Christianity 201

August 4, 2017

When Worship Feels Counterintuitive

Christian author and television personality Sheila Walsh writes a weekly devotional at SheilaWalsh.com. Here’s a sample of what subscribers are getting…just click the title below to read at source and sign up.

Worship Your Way Through Your Storm

by Sheila Walsh

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” Romans 5:4-5 (NLT)

I’ll never forget the sight of my son the first time he was fully suited up for Friday night football. The shoulder pads alone made him look like someone from a Marvel comic book. His instructions to me before the game began were crystal clear,

“No matter what happens out there mom, do not come on the field!”
Seemed simple enough.

That was until Christian was tackled, legitimately, from behind and as he lay face down on the field another boy from the opposing team intentionally stomped on the back of his left knee. It took both hands on the tail of my jacket for my husband to keep me in my seat!

His injury led to knee surgery and after one more bad fall, a second surgery. At that point the surgeon told him his football days were over. Christian was disappointed but he rebounded and threw himself into many other interests.

Some disappointments are not like that though.

Some are devastating and life altering.

I think of the mom who challenged me after I’d spoken in her city.
“You said something on stage tonight that can’t be true,” she said.
“What was that?” I asked.
“You said that God is all powerful and that God is all loving.” She replied.
“I believe He is both,” I said. “Why do you question that?”
Her answer was heartbreaking.
“I’ve buried two sons so you’ll have to pick one!”
She continued, “If He was powerful enough to stop their deaths, then He can’t be loving because He didn’t.”
I held her as tears ran down her face in rivers.

That’s one of the greatest challenges to our faith. Will we still love and worship a God we don’t always understand? Will we still love Him when our marriage is not healed? Will we still worship when we didn’t get that job we so badly needed?
In moments of profound disappointment and pain the enemy loves to make us question God’s love for us.

Her husband came back but yours didn’t!
God doesn’t love you as much as he loves her!
Why bother praying, no one is listening!

In the midst of storms like these we need to remember two things:
1 — The enemy is a thief and a liar.
2 — God is for you. He promised to never leave or forsake you. He held nothing back in saving you, not even the life of His own son.

The hope that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Church in Rome is different than anything this world has to offer. This hope is not wishful thinking. On the contrary, it’s the stuff you can stake your life on!

Until we see Jesus face to face we will endure storms. Some will blow over quickly while others will seem to last longer than we can bear.

It used to be that if I were walking through a hard season I would be confident that God would get me through, and when He did, I would worship and thank Him. But what I’m learning in this season of my life is to worship Him in the middle of the storm, before there’s even a hint of dawn breaking, because He is worth it!

I want to encourage you today. If you are facing some rough seas — lift up your head, your heart, and your hands to the Lord and worship your way through the storm. He will hold you as you do.

“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.” James 1:24-25 (NLT)

REMEMBER: God is for you and He loves you.

 

March 16, 2014

Entering Into God’s Rest

A year ago we introduced you to Greg Winfield, the author and creator of FaithsMessenger.Com.  Today we pay a return visit with a piece that appeared a week ago at that site.  Click here to read at source, and then look around at other articles.

Entering into God’s rest is one of those scriptural topics that take on different meanings to different people. With me being the black and white person that I am, I take the verse that talks about entering into God’s rest literally.

Most of the time the example I use when describing the degree of rest I’m referring to is taken from Mark 4: 35-41. In this passage of scripture we find Jesus and the disciples getting into a boat and Jesus giving the command “let us go across to the other side”.

Entering into God’s rest is having more confidence in what God says than what circumstances have to say

The bible says that as they were crossing, a great storm arose to the point that the waves were breaking into the boat and filling it with water. But Jesus was in the back of the boat asleep on a cushion. In the middle of the storm, the disciples woke Him up asking Him if He cared that they were going to die.

They didn’t wake Him up to ask Him what they should do to save themselves and the boat. They didn’t wake Him up to ask Him to save them. They woke Him up only to find out if He cared that they were going to die. Their minds were made up that they were about to meet their demise based upon the storm they were facing.

Somewhere between the time Jesus said “let us go to the other side” and the point where they felt the need to wake Jesus up, the storm changed their minds and got them to move away from what Jesus said and onto thinking that they were going to die.

The story goes on the say that Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and commanded the sea to be still. The wind ceased and there was a great calm. Immediately He turned to them and asked them why they were so fearful and how it was they had no faith.

Entering into God’s Rest

The part of the story I want to focus on is the rest that Jesus was experiencing prior to being awakened by His disciples. This is the kind of rest I believe we all should be experiencing in the middle of the storms of life.

Sleep is the ultimate form of rest. When the Word of God has been issued concerning what we may be going through in life, we too can experience rest to the same degree that Jesus did in the boat that day.

What Situation or Circumstance carries more weight than God’s Word?

In the story above the disciples gave the storm more credibility than the words Jesus had spoken. They committed spiritual adultery by being enticed by what the sea and the waves had to say more so than what Jesus had to say.

On the contrary, Jesus was resting. What need was there to do anything else? His Words were more powerful than any storm. Entering into God’s rest is having more confidence in what God says than what circumstances have to say. Any circumstance that arises between the time the Word of God is received, and the fulfillment of that Word coming to pass in your life is merely an annoying inconvenience.

Entering into God’s rest is a quiet assurance that you have placed your faith in something much stronger than anything else you may be facing in life. Entering into God’s rest takes place after we have done the will of God in any given situation and are waiting to receive the promise.

When you feel overwhelmed with life, I encourage you to enter into God’s rest. Realize just how little control we have in most of the situations we face in life. Enter into God’s rest. Lift up the standard of God’s Word in your life by shouting “Peace, be still!” to the storms if your life. Then quietly find a cushion and go to sleep.

May 12, 2012

Encouragement from a Shipwreck

Today’s devotional is from the blog of a North Carolina Sunday School class of mostly young married couples, called The Purpose Class.  This blog post, about Paul and his companions being shipwrecked in Acts 27, appeared under the title, Land Hooooo.  (I hope I typed the right number of oo’s!)

Acts: 27: 32: So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let if fall away. 

Today’s devotional is about a shipwreck.  Have you felt like you have shipwrecked some aspect of your life before?  I think to some degree we all have…either by a poor choice, unfortunate circumstances, the sin of someone else, or some other reason; it’s not that difficult for us to have that “sinking feeling” in life.  But I want to encourage you today, especially if you’re going through your own personal shipwreck right now…God can make a miraculous situation out of a shipwreck.  With His help, you can survive the storm!  You can even use that storm and ensuing shipwreck as a turning point in your life to make the proclamation that God brought you through!  Picture us saying, “Yes, I went through the storm; and yes, I was shipwrecked; but in the end, by the grace of God, I’m a product of what God can do with a shipwrecked person!  Amen!  Let’s look at the story.

Today’s scripture comes to us in an extremely trying time in the lives of nearly 300 individuals; 276 to be exact, as the story points out.  The story is that of Paul, his companion prisoners, and the guards and soldiers assigned to maintain order.  Paul had been arrested and was being transported to Rome to have his appeal heard by Caesar.  They had been sailing for several days and had come to harbor in a place called Fair Havens.  And now, against Paul’s advice, the Roman centurion in charge had decided to sail on, instead of “wintering” in the port at Fair Havens…apparently it was very late in the sailing season and bad weather was common.  It’s in this setting that great turmoil strikes those on this fateful trip.  

As they left the port in Fair Havens, they were met by a gentle breeze.  It wasn’t long before this breeze became a “northeaster” that began to drive their ship uncontrollably.  The scripture says in verse 15 that they “were driven along.”  Isn’t that how a lot of our shipwrecks in life start?  At first a sin or circumstance seems like it’s a gentle breeze.  It’s inviting and seems like it’s not that big of a deal.  But soon the gentle breeze turns into a raging nor’easter and by then, it’s too late to get off the ship…we’ve already left the port. With that said, perhaps we could avoid some (not all) life shipwrecks by making God-directed decisions to begin with, especially those that are temptation-based, right?  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

As the men on this ship began to realize the dire situation they had gotten into, they began to throw things off the ship to lighten the load.  It says in verse 19 that “they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.”  It struck me when I read this that this is exactly how we usually act in our storms too.  We start to try to fix it ourselves, with “our own hands.”  And really, God wants us to turn to Him in those times.  I heard a pastor speaking about how we often feel God turns away from us when we make mistakes and says, “Well, they’ll just have to suffer, I tried to tell them;” or “You turned your back on me, so I’m going to do the same to you.”  But this is not how God seems to work.  There are many stories where Jesus goes TO the one who has sinned and has made bad choices.  He lets them know that He still loves them.  Read the story of the woman at the well in John 4: 1-26; the story of the disciple Peter’s denial of Jesus and how Jesus specifically sought him out after the resurrection.  The same could be said of Thomas after the resurrection; remember, the other disciples had faith, but Thomas “doubted.”  But Jesus came TO Thomas to show him His scars.  Jesus didn’t scorn these people, he sought them out.  So don’t let the devil trick you into thinking that God is mad at you and doesn’t want to hear from you.  No, God loves you dearly and wants a relationship with you, with all of us.

Back to the story.  Part of verse 20 says, “we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”  But it is here that I want us to take hold of a different way of looking at things.  It seems that we have a choice to make in the midst of our personal shipwrecks.  We can give up hope, start throwing things overboard, and go down with the ship; or we can be like Paul, and become an encourager.  Paul makes a proclamation (Given to him by an angel) to those onboard the ship, that “no one was going to be lost, so keep up your courage.”  That’s easy to say, but tough to do, right?  If you’re like me, it’s a whole lot easier to “take fear” vs. take courage.  I need to ask God to help me change my mindset and heart in these situations and let God take care of the situation, not me.

After 14 days they were still being driven across the sea.  In fact, they had lost all sight of the sun or stars.  It seemed as if they were at the mercy of the storm, but really God was in control.  He’s still in control today too.  It says in verse 32 that as the ship was approaching land, basically out of control, some of the sailors tried to pretend they were putting out anchors, but were actually trying to get into one of the lifeboats.  When Paul noticed this he told the centurion that “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”  So the centurion had the ropes to the lifeboat cut and the lifeboat fell away.  I think maybe that’s what we need to do, we need to quit holding on to the usual pattern of behavior when it comes to a lot of situations, especially the shipwreck situations.  The usual pattern of trying to get into our own “lifeboat” doesn’t work.  Maybe God is urging us to cut away the “lifeboats” that we are so dependent on in this world and start depending more on him.  The lifeboats of financial security, materialism, etc.  Do we depend on these things more than God?  Something to think about…

During this whole time of struggle, Paul was encouraging the men onboard to take courage.  He encouraged them to eat and reminded them again of what God had promised through the angel that had visited him earlier.  “Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head,” Paul would say.  Maybe that’s a good strategy for us in the storms too.  Go back and read God’s promises.  Proclaim those promises to those around us.  Encourage those who need encouraging.  We’re all sensitive people and we all get scared when the ship is heading towards disaster.  But think about what that situation would have been like if Paul hadn’t been onboard.  I wonder how it would have been different without his encouragement and calm direction.  I also wonder if God has placed us in certain situations so that we might be the encourager and helper. 

Finally, it says in verse 35, that “He (Paul) took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all.  Then he broke it and began to eat.  They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.”  Isn’t that a great example of how God can use a shipwreck to bring folks to him?  Paul was a “doer” of the word, not just a proclaimer or listener.  The story doesn’t say this, but I bet a lot of people on that ship came to know the Lord that day.  After it was all over, I bet they reflected on Paul’s calmness in the midst of the storm.  It’s a calmness that sounds and looks pretty familiar to another person that had been through quite a few storms himself…Jesus.  Remember the story from the gospel of Matthew?  Matthew 8: 24 says,” Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.”  He was sleeping!  When this storm came suddenly, like the storms of life tend to do, Jesus was there with the disciples and He’s with us too.  He asked the disciples that day why they were so afraid?  And then He calmed the storm.  The tough part to understand is that sometimes Jesus calms the storm and sometimes he allows us to go through the shipwreck.  But take comfort in this, either way, Jesus is there and He loves and cares for you. 

I pray that we would grow in our faith to become encouragers to those around us going through their storms and shipwrecks of this life.  They’re going to happen, we all know that…but what we need to remember is that we don’t have to “go it alone.”  How did Paul’s shipwreck turn out?  Well, they all made it safely to shore, all 276 of them.  Did they lose their ship?  Yes.  Did they lose their cargo?  Yes.  Did their faith in God grow because of the experience?  Undoubtedly, YES.  Storms aren’t pleasant, but they’re a part of life.  Through the strength, wisdom, and grace God gives us, let’s weather the storm knowing full well the final outcome.  Land Hooooooo!  We will all make it together!

Father, thank you for bringing us closer to you through the storms and shipwrecks that we go through in this life.  Lord, You know that we’re scared of the storms; help us understand that that you know what’s best for us, and that all things work together for the good of those who love you.  We do love you Lord, help us to love you more and be an encourager to those around us.  Thank you for bringing us closer to you.  Amen.

 

Memory Verse:  Psalm 42:1:  As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

September 6, 2011

God’s In Charge

Ula Gillion lives in South Africa and blogs at Jesus Carries Me.  She called this post, Smooth Sailing Results in Limited Understanding.

Suggested Reading: Matthew 8:23-27

The disciples didn’t always know exactly what Jesus’ next move was going to be or what He had planned ahead, but they followed Him nevertheless.  “He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him.” They didn’t get very far with Jesus when a sudden storm came up. These were seasoned fishermen. They were well acquainted with the weather patterns and recognized the signs of an impending storm, but this “furious” storm caught them off-guard, nonetheless. The Greek word used to describe the intensity of the storm is the word seismos, a word related to the word we use to measure the intensity of an earthquake (seismic activity). The storm was so severe that it caused a shaking similar to that of an earthquake, and in no time the waves were sweeping over the boat.

But, amazingly, throughout the shaking and the strong gale force winds and the water sweeping into the boat, “Jesus was sleeping…” I suppose it is easy to take a nap in the middle of a storm if you know you are in control of things. Jesus could sleep because He knew He was in control of the winds and waves. The problem, however, was the disciples didn’t know that He was aware of the storm. They did however believe He could do something about it and filled with fear, they decided to wake Him up. “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Although they have at this point not yet fully grasped who Jesus was, they nevertheless knew that they could call to Him for help. It does appear that they thought the storm will take Jesus by surprise. They were about to discover that not only was He fully aware of the storm, but with a simple word nature’s power will bow down to His. At that moment  they called for Him to help, I wonder what it is precisely they thought He would do about the storm. One thing is certain; they did not expect Him to settle the problem with a single word. He spoke and it grew “completely” calm. Not a little calmer or considerably calmer. It grew completely calm through a word out of our Lord’s mouth.

Evidence that they did not expect this result is in the stunned silence that followed.  Their jaws dropped to their feet and they exclaimed, “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” That is why He asked them why they had so little faith. They didn’t yet understand that this Man with them in the boat is the Lord of all the earth. They did not yet understand that He is the One through whom all things have been created and that all things will therefore obey Him. They did not yet understand that God placed all things under His feet –that with them in the boat was the One called Immanuel –God with us. God Himself was with them in that boat.

Do we really grasp the One who is with us in the boat when we go through the storms of life? Do we really understand that He only needs to speak one word and then everything will grow completely calm? Do we know that He can do with one word what we have been struggling for years to achieve? We need only to call on that name –the Name of Jesus, and all the powers of the universe will have to obey His command. He will never allow His own to be destroyed. He promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

Whatever storms we face will only be allowed to develop us and never to destroy us. Because of this storm His followers gained a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Had it not been for the storm, they may have continued for a while longer with their limited perception of Jesus. The storm revealed another aspect of His glory. The storm looked big and monstrous, but only until Jesus spoke. When He speaks our storms will appear minute in comparison to His power. Just as it happened for the disciples, our storms may give us deeper insight into the glorious power of our Lord. Without the storms, we may still continue limiting Him in our minds. Smooth sailing results in limited understanding of God, so let us praise Him in the storm!