Weathering The Storm

Recently as I was sitting in my favorite chair reading a book my eyes were drawn to the quickly shifting clouds that passed by the large windows in my living room. Within a few minutes the bright light of the sun disappeared and was overtaken by a heavy gray cloud. Then came the storm! First, rain began to shower down like I have never seen it before. Moments later small pellets of ice followed and bounced off the metal railing making a loud machine-gun like sound. As the wind picked up momentum the giant fir trees began to sway as their deep roots held fast deep within the earth. A single clap of thunder followed by a streak of light passed over the horizon which signaled the procession of sleet then snow. Then, in the same way the storm so quickly darkened the day the sun came back to reclaim its rightful place. 

As I thought about the force of the wind and the incredible speed at which the storm came and went my mind wondered what it would have been like for the disciples as they experienced a similar storm on the sea of Galilee.

Matthew chapter 8 holds the account of the storm in which the disciples (some of whom were veteran fisherman) felt their very lives were threatened. They had just witnessed the incredible power of Jesus through the healing of a man with leprosy and Peter’s mother-in-law and other miracles. Tired and ready for a rest, Jesus and the disciples boarded a boat to sail across to the other side of the lake. Little did they know the next part of their journey would draw them into an epic storm that made them fear for their lives as they endured the wind and raging waters. 

Matthew’s account of this hair-raising experience through the storm is a testimony to the incredible power and sovereignty of Jesus as God. Verse 27 of chapter 8 describe the moment following Jesus’ rebuke (calming) of the storm, it says, “The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”” Matthew and the other gospel writers tell us that Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat as the stormy weather tossed them about; when I read this, I see a soul and mind warming picture of peace in the midst of the storm. Jesus, the author and creator of the earth we walk on and breath of life we live with is the anchor of peace that grounds us in a storm. 

In those moments while I was watching the storm from the comfort of my chair it reminded me of Gods incredible power, authority and control over all things in life, especially in the storms. The “storms of life”, the trials we experience can come as swiftly as the ones mentioned here. The outcome or weathering of the storm can be hard to navigate on our own; when we have the assurance of Christ as our anchor, we can be strong and courageous. In the storm we may be frightened or dismayed but often those feelings draw us closer to Jesus, we grow deeper into our relationship with him, and he uses those moments to know and trust him more. As believers Jesus is always in the boat with us, in full control as we live through the storms of life. He is our comfort and peace, what a beautiful promise for all of us.   

Isaiah 41:10 reads, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Go in peace today as you seek God in the storms of life and give thanks for his provision in the times of calm. 

Building Your Own Jesus.

Recently a good friend of mine shared an illustration during a Sunday sermon that stirred up some creative juices that inspired me to start writing in my blog again. While this mouthwatering illustration has been simmering in my mind for the past couple of days, I just had to share it with you.

Burger King introduced the world to the Whopper in 1957 along with a revolutionary concept that changed the way we order fast food. For the first time you could customize your burger to fit your personal taste. Don’t like pickles, no problem, like a little extra ketchup or mustard, of course. Aptly named, the whopper was a big hit, especially because it outsized any of the competitors burgers and you could order it just the way you wanted. Burger Kings mantra continues to ring out as, “have it your way”. 

Today this might not seem like a big deal as we tend to customize everything, burgers, pizzas, computers, cars, ringtones, music playlists, water bottles, watch bands and so much more. Over the passage of time our mantra has become “have it our way” While I am sure you can come up with a long list of things that you can customize, have you ever considered how this tendency to tailor things to our own taste/needs may intersect with our relationship with Jesus? 

Admittedly, like my friend, I have over time “customized” my relationship with Jesus to suit my own needs or wants. I have ordered off the “menu” choosing what I need or want and leaving out the rest of who he is. As we all face a multitude of different circumstances in life we sometimes slip into a false sense of who Jesus is thinking we can “have him our way”. 

Sometimes in life we choose to create a Jesus that works for us. We like the idea that Jesus loves us and watches out for us, that he leads, guides and protects us. And then on the flip side there are things we don’t like. It might be something he taught that stands in the face of a lifestyle choice we are living comfortably in or something that we want to do. We want to live life our way and fit Jesus into that life. As we check out the menu and build our own Jesus, we might like my friend order the following:

“A super-sized Jesus with extra grace, double forgiveness, hold the truth, with an order of don’t make me feel bad about anything that I want to do on the side.”

Throughout the ages individuals and groups of people have viewed Jesus through their particular lenses, building a version of him for themselves. Even his closest followers, the twelve disciples, didn’t fully understand who he was. The truth of God’s word holds the keys to truly knowing who Jesus is. The grand narrative of scripture reveals to us bit by bit the incredible truth of hope we can have in Jesus as we draw closer to him. 

When the disciples asked Jesus about which is the greatest commandment he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” When we invite Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we must commit to the “full meal deal”, every aspect of our heart, soul and mind must be given over to him. It’s not “have it your way”, “have it our way” or “have him our way”. In life and in death, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that we must follow. 

To listen to message that inspired this blog entry click here

Hang On…

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he mentioned that he was contemplating the possibilities of jumping head first off a perfectly safe solid steel bridge 150 feet down towards a glacier fed icy cold river while attached to a massive elastic rope.  Consider for a moment the faith and trust that you have to have in the one thing separating you from life and death… an elastic rope.

John, in chapter 15 of his gospel records the words of Jesus as he and his disciples begin their journey from the upper room where they shared their last meal together to the garden of Gethsemane. Along the way Jesus uses an illustration of the vine and the branches to describe their relationship with him and his father. He is the vine, we are the branches and his Father is the gardener. This illustration or allegory has some incredibly deep and profound truths that give us a glimpse into the Christian life. God, our father in heaven through his Son Jesus Christ plays an active role in our lives; “pruning” or acting on our behalf to lead and guide us through life so that we can continue to be used as his disciples to effectively carry on his mission to bring the good news of salvation to others.

Our world has many different “vines” to hold onto in life. Some hold onto the “vines” of selfishness, wealth, pride, stubbornness or false gods; and while the vine may continue to grow its roots have not been set firmly into the garden that our heavenly father first planted. Jesus tells us that he is the “true vine”, he is stronger than the “elastic rope”. He is our life-line that continues to give us strength today and until that day when he returns to be with us in eternity. Being attached to the true vine (through a personal relationship with Jesus) is to be under the care and love of the master gardener of life, God. Will you take a leap of faith and be one of the many who have put their hope and trust in the strength and power of the one true vine, Jesus Christ? It is not one that you will ever regret.

Do you Believe This?

IMG_0523Our culture today is fascinated by the unbelievable and the virtually impossible. For example, Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from Public Libraries. Robert L. Ripley (Ripley’s Believe it or Not), a cartoonist, explorer, reporter, adventurer, and collector, traveled to 201 countries in 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, and the unexplained.  

Scripture makes some pretty incredible claims, some of which reach beyond the scope of our finite human minds. Jesus made a claim that no other being on earth could ever make, He said, “I am the resurrection and the life”. (John 11:25) This incredible statement is foundational to the faith that hundreds of millions of people like you and I have put our hope and trust in; centuries of time have passed before us having been shaped and influenced by this statement. Jesus makes the declaration that he is the source and the power that will bring all those who believe in Him into everlasting life in the presence of his father.

Consider for a moment the person that Jesus speaks these incredible words to; Martha of Bethany, sister to Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. Martha is not new to the life and work of Jesus, she has seen and experienced the life transforming power of Messiah. This is an incredible reminder to those who live to bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus to remain confident in His power to overcome sin and death. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” What is your answer? Can you and will you stand faithful in front of the supreme judge when he returns again and say to him, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come to save the world.

I Am the Shepherd

IMG_3205To fully know what something is we must also understand what that something is not. The antithesis (a person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else) helps us hone or sharpen our understanding of the subject. John records many of Jesus’s “I am” statements in his Gospel. In order to grasp Jesus’s claim to be our “shepherd” we can understand what he means by looking at what a shepherd is not.  Ezekiel uses the metaphor of a shepherd in a way that helps us understand what role a shepherd is not. Here are some of the highlights.

  • They focus on their own gain, not the well-being of the flock. (34:1-3)
  • They ruled harshly and brutally. (34:4)
  • When the sheep were lost, no one searched or looked for them. (34:6)

There are many more examples in scripture that use this same metaphorical language of “shepherd” to describe who Jesus is. Isiah puts it beautifully with these words, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;” (40:11). Johns record of Jesus’s clear statement in chapter 10:11 says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The implications of what Jesus says with these words is beyond incredible. The role of the true shepherd in Ezekiel chapter 34 is described as fulfilled by God, Jesus makes the claim in John’s gospel that He (as God in flesh) is the one fulfilling this role.

Jesus came to care for his sheep and to lead them back into a relationship with His Father. His focus was not on himself but for the well-being of the people. He chose to seek out the lost, the broken and the hurting, to lead and guide them with love and compassion. Jesus willingly laid down his life for us as our shepherd, for the forgiveness of our sins. He came back to life and continues to lead and guide us through the work of the Holy Spirit, what an incredible gift. Who are you following? Are you trusting in Jesus as your shepherd? Have you experienced the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Jesus, the Good Shepherd is calling out your name, he is your shepherd, take a moment to listen and follow his call.

Shedding Some Light on the Subject.

What-is-Darkness-1024x507If you are a photographer, light is a big deal. In order for a camera to record the perfect picture, the light has to be just right. Astronomers can find and focus in on a pinpoint of light from hundreds of  thousands of miles away and discover the intense beauty if its origins. The soft glow of a night light can bring an incredible sense of comfort to a young child struggling to sleep in the middle of the night. Science has studied the effects of light on almost every aspect of life and continue to discover its incredible power. Simply put, light provides life.

In the Bible, light is synonymous with life, both in the physical and spiritual sense. From the very first verses in scripture, we see how God created light to pierce the formless and empty darkness. Throughout scripture, writers make use of this incredibly vivid image, to symbolize the contrast between good and evil. John records these words of Jesus in his gospel, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (8:12). It is important to take note of Jesus’ first statement, “I am the light of the world”. Jesus floods the darkness of our souls, our sinful nature with light that cannot be overcome. John 1:5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is a promise. As believers, when we walk in the light and life of Christ he has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6)

This symbolic statement used by Jesus himself contrasts the significance of life with Him and life without Him. Life in Christ equals light, (salvation and eternal life); life without Christ equals darkness or separation. John suggests in a matter of fact way that the solution to the problem of darkness is as plain as night and day. He uses the word or concept of light over twenty times in his gospel trying to make the point that Jesus is the light that guides our lives, both physically and spiritually.. When we walk in the footsteps of Jesus (the light of life) we can walk with the full assurance and promise of salvation from the darkness of this world. Are you wandering in the darkness? Step into the light, experience a transformed life today.

 

What do You See?

whatdoyousee

What do you see when you look at this image? Some people will look and see five random black geometric shapes, others will look at the white spaces in-between the black and see four letters that spell the word LIFT (If you can’t see the letters, squint your eyes at the screen, it might help). Our complex minds are wired to interpret what our eyes see. Our unique perspectives, our experiences and environments can influence our “view” on many things.

The book of Revelations is much like the image above; we can look at the text and read one thing today and then something different the next day. Recently, after spending some time reflecting on the opening words in the seven letters to the seven churches, I “discovered” some new insights into how God reveals himself to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. The words of the letters by way of introduction identify Christ as the “first and the last”, “holy and true”, “the faithful and true witness”, the one “who died and came to life again”, “the Son of God whose eyes are like burning fire” and “the one who will rule over all”. I have not discovered anything new here, these things are written many times before in the other books of the bible. What I saw today through these words was the incredible connection between the Father and the Son. I was reminded about the incredible power and authority given to Jesus by His father to rule over all of creation.

Earlier in his Gospel letter, John writes the following words to portray the relationship between the Father and Son, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2) Christ, (the Word) from the beginning, was with His Father. The book of Revelation is a “revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev 1:1) Through the detailed imagery of Revelation I find a message of hope, hope for the complete ruin of evil & sin (taken on by Jesus Christ) and the promise of everlasting life for all God’s people. The opening words of Revelation encourage us to “read aloud the words of this prophecy”. Take some time to read through this incredible message, listen to the words that God has given to us through His Son Jesus Christ, be blessed as you take to heart what is written in it. (Rev 1:3)

Pick Just One.

candy-store-wallpapers“That one… wait, maybe that one”. Should I get the orange one or the red one? “Ok, I am getting this one… I think”, “Only one?” When confronted with only one choice from the rows and rows of sweets that line the shelves at the corner store, my kids, or any kid for that matter has a difficult decision to make. There are many factors at play that can influence the process of choosing. What’s kind are the others choosing? Do I try something new? Which one is the biggest? Which one will last the longest?

There are 40 chapters in the book of Exodus and found within the verses of each, there are incredible stories of the works and power of God in the lives of His people. The crossing of the sea, the provisions of water from a rock, manna and quail, the building of the Tabernacle to name a few. Today, it is the story of Moses that captures my attention as I read and reflect on how God reveals himself to us through his word. Often we have a hard time recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament stories, the words or actions of the Spirit seem absent. What comes to mind when you think of the Holy Spirit? For me, I think about things like leading, guiding and even protecting. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit was leading and guiding the life of Moses right from the beginning of his existence on earth. The events surrounding his birth (the basket in the river, being reunited with his mother) are clear examples (for me) of the Holy Spirit working not just in His life but the lives of others. (His mother, sister and even Pharaoh’s daughter).

Romans 8:26 holds a powerful message that can give us confidence in knowing how the Holy spirit works in our lives. “the spirit helps us in our weakness… the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” There are times when we are completely overwhelmed by the sin and trials of life (weakness) that bring us to a place where we feel we no longer have control. I can’t help but think about the mother of Moses and the moments leading up to her decision of putting her small child into a basket and letting it go down the river. We read that things were out of her control, she did what she had to do to save that child. Through the power of God, through His Holy Spirit, He interceded in the life of Moses and his mother and brought him to a place where he flourished and did some amazing things for the Lord. The purpose of God’s word is to reveal himself to us, for us to find hope in His display of power and love that leads and directs our lives.

A Seed of Hope.

planting-seeds

Working the soil, planting the seed, watering, pulling weeds, harvesting. As a gardener, there is a not only a sense of satisfaction around the work of planting and growing something in your own garden, there is a sense of anticipation. We can’t see what is happening once we cover the seeds with soil, with patience we tenderly care for and wait for the first signs of life to pop up, reaching out for the light of day to nourish and strengthen the tender shoots that have the potential to bear a bountiful supply of fruit or flowers.

There is a sense of anticipation and mystery around this verse in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This is one of the early verses in scripture that points directly to Jesus as our Lord and Saviour (Her seed), the one who will stand against sin and overcome death. The enmity or hostility that we read about here warns us of the perpetual battle (the fight between good and evil) that we as God’s people will face as we live together on this side of heaven. 1 John 3:8 reminds us that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work”. Christ came to “bruise”, “crush” or “strike” the head of the serpent and to be the gateway for us to be in relationship with His Father, our Heavenly Father. As we continue to read through Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament we get glimpses of the hope of a saviour who will come. We hear the reminders of the prophets and others that one day Jesus will come and live and die in our place so that we will be saved from an eternal death.

Each year we work through a season of anticipation as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. When we consider the foretelling of the one who will come in Genesis 3:15 we have a guiding light that shines through the rest of scripture. Like the seed planted in the garden we may not always see what is going on around us. Today, we still live in a state of anticipation our forefathers did. Christ, who came once many years ago will return. We must have faith as Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:10 “So that you (we) may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.

Guess Who?

guesswhoIs your person wearing a hat? Does your person have white hair? Is your person wearing glasses? Is your person young? Is your person (fill in the blank)? Those are the type of questions you might ask when you play the game Guess Who. The object of the game is to guess the mystery person on your opponents card by asking one question each turn, and eliminating any game board faces that don’t fit the mystery person’s description.

As we read through the book of Genesis we are introduced to people like Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, Noah, Abram, Lot, Hagar, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph and many others. There is one particular portion of scripture that you will come across in Genesis 32:22-32 that introduces us to a man, a man who wrestled with Jacob. Unlike the game of Guess Who, we don’t have a physical description of who he is, we are only told that he was a man. Within the context of these verses we are given some clues that point us to the identity of the unknown wrestler. Verse 28 reads “you have struggled with God”, in verse 30 Jacob says “I saw God face to face”. Jacob wrestled with God, let that sink in for a minute… From nightfall to daybreak this indescribable wrestling match took place between Jacob and God, how can this be? God, through his divine power has revealed himself to Jacob and brought to him a blessing and renewed hope of the promise that He will always be with him.

Throughout scripture and particularly in Genesis chapter one we are introduced to the Bible’s main character – God. There should be no “Guess Who” questions or surprises when we come to knowing who God is through His word. We often read the bible with “blinders” on, this causes us to wrestle with and question who God is. The narrative of Genesis reveals God as our creator, it describes the work of the Holy Spirit and reveals the promise of His Son who will come one day to walk among us and save us from our sins. As we grow in our faith, as we wrestle with might seem like endless questions of who God is, we must remember that God is all things; hope, joy, love, peace, patience, kindness and more. Yes, Jacob wrestled with God, the text tells us that he did not let go of Him until he received his blessing. I “guess” we have to do the same. No matter what, we must hold on to the promises of God. Never let go. Take God with you everywhere you go, trust in Him, live for Him.