Allow me to let you in on a few areas of my life that I often keep tucked away. From the outside looking in I am a fairly extroverted people person. I thrive in large crowds. When I choose to, I can easily make friends and conversation with complete strangers. I often come across confident in both my words and work. Fairly easily I can balance multiple projects, tasks, initiatives and people. What I post on social media and what many see as I stand in front of crowds are the highlights of carefully selected portions of my life that are chosen not to deceive but because sharing the difficult portions is...well difficult. It's tough to be transparent. It's tough to be vulnerable. It's not easy for anyone to let their guard down and admit what no one assumes could ever be possible. The reality is that I struggle on several fronts.
I live with a fear of the future. The future is unknown and I for one don't enjoy the unknown. I lost my father in January 2014 and while I knew prior to that date that death was inevitable for each of us, it was at that moment that the clock in my head began ticking...ticking towards the unknown future of the loss of every person I hold dear. That scares me. While I know in my heart what lies ahead for my loved ones that have a relationship with Jesus, it's still scary to think about navigating this life without them by my side.
I live with an increasing uneasiness of change. My sons, those two little boys that only yesterday were crawling all over me and longed for camp outs in the family room now both have jobs and commitments of their own. Many days each week my wife and I find ourselves at home alone. I know to parents of young ones that sounds amazing right? Don't get me wrong, it's fun but it's different. Things are changing. New faces are around our table and some of the old faces are gone. Sometimes I find myself longing for the old days when things were familiar.
I live with what at times feels like a rollercoaster of emotion. There are moments that I feel like I could conquer the world and then there are moments where I seem to lack all motivation. The "conquer the world" days way outnumber the "no motivation" days but those "no motivation" days can be scary and they seem to rear their ugly head at the most inconvenient of times.
As I've processed these feelings over the last several months I've come to some conclusions that I'd like to share with you in hopes that if there are some reading who also find themselves with similar thoughts you would know that you are not alone.
1. There is never a time when I am alone. God's Word makes it clear that He is with us in the midst of our struggle. Deuteronomy 31:6 says it on Bible Gateway like this, "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” It's my belief that one of the devil's greatest tools is to make you and I believe that we are alone. There is no doubt that speaking up is tough to do. Admitting that you struggle in any area of life is difficult but in confession, one to another, we find healing. James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." You are not alone. God is with you. You are not the only one who struggles. I struggle too.
2. In the midst of my struggle I'm reminded that not only is God with me but perhaps He's trying to teach me something new. James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. " God's not finished with you yet. I'm reminded of the song we often sang as a kid growing up in church.
"He's still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He's still working on me."
Perhaps the greatest tool at my disposal in the midst of struggle is to realize that my struggle is simply a stepping stone towards something greater.
3. Lastly I'm reminded that the devil doesn't want me to have success. He longs for me to fail at being a husband, father, brother, pastor, teacher, friend, community member, evangelist, neighbor and every other role I'm commissioned to be in the army of the Lord. The same is true for you. When you throw in the towel on what you've been created, called and commissioned to do, the devil wins and God's people suffer.
I invite you claim and speak the following truth over your life right now:
"Satan I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ.
I am a son (daughter) of God and with Him on my side I cannot be defeated.
I repeat, I CAN NOT BE DEFEATED!"
You can win. You will win when you allow yourself to remember that you're not alone. God is with you. I am with you. Lift your head and divert your gaze from the mountain in front of you and fix your eyes on the horizon of where God is taking you. Allow God to pick you up and dust you off. Gird yourself with the armor of God and run as fast as you can back into battle with the heavenly army flanking you on every side. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
January 6th came and went without me posting the 6th memorial to my father who passed away on January 6, 2014. I have used every anniversary of his passing as a moment to not only honor him but to encourage others to think through the legacy they are leaving for their loved ones. I suppose it is fitting that this particular January 6th came and went without me posting, I was busy that day prepping and sharing at a local Christian High School for the start of their Spiritual Life Emphasis Week. Each day this week, I had the opportunity to speak to 250+ middle school and high school students about the importance of their relationship with Jesus Christ. I think that squarely falls into the category of things my father would have loved. It's my hope and prayer that for every January 6th I have left on this earth that I would find myself honoring not only my earthly father but my heavenly Father as well. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
"As I reflected on the words that I would say in this moment, my mind was filled with the memories of a father who left me no shortage of stories to tell and examples to recall and to pattern my life after. I suppose I could tell some of those stories to you this afternoon and you would walk away with a better picture of who my dad was, but ultimately, the best way to understand who someone really is, is to observe the impact that he or she made on the lives of those around them and my dad impacted the people around him.
My dad was a big believer in discipline. Growing up in my house there were no timeouts or counting to three or questions like, “Was that a wise choice?”. You knew instantly when you did something wrong because you got whipped. And if the offense occurred while dad was at work mom simply said the words, “You just wait until your father gets home”. The day before dad passed away I saw one of those little cartoon blurbs on Facebook that said, “My parents spanked me as a child and I now suffer from a psychological condition known as ‘Respect for Others”. That summed up my dad’s philosophy on parenting. But respect for others wasn’t just something that he told us about, it was something he modeled for us. Dad treated everyone with respect and love.
Although my dad was a man of few words he modeled for his sons what a husband and a father looked like. He modeled for me a life of servanthood as he pampered and catered to my mom. He demonstrated what it meant to be a patient husband. Mom seldom did the dishes, she never shoveled or scraped snow from the sidewalks or car windshields. He always volunteered to clean the bathroom, take out the trash, sweep the carpet, dust the furniture, etc. My dad took care of my mom in every way possible. It’s that example that my wife will attest that I’m still working on but I believe that if I could treat my wife with even a fraction of the respect and love that my dad treated my mom with, I would be an amazing husband.
My dad modeled for me how to be a father. The attention that he paid to us as his sons, the countless school projects that he helped us squeeze out at the last minute, the time he spent showing us how to fix everything from A to Z. He modeled what it meant to not only pay attention to his kids but really focus on them and to pass along his knowledge to us.
The way that my dad treated his mother-in-law, my grandmother, was one of extreme patience. He demonstrated not only patience, but love and respect and dignity to the mother of his wife. Over the last week since dad’s passing, grandma has said on more than one occasion, “I loved him, he loved me and we loved each other.” That certainly summed up their relationship.
I want you to understand this afternoon that my father’s legacy will live on, it will live on in my life and in the lives of my brothers and our sons and daughters. But you also have an opportunity to carry on his legacy because ultimately my dad was patterning his life after the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.
His love and patience and faithfulness that have been highlighted here today are straight out of God’s Word, Paul says in Galatians,“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” That is my father’s legacy.
During the last few moments of my dad’s earthly life as mom, my brothers and I and are wives were gathered around his bedside he modeled one final act of faithfulness for us. He demonstrated for us how we’re to finish the race. He had been motionless for an hour or so and just moments before he took his last breath he simply raised his left hand straight into the air towards Heaven, lowered it back down and then fell asleep.
Church I believe with all my heart that at that moment he was beginning to see the face of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was at that moment that he heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
As Christ followers we long to be "normal" don't we? We say differently when we're at church or gathered with our small group but our actions speak so much more loudly than our words. Deep in our hearts we long to be like everyone else and sometimes that longing rears its ugly head.
The people of Israel dealt with this same type of struggle as they attempted to figure out what it meant to be a nation of people.
1 Samuel 8:4-5 (NASB) says, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”
Can you imagine? “Hey God, listen, thanks for the food, water, deliverance, guidance, safety, provision, the free land, the repeated victories in war, etc. But listen, we were talking and we’re thinking we need someone to be our leader.” That doesn’t even make sense. I mean, what were they thinking?
You know from the outside looking in it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. They’re a nation and nations have kings right? But from the inside, if you really knew the history, it was a much different story. I don’t think that the people of Israel doubted God’s leadership and provision in their lives. They knew God had provided for them. They knew God was their king, but they longed to be “normal” according to the world around them. If every other nation around them had an earthly king, then they wanted an earthly king, not because they didn’t feel taken care of but because that was the “normal” thing to do. They wanted to look like everyone else looked.
How about us? What do we secretly long for so that those around us would consider us "normal"? A certain title? A certain degree? A certain pay scale? A certain house in a certain neighborhood? Kids that attend a certain college? A certain gift mix?
As I page through Scripture I don't see "normal" by our standards. What I see are a wide diversity of imperfect people that God chooses to use for His glory. God doesn't call us to normalcy by the world's standards, He calls us to obedience by His standards. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Actual Question: "As protestants we talk a lot about saved by grace alone but James says ‘faith without works is dead'. Of course I know the word ‘alone’ is not in the text, so what gives? (PS - I hate the ‘balance explanation)"
Possible Answer: This is a question that I've often thought about myself and in my mind it's usually phrased like this, "What's the balance between faith and works?" or as was submitted in the question above, we insert the word, "alone". As we tackle this important topic it's important to note from the start that neither Paul in his discourse on faith nor James in his dealings with works ever use the words "balance", "alone" or "only" or any other similarly exclusive term to communicate that one of these vital ingredients is sufficient without the other. It was never about one over the other or about either being in any sort of competition with the other.
Secondly, Paul and James were writing to different audiences who were dealing with different sets of struggles that they were attempting to address with different solutions. To conclude, as some do, that their prescriptions were somehow contradictory to one another is misinformed and out of context. James is writing to the "twelve tribes, who were dispersed abroad" (see James 1:1 NASB). His audience was clearly in need of some practical day to day advice on how to live in a way that brought glory to God. From the outset of his letter he repeatedly addresses practical topics like: facing trials, dealing with temptation, the famous verse of James 1:19 (NASB), "This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger...". He challenged the people to not just be hearers of the Word but doers as well, he spoke out against the dangers and power of the uncontrolled tongue and about the dangers of favoritism and the importance of treating the poor with dignity. When you zoom out and consider all that James was addressing it becomes clear that his emphasis on the importance of works was never designed to speak against the importance of faith but rather to highlight the requirement of "spiritual fruit" in the life of a true believer. He makes no assertion that works were or should ever be an avenue to redemption, but rather an overflow of the believer's redemption.
Paul in his letter to the Romans is dealing with a separate set of issues. He's writing of course to the church in Rome who were in need of a fuller understanding of the righteousness of God and the offer afforded them through the sacrifice of Jesus. J Vernon MGee in his commentary powerfully phrases it like this, "Friend, may I say to that the thief on the cross had been declared unfit to live in the Roman empire and was being executed. But the Lord Jesus said that He was going to make him fit for Heaven and told him, "...Today shalt thy be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43). God takes lost sinners - like I am, like you are - and He brings them into the family of God and makes them sons of God. And He does it because of Christ's death upon the cross - not because there is any merit in us. This is the great message of the Romans." Paul was clearly communicating the power of the Cross that was available to all who would believe and have "faith" in the sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.
Lastly, it's important to understand the relationship between James' definition of "works" and Paul's definition of "faith". Paul's definition of "faith" was an effort to strike at the very heart of the Gospel, faith in Jesus' work on the cross is paramount in our being saved from our sins. A million "works" earn us nothing towards being made right in God's sight. The only wage we earn for all of our efforts is death (Romans 6:23 (NASB). We are only saved through faith in Jesus Christ. James' definition of "works" centers around believer's becoming the modern day hands and feet of Jesus. Why are we saved? To carry the message forward to those who have not yet received this free gift.
Let's think about "faith" and "works" not as competitors but rather as different functions and stages in the same journey. We are first and foremost called to faith in Christ's work on the cross. We are then called to walk out that saving faith through our works that lift up and magnify the name of Jesus so that others might also come to faith. It's symbiosis at its' finest. You've heard of this right? It's the, "interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both." As we first enter into a saving relationship with God through "faith" in Jesus our "works" flow naturally from that genuine heart change. As our "works" increase and we witness firsthand the faithfulness of God as He gives us boldness, success and even the tough lessons in failure our "faith" in God increases. Round and round we go in an ever increasing symbiotic upward spiral towards greater intimacy with God. We are saved by our faith in Jesus and we step into the fullness of God through our works. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Nahum like all of the others that we’ve looked at was a prophet, he was handing out the message of God to the people of Ninevah, the same people group that Jonah, likely the more well-known prophet was challenging. If you fast-forward about 150 years you come upon Nahum who is giving the very same message to the people of Ninevah because they had once again gotten off track.
Here's some quick background on Ninevah. Ninevah is the capital city of Assyria. Assyria had been on a rampage for hundreds of years conquering all sorts of lands and cities. Nahum 3:8 tells us that Assyria had conquered the city of No-amon (or Thebes) all the way down in Egypt. Assyria had a wide and rather unfriendly reach.
If the book of Jonah is about God’s compassion for the people of Ninevah then the book of Nahum is about God’s vengeance towards the people of Ninevah. They had been given multiple chances to get it right but were still choosing to turn their back on God.
What’s more interesting about this whole Assyrian thing is that they weren’t just conquering these areas and collecting taxes or stealing their stuff, they were taking it a step further and were actively working to convert these areas towards their way of idol worship. The people of Ninevah were directly responsible for pulling people away from God's way of doing things. God could not allow this to continue.
I see two very important lessons for us in the account of Nahum. The first is one that we won’t fully understand in this lifetime but we need to at least begin to think about. God is loving and forgiving and God is just and vengeful. It’s the same God in Jonah who says to the people of Ninevah, "Repent, come back, turn around, stop doing that, I’m giving you another chance." That’s the same God who in the book of Nahum says to the people of Ninevah, "I won’t leave you unpunished, I will cut you off, you will be consumed, I will make an end of you, I will pour out my wrath on you."
How do we reconcile these two things? I think at least in part we reconcile these ideas by realizing that they aren’t opposite of one another. I think we’ve bought into this idea that if you love something then that automatically means you’ll never do the tough thing, the hard thing to protect it or save it. We say things like, “Well if God is love then why would he allow people to make bad choices and go to hell?” Well it’s precisely because of God’s loving nature that he allows us to make our own choice. Yes he could force us to do the right thing but that wouldn’t be very loving would it?
It’s because of God’s love for us and in this case the people of Ninevah that he allowed them to make their own choice and unfortunately, they chose to turn their backs on God. And in the end it was because of His love for the people of Judah who were being overrun by the people of Ninevah that He chose to deal justly with the people of Ninevah and to wipe them out.
I came across a commentary on www.overviewbible.com that phrased it like this, “God is safety to those who fear Him, but danger to those who disregard Him.”
Secondly, you’d have to live under a rock to not know that there is some really crazy, sinful stuff happening in our world today. It seems like those who are following Jesus are becoming fewer and fewer and it can be pretty discouraging when you start to feel like you’re in the minority.
That's likely what the people of Judah were feeling as they had spent all of these generations under oppression from the people of Ninevah. It was becoming more and more difficult for them to stay true to what they knew God was calling them to because everyone around them had thrown in the towel on this "God thing". Nahum message comes at a tough time for the people of Judah, many were perhaps wondering how much longer they could stand under such harsh circumstances without caving in to the idol worship.
No doubt each of us have felt overwhelmed by the darkness, both within ourselves and in our world. Perhaps you've found your will to do what’s right weakening as you've become discouraged with what you see in your life and in the world around you?
What Nahum reminds us of is that God’s active hand is working even in the darkest of times to bring justice and hope to the world. God hasn’t forgotten about you. God hasn’t given up on bringing restoration and justice to the world. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Let's talk about Jonah...
It wasn’t that long ago that I spent several days reading and re-reading the book of Jonah. Now, before you applaud my amazing commitment to Bible study, you should know it's only 4 chapters long. You could read it in its entirety in like 5 minutes.
So just to review Jonah is a prophet and a prophet was and is someone who receives a message from God and then delivers that message to the people and as you already know, prophets generally fall into one of two categories. Category one, "Great job everybody" and category two, "You guys are going to get wiped out if you don’t shape up." Jonah falls into category #2 in that God had instructed Jonah, as one of His prophets, to go directly to the Assyrian capital city of Ninevah to deliver a message of coming destruction if the people didn't repent and turn back to God.
On Bible Gateway Jonah 1:1-2 (NASB) says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
Now before you disconnect, take a minute to recognize how similiar you and I are to Jonah. He does what some of us might do when tasked with a significant challenge, he does what comes naturally to many throughout history, he runs. He runs as far in the opposite direction as possible. He heads to the port of Joppa, boards a ship and makes off for the city of Tarshish.
Jonah 1:3 (NASB) says, “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Some of you are familiar with the rest of this account but for those who aren’t, God comes back on to the scene and in a way that only God can He ever so gently attempts to grab Jonah’s attention.
Jonah 1:4 (NASB) says, “The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.”
Let's push pause here for a second? How many of you know that there are times in our lives when we go through storms? Nuff said, we all get it right? I bring this up because I think too often we blame God for the storms we experience in life. We say things like…
"What we forget is that sometimes the storms we experience in life are brought on us…by us."
Why did Jonah find himself in the midst of a storm? He found himself in the midst of a storm because of his disobedience to God. Sometimes we can create our own storm by our poor decisions or our poor judgement. We get impatient and we don’t want to wait on God, or we disagree with God’s calling or His answer so we take things into our own hands and then when the storms come we're looking around in disbelief that God would allow this to happen. So before we go any further I want to just pause here for a minute and ask you to evaluate the source of your storms. Following Jesus isn’t easy to begin with but we make it so much more difficult when we choose to ignore His leading.
Jonah’s account goes on in verses 5-8...Jonah 1:5-8 (NIV) says, “Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.” Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
Up to and until this point Jonah was just this faceless stowaway on the boat, the guy who quietly slipped in, slid his way to the bottom deck and found a quiet corner to hide in, suddenly he’s thrust into the spotlight. Now these sailors want answers. These are guys whose livelihood and at this point their very survival is based on the success of this voyage and here they are standing in front of Jonah demanding some answers.
Listen to Jonah’s response in verse 9 of chapter 1. Jonah 1:9 (NASB) says, He answered, “He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
We read that verse at first and we’re like, “Yeah, Jonah was a Hebrew…” What’s the big deal?" But notice what he says in the second half of that verse, he says, “…I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Let’s think about that verse again in the context of what was actually happening in Jonah’s life at that moment. Jonah makes the statement, “I worship the Lord, the God of heaven…” as he’s on a boat headed away from God’s plan for his life.
As I read that verse over and over again, I was struck by the ridiculousness of what was being stated. Jonah was "saying" that he worshipped the Lord, the God of Heaven yet he was on a ship headed away from where God was clearly calling him. How do you justify that? As I read that verse again and again I kept thinking, “Could Jonah really identify himself as someone who worshipped God and yet still completely ignore His leading?”
That’s the question I would ask us as well. “Can we really identify ourselves as those who worship God while at the same time be running away from what He’s calling us to?” Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
It's easy to get our priorities out of whack. Take a lesson from the prophet Haggai on where our focus should be. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I was reading John 13 this afternoon and was reminded of a few things. First how radical the act of Jesus washing His disciple's feet really was. He was the teacher, He was the rabbi, He was the one they were looking to as the leader, especially as they made their way into the final days of His earthly life. Perhaps at no other point in their journey with Jesus were they more in need of a demonstration of strong leadership and yet Jesus stands up with major confidence and blows their minds. He stands up and does something that none of them expected. He knelt down and began to wash their feet.
Check out John 13:3-5 (NASB) on Bible Gateway where it says, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded."
This was crazy, outrageous, and certainly unexpected. I'm reminded that following in the footsteps of Jesus doesn't always make sense to those around us. Sometimes Jesus calls us to the crazy, the outrageous and the unexpected.
Secondly, I was struck by His level of confidence in participating in such a humble act. If you read closely in verses 3-5 you can quickly locate the source of his confidence.
As a result of those facts He had no reason to fear reprisal, condemnation or worry about how He would be perceived by those around Him. Because He was confident in His position He could respond with obedience to the crazy, outrageous and unexpected leading of His heavenly Father. What a model for you and I as well. I ask myself these questions and invite you to join with me in some heart-felt reflection.
Do I respond affirmatively to the seemingly crazy, outrageous and unexpected leadings of my heavenly Father? Do I move with confidence or fear? Am I sure of where I came from and where I am going? Do I believe in my heart that God had given all things to me and that I can find wholeness and completion in Him alone?
Tough but needed questions. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
My car has a slight power steering fluid leak...perhaps the argument could be made that it's greater than a slight leak since I have to add fluid everyday but I've heard it both ways. There's never a question as to when I'm running low because my car offers me the telltale signs that it needs more power steering fluid: the long and incessant whine as the steering wheel reacts to even the slightest nudge and then the tightening of the wheel itself as the fluid level drops even more making it nearly impossible to navigate the car in the desired direction. Too little power steering fluid over an extended period of time can result in much bigger problems. I grabbed this from the website https://carfromjapan.com and it perfectly describes this idea.
"If you drive your car without this liquid, you can definitely steer it but a lot of force will be needed. In other words, the car’s wheels can still be turned, thanks to direct mechanical linkage still exits, but the feel of steering will be much heavier. You might have to put a great torque to the power steering wheel and can sense extra resistance in your hands. Moreover, lacking of this fluid also causes irretrievable harm to the steering pump. You can notice a strange voice coming out the pump. As a result, repairing the pump would be pricey."
The other night as was headed home from my son's soccer game I stopped to grab a quick bite to eat and noticed that my car was offering its usually signals of needing more fluid. I pulled through the drive-thru, grabbed my food and then pulled off to the corner of the parking lot to give myself the needed refill. As I pulled my quart of power steering fluid from the trunk and popped my hood I was suddenly reminded of a lesson that I can easily forget: I desperately need to ensure that I am refilling myself with what's needed to live effectively and efficiently.
As I refilled my power steering fluid in that parking lot I thought about my time in God's Word. Am I spending the needed time with God to ensure that I am certain of which way to go? I thought about how much time I spend in prayer talking to God and more importantly really listening to God. Am I spending adequate time in prayer to ensure that I know when I need to make a course correction? Not unlike my whiny and difficult to steer car when it's low on power steering fluid, I too can become whiny and difficult to steer when I become low on these important ingredients.
Perhaps today we could pause and evaluate how we're doing in these areas? It's not difficult to figure out the answer to this question, just ask the people around you if you're whiny and difficult to steer? If the answer is "yes" then pull over to the side of the road and check your levels. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is recorded in Matthew, Mark and John's accounts of Jesus' time on earth. It contains one of the most unbelievable events recorded in all of Scripture. In Matthew 14 following the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people with a few loaves and fishes, Jesus puts His closest disciples into a small boat while He stays behind to dismiss the masses. As the disciples set out onto the Sea of Galilee Jesus slips away into the foothills to pray.
Check out Matthew 14:22-27 (NASB) on Bible Gateway, "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
What felt like distance between the storm the disciples were in and the relative safety of the shore where Jesus was praying was in reality nothing to the Son of God. Yes the disciples felt alone. No Jesus wasn't visible to their naked eye. Yes their situation seemed grim and hopeless but THEY WERE NOT ALONE. At the very moment they began to believe that all hope was lost, something caught their eye. Something that defied explanation. Something that should not have been happening.
Suddenly they realized THEY WERE NOT ALONE.
Admittedly they had it all wrong and thought Jesus was a ghost but either way, they now realized, THEY WERE NOT ALONE.
No surprise here but sometimes life is "contrary". If you've lived any life at all then you've experienced some tough wind and waves. If you've got a job, you've been there. If you've got a spouse, you've been there. If you've got kids, you've for sure been there. Sometimes life is tough. We struggle against the "wind and waves" of life and can sometimes feel like we're not making much progress. We scratch our heads wondering why Jesus sent us out into this violent sea all alone. Here's the thing: YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Even when you're struggling mightily with the oars of your life's boat and the wind is blowing harder than it's ever blown before and the waves are pounding against and breeching over the bow of your boat, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If that's where you find yourself today, take a minute to close your eyes and listen to Jesus shout those words over the roar of the wind and the waves, "TAKE COURAGE, IT IS I; DO NOT BE AFRAID."
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.