Monday, August 5, 2019

A Furious Squall

Just this past week, we have seen two examples come through our email list of people we care about going through serious health challenges.  The reality of this life is that sudden crises can pop up seemingly out of nowhere.  This week, we give praise for the miraculous result for Ron with many prayers being answered. Candidly though, sometimes it can feel like God is not paying attention.  Our passage below helps us have a better understanding of these moments when our fear overwhelms our faith.

Mark 4:35-41 - That day when evening came, He said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Things to think about:
·      To the extent there is such a thing as an “ordinary day with Jesus”, this scene starts out as an ordinary day with Jesus.  He was telling and explaining parables, and speaking to a large crowd about the kingdom of God.  When Jesus was finished for the day, He instructed the disciples to take Him to the other side of the lake.  Then things started getting interesting.
·      While He was sleeping (I love this detail of His humanity!) a furious squall arose, nearly capsizing the boat they were in.  I’m not sure how He could sleep while the boat was being overwhelmed by the water but apparently He could
o   Are you sleeping well or not so well these days? 
·      Now the disciples had already seen Jesus drive out a spirit, heal a paralyzed man, heal a man with a withered hand, and many others so they knew He had power like the world had never seen. So naturally they woke Him up and wanted to know if He cared about this current crisis.
o   “Don’t you care if we drown?”
o   Do you feel like you’re in danger of drowning? What waves are crashing over you?
§  Finances
§  Relationships
§  Health
§  Undisclosed bad habit
·      Of course, we know that Jesus does care.  He always “gets up” to calm the storm if we ask.
o   In fact, in Romans 8:34 it tells us that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us constantly
·      But sometimes it does appear that He’s still asleep.  The finances are still a mess, the relationship is still fractured, a loved one’s health doesn’t get better.  So how do we reconcile these things?
o   One of the most theologically sound things you can say is, “I don’t know.”
o   Isaiah 55: 8-9 - “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
§  Like children, we don’t always understand what’s going on.
§  During the final week of Jesus’ life, it certainly looked like God wasn’t paying attention to the furious squall as His son was imprisoned, humiliated, beaten, imprisoned and of course crucified.
§  But we know that a greater purpose, i.e., the payment for our sins, was being worked out.
o   It is perhaps over-quoted but it doesn’t make Romans 8:28 any less true – “All things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” 
§  It doesn’t say all things ARE good, but that they work together FOR good.
·      So when the inevitable furious squalls come, let’s not let faith be overcome by fear.
o   Psalm 121:3-4 says God never sleeps or slumbers.  He is always watching over you.
o   Psalm 100:5 reminds us, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
o   Our text illustrates He is able. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him.”
o   He’s there, He cares, we need not despair!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

What's in Your Garden?

So maybe not exactly Capital One’s catchphrase but my mom gave me this idea recently as she was talking about a man at her retirement home.  She said he was a “rosarian”.  I honestly thought it was someone who was really into rosary beads!  Not so. It actually means someone who specializes in cultivating roses and this man had planted a beautiful rose garden outside of his apartment that my mom really enjoys looking at.  It got me thinking about what’s in my spiritual rose garden and is it pleasing to both God and others.  At the risk of mixing horticultural metaphors, in the parable of the sower and the seeds, Jesus says:

Matthew 13:8 – Other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop, some one hundredfold, some sixtyfold and some thirtyfold.

Things to think about:
·      For whatever reason, this word picture of a rose garden vividly describes for me how we should be using our time on earth to make something beautiful to honor God
o   Do you have a green thumb?  Do you like to be outside planting, watering, tending to a vegetable garden or flowerbed?
·      What might different flowers and fruit look like in your spiritual garden?
o   Disciples
§   Matthew 28:16-20 - In the Great Commission Jesus says we are to go and make disciples
o   Good works
§  James 2:26 – As the body without the Spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds dead
o   Spiritual Maturity
§  Galatians 5:22-23 - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
o   What else comes to mind or is in the Bible that might be a kind of crop?
·      To continue with our botanical theme, Jesus says in John 15:5
o   “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
o   Roses that have been cut off from the rose bush may look pretty for a while but eventually they will die out.
§  We can fake it for a time but a separation from Jesus will result in a wilted and ultimately dead spiritual life
·      We also need to be mindful to keep weeds out of our garden
o   In Matthew 13, Jesus warns of the enemy coming in and planting weeds while we’re asleep.  While we can’t rid the world of weeds until Jesus comes back, we can be vigilant to minimize their impact on our lives.
·      In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
o    When God sees our lives, especially our lives as we cooperate with other believers to build His kingdom, He sees a beautiful, aromatic garden that gives Him great pleasure.
·      Let’s be motivated and empowered by a love for God and others to make our time here count for eternity.   

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Defusing the Bomb

When was the last time you got into a heated argument? This morning, this week, this month? Whenever it was, somewhere along the line someone got angry and said something unkind.  Whether it was you or the other person who lashed out, it escalated the disagreement to another level.  In the end, did that bring you and the other person closer together or push you farther apart (we all know the answer to that question)?  Our verse today offers a godly alternative that yields a much better outcome.

Proverbs 15:1 – A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger

Things to think about:
·      So when was the last time you got into a heated argument?
o   Were you more the instigator or the recipient?
·      Our natural inclination is to hit back, hit harder, and fight to win. Some of the reasons for this are:
o   In the moment it feels “good”
o   It might seem “fair” or “right”
o   We’re emotional beings by nature so our emotions can rule us
o   Our egos need protection so as not to look or feel weak
·      The Bible is full of counterculture advice when it comes to conflict:
o   Turn the other cheek
o   Love your enemy
o   If your enemy is thirsty, give him a drink of water
o   A gentle answer
·      Have you tried God’s way by remaining calm and being gentle when the other party is getting worked up?
o   If so, how did it turn out?
·      Are you currently in a disagreement or conflict with someone?
o   How can providing a gentle answer yield a better result in this situation?
o   What would a “gentle answer” look like in this situation?
o   How might that gentle answer be like a cup of water to them?
·      Why is God’s way impossible without His help?
o   Jesus says in John 15:3 -“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
o   Let’s ask God for the help we need to live the life He has called us to. 
§  And let’s do it BEFORE the next conflict arises so that He is leading us not our emotions