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.

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.

What Can We Do At A Time Like This

I don’t want to write about the Coronavirus.

I’m sure you don’t want to read about it (more than you need to) either.

So, the only time you will see that word in this post is there in that first sentence. However, there are so many things that need to be talked about. We need to think deeply about the issues and circumstances in which we find ourselves.

As Christians, how we act and react right now matters more than ever.

So, in order to speed up the reading process, since I am sure any moment now there will be another press conference or breaking news article, I will list my thoughts in bullet-point form.

As believers in Jesus Christ

  • We will not fear.
  • We need to use wisdom.
  • We need to love our neighbors.
  • We need to be proactive and not reactive.
  • We must use this time to talk about the Hope that is within us.
  • We must be praying that when this is over many people will say, “I became a Christian during the pandemic.
  • We must be willing to care for those who cannot care for themselves. (Shopping for supplies, etc.)
  • We should hold fast to a sovereign and almighty God.
  • We should use this time of forced “slowing down” to grow deeper in our faith and time spent with God in the Bible and prayer.
  • We should use technology as a tool to continue to interact with and encourage people during this time.
  • We should continue to be The Church.

Will you commit to doing these things with me?

And will you commit to prayer even more so during this time?

Let’s pray

  • For God’s Will.
  • For a cure.
  • For those who are weak, hurting, sick, or mourning.
  • For the Gospel to spread and take root in people’s hearts.
  • For an unprecedented Revival to take hold in Jesus’ Church.
  • For God to be Glorified in our words, thoughts, and actions.

Philippians 4:6-7 | John 14:27 | 2 Timothy 1:7

Good Looking Trash

I was at the store the other day and I saw a garbage can on sale for the bargain price of only $265.99. I must assure you I did not purchase the garbage can, but it did get me thinking, what can I learn from an expensive garbage can? Turns out, quite a bit.

I got curious and did some research and believe it or not there are such things as “smart garbage cans” that are capable of (among other things) compacting your waste, playing music, and opening and shutting with just a simple voice command. These cans can cost over a thousand dollars.

Aside from the functionality of “smart cans” I began to think about the concept of spending a large amount of money on an item that, while it may look good on the outside, when opened is still simply full of garbage.

If there is garbage on the inside it doesn’t matter how good the outside looks, it will still stink.

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that while people tend to focus on outward appearances, God is focused on our hearts.
  • Peter tells us that finding ourselves beautiful in God’s sight is far more important than being outwardly adorned.
  • And in 1 Timothy we can read that even though being physically fit has some value, being spiritually fit (godliness) is valuable in every way.

The Bible makes it clear that what is on the inside is far more important than what we can see on the outside.

As a human being, we do tend to care deeply about what others think of us. We will get certain haircuts or buy a specific style of clothes to fit in. And while being trendy is certainly not a sin, seeking the approval of people over the approval of God is. How we dress and how we look physically need to always be secondary to how we love, trust, and obey God.

Another layer of this discussion is that we, sometimes, will “dress up” in more ways than just hair, clothes, and jewelry. Sometimes we try to dress up our lives with little “white lies” that make us look better than we actually are. Our straight-A kids have C’s, our promotion was really just a cubical change, and it only took 8 tries to get that candid photo we posted on the ‘gram.

God knows us. God sees what and who we truly are.

Now, please don’t walk away from this thinking that I am calling all of us trash. Well, maybe I am. But if I am it’s only because, compared to everything that Jesus has done and everything that He is…we kind of are. Our own goodness could never ever compare to His ultimate righteousness.

So, let us commit to worrying less about what’s on the outside, both in our own lives as well as how we view others. Let us also commit to asking God to not just make our outsides look good, but more importantly, to take away all the garbage that we have been storing up on our insides.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10