Not So Smooth Seas

The sway of the ship was slowly but steadily growing. Passenger’s faces were painted with a mixture of discomfort and concern. The storm was approaching.

My companions groaned and quickly prayed for smooth sailing and calm stomachs. Me? Well, I was up out of my seat powerwalking to the deck. I wanted to feel the power of the sea.

Open water, especially when it is windy and wild, has always been an odd mix of calming and exhilarating for me. Hearing the waves crash violently against the rocks can both soothe and motivate me.

Standing there on the deck in the middle of the Aegean Sea surrounded by white-capped waves helped me to process the horrors I had just seen in a refugee camp. But it also motivated me and encouraged me to press on and to make a difference in my own corner of the world.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

James, the brother of Jesus once wrote, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Both of these quotes are appropriate for our current troubled times. Many of us may be feeling the stresses of life crash around us. Both on a macro and micro level we all are being impacted by this pandemic and all the implications following lockdown.

But how we act and react is crucial.

We must realize that in the midst of any circumstance God remains good. Our faith is not dependent on our circumstances. We cannot be tossed back and forth by the situations that we face on a day to day basis.

Our circumstances change, but the object of our faith does not.

And so, when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can endure the storms that come. In fact, we can joyfully embrace the trials that we face because we know, as the Bible tells us, that these trials will deepen our faith and ultimately produce steadfastness in us.

We can also realize that when, not if, but when God sees us through these rocky waters, we will be better prepared for the next set of waves when they come. Troubled times come and go. This set of unfortunate circumstances is not the first that we have faced, and it will not be the last. In fact, Jesus tells us that, “in this world, you will have troubles…” But, thankfully, He doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just leave us with the bad news that we will face trials and troubles, no, He gives us hope. He continues on and says, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Understand that in this time God is looking to develop you into the man or woman that He created you to be. As He molds you, don’t forget to be joyful in the midst of every circumstance. And ultimately, rest in the fact that Jesus has already overcome this world.

After the storm died down a bit, I snapped the picture shown above. It is a nice reminder that even when the wind and the waves rage, the sun is still shining.

Even when the wind and the waves of our lives rage, the Son is still shining. Trust in Him today.

Easter Is Not Cancelled. Jesus Is Still Alive.

Easter is going to be…. different this year.

Typically, churches gather together and pack out their buildings in order to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Typically, my own church will have a Sunrise Service, followed by a full breakfast, followed by another bigger Worship Service.

Typically, I will stand in front and loudly proclaim, “He is risen” and that is always met by an even louder response from the congregation of, “He is risen indeed!”

Typically, between services families will gather in front of one of the big trees outside and take fun family pictures.

Typically, kids will be given some sort of goody at children’s church.

Typically, we all will dress just a little bit nicer and I’ll say, “I wore a tie because, ya know, its Easter after all.”

Typically, we will see new visitors, family members from out of town, or people who normally only come to church twice a year.

Typically, families will gather with extended family for a big lunch or dinner that is just a tad too stressful to put together.

Typically, Easter Sunday is full of fun, loads of smiles, hugs and handshakes, and plenty of “Amens!”

But this isn’t a typical Easter. Most, if not all of those things will not happen for millions of believers this coming Sunday. Our typical Easter celebrations are no longer reality.

So, let me tell you about a few things that do remain reality.

Jesus is alive.

The tomb is empty.

Death has lost its victory.

Sin is defeated.

The free gift of eternal life is available.

God is in control.

The harvest is still plentiful.

The workers, unfortunately, are still few.

The Gospel is still the best news ever.

This Easter may not be typical, but Jesus is still alive. And that profound truth changes everything about today! My prayer is that in the midst of losing all of our typical traditions we will be able to see Jesus even more clearly. And as we see Him clearly, we will clearly make Him known!

Answers?

Why Is This Happening?

I don’t know.

Those three words are really scary words to admit out loud. When we say those words, we are admitting that there are things that we do not understand. By saying that phrase we are accepting that there are questions that we do not have the answers to. We confess that we are not in control. We show weakness. We are humbled. We defer to someone wiser than we are.

And that is OK.

Christians, do not be afraid to say those frightening words. Yes, when we say those words we may look like fools. Yes, when we say those words, we may look small and insignificant. Yes, when we say those words, we will probably be scoffed at by those who seek to poke holes in our worldview. Yes, when we say those words, we will surely bring no glory to ourselves.

And that is why we need to say them.

Because when we admit that we are low, we raise Him up. When we confess that we do not have all the answers, we point to the One who does. When we look small and insignificant, we magnify our Lord. When we show weakness, we elevate His strength. When we look foolish, we show God to be wise. When we are scoffed at, we share in His suffering. When we take no glory for ourselves, we give it all to Him.

So why is all this chaos and crisis surrounding us? Why are people dying? Why are our lives being disrupted?

I don’t know.

But I do know who does.

He reminds me that His ways are not my ways and that His thoughts are not my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) He reminds me that when we are searching for a way or seeking truth, that He is that Way and He is that Truth. (John 14:6) He tells us that He holds everything together (Colossians 1:7) He commands us to trust in Him and to not fear because nature itself obeys Him. (Matthew 8:23-27) He even loudly proclaims His victory over death itself. (John 11:25)

I don’t know, but Jesus does.

As much as we may not know all the answers, we do have an opportunity to get to know the one who does know everything.

If you don’t know Him, open up a Bible or download a Bible app and start reading the book of John. If you don’t know Him, I pray that you would get to know Him and understand just how much He loves you.

If you do know Him then there are two things that you need to do.

Get to know Him more. And make Him known.

The Time Is NOW

Things are getting pretty crazy out there. It seems as though every few hours there are reports of new cases of the virus. Various governments continue to announce new restrictions in order to “flatten the curve.” Social media is filled with opinions and hot takes. And the U.S. Surgeon General recently told us, “this week is going to get bad.”

People are scared. People are worried. People are frustrated.

That is why the time for selfishness is over. The time for hoarding goods is over. The time for “I told you so” is over. The time for “this is so annoying” is over. The time for preference is over.

It’s time to talk about Jesus.

Talk about Jesus to anyone and everyone you know. Talk about Jesus to your church friends. Talk about Jesus to your family. Talk about Jesus to your non-believing friends.

Please. Just. Talk. About. Jesus.

For those who need hope…Hope can only be found in Jesus.

For those who need peace…Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

For those who need joy…Jesus is our Joy.

For those who need answers…Jesus is Truth.

For those who need life, now and forever…Jesus is Life.

Do not waste this time. God has you alive and breathing right now for a reason. Who will you impact? Who will you share this good news with? Who will you be a good neighbor to?

I don’t mean to make this post sound so direct, but our current situation calls for it. I wanted to end with a quote by Martin Luther that I have seen floating around lately. It is timely, but also a good reminder that we, the church, have been in this sort of situation before.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

May the church rise up in this time, and may we be found faithful.