The Culture of Jesus – Safe in Storms

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
(Mat 14:32-33)

The disciples of Jesus learned some hard but valuable lessons. Jesus allowed them to be in some incredibly nasty storms, and they knew they were in grave danger. Through those storms, they eventually learned that they were safe in Jesus. When Jesus is in the boat, you are safe and eventually He will calm the storm.

Today’s focus is on the safety we have with Jesus in storms. With Jesus, it is safe:

  • Safe to heal
  • Safe in storms
  • Safe to step out

For you the storm may be relationships. It may be sickness or the death of loved ones. For others it is job loss and money issues. Some face incredible tragedy. All of us have at one point been in the storms of our sinfulness. When we are in the storms, we are helpless, hopeless and scared. We look for refuge, for safety and stability. That is what the disciples found in Jesus. Even in the midst of storms that would literally have cost their lives, Jesus was with them in the boat and through Jesus the storm was stilled.

Consider the sinful woman who was forgiven by Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). Her storm was the crashing waves of her sinful choices. How about the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria (John 4)? She had drunk from the relationship well over and over, and was continually left thirsty. In Jesus, she had living water. Levi (Matthew) the tax collector was an outcast who recognized his sinfulness and brokenness. He saw the need for the Great Physician (Luke 5:31). All were broken, all were outcasts, and all were unsafe around the current Jewish leadership. Jesus was different. Jesus was a safe place to heal.

One final thought is this: In Jesus it was safe to step out. Peter, in the midst of a storm, was willing to step out of the boat and walk to Jesus. Read Matthew 14:22-33, and you will see that the disciples, several of them experienced fishermen and boaters, were in a nasty storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walked by their boat, and at first they thought He was a ghost. But look at what Peter said once he realized it was Jesus.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:27-28)

What? Peter was going step out of the boat? I’ve often thought about what this says about Peter. But what does this say about Jesus? What had Jesus shown to this point to create a culture where Peter could attempt such a thing? Peter said, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter had some level of courage and trust to know that even in the storm, even stepping out of the boat, he would be safe. Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink, but please understand that even then he was safe. Jesus was there, and was within arm’s reach.

With Jesus you are safe to heal, safe in storms, and safe to step out and walk to Jesus, even in the storm.

God Rolled Away the Stone, Not the Scars

Matthew 28:2 – And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

I came across a powerful podcast today that really helped me. The title of the Podcast series is “The Bible Never Said That” by Clara Donahue. The episode I listened to was “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle.”

Among the many profound points she made was one about how Jesus was raised from the dead and given life, but He still had the wounds and scars.

Please think about that, and meditate on it. Why did God raise Jesus from the dead, give him new blood and water, allow all His organs and internal functions to work, but still leave the wounds? The wounds were a testimony to the power of God. Jesus could say to His disciples, “Place your hands in the wounds and believe.” The wounds were a witness to what God did through Jesus.

Here is a quote from Clara Donahue in the podcast, “I feel some of my own scars pulling tight on the tender healing of my soul, and I wish they would just disappear.” Amen. But those scars, she explained, are used by God to show His power, grace and love to others.

Your wounds are not a badge to claim victim-hood through life. Those wounds are a witness to the power of God and His grace. What has God done through you? Look at the scars. Consider how God has led you through your own valleys of the shadow of death and brought you out on the other side.

John 20:20 – When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

John 20:27-28 – Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Learning to Hope

Romans 4:18-21
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 

25 years is a long time to wait, especially when you are already old and God promises you and your wife you will have a baby. Paul said after this period of time, Abraham hoped against hope and trusted God that He will deliver on His promise.

If you have been through great loss and sadness, it is hard to hope for good again, but we can learn to hope again just like Abraham and Sarah did. It takes time. But we are reminded that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not stay there (Psalm 23). Take time to look at the Psalms to see the goodness of God and His wonderful works for you (Psalm 103). Remind yourself of passages in the Bible that give hope (Romans 15:4), like the story of Abraham and Sarah. Cry out to God in your pain, and He will in time heal your broken heart (Psalm 147:3). Surround yourself with encouraging people who will lift you up in your pain. I had a friend, Benjamin, who gave me an assignment to take a mason jar and fill it with accomplishments, positive things, and what God has done for me. It was an encouraging and hope-building exercise to see all the great things God has done. The jar is full. Your jar is full too. You can hope again.

Proverbs 13:12 – Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. 

Even though I walk through the valley…

Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 7 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

In order to get to the mountain meadows, which might include the “table” or plateau above where the summer pasture is for the flock, the shepherd has to lead his sheep up the mountains. This includes going through ravines and dark valleys. Dangers can abound in such places, but the shepherd is there by their side.

In his book, Keller, talks about his reasons for taking sheep up through the winding valleys. One is that as mentioned, his goal is to take them up to the summer meadows to graze. A second is that those valleys were generally the gentlest grades up the mountain. Thirdly, he pointed out that valley is usually well watered. And a fourth reason is that there is usually good grazing along the way in those valleys.

To parallel this to our lives under the Gentle Shepherd, Jesus, we know that on the way to that higher ground with God, we have to walk through dark valleys. Death and danger are there. But in the valley as we face those trials, God is with us all the way. We are well fed and watered through those valleys. It is in some of the darkest valleys of our lives that we find the greatest refreshment from our loving Shepherd.

Keller also pointed out the phrase, “I walk through” this valley. We don’t stop there. That is not the end. The shepherd walks the sheep through this valley. And the sheep are secure, because of the presence of the loving shepherd. The dark valleys are temporary and even necessary to reach that higher meadow in the mountains. But they are just that, temporary. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Remember that Jesus as our Shepherd walked this valley for Himself, and He knows the terrain. He was a sheep, the lamb who was slain, and now He is risen to be our Good Shepherd. As you can see in our final verse below, Jesus was not alone in those valleys, because His Shepherd was always with Him.

John 16:32-33 – “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”

Some thoughts about hope

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:22-25
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. God’s grace has granted us access by faith into the grace of God in which we base our lives now. That salvation and that relationship with Jesus leads to rejoicing in hope of the final glory that will be brought upon us as God’s children in heaven.

We rejoice in sufferings because they produce hope. Just as Paul said, suffering produces endurance. We learn to stay with God and depend upon Him through suffering. The endurance we develop transforms our character as we grow in Christ through trials. And as our character grows, our hope grows with it.

Hope does not put us to shame, because we have God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We will not be disappointed, ever, when it comes to our hope in Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given into the heart of each Christian as the “guarantee” of our salvation. All of the other things we hope for in life can and most likely will disappoint, but never God’s Holy Spirit and never our hope in Him.

Our hope is the groaning inwardly for the redemption of our bodies and the completion of our adoption as sons into heaven with God. Can we even begin to imagine what it will be like to have God say to you and me, “Enter in…well done!”?

In this hope we are saved. Salvation in Christ and the hope of heaven why we became Christians. Hope for glory in heaven with God is what sustains us after we are saved.

Our hope is in what we do not see (our eternal redemption), but we patiently wait for it. This hope should calm our spirits and settle us into a patient waiting for being glorified with Christ. So no matter what may come or what we may endure, the hope we have in Christ is to be our focus so that we can endure the trials of today with a quiet confidence.

Yosemite – Benefits of Fire

Our family watched this PBS Nature Video this week, and it was about Yosemite National Park. There were some really cool things in this video, but here is something that struck us. They started talking about the Sequoia trees and how fire is necessary for their reproduction. For a century people were trying to “suppress” the forest fires, and the thing people were with good motives trying to stop was the actual thing that was necessary for promoting the reproduction of the sequoias. Fires have actually been a benefit to the health of the forest, even though it has been absolutely devastating to those who live nearby.

The forest fires clear away the debris on the forest floor, and the heat from the fire opens the cones and the seeds drop on the forest floor. Of course you can see that the fires have scarred and permanently damaged the Sequoias, but the forest thrives and is healthy because the fire has promoted the growth of new Sequoias.

I’ve stood inside these trees. They are massive. I’ve looked up from within the hollow inside of these gigantic trees that are blackened from fire and lightning damage. Yet, the the forest is stronger for it.

That’s what I want to leave you with today. We can try to “suppress” the trials and adversity and fires that come our way, but consider that those things are actually clearing away the debris and creating strength within us and growth in others around us.

1 Peter 1:7-9 – so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

Full Episode

 

Why did they suffer?

Luke 13:1-5
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus used the adversity and pain of his time to teach others. There where Galileans who were killed by Pilate, and their blood was mingled with the sacrifices. Awful. Disgusting. Cruelty. There were 18 people who were killed when a tower fell upon them. Sad. Painful. A catastrophe.

What did Jesus do during these times of pain in His community? He used it to teach. Jesus asked a question in this passage that I believe is worth our notice. Were those people who suffered worse sinners than others? Did these people die because they were more horrible in their sin than the other people around them in the community?

What is Jesus’ clear answer? No! These crises did not happen because of sin. It just happened. That is something we today need to caution ourselves against, to try to take something from the Old Testament out of context to say that the Coronavirus is God’s plague upon America because of our sinfulness. Be careful. It may just be that sickness is spreading because we are living in a world that is under the curse of sin (Genesis 3).

Are those people who are dying from Covid-19 worse sinners than those who survive? I believe Jesus would give the same answer…No.

But what did Jesus really want them and us to focus on? Repentance! He acknowledged that all of us need to repent, regardless of whether we are facing adversity or not. Everyone needs to change his ways. Period. Jesus is like, “Don’t focus on who is guilty for this temporary suffering, focus on your own guilt of sin and repent or you will face eternal suffering!”

So, as we look at this current suffering caused by Covid-19, let’s focus on the real problem, our sin. I may get the Coronavirus, I may not. I pray like the rest of you that this awful disease goes away. But I know that all of us will die in our sins at a 100 percent rate if we do not repent and come to Jesus.

A Shield About Me

Here is Psalm 3. It was written when David was running from his own son, Absalom. David’s son was trying to take the throne away from his father, and in doing so was trying to kill David. This was prophesied to David; this was part of the consequence of David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). But that doesn’t make it any less painful for David as he is running for his life while Absalom’s men are seeking to destroy him.

Psalms 3:1-8
(1) A Psalm of David When He Fled from Absalom His Son. LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.
(2) Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah
(3) But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
(4) I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah
(5) I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
(6) I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around.
(7) Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
(8) Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah

Think of what David says to God here. He looks around and sees thousands of people who have risen up against him. But he directed his faith and his focus on God the Shield who surrounds him.

Below is a link to a song based on Psalm 3. I love this song!

A Shield About Me

 

 

David’s Songwriting in Times of Distress

It is a great study to take the inscriptions at the beginning of many of David’s Psalms and then fit them into the timeline of his life. Look specifically at the 50’s (Psalms 51-59). These inscriptions were added sometime later, but it seems that whoever added them had a good knowledge of the history of David’s life. Regardless, it makes you think about how these Psalms, God’s songs, were born out of all kinds of circumstances (victory, fear, sin, sorrow, anxiety, etc.).

Take a look at these inscriptions.

Psalm 18:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. (See 2 Samuel 22).

Psalms 51:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. (See 2 Samuel 11-12).

Psalms 52:1 To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.” (See 1 Samuel 21).

Psalms 54:1 To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, “Is not David hiding among us?” (See 1 Samuel 23:19; 26:1).

Psalms 56:1 To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. (See 1 Samuel 21:11-15).

Psalm 57:1 To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave. (See 1 Samuel 22:1; 24:3).

Psalm 59:1 To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him. (See 1 Samuel 19).

These words for today are meant to encourage you to sing and to specifically sing the Psalms. There is a Psalm for pretty much any situation you face in life. You can see that David was always writing music to express his emotions and his relationship with God during those times of great victory or immense pain. God’s word is complete – He has given us in His word what we need for any circumstance in life (2 Peter 1:3).

James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

I would also encourage you to try to write your own songs. Have you ever thought about it? You might have a hidden talent for writing God’s songs that you didn’t even know you had!

God’s Voice and the Storm

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
(Mark 4:38-41)

Here is a song to listen to today, called Oceans. Very encouraging.

God’s Voice and the Storm

It is no wonder that these Jewish men were wondering “who” Jesus was! God’s power over the waters, winds and storms is evident throughout Scripture (Genesis 6:17; Exodus 14; Joshua 3; Psalm 29:3,10; 65:7; 89:9; 93:3-4; 104:6-9; 107:29; 148:8; Proverbs 8:29; Job 38:8-11,25; Jeremiah 5:22; Nahum 1:4). When Jesus woke up and “rebuked” the wind and told the sea to be calm, it immediately obeyed His voice. Only God has that power.

Read Psalm 29 about the voice of God. Think about Jesus as you read this, but also think about the “storms, winds and floods” in your life. Where is our faith? We are in the boat with the God of the Storm.

Psalm 29:1-11

A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. (2) Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. (3) The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. (4) The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. (5) The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. (6) He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. (7) The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. (8) The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. (9) The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (10) The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. (11) May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Jesus rebuked the wind (Mark 4:39). He also rebuked the fever in Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39), he rebuked unclean spirits (Mark 9:25). Peter tried to rebuke Jesus and Jesus turned around and rebuked Peter (Mark 8:32-33). After His resurrection, Jesus rebuked his disciples for their unbelief (Mark 16:14). When James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans, Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:55). There is authority and great power in the rebuke of Jesus. Let’s let Him rebuke our storms and winds.