The Call to Commitment

leather-books[1]

When Julius Caesar landed on the shores of Britain with his Roman legions, he took a bold and decisive step to ensure the success of his military campaign. He ordered his men to march to the edge of the Cliffs of Dover, and commanded them to look down at the water below. To soldiers’ amazement, they saw every ship in which they had crossed the channel engulfed in flames. Caesar had deliberately cut off any possibility of retreat. Now that his soldiers were unable to return to the continent, there was nothing left for them to do but to advance and conquer! And that is exactly what they did.

In more recent history;

There were fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold suffering for themselves and their families. Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured to death. Twelve had their homes burned. Two lost their sons in the war. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died in the war. Two lost their businesses and wealth in the war later dying in poverty. Despite the danger, each man was committed to creating what we now call the United States of America.

We have an example of a leader making sure that his men were as committed to the main purpose of his campaign to conquer new land, and an example of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence who were committed to making the break from Great Britain to create a new nation.

These examples show what can be done when people are committed to a cause. Most of us would like to say that we could be committed to a cause. Here’s a question for you to consider. How committed are you really to the most important cause as Christians? How committed are you to God?

Moses presents one of the most persuasive lessons concerning commitment to God. God is not satisfied with just saints; He wants us to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 99% committed to Christ is 100% rebellion. If you are not living under the Lordship of Christ, you are in known rebellion toward God. Using Exodus 3, we’ll see 4 basic questions that every one of us must consider for ourselves.

Before we read from Exodus 3, allow me to set the scene. When we find Moses in Exodus 3, he’s spent the last 40 years of his life in the desert. At one time Moses was living in the Pharaoh’s palace; he had affluence, position, power, and prestige, but now he’s living as a sheep herder. He’s a fugitive from justice. It’s been 40 years since Moses fled Egypt for killing an Egyptian. Moses has settled into his new life; marrying and having children. He was going about his daily task when God presented him with an unusual message.

Exodus 3:2-4

2 The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.

3 So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.”

4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Many times God speaks to us. One of the reasons we may not hear Him is that we are just too busy doing our own thing.

We are in a rush; maybe very busy but most of us are wasting time. Even when God tries to speak with us through a unique situation, we miss it because we are in a hurry. We pass right by it. Moses was very busy watching the sheep; making sure they were safe so God had to get his attention. God used a burning bush.

We read this passage and go “WOW! A burning bush; that’s amazing!” A burning bush wasn’t all that interesting for Moses; it was a desert after all and dried up bushes would burst into flame due to the heat. The specialness of this bush was that it was not being consumed by the fire; thus Moses stopped to check it out. When Moses stops long enough from his business, God speaks.

Exodus 3 is the start of a conversation in which God calls Moses to go back to Egypt to bring the people of Israel out of the land. After a 40 year absence, Moses was being called by God to go back to Egypt; back to confront the Egyptian leadership from whom he ran away. How many of us would say yes that this assignment?

Moses’ assignment was to confront the most powerful leader of the most powerful nation of this time, and demand (not ask but demand) the freedom of 3 million plus slaves. Afterward, lead these 3 million plus people through a barren wasteland to a land that was promised to them through their forefather Abraham. Who wouldn’t say yes to this assignment? Piece of cake; right?

It was an impossible assignment in human terms. There was no way he could do it, but that was the point. We Christians are abundantly supplied with many resources, both spiritually and materially, and yet we are making no or low impact in our society. There is one pressing reason: we are not committed to the God of this Book, and what He wants of us. Why aren’t we committed?

To answer this, we must answer four questions.

Who Is God?

Who Am I?

To Whom Do I Belong?

Why Am I Here?

Let’s look at the first question – Who Is God?

Who is this God Who is challenging us to live in submission to His divine authority?

Exodus 3:5 says Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

From the get-go, God tells Moses that the ground he was standing was now holy because He was there; it was no long just a piece of desert but holy so take off your sandals.God introduces Himself to Moses; God knew that it was vital for Moses to know Him.

Exodus 3:6 says He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

One of the reasons why so many people are not committed is that they have no clue Who God is; they do not know God. We think we know Him because of children’s Sunday School lessons or through Sunday morning sermons. I think most of us don’t know the true God; we think we know Him but we believe in a counterfeit version. Some think God is a Zeus like figure who will strike you down with lighting if you step out of line. Some think God is a white bearded grandfather figure like Santa Claus giving out gifts left and right. We don’t know the God of this book (the Bible) because we haven’t read this book on our own. We must study this book in order to see Who our God truly is. Who is this God who requires final authority in our lives? God is Sovereign; He is our King and we are His subjects.

While reading about Asian history, I came about some interesting information. Before the European nations conquered and imposed national boundaries in Southeast Asia, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated their houses with Indian-style serpents were considered part of Laos. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated their houses with Chinese-style dragons were considered part of Vietnam. You see, the exact location of a person’s home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited.

And since we are Christians, we are part of God’s Kingdom and thus subject to His authority in our lives

Four times in verse 6 God identifies Himself to Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. . .” After God identifies Himself, God tells Moses the reason He is speaking to him.

Exodus 3:10 says “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

You can almost see it. After God tells Moses of the mission He has for him, you could hear a pin drop in the desert. Here’s a guy who has been hiding in the desert for 40 years for killing a man in the place God wants him to go. Put yourself in Moses’ position. What would you be thinking? Let’s see how Moses responds;

Exodus 3:11 says But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” Then in verse 13;Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” Moses asked a good question.

You see, it’s been over the 400 years that the children of Israel had lived in Egypt; they had fallen into idolatry. God’s answer was specific in verse 14, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Then God tells Moses again who He is in verse 15, God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you ‘ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

In using “I am,” God wanted Moses to absorb the extreme importance and value of His name. The word God in verse 15 is Elohim; this is the name God uses in Genesis 1:1. Elohim stands for infinite power and absolute faithfulness. Our God has infinite power and is absolutely faithful to His people; to us.

Moses knew who he was talking with at the end of this conversation. God gave Him assures and help to do this task; and it was a huge task. Real commitment does not have a limit. By the way we live our lives, many Christians are telling God, “I’ll give You only so much, but I’m not going beyond this point.” We try to bargain with God.

Reading beyond Exodus 3, you’ll see that God freed the Israelites through Moses. Moses did not free his brothers and sisters; God freed them. Moses was only a tool; but God was the hand.

Let’s look at the second question; Who am I?

I have found most people ask this question sometime in their life.

We humans long to have answers to questions and for most of us we have no clue of who we truly are. In my early 20’s I read books seeking to found who I am as a person. I read books dealing with birth order and books on personality. One book dealing with personalities laid out 4 different personality traits and says everyone is a combo of two. This book also shows what person of the Bible had the same combination and I was hoping for David (the poet) but I got Simon Peter. So I can put my foot in my mouth from time to time. I’m not very subtle; I tend to use a slough hammer to drive in a penny nail.

As Christians, we must ask “who am I?” in the shadow of the cross. When you read the Bible, you’ll see that the people in this book are a lot like us. We’ll see that Moses asked this same question. Exodus 3:11 says, But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” God didn’t answer, “Look, Moses, you are one of them.” In verse 12, God did answer saying . . . “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

God never told Moses who he was but God directed it back to Himself because Moses’ identity wasn’t in his race but in whom he belonged; he belonged to God. You will never understand who you are until you are able to identify yourself with the Person of Jesus Christ; with the God Who created you.

There are several emotions which plague us Americans. Two of these are emptiness and sense of meaninglessness. Many people feel that they are no body; that they have no value. This is why some people abuse sex, drugs, and alcohol trying to fill the void. The suicide rate has risen 40% in the last 17 years due to the sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. When people feel that they have no hope, there is no sense of moving forward so they quit.

There is a relationship which makes life complete. Without that relationship, there is a void, a vacuum in life. Many people, even those who are well-known, can attest to that void. The literary genius Thoreau once said, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of the nations, left this note pinned to his pillow before committing suicide: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day.” I remember a video I saw once of a young Tom Brady. In an interview shortly after his first Super Bowl win. The interviewer asked him if he felt fulfilled because of the win and his answer was chilling. He said that he was looking for fulfilment and he didn’t think winning football games was enough to fill the void.

People have no clue of who they are or more importantly who God truly is. We, Christians, are complete only because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. True Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship. We have a relationship with the God of the universe because of what Christ did on the cross. Deep inside the Holy Spirit affirms who we are.

We are God’s children through Jesus Christ. He is our God, and we are “adopted into the family.” So, Who are you? Some here may reply, “I am a Christian, I am a believer, I am a Christ-follower.” Others may answer, “I’m a doubter, I’m a skeptic, or I’m an agnostic.” Today, maybe the spirit has shown you that you are lost and need Christ.

Here’s some great news for you; if you have ever placed your trust in Jesus Christ and accepted what He did on the cross, you are a coheir to heaven; you are royalty. 1 Peter 2:9 says; “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

The King James Version uses the phrase “a peculiar people” to describe us. The term “peculiar” is taken from the Old Testament. When the nation of Israel conquered the land, and over took a town they would put the best plunder (clothes, jeweler, silver/gold, animals, etc.) and set it aside to be put in the tabernacle (later the temple) for God. Peculiar basically is the best of the best; the most valuable. We are set a part and are the most valuable to God. That’s who you are.

You see why no Christian has the right to live his own life and do his own thing. If the God of this Book is your God, he has the final authority over your life. Christ paid the sin debt for you and me; He bought us, we are His servants. If I know who I am, and if I know who God is, then my so-called rights in life are ruled over by the Person of Jesus Christ. He is Lord of our lives; and whatever and whenever, I have no cause to try to bargain with Him or put up an argument. “Who are we?” We are God’s children.

This leads to the third question, To Whom do I Belong?

In chapter 4, Moses uses one excuse after another in a hope of trying to get out of this assignment. What if they don’t believe me? (Ex. 4:1)          I’m not a good speaker; I have a speech problem. (Ex. 4:10)

Moses sounds a lot like us, when God calls us to do something. Moses was making excuses. We make excuses. We all inherited this from our parents; Adam and Eve. When they first sinned and God asked them why, Adam pointed to Eve; in turn, Eve pointed to the snake.

So many times, God challenges us, and we protest; “I can’t lead a small group or teach a SS class.” “I can’t teach children.” “I can’t witness to my family or co-workers.” The first reaction is, “You have the wrong person.” Does He really; seriously? He is omniscient so He knows everything. He is not making a mistake when He calls you. God knows what we are capable of through His power. If God is perfect (and He is), He doesn’t make mistakes. If He is all-knowing (and He is), He makes no errors.

To whom did Moses belong? Who brought Moses into this world? God. Who saved Moses’ life as a baby when he was found in the river by Pharaoh’s daughter? God. God saw fit to have Moses grow up healthy and strong in Pharaoh’s household. God equipped him, gifted him, blessed him, and made him ready for the call that God would issue. To whom did Moses belong? God first and foremost.

To whom do you belong? It’s simple; if you are the purchased possession of the Lord Jesus Christ, you do not belong to yourself. You honestly have no choice other to obey; God is the final authority.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says, . . . do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

You are not your own; you are Jesus’ servant. You and I have no right to tell God what we will do, where we will go, and what we will think, and what we will give. Some might say; wait one minute. Doesn’t the Bible say something about God giving us our heart’s desire? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

This passage basically says, when we delight in God and follow Him we have fulfillment. You see, as you read your Bible, pray, and grow in your faith walk God’s desires for us become our desires for us.

The final question we need to ask is, Why am I here?

Why am I here; what’s my goal in life or my purpose? A purpose or goal in life is basically just a target to aim for, but if we don’t know what to aim for we’ll miss the target every time.

A Christian who doesn’t know their purpose is like Alice in the fairy tale Alice in Wonderland. In a conversation between her and the Cheshire Cat, Alice asked, “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to go,” said the cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.

So why was Moses there; what was his purpose; what was his goal? God had created Moses specifically for the assignment He called him to do. Moses was raised and trained in Pharaoh’s house. Some scholars believe that Moses was actually in line to be the next Pharaoh when he ran for his live. God sent Moses to the desert for 40 years to sift him, mold him, and make him into the man God could use. God had to knock off some of that pride of being raised in a palace.

Do you ever wonder why you have those dry spells in your life when nothing seems to go right? Maybe you are the backside of the spiritual desert. God is readying you for future service, if only you will trust in Him. God wants you humble to the extent that you will cry, “Lord, I will do whatever you call me to do. I will go anywhere; I will do anything.”

Moses spent 40 years in Egypt, another 40 years in the desert, and he had 40 more years left. Moses was 80 years old when God called him to the job that God had designed him to do; to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and to the Promised Land.

No matter how old you are, you ought to understand why you are here. Why are you here as a single person? Why are you here as a married person? Why are you here as a parent? Why are you here at 8, 18, or even 80? You are here as a child of God to bring Him glory; period.

Romans 15:6 says, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We glorify God by “Our Works.” We glorify God by “Our Voices.”

How truly committed are you to the cause of Christ today? Have you drawn a line in the sand and told God I’ll follow you but only to this point? God doesn’t want us to just do the status quo. He wants all of us; every part of our being. After all if you are a Christ-follower, He owns you lock stock and barrel. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Moses was confronted by the God of his forefathers; the God whom his mother told him about. God told him His name; “I Am.” God told Moses who he was in the eyes of God. God told Moses that He would complete the task He was giving him to do. Finally, God revealed to Moses who he was in the grand scheme of history.

This was a call for Moses to commit to something bigger than himself. God is calling us to be committed to something bigger than us. We should always put God’s plan for us before our plans. His plans for our life are so much better than we could ever imagine. We should daily commit our days to Him to do with what He wants; not what we want. What God might have planned for you could be overwhelming at first but He is the One who will be completing the job He is calling you to do.

Take a moment and ask God to show you what you are holding back and for Him to take that today. Take a moment to ask yourself; Who Am I?; To Whom To I Belong?; Why Am I Here? When we settle these questions, then our commitment issue should be determined forever.

The Source of Revival

bullhorn2[1]I know that when I read the news and watch T.V. our world has changed a lot in the 5 decades I’ve been alive. Society as a whole changes; culture is always on the move. The only constant is change. A majority of Americans believe our country is going downhill. Yet church attendance as a percent of population has held steady since 1990, and probably even since 1940. In fact 50,000 new churches were started in the last 20 years. The number of born-again Christians has grown steadily to 46 percent of adults today.

Given the state of moral and spiritual decay, how is that possible? The answer is simple. Today, Christianity is prevalent but not powerful. The solution is spiritual revival and awakening. We’ve not had an awakening in America of historic proportion for a long time. I think we haven’t had a Spiritual awakening or a Revival because we don’t truly understand what it means.

Society sees Christianity as a religion. Too many of us in the church see Christianity as a religion. We live in a postmodern/ multicultural society today. Postmodernism is a philosophy where truth is subjunctive; truth can change from person to person. Multiculturalism is a philosophy where all religions are equal. The best description to multiculturalism is the bumper stick “COEXIST.”

The letters that spell the word Co use different religious symbols to represent the different religions. C – is a crescent moon that represents Islam; O – is the peace symbol or pagan/witchcraft; E – is the male/female symbol or a scientific equation; X – is the Star of David and represents Judaism; I – is another pagan symbol; S – is a Chinese yin-yang symbol; and the T – is the cross is used to represent Christianity.

Our society see all religions as being equal. You see Christian, Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is a relationship with God the Father that we have through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. When I say America needs a Spiritual awakening or a Revival, I’m not saying we need people to choose a religion and practice it. To hold hands, and sing “We are World,” or sing “KUM BA YAH.”A Revival is not people attending church.

A Revival is people turning back to God. The only way for people to reach God is through Jesus Christ. So the source of Revival is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ the true and only source for the hope that America has. He is the connection point to God, and without his loving act on the cross it is impossible for anyone to have a relationship with God. The true and only hope you and I have is the man Jesus Christ.

John 14: 6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

 

In the Midst of the Storm

None of us gets through life without experiencing a storm! In fact, most lives contain more than one storm which threatens our entire state of well-being. Storms take many different forms and affect our lives in many different ways, but all storms contain some common elements: they usually come on suddenly, they take us by surprise, they tend to fill our hearts with fear, and they test our faith. The storms of life become building blocks of faith which actually equip us for the storms which are yet to come. Being Christians, we aren’t exempt from the storms of life. Even though we aren’t exempt from storms, we know the master of the storms.

Watch the below video for more…

 

The Right Perspective

Nehemiah had the Right Perspective. The definition of perspective is a point of view. A perspective can be very much subjunctive. Look at the question “Is the glass half empty or half full?” This question determines a person’s worldview. This test can determine if a person leans toward being a Pessimist if they say the glass is half empty, or if they are an Optimist if they say the glass is half full. The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on a person’s point of view; from their perspective.

Watch the below video to see why Nehemiah had the Right Perspective. . .

 

The Right Action

Based on Nehemiah 1, we see that Nehemiah received some bad news about Judea. His action shows us how we should act after experiencing something bad in our lives. We see that the right action was pleasing to God. See the below video for the story and life lessons.

The Power of One Word

thecross[2]The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was used when I was a child and still is to help children understand that words should be ignored because, in theory, words do not do lasting harm. It’s sad to say that this is not the case. For many, words that they have been subjected to have crippled them emotionally and psychologically. Labels that were put on them or words that they have heard such as loser, slut, retard, and the like have done lasting harm.

In the book of James, the author addresses the struggle we all have with taming our tongues. James 3 speaks about how the tongue at one moment can be used to praise our God and the other be used to accident. For us humans, taming the way we use our words will be a life long struggle that only God Himself can help us through. I’ve heard and read stories of people who have had their lives destroyed by poorly used words. A single moment in time is relived time and time again as they struggle to live their lives. This post is not a how to bridle or tame our tongue, but to show that where a word or a moment in time can harm people there is a word and moment in time that we (all of mankind) have been set free from the bondage of sin.

We are fast approaching Easter. It’s late this year, almost landing in May. Easter Sunday sermons, in my opinion, should focus on the day Christ defeated death and hell by resurrecting from the dead. Because He beat Satan and took the keys of death and hell, we can be free from the bondage of sin and have a positive future looking forward to an eternality with Him in heaven. The moment of time I speak of is what we call Good Friday. The location is the hill we know as Calvary or Golgotha. At this moment in history, the God-Man Jesus Christ is hanging on a cross with His skin shredded from the cat-of-nine tails whip used on Him. His face covered in blood from the crown of thorns on His head. This Man struggles with every breath His breaths. He was enduring the curse of sin in our place. He is paying the sin-debt for all of humanity. In that moment He says His last word. Jesus Christ- the God-Man, the perfect Lamb of God, the Son of Man, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords-yells out “tetelestai!” and dies.

This Greek word in English is the phrase, “IT IS FINISHED!” The book of John records this; John writes in John 19:28-30;

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Just as a single word can destroy, this single word from Jesus changed eternity. This single word saved me at the young age of 7 and this single word has given me purpose. This single word can save you. In my study of the Greek language, I’ve learned that a single Greek word will have different meanings. The word Jesus used (tetelestai) in John 19:30 has 5 meanings. I will share each to help us understand how powerful Jesus’ last word is to us and why we should care.

The first meaning is Mission Accomplished; Jesus was saying that He completed the job His Father gave Him to do. A servant used the word tetelestai to communicate that a task was completed. Slavery was common in those days. It was different from early US slavery. Many were in debt, and indentured as servants to masters to whom they owed money. They would be assigned a task, and when completed, they would return to their master and say tetelestai, the task is completed. “I did what you told me to do, in the way you told me to do it.” In John 17:4, [Jesus prayed to His Father…] “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” We should aspire to someday be able to say mission accomplished to the Father.

The second meaning is Perfect Sacrifice. Tetelestai was a priestly word meaning a Perfect Sacrifice. This word was taken right out of Old Testament worship. It involved the ritual system of animal sacrifices. God gave Israel the animal sacrifice system for a time. The priest would examine the lambs brought for sacrifice, for they had to be without spot or blemish, so as to be a good picture of Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God Who was to come. First, the priest would look in the lamb’s mouth for anything wrong there. He would next examine the eyelids, and the ears, the hooves, and so on until the whole body was looked over. He was looking for imperfections. He would then run his hands through the wool, looking for any dark hair. The wool had to be pristine white to qualify. Once a lamb was qualified, the priest would hold it up and say [what would be translated in the Greek] tetelestai; this is a perfect sacrifice! It is finished. This is an acceptable sacrifice! And when Jesus uttered tetelestai on the cross, He was qualified to do so as the perfect Lamb of God!

The third meaning is Masterpiece. I’m not painter in an artist sense, but I can paint a wall. I used to be a professional painter and even sold paint for a living when Teresa and I were first married. The Greek artisans were masters and led their world in creativity. And when the last stroke of paint was applied to the canvas, or the last piece of marble was chiseled away, he would stand back and say tetelestai. In other words, he was saying, “Now this is a masterpiece!” When I was younger, I would watch Bob Ross on PBS. I’ve actually see these old episodes are on Netflix now. As he painted he would say “Let’s put a happy little tree over here. And a pretty little bird in this tree.” It was amazing how he could complete a painting in 30 minutes. And the first time you see him do it there’s a surreal moment you witness, because though you’ve been watching him delicately work creative magic, he would now and then reach over and grab a big glob of paint and slop it on the canvas. “Oh no, he just ruined it!” you’d think. But no, he would skillfully manipulate that glob in beautiful strokes.

When Jesus died on the cross, it didn’t fit in at all with what the disciples had pictured. His crucifixion was a big glob of paint slopped onto what was, up to that time, a work of art that they thought was coming together so well. It was ruined! But God was working on His masterpiece! We try to paint a rosy picture of our lives, and just when it looks like things are coming together a big glob of dark colors comes splashing down; the blues of depression; the grays of confusion; the black of grief; and suddenly it’s all your eye can see. Then enters God working it all together for good. And you step back and watch Him work, and you realize that the dark colors are just as important as the bright pastels! One day it will all come into focus. Maybe here on earth or maybe not until heaven. But God Himself will say, tetelestai, my masterpiece is completed!

The fourth meaning is Fully in Paid. The word tetelestai is a merchant’s word meaning paid in full. In business transactions, a man who owed his creditor would pay his bill. And the merchant would write across the bill tetelestai; paid in full. Jesus took our sin debt and wrote ‘paid in full!’ on our bill of sale for our souls. We’re not going to heaven because God has overlooked our sins, turned a blind eye, or swept them under the rug. The sin debt must be paid, and Jesus paid for our sin so we won’t have to! [All bold this so you can see it] Your sin will either be pardoned in Christ or punished in hell! Why choose to continue on the path to hell, where you’ll have to pay for your sins, when Jesus paid it all? Romans 6:23 says; “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What Jesus did on the cross, by shedding His blood, we are all able to receive this gift. Question; how to you receive a gift? By accepting it; by taking it. It’s that simple. For some, it’s too simple. They feel they have to do something to earn it but we cannot. Just accept this gift that Jesus paid for.

The fifth and final meaning is A Victory Cry. This word was used in battle. When the battle was over, the soldier would report to the general that the victory was won by saying, “tetelestai.” This just gets better and better. Jesus went head to head with the devil in his own backyard. Satan has many names and one of them is the “god of this world;” the earth is his domain. Jesus faced Satan, not in the form of God, but as a man, and He turned the tables on that slimy serpent, crushing his head with the very heel he had nailed to the cross. He did that on the cross when He said tetelestai, the battle is over, and the victory has been won! Jesus won the victory over death, hell, and the grave – and then He gives that victory to us. This is good because without this victory, natural man faces death, the grave takes the body, and hell awaits the soul. Jesus fought this battle for you, and it’s already over. Now, we only face the shadow of death as Christians, for the battle is already finished, and the war has been won!

Just as a single bad moment or bad word could affect how a person feels or waste affect the rest of their lives, a positive moment or word will do something amazing. People need encouragement throughout their day and lives. What better moment in history or better word to share with others. Two thousand years ago on Good Friday, the God-Man took our sins on Himself so we can have a relationship with the God of the universe. And with one word, He changed eternity for all of us. Now that is a powerful word.

 

Great Expectations

Difficult choices of a businessman

Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations is a classic. The novel tells the story of the orphan Pip and how he goes from being a poor child to being given wealth. The source of this wealth is never told him so he is left to wonder who might have given him this money. We, as the readers, are left in the beginning to wonder as well. We are introduced to a crazy wealthy older lady in the early part of the novel so the assumption or expectation is that she is the source; however, we find out that the prisoner Pip came into connect with early in the novel was the source.

There are expectations on all people. If you are a father, you are expected to love and care for your children. If you are a husband, the expectation is that you love and protect your wife. An employee has the expectation of being paid for your work, and a boss has the expectation that their employees will earn the pay they receive. Everyone has expectations.

When I counsel a couple wanting to be married, I encourage them to make a wish list. I call it the Expectation List. It’s actually a list of assumptions. A woman will expect that their future husband will be or do certain things and not do certain things. A man has a similar list of his future wife. These expectations or needs go unmet because most of the time they are not shared. For an example, the future wife assumes her future husband will pay the bills because her father had that job in her family; however, the future husband has no idea of this and in his family his mom paid the bills so he is expecting his future wife will do this task. The future wife’s expectation goes unmet because the communication is lacking and so does the future husband’s. When this happens a fight is the result. I think when the list is made and shared way before the marriage starts, each member of the future marriage team knows what the expectations of each other. Before the marriage is when to hash these roles out so nothing is lacking.

A job description for a pastor is basically a list of expectations a church has what their pastor should be and do. Because of my Spiritual gift of Administration/Leadership, I feel a job description is a must. Saying that, I also feel a pastor should share an expectation list with the church they are leading. What I think happens more time than it should, a member gets their feelings hurt because they have an expectation that a pastor will visit them if they have a hangnail but the pastor has an expectation that a deacon can and should make that visit. On the flip-side, a pastor can get frustrated because he has an expectation that the members will follow the Biblical teaching of tithing but only a small percentage actually do the practice. A pastor can and should share what the Bible has to say about how God’s people should act and what they do. I call this Biblical Expectations.

I think in any relationship, when expectations are shared and known helps it function like it should. Knowing what each person in a marriage thinks about certain things will help each person have a good or better understanding of the other. Having a job description in place at any job, helps all parties involved. When a church shares their expectations with their pastor and a pastor sharing his with the people, it helps prevents any assumptions and hurting of feelings. God has shared His expectations to man-kind; these expectations are found in the Bible.

 

In the Midst of the Storm

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Hurricanes are a way of life for us in eastern coast of VA. These storms are a pain when they come, but we know that Hurricane season is between June 1st and November 30th. During this period, we can expect to be in danger of having one or more come our way. We had a near miss with Florence and we saw how Michael hit Florida hard in just the last 2 months. Did you know that hurricanes are needed? Without an occasional hurricane, the world’s weather might be even worse. It’s true; the fierce tropical storms regulate the heat balance between the tropics and Polar Regions. The tropics and subtropics receive more heat from the sun than they lose by radiation. To prevent cooling of the poles and scorching of the equatorial regions hurricanes help keep the balance. There is one thing worse than a known or planned storms; a storm that comes out of nowhere. Even with the technology we have today, a surprise storm still does appear out of nowhere from time to time. Michael was such a storm. It came out of nowhere and was fast.

None of us gets through life without experiencing a storm! In fact, most lives contain more than one storm which threatens our entire state of well-being. Storms take many different forms and affect our lives in many different ways, but all storms contain some common elements: they usually come on suddenly, they take us by surprise, they tend to fill our hearts with fear, and they test our faith. These storms of life become building blocks of faith which actually equip us for the storms which are yet to come.

Here are some common storms. Some of us have either gone through them already or will have them sometime in our lives. The storms of life are the storm of illness (sudden or prolonged); the storm of death (the death of a loved one, a child, a partner; especially one not expected to die); the storm of rejection (divorce, separation, abandonment); the storm of unjust criticism; the storm of emotional trauma (being hatred, anger, resentment, bitterness); the storm of physical loss (loss of home, loss of job, loss of money, loss of security); and the storm of an accident, or some event which may change the course of our life in an instant. Being Christians, we aren’t exempt from the storms of life. Even though we aren’t exempt from storms, we know the master of the storms.

John 6:14-21 shows an event in the life of the disciples that can teach us how to handle the storms that come out way. John 6:14-21 says;

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

 

When reading or studying the Bible, it is always helpful to read a section within the content we find it. The event in verses 16 through 21 is sandwiched between the feeding of the 5,000 (with the 2 fish and 5 bread loaves) and Jesus’ teaching of being the “Bread of Life.” We can see 4 facts in John 6:14-21 to help us weather the storms that come our way in our life. They are Jesus sent them into the storm, Jesus, though unseen, was with the disciples in the storm, Jesus came to them in the midst of the storm, and Jesus got them safely through the storm.

Our first fact is Jesus sent them into the storm. Now this may be hard for some to understand. You might being thinking, “Isn’t Jesus the one who is supposed to protect us from the storms of life?” After all, doesn’t He say in Matthew 10:31 that “not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. The very hairs of your head are all numbered?” But if you check the context of that verse, it is not a promise of freedom from trials or storms of life. It was given to comfort the disciples as he warned them of the cost of being His followers. He was far from assuring them of exemptions from storms; that verse was comforting them that the storms of life would not overwhelm them.

So why would Jesus send His disciples out into a storm? There are 2 possibilities. One possible reason Jesus sent them into the storm was to protect them from temptation. John 6:15 says, “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” After Jesus feed the crowd, they wanted to make him their king. This desire of the crowd was not a temptation to Jesus. He knew what others did not yet understand. He knew that He was the Messiah, the King, but He knew that His kingdom was not what the Jews were really looking for. They were seeking a political leader of pomp and power, to lead them against Rome. He knew that they were far more concerned about the tyranny of Rome than they were concerned about the tyranny of sin. Jesus spoke continuously about his kingdom – the kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God.

Jesus did know that this desire of the crowd could be a huge temptation to his disciples. Here was the height of success! The disciples saw the huge crowds following their master; they saw his miracles of healing and multiplication of food; and now the people want to crown their master as King! This is the ultimate goal for anyone, right? The disciples weren’t mature enough to distinguish popularity from success. That sounds a lot like us, doesn’t it? Popularity is the fact people like and approve of you, but being a success means to attain a desired objective.

In this passage, the objective of the people was 180 degree opposite to the objective of Jesus. The crowd wanted Him to be the leader to free them from Rome, but His objective was to free them from the dominion of sin. Because Jesus knew this about His disciples, He sent them away in the boat while he sent the crowds away and went up into the mountain to pray.

Another possible reason Jesus sent the disciples into the storm was to teach them to trust Him more. This is not the first storm that they had been in. Just a few months before, they had been on this same sea with Jesus. That time Jesus was asleep in the boat when the storm was so bad that they thought they were going to drown. When they woke him up, He had stopped the storm immediately and then asked them why they were so fearful. So they had some experience with His power over the waves, and here was another opportunity for them to trust him. God will send us through storms to build our reliance on Him; to teach us that we can trust Him.

This reminds me a story I read about a father and son who went out in the country to enjoy some outdoor activities. They climbed around in some cliffs. While enjoying the moment, the dad heard a voice from above him yell, “Hey Dad! Catch me!” He turned around to see his son joyfully jumping off a rock straight at him. He had jumped and then yelled “Hey Dad!” The scene instantly turned into circus act; the dad catches the son. They both fell to the ground. For a moment after the dad caught the son, the dad could hardly talk. Once the dad calmed his nerves, he asked “Son! Can you give me one good reason why you did that?” The son responded with remarkable calmness: “Sure…because you’re my Dad.” The boy’s whole assurance was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy. The son in this story could live life to the hilt because his dad could be trusted. Isn’t this even truer for us Christians?

Our second fact is Jesus, though unseen, was with the disciples in the storm. This was no small rain the disciples were caught in. The Sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by hills, especially on the north, and down the east side, with mountains behind them. Deep rifts are cut through the hills down which the winds may naturally flow. As the air at water level is heated it rises swiftly, and cold air from the mountains and hills flows down through these cuts to turn a calm sea into a wavy violent storm in an instant. They had been rowing against this wind for several hours and still were far from shore. But while they were struggling on the sea, Jesus was praying up in the hills.

You see the storm was known to Jesus on the mountain. While they were struggling in their rowing against the teeth of the storm and the waves, Jesus was praying on the mountain. While his prayer may have chiefly concerned his future even to the cross, still I am sure that he also prayed for the disciples in the boat. The man Jesus Christ was Omniscient so He knew what was happening on the sea while He on up in the mountains praying. Nothing could happen to the disciples unless Jesus allowed it.

Now this experience should tell us something about the storms which we experience. Storms, while not enjoyed, serve a worthwhile purpose in our lives. Not all of our tests are earth shattering, life changing proportions. Most of our difficulties are relatively small, yet annoying. But if we can learn to trust Jesus in these distractions, it will strengthen our faith in daily living. Our storms allow us to grow in our relationship with Christ.

Romans 5:3-5 says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

According to Romans 5, tribulation or troubles produce endurance; this endurance produces character; that character contributes to a new sense of hope, and this hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. It’s like falling dominoes. When I was kid, I thought when people played the dominoes, they were actually setting up the dominoes and watching them fall. It wasn’t until I was older until I learned how to the play the actual domino game. When I was a kid, I’d set up the dominoes to watch them fall in neat ways. You see one domino falling affects the next one in line and so on until they all fall.

The storms that come our way should have a domino effect in our lives. These storms should produce endurance, and this endurance reveals our character (or who we are when no one is around), our character reveals our hope. This hope is what God has given us in Jesus Christ. You may not like storms, but you need the storms. Storms cause us to depend on Jesus Christ for help, especially when you cannot really help yourself. Storms not only demonstrate to others that you are a person of faith but they demonstrate to yourself that you have more faith than you even realize.

The Christian life is passed from one person to another, from life to life, so we can serve as an example of steadfastness and trust in Jesus while those who are younger in Christ can learn as they watch us in our storms. It’s like our children. They will react to things in their life the way they have seen us react to things. Good, bad, or indifferent.

It is important to remember that even though Jesus appeared to be absent when the disciples were struggling against the storm, He was well aware of what they were experiencing. The same is said when you are struggling through the storms you are in; He is with you. Nothing can happen to you unless He allows it.

Our third fact is Jesus came to them in the midst of the storm. While they were struggling with the oars and worn out after hours of effort, Jesus came to them over the water. We read this event and have heard it so many times before, we tend to forget Jesus walking on the water required the suspension of what we call “the laws of nature.” In studying this miracle it is important for us to remember that Jesus Christ is the One who created the heavens and the earth, and made the water in this sea. He’s the One who established the laws of nature. It was no more difficult for him to walk on the water than to make wine out of water or to multiply the 5 loaves and 2 fish. Though Jesus Christ was fully man, and submissive to the laws of nature, He was also God who could over rule those laws.

In Matthew’s account of this miracle, Peter asked that he might come to Jesus on the water and Jesus invited him to do so. Jesus also suspended the laws of nature to allow Peter to walk on the water. We’re not sure how many steps Peter took but he walked on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and panicked.

The disciples still didn’t grasp the extent of Jesus’ power and thought He was a ghost and were frightened. To reassure them Jesus identified himself in a very simple way; “It is I, don’t be afraid.” We see that they took him into the boat once they realized who was coming to them.

The best part about reading about the disciples is that we can see ourselves; don’t we? They are trying to rely on their own strength to battle through the storm. We do the same thing. We try to suck it up and battle the storms on our own. Remember, 2/3 of this group were fishermen who lived all their lives on the water. They figured they knew how to handle the situation; this wasn’t their first storm. They didn’t know that Jesus was with them all along, because they couldn’t see Him. When we get into a situation we aren’t familiar with, we often forget that Jesus is with us, too.

There is a poem called Footprints in the Sand that was help illustrate this idea what Jesus is always with us; through the good and especially through the bad times.

“One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”’

When we realize we need help, we cry out to Him. When we ask for help, He’s there every time because He’s always with us. When we realize He’s with us, our fears are calmed, and we approach our situation with a new sense of confidence and peace. Not confidence in our abilities but confidence that Jesus does what He says He’ll do.

The fourth and final fact is Jesus got them safely through the storm. The last sentence of this passage is interesting. Verse 21 says, “So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” The Gospels of Matthew and Mark also include the walking on the water and the calming of the storm. Same accounts with different vantage points.

The account in John serves to show the calming effect that Jesus’ presence has on His disciples.

You see, before the disciples left to go on the water they had experienced a mountaintop event seeing Jesus feeding the 5,000 people. The fear of the storm yanked them back down to reality hard. They went from one extreme of a highest of the high to being terrified for their lives. They had a taste of success which could lead to overconfidence and a sense of pride in oneself. The storm showed these 12 men that they were just human; small in comparison to nature and all its power. When they were at their whit’s end and their power almost completely spent, Jesus came and calmed the storm and showed He was with them. He was the One who feed the people (not they) and He was the One who can secure them (not they).

So what can we learn from this event? One thing is certain, we do face, we have faced, and we will face storms in our lives. Such storms usually come suddenly, often unexpectedly, and frequently without preparation. Such storms usually trigger fear in our hearts; they usually emphasize our complete helplessness and leave us with nowhere to turn unless we are walking in complete dependence upon God. But the storms of life do not need to overwhelm us. If you are a Christian, if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then you have a wonderful promise in the Word of God.

Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.” When we are in the storms of life, we can rest assured that we are not alone.

The eye of a storm is the calmest part of any storm. It is surrounded by the eye-wall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The eye of the storm can be as much as 15 percent lower in intensity than the outer wall of the storm. In strong tropical storms, the eye is characterized by light winds and clear skies, surrounded on all sides by a towering eye-wall. In all storms, the eye is the location where the storm is at its calmest.

Just as in our passage, Jesus not only calmed the sea and storm, but in actuality He calmed the hearts of the disciples. The disciples went from being fearful for their lives to peace; the peace that only Jesus can offer. The presence of Jesus in our lives allows us to have peace; the peace that all the world wants but does not have. If you are in a storm right now and feel all alone, Jesus Christ is with you. You may not feel Him but He is with you. He will see you through whatever you are going through.