Cleansing

When we read the scripture, it reveals the lives of men and women who face some of the same storms of life that we do. Moreover, it appears Jesus will test us over and over again until we pass the test. Here, in the middle, the disciples who have witnessed the immensity of God’s great Son, the Word is spoken and blessing flowing has led them to another test of faith. Where over the gunnels of the ship lay a vast sea violent in its tumult, a storm comes ashore to each heart of Jesus’ disciples and riding atop the big blue, where worry sprays, and this moment could cost them their lives. Into the tossed room, washed, longing for a ringer’s relief. Twelve soaked to the core men have been rinsed and are now spinning out the cycle. When they raise a rye eye to seem that someone, something is approaching them, out walking on the water. 

Miles from shore on a raging sea Matthew 14:25-26~And in the fourth watch of the night…when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. (ESV) Immediately. Nothing could or can be any faster. Matthew 14:27~But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. (ESV) Matt now records something Mark and John do not. If you have ever prayed a prayer concerning what the Lord’s will is, then you are more like that Salty Sea Dog Pete than you think. Matthew 14:28~ …Lord, if it is you, command me…(ESV) Well, Jesus simply says, Come.

This is not a moment to be wishy-washy and so Pete gets out of the boat. When faith is focused on Jesus Christ we can do as Paul writes in Philippians 4:13~I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (NIV) You might say to me, Pastor, strength isn’t the issue when standing on water. and I’d say to you, that is where you are wrong. Standing on the water is not about hydrodynamics, displacement, gravity, even buoyancy, it is solely faith. Notice how Pete is fine when he is focused on the object of his faith, Jesus. However, when he loses focus, even for a moment, the sea of problems soak him, sinking him in its shifting stormy seas. (Matthew 14:28-29)

Do you know the shortest prayer prayed in the Bible? It is only 3 words long. Perhaps you have prayed it quoting the scripture without even realizing it. When we are in severe trouble, we don’t mince words or lay hold of long eloquence. We get to the brass tax of our great need quick, fast and in a hurry, just like Pete did when he was drifting downward in his problems. Pete cried out in what I can only imagine was a loud voice with great supplication. Matthew 14:30~…Lord, save me. (ESV) In response to this powerful prayer of 3 mere words, again, Jesus Christ immediately reaches out and takes Peter’s hand. 

God always reaches out to us to save us. John 6:44 says the Father 

must draw us, that is His divine hand extended. Why would He do this? Because of His great love for us. I know we like to be hard on Pete, but he showed more faith, then all of the other disciples, who just stayed in the boat. Mark tells us the disciples are astounded and amazed beyond measure. Mark 6:51~Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, (NIV) What I love is how Jesus Christ gets into the boat and everything dies down. That’s the power of Jesus. 

John, who is taking copious notes for his subsequent Gospel will later write in John 6:21~Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV) Jesus never promises smooth sailing, but He does promise us a safe landing. Like He did for Ole Mo and the Israelites at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31). When we get out of God’s will. He may send a storm to get us back on His course, as He did in Jonah’s life. (Jonah 1:4-2:10) Jesus came to rescue us from our sins, our problems, and even life’s storms. 

Listen, there will be some very frightening storms in our lives. But, the same hand that reached out to Pete will reach out to you and me in the midst of the most violent storms. Jesus will come, out walking atop the waves afflicting us. Therefore, we can have peace in the midst of life’s storms. Just by knowing that we are the object of His great love. Today, I remind us, of the words that God shared with Joshua. Ole Mo has died and Joshua is facing some pretty rough looking seas. 7 times in 2 chapter, God says these words Joshua 1:9~…Only be strong and very courageous…(ESV) Understand, God does not change (Malachi 3:6). 

Today, only be strong and courageous. With eyes fixed on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith and knowing the same God who was with Ole Mo, Joshua, and Pete, will be with you, to see you through every life problem. God is Bigger than all we face. Job 26:14~these are but the outer fringe of his works…Who then can understand the thunder of his power? (NIV) Prevailing over problems means we must bathe problems in prayer as we believe in the presence and power of Jesus.



Jesus

Some of you are facing problems today and I want you to believe in Jesus. (Matthew 14:24-33) I’m not just purposing that we believe in Jesus and that everything is going to work out, though that is a huge part, we must believe in the presence and power of Jesus. He’s allowed His disciples not only to see a miraculous feeding of 5,000, in the face of great grief but also allowed participation. There is nothing like putting our hands to work with the Gospel. God loves enlisting us to work alongside of Him. Like a father who teaches us by doing, He hands us a tool and says let’s do this, together. Christ Jesus looks at His disciples and says to them, now its time to apply what you have learned. Matthew 14:24~but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. (ESV) Matthew 14:25~And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. (ESV) 

Rowdy with whitecaps the sea sprayed them each, as waves break and toss the boat about. Because Capernaum and Bethsaida are both on the northern part of the Sea, the disciples would not normally have gone more than a mile from shore. However, the storm has carried them miles out to sea. John 6:19~When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. (NIV) This means they are in the middle of the Sea which is about 7 miles across and about 15 miles long. The disciples are probably, confused. Why did we have to rush away? Frustrated that Jesus has sent them away after such a great move of the Lord. They were afraid, for how could Jesus know their current plight. Oftentimes the worst part of a storm is thinking that Jesus is not with us. 

In Matthew 8, we read a similar story when Jesus Christ was with the disciples. Witnessing the Word at work in our neighborhood as He spoke: “peace be still.” The disciples were accused of little faith and much fear. (Matthew 8:24-26) The question before us here in Matthew 14 is, Have the disciples grown in their faith from that first storm to this storm? In a very similar manner, that’s what many problems do in our lives. They layer, building up to reveal our deepened spiritual walk. Anyone who builds will tell you that to go up, requires first a firm foundation. The disciples are in a test. Perhaps Christmas came this year and brought a battery of tests. 

Trust in God, who is Jehovah Jireh our provider. (Genesis 22:13) There may have been a health scare from a bad report and we need to be reminded God is Jehovah Rapha our healer. (Jeremiah 30:17, Isaiah 61:1) Though the family isn’t getting along this Christmas, His banner over us is love, for Jehovah Nissi reigns over our home. (Exodus 17:15) In each Advent season, we are reminded that He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness. (Jeremiah 23:5-6) And though the valley of the shadow of death has darkened the door of some, He is Jehovah Raah, the Lord our Shepherd. (Psalm 23) He will not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) for He is Jehovah Shammah, the God who is here with us, even in the midst of a test. (Ezekiel 48:35)

In each situation, He is the same God, yesterday, today and forever.



Wait

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Perhaps today has been a struggle to get to. The holidays can test us in all manner, shapes, and sizes of puzzle pieces that perplex us as problems. In Matthew 14, Jesus is still being tested as well. As we come to the middle of Matthew, we have discovered how hard good church-going people have been on Jesus. The Jewish leaders think He is owned by satanic powers, His family, they think of Him as One who flew over the cuckoo’s nest. The crowds want to crown Him as their new King, after all, He miraculously fed them lunch.

However, Jesus is filled with grief, weary from doing good, and His disciples, those who support Him in ministry  are set adrift atop seaside safari, headed for home. All the while, a gaggle of constituents crowd to make Him king. Jesus’ temptations are real, just like ours are real. Hebrews 4:15~For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (NIV) When we are tempted, we ought to pray Matthew 6:13~And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. (ESV) 

Jesus has the power and the glory to overcome. He’s divinely present and ever able to help us in times of trouble. God loves us with unfailing love. (Psalm 46:1) Whatever our temptation, no matter our circumstances Jesus Christ practices His own preaching. Sometimes we need to be reminded that our God is Bigger. God is bigger than temptation, that is why we must learn to Bathe Our Problems In Prayer, especially when in prolonged adversity.

Understand where the disciples are. They were down and confused for John is dead. The Lord lifted them up to labor in a miracle. Watching and waiting, they walked the weight of witnessing dinner for 5000 by a basket held by their own hands. They were dismissed before the crowd could crown Christ King as Jesus calls all aboard and sends them bound for home. There the fresh catch of the day, that heavily laden basket of provision sat not so silent in the night, at their feet, straining at the oars of life where they wrestled with the wind.

It is often in these dark lonely places that we need to be reminded that Jesus walks into the room. Though the night has not gone as we might have hoped and the days leading us up to this moment have held us in waiting, Jesus came that first Advent to free us. Waiting has always been the most demanding theme of Advent. So, as you continue to wait, know Jesus has come to set you free. To give you hope and future and share a new life. Why not choose today to offer Him a prayer as you share your problems, needs, and longings. Then praise Him, for he came to let captives go free. The tree may not have the gift you are looking for, but Jesus does.