Weathering the Storms of Life – part 4

Going through storms are never fun. However, they are necessary to grow our faith. Through the storm we get changed, but what do we do, once the storm has passed.  Noah gave us insight to that question.

We see the answer in Genesis 8:13-16 “By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry.  By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry. Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.” 

The storm has ended, and what did Noah do?  He waited on the Lord.  It must have taken a huge amount of patience to then wait almost two full months after the land was dry, before he could leave the ark.  Noah waited to hear from the Father as to when he could leave the ark.  Whenever a storm hits, I think it is easy to breathe a sigh of relief and start moving on our own once the storm is over.  But the Father wants us to also wait upon Him.

In my case, once I was able to work through the emotional components, let go of my pride, let go of my future plans, I had to be patient and wait upon the Lord.  Right now, I don’t have a job.  So I have to surrender that to the Father and wait on Him to open the door to where He wants me to go and do.  I don’t know what is next.  At best we see dimly.  And in my case, not at all.  But I will trust and wait for the Father to show me what is next in my career. I believe there is something far better on the horizon because my God is a good God and He is in a good mood.   I know the new path I am on will take me to places I never dreamed of going.

Finally, we must not forget to praise the Lord for bringing us through the storm.  In Genesis 8:20-21

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. 

Noah thanked God for bringing him through the daddy of all storms.  Just as we need to remember to thank the Father for getting us through our storms.   We can look at what Jonah prays when was in the belly of the great fish, he praised the Father in Jonah 2:1-10, and it was pleasing to Him;

1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.

3 You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.

4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’

5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.

6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD.”

10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah captures how many of us feel when we get hit by a storm.  He also captures his heart and love for the Father.  I pray that I can have faith like that one day.

The Father brings us through storms.  He builds our character, He refines us, He heals us, He changes us, saves us, He draws us closer to Himself.  Storms can seem like the world is going to end.  But the Father has given us some practical steps to weather the storms.

  • We lighten our loads
  • We take our bearings
  • We stay in community
  • We eat and keep our strength
  • We cut the things that anchor us
  • We wait on the Lord
  • We give Him thanks.

There is no promise that life will be easy.  We will face storms.  But we can be assured that the Father loves us and will be with us.  He will remember us when the storm hits, just like he did Noah and Paul.

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Weathering the Storms of Life – Part 3

Picking up from yesterday’s post in chapter 33.

“Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.”

During any storm, it is important to keep up your strength.  In Paul’s case, it was food for the physical body.  In some storms, it is important to eat and get that kind of nourishment.  But it is just as important to sustain yourself with the word of God and the presence of the Father.  The last thing you want to do is fast from the Father.  You don’t want to fast from prayer, discussions with God, from reading His word.  Just as it is important to keep your physical strength, you have to keep your spiritual strength up.  You can lean on God for that strength.  Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “

He wants us to rely on Him.  We can get sustenance from the Father.  He will renew our spirits, He will restore our souls.  Jesus really is the living water and when we put all our faith in Him, He will fill us up.  Our spirit and our soul will feel His love.  The Father will freely give His love to us.  It will sustain us and it will help us get through any storm that comes at us. But we have to open ourselves up to receive His love and be willing to seek its nourishment.  Just as the body needs food, our spirit and soul need the love of the Father.

I found myself going to prayer more often, going to the bible more often, seeking the Fathers love.  He really did sustain me during this storm.  He poured out His love.  He reassured me.  He told me, like Abraham, that He will take me to a land that He will show me.  It is because I looked for Him in the midst of the storm and He was willing to pour out His love.  Through His love and nourishment, my soul and spirit got renewed.

 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.” 

When God brings you through a storm and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel or see the land there is one more item that is left to be done.  You must cut loose the anchor that is holding you from being able to see a new dawn.  This can be anything that will keep you in the storm.  For me, the Father has shown me that my anchos were judgement and arrogance! I was quick to judge and proud of what I had accomplished.  I forgot that it was not by my hands that I was successful.  Rather the Father desired it for me to grow and be successful.

I had to cut the anchor of judgement and arrogance. I am thankful God started to speak to me about humility during this storm.  He revealed a number of things that all point to pride and humility.  I am starting to cut that anchor, but it is not an overnight thing.  I pray that someday, I can share the journey to find true humility and really be able to shed the mantle of pride.  But for now, I know that the anchor of pride for my job has been cut.  I now am relying on the Father to open the door for my next adventure.  Whenever, wherever and whatever that might be.

Then what do you do once the storm has passed?  You are changed, you are always changed.  Romans 5:3-5 says, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

The storm will produce perseverance, character and ultimately hope.  Hope comes from the Love that the Father has poured into our hearts. Tomorrow we will finish up this series with a deeper look at how to rejoice after the storm.

Weathering Life’s Storms – Part 2

Today, we continue to look at Paul’s shipwreck in Acts Chapter 27. We will pick up in verse 22 where Paul addresses the crew.

22But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.

An absolutely a critical point in any storm is to remember that God has you. That God will bring you through the storm. You will be changed, but you will make it through.  I think it is best said in Genesis 8:24, “The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.  But God remembered Noah and the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. “ 

God remembered Noah in the midst of the storm. Of course it took him 150 days for the storm and water to be finished. We must be patient in the waiting for God to bring us completely through the storm. Being unemployed for almost a year and staying hopeful is an act of faith.  Just as God remembered Paul in the midst of his storm.  The Father sent an Angel to Paul for comfort and peace.  If we listen, God will also let us know that He is with us, even in the storms.  That He doesn’t forget us, even if it a storm of our own making.  He always provides a way to weather the storm.  It may not be in any conventional way.  For Jonah, he sent a great fish to save him from the sea.  For Noah it was to have him build a great big ark.  For Paul, it was to guide him through the storm and to reassure him that God had a plan for him.

For my situation, I felt the presence of the Father, as soon as my boss began talking.  It was a strange peace that came upon me.  He knew the storm was starting and He let me know that He would be with me through it all, as long as I put my faith in Him.  God revealed Himself to me in so many ways.  I felt like the Father “remembered me” and felt His comfort and peace. As I was leaving the office for the last time, the Bethel song, “One thing remains” was playing on the radio. As I drove down the highway, I was singing, “His love never fails, it never gives up.” It comforted me when the storm was upon me.

 27On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 

An important step during any storm is to get your bearings.  Where are you?  Emotionally, physically, mentally.  The sailors would get their bearings to make sure they didn’t run a ground.  But for us, it is important for us to really understand the landscape.  Really understand what the issue is, and where we stand with it.  This can be difficult sometimes.  Especially if you don’t have all of the information.

In my situation, I didn’t know where I was going to go, what I was going to do or how I would do it. After crying out to the Father, he showed me all the pieces of the puzzle. He allowed me to put different pieces together to paint the picture of what the logic was, what the positives were going to be and what the implications might be.  This time has allowed me to write a book, start blogging, spend more time with my wife and a lot more time with God.

Once God helped me get my bearings, it became easier to focus on what the next steps needed to be.  Until this point, it felt like firefighting.  But once I understood the scenario, I was able to put more focus of riding out the storm.

29Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. 

One of the most important things to do in the middle of a storm is stay in community.  Don’t run away.  One of the easiest things to do when a major storm comes your way is to hide away.  There are so many ways to find comfort when a storm hits.  Some go into a depression, some look for comfort from alcohol, drugs or other destructive behaviors.  But I have learned that it is absolutely critical to stay in community with God and with friends.  Just as Paul cut the lifeboats to keep people together, it is sometimes necessary, to cut away the things that you think will save you.  For example, if you think the bottle will save you, maybe you want to get rid of them for that season.

I tend to be an extrovert and like to be around people.  But it was interesting that when this storm hit, all I wanted to do was to escape to a cave.  It has been a long time since I have wanted to hide away.  God used friends to ensure I stayed in community.  There was a time I wanted to curl up and run to a cave.  Not unlike David when he was being chased by Saul.  I thank God those who pursued me and keeping me from going into  depression.  It was so important to be in community and to know that I had people who love me. They really kept me moving forward and pushing through the storm.

At the same time that I was trying to pull away from my friends, I was drawing closer to the Father. I was learning to surrender all of it to him.  I had to surrender my job to Him.  I had to surrender my future to Him.  And with the friends that He put around me and His presence, I was able to see things clearer. You will as well, as long as you stay in community and draw close to God.

Weathering Life’s Storms – Part 1

It seems that many people are feeling like their life is in the midst of a storm. I know many who are out of work, many who are fearful of the future, worried about the new president and a number of other concerns. For me I felt a storm hit when I had lost my job.  In a matter of moments, I was caught up in a storm that rivaled the one Noah was in.  The floodgates of heaven opened up and the rain poured down…at least in my mind.  The past year has taught me new ways of surviving the storms of life.

This last year has allowed me to spend a whole bunch of time with Papa God. I have spent time on my knees crying out to the Father.  Over the course of the year, I have gone through the ups and downs that comes from being a finalist in a job only to find out I am once again the bridesmaid. I am glad for the journey I have been on up to this point, because I am now in a place where I turn to the Father for comfort and for advice on how to deal with this storm.  In seeking the embrace of The Father and looking for His help, I was taught some valuable lessons on weathering this storm.  God used men like Noah and Paul to find some practical actions that I was able to take to help me through my storm.

Surprisingly, there are many storms highlighted in the bible.  Over the next few posts, I will focus on the storm Paul goes through, and both Noah and Jonah. Today we will begin with Paul’s storm in Act 27.

Paul’s storm is most interesting to me because of the details it provides on what Paul and the crew did to actually survived the storm.  It is also interesting to me because it was a storm they faced because of the decisions they made.  Even though Paul warned them in

27:10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo and to our own lives also.”

You see, they were delayed in their travels so ended up being in the wrong part of the Mediterranean during hurricane season.  No one listened to Paul’s advice.  They took in all the available information and made the decision to proceed.  Lets pick up the voyage at the point where the hurricane hits them.

The Storm 

 13When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. 15The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 

How many times do we feel like our lives are at the whim of wind and current when the storm first hits us?  I can tell you when my boss told me that I was loosing my job, I felt completely a drift.  I could hardly think.  It was like my mind was in a fog.  I don’t remember much of the conversation after those first couple of minutes.   The realization that a storm is upon us can freeze us in our tracks. It is important thought, to keep moving.  Don’t let the storm sink you before you even get a chance to get through it.

18We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. 

What sailors know is when a storm hits, one of the first things to do is to lighten the load.  They began to throw the cargo overboard.  They did the same thing in Jonah 1:5 when God brought a storm upon the ship that Jonah was on when he was running from God.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.  And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

In both of these instances, we are shown that we need to get rid of any excess baggage that will prevent us from weathering the storm.  In Jonah’s and Paul’s case, it was cargo on the ship.  For us, it might be letting go of our expectations, doubts, entitlements, or preconceived notions.  In the case of job loss, it could be it could be getting rid of any unnecessary expenses so you can weather the loss of income.

I had to both lighten my emotional load and my financial load.  The thoughts that went through my head and emotions that I felt, were certainly not from the Father. I wondered what I had done wrong or what I should have done differently.  I wondered why I deserved this. I wondered what politics were being played.  I kept replaying in my mind, what I could or should have done differently to have saved my job.  All of these thoughts and emotions needed to be dealt with and thrown overboard.  I had to put these thoughts out of my mind.

It was through crying out to God, that allowed me to get the thoughts and emotions out of my system.  In Jonah’s storm, the crew were afraid and cried out to their gods.  I believe the natural reaction during this time is to cry out to God, curse God, or turn your back on God. Some people may do all three.   It is critical to cry out to God, immediately.  In my situation, I was able to talk to my best friend, my wife. We called out to God and He helped me jettison the extra baggage.  I got on my knees and we prayed.  For me, I kept asking the Father to reveal the truth to me.  I kept giving the thoughts of failure, fear, anger, disappointment over to God.  I kept laying them down and picking them back up, until they finally stayed over board. In the first few hours of this storm, God gave me the courage to continue.

When you get into the storm, call out to God and get rid of the excess baggage that will prevent you from weathering it successfully. Tomorrow we will discuss what the next step should be.

Smartphones and Being Saved

Cell phones, or more precise smart phones, have become an internal part of our world. Wherever you go, people will have them in their hands, next to their ear or outlining their back pocket. Too many drivers have them in their hands texting or against their ear talking. Smart phones have become an extension of each person. You can look at anyone’s smartphone and they will all be different. The hardware may be the same, but the case will be different and what apps a person have will be unique to them.

People are very similar to smart phones in that way. Our hardware is all the same. We all have organs and blood and muscles. Our external appearance will be different, just like the covers people protect their phone with. The other thing that is unique to each person is our personality, behavior, skills, competencies, knowledge, and experience. Individual phones will have unique attributes as well. The ring tone, the wallpaper and screen saver pictures will all be different. The apps will also be different based on the persons interests. Phones can get filled with apps that are not used and take up valuable space. Others can have negative impacts like drain the battery. Others can be used to search positive things or negative things. So people are not all that much different than our smart phones.

Awhile ago, I had to get a new phone. My battery had gone bad and I no longer had enough space to hold all of my music and pictures. I went to the store and found the phone I wanted and the person asked me if I had backed up all of my information. That way I could make the new phone look and feel like my old phone. I started thinking about the question, “did you back up all of your information?” The sales person was really asking if I wanted to keep everything I had accumulated on my phone. All of my pictures, music, apps. In other words, did I want to keep all of the good things along with the bad things.

When you buy the new phone, everything is new on the phone. It has only the important software and apps necessary to do the basic functions: make phone calls, surf the internet, play movies or take pictures. No other clutter. Nothing else. It is clean and fresh. It is a new creation in many ways. As soon as we plug our phone in and start to restore our backed up information, we start to contaminate the phone with anything that might be harmful to the phone.

This go me thinking, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become a new creation. We are no longer sinners, but become sons and daughters of the living God. We become a royal priest and part of a holy nation. The grace of Jesus cloaks us in righteousness. We get clothed in the power of Holy Spirit and are transformed into something new. It is similar to that brand new cell phone that doesn’t have any of the old apps, pictures or music on it. It is clean, fresh, and new. It has been capabilities and is ready to add new things. We are the same way, as long as we don’t try to restore the bad things in our life, we can walk in the assurance we were sinners saved by grace. We never have to think of ourselves as sinners again. We are saints and friends of Jesus.

It may be tempting to restore the backup files because it is familiar and comforting. However, we get to leave the old life behind and live a life free of bondage, shame and condemnation. We get to live a life full of love, truth and peace. Knowing Jesus has cleaned us through His ultimate sacrifice, we get to celebrate that gift every day. So next time you have to replace your cell phone, remember how much Jesus has done for you and upgraded you. Think about what you are putting on that new phone and maybe, just maybe you want to start fresh and clean. Just as you did when you came to have a personal relationship with Jesus.