Christianity 201

August 30, 2011

The Storm Has Passed

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I borrow many times from Daily Encouragement, but there’s no denying the timeliness of what they wrote on Monday in light of current events.  But that’s not the only reason this is here. This morning I asked my self what I would want to read today, and what I would want to give my readers, and instantly this theme came to mind: God’s peace. When I clicked on Stephen and Brooksyne’s reading, that was the theme!

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39 NKJV). “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV).

As most of you know, due to the intense media coverage of Hurricane Irene, we had a severe storm come through our area this weekend.  We were to the west of the hurricane’s main path up the east coast but still had a lot of rain and high winds. Some of our friends had power outages but the damage in our area is minimal and few lives were lost due to the many warnings we received…

…But early Monday morning as we prepare this message the sky is bright blue, the winds are completely stilled, the school buses are loaded with students and drivers are heading to work. The storm has passed! For our devotional message today let us consider a famous storm in the Bible.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all recount the story of Jesus climbing into a boat with His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee. It’s 700 feet below sea level and its deepest point descends 150 feet. The sea is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, surrounded by hills. Jesus had called four of His disciples into ministry from this very sea.

The winds blowing across the land intensify in close proximity to the sea, often causing violent and abrupt storms. Several of the disciples were seasoned fishermen who had spent their lives on this lake. They’d undoubtedly survived many storms, but in today’s Scripture account a severe squall released its windy furor which caused the still waters to erupt thrusting powerful waves of sea water above the boat.

Can you just imagine the scene; the men running about the boat to find watertight containers to bale out the water as it swirled about their feet and was rising. They surely panicked and feared for their lives. All except One; the Son of Man who, of all things, was sleeping soundly on a cushion in the stern!

Nerves completely shattered by now, the disciples awakened Jesus and asked passionately, “Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38b). Jesus responded to the disciples with a reprimand for their lack of faith, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26). He then got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, “Peace!  Be still!” and the winds and waves obeyed their Creator.

The disciples, still shaken, after their death defying ordeal, now witnessed the instant calming of the horrific storm once Jesus commanded the elements to be still. Consider the roller coaster ride their emotions took as the sudden storm broke loose, the waters rose, and then the miracle that followed.  Their emotions went from concern to worry, then fear, then terror, then disbelief, tremendous relief, and finally amazement. Stunned by what they had seen, they surely shook their heads in astonishment as they began to ask each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him” (Mark 4:41).

When our hearts become troubled they’re much like the storm tossed sea. It causes unrest within our soul and our passions become unruly. Fear and anxiety are inevitable as the deadly water of doubt, unbelief, rebellion and other harmful attitudes rise up within us thereby drowning our faith in God.

Challenges, trials, and tragedies will always exist. But God has promised that His peace is available to all who seek Him – He offers a peace that transcends human understanding or human intervention. This peace will guard our hearts from anxiety, fear, terror, and strife. “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4,5).

Jesus looks on but eagerly awaits our beckoning call. He comes into our lives upon our invitation as we ask Him to save us.  He says, “Peace!  Be still!” to the conflict, doubts, fightings, and fears that grip our hearts.  We no longer strive to save ourselves, but we ask Jesus to save us.  Fear is overcome by faith when we ask Jesus to be our Savior, to guide us over the troubled sea of life.

Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for the powerful God that You are.  Even the winds and waves recognize You as Creator and obey Your voice.  Your Word is a lighthouse that directs us safely toward heaven when the furious waves swirl about us and the water rises up to our necks.  Keep us firmly anchored in Your ways so that we stay above the waters and endure to the very end. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

September 19, 2010

Deserts in the Streams

Today’s devotional is from a Canadian pastor, artist, and blogger I’ve referred to many times at Thinking Out Loud.   Enjoy this item from David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor…

I was talking with a good friend of mine yesterday. She was outside reading ‘Streams’, a devotional book that she loves. She was feeling very much at peace and content. She felt the Presence. She was happy.

Today she got some disturbing news and it totally upset her. We were talking about it. I said, “Unfortunately, the other half of ‘Streams is In The Desert’.

Easy to say. Harder to do. Maybe even impossible. It’s easy when you are in the middle of a stream to enjoy the stream’s benefits. But what about when you are in the middle of severe or chronic illness, in the middle of relational breakdown, in the middle of financial disaster, in the middle of misery, in the middle of the desert? Then what?

Remember. Remember what you read. (Hopefully, when you were reading and were struck by the truth of it, you didn’t just let it trickle over the surface of your mind. Hopefully you let it sink in and actually transform the way you think.) Remember how it informed your mind. Remember how you wished you’d known this during previous desert experiences. Remember how true it seemed to you then, and that you told yourself you would remember this truth even when the circumstances of life contradict it.

Reflect. Don’t just remember it. Now reflect upon the truth you acquired while in the stream. Once when I was extremely thirsty and finally found some water, I found the first mouthful and swallow of water uncomfortable and difficult. Same with the truth in the middle of extreme hardship. Sometimes it is uncomfortable and difficult to take. But knowing that you need it, receive it. Let the truth now nourish you. Meditate upon it and contemplate it in all its complexity. Trust that it is just as true now even when life seems to deny it.

Refresh. As you remember and reflect upon this truth, it will become more palpable to you. In fact, just as water tastes so much sweeter when it is sparse, so the truth just might have more of an impact upon your mind. I have experienced this first hand: the truth that transformed my mind yesterday in the midst of ease became even more true today in the midst of suffering. Truth has a way of shedding light on everything. Even the roots.

Truth is like a stream in the desert. Drink it in while you can. Let it sustain you even into the deepest parts of the desert. Carry it like a bottomless canteen, so that when times are more than difficult, you can find the refreshment it provides.

-David Hayward

Finding a picture to go with a post like this can be a challenge, but this time I had 18 to choose from; check out 18 Most Incredible Desert Oases.

And don’t forget to bookmark David at Naked Pastor.

August 26, 2010

Consider Your Ways

Anyone who can’t find Christian devotional content on the internet just isn’t looking hard enough.  Today we introduce Fresh Manna by Tim Burt, an associate pastor in Minnesota who has been writing devotions online since 2007.   You can also read today’s devotional here.


“Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.” (Haggai 1:5)

I woke up this morning thinking about people that enter into sudden crisis and how it affects their spiritual walk. The man that suddenly has his wife utter those words that grip his heart, “I’m leaving you – I just can’t do this anymore.” The person who has just had his boss tell him or her “I am so sorry but the company has to lay off fifty people and I have to let you go.” The person that is sitting with their doctor to find out what those unusual symptoms have been about and he says, “I am sorry to tell you this but you have cancer.” The person who gets the phone call about their loved one just having a serious accident. All these horrible crisis occurrences can grip the heart and attempt to send one’s mind into a tailspin. And they are seldom over in a moment. Difficult times and seasons like this often lead to pain, confusion, condemnation, blame, and eventually backsliding from God. I believe that today, God is trying to warn some of those reading about needed changes that will help them avoid crisis and to others – a call to come back to Him from their wandering away.

When sincere Christians experience these kinds of painful, heart-gripping events, most at some point begin to process through a spiritual inventory. “What did I do to bring this on?” Even though they may have done absolutely nothing, the devil uses these occasions to take advantage of pointing out our sinful weaknesses and beats us over our head with condemnation. That is his wicked nature that will never change. He is an accuser and is called the accuser of the brethren. Rev. 12:10 “…the accuser of God’s children, who accuses them before our God day and night…” Some think the accusations they hear are from God and that He is mad at them. They don’t have the discernment to know it’s the voice of Satan. Consequently, some run from God at these times of crisis. Others get mad at God. They think God has let them down.

When people are guilty of sin and won’t own up to it and it has led to pain or crisis, they often blame God, but since they can’t see Him, they blame those that represent God. They blame their Pastor, or religion, or someone who preaches the gospel on television that they can take cheap shots at, or maybe even their Christian friends. Suddenly every Christian looks like a hypocrite because of their imperfection and Satan amplifies that. Blaming someone else feels better than looking inside through self-examination and repenting for sin.

If disobedience has led to or contributed to the crisis they are facing, the Lord’s goal is always an assurance of His love and willingness to forgive where there is repentance of sin. His goal is always reconciliation – the restoring of relationship and right behavior with Him and help and deliverance from the crisis. Examine Jesus’ walk and you will see this is true. Its’ always about Him bringing correction and instruction on how to get it right. It’s all about leading people into change – supernatural change. It’s never about beating someone up and leaving them in the dust. The devil will do that. People do that to each other, but that is not God’s character.

Crisis often drives healthy self examination. It is always the right time to examine your life. It is also always the right time to purge ungodly thoughts, attitudes, unforgiveness, immoral behavior, and anything that we would mark unpleasing to God. Crisis might drive us to our knees. But it would be better to hit our knees before crisis came. It would be better to delight ourselves in the fear of God and move as far away from ungodly attitudes and behavior out of our love for God as possible. If we did, we’d have greater confidence that God would protect us and help and deliver us when crisis rears its ugly head instead of being buried in the devil’s condemnation.

He will supernaturally strengthen us to make needed changes and that often helps us avoid the crisis’s that could derail us. That is why He calls out to us and says: “Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.” (Haggai 1:5)

In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt