Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But 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 heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat andrwalked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
About a month ago now, during one of our classes at U.M.B.I. we talked about Matthew 14:22-33 (quoted above). Afterwards, we were encouraged to ask the Lord if there was anything we hadn’t covered in the class that He wanted to show us…and this is what I felt like He was further speaking to me…and I wanted to share it with you, in hopes that you would be encouraged in some way by it, because it was actually really helpful for me, and God kept brining many of these things back to mind over the next few weeks, and they helped me to keep my eyes fixed on the Lord (and hopefully it makes sense, because I’m simply copying from my journal, which is slightly disjointed at times):
The disciples were in the boat, in the middle of a storm which they had been battling for hours (the 4th watch of the night would have been between 3 and 6am). Had the water been calm, they might have been fast asleep (or most of them), and missed seeing Jesus walking on the water; they would have missed seeing His power displayed. But as it was, they would have been up as the wind and waves raged on the sea, and they all saw Jesus as He walked on the water toward them. They were probably pretty worn out, but it seems to me that Jesus used the storm to keep them alert so that they would see His glory, and see that He is truly Lord of all creation, and so, increase their faith and trust in Him.
In the same way, the Lord seems to use trials in our lives to keep us alert, so that we don’t become complacent or spiritually drowsy, and that He can come to us in the midst of them, in even the most impossible ways, and reveal to us His glory, and to cause us to worship Him in truth. And we cannot doubt when we see God coming towards us – the wind and the waves not even causing Him a second thought. And He walks upon them with no”safety net” to fall back on, as WE cling to the sides of our boat with white knuckles, not realizing that, if we truly trusted God, we would leave our boats, and leave there the fear of them being smashed to bits, and we would be even more safe than if we were still in a boat; if we only had the faith to walk by Jesus’ side, and not doubt that He would uphold us, and do mighty things. And we realize we have nothing at all to fear when He is near us, for the largest waves and the most blinding storms all are merely tools in His hand, with no power to crush us apart from His command…for, without a word, when all His plans for us and our growth and His glory are accomplished, the storm will cease in an instant, with no trace remaining, and the only things to remind us that it happened will be the stories of Christ’s faithfulness and grace – His coming to us in the midst of it -, and we will have Christ Himself in the boat beside us. Though in the midst of the storm Christ may seem distant or like a ghost; just an illusion, when it is over, we will find that He is closer to us than when the storm began.
I was just reading in Psalm 11:5 that, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”
Just because we are in a “storm” doesn’t mean that we’ve done something wrong, or that we should be filled with fear. On the contrary, if we are in a storm, it is likely that God is doing something wonderful. Jesus directed His disciples out to the sea before Him so He could show Himself mighty to them. If your life is going great, and you’re comfortable, with everything going your way…you may have more cause to be concerned. As Psalm 10 says, the Lord lets the wicked prosper in their earthly pursuits and earthly treasure…but the Lord chastens and tests those He loves, and refines them through the fire. If by trials and storms I may be kept alert for His service, if by them I may be kept from ever becoming complacent or inward focused or full of spiritual pride again, if by them I may be drawn nearer to Christ, then I would welcome them, and pray that He would strengthen me to remain steadfastly fixed on Him, rejoicing through whatever comes.
By His strength may we come forth as gold.
Addendum to “Through the Fire”
Last night I was able to go outside and spend a really nice bit of time with the Lord, as I gazed at the moon and enjoyed the warmth of the air. I started meditating on part of Psalm 8, which I had read in the morning, which says,
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (vs.3-4)
And I began pondering the huge expanse of the universe and how the earth itself is not even equal to a pinprick in the midst of the vastness…and then there are a couple billion people inhabiting the earth – and we are so small in comparison – and then if you single out just me, in the midst of ALL those people, on the huge earth, in the infinitely MORE huge universe…well…I began to feel kind of insignificant and small. And I asked God, “Why? Why did you create me? Why did you create humankind; such small, frail creatures inhabiting a planet in the floating in space?”
There was a short silence, and I sat there on the fence, as the soft glow of the moon silhouetted the branches around me, and an owl hooted in the distance. Then I felt like He whispered to me, “I am preparing a bride for myself, to spend eternity with me. A bride I can cherish, and who can delight in me forever.”
Then it suddenly dawned on me that, if I am truly aware of what serving God means, and what it could mean giving up….and if I am truly surrendering my desires to the Lord…then something should replace it. And that something is the Lord. And He must become my greatest love. My first love. I was created to love Him. And as I sat there cloaked in the darkness, bathed in the light of the moon, my heart was bursting with love for Him, and delight in His presence and goodness, and I just asked Him to sit down beside me, and walk with me…and I ended up spending twice as much time outside as I had intended to, just because I didn’t want to leave His side.
“I am my Beloved’s and he is mine!”
I was able to relate this sudden realization with the experience of the other day which I wrote about in my previous blog post, and that just made it all the more sweet and special. God loves me and is there right beside me every moment of every day. He cares for me even more than any earthly person ever could, and He can change me and fill me with true joy and peace and love.
When we give up one thing to the Lord, He fills that place with His Spirit, and more of Himself. It’s not a dismal thing; it doesn’t leave us with a great emptiness…because when we give something to the Lord, He can then bless us and fill that place which used to be taken over by”other things” with Himself.
The $100 Check Fallacy
I should have written this sooner – at least a week ago…but I’ve been a bit busy, so that’s the excuse I’ll stick with this time. ;o)
Anyway, a little over a week ago, I was pretty stressed about money. I know finances aren’t really one of those things you’re “supposed” to talk about, but I’m breaking the rules today. I had (and have) very little money in my bank account, and I was just hoping to make it through the month until camp starts, without having to buy anything. However, I realized towards the end of May that I needed a physical to work at camp this year…which would cost me somewhere around $30 (which, to me at this time is a sizable chunk of money). But I held my breath, and scheduled the appointment, knowing that if I went to it, I would have pretty much nothing left. However, the week of my appointment (the first week of June) I also found out, out of the blue, that I was going to need to shell out another $35 (which I didn’t have) to pay for an NRA membership, so I could teach riflery at camp (the camp paid for the course I took…but they weren’t able to cover the NRA fees too). I was about to cry – I literally didn’t have the money for everything I needed (including the gas money to get to and from the NRA course several hours away). Then God, and my mom reminded me to pray. So I did. I gave the whole situation over to God, and asked him to provide, since I had no way of making it on my own. After I prayed I felt much more at peace about it, I knew God could and would provide, and I envisioned an envelope coming in the mail with a $100 check in it for me.
Well, guess what. Friday came. My doctors appointment was scheduled at 10:10am. And I had no more money than I’d had earlier in the week. I was reading over the health form I needed the doctor to sign one more time before I left, and I noticed a short sentence. I froze. I read it again. It told me that I only needed a physical within the last 24 months – and my last one was this time last year! I shot an email off to my camp director asking her if this was true, and thankfully she was quick to reply that it was. So at like 10:00am, I was calling the doctor’s office and cancelling my physical (I was not at all sad…) – 10 minutes before my appointment. I felt silly…but so, so relieved. So there was the money I needed for the NRA membership.
I headed out to some remote location in western NY for the NRA course later that day, and for the next 20 hours or so, I was doing a lot of learning. It was actually a really fun class, and I had some interesting conversations with some of the people who were there as well (I was one of only 2 girls…out of like 20 people). Our instructor was really neat…and I think he liked us a lot. He kept saying how we were “the best class he’d ever had”. Then, when it came time to fill out the forms for our NRA memberships, he told us that he had worked out a deal with someone else to pay for our first year of membership for us, because he liked us so much. I just couldn’t stop grinning. What are the chances of that? I guess with God, anything and everything is possible. And, while I didn’t have a $100 check fall from the sky, and even though it seemed like things were getting down to the very last second of hope…God provided, in His own way and time…and just the way it all happened was so much more miraculous than I could have planned for, I couldn’t attribute it to anything other than God.
So, I write all that to say, sometimes when you pray, it may not seem like God is answering your prayers in the way you thought you needed – or maybe it seems like He doesn’t care. I think it’s especially easy to start thinking this when money is tight and there are things that need to be paid for. But God is faithful. And you might think what you need most of all is a $100 check in the mail. But God knows what you need most of all – and that’s to seek Him first and foremost, and to trust Him. And when we do that, He will provide – it just might not be in exactly the way you would have expected, or the timing. But we can trust that whatever happens will be what is best for us in the long run. You don’t need $100…and you don’t need to worry – you need to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
I’m learning. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning.
Hopefully that encouraged you in some way. )
Up In Flames
Life is strange. And, yes, that is how I’m beginning my blog post.
Last night, my dad had my family come together for a time just to re-count God’s blessings in 2009, and to go over some of our desires and dreams for 2010, so we could sorta’ all be on the same page. (Oddly enough, while we were talking, I mentioned that I didn’t have a ton of “big goals” for this year…all while the quote from Bella: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” was running through my head.)
Well, one thing I mentioned as I recounted God’s many blessings of last year, was the fact that God provided me with a very nice used car, with no rust, and not bad mileage, for a relatively low cost.
I was very excited, because this meant that I’d be able to work at the CCC Bookstore again (starting next week), and make some money, which is always useful in this world (a plan I’d made in my head). And it also afforded me some flexibility and freedom to do things that I couldn’t do without a car. Not to mention I thought it was a really cute car, compared to what I’m used to driving. There may have been a li’l pride there.
But anyway, last night, I was basically thanking God for my comfort.
This morning, I left early for church, because I was going to be overseeing the Book Table, which requires some pre-service set-up. However, the heat in my car wasn’t working, so I was freeeeeeezing for the entire drive. About 2/3 of the way to church, my “check engine soon” light came on and started flashing. I thought it was strange, but my family has a history of cars with weird quirks, so I kind of ignored it…until my cruise control turned off, and shortly thereafter I discovered that it was no longer allowing me to accelerate.
At this point I realized I should probably pull off the highway, so I did, and sat there as I texted the person in charge of Book Table duties to let them know I was broken down, and then called my dad, telling him the situation, and asking him to hurry in his preparation for church.
Then I realized that there was steam or smoke coming from under the hood. I wasn’t too worried at first, and dad thought it might have been just steam. Then it got worse, and definitely smelled awful…so, I got out of the car (grabbing my purse), and called Dad again. As I did, there were some strange popping noises coming from the car that kinda’ freaked me out.
At that point, an SUV with flashing lights stopped, and a guy got out (who I later discovered was actually an FBI agent, not a police-man, as I had first assumed), and opened my hood for me. It was then that I saw a little patch of fire near the windshield.
Neither of us had a fire extinguisher, so we went back to his car, (which he backed far away from my own…just in case) where he called 911. Before the first guys got there, there were flames shooting out of the sides of the hood and thick smoke surrounding it. The first guys on the scene only had little fire extinguishers, and they couldn’t do anything to the rapidly growing ball of fire. So we all just had to stand back and watch as the car melted, dripping molten plastic and rubber. It was a strange feeling of not being able to do a thing.
Eventually 2 fire-trucks arrived, and several minutes later, 3 more came…though they were a little late; by that time most of the flames were gone – it was just smoking a bit. By the time dad and Ben got there, this is what it looked like:
Of course I’ve been struggling with all the different challenges this presents…not to mention that it was nerve-wracking to watch your car go up in flames (I still feel a little sick every time I look at that picture).
But at the same time, I feel like I learned some things from this. It seemed like God looked at my praises of him last night, for all that he’d blessed me with last year, and decided to ask me, “Would you still be so amazed by me, so in love with me, so thankful for all I’ve done in your life if I took away some of these transient, fleeting “pleasures” that seem so important in the world’s eyes – in your eyes? What if I took away one of the very things you were so thankful for, so attached to, and so sure that I had provided for your comfort? What then?”
What do we do when our lives go up in flames? Some of you may have had more trying circumstances than just a car – perhaps something happened that threatened your life, or your ability to function correctly. What then?
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Job 1:20-22
Nothing we have on this earth is really ours…God is sovereign, and he can take away what he wants, when he wants, for our ultimate good, just as easily as he can bless us. And we can choose to let the “taking away” of our earthly treasures depress us, or cause us to doubt God, or sin…OR we can ask God for the help to bring him glory even in a situation like this (or worse), and ask for him to grow us closer to him through it. It really all depends on our perspective, and I pray that mine would be an eternal one; realizing that my ultimate satisfaction is not in this world, but in Christ. I know God’s got a plan in all this…I just pray that my attitude would reflect his perfect peace.
We never want to hold on to material things too tightly.
And I know he can bring me a new car at any time if he so desires…I still believe this car was a miracle (I wanted to name it a Spanish name for “miracle” or “God’s gift”)…which makes me even more certain that God’s behind the scenes. This may all have only been for my testing and sanctification…or there may be more, maybe that I’ll never know ’till I get to heaven. But whatever the reason, I am so thankful that I have been blessed with so much…so much love, so many awesome friendships, such a great and undeserved salvation and forgiveness, and even material things like cars when I’ve needed them.
So…2010 can only get better from here…right? haha
HOWEVER…it’s not every day your car spontaneously combusts, and you get to meet a really nice FBI agent – not to mention having a good reminder from God!!
Who’s in the Boat?
I know it has been a long time since I posted anything here. I’ve had a very event-full and rather busy summer.
However, I’d like to get back into posting now and then…and here’s an attempt:
I was reading Luke 8 yesterday, and something about the story of the storm, along with reading “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung provoked a thought in me.
To re-cap the story, Jesus directs the disciples to head across a lake, to the other side. He falls asleep in the boat, and a storm comes, threatening to take down their boat. So, the scared disciples go wake Jesus up, and he quickly causes the storm to cease…but rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.
What I got out of that passage was that, when God is directing our lives, that’s no promise that things will be easy. In fact, it may even get worse before it gets better – even when we are certain that we are walking in God’s will for our lives (or, to put it another way: when we know that Jesus is in the boat with us). However, rather than panicking or doubting him, we need to realize one big thing: NOTHING can sink us when God is with us. I can wonder what the disciples were thinking, when they became fearful. I mean, didn’t they realize that nothing was going to happen to them apart from God’s will? Goodness – they had Jesus Christ himself with them in the boat…and they thought for some reason that God was just going to let them all drown?
Yes…I can think that. But if I had been in that boat, I can almost guarantee that I would have been thinking the same thing as them, which is no great compliment to myself. And, in my life, though I might be very certain that I am in God’s will for me by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, I can still very quickly get fearful when I see the sky get dark and the waves swelling around me. In a split second I can forget that I’ve got Jesus in my boat, and start to focus on the darkness all around me, instead of enjoying the exciting ride, breathing in the cool air, sticking my face into the spray of sea mist, or curling up in the bottom of the boat, and letting it rock me to sleep, like Jesus; trusting that it will carry me to wherever the destination God has chosen is.
Sometimes people lose faith in God when things in their life get difficult, because they have the mistaken view that God must not care about them if they aren’t being pampered or seeing amazing miracles. This may be a subject for another time, but I wanted to mention it here because it goes. And it always makes me terribly sad. God never promised that there wouldn’t be storms in our lives, but he promised that he would be with us when we go through them. If you are one of those people who has been doubting God because you are choosing to look at the storm rather than the Savior, I’d ask you to examine where your focus is, and ask God to help you change it, which can be greatly helped by reading/meditating on the Bible and prayer.
It’s not about the storm. The storm may be very, VERY real. It’s about who’s with you in the boat.
Proverbs: The Fear of the Lord
As I was recently going through the book of Proverbs with some friends, I began to see a pattern of certain things. One of them was how often it was repeated that those who are wise will have the fear of the Lord.
The definitions of “the fear of the Lord” that my ESV Study Bible gives are:
“Reverence and humility before God – our maker and redeemer. Submission to the Lord. Reverent awe, and a healthy fear of God’s displeasure and discipline.”
“Any society that commonly assumes that God will not discipline sin in this life or judge it in the next will have no fear of God and will therefore give itself increasingly to evil.”
That last quote is a sobering thought…ones that make me all the more determined to fear the Lord as long as I live – and to pray for our nation, which seems to have adopted that view of God, if indeed they even believe in a God.
I had made a note of all the things that Proverbs says are effects of the fear of the Lord, which I just came across, as my Bible reading plan has me going through Proverbs again, and I thought I would share it:
The Fear of the Lord
- The beginning of knowledge. (1:7)
- Is hatred of evil. (8:13)
- The beginning of wisdom. [and insight] (9:10)
- Prolongs life. (10:27)
- Gives strong confidence. (14:26)
- Is a fountain of life. (14:27)
- Is instruction in wisdom. (15:33)
- Strength to turn away from evil. (16:6)
- Leads to life and satisfies. (19:23)
- It’s reward is riches and honor and life. (22:4)
Wow…all that is promised to us when we have a genuine fear of the Lord. They are all tools that equip us to fight the good fight of faith with strength and perseverance…and to win the battles against darkness, instead of being overwhelmed by them again and again.
So then, let us kneel before the Lord, our maker, and let ourselves be completely overwhelmed by his awesome power, his holy justice, and his amazing grace once again.