Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Observations from the Storm

"The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger" (Luke 8:23b).  

My boat has been filling up with water for several months--seven to be exact. 

We were just about ready to leave for church on a  typical Sunday morning last August. Tina was finishing up in the bathroom, brushing hair one last time and considering which ear rings looked the best. She had already complained about not feeling well and I was doing my best to encourage her out the door, believing that she would feel better as the morning progressed.  As the story would develop, she didn't start feeling better, and we didn't make it to church. Instead, Tina spent the next ten days in excruciating pain, suffering a massive heart attack, that went misdiagnosed for a week and a half.

More than half a year later, having suffered devastating damage to her heart, Tina is on the verge of a heart transplant. We are hopeful--yet terrified. Our boat is full of water!

My One Year Bible reading today includes the portion of Luke 8 where Jesus calms the storm. Allow me to share a few observations.

#1--"The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, 'Master, Master, we're going to drown!'" (v24a)  Their fear was real. They believed death was almost certain. Notice they address Jesus as "Master". He is the boss, the leader, the one in charge, and the one with all of the answers. He is responsible! Like the disciples, my boat is full of water and there is nothing that I can do about it. Bailing water won't help! Swimming lessons won't help! Shouting at the wind won't help! However, shouting "Master, Master!" will always help! "Master" implies that I know who is in control. "Master" says that I know who is making the decisions.

#2--"When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves." (v24b)  I imagine that the disciples woke Jesus up with urgency. I doubt they whispered. They were shouting! Yelling! Screaming! That's how I need to learn to pray--loud and impolitely! Wake up! Help! Master!

#3--"Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm." (v24c)  I like this part. Their cry brought His calm. Their shout brought His stillness. As the song says, sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms me.  

#4--"Then He asked them, 'Where is your faith?'" (v25a)  This is the million-dollar question of the day. Where is my faith? What am I trusting?  There are those wonderful, if not brief, moments when I trust God in between my doubt and despair.  May those moments become minutes, and the minutes become mountain-moving measures of extraordinary faith!

"No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm."
 --Charles Kettering

Monday, September 14, 2015


"But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds so they will understand them, and I will write them on their hearts so they will obey them. I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Hebrews 8:10, NLT)

I heard a message regarding this passage in 1984. I was serving on a Baptist Student Union mission team in Detroit, Michigan. I can't tell you the name of the church, but I remember clearly my BSU Director, Scott Brewer, bringing this message.  I've preached it myself a few times over the years.  To have God's law in our minds means that we know what to do. To have God's law in our hearts means that we want to do it.  Scott called it, "The know-so and the want-to".  The Spirit of God will guide us to know what to do and better yet, will give us the desire to do it.  Over the years, I've found this to be true.  I've experienced it--though I've also, at times, rebelled against it.

Today, let's be open to the Spirit's directives.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


"Until the time came to fulfill his word, the Lord tested Joseph's character. Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free; the ruler of the nation opened his prison door. Joseph was put in charge of all the king's possessions." --Psalm 105:19-21)

I love this description of Joseph that we find tucked away in Psalm 105.  Here we find a revealing of purpose--the reason for Joseph's dry season.  Joseph had languished in prison, serving time for a crime that he did not commit.  Why would God allow such a thing?  Where is justice? 

Don't we ask the same questions when we suffer?  Why wasn't the heart attack diagnosed earlier? Why would God allow ten days of suffering? Why?  Psalm 105 answers with one clear word--CHARACTER!  It's of note that Tina's heart attack went undiagnosed for ten days. Ten is the number of testing.  I shared with the men that I meet with on Tuesday night that this experience has redirected my focus.  I'm much more attentive to Tina than I was before.  I'm committed to making sure that every day is special, a day of love and laughter and not taken for granted.

What about you?  How will your times of suffering grow your character?  As Tina is fond of saying, "God never wastes a hurt!"

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


"Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised." (Hebrews 6:15)

The New Testament uses the word "patient" to carry the meaning of, "persevering patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles".  Like Abraham, we are to persevere difficult circumstances while awaiting God's promise.  It's usually not easy to patiently wait on God's deliverance but it's the preferred way.  Instead of stepping forward to solve a problem in your own strength, find out what God intends to do and wait for Him to do it.  How do you get a promise from God?  Read the Bible, asking God for insight into your situation.  Look for corrections that you need to make.  Look for revelations of God's character.  Finally, look for promises.  What does God say He will do? 

"The anchor of hope (Heb. 6:19) actually keep us afloat; the anchor of self-pity, self-righteousness, or self-anything, will drown us." --Scotty Smith

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


"You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called 'today,' so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God." (Hebrews 3:13, NLT)

Sin is deceptive. The scriptures speak of it as a trap, a lure, and an enticement.  That's why we need to "warn" each other.  Otherwise, we may fall prey to the addictive nature of the desires of our flesh.

The word, "warn", in the text is the Greek word paracaleo.  the King James Version translates it "exhort".  The New American Standard Version translates it as "encourage".  The literal translation of paracaleo is, "to call to one's side".  Included in the meaning is the purpose of admonishing, begging, consoling, strengthening, comforting, and teaching.  The way we warn each other every day is by coming alongside each other and speaking truth and love. 

Let's think about it this way:

Today I will . . .

Walk with you. I will come alongside.
Affirm you. I will remind you of how God sees you.
Rescue you. Your problems are my problems.
Nag you. I will speak the truth in love over and over again.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


"He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He ransoms me from death and surrounds me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things." (Psalm 103:3-5)

I like the verbs in these verses: forgives, heals, ransoms, surrounds, and fills.  It's almost like there is an outline of the progression of grace. 

He forgives sin.
He heals disease.
He ransoms from death.
He surrounds with love and mercy.
He fills with good things.

He moves us from our sin and it's consequence (disease and death) to what we don't deserve (love, mercy, and good things).  This is the Gospel and the unmerited favor that Jesus lavishes upon all who will call  upon His name. Sin deserves death but through God's great love and mercy, we receive "good things".  Praise The Lord!

Monday, August 31, 2015

No Fear!

"Because God's children are human beings--made of flesh and blood--Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form.  For only as a human being could he die, and only be dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death.  Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Did you know that we're not supposed to be afraid of dying?  Jesus' death and resurrection delivers us from the fear of dying.  Because Jesus rose again from the grave--we can have confidence that we too will rise again. 

For the past two weeks, Tina and I, have experienced a raging storm that has brought us face to face with the frailty of physical life.  Even now, back in the office, I find myself distracted by Tina's condition.  Is she alright?  Does she need me to come home?  [2 minute break while I call home . . . ok, she is fine]  Fear is the real enemy!  It will rob us of peace, contentment, and the miracle of living in the present.  For Tina and I, we're focusing on making today the best today that it can possibly be.  We're trying not to worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  We're living right now! 

Let me invite you to join us in practicing the Serenity Prayer, "Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time".  Let's get started!  Live!