July 23, 2012


Three Bags of God's Love

My wife Cathy and I were married in May of 1975, between my sophomore and junior year of Bible college. That summer we flew back to visit my parents in West Virginia so that they could meet Cathy. Before leaving our little apartment in Scotts Valley, California, I had secured a part time job at a local plastics factory. I wasn't supposed to start for a couple of weeks, so a trip to visit the folks seemed like a good idea, especially since they were paying the airfare.

When we got home I started work immediately at the factory, however, Cathy became terribly ill with the flu. To make matters worse, I wasn't due to get my first paycheck for about a week, and our cupboards were bare, except for an almost empty box of cornmeal. I remember thinking I wished we had some chicken noodle soup for Cathy, for I knew it would make her feel better. But the cornmeal was all we had. So I proceeded to make a pan of cornmeal bread. I burned it horribly. The last of our food and I ruined it. It was definitely one of those pathetic "What am I going to do, God?" moments. I'm the man of the house. My wife is sick. I'm a total failure. Some provider I turned out to be.

I went into our bedroom and gave Cathy the bad news. Then I did the sensible––and manly––thing: I prayed, asking God to help us. Cathy could do little more than nod her head as I said "in Jesus' name, amen." Little did we realize, but God had already answered our prayer, even before we prayed. I went to the front door on my way to work, and there on our doorstep were two bags full of groceries! I could scarcely believe my eyes. Inside one was a handwritten note that read: From a Christian brother.

It was amazing because we had told no one of our predicament. It was summer vacation so most of the students had gone home until the fall term. But someone––a Christian brother––was listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit that morning, prompting him to go to the market and buy groceries for Mike and Cathy Joens. They are in need. Thankfully, this brother was not only sensitive to the Spirit's prompting, but he acted upon it. Further, he purchased everything we needed: bread, milk, eggs, hamburger helper, bananas––the works. And wouldn't you know it, at the bottom of one of the bags was a box of Lipton's chicken noodle soup! I get weepy just thinking about it. What a wonderful God we serve.

We used up most of those two bags in a few days, and yet it was still a couple of days before I would get paid. Then, once again, as I was on my way out the front door to go to work, I found yet another bag of groceries on the doorstep! It replenished our dwindling supplies wonderfully. We never received a fourth bag––didn't need it. God supplied our need through a regular paycheck. What a loving, gracious lesson our Heavenly Father taught that young newlywed couple. Trust Me. I know your every need. 

"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt 6:31-33).

p.s. We never did find out who the Christian brother was, though we made several inquires. But God knows who he is and will reward him on that glorious Day! Let us be careful then to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Not only listen, but to trust and obey!

April 10, 2012


The Apprentice

Most people are probably familiar with the show The Apprentice.  It is not as popular as it once was, but what is interesting about it is the winner of the contest doesn’t just get a lump sum of money or a prize.  Rather they get the opportunity to work under Donald Trump, who has been an incredibly successful businessman.  You get the opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade under someone who has been there and knows what it takes to be successful.

In almost any job this is usually the most successful model for training people and, it is no surprise, this is usually the most successful model for ministry as well.  It is also the way that the Apostle Paul did ministry. Look at these three passages from Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian Church:

1 Thessalonians 1:5-7 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

Paul calls on the Thessalonians to remember, to picture how he acted when he was around them.

A few observations. Paul says by imitating him, the church ultimately became imitator’s of the Lord. And as they model themselves after him, they became models for others. He has this interesting phrase: “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well”. The people could see up close and personally how Paul lived his life. Paul would share his own happiness and pain with the church and they would share their own happiness and pain with him. They didn’t learn in a vacum.  Paul didn’t just send them letters telling them how to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He showed them, through intimate fellowship, by the way he lived.

I have been guilty in the past of using the “quality-time-with-my-family” excuse as a way to avoid ministry opportunities.  This isn’t to say that quality time is unimportant or that we ought to fill every moment with ministry. But the best thing I can do for my daughter is model a life of service to Jesus Christ and His people.

Our greatest desire with Theo is that it would open up avenues of conversation about the ideas within our episodes and that kids would see how those ideas are lived out in more mature christian lives.  We believe it is vital for your children to be in a discipleship relationship (either with yourself or another mature christian) where they are being guided and shown a life committed to Jesus Christ.