A boat in the storm

Credit: JC

By JC

“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”
from Matthew 8:26

I feel like I am in the boat alone on rough waters. Health, job, marriage, finances, family, future and so on. Everything is unstable and has been for months. And, of course, the global pandemic and, as of late, riots all over the country I live in.

I was asking Jesus, “Where are You?” As I focused on that question, I thought about the disciples in the boat during the storm. They thought they were going to die.

“The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'”
Matthew 8:25

With all that is going on right now, it is not so far fetched to feel that death is a possibility. If we go back a few verses to Matthew 8:22, “Jesus told him, ‘Follow me now.'” He was addressing a disciple that asked to go bury his father before committing to following Jesus. Most Bibles label this set of verses “The Cost of Following Jesus.”

The very next verse, 8:23, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” We move from Jesus telling us the cost to follow Him to getting into the boat with Him.

There are two things to highlight. One, He just told us there is a cost to following Him, so why are we surprised when storms arrive?

Two, Jesus is IN the boat with us. He’s right here – do not feel the need to ask, “Where are You, Lord?” He is right here in the boat with us.

“Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”
from Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus “insisted” the disciples get in the boat while He went by Himself to pray. Keep in mind this encounter with the boat is not too long after the verses above that we just read in Matthew 8. The disciples had recently witnessed Jesus calm the storm when He was IN the boat.

While Jesus was praying by Himself, a storm came up, and “the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves” (from Matthew 14:24). The disciples cried out and Jesus came to where they were on the water.

In verse 27, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Take courage. I am here!” Jesus was not physically in the boat with them this time, but He was there. He knew where they were and how to get to them and, of course, had the power to once again calm the storm.

Jesus said to Peter in verse 31, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” In Matthew 8:26, Jesus had said, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

This is a message for us today. Jesus asks why are we afraid, why do we doubt Him? We must have faith. He has saved us every single time throughout our lives, for you and I have not drowned yet.

We cannot doubt Jesus is with us. He is right here – in the boat in the storm. He is stretching our faith.

The first time, He was in the boat, right there. The second time, we cannot see Him in the boat. So, we have to use our faith and not our sight. Ride out the storms knowing He is right there. Hand over everything to Him – your faith, your life, your today, and your tomorrow.

Credit: JC

Don’t be someone to whom Jesus would say, “You have so little faith!” When fear creeps in, take it captive by praising Him. If doubt enters, pray. If loneliness clouds your mind, read Matthew chapters 8 and 14. Let the Word of God remind you that you are never alone. And there is a cost to following Him – complete and total faith.


If you need a prayer, please reach out. Jesus loves you.

The walk of faith

By Snow

For my 7th birthday way back in 1982, gifts from my family included a baseball bat, glove, and ball. I was thrilled to begin learning how to play, for I had watched my older brother play in a school or recreational league in the late 1970s. I soon learned that catching and hitting a baseball was not nearly as easy as he and his friends had made it look.

In the backyard with both my brother and father, I struggled as they tried patiently (and sometimes impatiently) to teach me the basics.

I can still hear them, saying each time I swung and missed or failed to make a catch: “Keep your eyes on the ball,” as if that was the secret of the whole thing.

While the advice was confusing at first, it eventually resonated, and sure enough, with some practice, I learned how to catch and hit.

There’s a Bible story that provides similar advice to what my family gave, but about life rather than baseball. When the apostles are alone on a boat on rough seas in the early morning hours, they observe Jesus walking on the water. They are so shocked, they at first think He is a ghost, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

“Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come ahead.’ Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’ Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand.”
from Matthew 14:28-31

As a new believer reading through the entire Bible for the first time a couple years ago, I was not surprised that Jesus could walk on water. I had first heard this portion of the story when I was a child.

No, the surprising aspect of this story for me was that Peter walked on the water, too. Peter, who really wasn’t so different than you or me.

His faith allowed Peter to walk on the water towards Jesus, but why did he sink?

He didn’t keep his eyes on Jesus.

Instead, Peter allowed himself to be distracted by the waves and wind – by fear.

We are living in bizarre times. Fear in the form of panic is spreading much faster than the coronavirus possibly could. Fear is a weapon of the enemy, and there are those who use fear for their own means. For ratings. As power grabs. To control.

I know what it’s like to live in fear. I used to let fear control my every action. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid to speak to people. I was afraid to go places alone. I was often afraid to leave the house at all.

All of that has changed since I accepted Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior. What Jesus didn’t immediately lift away, JC, my true love, has helped me overcome.

Virus or no virus, I will not lock myself away again. I lived too long like that. I refuse to let anxiety and fear control my life any longer. I will not give the enemy a stronghold again.

To be clear, I am not recommending being foolish. Everyone should take common sense precautions. To do otherwise would be to test God.

“You must not test the LORD your God.”
from Deuteronomy 6:16

No, what I am saying is remain calm and rational. While chaos churns around you, keep your eyes on Jesus. That really is the secret of the whole thing.

For those of us who are saved, death is not something to fear. If Jesus wants me to die of the coronavirus, then I will die of the coronavirus. Panic won’t change that either way.

I would prefer to continue living, though, for JC and I still have much to accomplish for Jesus before we go to the Perfect Place. We have only just begun – until Jesus says otherwise. He has the perfect plan, executed with perfect timing.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. […] The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.'”
from Psalm 91

Credit: Snow

While I did learn to catch and hit, I unfortunately wasn’t destined to play on any teams. I still love watching baseball in person, though, or, oddly enough, in movies like Field of Dreams.

As much as I’d like to throw the ball around with someone, I don’t have anyone to do that with these days. I think my brother has gotten too old! He never takes me up on the offer.

My glove’s ready, though. When that time comes and my number gets called, I’ll remember to keep my eyes on the ball and, most importantly, on Jesus.


Heavenly Father,

We lift up all those affected by sickness. May You heal them and bring them comfort. May You calm any hearts stricken by fear and panic. May You fill leaders at every level with wisdom and compassion; lead them to salvation or on a closer walk with You; for those who will not accept You, use them for good anyway. Please help all of us keep our eyes on Jesus.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Darkness and light

Credit: Snow

By Snow

I grip my flashlight a little tighter, wishing for the millionth time since I was a little boy that it really was a lightsaber. I’m in the middle of my daily walk, which I started much later than usual, and the sky is black. I’m entering a long stretch of dark road between the comforting illumination of my apartment complex and the lights of a busy street somewhere up ahead.

In the daylight, the only real concern I have in this area is dodging droppings left on the sidewalk for me by my Canadian friends – beautiful geese who gather to honk and laugh as I dance around their little presents.

In the dark, though, everything seems different. My flashlight is bulky and metal, chosen specifically because it resembles a lightsaber hilt. No little plastic flashlight would do. Yet, the light it produces seems frail. Barely penetrating the void.

Through the mist of rain, I see a shape ahead. Someone coming towards me?

My heart begins thudding. For a moment, I am afraid.

Then, I remember two things.

1.) I’m a child of God, and
2.) God sees just as perfectly at night as in the day.

I bravely press on. I pass the ominous shape.

It’s not a person at all.

Not even a goose.

It’s the back of a sign pointing the way to my apartment complex.


I thank the Holy Spirit for reminding me last night that I don’t need a lightsaber. All I need is God.

May Jesus bless you. Thank you for reading.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1:12

“To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”
from Psalm 139:12

Credit: Snow

Holding on to my Heaven

By Snow

Have you ever loved someone so much that the very thought of her or him filled you with absolute joy? I mean sheer joy. The kind of love that fulfills the dreams of not only your heart, but your very soul? Your very best dreams, those secret dreams that you never thought could become reality. The kind of person that inspires you to strive to better yourself? You would give up your very life to protect her or him.

I am blessed to share a mutual love with such a person in my life. She loves me for me, unconditionally, and I feel the same for her. She means the world to me, and I cannot imagine a future without her. While I have conquered many fears in recent months since beginning my walk with Jesus, I still have a number of them that plague me.

The biggest fear I have is losing this person. Oh, I don’t mean due to an argument or a misunderstanding, as those kinds of situations would no doubt be temporary between us. I have complete confidence in the longevity of our relationship. No, my fear is losing her to the Perfect Place if she is called Home before me.

Oh, I try to reason through it. She belongs to Jesus, after all, not to me or anyone else. Heaven really is perfection, so I should be happy for her if she goes first.

While I would be happy for her, I would also be devastated for me. No, devastated is an understatement. I would be crushed. Destroyed. There would be nothing left of me. For she is my entire future. I was created to serve next to her, to hold her, and to love her.

I experience Heaven right here on the Earth when I am by her side. People seek true happiness all of their lives, and I have found mine in her. Were she to be ripped away from me, I know I would see her again, for we will have eternity together. Until then, however, this place would become my hell.

I am supposed to give her up to Jesus, to whom she already belongs anyway. She is not even mine to give, yet I hold on to her, I cling to her. Even a theoretical thought of losing her can bring me to tears.

fog
Credit: JC

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
James 4:14

Life is fleeting. The days seem to pass faster and faster. We only have so many days, and I love most of all the ones I share with her. The thought of having endless tomorrows without her is unbearable. We are supposed to be together. Why do I waste any of the limited days we have here on anything besides her?

The raw truth is that this is a trust issue between me and God. I know in my heart that He created this love, that He literally designed us for one another, and that He brought us together. So, why can’t I trust Him to give us enough tomorrows? While it feels as if there can never be sufficient time with her, this is the same God that created eternity, after all. Nothing is beyond His power.

Why can’t I trust that He will guide me through the pain should she go first? For He would be all I have left, the only hope I would have to continue my journey if she were gone.

I dislike even typing about losing her. I don’t even want to post this, but I always write what comes to mind here. No filters.

Some may say I love her too much, that I need to redirect that love to Jesus. No, I can never believe I love her too much. God is love. He created our infinite love. It is impossible to love too much. I love her more every day. When she says, “I love you,” I am filled with absolute joy. I am giddy. I refuse to believe there is anything wrong with that, either.

Of course I love Jesus, and He loves me unconditionally. He has literally given up His life for me, for all of us. The fact that I do not fully trust Him, particularly with her, is my fault. It is something I am working on. Jesus also fills me with joy. My love for her does not take anything away from my love for Jesus or my personal relationship with Him.

As is so often the case, I offer no real answers today. This is but a presentation of my heart, for all I can do is put my loved one in His arms, and let Him take us from there.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”
Psalm 31:5