Friday, April 20, 2012

Go Wake Up Jesus!

"You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Matthew 8:20

Peter was watching the sky.  He didn't like what he saw.  The sea had been calm when they started out, and he thought Jesus' idea to go to the other side would be all right.  Jesus hadn't said why He wanted to go, but he was learning when Jesus said, "Let's go," it was better to go along than make up excuses.  It had been all right so far, this following Jesus thing.  Jesus had a lot of interesting things to say.  He didn't understand everything and some of it seemed a little far-fetched, but he'd seen some pretty crazy stuff and everywhere they went people flocked around Jesus.  Sometimes Peter felt like telling them to all go away and give the man some peace, but Jesus never seemed to mind healing another person or the whole town if need be.  Peter was along for the ride most days, listening to what Jesus said and contemplating these new ideas and teachings.  He'd never heard anybody talk about God the way Jesus did.

He'd always thought of Yahweh as distant and mysterious.  Someone to be obeyed and repentant toward when he didn't live up to the high standards of the law.  Jesus was changing that.  He wasn't sure how or why, but His teaching made Him think differently about Yahweh.  Jesus said His Kingdom was near.  He wasn't sure what He meant by that, but the words intrigued him.  Everything Jesus said made him think in new ways.  And not just about God, but about himself too.  Could he have this new kind of life Jesus talked about?  Was he as valuable to God as Jesus claimed?  Could he approach God and expect to receive what he asked for?  Yahweh had certainly given Jesus the power to heal Sarah's mother when his wife had asked for that today, and then all those people this evening too.  He had never seen anybody display Yahweh's power like that.

But now here they were, out in the middle of the sea, and he didn't like the look of those clouds overhead.   The wind began to pick up and he got more nervous with each passing minute.  As soon as he saw the waves beginning to swell, he knew they were in serious trouble.  He couldn't always tell when a storm was coming, but he always knew when one began to roar.  He yelled out orders to the other men on board.  John and James and Andrew knew what to do, but he told the others to go get Jesus.  They would only be in the way out here, and he knew they might be needing a miracle if they were going to survive this.  He'd seen worse, but not much, and with as fast and furious as this one was coming, they all may end up dying out here tonight.

When he saw Jesus come out and stand in the middle of the boat with the rain pelting down all around them, the wind nearly blowing them overboard, and the waves crashing over the side, he felt a calmness settle over his mind and heart.  Yes, this was bad, but while they were all cowering in fear, Jesus appeared fearless.  He held up His hands toward heaven and shouted something over the sound of the wind and waves.  

"Quiet!  Be still!"

The clouds rolled away, the rain ceased, the waves became calm so quickly an eerie feeling came over him.  What was that?  Seriously?  He looked around at the others.  They were as white as a sheet, and he supposed he was too.  But he had to smile.  Looking back to Jesus, he gazed at Him in silent wonder.  Jesus winked at him and said, "I'm going back to sleep now.  Let me know when we get there."

Peter gave the order to raise the sail back up, and they continued on course.  The others were walking around in astonishment, saying, "What kind of a man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him?"  Peter had that feeling of awesome wonder in his heart, but he wasn't as surprised by Jesus' power as he once would have been.  He'd seen enough, and he was starting to get it.  And he was certain this wouldn't be the last of all he would see Jesus do.  


This story of Jesus calming the stormy sea is recorded in three of the four gospels.  It was certainly a memorable day for His disciples, and it's one of my favorite stories because of the way it turned out.  Jesus didn't just pull them through the storm.  He did more than keep the boat from tipping over in the powerful waves.  He did more than tell them to "hang on" and believe everything would be all right.

I think sometimes this is all we expect from God.  We expect Him to carry us through a difficult circumstance.  We expect Him to call us to a deeper level of faith.  We expect Him to be with us and work all things together for good.  And we should expect those things.  God works in all kinds of ways, and I've seen Him do all of that.

But I've also seen something else.  I've seen what the disciples saw that day.  He could have told them they didn't need to be afraid and left the storm raging.  He could have protected them from peril another way.  But He wanted to show them the full extent of His power--to completely change their circumstance, not just pull them through.

And I've seen Him do that too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26

Jesus liked to ask questions.  It was one of His favorite teaching tools to get those who were listening to think about what they truly believed.  Negative thoughts were affecting their faith, and thinking differently could change that.  He pointed out a basic truth, like birds being cared for by God, and then asked, "Are you not much more valuable than they?"  He was essentially saying, 'Do you believe in God's love for you?' 

Do you believe you are more valuable than birds?  He values birds and cares for them.  Won't He do the same for you?  No money saved up for college?  No job?  No retirement plan?  No money in savings?  No storehouse of earthly treasure?  No worries.  Your Father's got it covered.  Trust Him.

"See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin...will He not much more clothe you?  Oh you of little faith!" Matthew 6:28.30

Saturday, April 7, 2012

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34

Jesus was God, but He was also fully human. He had a human body, a human mind, human limitations, and human emotions.  The Gospels tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry, and they reveal many of these emotions.  Emotions that we are all familiar with like joy, love, and compassion, along with anger, frustration, sorrow, and loneliness.  

In the middle of a crisis have you ever thought, ‘God, where are you?  Why have you let this happen to me?  Why have you left me all alone in this?’  Jesus did.  And He didn’t just think it; He shouted it for all to hear! 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

He said this while hanging on the cross, and I’m sure I would have said the same.  But had God really abandoned His Son?  I don’t think so.  Jesus felt alone, but He wasn’t.  And He knew that.  He knew the truth: 

I have set the LORD always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be body will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay...For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. (Psalm 16:8-10; 22:24)

In the middle of great trials, confusing circumstances, and everyday life, my thoughts can become overcome with feelings of abandonment and aloneness.  I feel like no one can possibly understand what I'm going through, and God is nowhere to be found.   His promises seem false.  He has failed me.

But just because I think that, doesn’t make it true.  God does not forsake us.  He does not forget.  He does not leave.  How did Jesus overcome such a time of wrong thinking?  He believed the truth.  He trusted God.  In the middle of the darkness, He believed He would still be heard.  With a loud cry he breathed his last.  

God will sometimes take us to that point where He is all we have left and crying out to Him is our only hope.  But the key is to remember: He is our hope.  He is there.  He is over it.  And we are never alone.

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.  I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  Psalm 61:1-4