Archive for May, 2010

25
May
10

who cares?

There’s a story in the Bible that tells us about a time when Jesus was with his disciples in a boat in the middle of a pretty bad storm. We know it was a bad storm because the disciples, a number of whom were seasoned fisherman and, undoubtably, had rode out many bad storms in their lives, were so afraid they thought they were going to die. I don’t know if you have ever been in a storm like that but, I’m sure it can be a very frightening experience. I have been caught in squalls on the ocean that have caused me concern, but never one so violent that I gave up hope that I was going to make it out. These veteran fishermen had come to the point of total despair. Then they noticed something odd. Jesus was not panicking with them. In fact, he was in the back of the boat asleep! The Scripture says when the disciples discovered Jesus asleep one of them woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38 NIV)

Have you ever felt like that? Your life was being totally turned upside down and it seemed like God was a million miles away? Adverse circumstances were overwhelming you like waves crashing onto the beach and, for all intents and purposes, it seemed like God was somewhere taking a nap completely oblivious to what was going on?

We’ve all been there and in our limited, finite understanding, we forgot one important detail – God does care. Scripture doesn’t tell us which disciple it was that woke Jesus up, but my suspicion is it was Peter. It seems Peter was always the first one to speak, often without thinking. That’s why I think it is significant that it was Peter who later wrote, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT) Peter goes on to encourage us, “So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good.” (1 Peter 5:10 The Message)

18
May
10

testing & trials

Have you ever come to a point in your life where you had to stand by your beliefs in spite of the fact that it didn’t look like there was any possible good outcome? That is a tough place to come to. It is a place where everything you have ever believed to be true is tested. It is a place where the temptation to give up and give in can be overwhelming. It is also a place where our character is defined and our faith is perfected.

Peter describes it this way: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6, 7).

In our world of modern convenience and unprecedented luxury (I know we question that concept sometimes, but think about the circumstances so much of the rest of the world deals with), any kind of adversity that lasts more than a day or causes us to change our plans more than a little bit has the potential to cause us untold heartache and despair. The reason for this is that we have been convinced by advertisers and the success we have enjoyed that we deserve the best of everything and, if we will apply ourselves, we can have it. But as Peter points out, God is more interested in perfecting our character and increasing our faith than he is increasing our possessions or leisure.

We like that in concept but, when it comes to actually having to do without something or, worse yet, lose something we have come to value, we become overwhelmed with a sense of grief and embarrassment because we feel we are the only ones suffering in this manner. All of a sudden we feel like kids in the school yard again trying to keep up our image hoping no one will see through the charade we are trying to pull off. However, as Paul promised in Philippians 1:6, God has begun a good work in us and he is going to bring that work to completion. What is the work he is doing? Making us more like Jesus.

11
May
10

spring time

Since moving to Michigan I have learned to really appreciate spring. In South Florida it was just another three months on the calendar leading up to the dog days of summer. But here in Michigan it is a time of excitement and creativity. This is going to sound a little corny, but it is a time of rebirth when everything is fresh and new with endless possibilities.

For me, there is no place this is demonstrated more emphatically than in yard work. Yard work is not one of my favorite activities but I don’t mind it because it causes me to slow down and reflect. It provides me with a sense of accomplishment as well.

As I was working in the backyard recently I noticed the new shoots on one of the trees. They were tender and delicate but were very much a reminder to me of the endless possibilities provided by a new season; a new springtime. The fact is, all around those new shoots were the signs of other new seasons. Some of those seasons ended very successfully. The new shoots grew to become branches that reached toward the sky. They provide shelter for the birds, support for bird feeders and wind chimes and, most importantly, shade for my hammock!

However, there were signs of not so successful seasons as well. They were the stumps and knots produced by adversity and pruning, the result of a new beginning that took a wrong turn or just started in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All of this is, of course, a reminder to us of the new seasons of our lives and ministries. Some of them have been great seasons of productivity and fruitfulness. Others… well, let’s just say, not so much!

The challenge is to continue to cultivate the tender branches that God produces in our lives. We must nurture them, sustain them, and, yes, even at times allow God to prune them for maximum fruitfulness. We must never grow hard or jaded but always remember that God, according to scripture, is a God of “new things”.

04
May
10

please help lord!

The recent headlines out of Tennessee reminded me of a story I once heard.

It seems there was a flood in a little town and all the residents were being rescued from their homes. A rescue team came by one particular house wheres a man was sitting on the porch as the flood waters were rising all around him. The rescue boat pulled up to the porch and one of the rescuers told the man to get in the boat and they would take him to safety. He told them, “No thanks. I prayed and asked God to help me.” Sometime later the water had risen significantly and now the man was standing looking out an upstairs window when a larger rescue boat came by. The rescuers again called out to the man and told him to get in the boat and they would take him to safety. Again the stranded homeowner responded, “No thanks. I prayed and asked God to help me.” A few hours later the water had risen to the level that it was about to sweep the house away. The man had climbed out onto the roof to escape the rising water. A helicopter flew over and spotted the man sitting on his roof. The rescuers told him they would drop a basket down to him so they could lift him off the roof and take him to safety. Once again the man said, “No thanks. I prayed and asked God to help me.”

Not too long after the house was indeed swept away and the man tragically perished. He arrived in Heaven and immediately went to talk to God. “Lord, I’m really upset. I was counting on you to rescue me!” God responded, “What more did you want? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

I know you saw that one coming, but how often have you and I been guilty of the same thing? We identify a problem area in our life and then we pray for wisdom to deal with the situation. God speaks to us through his word, godly counsel and the wisdom of his Spirit, and we ignore it because it’s not the plan we had come up with. So, we suffer the consequences of our unwillingness to obey, and then get upset with God, the church and/or Christian leaders, rather than accepting God’s direction and provision for our lives.