Ministry of One

maryBabyJesusIn the past year, my life has had an extreme makeover – Mommy Edition.  In the last year I have gotten married, gotten pregnant, and gotten a new baby.  I’ve set aside my career and become a full-time parent.  Now it seems like my whole life revolves around this tiny little person.  I spend my whole day caring for this new life, changing diapers, warming bottles and rocking to sleep.

No don’t misunderstand. I love my girls.  I love being a full-time Mumma, but there are times when I am standing with a crying baby, wearing spit-up clothes, and my hair is a nest where I pause. There will be moments in the middle of the night, when I’m walking a fussy baby, when I wonder who I am.  And in my state of fatigue, I come up with the same answer… now, I’m just a mom.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that it makes me feel a bit discouraged.  I feel a bit sad, that my life has shrunk to a newborn size.  As I do whenever I feel discouraged, I turn to my source of hope, God’s word.  As I turned the pages from the Old Testament, through to the New, I found that God used a lot of “Just Mom’s” for great things.  God used their devotion for their children into a Ministry of One.

The first Momma that came to mind in the Bible was Hannah, which is funny, since she had so much trouble becoming one.  She is basically in the Bible for less than one page in the whole Bible.  She was no one special, just a mom with a ministry of one.

Hannah’s first act of faith in her ministry of one was to turn in her barrenness to God and surrender to His will.  She would drag her husband to temple every year and pray for a child.  Hannah prayed with such abandon to God that the priest thought she was boozy.  Hannah promised God that if He gave her a child, she would dedicate his life to service for the Lord.  God accepted her faith and granted her a son, Samuel.

The Bible says that Hannah raised her son until he was weaned, about three years old, and then she delivered him to the temple to be raised as a priest.  She also continued to visit him yearly, bringing him clothes and treats.  Her son, Samuel, was one of the greatest men of the Old Testament.  He was the last of the judges and the one to anoint the first two kings of Israel.  Hannah may have thought that she was just a mom, but her ministry of one had an impact on the Old Testament that can still be felt today.

Hold on, I have to go feed a crying baby.  I’ll be right back…

Then there is the Momma that God chose for Jesus, Mary.  The Bible says that Mary was chosen because of her faithfulness.  She wasn’t yet married, and she knew that people would question her morality.  She knew that according to the Law, she could be stoned for infidelity, but she trusted God.

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” And then the angel left.  – Luke 1:38 NLT

 God intervened on her behalf, and she was protected during the pregnancy, Joseph fulfilled the marriage commitment, and her son was born.  She held her sweet son in the manger, and she was a just a mom… with a ministry of one.  At that time, the children, both boys and girls, first learned scripture from their mothers.  This means that our Savior’s first teacher, was Mary, who was just a mom.  Her ministry of one took place in the formative years of Jesus Christ.  It’s hard to not appreciate her contribution.

Now we could say that Jesus didn’t really need a lesson in scripture, but that would diminish what He did for us.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  He humbled himself for us, so that he could experience what we have.  This means that he needed a mommy.  He needed someone to be patient, tender, and supportive.  As a young boy he needed her encouragement and love.  Mary was all of those things for him, so that he could be everything for us.  Her ministry of one contributed to the life of Jesus, who saved us all.  No one can say that her ministry was pointless.

 1623708_10201559898015099_803869093_nGod uses us where we are.  He takes the situation where we find ourselves and uses it for His kingdom.  We can never doubt that the little things that we do don’t contribute to His greater plan.  Sometimes our biggest contribution comes from the love we put on another.  We won’t be the ones seen serving, but in our own way, we have served.

 So tonight, as I look down into the blue eyes of my little girl, I will love on her.  I will hold her and the promise she is to the world.  I will minister to my little audience of one, and wait patiently to see how she serves God’s kingdom.  I will do all the invisible tasks involved with raising a child, and I will know that God has a plan for her and for me.  I can do all these things, even though I am just a mom.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  – Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

No, Peter

Apostle-Peter-BiographyAs I face the many changes that come with following God’s will I am constantly thinking about the first ones that were called to follow Jesus, the apostles.  One of my favorites, always has to be Peter.  When you think about it, he may have had the greatest transformation by the Holy Spirit of all the apostles.  I know what you are thinking, that it would have to be Matthew, the tax collector, but I still think it’s Peter.

Peter is the big screw-up of all the apostles.  It seems during the ministry of Jesus that every time Peter opened his mouth, he was rebuked by Jesus.  When I read it, I always hear a tired sound to His voice, “No, Peter.”  I imagine Jesus sighed a lot when talking to Peter.

Jesus found Peter fishing and called him away from his boat to become a fisher of men.  He wasn’t a pastor or a preacher.  He didn’t have a formal education.  He was a small-town blue-collar worker.  He put in long hours in a job that relied on his own commitment to provide for his family.  He was just a regular guy.

Jesus called out to them, “Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” – Matthew 4:19 NLT

Jesus named him Peter, which means the rock, because he was going to be the foundation for his church.  No pressure.  I guess Peter felt that meant he had to be the best, so he was always jumping out there with what he expected to be the right answer, and he was always falling flat on his face. 

Peter was so enthusiastic and eager that he would just blurt out his ideas, and he would be wrong, over and over again. Peter was always jumping into the teaching.  He would boast of his graciousness and his love which always resulted in correction from his teacher. When Peter got to witness Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah he again blurted without thinking.  He offered to make three altars, one for each of them, and was rebuked by God.  Seriously, the clouds gathered and the Creator of the Universe told Peter he was wrong.

Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter blurted out, “Lord, this is wonderful! If you want me to, I’ll make three shrines, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he said it, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. – Matthew 17:3-6 NLT

Then there is the time that Peter is moved by compassion to save Jesus from getting hurt.  He comes to his friend and his teacher and beseeches him to not go to Jerusalem and to stay safe.  You can just hear the compassion in his voice when he speaks to Jesus.  And the response… “Get behind me Satan!”  I can imagine that being called Satan by Jesus doesn’t do a lot for the ego. 

From then Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem, and he told them what would happen to him there. He would suffer at the hands of the leaders and the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and he would be raised on the third day. But Peter took him aside and corrected him. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me, You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.” – Matthew 16:21-23 NLT

Then after the final meal with Jesus, he is asked to stay awake in the garden and pray with his teacher.  His friend is scared and doesn’t want to be alone.  What does Peter do?  He falls asleep.  Not once, but three times.  Jesus has to keep coming back to wake Peter up. I think that if Jesus scolded me twice for falling asleep I would have to drink some coffee or something. 

Then there was the worst moment of all for him.  He had just been boasting about his love for Jesus that day, and had been told that he would fail.  Jesus had just told him at dinner that he would deny him three times that night, but Peter said again that he wouldn’t.  Then what happens?  He fails his best friend, teacher, and savior.  He had been warned.  He could have avoided it, but his sin nature got the best of him again.  The last time he saw Jesus before his death their eyes met and he saw his Lord’s sorrow.   

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered that the Lord had said, “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times.” And Peter left the courtyard, crying bitterly. Luke 22:61-62 NLT

Peter was basically an every man that made the same mistakes that we all do.  John MacArthur titled the chapter on Peter in his book, Twelve Ordinary Men, the “Apostle with the Foot-Shaped Mouth”.  Tells you how often Peter just screwed things up.  Poor Jesus.  And to think that this is the guy he named the Rock, and the guy he planned to use to start his church.  Why would he pick Peter?  He knew what he would do, right?

walking-on-waterThat’s absolutely right, and absolutely why he picked him.  Jesus knew exactly what Peter would do.  He knew that Peter, with all his bungles and mistakes, would love him like crazy.  He knew that when he approached the boat walking on water, Peter would be the one to step out and come to him.  He knew that Peter would be the one in the garden to jump to his defense with a sword in his hand.  He knew that Peter would dive from his fishing boat and swim to see him.  He knew that Peter would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and immediately put it to work.  Jesus knew that Peter would bring 3000 people to Christ in his first sermon.  He also knew that after Peter sinned on the night of the crucifixion, he would never be able to deny Christ again.  That kind of love is exactly why Jesus chose Peter.  

Jesus saw who Peter was.  He saw past the sins to the man, and what he saw there was very good.  He saw courage, love and loyalty.  He saw a man that was made in the image of God, capable of great mercy and grace.  He saw the man that would use that same eager enthusiasm to travel the world spreading His Message, and would die to defend it.  He saw a rock.

When I think about Peter, I think about my sins. I think about all the times I have failed and let God down.  I think of all the times when Jesus has had to say “No” to me.  I think of all the times he has had to correct my pride, and I am encouraged.  I am encouraged because I know that Jesus is a God that sees past my sin to who I am.  I know that Jesus can use me because I am made in His image, capable of great love and grace.  I trust the calling that Jesus has put before me, because just like Peter, I will jump out of the  boat and swim towards my savior whenever I see him.

Too Small for the Call

GideonIn the last month, God has really pressed upon me the need to step out in faith. He is calling me to do things, which according to me, are simply unrealistic. God is asking me to be a spiritual leader to others, to teach his word, and to continue to write from my limited understanding of his divinity. Who am I that God would ask this of me? I’m not some super pastor or a bible expert. I basically wander through life like a pinball, bouncing off of things randomly hoping to win at something. Why would God call upon me to do anything?

When I reflect upon it, I am reminded of Gideon, one of the judges from the early period of the nation of Israel. Gideon was no Samson. He was no Joshua or Elijah. He was no one super special. He was a last choice kind of guy. He was not someone that you would expect God to select to lead his people against an enemy. He’s the guy that when God called, he asked, “Why would God call upon me to do anything?” 

Gideon came from the tribe of Manasseh, the smallest of the twelve tribes of Israel. His family was the weakest of all the families in the tribe, and he was the weakest in his family. I can imagine that he was always picked last for kickball, and then only if they needed to keep the teams even.

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”  Judges 6:15 NLT

In addition to that, he was a farmer. When God approached him to stand against the Midianites, I can imagine that he fell on the ground laughing. He wasn’t the pillar of faith that one would expect of the chosen of God, or a judge. He was incredulous and doubted God. He had no skills, no experience, and nothing that qualified him to lead anyone anywhere. 

Gideon was so sure that God had made a mistake that he tested God, not once but three times. Gideon required three miracles before he would accept that God hadn’t called a wrong number. The first was a visit from an angel. I don’t know about you, but if I ever saw an angel, I would be convinced. In the Bible angels tended to take your breath away. Joshua used to fall on his face before angels. However, Gideon met with an angel and still required more proof. He set up tests for God, just to be sure. 

These tests included lamb’s wool. The first night, Gideon put the wool out and dared God to allow the dew to collect on only the wool. God did it. The wool was soaked. Gideon was able to fill a whole bowl of water from the dew. Handled! The next night Gideon wanted the wool dry and the ground wet. Again, God took care of it. 

After that, this simple farmer had no choice but to reply in obedience to God. I don’t really see God continually completing tests. I mean, when Moses told God that he had the wrong guy, he was put in his place. Moses didn’t get to test God. When Job questioned God, he was also put in his place, so we are already seeing extra patience from God towards Gideon. God must have a soft-spot for underdogs. 

God then proceeded to lead Gideon through a series of impossible tasks that seemed absurd, but to his credit, Gideon did as he was told. He was very good at obedience. In the tests and the tasks, he did as God commanded over and over again. He even did what he was told to do by the angel. The only thing that Gideon really had going for him, is that he consistently did what God told him to do, even if he didn’t believe. 

So, after calling up a huge army, God made him dwindle it down to just a few guys. He was to take on the whole Midianite army with only 300 men, even though thousands had shown up. And how did God decide who to take? It wasn’t based on skill, courage, or even experience. It was based on how they drank water. Seriously? Gideon was going to war with a guy based on his preference for Dasani over Aquafina? 

Then, if that wasn’t enough of a challenge. God told him to defeat the other army with candles, jars and horns. If you ask me, that sounds more like a kid’s birthday party rather than a battle. As I continued to read, I kept looking for the piñata and cake. But Gideon did as God commanded him, and he was successful. They did defeat the foreigners. With the sound of the horns and the many lights in the hills around their campsite, the enemy believed that there was a great host descending on them. They fled, and God’s people were victorious.

God took a farmer with a crazy plan and did the impossible. He worked patiently with Gideon in the face of low self-esteem, doubt, and questionable faith. The only thing he really required from Gideon was obedience. All he needed from that little farmer was a yes, and that just happened to be the thing he was most good at. Perhaps that is what Gideon had learned from being last in the last family in the last tribe, and that’s what God loved about him. He picked a farmer that knew how to say, “yes” to God. 

Yes, Lord, use me. Yes, Lord, I will go. I believe that you make the impossible possible, and that you can use me to do great things. For it is not by my power that you achieve great things, but through you that all things come to glory. 

He replied, “What is impossible from a human perspective is possible with God.” – Luke 18:27 NLT

That is the story of the Old Testament. God keeps finding the biggest jokers he can, and he uses them to do amazing things. He finds a whole cast of misfit characters, that without his help, would be a big mess, but that’s how he works. He picks the people that no one could believe could do anything, so that then others know it’s from God. The most unlikely people are the most liked by God for service. Paul said that he cherishes his mistakes because it is then that God’s glory shines the most brightly.

Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

Paul was a better vessel for Christ because he was weak. God’s power showed more clearly in Gideon because he was unqualified. God takes us from where we are, and builds us up to where we need to be, so that he can do his work through us. It doesn’t matter where we are in life, or what experience we have. It doesn’t matter where we have been or the mistakes we have made. God is just looking for the faithful, and according to Gideon’s example, we don’t even have to have a whole bunch of that. God is looking for someone to say,”yes.” Yes, Lord, use me.

 So, as I look at the vision of what God has planned for me, I shudder and I fear, but I say, “Yes, Lord, use me.”