Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lord, Increase My Faith

At about four o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them [the disciples in the boat] walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. "A ghost!" they said, crying out in terror. But Jesus was quick to comfort them. "Courage, it's me. Don't 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." 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. Then he said, "Faint-heart, what got into you?" ("Your faith is so small!" he said. "Why did you doubt me?" (NIRV)) The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, "This is it! You are God's Son for sure!" Matthew 14:25-33 - The Message

Have you ever found yourself alone and afraid? Or even in a moment in life where you were vulnerable to danger or despair? I can remember as I was growing up when my parents started leaving me briefly “home alone” on occasions. It was a good learning experience and a way to develop my independence and maturity. But at times, especially after dark, my mind started creating scenarios and events that likely would not happen, but filled me with fear regardless. If I acted properly and my parents saw that I could be trusted, then they would continue to trust me with bigger and better things – more responsibility. If I acted improperly and my parents learned that I could not be trusted, then it would be a while before they would trust me with this responsibility again. This is great learning tool that can be taught and practiced by parents to help train their kids up in the Lord. And, I believe it is also a tool used by our heavenly father to His children even today.

By reading a few verses that preceded the above text in Matthew 14, we find that Jesus and the disciples had a huge day. It was already getting late in the day even before Jesus had fed the 5,000 men and their families. But even after the supper that more than likely took a few hours, Jesus told the disciples to “go on ahead of him” v. 22 by boat to the other side of the sea of Galilee. Jesus then dismissed the crowd and went up on a mountain alone to pray. It was dark. Here at this time, Jesus had purposely left his disciples alone, vulnerable and even possibly afraid. Jesus may have even stirred up the winds that now were pushing the boat all around, and were also stirring up the sea and tossing the boat up and down.

Why would Jesus possibly do this or cause this to happen? (If he did in fact plan this – and I’m only guessing that he did) Jesus could possibly be testing his closest follower’s faith. He had just miraculously fed over 5,000 people, maybe double that number due to the women and children. Had they even noticed this miracle? Or had they quickly forgotten his concern and care for this crowd because now they were facing a real storm in their lives. That’s my best guess. Jesus was no where to be seen, they were alone, in a boat, on the water, in a wind storm, with large waves crashing all around. I’d be scared too. But then again, Jesus might also rebuke me in the same way as he did his disciples, “Your faith is small, and why did you doubt me?”

Please note, that Jesus did not call them faithless or without faith. But Jesus rebuked them for their forgetfulness, since they were a witness to many miraculous events by his own hand. Even though Jesus had left them alone for a time, and allowed troubled waters to buffet them and bring about fear, Jesus was there. Even further, Peter boldly tested this ghost’s claim of being Jesus, by saying something rash and impetuous. “If you are Jesus, command me to come to you. Because I know my Jesus would not let me sink and drown.” The ghost said, “Come.” Peter gets out and makes his way to this ghost. “It’s going pretty good so far. Wait a second,” Peter said, “I’m walking on water. This can’t be right.” And he starts to sink. The moment Peter starts to think, he starts to sink. The closer Peter got to Jesus, his more his faith was leaving him. Jesus was there. As soon as Peter cried out to Jesus, Jesus immediately reached “down” and gripped him, lifting him up out of the water, placing his feet on the water, and holding him as they walked to the boat. Jesus was there.

Now I wonder, if this story were to be repeated later in Peter’s life, how would it play out? I believe Peter and the others learned a great deal that night. I believe that Peter and the others learned to trust Jesus to save them, in good times or bad. I believe that their faith grew greatly that night so that they would not doubt Jesus that way again. How about you? How about me? Do I feel like I’m being tested? Do I know or remember that God is always there for me? Isaiah 59:1. Do I remember God’s promise that He will hear those who call Him in truth? Psalms 145:18. I’m also learning that God brings His children up with proper and righteous training. God’s working on me and others. James 1:2-4 I pray that I might be strengthened, that my faith and reliance upon God will grow, and that I might pass the test and be blessed even more abundantly afterward.

If I can learn to trust God to take care of me, to put my complete trust and faith in him, to seek after the kingdom of God and after His righteousness, then God will bless me with all I need. Matthew 6:33. Matthew 6:25-34.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Seeking The Lost

Yesterday at work, I started singing this great old song that popped into my head. I hadn’t sung it in a while, but it really was a great encouragement for me. The song was Seeking the Lost written by William A. Ogden in 1886 at the age of 45 years old. The song is a tender song showing the passion that Jesus had when he came into the world to bring salvation to mankind. He knew full well that most of the whole world would reject him, but he knew that there were those who would accept him. Luke 19:10. Remember too that Jesus himself told those who felt like they did not need him; to those who felt like they were already righteous and saved, the He did not come for them, but for those only who needed salvation. Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17.

The song is a song of compassion that we too should have as children of God for those who do not yet know Jesus, for those who are searching for a purpose in their lives, and for those who simply choose to live in sin – outside of the hope of Jesus. The song sings of a dedication that one might feel about going far and wide for those in sin – whatever it may take, however far one might need to go to bring an erring brother or sister in Christ back into the body – to once again reunite with the church so that the body might be made stronger. The song is also a gentle reminder that Jesus, the only son of God came to this earth to be the only sacrifice that would be capable of paying the debt of sin to which we all owe. Otherwise, our wretched life of sin would go unpaid and unforgiven. Romans 7:24, Hebrews 9:28, Revelation 5:12. It’s all because of Jesus I’m alive. Jesus Christ is the world’s redeemer.

Unfortunately, there are billions of people in this world who have never heard the good story. There are billions of people who are lost, and do not even realize their dreadful condition. The writer of the song further describes that we should be busy “pointing the way” to Jesus. Romans 15:18. My only hope is You, Jesus. All that I need is You, Jesus.

The song also gives a subtle hint that those in the world who live without Jesus are simply wanderers in this world, like the sheep without a shepherd, not knowing how to take care of themselves, going around in circles without someone to lead them. Jeremiah 50:6, Ezekiel 34:6. The song also sings about those who have given up, who are weak, who are hurting, who have been through so much without much support from others. It’s sometimes hard to put our trust and hope in others, because we often times let each other down. We cannot always be there for each other. But the song sings and reminds us that we can put our hope and trust in God. Matthew 11:28.

The song reminds us too that salvation is not found in us, but in our message. The message of the gospel is not about who baptized us, it’s not about how good we claim to be or how we can somehow earn our own salvation. The message of the gospel is about Jesus. It’s about having faith in Jesus. It’s about following Jesus. It’s about learning from Jesus. It’s about having Jesus as our perfect example. It’s about having the same love for others that Jesus had for us. It’s about Jesus. John 14:6.

The song is a major influence to me and also reminds me that our walk with Him is not always an easy walk. Not only should we seek the lost, but we should also take time to strengthen each other in Christ. Encourage our church family, the body of Christ both when we’re strong but especially when we’re weak. Remind each other that we’re stronger when we’re together. Tell each other that we remember each other daily in our prayers. Allow Christ, God, and His Spirit to dwell in us. Allow His Spirit to work in us and let His Spirit use us to further edify each other. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Galatians 6:2.

Seeking the lost, yes, kindly entreating
Wanderers on the mountain astray;
“Come unto Me,” His message repeating,
Words of the Master speaking today.

Seeking the lost and pointing to Jesus
Souls that are weak and hearts that are sore,
Leading them forth in ways of salvation,
Showing the path to life evermore.

Thus would I go on missions of mercy,
Following Christ from day unto day,
Cheering the faint and raising the fallen,
Pointing the lost to Jesus, the Way.


Going afar
Upon the mountain
Bringing the wanderer back again
Into the fold
Of my Redeemer
Jesus the Lamb for sinners slain.