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.

The Apostles Listened and Didn’t Dismiss

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
(Acts 6:1)

The horrible killing of George Floyd is just another reminder that hatred and racism is real in this country.

There was racial / ethic tension in the early church. It was real. Here is just one example.

Some widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. The Hebrew widows were doing just fine. They never missed a meal, and the Hebrews made sure their widows were well cared for. It was the Greek (Hellenist) Jews, whose widows were being overlooked.

The neglect, the favoritism, and the divide came to a head. The Hellenists cried out against the Hebrews because of the unfair treatment. “This isn’t right,” they said.

What did the apostles do? Did they dismiss the problem? Nope. Did they accuse the Hellenists of bad motives, of not being thankful, of creating a problem that doesn’t exist? Nope. Did they come back with “All Widows Matter.” Nope. Did they threaten and intimidate the Hellenists for speaking up? Nope.

What the apostles did first of all was listen. The leadership listened. They heard the cries of those who were being neglected and mistreated.

Secondly, they accepted that the problem was real and needed a godly solution. It was time to act.

Third they empowered the church, including those who were being mistreated to be part of the solution (Acts 6:3-6). Those who are in leadership and are reading this article, please, please, please see that it was the church, not the leadership, who selected the 7 men who would oversee the care of the widows. The apostles demonstrated confidence in the church to select who would take care of this issue. Notice that all 7 men had Greek names, not Hebrew ones (Acts 6:5). The group chose Greek (Hellenist) men to address the problem. Can you imagine us choosing an all-white panel to address racism in America?

These three basic things must be done today by our leaders, in churches, in business, and in America. Leaders have to listen, especially right now. Leaders cannot dismiss a problem that many people are consistently bringing up. Leaders have to empower people to be part of the solution.

Don’t get caught up in the reactions of some who are doing wrong and miss the hurt and pain of so many who are living what many of us have dismissed and don’t have to deal with on a daily basis.

Listen.

Don’t dismiss. Be part of the solution.

Empower others to be part of the solution.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post articles and videos from our sisters in Christ who are African American. Listen to them. Hear their pain and what they experience.

It was because of envy

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?(Proverbs 27:4)

Who can stand before jealousy? Great question. Here are several examples of great strife and pain caused by jealousy and envy.

  • The Roman governor Pilate knew that the Jewish leaders were envious of Jesus and that is why they delivered Jesus up (Matthew 27:18).
  • Joseph’s brothers were jealous of Joseph and sold him into slavery (Acts 7:9).
  • It was because of jealousy that the Jews in Galatia opposed and contradicted everything Paul and Barnabas tried to preach (Acts 13:45).
  • Jealousy led the Jews in Thessalonica to take wicked men and stir up the crowd against Paul and his companions (Acts 17:5).

James wrote in his letter that if we see disorder and every vile practice, we will find jealousy behind it.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
(James 3:14-16)

Family problems? Jealousy is somewhere close. Church problems? Look for jealousy. Problems at work. Envy is at work.

What is jealousy anyway? What is envy? Let’s look that tomorrow. If jealousy is such a source of strife, we ought to find out what it is, and how we can replace it in our hearts with godly qualities.

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.

Acts 6 – Even when the apostles ran the show

We are going to camp out in Acts 6 for this week. There is so much to learn here in connection to how the church is to function as a team and a body. Please read and meditate upon the first 7 verses. We are going to make an observation from this text every day this week.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

Today’s observation is that even the apostles ran the show, there were things and people overlooked. What do we see here in the text? There was racial / ethnic / social tension within the congregation. Greek Jews versus Jews from the homeland. Favoritism and cliques were raising their ugly heads. Some widows were well cared for, while others were being neglected.

Wait a minute! Weren’t the apostles directly led by the Holy Spirit? Weren’t they guided into all truth? How could this happen under their watch?

Well, we know it happened, plain and simple. Why? Because we are all human. Problems arise in the local congregation because…here you go…it is made up of people. Even when the apostles were directly overseeing the congregation, things happened that should not have happened. While the apostles were directly shepherding this new church, there were people overlooked and things that should have been done were not done.

This is important for us today. There is no such thing as a church without problems. You will not find a “perfect” local congregation on this earth. Even when the apostles ran the show, things were missed. God knows it will be that way, so what He is watching for is how we will respond to the situation and more importantly, to each other during those problems.

Doing Jesus a Favor

Here are a few excerpts of passages from Mark 9-10. Yesterday, I preached a sermon on “Doing Jesus a Favor.” The 12 disciples were committed to following Jesus, and had a lot of great intentions, but their heads were not screwed on straight yet. Jesus had to transform their hearts, and that was going to take a lot of time and events, not to mention the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The disciples were impressed with a lot of the wrong things. The disciples also many times tried to do Jesus a favor, but Jesus always had another idea for what He wanted from them.

“Let us make 3 tents…” (Mark 9:5). Peter thought it would be great to make 3 tents to memorialize the incredible event of Moses, Elijah and Jesus meeting together. God had different ideas – what God wanted was for Peter to listen to Jesus.

For on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). Jesus had just told them He was going to be tortured and killed, and it led into a discussion of who the greatest disciple is. Question, are we doing Jesus a favor by serving Him? Jesus says that the greatest in the kingdom will be like a little child.

“We tried to stop him” (Mark 9:38; see also Numbers 11:26-29 & Luke 9:49-56). John thought he was doing Jesus a favor by excluding and stopping others because they were not “following” them. We are not doing Jesus a favor by having a sectarian spirit. Of course, God expects us to stand for truth and to preach sound doctrine, but Jesus wants us to have humble hearts and merciful attitudes toward others.

…and the disciples rebuked them (Mark 10:13). Again the disciples thought they were doing Jesus a favor by keeping the little children away from Jesus. Here is one of a few occasions where Jesus was angry. In fact, the word is “indignant.” Jesus was not impressed by this, He was really angry that His disciples were looking at others, especially kids, in this way.

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). Jesus did commend His disciples for leaving everything to follow Him, and He will reward anyone who makes such a sacrifice, but remember that we are not doing Jesus a favor by leaving all to follow Him. Jesus had to remind Peter of a couple things: one is that those rewards come “with persecutions,” and two is that the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Mark 10:30-31).

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). Notice that two times in Mark 10, Jesus asked the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36,51). The first time He asked James and John, and they asked for the vice-president seats. James and John wanted the best seats and positions in the kingdom. The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of the blind man named Bartimaeus. He simply requested in faith for his sight to be restored. The heart of Bartimaeus in his request was 180 degrees opposite from the heart of James and John.

So, where is our heart today? Are we committed to doing “great” things for Jesus. Do we want to do Jesus a favor? Remember that what Jesus is looking for is humility, service and genuine faith. Jesus wants us to see with His eyes when we see others. Instead of arguing who the greatest is, realize that this discussion already has an answer – it is Jesus.

What was it you disputed among yourselves?

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
(Mark 9:33-37)

The apostles couldn’t hide anything from Jesus. Along the road on the way to Capernaum, they were arguing over who the greatest was among them. Jesus was not close enough to hear, or at least they thought. Once they get to the city and go into the house, Jesus asks them about it. I wonder if they blushed and really got embarrassed. Probably so. They were found out.

Can you imagine how foolish they felt arguing about this topic when the Lord, the Messiah and the Son of God is standing with them? Jesus humbled them by taking a child and setting him in the middle of the apostles. Look at him, look at this child, this is where greatness is in the kingdom of heaven.

Now we bring this to 2018, and think about the fact that we are no different than the twelve apostles when it comes to bragging and fussing over who is the best, brightest and greatest. We have better ways to do it, too. The Internet, social media, phones, etc. all give us great opportunities to display our “greatness.” Beware, though, and be reminded of what Jesus said, what makes someone great in Jesus’ eyes is 180 degrees in the opposite direction from what the world says is great.

There is a time for self-promotion in the workplace. There is a time to showcase your work, skill and ideas, but keep in mind about what Jesus said in this passage. You can get so caught up in that “one-up-man-ship” that you lose sight of what greatness really is. Many times your work will speak for itself (Proverbs 22:29). As an example, God exalted Joseph in the presence of Potiphar, Joseph’s character and work was his testimony.

Take a good look at a little child today, maybe your son or daughter or grandchild, and remember that’s where the greatness is in Jesus’ eyes.

Do you not yet understand? Part 2

Last Monday, we observed several occasions in the gospel accounts when the disciples did not understand the sayings of Jesus. Several reasons are given to us in the Scriptures as to why they did not understand. They are the same reasons we do not understand today.

In Luke 24, we see the word “opened” used 3 times. I heard a sermon by Andy Cantrell where he pointed this out, and it is very helpful to look at how the word “opened” is used in Luke 24.

And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.
(Luke 24:31)

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:32)

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
(Luke 24:45)

Jesus opened their eyes. He opened their minds. And He opened the Scriptures to them. It was then they understood! The power to understand came from Jesus.

In all of this, as we seek to understand God’s word and the truths therein, we must go to the power of God first to help us understand. Remember that the Holy Spirit is given to each Christian, and He is working within us as well. We have our part, which is to be humble, to pray, to seek, to ask, to be diligent in our studies, and to be vulnerable enough to ask others for guidance (2 Timothy 2:15; Luke 11:8-13). Also be patient with yourself and remind yourself of the grace God is already giving you.

It seems that there are two extremes when folks discuss the topic of understanding God’s word. One extreme is that my understanding of the Word is all God’s power and God’s part, and unless I have some special anointing I won’t even be able to understand the simplest truth. It takes all responsibility away from me. The other extreme is that understanding the word is all my part, and that God is not working in me at all as I try to understand His word. It takes away the power of God working in the inner man. Both extremes are un-Biblical. I have my part (James 1:21-22), God does His (James 1:5,17-18).

We need to “find out what is pleasing to God” (Ephesians 5:10), and that happens when we “read” what has been given through the Holy Spirit to us (Ephesians 3:4). But do not forget that God is working within you, and He helps both to desire and to do what He asks us.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (YOUR PART); for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (GOD’S PART).
(Philippians 2:12-13)

Do you not yet understand? Part 1

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
(Mark 8:17-21)

I was looking at several verses about the disciples and the fact that they did not understand what Jesus was saying. There are several reasons mentioned in the gospels as to why they did not understand what Jesus was telling them.

  • Their hearts were hardened (Mark 6:52).
  • Their mindset was on the things of this world; their mindset was not a heavenly one (Mark 8:33).
  • Their faith was weak, and they were slow to believe (Luke 24:35).
  • They were afraid to ask Jesus (Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45).
  • Some things were hidden from them (Luke 9:43-45; 18:31-34).
  • Some things needed time and events (John 2:22; 12:16).
  • Some things they could not “bear” at the time (John 16:12).
  • Jesus had to open their minds and the Scriptures to help them understand (Luke 24:27,45).

There is more to consider, but we will look at it next Monday. But for today, can you find yourself on that list as to why you haven’t understood some of the truths in God’s word? You don’t see it until afterward, usually. We look back and see that we needed time to understand what God was trying to teach us. Maybe we look back and see that our minds were set on worldly, selfish thoughts and that’s why we didn’t get it. It may have been that we needed someone to come along and patiently open the Scriptures with us and show us the truth of God’s word on a matter. But it may be that our faith was weak and we were slow to accept and believe what God said. Regardless, I believe we all can see ourselves in the same condition as the disciples.

More next Monday, Lord willing.

 

Faith and Humility

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28, compare to Mark 7:24-30)

What was great about this woman’s faith?

Did you see that the disciples begged Jesus to send this nagging, annoying Gentile woman away from them?

Why did Jesus use the analogy of children and dogs when referring to this woman?

Jesus wasn’t being mean or rude to this woman. He knew exactly what He was going to do, and He knew the heart of this woman already. He did not need to have this event to know the faith that was in her heart. This was a lesson for the disciples and for us. The Gentiles (non-Jewish people) were called dogs by the Jews. The Jews considered themselves as the only children of God, and disregarded anyone else as dogs. Jonah was not the only Jew that did not value the souls of Gentiles.

Jesus’ disciples were always pushing people away and sending people away, while Jesus was calling those same people to Himself. There are scores of examples of this: the children (Mark 10:13-14), the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-36), Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:48), and this woman we just read about in Matthew 15.

Send them away? Where is the mercy, disciples? They are hungry people, little kids, and suffering souls! Send them where? Who else has what Jesus has? Send them, why? Are you sending them away because you are bothered by them? Are you sending them away because you don’t value them or see them as Jesus sees them?

This is such a lesson for us. These disciples whom Jesus was training and transforming must understand that faith involves humility. This woman had that kind of faith. She was willing to be that dog who licks up the crumbs under the master’s table. You don’t see her asking for the left or right hand side of Jesus at His throne like the disciples were asking for. She didn’t get into arguments about who the greatest was like the disciples did. She said in her despair, “Lord help me!” This woman of great faith was willing to take any crumb Jesus could give her and she would be grateful for it. The disciples saw her as a Gentile dog woman who annoyed them, and Jesus saw a precious soul with incredible faith and humility.

How do you see others? Do our minds, hearts and eyes need to be transformed to see others (our spouses, our kids, anybody in the community) as Jesus sees them? Let us meditate upon this today and ask for God to help us see others like He helped His disciples to see.