Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you”

Isaiah 41:13

I can only imagine what it must have been like for Peter and the rest of the disciples on that night.  It had been an incredibly long day and they were probably very tired.  Now, they are out in a small boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, fighting a massive storm.  And where was Jesus during all this time?  He had sent them ahead.  He had to have known there was going to be a storm, He is the Son of God after all.  At the point when everything seems to be going wrong, Jesus shows up.  A figure in the mist, walking on top of the waves.  At first, Peter doesn’t know what to think.  Some of the disciples cry out, “It’s a ghost!” (Matthew 14:26)  I’m sure at this point they thought death had finally come to take them.  Not Peter, he knew that something was different.  Jesus calls back to them, “Take courage! It is I. don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)  Peter could have stopped there.  These words from Jesus are reassurance enough that everything is going to be alright.  But Peter is not satisfied.  He has always desired to be as close to Jesus as possible.  He calls out to Jesus to let him walk out to be near Him and Jesus simply says “Come.” (Matthew 14:29).  So being Peter, he goes.  I’m not sure if he jumped of the side of the boat or if he gingerly stepped down onto the waves but I can picture his face when his feet stood solidly on the water.  A mixture of uncertainty at first, then sheer joy and amazement as he looks and Jesus.  I don’t know what the Arimaic term for “Woohoo!  Ahh Haa!”  but I’m sure Peter probably said it.  Then it hits him.  He begins to look around and see the wind and the waves crashing around him.  For that split second he sees his surroundings and he begins to forget why he is there in the first place.  As he sinks he calls out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)  Jesus doesn’t hesitate, He doesn’t call him a fool, He simply reaches out his hand and says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)  I don’t think Jesus’s comment is talking about that specific moment.  I think Jesus says that to remind Peter and all the other disciples of all the promises that have been made to them.  In Isaiah 41:13, God tells the Israelites “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear, I will help you.”  Peter probably new this verse, but at that moment while he was distracted by the world around him, he forgot it.  The beautiful thing about Jesus though, He doesn’t quote it to Peter, he demonstrates it by reaching out His hand and lifting him from the water.

Tear Down the Wall

Tear Down the Wall

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  Mark 11:25

Forgiveness is an integral part of our relationship with Christ.  The forgiveness of our sins was sealed by the death of Christ on the cross; the ultimate sign of Gods’ love for us (John 15:13).  In the same way that forgiveness brings us into a relationship with Christ, unforgiveness can be a wall keeping us from living the life Christ wants us to live.  Unforgiveness can lead to bitterness and anger toward another person.  Each time you let bitterness in, the wall of unforgiveness is built one brick higher.  Eventually, the wall gets so large that even if you want to forgive and move on, it feels like you can’t.  You see no way around the wall that dominates your emotions.  Jesus says in Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  I think as human beings, this is one of the biggest areas of struggle we all face.  Think about the feelings you have when someone has done something to hurt you.  The list of hurts can go on and on.  Eventually, when we move past the hurt, our pride can keep us from forgiving them.  You may feel that it is their responsibility to ask for forgiveness from you.  After all, they are the one who hurt you in the first place.  However, this is not what Christ said.  He says it is our responsibility to forgive them.  Colossians 3:13 and Matthew 6:15 tell us the same thing, forgive others their sins, so that your own can be forgiven.  Is unforgiveness keeping you from living the life Christ wants you to live?  Christ can help you tear down that wall.  Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prater, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Ask Christ to help you take down the walls of unforgiveness in your life.  He wants to help you remove any obstacles that keeping you from living the life He has planned for you.

 

Change the World

 

Change the World

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring are a reward from Him.”

Psalm 127:3

My son is going to change the world.  I can already see it now.  I see it in the way he sings worship songs in the car.  I see it when he wants to lead others.  I know he is only 4 years old, but I can already tell that God has a plan for his life.  That to me is one of the coolest yet scariest parts of being a father.  God has trusted me to raise my son up in a manner that will point him to Christ so that his life can be used by God.  That is a pretty big challenge.  I know that my son will face many unknown task throughout his life.  I can’t even imagine what he will have to overcome.  Yet as his Dad, I am tasked to prepare him for these challenges.  Even scarier still is that I will be held accountable for him.  Hebrews 13:17 says “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”  Now part of that verse is for my son, but it’s the second half that gets me. “…Those who must give an account.” I must give an account for my son when I stand before God.  If I stopped here, I would think that all is lost.  How could I, with all of my own faults and short comings, ever lead my son down a path of righteousness?  If I were doing this alone, then the task would be impossible.  I guess it’s a good thing I’m not alone.  I can take comfort knowing that Christ is with me the whole time.  He helps me guide my son.  In fact, my son is a reward from Him.  “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3) God trusts me enough that He rewarded me with a son.  He actually has rewarded me with two sons!  God must think pretty highly of me to entrust me with their lives.  He knows that I will look to Him for help.  He knows that my goal as Dad is to point them to the life He wants for them.  He knows that I want them to be World changers, that His goals are my goals.  My son is going to change the world.  All I have to do is keep pointing him in the right direction.

Different Eyes

I Will Never Leave You

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:5

Before I was a Christian, I would wonder where God was in my life during hard times.  When my brother passed away from Leukemia when I was 12, I didn’t understand why God would take the life of a 17 year old that way.  When  my family moved to Singapore when I was a teenager and I felt alone, I wondered what God had for my life.  When I became a Christian at the age of 23, I started looking at difficult situations as they occurred with much different eyes.  Joshua 1:5 reminds me that just as God was with Moses through all of his life and struggles, He is with me also.  So if God is with me always now, then Malachai 3:6 tells me that God was with me before I was a Christian too because it says, “I the Lord do not change…”  Through any time of struggle, through any time of need, God is always and has always been with me.  God knew me before I was born, He …”knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)  I take comfort in knowing that the God of Abraham, the God of Moses and the God of Joshua will always be with me no matter what I am going through.  I just need to look with different eyes.

Stand Ready

Stand Ready

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:10-13

Every knight had a squire.  The squire was someone who helped the knight get ready for battle.  They took care of the war horse, they made sure the swords were sharp and that the knights armor was polished.  When it was time for war, the squire helped the knight into his armor.  I don’t know much about war here on Earth other than what I’ve seen on the news or talked to friends that our soldiers, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never been to battle.  Ephesians 6 reminds us that the wars we all fight during the day are not against things here on Earth, they are against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. (Ephesians 6:12)  How scary is it to know that we battle against things that we cannot see.  We can draw comfort in knowing that we have someone who helps to prepare us for battle.  Christ is our squire and the word of God is our sword.  Ephesians 6 tells us to stand firm with the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness and feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  We also have a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.  Every item prepares us to stand against the devil and his schemes and Christ, our ever faithful squire, is there to help make sure that our armor is polished and sword is sharp for the battle.

 

 

If He Calls, Will You Go?

A Fisher of Men

“And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 14:19

We first meet Peter (Simon) while he is working with his brother Andrew in the family business.  Simon and Andrew were fisherman.  They were not the brightest men around, they probably didn’t do well in school when they were young, and we don’t really know how successful they were at fishing.  They were the working class.  So why did Jesus pick them?  Why did He pick any of the disciples?  He could have had the best, smartest minds of the time following Him, but He chose the everyman.  I think that everyone can identify with at least one of the twelve disciples.  Maybe you’ve cheated someone in your past like Matthew, the tax collector (Luke 5:27-28) or you have a tendency to doubt the things you can’t see or don’t understand like Thomas (John 20:25).  No matter what your vice, there is a disciple you can relate too.  However, it’s not important that each of the twelve have a sin you can identify with, it is that Jesus called them from right where they were, and they went.  They dropped what ever they were doing to follow Him.  They knew that what Christ had for them was much more important than what they were doing at that moment.  This is what amazes me about the disciples.  I like to think that I would do the same, that I am doing the same, but I know there are things that hold me back.  Things that I think are valid excuses like my responsibilities to my family or my job.  Yet these men had families and jobs and they still left.  They knew that what Christ called them to do was bigger.  When Christ gives me the opportunity to fish, I hope I have the brains to cast my line to the side He tells me.

 

You Are Important

The Lost Sheep

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

Matthew 18:12-14

I am trying to think of a modern day example to this parable but at the moment it eludes me.  Jesus told parables so that the people he talked to could relate to what he was saying.  It is an old teacher trick, you  make your content relavent so your students can relate personally to what you have to say.  The only problem is that today, I don’t think we keep the same passion that the sheppards or towns-people did back in Jesus’s day.  Everything we have is disposable.  Most of us don’t tend to things where it is important to have every piece.  If we loose something, it can be replaced.  To God, we are not disposable.  We are an irreplacable part of His plan.  Jesus says that the sheppard (God) would leave the ninety-nine sheep to go find the one that has wandered off.  He’s not really talking about sheep here, He’s talking about us.  We are that one that wanders.  It is comforting to know that God values me so much that He would go searching for me.  He searches even when I don’t want to be found.  And when He finds me (or rather, when I lift up my eyes and see that He has been there all along), He rejoices.  The Bible says in Luke 15:10 that the angles rejoice when one sinner repents.  They throw a party when one lost sheep is found.  You are not disposable, you are an irreplacable to God. I take comfort in knowing that I am that valuable to Him.

The Perfect Gift

 

Eph 2: 8-9

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourself, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

The idea that something is a gift is often times a hard concept to grasp.  People often think that if you give them a gift, it is for some reason.  You either want something in return or you feel guilty for doing something wrong.  A gift is something that is free, no strings attached, no questions, it just… is.  God is the perfect giver.  He gives to us simply because he loves us.  There is nothing we can do to earn a gift from God.  Ephesians 2: 8-9 reflects the perfect gift of God.  The grace of Christ is what saves us from certain death.  The grace of Christ dieing on the cross for us.  I didn’t do anything to deserve this, in fact, I done more in my life to not deserve it.  But that is not who God is.  God gives me grace because he loves me unconditionally.  No matter what I do, no matter what I have done, I am saved by “grace through faith”.  During this Christmas season, remember that the biggest gift of all is Christ Jesus, God’s one and only son.  Christ gave the ultimate gift of his life for ours, not for any reason then the fact that we needed it and He loved us.

Learning From My Breakfast

Organic bacon and eggs with a double yolk

I have to say that my two favorite breakfast foods are bacon and eggs.  The bacon needs to be extra crisp almost to the point of being burnt and the egg yolks nice and runny.  I like to break the egg yolks so I can sop up their deliciousness with my toast.  It makes me hungry for breakfast just thinking about it.   I never thought that my favorite breakfast foods could teach me about how I should be living my life for Christ and what real sacrifice is.  For that, we’ll need to think about breakfast a little different.

Bacon and eggs provide the perfect allegory of sacrifice.  We have two players here, the chicken and the pig.  Both contributed to my morning meal.  Both had to sacrifice something.  Now the chicken I’m sure had to work hard at laying the egg.  I can’t imagine what it must feel like to lay an egg.  I remember what it was like passing a kidney stone and that thing was tiny compared to the average egg.  She also had to part with her precious egg that she worked so hard to lay.  Not that she really had a choice in this manner, but lets not take away from the act.  Now the pig, the pig is another story.  The pig couldn’t just give part of himself to provide the bacon for my breakfast.  The pig had to give up his whole body.  Again, I don’t think the pig really had a choice but lets just go with it.

So what does this have to do with following Christ?  Following Christ requires sacrifice.  We can choose to give a part of ourselves like the chicken.  Sure we might suffer a little in the process, but in the long run, our sacrifice really doesn’t affect our lives.  You recover and continue to produce eggs.  Or, we can give our whole self.  We can deny what we are and give our life as a sacrifice.

In Matthew 19, Jesus is asked by the unnamed rich man, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16).  Jesus’ answer is simple, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  then come, follow me.” (Matt. 19:21).  I’m sure this man in thinking, I lived a good live, I’m a good person, maybe if I just have to give a little more on Sunday morning and I’ll be all set.  But Jesus knew the truth.  He told him, you are putting your heart in the wrong place.  Let go of the things that keep you from giving me your all and come follow me.  This man had been living his life like the chicken, giving some but not all.  Jesus asked him to be the pig and give up everything.  When the rich man realized he would have to give up everything, he turned away sad.  What Jesus asks each of us to sacrifice is unique to each individual.  It may be money as it was for the rich man, or it may be friends.  Only God knows what it is for you.

Jesus asks us to give up everything to follow him, but he also promises much in return.  “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt. 19:29)

Each one of us must make a decision.  Am I a pig or a chicken?  Will I sacrifice lay down my life to follow Christ?  If you haven’t done so yet, take this opportunity to commit to follow Christ.  Ask Him to show you what has been holding you back from having a committed relationship with Christ, and then ask Him to help you walk away from it.