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 Well From Which You Drink

In John 4, Jesus met with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. I’d encourage you to read through John 4 and meditate upon it. Jesus has a great discussion with her about living water. It started with a discussion about physical water, but led to living water. The woman begged for this living water! And then for some reason, Jesus brings up her marital situation.

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
(John 4:10-19)

From what well had the Samaritan woman been drinking? I’m not talking about Jacob’s well. I’m talking about the relationship well. She had drawn from that well over and over (maybe for no fault of her own), but it had left her dehydrated. Those relationships hadn’t quenched any thirst at all, they had only left her empty and begging to be filled.

We drink things today that make us dehydrated. Pop. Coffee. Alcohol. Our well here at our house is really salty, we can’t drink from it; we had to buy a reverse osmosis system to deal with it. I’m sure you understand that you can drink things that leave you worse than before. Nothing really replaces good water, and nothing really replaces the living water Jesus offers.

Are you thirsty? Dehydrated? Have you become empty because you are drinking from the wrong well? Then Jesus is offering you living water!

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
(Isaiah 55:1-2)

Abigail didn’t cover for Nabal

I was studying with someone this week about 1 Samuel 25 which covers the account of David, Abigail and Nabal. Abigail was a woman of beauty and wisdom, but her husband was a complete jerk. The Bible literally calls him “worthless.” He was harsh. He was badly behaved. He caused trouble for a lot of people, and it is clear from the text that everyone knew who would have to fix Nabal’s messes. Abigail.

1 Samuel 25:17 – “Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”

Even the servants were comfortable coming to their master’s wife about him. That says this event with David wasn’t the first time Nabal had wreaked havoc.

What we see though in Abigail is that she did not cover for her husband’s wickedness. In her attempts to save her household from certain destruction, she exposed and clearly admitted that Nabal was the problem, not David.

1 Samuel 25:25-26 – Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.

Did you see what Abigail just said about her husband? She admitted he was wrong, and that he was the problem. His name means “fool” and Abigail agreed that his parents named him well! She also agreed with others’ assessment that he was “worthless” (literally a “son of Belial”). Abigail did not cover for her husband’s sins. Family did not come first, truth did. Family did not come first, God did. While she pleaded with David to do what was right in not taking vengeance, she did not excuse or dismiss her husband’s wicked behavior.

What about you? Does family come first, or does God? Does family come first, or does truth come first? Loyalty to family sometimes gets so pressed into people’s psyche that they can’t see the obvious truth that everyone around them sees. They find themselves defending the indefensible. Because of that misplaced loyalty, gossip about others is believed as gospel. That shows our loyalty is to family first, not to God and truth first. This just doesn’t happen in families, it happens with our friends, too. Just because someone is a close family member or a best friend, doesn’t mean we blindly take their side. Our misplaced loyalty will blind us and distort our judgment.

Listen to what Jesus said…

Matthew 10:36-37 – And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Abigail did not cover for Nabal, nor did she make excuses for his ungodly behavior, and he was her husband! She also did not try to blame David for being part of the problem, that somehow he was guilty of stirring Nabal up. Nope. She knew exactly where the problem was…right at home with her husband.

Our loyalty must first be to God.

Abigail did not only recognize where the problem was, she also knew clearly where to turn to find the solution…God. Look at what she says about God as she talks to David:

1 Samuel 25:26 – Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.

Abigail turned her attention and David’s attention to the Lord for the solution. Read the rest of that section later (1 Samuel 25:28-34,38-39) and see how many times Abigail and David referred to God as being the Source of the solution. It’s one thing to recognize that her husband was the problem, but far more important that she knew where to go for answers and wisdom to deal with the problem.

11 Days or 40 Years?

Happy New Year! Hard to believe it is the year 2020!

Deuteronomy 1:2-3 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them…

Moses just had to be tired when he wrote the above passage. Think about the above words. The journey for the Israelites to get from Mount Sinai (Horeb) to the land of Canaan was 11 days. That 11 day trip took 40 years. Can’t you see Moses as he wrote this? Just slapping his forehead with his hand. 40 years!!!! It should have taken 11 days!!!

We can all think of things that took longer than they should have. That song that could have been over in a minute and a half, but they repeated the chorus a gazillion times. Or it was that story that someone was telling you that could have taken a few sentences, but you got the exhaustive version. That person probably said, “To make a long story short” several times while telling the long story. Maybe it was an explanation of how to do something that could have taken thirty seconds…but on and on and on it went. We could have done the job ten times over by the time it took them to explain how to do it. Or how about the sermon that could have taken 15 minutes, but felt like it lasted 40 years?

But why did this journey from Egypt to the Promised Land take so long? Because the people flat out rejected God and did not believe Him. They rebelled against Him and did not trust His promises. With everything they had seen of God, all of the miracles, all of the love, all of the power, all of the deliverance, they simply chose to follow themselves instead of God. They in every way were ungrateful and stubborn. So, God said they would not enter His rest (see Numbers 14).

They were right at the edge of the Promised Land, and God said, “Okay, everybody out of the pool.” You can hear the beeping of the Israelite moving van as it backed up and turned to go back into the wilderness for a long 40 year spin around the same desolate ground.

Let’s reflect upon this concept together as we begin the New Year. How many 11 day journeys have we started in life with God that sadly turned into 40 year endless circles around the same ground? How many of our relationship problems are 11 day problems that we have allowed to turn into 40 year problems? Is our faith and attitude like the Israelites? God is trying to bless us richly and take us into the Promised Land, but we choose the 40 year whirl in the wilderness?

Think about it this way…do some simple math. 40 years times 365 days is 14,600 days! 11 days or 14,600 days. Do we want to be circling around in the hot desolate wilderness for 11 days or 14,600 days? Here’s another simple math problem, take 14,600 days and divide it by 11 days. What you will find is that the Israelites’ journey took 1,327 times longer than it should have!

Why suffer going around the same mountain when we can face our attitude and relationship issues head on and move on to the Promised Land? Here’s the simple fact that you and I need to understand: God will let us stay in the wilderness. If that’s where we want to stay and die, then that’s our choice. He will allow us to keep circling the same mountain of problems until we deal with our own issues and stop blaming others. It’s our choice. 11 days or 40 years.

No one had the strength to subdue him

“He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Mark 5:3-5

No one could bind him…No one had the strength to subdue him. This man wasn’t fit to live among people. Only Jesus could heal what was wrong with this demon-possessed man. People of the village were trying to use their own strength to harness, control and stop this man, but it was the spirit inside that was giving the man this strength and destructive power.

The man didn’t need chains and shackles, they were useless. He needed Jesus. Look in Mark 5:1-20 to see how Jesus got inside of this man and changed him from the inside out. Once the man’s insides changed, then the outside reflected that spiritual transformation. This formerly demon-possessed man became a powerful evangelist for Jesus! But that didn’t happen until the demons within were cast out.

Again, it is Jesus that makes you and me fit to live among people. We may try to harness, manage or control the behavior and words of others, but it is Jesus that really has the power to release the “demon” within. Those “demons” can be things like guilt, past abuse, shame, addictions, etc. If we find ourselves breaking chains and shackles, going around in a rage, and cutting ourselves with stones, then the real problem is what is going on deep down inside of us. Until we truly get at peace with ourselves and with Jesus, then we will be like this man living in a cave howling at the moon.

In our relationships, we must focus more on root causes and not symptoms.

The Benefits of Reading Scripture Aloud

Here is a link to a great article on BibleGateway.com about the benefits of reading Scripture aloud.

Also, here is a link to a Bible Project video about the public reading of Scripture.

Below are several passages about the Scripture being read out loud, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. May this encourage us all today as families and churches to see the benefits of reading God’s word out loud.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
(1 Timothy 4:13)

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
(Nehemiah 8:1-3)

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.
(Joshua 8:34-35)

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
(Deuteronomy 31:9-13)

“For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
(Acts 15:21)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
(Luke 4:16-17)

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
(Colossians 4:16)

I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
(1 Thessalonians 5:27)

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
(Revelation 1:3)

Remember When?

Today, I would like for us to consider two passages of Scripture where God calls us to our former days. Remember When? This is a great exercise for a church, for individuals and for married couples. It’s time to revisit how we used to be, what we used to feel like, and what our perspective was back then.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:32-36)

These Christians were about to give up and go back to Judaism in order to avoid the persecutions they were facing. They were just done, and they were tired and discouraged. Sadly, some just wanted to quit. This is a very real situation for many Christians, many churches and many marriages. What does the Hebrew writer ask them to do? Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian? Do you recall what you felt like? How did you feel about living for Jesus, even when you were being persecuted for it? What happened to that fire and that enthusiasm? It’s time to go back to the beginning like you were on the honeymoon with Jesus.

Here’s another passage in which Jesus is speaking to the church of Ephesus. They were “doing” everything right, but they were about to lose their fellowship with Jesus. Why? The love they had at first was gone. As one writer said, “They were gun barrel straight on doctrine but without any gun powder in the bullets.” What does Jesus say is the remedy? Go back to the beginning. Get back to your roots. Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian?

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
(Revelation 2:1-7)

I think those of us who are older should spend more time just listening and observing those who are younger. Instead of constantly being in teacher mode, maybe we as the teachers need to be the students. Those young Christians have a lot of zeal and idealism, and we would do well by remembering what it was like when we were that on fire for Jesus. Instead of accusing them of being young, arrogant and idealistic, maybe we could get stirred up again by working with them.

It might be that we observe a young married couple that is just gushing with love for one another. We can gag at that and make fun of it, or we can say to ourselves, “Remember when?” Maybe our romance, and idealism, and fire is gone and we need to do some rekindling. Instead of making fun of that young couple by telling them the “reality” of what’s coming, maybe we can rejoice with them and help bring our fire back once again.

When You Don’t Listen to God First

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
(Genesis 16:1-2)

Abram and Sarai were promised a child. They were old. It had been 10 years. After a while a person starts to have all kinds of ideas. Maybe we can help this along. How about Hagar? Let’s try having a child through her! You might not appreciate what Sarai proposed, but try to imagine how desperate they were to have a child.

But just because we are desperate, impatient and wondering why God has not come through on His end of the deal, does not give us a green light to go outside His will. Abram and Sarai, just like so many of us, had to grow in faith and learn to wait on God.

We have to see, though, that there are consequences to not listening to God first. There are doors we open and things we set in motion that are irreversible when we listen to others first and forget to consult God.

Consider just a few consequences of Abram listening to Sarai first instead of God:

  • Think of the strain that put on Abram and Sarai’s marriage. Sarai quickly realized what she did was wrong, but there was no going back. Her husband slept with her handmaiden, and that could not be reversed. This is an example of how we can make a time of hardship into a real crisis. Yes we can appreciate that Abram and Sarai were sad, hurting and waiting for God to fulfill His promise, but what they did created a real crisis in their family.
  • Look at the strife that came between Sarai and Hagar because of this. Hagar began to despise Sarai, and then Sarai really treated Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away. God even took note of how badly Hagar was treated by Sarai.
  • What about what the problems that came in between Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants? For generations to come, these families would have problems, and all because of one weak moment in Abram and Sarai’s life. Because they did not listen to God first and wait on him, their families suffered strife for generations.

Listen to God first. Wait on Him, even when all other things are falling apart around you. Trust in His promises. Do not waver. Learn from the lessons of those like Abram and Sarai. Be cautious of letting your impatience turning an already hard situation into a very bad series of events.

Daniel – They, their children, and their wives

Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
(Daniel 6:23-24)

Today’s passage from Daniel is a sobering reminder of the consequences of our actions as men and how it affects our children and our wives.

These men had “maliciously accused Daniel.” They wanted him out of the way and even if that meant he was killed, the ends justified the means. Because of their hatred for Daniel, they even went to great lengths to manipulate the king into making a law that would be adverse to Daniel’s faith. They set the king up and used him like a pawn so they could dispense with Daniel. Once the king was wise to all of this, he was full of righteous wrath and threw every one of these men and their families into the den of lions.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
(Proverbs 26:27)

It is a serious warning for us today that our envy, pride, anger, lust and hatred can wreak serious havoc on our families. That was a horrible day for all of those families. Imagine how awful the sight would have been to see those wives and little kids being thrown into the very mouths of lions. And this was all because hubby/daddy had a malicious heart that craved power.

I got a Christmas card in the mail this week. It made me so sad for that family. Here is another woman now without her husband having Christmas pictures taken with her kids. Where’s daddy? He’s not there anymore because other things/ladies took his heart away from them.

Take your role seriously, guys. Where you lead as men will either take your family to green pastures or to the lion’s den. It’s your choice.

Getting your house in order

Today is a everyday practical application on how to love and honor our wives. It’s about getting our houses in order.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.'”
(2 Kings 20:1)

Anna and I went to a marriage retreat recently in Branson, and we really enjoyed it. I highly recommend it. Among the many relationship lessons we learned, there was a session about getting our house in order. It was led by a brother in Christ who serves as a shepherd in a congregation. He also works as an attorney. This brother really hammered home the urgency of getting your financials and legal stuff in place. I certainly got my toes stepped on and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you all.

What happens if you die today? What is in place to make sure that your wife and kids have financial security? Maybe you and your family already have everything like wills and life insurance put in place, and that’s awesome, but I’m pretty sure that is not true for every home. After listening to this attorney and hearing of all the horror stories he deals with on a daily basis of those families who were not prepared…it’s pretty obvious that a lot of folks aren’t ready for what God says will happen to every one of us. We will die. A link below to caring.com will show you that 6 in 10 adults in America do not have a will!

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Do you have life insurance? And is that life insurance policy sufficient to cover your wife and kids?
  • Do you have a will and other legal matters in place? What will happen to your kids if both you and your spouse pass away?
  • Does your family know your expectations of things like funerals, burials/cremations, end-of-life decisions, etc.?

It’s something to take seriously and to make an urgent matter. Even if Christmas presents have to be a little light this year because we have to get a few financial/legal things in place, that is one of the best gifts we could provide for our families.

Here is a link to Dave Ramsey’s website where you find guidance on getting life insurance and other matters in order for your home.

The Importance of Making a Will by Dave Ramsey

5 Life Insurance Mistakes by Dave Ramsey

Estate Planning by the Numbers – Caring.com

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
(Proverbs 6:6-11)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:22)