounter or two. The story out of the Vatican of a fake ‘Bishop’ crashing the Cardinals meeting in preparation for electing a new pope is too good an opportunity to pass up. The amazing part of the story if you read it and see the picture of this thirty something year old ‘bishop’ shaking the hand of one Cardinal Sergio Sebiastiana you have to wonder how he fooled so many people. To me the picture in the article says it all.  Instead of a skull cap he is wearing a fedora and instead of cassock cincture around his waist he has a purple sash. Yeah I am an Anglican priest who knows what the proper garb is, but so do the Swiss guards and so does anyone else with just a wee bit of knowledge; you know like Roman catholic cardinals and bishops. Thinking about it though you really have to hand it to the guy. It takes a lot of confidence and charisma to get as far as he did.

            This gets me back to the thought of authentic Christianity. The truth is you can’t fake people out; at least not for very long. The guy in story never actually made it into the Cardinal meeting, but he got close. I am less than a month old as the new pastor and priest of St. Luke & St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud, FL and I can tell you that after one month people know whether I am faking it or not. They know I am a truly committed follower of Jesus. Whether I am their kind of guy or not remains to be seen. But that is not the point. The point is an authentic Christian faith organically and naturally flows out of a person. It is evident in their actions, their life, their witness and in their words. We do not have to try to dress ourselves up. We simply have to reveal ourselves to the world and say he we are. We are not perfect, but we know a guy who is and He isn’t looking for perfection but a process of becoming more like him.

            I know you still may be asking yourself is this Fr. Rob guy the real thing. Is Fr. Rob an authentic Christian. I can not tell you that. I can only do the best I can to live by faith in Jesus Christ and let you decide. Is he faking it or is he the real deal? Truth is, none of us Christians are the real deal. We are all hypocrites or falling short in some area or another. What makes us authentic is admitting it and saying it is not about me, it is about being more like Jesus. Like him in our worship, like him in our loving our neighbors, like him in serving the poor, the broken and the least of these. We are like him when we do all we can to serve as Jesus served and point the world not to our actions, but to Jesus.