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Why Are You Afraid?

April 27th, 2016

You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Matthew 8:26 NIV.

Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “why are you afraid?”

Life is full of questions. And questions without acceptable answers are discomfiting. However, questions can be beneficial, prompting a sincere search for truth and knowledge. Sometimes, finding the right answer depends on asking the right question. As Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, the disciples became frightened by a threatening storm. In fear for their lives, they awakened Jesus and He asked His disciples, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Read Matthew 8:23-27 NIV. Without understanding a question correctly, you can’t answer the question accurately.

As I read those verses, my thoughts were captured by the simplicity and specificity of Jesus’ question. Had He asked them of “what” they were afraid, their answer would have been obvious. The suddenness of the storm, the strength of the winds, the severity of the waves, and the uncertainty of their safety were legitimate cause for alarm. But Jesus asked them “why” they were afraid. They knew what they feared; they did not know why they feared. The disciples had no answer and seemed even more puzzled by Jesus’ subsequent rebuke of the winds and waves, and the immediate, resulting calm. Fear is a wasted emotion.

Rather than ask the obvious and very real origin of their fear, Jesus questioned them about the underlying reason for their fear. They were alarmed by the elements that produced their fear – the storm with its dangerous winds, threatening waves, and imminent danger. Much like you and me, the disciples were caught in circumstances they did not create amid consequences they could not control, and they panicked. Faith or fear? Fear reigns wherever faith is lacking. Fear is a wasted emotion. It changes nothing for the better. See 1 John 4:15-19 NKJV. Fear erodes faith; faith banishes fear.

On this occasion, Jesus accurately defined the disciples as having, “little faith.” Exposing their fear, Jesus addressed their insufficient faith. God does not demand more faith than you have but life will compel all the faith you have.  Disproportionate fear diminishes faith in God’s character and promises; where there is substantial, steadfast faith in God’s care and sufficiency, fears are subdued. Maybe there is a situation in your life right now that engenders difficult questions, troubling thoughts, or fearful emotions. Why are you so afraid? There are more than enough moments when life is confusing, even frightening. Be practical. Refuse your fears. Read Luke 12:22-32 NIV. Declare your faith. “If you have faith as [the smallest of seeds] . . nothing shall be impossible for you.” See Matthew 17:20-21 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to embrace faith tenaciously and lay aside all fear willingly.

Christian Communications 2016

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EDL Backhuysen,_Ludolf_-_Sea_of_Galilee_-_1695 (3) cropped

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Storms

May 15th, 2015

“Who is this Man that even the winds and waves obey Him?” Mark 4:41 NLT.

Life requires that you learn to safely navigate any storms.

My thoughts and comments today are about “storms.”

Life requires that you learn to safely navigate the storms you cannot avoid. On a vacation cruise with friends, Gayle and I experienced a violent storm at sea, a major hurricane off the Pacific coast of Mexico. To avoid the storm, the Captain turned from the coastline out to sea, intending to sail safely to our next port in calmer waters.

Then it happened. The hurricane had bounced off shore right into the path of our ship. There were high winds, extremely rough seas, and frightened passengers, even a few wearing their orange life vests, just in case. For a prolonged 36 hours, what the Captain had attempted to avoid, he now had to confront. Life happens like that sometimes. Some unwanted circumstances have to be confronted.

For practical reasons, I was cautiously optimistic. I believed the Captain and crew were experienced and prepared to navigate the storm. Also, I reasoned that a ship is built for success in its element, to sail safely in good and bad weather equally. Its element was the sea, not designed to be moored safely in port. And, I knew this storm was a temporary aberration of weather not a permanent condition. Convictions of truth will comfort and encourage you.

Life can be turbulent, personally and professionally. In such times, assumptions are shaken and uncertainty abounds. Days grow uncomfortable and tomorrows feel tentative. Those proclaiming “doom and gloom,” as well as those with wishful, but empty reassurances seem to drown any voice of reason and balance. Life is a storm through which you must navigate, neither a brief inconvenience nor the end of the world.

As a ship is designed and constructed to withstand stormy weather as well as gentle winds and calm seas, your faith is made for stormy weather. The disciples found themselves in a raging storm that left them fearing for their safety. “Jesus rebuked the wind and the water. Suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm. Filled with awe, they said, ‘Who is this man that even the wind and waves obey Him?’” Read Mark 4:35-41 NLT. Real faith is made for times when sickness intrudes, when resources are scarce, when relationships are strained, when questions exceed answers, or when others despair. In every storm, Jesus is with you.

Similarly, Jesus warned Simon Peter of personal storms ahead, but also assured him, “I have prayed for you that your faith fail not.” Luke 22:31-32 NIV. Jesus is praying for you; you should be praying too. Prayer makes a difference in your faith, “an anchor for the soul.” Hebrews 6:17-20. It’s always time to seek God; it’s time to have faith; it’s time to trust and believe. Your faith will “weather every storm” when you pray, know and trust God’s Word, and listen for God in your heart.

Today, I pray for you to live courageously and confidently through any storm.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bizarre Behavior

July 26th, 2013

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped Him.”  Mark 5:6 NKJV

Regret apart from repentance and restoration will never bring you freedom.

My thoughts and comments today are about “bizarre behavior.”

People are capable of bad behavior, regardless of nationality, gender, geography, education, financial, or social standing. Common sense does not come automatically with any of those. People do unexplainable things, though it makes no sense to behave in destructive ways, typically hurtful to others and predictably harmful to one’s self. Some people do that all too frequently, usually unexplainable even to themselves. Everyone has had an occasion when you ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” Probably, your baffled explanation was, “I wasn’t thinking!”

Any person is capable of conduct embarrassing to themselves and bewildering to those who know them. Bizarre behavior is not as spontaneous and inexplicable as you might first think. Such behavior exposes an inner life lacking good judgment and little thought of consequence. The consequence is normally worse than previously considered. What begins as private thought can soon become public conduct. The bad news is that there is much damage that is irreparable; the good news is that all you have done is redeemable.

Mark reports Jesus’ encounter with a man whose behavior was bizarre. You will find hope in this first tragic then triumphant story of God’s grace and power. See Mark 5:1-6 NKJV. Here’s his story – the very definition of bizarre. The source of his strange behavior was spiritual. Mark’s account does not suggest that all bizarre behavior is demonic, as was true in this instance. But there is always a spiritual dynamic to wrong pursuits and passions that are controlling and eventually uncontrollable. His behavior imposed estrangement from others, worsening his isolation and despair. His actions were unconstrained, even irrepressible, in spite of his own efforts and the best attempts of others. As a result, he experienced self-disgust which produced a spiral of self-destructive behavior. (Verses 2-5).

However long he had struggled and suffered, there was some vestige of his former self that longed to be free and could recognize that Jesus alone was his solution. Whatever you have done and wherever you have strayed, come running to the Savior. “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped Him.” Verse 6. Your wise response is to allow no regret over your past or present failures keep you from Jesus. Regret apart from repentance and restoration will never bring you freedom. Paul addressed this in these words, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Read 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 NIV.

Your struggle may not be as extreme as his, but your need can be as real as his. Unbecoming behavior is not the private reserve of the worst among us. Jesus braved a violent storm at sea to meet a man with a tragic storm in his soul. To both, Jesus said, “Peace be still! . . and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:35-41. There was a happy ending for him, as there will be for you.

After his encounter with Jesus, “They came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon possessed . . sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” Mark 5:15 NKJV. Changed completely; freed absolutely; satisfied fully. See 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV/1 Peter 1:13 NIV/Colossians 3:1-3 NIV. New beginnings are available. “Great is His faithfulness; His mercies are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:23 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that your first response is always to come to Jesus.

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Betwixt and Between

May 27th, 2013

“The boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by waves.” Matthew 14:24 NKJV.

No storm, however long its duration or severity, can keep you from God’s reach.

My thoughts and comments today are about “betwixt and between.”

Every achievement requires three parts: the commencement, the challenges, and the celebration. Some people start celebrating long before they have actually done anything. The birthing of an idea is exciting and its eventual accomplishment is gratifying; the challenge is all that effort and expenditure necessitated in between. Real life is lived in the middle, mostly betwixt and between commencement and celebration. That’s why there are a disproportionate number of beginnings never fully implemented and never completely realized.

In its broader sense, prosperity is reserved for those who successfully navigate through and beyond the inevitable adversity. Matthew relates this incident; “Jesus made His disciples get into a boat and go before Him to the other side . . the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.” Matthew 14:22-25 NKJV.

In the middle is where a person often panics, forgetting their destination and failing to expect Jesus there. Answer a few simple questions from the Bible narrative. According to Jesus, what was the disciples’ destination – “the other side [of the lake.]” Where were the disciples right then – “in the boat in the middle of the lake” – not where they had been nor where they would be. What was the difficulty they experienced – “tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary” – not where they expected nor what they expected. What happened to change everything? “Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.”

No storm, however long its duration or severity, can keep you from Him. In the middle of your storm, you can lose sight of Jesus’ words about reaching the other side of the sea. Some years ago, my friend, Amos, challenged me with his description of people “in the middle of a miracle.” The disciples knew they were in a violent storm; they didn’t yet know they were also “in the middle of a miracle.” When you can only see the problem around you, God sees miraculous possibilities for you. Maybe you are in such a moment; be encouraged. In every difficulty, God will be with you. “In all these things we are more than conquerors though Him that loved us . .  [Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.

In my journey of faith, I have learned this Biblical truth: as Savior and Deliverer, Jesus comes to you on the very element that frightens you. In the middle, you can easily be distracted from the truth that Jesus is Lord and Master over all, at all times, in all situations – “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NIV. When Jesus is the commencement of your journey and the celebrant at journey’s end, He will be your companion all along the way. See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV/Galatians 6:9 NKJV.

As a postlude to the heroes of faith in the preceding chapter, you are included, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV. Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith persevered “in the middle.” Jesus endured the cross, despised its shame, and now celebrates your daily victories and eternal salvation.

My prayer for you this day is that you do not lose your way along the journey.

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Troubled Waters

September 12th, 2012

“Jesus made the disciples get in the boat and go . . to the other side.” Matthew 14:22 NIV.

In the midst of troubled waters, you will find God’s presence and protection there.

My thoughts and comments today are about “troubled waters.”

When things aren’t going well, it is easy to panic, afraid you must have done something wrong. And when all is comfortable, you might incorrectly assume it is because of God’s pleasure. Life is not really that simple. Smooth sailing does not mean you are in the will of God; nor do troubled waters mean you are out of the will of God. In the will of God, you may experience either at various times. Trouble is sometimes unrelated to present cause and effect.

James, the brother of Jesus, gave wise counsel when experiencing troubled waters: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! . . you will find you have become men of mature character . .” James 1:2-5 J.B.Philips. Whatever the origin of your storm, you will find God’s presence and protection in its midst. God never promised a life without pain and difficulty.

Matthew relates the most interesting story following the miraculous feeding of the thousands on Galilee’s shore. It begins simply enough, “Jesus made the disciples get in the boat and go . . to the other side.” Matthew 14:22 NIV. The problem arose midway across the lake. One of the frequent storms roared down on their small boat until these seasoned fishermen were seriously afraid. Jesus had sent them ahead of Him while He remained ashore and prayed. They were just obeying Jesus’ direct words. As human as are we, they must have assumed nothing could or should happen to them when they were “just following orders.” But storms are no respecter of persons – good or bad. I wish that were not so, but it seems to be.

Obedience doesn’t guarantee calm seas. During the darkest hour, probably at the height of their fear, “At three o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the water.” Read Matthew 14:22-34 NLT. Jesus came to them! He always will. And He came with authority over the very thing that threatened them. During the storm, they needed to remember Jesus words on the shore, they were to get in the boat and “go on ahead of Him to the other side.” The other side is your destination. In troubled waters, look for the Savior, not at the storm.

God’s will is found in obeying and trusting His words. Jesus’ intention was not a disastrous journey. His will for them was on the other side; the waters were to take them where He sent them, not to drown along the way. Let me accent my words again, “In the midst of troubled waters, you will find God’s presence and protection there.”

Fearful times neither mean you have done something wrong nor that you are in the wrong place. It just means you are not yet safely where God is bringing you. On the other side, good things are waiting. Read Matthew 14:32-36 NIV. With Jesus alongside, the seas are calmed; a new and greater revelation of Jesus’ person and power is revealed; you are brought where amazing things happen in others’ lives and your own.

My prayer for you today is that you will look for God in even the darkest times.

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