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!”

Mercy – A Weightier Matter

Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Jesus said there were weightier matters of the Law. One of those specific weightier things was mercy. The Jewish leaders of His day were counting spices to make sure they did not fail to keep the minutest detail of the Law, but they missed the big stuff: mercy, justice and faithfulness. If Jesus says there are weightier matters, then we must agree with Jesus that things like mercy become the foundation of our thinking in order to interpret and apply God’s word.

Here is a case in point. Jesus’ disciples were picking grain to eat on the Sabbath Day. They were hungry! But it was the Sabbath day, and you are not supposed to work on the Sabbath Day. The Pharisees were so committed to keeping the Sabbath Day that they failed to see that doing good and having mercy are weightier matters of the Law. Did we hear Jesus say that? Mercy is part of the Law!

Let’s read the following Scriptures and think about it.

Matthew 12:1-8 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

1 Samuel 21:1-6 Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread–if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.

Jesus clearly told the Pharisees that His disciples were “guiltless” in plucking those heads of grain in order to eat. I know of a man who was so determined to keep the Sabbath Law that he would not even turn the lights on the Sabbath Day. He couldn’t even help his wife when she was going into labor, because it was the Sabbath…that was considered “work.” Something is terribly wrong here, when our interpretation of Law completely eliminates and contradicts God’s command for mercy for those in need.

Several of Jesus’ miracles were performed on the Sabbath, and I believe Jesus did that on purpose (Matthew 12:10-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 5:5-18). He did this to teach that the Jewish leadership had really missed it with being so determined to keep every little detail that they set aside looking at the helpless who needed mercy. In fact, Jesus’ showing mercy on the Sabbath for the most helpless revealed the true character of the Jewish leadership: they did not rejoice that people were healed, they plotted to destroy Jesus! Jesus was very angry and sad about how they were behaving. We need to be very careful that our interpretation and application of God’s word doesn’t forsake what God says are the really “heavy” things on the scale. Things like mercy.

Worse Than The Flu

Proverbs 18:14 – A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Lots of folks around us are sick right now. The flu and other yucky-ness is going around. I had my own bout with it the past few days.

The above verse says that a man’s spirit will endure sickness and even carry us through the few days we are ill. We can be sick for a few days, fight a cold or flu and get over it. Our inner spirit isn’t much worse for the wear.

But Solomon says that if our spirit is crushed…who can bear it? It is a sad thought, but very true. We see in the previous chapter of Proverbs that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). A vibrant and hopeful spirit can sustain a person and give them the drive to heal physically, but when someone is completely broken inside, their physical condition will many times deteriorate to match their inner state. They just give up physically because they have given up on the inside. David said it this way, “my heart is wounded within me” (Psalm 109:22).

There are those living in our midst who are broken and crushed, and are on the verge of completely falling apart. As we think about those around us who are like that, I want us to consider what the Proverbs says about words and the power of words to those who are broken.

Proverbs 12:25 – Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Proverbs 15:13 – A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.

Proverbs 15:23 – To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!

Proverbs 16:23-24 – The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

If you see those who are broken, remember that “a good word” may help him or her today. Those “gracious words” are like honeycomb and may actually help improve that person’s health. Our words have that power!

Shepherds Seek Weak Sheep and Strengthen Them

The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.  (Ezekiel 34:4)

We continue to consider what types of behaviors we should participate in as men in living a life for Jesus which prepares us for the “good work” of shepherding God’s flock.  In the above verse, we find another thing Israel’s shepherds were doing that was not correct and provides us insight into what right things we should be doing.  These shepherds did not seek out the weak and they did not take action for those needing help.

As followers of Jesus, we must build relationships with our brothers and sisters so that we know them and we know when they are struggling.  It is not enough, however, to just see it or to know it.  If we are going to grow up and be qualified to shepherd, we have to notice those that are struggling and we have to make it our responsibility to do something.  Provide a comforting word, take time and pray with them, encourage them for the good they are doing, go to the shepherds (or a more experienced man or woman if appropriate) and get guidance or ask for help.

We have to prepare ourselves to find ways to strengthen the weak.  We will have to find ways to help heal the sick, bind up the injured or bring back the lost.  Again, it doesn’t mean we have to go it alone.  It means we are aware and willing to be involved for the benefit of our Christian family.

There is nothing passive about God’s shepherds.  Therefore, if we are to grow up right, we cannot be passive either.  We need to train our heart and our mind to be proactive and work to help everyone we notice who is slipping or straying.  We might not always know the right thing to do, but we can know that something needs to be done and find help to act. We must be active members of the flock.

It is a common mistake to sit back and expect that someone else will notice or someone else will take action.  It is a mistake to only look out for those brothers or sisters you feel most comfortable with.  We have to be involved and active.  God expects it of us as part of the body and especially God will expect demonstrated proactive behavior over time if we are going to be qualified to shepherd.

We cannot be empathetic.  We cannot be lazy.  We cannot make excuses.  We are more than conquers in Jesus Christ so we can and must do something that will help another if we see the need.

Remember though, be thoughtful.  Thoughtful in how you speak and act.  Don’t be a hindrance.  Be sure you are making the situation better.  Remember God has the power and ability, we are an instrument so be prayerful.  Seek God’s strength and His power in all of this and you will be able to act confidently.  If we seek Christ, then we will act in ways that help and not hurt others.

Take some time and think about opportunities you have taken and ones you might have let slip by.  Think of those you might need to get to know better so that you can be an active participant in their walk.  Take time and pray about this and seek God’s wisdom and involvement in your growth as an active participant in His family.  Don’t try to do it all…crawl, walk, run.  But move forward and make this an important part of your life as your grow and serve.

A Little Bit of Jesus’ Spit

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ spit? Crazy question, maybe, but below are three miracles where Jesus used His own spit to perform a miracle. With His spit He healed the blind, the deaf and the mute. After having been touched with Jesus’ spit, they saw clearly, heard clearly and spoke plainly.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
(Mark 7:31-35)

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
(Mark 8:22-25)

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:6-7)

Here are a few quick thoughts about Jesus’ spit.

  1. The way Jesus heals you may not be pleasant or desirable. The way God restores you may temporarily make you uncomfortable. The Great Physician has His own medicine cabinet and how He chooses to heal you is the right prescription every time. If you were blind and Jesus’ spit could heal you, wouldn’t you say, “Jesus, spit on me all day long if that’s what I need”?
  2. Everything that comes from Jesus is divine, holy, merciful and powerful, including His own spit. Contrast the way others used their spit as they mocked and shamed Jesus before His crucifixion. Even Jesus’ spit was used with love and with the glory of God on His mind.
  3. The miracle of this blind man being healed in Mark 8 is a gradual miracle and we can learn a lesson from it. Most of Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous, this one Jesus chose to do gradually. Maybe it is a lesson on how Jesus gradually changes the way we see spiritually. As we grow in Jesus, His spit needs to be on our eyes every day, so that we go from blind to seeing the way God sees. But for a while, we see men like trees walking, not exactly clear, but with enough of the spit and grace of Jesus, we will one day see clearly.