Monday, March 26, 2012

While Walking on Water I began to Sink

The storm raged.  A fury of wind and water caught the small boat and crew by surprise.  These seasoned and hardened men, accustomed to the sudden storms like this, knew they needed to get to land.  They feverisly worked against the wind and waves as the storm wore them down physically and mentally.  In the midst of the howling winds, as they wipe water from their brow, they see an apparition in the middle of the sea.  “It is a ghost!” Jesus immediately speaks to them offering words of comfort and assurance.  After all, it was Jesus who put them in this boat to cross to the other side.  No doubt some of these weary disciples were questioning why this miracle worker would send them on a boat alone, only to be tossed to and fro by this sudden and violent storm. 

In the midst of this raging storm, impetuous Peter wants proof of Jesus identity.  With one word, Jesus gives permission to Peter’s request and transmutes the physical laws of science.  “Come” and suddenly Peter is walking on water in the midst of a furious storm.  A few glorious seconds of walking on water is eclipsed by a cataclysmic failure of faith.  “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:22-33)

The issue of faith has been on my mind lately.  Like the disciples, it is easy to grow weary in the midst of a storm.  It is easy to question the one that put you on the boat, especially when the storm begins to rock the boat and splash stinging waves in your face.  You quickly forget the miracles that you have seen as your feet get wet and you grow cold and tired.  Just like Peter and his mountain top experience, Monday is coming and the Monday low seems much greater than the Sunday high.  I can just hear Peter telling his family, “while walking on water I began to sink”.

Faith, it is everything in the Christian life.  “No distrust made him [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  That is why faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” (Rom. 4:20-22) Note a couple key points of this passage:
1) Nothing made him waver from the promises of God.
    When God makes promises they will come true. 
2) He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.
    Growing strong in our faith is linked to giving God glory before the promises come to pass.
3) He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
    Physically it was an impossibility for Sarah to have a baby at age 90.  But Abraham was absolutely convinced that God could do what he had promised...even though Abraham could not fathom “how”. 

Are you fully convinced that God’s promises will come true?  When God says to those that love him, “all things work together for good” do you believe it?  It’s easy to say “yes” when you are not in the midst of a storm.  It’s easy to give glory when your life is nearly perfect.  The real test is during the storm, when nothing makes sense and you can’t possibly see how this could work out for good, getting on your knees to worship.

Do you desire to get out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus?
  Then remember Romans 4:20-22 and never ever forget this verse, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Wife Lost her Job

If there was ever a tumultous roller coaster ride of ministry I would say our family has an express pass.  The last 18 months have been some of the hardest months of our lives, the most silent from God and the most disappointing from professing believers. 

My wife’s job seemed to be too good to be true.  Now I know you're smiling as you read because of the expression, "if it seems to good to be true...".  I love the last dialogue of the movie Willy Wonka (with Gene Wilder of course).  He says to Charlie in the elevator, “Do you know what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted?  He lived happily ever after.”  Lori and I felt that after a long tough road of ministry, it was our turn for a little “Jabez” styled blessing.  So when Lori landed this job when she was still in another country, before she even moved, we counted our blessings. 

Two months later, she is ambushed with “we are broke and can’t afford to keep you”.  No apologies, a few excuses but mostly don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  What makes it worse is they are professing Christians, this was sold to us as ministry.   Broken promises, stories to titillate your potential success (both in ministry and in salary) all are shattered in an instant...while we still await a final paycheck for monies still owed. 

What makes people act that way?  Surely this did not come as a surprise in 60 days that they couldn’t afford her?  Why do Christians present themselves as one way, make promises they can never keep, misdirect and titillate the unsuspecting followers of Christ?  Why do they change their tune so quickly?  How is it they can turn on the volunteers to the point of acting more vile and rude than a non-Christian?

One answer becomes clear in my quiet time this morning.  I have been reading in Exodus and I get to that famous chapter 32, “The Golden Calf”.  The people are so quick to abandon God and serve other gods.  That’s why the first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Our hearts are desperately wicked and we quickly seek other things to satisfy, especially under pressure.  The amazing thing is that Aaron, his sons, the seventy elders all saw God and lived.  They ate and drank before God and glimpsed heaven (Ex. 24:9-11).  Now forty days later, they are bowing down to a golden calf that Aaron himself has made at the request of the people. 

Do you remember when Moses first came back to the downtrodden children of Israel?  The end of Exodus 4 we see the people gladly receiving the words of Moses, rejoicing at the sight of the signs and bowing in worship to their God that was going to deliver them from their affliction.  But as soon as Pharaoh makes their lives even harder (5:7-8) we find they “did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.” (6:9)

I (we) are faced with this very time of hardship, of harsh treatment of a battered spirit.  We can turn our backs on God and go our own way.  We can abandon God and turn to other gods.  Or we can do what pleases God, walk by faith.  There’s no doubt the latter road is the hardest.  It is the narrow road, the one less traveled, many times a lonely road.  But it is the one that brings God glory.  Some how, some way this is for our good, because God promises it.  Somehow, someway this calamity will bring God glory...for all the earth is His.  Admittedly, when you feel like you are drowning, it is difficult to thing clearly, cooly, logically...but it is our faith that not only keeps us going but accomplishes what God desires.  It was Abraham’s faith that God found pleasing, need I go on?  Simply trust and obey.  Just like the children of Israel that expected God to deliver them immediately from Pharaoh's hand, God had another plan that involved greater glory to His name, to His people and for His sake.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Saturate your days with prayer, be filled with the Spirit and meditate on His Word.  He is Faithful.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Wife has Cancer

We were shocked to hear the phone ring at 7:35 am.  Lori got up to answer the phone and read the caller i.d., it was her doctor’s office.  She answer the phone and her face grew stern, vexed, serious.  As she listens intently, she holds up her hand forming a letter, “C”...Lori has cancer.

The issue of God’s sovereignty is something that has been near and dear to my heart for the last 6 years.  Prior to sovereignty my multi-year studies focused on God’s will.  The two are inexorably linked.  Therefore, when Lori told me she had cancer, in my heart, I acknowledged that Jesus is in control and this is for His glory.  It has been no accident that my quiet times have been in Genesis and I have been listening to John Piper’s eight-year study on Romans. 

Abraham is justified by faith, faith alone and it is credited to him as righteousness.  The wonder of that statement should take your breath away.  Joseph, when speaking to his brothers says, “it was not you who sent me here but God” (Gen. 45:8).  Warren Weirsbe’s book, “Walking with the Giants” reminds us of hero’s of the faith that walked humbly before God and God did great things through them.  Little men that served an enormous God, walking by faith and trusting Him for everything.  They wanted nothing for themselves but to glorify God and fulfill His calling on their lives - whatever that may be.

I suppose I could complain about a lot.  Life has not turned out as I expected. I was out of work for a year and my seminary education seems to be wasted.   My wife has cancer, we are living in yet again, another “ghetto”.  I seem to be unable to provide for my children as I long to do.   But who should I blame?  God, for not acting as I would have wanted?  May it never be!  God, in His perfect sovereignty has brought me to the perfect place for the perfect time.  Imagine Joseph being betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused of rape, then forgotten in prison.

It is so easy to get distracted by bad news and lose that God consciousness.  Today, I am reminded that my knees aren’t just funny things to play with.  God gave me knee caps to hit the dirt and bow before my Maker, my Saviour, my Lord and my God.  I am thankful that my wife’s prognosis is excellent and the cancer wasn’t nearly as serious as it could be.  I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and a job to put food on the table.  I know that God has the perfect plan for me to bring Him the maximum glory if I will only take my eyes of the man in the mirror.  As Piper always says, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him”. 

I love you Lord, thank you.