The question: "What makes you think God will use you and Eagle's Wing Ministries? I mean, who are you? Noboy's ever heard of you!"
This is a condensed summary of the conversation points that followed the enquiry...
Firstly, I need to acknowledge that the person asking the question was right. Outside the few good folks who have written to me or the majority of other good folks who visit this blog and never post a comment or contact me directly I guess nobody ever heard of me.
Frankly I think that's not a bad thing.
There are advantages to personal anonymity. There's a reason I have a logo for this site and the ministry isn't my own name. Actually there's a couple:
- I don't want my face to be what people remember
- The vision I had for this ministry is bigger than just me
I first had the vision for Eagle's Wing Ministries to be a resource for the Church over 20 years ago. The thought scared the daylights out of me so I tried to ignore it, put it off and forget about it. But God has a habit of keeping nudging you to do what He's called you to do.
What scares me is actually the thought of being "famous" for being a Christian. I've seen several leaders have their ministries torn apart because they made a single mistake. And I'm not referring to anything as crazy as the whole "Ashley Madison" epidemic last year. A single mis-filed receipt shut down one ministry I knew of with charges of tax evasion. Another leader lost his ministry when it was found out he'd had an affair - several years earlier and before he gave his life to Christ.
I have no desire for fame. It can become infamy too easily and lead to pride and jealousy. Any second now and start talking like Yoda I will...
That being said, I refuse to try to hide anything from my past. I've made mistakes, and since I became a Christian at the age of 13 most of them have been made since I became a Christian. Anything outside my own mind is open for scrutiny from others, and my thoughts are criticised harshly by myself, so as far as my past goes I'm covered.
I also expect I will make mistakes going forward. I'm not perfect and I don't expect I will escape change as I get older an learn more. In fact, I'll be alarmed if I don't change over time. My best example thus far is my categorical statement in 1997 to a friend that I would "never set foot in Africa". By 2003 I was living in Cape Town.
The biggest thing that stopped me from doing anything related to this thing we call "ministry" was that first part of the question.
Why would God use me?
It's a fair question. I had no theological training when I felt God call me, and I still have never been to seminary. My degree is in business and my work experience in customer service for the most part.
So why would God use me?
Then I thought of this guy I'd heard of a while back. He was a nobody, just an ordinary guy running his own business to put food on the table for his family. He worked with a couple of other guys and together they did ok. Loved their families, were good providers.
Then one day he had an encounter with God and everything changed for him. He went into ministry full time eventually and had a massive impact on the town he lived in, and then the area surrounding it. Eventually he had a ministry that impacted the world.
Just an ordinary guy. With a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Peter. Just an ordinary guy.
Just like any of the rest of us. Why would God use Peter? He wasn't a great leader when Jesus met him. He wasn't an orator or Rabbi. He had a knack for opening his mouth to change feet. He denied Christ.
But when the chips finally came down, there was just one quality that Peter had that every Christian leader in history has had.
He was available.
It's as simple as that.
But being available isn't easy. Like I said already, it's over 20 years since I felt the pull to create Eagle's Wing Ministries. I was very enthusiastic at first. I registered the domain name on this "new" thing called the internet - there was no "Facebook" back then and the most common search engine was "Altavista" as far as I know. I registered, developed what I felt was the plan to move forward and then started with the doubt.
I let the domain name lapse and the concept became a dusty file in the back of my desk. I met a girl and just as I began selling insurance for a living and we got engaged. We had a very intense few months and then I stopped selling insurance and went to work for an agency employed by Directory Enquiries in England. I lost that job at the end of the initial training period and by the end of the week the girl had broken off the engagement. My dad got cancer a few weeks later and died just a few months after that.
And I stopped being available for use by God. I moved church the week before my dad died and I just sat for some time. I needed to heal emotionally and Spiritually. Both of these are a work in progress!
But some time after I met the lady who became my wife I learned to be available again. This time without the "I can do this" mentality that I realise now was what stopped me before. The domain name had long since been taken by another group so I did a search for variations and came up dry. Then I looked for the original name again. www.eagleswingministries.org - and it had become available again! So I re-purchased the name and began this blog.
This time I determined I would not quit unless God specifically showed me I should.
In the first four months of blogging I think I had a total of about 30 hits. Then it crawled up and reached about 30 a week, then levelled out. For over a year I kept writing and a few people each month read what I offered. Then suddenly about mid 2015 something unexpected happened. I had 1500 hits in a month. I couldn't believe it. There's not been a month below 1900 hits since and most have been well over 2000.
I realised I had shown myself to be available.
I may not be the world's greatest writer, I know this. My insights are drawn from the spiritual battlefield I've been fighting on for 30 years not from some dusty book in a sterile university environment, but by getting my hands dirty and doing what nobody else could do the way God had put in me to do it.
So I write. Sometimes I counsel informally.
But mostly I befriend broken and hurting human beings. I offer them what I have to give, a touch from God through words and actions.
Anyone can do it. You hear of a single mother who lost her job and needs to feed her child so you give her groceries and help her find another job. A complete stranger for no reason starts telling their life story of how they were abused as a child and have been raped as an adult more than once, so you become the ear she's been looking for, someone to tell her (or him) that it wasn't her fault.
But we're human too.
I have a nasty temper. I get angry easily - especially if the wronged party is a friend or a child. There's nothing wrong with that. It's what we do with that anger that ultimately defines us. When I was younger I didn't get in fights often because people refused to engage physically against me. My temper - which I'm told may be hereditary - is both sudden and violent rage. When I see it coming I can channel it into some very effective prayer. Mostly it catches me off guard and I blow up at people I love and care deeply for. I can count on one hand the number of people who have seen me a bit angry, but at this time in my life there's nobody who's present who has seen what I know I'm capable of.
And it scares me.
I spend much time running on fear and anger and not enough on Joy and Love as Jesus bought for us, but like I said before, I'm a work in progress.
We all are.
Pick a sin. We all have them. Lust, greed, idolatry. The list is long but it allows me to make sense of myself and my situation.
We are a people who fall short of being capable of receiving love. It's unhealthy.
But God doesn't look for the capable. He looks for the available.
I have a friend who I used to work with who is going through a very tough time right now. I feel responsible because I was put in a position where legally I had no choice but to fire her from the job she loved and - once she arrived - she was exceptionally good at. She's a single mum who is searching for God. She even came to church with my wife and myself a few weeks ago and was touched by the Holy Spirit. Today she told me she wants to come again with us because the last time was so very meaningful for her. The punchline to this is that the service she joined us for I had wanted to crawl under my seat and disappear in because I didn't think it was a "good" service for someone who was coming for the first time.
Just shows how wrong we can be about something.
Moses felt he couldn't speak well. Peter denied Christ. Paul had concerns at the start because he'd overseen the stoning of Stephen. I'm prepared to guess that the nicknames "Sons of Thunder" wasn't given to James and his brother John because they were calm and level headed.
I once read a business appraisal of the character traits of the 12 disciples as if they were being considered for a CEO post. The only one who fitted what the average business in the World looks for was Judas Iscariot. Yes, the article was satirical in nature, but it also as written by a CEO who had become a Christian. I have a degree in Business Management, not Theology, and my education and experience tells me that the writer was right in more cases than he would be wrong.
Various times over the years I've seen companies put Shakespeare into a modern setting, both in cinema by setting his words into modern dress (think Romeo+Juliet with Leonardo Di Caprio) and borrowing the storyline (West Side Story), as well as modern dress performances of Hamlet, MacBeth and Henry IV (part 1) at assorted theatres over the years. It works.
But I've never seen a production of the story of the life of Jesus that felt real when brought into the modern scene. I don't doubt that Jesus would be rejected by the majority of established dogmas wrapped in the cloak of a denomination. He would be seen as subversive and divisive by the establishment, both secular and religious - and they'd be right.
But there is something about the story that needs Jesus to be in 1st Century Jerusalem. God could have picked any time after the last prophet to place Jesus into the world. He picked that time because the right people to form the foundation of the Church were there. It wasn't an accident.
The people He chose were all available. Only Paul had a theological background, and he spent the first few years before he stepped out on his journeys sitting at the feet of an Elder of the Church being taught. He had to un-learn everything he thought he knew.
But he was available. He based his life on two questions: "Who are you?" and "What do you want me to do?"
Paul was an ordinary guy. So was Peter.
So are you and I.
Be available. Let God have the ability.