God’s presence in the storms of life

Clouds get so thick they obscure the sun. The air becomes heavy with humidity. The wind picks up. Rumbles of thunder come closer and closer. Soon it’s raining hard. Forget your plans and run for safety, as lightning flashes and all manner of debris flies through the air.

Does that sound like a description of what the weather outside can be like? Or does it sometime sound like a metaphor for our lives? The loss of a job, the breakup of an important relationship, the death of a loved one, health issues–don’t these things often seem like a storm, with the ensuing flooding or loss of power or damage from falling trees?… Read the rest

Struggling in the storm

Jesus had not planned to feed a crowd. Earlier that day he had invited his disciples to come away to a quiet place where they could get some rest and talk in peace, but a large crowd of 5,000 men and who knows how many women and children had interrupted their plans. Perhaps it was from compassion that Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat and row across the Sea of Galilee while he dismissed the crowd.

Whether Jesus intended to be compassionate or not, it appears the disciples didn’t like the idea. The NIV says he made them get into the boat.… Read the rest

Learning what Satan is like–the hard way

I suppose not many readers spend much time with 1 or 2 Kings or 1 or 2 Chronicles. That’s too bad, because the stories in the Old Testament often provide clear pictures off New Testament truths. Amaziah, a king of Judah who served God half-heartedly, illustrates what happens to the double-minded man mentioned in James 1:6-8.

This post will comment on the time when he was afraid that his army wasn’t strong enough for a war he wanted to make against Edom. He hired mercenaries from Israel, but then a prophet said if he let them fight, he would lose.

Amaziah fussed a bit about the money he had already paid for the Israelite soldiers, but before he went to war, he dismissed them.… Read the rest

Don’t let caution put your fire out

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” — 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV)

Paul loved Timothy and trusted him with the most difficult of tasks. He wrote to the Philippians that of his entire staff, only Timothy was like-minded. Like Paul, Timothy suffered persecution, but it seems to have gotten into his mind.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul reminded him that the spirit God has given Christians is of power, love, and a sound mind.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Peace be with you

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'” — Luke 24:36 (NIV)

“A week later  his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” — John 20:26 (NIV)

Have you ever been reluctant to encounter a friend because you owe him money? Or has a friend avoided you for the same reason? If you have not experienced either case, you surely know someone who has. Something very much like that explains this fourth next word of Jesus.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Do not be afraid

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They cam to  him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'” — Matthew 28:8-10 (NIV)

Matthew’s account of the first resurrection appearance is very different from John’s. We need not try to harmonize them or make them fit together, as they each have a different message for us to learn.

“Do not be afraid” is probably one of the most frequent commands in the whole Bible.… Read the rest

Fear and unbelief while Jesus slept–and more fear when he woke!

Most of the fourth chapter of Mark is devoted to a sample of Jesus’ parables, along with his private explanation of one of them, the Parable of the Sower. The closing narrative amounts to an illustration of that one.

In demonstrating Jesus’ mastery over the natural world, this passage explicitly asserts his deity. Mark has already shown him as healer, as someone with authority over demons, and even recognized by them as the Holy One of God. (See, for example, Mark 1:32-34)

So when Jesus said, “Let’s go across the lake,” the disciples should have known enough to take it as the word of God.… Read the rest

Scorning shame for joy

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” — Hebrews 12:2

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed nor be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth and will remember the reproach of your widowhood no more.” — Isaiah 54:4

It may seem we’ve landed in a world without shame. Couples are no longer ashamed to live together without being married; women are no longer ashamed to bear children out of wedlock, and so on.… Read the rest

When I am afraid. . . I will not be afraid

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” — Psalm 56:3-4 (NIV)

“Fear not.” That’s the message of lots of angels in the Bible, and some times the Lord himself when he appeared. John’s first epistle reminds us that perfect love casts out fear. And yet we all fear.

Some of us fear many things. All of us fear sometimes. Unemployed? Sick with a catastrophic disease? Seriously injured? Recently widowed? These only scratch the surface of major, long-term uncertainties that can cause the hardiest of us to fear.… Read the rest