Friday, 31 August 2012
Missing the Boat
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Let me let you in on a little secret: I am not perfect. I know – you are shocked. Of course, I have always known about my imperfections, but I wanted to make sure that you did, too. You might think because I write these articles, teach Sunday School and sing on the Praise Team that I’ve got it going on, that I have things all figured out. It’s a long hard fall from a pedestal like that, so please don’t place me or anybody else up there. I stumble and fall and fail as much as the next person. And I am probably harder on myself than anyone when it happens.
For example, last week I came across an acquaintance who was noticeably sick. I asked the obvious question, “Are you not feeling well?” He acknowledged that he had been sick but didn’t offer any information or explanation. We tried to make small talk, but for some reason there was an awkwardness between us -- perhaps because he just was ready to be left alone to rest. (And no wonder – he had two daughters who had sleepovers on the same night!) I was waiting on my daughter to collect up her things so we could leave and I heard the Holy Spirit telling me to pray for him.
James 1:22-24 (NIV)
Though I had asked the obvious question of the gentleman, I did not take the obvious action, which would have been to pray for him. I froze up, for whatever reason. I kept trying to get past it, but I couldn’t. As we were going out the door, I did finally say that I would be praying for him. That’s great, and I did and have been since then. But it wasn’t the same as praying for him then and there, on the spot. That’s what I was supposed to do, and I blew it. I knew to pray, and I knew how and what to pray. But I didn’t. I wasn’t being a very good doer of the Word. I beat myself up all the way home and I prayed and asked for forgiveness. And I prayed and asked for the man’s healing.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
Then on Sunday I was in morning service and the pastor preached a message called “Walking on the Water.” It was about getting up and doing things for God, instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else to do it. He talked about stepping out and doing the things we know we can do through Christ and that we have been called to do. He spoke about getting out of the boat, like Peter, and walking on the water in faith. Ouch – that one hit home!
So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
The key to walking on the water is to stay focused on Jesus. If we look away, then we may allow fear or doubt to distract us, and we’ll sink. We’ll freeze up. Peter was missing the boat when he started sinking. He missed its safety and security. He wanted back in that boat ASAP! He was putting his faith in the boat instead of in Jesus.
We would probably all love to stay in the boat where it is safe. But by staying in the boat, we are actually missing one – the opportunity to minister to others. We have to be doers of the Word, and not just listeners who sit back and watch the world suffer. Keep in mind that Jesus was not in the boat when He saved Peter from drowning. He was right there on the water with him. If we will just step out onto the water, He will be there with us, too. Once we learn to trust Jesus out on the water, we won’t be missing the boat at all.
Posted on 08/31/2012 9:20 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 24 August 2012
1 Kings 17:24
Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is the truth.”
After reading this passage from 1 Kings 17, I was struck by the widow’s response at the end. She basically tells Elijah, “Now I know God’s words coming out of your mouth are truth.”
This comes after God has healed her son and brought him back to life through Elijah. But it also is after he had already told her that the oil and flour would not run out until rain came again. She had seen that come to pass, and therefore knew he was of God and God was with her. So why did she doubt God’s word this time? (We don’t know what word it was she received through Elijah at this incident—unless she was referring to the oil and flour—but it’s obvious she got one and she doubted it.)
So many times people doubt God when they think they are questioning Him. Doubting and questioning are two different things. For example, Crystal and I have each been told by God that Josiah, our son, will be healed from his spina bifida condition and that God will get the glory out of it when that happens. To doubt God in this example would be to not believe He is going to heal our son. A result of doubt would be that hope would be lost and we would try to get all the doctors in the world to do something about it, instead of trusting in His timing and promise. But to question God’s promise is a little different.
We don’t question the validity of God’s promise, but we do question the timing. Every once in a while I’ll ask God when the time will be and remind Him it would be great to have it be now instead of later. I get to the point sometimes that I wonder if we are wasting time, effort, and money in getting some of the medical equipment for Josiah since God’s going to heal him. It would be great to know when that time is so we can plan accordingly in regards to all those categories. But when I ask Him that question, He reminds me “Jim, remember, I said ‘when I heal’, not ‘if I heal.’” That gives me comfort in knowing the healing will take place and in the meantime, I should continue to try to make my son’s life and activities as comfortable and accessible as possible. I’ll admit, though, when the day does come for God to tell me “Now!” I’ll be happy to relay that message on to the doctors and therapists that the assistance is no longer required. To see their faces when God finishes His work on Josiah’s healing will be awesome!
It is alright to ask God questions, but not okay to doubt Him. To doubt the Creator of the Universe is akin to calling Him a liar. If we did that, we would not have a leg to stand on in our faith in Christ. If we doubt one part of God’s Word, what part can we trust? This is an all or nothing life we need to live! Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV) says “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Bottom line? Be doubt free, but feel free to ask the Creator questions. If He’s big enough to create anything out of nothing but His Word, He’s certainly big enough to hear questions from His creation.
Jim Fershee is an Associate Pastor and Youth Minister at Spirit Life Fellowship.
Posted on 08/24/2012 6:59 AM by Jim Fershee
Friday, 17 August 2012
A Marvelous Mystery
Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV)
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved a good mystery. Cartoons and television shows that had mystery themes were my favorite as a young child. (Remember “Scooby Doo! Where Are You?”?) When I was in fourth or fifth grade, my mother took me to the library which was a few blocks from our house and I got my first library card. I can’t remember, but perhaps the librarian asked what kind of stories I liked, because I came home with several Nancy Drew books. I read them in no time and went back for more. Then I discovered the Hardy Boys and other mystery series. And so it has been my whole life. I just love a good whodunit!
A good mystery is compelling, making us care and want to get to the answers and the revelation of the truth. All throughout the book, we are given clues that will help us solve the mystery. However, we must be observant and discerning or the clues will be missed. Usually the last chapter of the book explains the “who, how, when and why” of the mystery. It is then that we realize the significance of facts we read in earlier chapters and see how the whole puzzle fits together. Throughout the New Testament, the Apostle Paul speaks about the mystery of Christ, a mystery which he says has been revealed to those of us who believe.
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
In a good mystery novel, it is not enough to know “whodunit”. Once we know who, we want to know how and more importantly why they did it. What was the motive? Jesus is a mystery to those who don’t know the how and the why. The Holy Bible tells us all we need to know. Just like those mystery novels I liked to read, the answers were in the book – but I had to read it. You may tell someone that Jesus died for their sins, but you can’t leave out the who, how and the why. Otherwise you leave them scratching their heads and wondering who is this Jesus and how did He die and why?
If you want the answers, you have to read the book! The Old Testament is a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. We see examples of Him and patterns of Him throughout its books. The prophets speak of Him and gave signs to watch for, such as where He would be born and how we would know Him. Many people read and studied the scriptures, but they missed the clues. In the New Testament, we have the revelation of the mystery. Jesus kept telling His disciples what was going to happen – that He would suffer many things, be rejected by the religious establishment, be killed and be raised to life on the third day (Luke 9:22). They didn’t understand, even after these things came to pass and they saw Him crucified. It wasn’t until Jesus’ resurrection that they finally got it, and even then He had to explain it to them. Luke 24:44-45-- “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”
When we understand and comprehend the scriptures, we begin to solve the mystery. We come to understand who Jesus is – the Son of God, born in the flesh as a man by a virgin birth, who preached the kingdom of God, healed the sick and gave His life as a sacrifice. We come to understand how He died – at the hands of the misguided religious elect and the pagan world who did not recognize the Messiah when they saw Him because they were literally clueless, not having understood the prophecies they had read. And then there is they why – the motive. He died so that we might live. He saw our sicknesses, sorrows, pain and sin and knew that it was the only way to meet the needs. Even understanding this, we still wonder why anyone, especially the Lord, would make such a sacrifice for us. But He explains it so simply in the most commonly known scripture of the New Testament. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The “why” is not about who we are, but who He is and who we become when we believe in Him. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Love is the very nature of who He is and it is why He made a way through His son, Jesus, that we may be reconciled to Him through the cleansing of our sins.
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
Another mark of a really good mystery story is that even though it answers most of the important questions, it still leaves us pondering some others. Have you read the Bible and accepted Jesus as your savior? Then you understand the mystery of Christ. But do you still have questions? I know I do, and most of them start with “why”. If we really knew everything, we wouldn’t have to keep reading and studying and praying. The answers are all in there, but we have to be observant and discerning . . . and patient. God may choose to reveal the answers to us while we are here, but we may have to wait until the great day when we go to be with Him for eternity. In a song we sing at church, called the Revelation Song, there is a line that says, “Such a Marvelous Mystery.” Jesus is a marvelous mystery, ready to reveal Himself to those who are willing to open their hearts and minds to Him.
Posted on 08/17/2012 9:47 AM by Susan Nelson