Wind. Waves. A Hand Up.

How quickly our faith can go from flying at 70 miles an hour to a full stop.

All of Jesus’ disciples were in a boat sailing across the Sea of Galilee following the feeding of the 5000. It’s the middle of the night. A huge wind is pressing against the boat and buffeting it side to side.

Jesus comes to them across the lake on foot in the middle of the night.

Yes. On foot. Walking on the surface of the water.

When the disciples saw Jesus, they were frightened out of their minds. In the darkness, they didn’t even recognize it was him at first. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

But then Jesus said to them, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid!”

And hearing those powerful words of Jesus, Peter made a bold statement: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come on,” Jesus says.

And that’s how Peter finds himself walking on top of the water with Jesus.

He’s on top of the water, that is, until he isn’t: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'”

Sometimes in life we put ourselves into situations because we are excited to walk in faith, and we are confident that God will take care of us. And then something happens that frightens us out of our minds. Faith flees. Courage collapses. And we feel like we are sinking.

Fear is powerful. But do you remember what Jesus did?

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?'” (Matthew 14:31, NIV)

Be confident that when your faith flees, Jesus is also with you. He will offer you his hand. He will catch you. Jesus’ love is far more powerful than our fear.

Don’t doubt that for a minute.

Our reading for Wednesday, January 21, is Genesis 41:41 – 42:38, Matthew 14:22 – 15:9 and Psalm 12:1-8.

Header image based on "Big Waves West Wind" by Loesch, CC by 2.0

Wrestle God Down.

It’s so interesting when one Bible passage informs another. It might be two different books of the Bible, written by different authors, written hundreds of years apart even. But when you lay the two passages alongside one another, they show us exactly what God desires for us, and from us.

Today the lesson is this: Sometimes it’s just about grabbing hold and not letting go. Jacob wrestled with God, and God could not overpower him. God even wrenched Jacob’s hip out of his socket, and still Jacob wouldn’t let go.

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me'” (Genesis 32:24-26, NIV).

Wow. Really? I will not let you go unless you bless me. That’s saying something, isn’t it? This guy is Navy SEAL tough when it comes to getting God to bless him.

In Proverbs 2, Solomon writes to us. And while he uses different language, he means exactly the same thing. Grab hold, don’t let go. Don’t release him, or his wisdom, until he blesses you.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5, NIV).

God, I will wrestle you down!

Our reading for Friday, January 16, is Genesis 32:1 – 33:20, Matthew 12:22-45 and Proverbs 2:1-11.

Header image based on "Four Soldiers Make Team USA" by U.S. Army, CC by 2.0

Plenty of Fish

The truth is that a Christian should expect to be unpopular. And he should fully anticipate that he will be treated that way.

Why? Truth is, sometimes it’s us. We’re sinful, and we put our sins on display far more often than we’d like to admit it.

But sometimes it’s not us. At all. In those cases, Jesus says it’s not personal. At least, it’s not personal to you or me. It’s personal to Jesus. We will be hated because of him.

His direction to us in these situations is clear. Hang in there! Stand firm. Don’t let go of Jesus. Don’t let your faith slip away.

And don’t feel compelled to stay where you’re not liked, either. When you’re rejected in one place, Jesus says, head on to the next. After all, there are plenty of fish in the sea. As a fisher of men, don’t waste a lot of time with those who don’t care much for your message. Find a better fishing hole and go on to those who are receptive.

Pull a page from Isaac’s book, in other words. Isaac was not well liked in his day. In fact, he was so disliked that anytime he and his men dug a well, his enemies would track him down and stop up the well, filling it with dirt. Or simply steal it outright. Each time, Isaac simply retreated to a new location and dug another well.

What Isaac did in the physical realm with obtaining water, is what Jesus recommends in the spiritual realm with sharing the Water of Life.

Open up the well. Share the Water. If someone resists you, don’t get hung up quarreling. Move on. God will take care of you. And God will take care of his message.

“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another… 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:22-23a, 28-31, NIV). 

Lord, help me discern who is truly thirsty when I share your gospel. You are the Water of Life. But you have not called us to force-feed anyone. As I trust you for the growth of your kingdom, make me ready to move on to the next person you have in mind for me, even when the unpopularity of the gospel message makes me feel discouraged. Help me to understand that hatred for your message is not unusual, or restricted to me. You “called it” 2000 years ago, and told me to expect this. And you will strengthen me and protect me, because I am worth a great deal to you–worth the very life of your Son, Jesus.

Our reading for Monday, January 12, is Genesis 25:1 – 26:35, Matthew 10:1-31, and Proverbs 1:20-33.

Header image based on "Fishers" by McCaffrey, CC by 2.0

Anguish

Anguish is defined by Merriam-Webster as “extreme pain, distress or anxiety.”

You’ve been there. So have I.

We experience a loss. Maybe it’s a loved one, or a treasured possession, or a capability we once possessed. It’s painful.

We come under attack. Perhaps it’s an attack on our health by a disease or injury. Maybe it’s a personal attack by someone from whom we expect support. That’s distressing.

We face difficult challenges that lie ahead. They may seem insurmountable. Defeat looms, rather than victory. In the place of glory, shame hovers. The situation is most definitely anxiety-producing.

What’s the best way to handle anguish? I highly recommend David’s way.

He trusted God’s power to sooth his anguish. He leaned on God’s authority to address issues and provide healing, according to his will. Most of all, no matter what situation was creating his pain, distress or anxiety, David looked to God for unfailing love.

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:2-4, NIV).

Lord, you are in control of the entire universe, and you love me. Please grant me relief of my anguish, according to your will, Lord. May this pain and distress draw me closer to you. May my anxiety make me a more faithful pray-er.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, January 7, is Genesis 14:1 – 16:16, Matthew 5:43 – 6:24 and Psalm 6:1-10.

Header image based on "anguished..." by Aoyama, CC by 2.0

Life In a Bubble

Christian, did you know you live in a bubble? Well, at least according to what King David says, you do.

It’s an interesting bubble because we still sometimes feel anxiety and worry, even though the bubble shields us from harm. The bubble may even at times allow some pain in, just to remind us of what life is like without the bubble.

The promise of the bubble is great, however. Even if tens of thousands of people or problems attack us, we have no reason to fear.

The most interesting fact about the bubble is that it is not a thing. It’s not a force, either. It’s a person. And the person’s name is Jesus, the Son of God.

As you’ll see from what David says about him, he’s certainly no ordinary person. And as a result, his protection is no ordinary protection.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side” (Psalm 3:3-6, NIV).

Thank you, Jesus, for being the “bubble” around me. It’s good to know that I have a constant shield to protect me every day. I can rest easy. And wake with confidence to go about my business each day. No fear. Because I live in the bubble—and that bubble is you, Jesus!

Our reading for Saturday, January 3, 2015 is Genesis 4:17 – 6:22, Matthew 2:19 – 3:17 and Psalm 3:1-8.

Header image based on "Yume-no-Shima Tropical Greenhouse Dome" by Vellut, CC by 2.0

God’s Rapt Attention

At what point exactly is God paying closest attention to you? Does he get revved up and focused when he sees your successes? Of course!

But interestingly, the One who counts and names the stars will focus on you most when you are brokenhearted and wounded. Our very great and powerful God, who knows everything—everything!—will hone in on you when you are in the humblest and lowliest of situations.

Why? Because he wants you to be healed. And he wants you to be shielded from harm.

At times like that, we may feel like God has his back turned. But never is God more attentive to us than when we’re hurting. Because this is what God does best!

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground” (Psalm 147:3-6, NIV).

Our reading for Christmas Eve 2014 is Zephaniah 1:1 – 3:20, Psalm 147:1-6, Proverbs 30:18-19 and Revelation 14:1-20.