Calm, Chaos and Christ

In a conversation with one of my sons this past week it was brought to my attention how busy things have gotten for me.  He said it with the best of intentions, but it certainly made me think a bit.  In reflection, I could see his point.  Life was getting busy, bouncing from one fire to the next and with little time to rekindle.  My loaded days certainly looked different than a year ago, but at what expense?  Stressed by the daily entourage of deadlines, projects and well, worry and wonder, that “double-W” will get me every time.

And then I was reminded of a few men with which I could certainly relate.  The account of Jesus in the boat with His disciples on a stormy night brought instant peace.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him!”   Matthew 8:23-27

Years ago I recall standing on a small bridge on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.  On this particular bridge one can look to the left and see the raging, deep blue almost black waters of the Atlantic Ocean and to the right you can see the calm turquoise blue green, crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.  Below your feet, under the bridge the two met, yet kept their distance.

When I read this story of the disciples in the boat with Jesus, I’m reminded of the fierce waters of the Atlantic that day and I must admit if this sort of torment “came” upon my boat, it would invoke a slight bit of fear.  But without warning, chaos appears in our lives much like the waves of the sea and it is plenty enough to sweep us off our feet.

I’m further struck by the fact that the disciples cried out to Jesus because He was sleeping during the chaos.  How many times have I thought Jesus was sleeping in my own chaos?  Shaking my fist or expressing a sarcastic “Thanks!” seemed to be the most appropriate response.  But Jesus’ response to our chaos is most profound!

Jesus takes our chaos and through our trust in Him brings peace.  In the midst of life’s most chaotic moments when Jesus seems to be no where around and silent to the mighty waves He says, “You of little faith!”

May I continue to see the peace in the presence of Jesus, throughout my chaos whose presence alone demands the raging seas of life to become calm and clear.

Wife With No Name

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

Today I had the most excellent conversation with some new friends at my local Starbucks.  It was one of those conversations that begin knowing full well God orchestrated.  Those are indeed, the best kind!  During the course of the conversation, my new friend asked me a question.  She said, “Who is your favorite woman in the Bible?”  What an interesting question.  I sat and pondered as she explained, “I’m going to be speaking at my church on a woman of my choice from the Bible and I just don’t know who.”  I replied, “My favorite woman in the Bible is the wife with no name.”  Confused and a bit bewildered, my new friend sought to learn more.  “It’s Noah’s wife,” I said.

You see, there’s not much written — in fact hardly a word — on Noah’s wife.  She’s a quiet character in the story of Noah, but plays the leading supporting role.  The mere story itself suggests many things I believe to be true about Noah’s wife that serves to be a lesson for all of us.

The story of Noah begins, if a story can actually begin when one is 500 years old, with God finding favor with him and his family because he was found righteous.  God found favor in the hearts of Noah’s family, destroyed everyone else upon the earth.  Not once do we read of Noah’s wife complaining, belittling or questioning Noah.

Instead, we find the wife with no name in complete obedience to her Father in heaven as she follows with honor her entrusted husband.

May we learn from Noah’s wife the power in obedience to our God . . . even in the midst of unbelievable circumstances, unfathomable storms and undeniable messes . . . only to find, in His great plan, the promise of all things new!

 

Clean Undies

But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Philippians 3:20-21

Julie:  Are you wearing clean underwear?

Mark:  What?  Really?

Julie:  Are you?

Mark:  Just trying to pull my life together.

Julie:  I know.  Some days my only source of sanity comes in knowing that I have clean undies on.  I guess it’s the only thing I can control.  Everything else I shove off to Jesus.  I might appear looney tunes because I literally talk to him out loud as if he is there.  And not in  “mushy prayerful” conversation.  More like, “I can’t deal with this crap so you’re just gonna have to take it and figure it out yourself.  Let me know when I should pay attention to it because I’m done.”

Mark:  That’s where I am.

Julie:  Clean undies?

Mark:  They are clean . . . for now!

Julie:  Okay then!

This is an actual conversation I had recently with a dear friend and thankfully, not forgotten.  It was an incredible reminder of my need to let go and let God.  It is terribly easy for me to sulk, think, craft, construct, excuse and attempt to control my circumstances and ultimately, my life.

Julie’s point was well taken. Clean undies are my job, God certainly has a sense of humor.  He left that decision to me!  Luckily I have the smarts enough to make it so.  But little have I ever realized the implication of assuming control of my life.  God wants nothing more than to “work all things together for His good.”

Control is a crazy thing — something we want desperately.  Because when we have it we feel safe, secure, ordered, in charge, peaceful, organized, mindful — but these are all false senses.  It is only through Christ, who is all, gives all and controls all.  It requires a true surrender and demands a level of trust that comes only through the grace and love found on the cross.  It begins in the mind, captures the heart and together, through Christ, brings everything under His control.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5

When God Appears

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them; “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Petter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said.    Matthew 14:25-29

I’ve thought about this passage for quite some time.  I was enamored by the acts of Christ in separating himself from the distractions of life to find a quiet place to pray — and not just for a minute, but for hours!  Knowing Christ approached the throne for those He loved along with fellowship with His Father was for me a cause for pause.  But the next course of events were absolutely stunning.

From a distance, Christ’s vantage point, the boat and disciples could barely be seen.  Matthew tells us they were “already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves . . .”  Then, the impossible unfolded.

Knowing full well they were no longer near the shore, Christ appeared to the disciples.  As unexpected as this must have been, it was not unlike the Lord to teach through His actions and less so through His words.

When God appears in the midst of life events difficult to explain because it simply does not make sense, it is undoubtedly exactly when God finds a teachable heart.  I’ve often heard that if you can’t explain it, God’s in it!  This was so true of the moment Christ stood before them on the water in the middle of the lake.

It’s reassuring knowing God shows up to my events and teaches me simply by His presence of the Truth of His promises, the abundance of His love and the depth of His hope.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your willingness to seek the Father on my behalf and then pursue me, find me and call to me — right where I am.  Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn’t matter the circumstance, what you think of me never changes, your call to me never ceases, your love for me runs deeper than my mind can imagine.  I just cannot explain what it’s like when you appear!

For the grace of God ha appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the is present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.     Titus 2:11-14

Getting Used To It

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”  I Peter 1:15-16

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last couple of years more than anything is that with grief, with loss — comes change.  And in the face of such change there is the temptation to force myself through the briar patch despite the snags and pain with all of its’ lasting wounds and scars.  At times, it feels like it would be more comfortable if I simply stopped and settled in place.  However, the problem with sitting in the briar patch are those pesky thorns starring me in the face and their scratch at every move I make.  Those painful briars tell me it’s safer and hurts less if I just sit still.  And when I do, everyone hears me say things like — “I’m over here . . . do you mind if I just talk from here?  It hurts too much to come to you!”  “That’s ok, it’s just where I am . . . just getting used to it, I hope you don’t mind.”  “I’m doing well, no I’m great, really.  I’m just going to . . . ouch! That hurt!”

But, God didn’t call me to live my life in the briar patch.  Briar patches are places to hide and sulk.  God called me to live life in the abundance of Him without exception.  He calls me to live in His holiness and run into His arms instead places that lie about their safety and comfort.  The hurtful den of that patch is a place where the healing bed of His salvation can also be found.  The mere idea of stepping out of the briars without hurt, without pain . . . with healing and the assurance of His abundant love is the essence of joy, comfort, peace and hope.

There is no peace in the heart of those in the patch, but there is healing in the heart of the one who takes refuge in Him. He has called me to be holy as He is holy — to live in the truth of who I am, regardless of my circumstances.  That is joy unspeakable.

When change comes because of grief and loss, remember there is no getting used to that!   God called me to rest in the knowledge of who I am in Christ, not in getting used to the briar patch — that’s not who I am!

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5

When God Prays

After he dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  Later that night, he was there alone, . . .      Matthew 14:23

In the context of this event with Christ and his disciples, He sent them across the lake in their boat ahead of Him.  He then went to pray.

It’s easy to pray . . . right?  I can’t tell you the number of times prayer has felt more like trying to speak another language without knowing a single word in that dialect.  Not knowing what to say, how to say it, where to say it, when to say it.  Should I ask?  Should I tell?  Do I even need to speak?  He knows everything already so what’s the real point?

No, it’s not so easy to pray!  But when I hear someone else pray from their heart through the love of Christ, it’s like my spirit has been refreshed!  I shared this with my oldest son recently when we were talking about prayer.  I mentioned how much of a joy it is to hear him pray — to witness him approach the throne on our behalf as we all begin our day!

Prayer is a connection unmatched by any other relationship on earth!  It’s a fellowship that enriches the heart and infuses the spirit with a communion of God’s love that by nature is the epitome of faith and trust!  And when we pray, Christ prays!  When He hears the voice of His children praying, His Spirit too is filled with joy!

When Christ went onto the hillside, He did so to be alone . . . to think . . . to commune . . . to intercede!  And hours later He came to the lake.  Hours later?  Yes!  He spent hours interceding in conversation with His (our) heavenly Father, knowing the fullness of what was yet to come.

Lord Jesus, help my voice speak the words of my heart in fellowship with you often so you can intercede on my behalf to the Father!  I know BIG things happen when I’m in fellowship with you and I know BIG things take place in the Kingdom when you mention my name to the Father!  May I learn to be still, listen and pray!

Next Post:  When God Appear

Rescuer Realized

Habakkuk the prophet saw it all and shares with us a portion of what was likely a lengthy conversation between him and God.   The account is shared in none other than the Old Testament book of Habakkuk.  It’s short — only three short chapters — but it is rich in the transforming understanding of who God is and the fullness of His glory!

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?   Habakkuk 1:2

Habakkuk wrestled with recognizing the presence of God in the midst of difficult times.  He continues to question God in His allowance of wrongdoing and injustice, His tolerance of evil and conflict.  Habakkuk has forgotten for whom God exists!  He forgets that God is writing a story, but the detour in that great story must include the existence of unfortunate and sad circumstances because of the presence of sin.  And this often gives the false appearance of God’s absence.

God then, in chapter two, reminds Habakkuk of His great plan, His grand purpose and His holy splendor!  And Habakkuk’s eyes open to seeing, believing and trusting in the promises of God.  He finally realizes the message of rescue God has for His people.

You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.   Habakkuk 3:13a

I cannot imagine the moment Habakkuk realized this truth!  His countenance changed, his life changed!  How he trusted in God changed and the depth of understanding of the love God has for him and His people was immeasurable.  Because, when all was lost, when nothing else was left, Habakkuk praised the One who enables!  It’s another great example of God’s whisper throughout time of His inevitable rescue!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.   Habakkuk 3:17-19

Lord Jesus, remind me of your grand plan for me!  Continue to teach me of the joy I have in you because I belong to you!  I do rejoice . . . may I always rejoice . . . even when I have nothing, because with you I have everything!

 

Because You Know

“Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”  Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”  She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.”  Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.   I Samuel 16-18

The story of Hannah is quite crazy in sadness, heartbrokenness, a search for answers, anguish, grief . . . surrender, expression, faithfulness, trust, obedience, worship . . . great love, honor, answers, blessings,  peace and assurance.  It’s a story of rescue!

Hannah sought the answers to the many questions in life she faced from those around her and not once did she find a solution.  Isn’t it just like any one of us to search for the answers we long to find in others — friends, family and sometimes strangers.  But never will I find true peace in the midst of brokenness unless I seek the Prince of Peace.

Hannah fell to her knees in great despair . . . the Bible describes it as anguish and grief, two things that the wrath of true crisis brings upon anyone who experiences such pain.  It further describes her in prayer, in such deep grief, words were unable to leave her lips while her mouth continued to move.  The priest thought sure she was drunk — but no, she was declaring, expressing, worshipping in prayer the depth of her own heart, the brokenness of her own spirit to the One she knew could heal.

And in this moment of honesty, she then went on her way — in peace!  How could this be?  Not only on her way did she go, but she actually ate something!  In crisis, in true heartbrokenness, the appetite is so small.  This is evidence of her in essence saying — believing — “I have shared my heart with my Lord and He knows all things — my hurt, my longing, my desires, my brokenness — whatever comes of this will clearly be of Him because He knows!”

Wow!  Because HE knows!

Lord Jesus, may I have the courage to stand from my own knees and no longer worry, no longer allow my circumstances to bring my face downcast BECAUSE YOU KNOW!

Nothing Coming Between

Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   James 4:7-8

Oswald Chambers in his famous devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, says something remarkably poignant and it reaches to the core of my being.  He says anything that disturbs my rest in Him (Christ) must be taken care of immediately; that I must never allow anything to remain that is causing a separation between Christ and myself.  I’ve never given a “truth-check” to the reality of what my sin does in terms of my relationship with Christ!  Separation?

It’s so easy to focus on the issue, the specifics and become entirely distracted from the essence of truth in the current of self.  This “rip-tide” is subtle, inviting and yet, swift and dangerous.  Anything that stands between Christ and me stands in the face of trusting Him by doing things my own way.  It is a willful act of looking into the mirror and seeing “self” instead of Christ in me!  It becomes a refocus of self-consciousness.  When I focus on me and my own circumstances, analyzing and contemplating the outcome of life’s most uncertain  moments, it translates into the absence of God’s rest, His contentment and peace.  It is replaced with self-consiousness in the form of feelings of fear, rejection, discontent, worry, pride, resentment, hurt . . . to name only a few.

The answer here is found in my “will” — through choice.  God has designed me in such a way as to decide what thoughts to entertain.  And He reminds me in His Word to take “every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5)  How I choose to think about me and my circumstances is the difference between my “junk” coming between Christ and me and nothing coming between Christ and me.  It’s the moment when I choose to deny self-consciousness and live in the embrace of Christ-consiousness.  Through this lens I quit focusing on myself and begin focusing on Christ in me – my Strength, my Comforter, my Healer, my Deliverer, my Redeemer.

Lord, Jesus, I need you every hour!  And in each hour I desire to think on Truth!  I realize that when I choose to do things my way and not your way, I am separated from you!  Those are very unpleasant moments for me and worse to remember.  I’m asking Lord, to make me God-concious!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.    Philippians 4:8

Something Beautiful

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Jeremiah 18:1-4

If I were most honest, this morning I woke up not feeling the most beautiful.  Clearly, when I wake up, there is nothing beautiful about that look, but I’m not referring to the beauty on the outside . . . I felt not so beautiful on the inside.  I felt broken.  And in my brokenness, the pieces of my life seemed scattered.  Like a favorite vase on the shelf that had fallen and shattered to the floor, I saw my life in a million pieces and the impossible task of cleaning it up and even more, the impossible ability to put it all back together.

It’s important to know that there was nothing that occurred to cause me to wake in this state except the fact that I know the evil one is in the business of deceiving me in what I think about me, what others think about me and in what and whom I trust.

But in my brokenness, I collect the pieces . . . big, small, tiny and seemingly insignificant and pile them at the foot of His cross!  Why would I even want to do this?  There is a very good reason why!  Because my God is the Potter!  He is my (and your) Restorer!  He makes ALL things NEW!  He takes my brokenness and makes something beautiful.  When you understand the grace that is ever so sufficient for even me, you will see Him.  You will see this beauty, not without the seams from healing, the scars from the process, the marring.  But praise Him — He didn’t stop there!  He kept shaping, kept molding, kept forming — and He continues to make beauty!

Lord Jesus, you have made all things well!  Today you have shown me the sufficiency of your grace for me in all things.  Remind me of my brokenness every day!  May I never live a moment without recognizing the position of your hands upon the sides of my life as it spins on the wheel.  You’ve never let go, you’ve never stopped, you’ve never tossed the clay and started over!  Thank you for the beauty of ashes that only comes from the refining fire of your Spirit!

by Mark Cruver