Friday, August 19, 2011

My Dad was right...How Aggravating.

Proverbs 1:7 --The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction
I am just old enough now to know that when someone with more years and experience in their field speaks to me, that I should listen. I can still accept or reject the advice based on how sound it is or how I see it playing out in their lives, but it is still important for me to stop and listen.
When I have five different conversations with five different pastors and they all tell me similar stories of the mistakes they made in their early years of ministry, it would be wise for me to take that into account and learn from their mistakes. I really feel like I have a leg up in some ways because of the input of men with 20+ years in the ministry.
I wish I had believed in the value of this practice as a teenager.  I know now that my Dad was right about EVERYTHING we disagreed on. Had I listened then perhaps it wouldn’t have taken me 7 years of military service and a host of hard knocks to understand how God intended to use us.
That is not to say that I regret where my life has gone. Change one detail of the last six years and I would potentially have a completely different life. And I like this life. With all of the “I should haves” over the years the only answer I have is “but I didn’t”. And looking at where we are now and where God is taking us, I wouldn’t change a thing except perhaps send an extra apology out to those I was a jerk to at some point.
There is something to be gained from the advice of those older and younger than you. If all you gain is the ability to discern between good and bad advice, between sound and unsound doctrine, you are going to be in a good place.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Boat is a Lie

Matthew 14:23-33 tells us the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water. When I was in Sunday school this story had a very simple moral. "Jesus walked on the water." Which really didn't teach me anything to live my life by, but served as an example of Jesus's diety...but then I didn't know what diety meant at that age either. In an adult Sunday school class the lesson probably shifts focus a bit to Peter and says "If I keep my eyes on Jesus I can walk on Water" (cue Audio Adrenaline...GO!)

But other than these two true yet basic answers I think we gloss over this passage to a great extent.

Consider that this is the second time recorded in the Gospel that the disciples are in a boat with a raging storm all around them. Only this time around the one person they know who can calm the storm is back on the land praying. I think we ignore the storm in this story to focus on the miracle itself. If this was only about Jesus proving His power, He could have the made the same point on a clear day.

The disciples have put their faith in two things. The wind and the boat. The wind is described as "contrary" so they have already lost on that front. All they have left is the boat and they can't even control the direction that it will move becaues of the wind. We often put our faith and trust into material things that cannot truly provide support when the going gets tough.

Jesus appears on the water and Peter seems to determine that no matter how windy it is and no matter how choppy the water is, it surely must be safer out there with Jesus than it is in the boat. It is then while Jesus is accomplishing the impossible through Peter, that he begins to doubt and starts to wonder how he could possible control the elements to keep himself from slipping. And as Peter thinks hard about how not to sink, he finds himself doing just that.

It is notable that no one jumps in after Peter, and Peter doesn't try to swim for it either. The conditions on this water are such that an experienced swimmer like Peter realizes that he cannot rescue himself but must call out to Jesus. When he does, Jesus wastes not a moment. Jesus doesn't scold Peter and THEN save him. He saves him and then convicts him for his lack of faith. Jesus then returns a much humbled Peter to the boat and the storm ends.

This is not the last storm that Peter will experience either literally or figuratively. But he will make it safely to shore due to Jesus.

So often we try to control our surroundings and situations when all we need is Jesus. People go to God in prayer under two conditions--1. Things are going great, 2. Things are going poorly. I tend to err on the things are going great side of it. When things are going poorly I often take it upon myself to fix it and all I do is make a mess. When I call out to Jesus is when I find peace.

Peter recognizes his condition as being unstable, so he leaves the boat. He falls to his own control issues and has to cry out to Jesus to save him. Jesus does so and changes Peter's life. This does not mean that Peter's life on earth was perfect, but it was changed.

We must also recognize that a life apart from Christ is unstable. Jesus has come out onto the water in the midst of our life's storm and he is saying, "Come". I challenge you, step out of the psychological safety of the boat, set your eyes on Jesus, let Him carry you across the stormy waters, cry out to Him when you sink, be saved and let Him change your life.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Prayer Time

Time and time again we see Jesus doing miraculous things followed by a pharisee asking him for a sign to prove he is the Messiah. Check out Luke 11:14-16.

It seems we are never looking for the sign we are actually given. I prayed for rest to come to my wife and child one night and before I knew it I was rocking the little guy to sleep at 2am while my wife got some much needed slumber. This was an answer to my prayer, but not what I had anticipated.

I was once told to never pray to God for patience unless I had time to sit in traffic. He doesn't just grant these things, it would appear that He gives us opportunity to grow in the area we pray about. Embracing this hard fact is paramount to seeing how God has answered some of your prayers.

We tend to want our prayers answered, but at no personal cost to ourselves. But personal sacrifice is where it is at! This whole rigamarole started when God chose to share His universe with us. He sent His only Son into the world not only to teach this principle, but to offer himself up as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for our sins.