Do You Walk Along Side or Follow?

For awhile now, I have been calling myself a follower of Jesus in an attempt to differentiate from the religious institution. I thought it was a good way to open up a conversation with others and avoid the stereotyping that goes with the word Christian. While the media and other groups like to classify all Christians in a negative light, my desire is to show that is not the narrative that Jesus teaches in the Bible. Christ loves everyone and has a desire for all to know Him. In my attempt to let others know I follow Jesus, not an institution, I realized that just following is not enough.

Following can be very easy. Following does not require any thought. Simply go in the direction the leader is heading. Go to church, listen to the sermon, worship for a few songs, go home. Read the Bible, pray and do a Bible study. It is easy to get into a rhythm of following that is, well safe. It is safe because there are others doing the same thing. It is safe because it doesn’t require anyone to take any risks. Peter exemplifies this on the night Jesus was taken to by tried. The night Jesus was captured and brought in front of the religious leaders who judged Him and found Him guilty of nothing but disrupting the religious institution of the day. What did Peter do as the guards were taking Jesus away? Mark 14:54 tells us, “Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.”

Peter followed Jesus at a distance. He didn’t want to get caught by the guards. He didn’t get too close. He didn’t let anyone else know that he knew Jesus, for three years in fact. Peter was one of the three closest friends to Jesus. Peter followed Jesus at a distance. When he got to the courtyard of the high priest, what did he do? He sat down and warmed himself with the fire. He was close to Jesus, but not too close. He was willing to accept a warm fire instead of the Spiritual fire that came directly from Jesus. One might even say that Peter looked more like the non-followers than a true disciple of Jesus. How many of us have been content to follow Jesus and follow Him at a distance? Go to church on Sunday, where it is safe. Surrounded by other believers or at least would-be believers. Then satisfied to warm ourselves by the fire during the week, not getting too close to the Spiritual fire of the Holy Spirit.

It is easy to say, “I am a follower of Jesus” but does it look like Peter when he betrayed Jesus? There is another way. It looks move like Peter after Jesus raised from the dead and visited him on the beach. Jesus asks Peter if he loved Him three times. Which redeemed each of the three times Peter denied him to others. This act of forgiveness transforms Peter from a follower to someone who is waking in step with Jesus.  In Matthew 11:28-30 it says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

After Pentecost and Holy Spirit was poured out on humanity, we have a chance to walk with Jesus instead of just following Him. I love how the Message version puts it, “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.” We are invited to walk with Jesus and work along side Him and Holy Spirit. We don’t have to trail along at a distance. We don’t have to be timid and wait until Sunday to come alive. We can walk with Jesus every day, watch what He is doing and be His hands and feet. We have an opportunity to BE Jesus to a hurting world. Religion may not be attractive to non-believers, but Jesus is. His love, compassion and grace draws people to Him. We can be that love, compassion and grace to everyone around us.

Today, I choose to walk with Jesus, not just follow Him. What do you think?

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Mobile Church

Growing up I always thought that I needed to go to church to find God. That’s where He is right? If I wanted prayer, I go to church. If I wanted healing, I go to church or a hospital. If I wanted salvation, you go to church. All of those statements are correct, however, they are not sufficient to live out the great commandment to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Church is a safe place to be with those who know Jesus and believe in His life giving message. Too many of us equate the building with the broader understanding of “the church.” Every believer in Christ Jesus is the church since Holy Spirit lives inside us.

I find it interesting that when I read the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2, God creates the heavens, the earth, the animals and finally man. Then in Genesis 2:8 we are told, “now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man He had formed.” There were trees and rivers and flowers. There is no mention of a building. God had not wanted Adam and Eve to be restricted to a building. Fast forward to the time Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. He had them live in tents. In fact, God Himself dwelt in the tabernacle, which was a tent. A tent is a mobile building which is easily built and easily taken down. Then God had Solomon build a temple for God’s present to reside. However, it was a place to go into and then go out from. Finally, Jesus gives His life for our sins and transforms our bodies into the temple of God.

Just like the tabernacle in Moses’ time, our bodies are meant to be the mobile temple of Holy Spirit. We are not meant to restrict ourselves to a building. Church on Sunday should be a time where we can get instruction, a time to worship God as a whole body and to be encouraged. We are then to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus. He wanted us in a garden, to be outside, interacting with His creation. He wants us going to where people are sick and hurting. We are to get out and bring the gospel or good news to a world in pain.

I encourage everyone to make a commitment to get out of the building and find a place to serve. The church building is important and good, but get out into the community. The good news is that search engines enable us to find places that serve areas of our passions. If you don’t know where to start, try some of these searches:

  • Place to serve <insert the name of your city>
  • Volunteer opportunities <insert name of your city>
  • Soup kitchens near me
  • Serve food to the homeless
  • Anti-trafficking organizations <insert name of your city>
  • Non-profit organizations <insert name of your city>

Once you have searched and decided on a place to serve, take the action to get involved. Share what action you are taking. I would love to hear what everyone is doing to have a positive influence on the world around you.

Are You Hungry?

We have a growing issue within the United States where over 42 million people have food insecurity. While poverty and food insecurity are not the same, they are very tightly linked. Those in certain demographic and geographic areas have larger challenges. Especially in areas where affordable, good quality fresh food is available. While unemployment plays a part, another key issue is many of these folks are in food deserts. A food desert is a part of a city where a large number of people live more than a mile from a grocery store. Unfortunately, it mostly affects lower income areas where they end up buying most of their food from convenience stores whose food have very little nutritional benefit.  The 2015 numbers* are staggering:

  • 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
  • 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure.
  • 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security.

With the resources we have in America, there should never be a hungry child.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’(Matthew 25: 27-40 NIV)

Those with resources of time or money have a charge from Jesus help those in more difficult situations. One Christmas, my brother and I, with our families, decided we wanted to do something for others instead of buying needless Christmas gifts. So we agreed to serve a breakfast at a local homeless shelter. We purchased the food, got there early and had the opportunity to prepare and serve a warm breakfast to about 75 women. We were able to show the love of Christ and make sure they had a warm meal in the cold winter weather. We then gave them gloves and socks to help keep them warm. We did not miss opening the gifts that Christmas because we knew that money was put to much better use.

Students at Oral Roberts University decided to turn Halloween inside out. Instead of getting dressed up and asking for candy, the students went to local neighborhoods and asked for canned food. The donations would be taken to a local food bank. The response from the community was so great they have made it an annual tradition. Not only do the students get to help feed the hungry, they are also on hand to pray for those donating the food. Everyone wins when we become the hands and feet of Jesus.

Today decide to go around your neighborhood and ask for cans of food or warm coats/blankets to donate to a local church or food bank. Not only will you help feed the hungry, you will also get to meet your neighbor. As a way to give back, ask your neighbors how you can pray for them. Watch how God moves in your obedience to serve the least of these.

* Note: Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2016). Household Food Security in the United States in 2015. USDA ERS.

Plant, Water, Harvest

One of my earliest memories of my grandfather was his love to garden. I would spend summers with my grandparents and saw how many vegetables you can grow in a small amount of land. It was at their house where he learned to love to eat green beans, squash, zucchini and lima beans. Every night I had the opportunity to pick the vegetable I wanted for dinner. It was always something I would look forward to as a certain sacred honor, as these were not like ordinary beans. In fact, I would not eat green beans at any other time during the year. They had to be from B-daddy’s garden. My mom eventually got around my stubbornness and would tell me B-daddy had mailed them to us. To a seven year old, I bought it hook line and sinker. Besides, it was my mom who told me all about Santa and the Easter Bunny. So the green beans for dinner must have been from my grandfathers garden, even in the middle of winter.

While I loved to harvest my grandfather’s garden, I did not inherit the passion for growing fruits and vegetables. I don’t know the first thing about making a plant grow. I have never been able to get a seed to produce anything. Thought, I am really good at harvesting, I have never liked the idea of getting the right soil, planting the seeds and faithfully watering the ground every day. In a post a few weeks ago, I talked about the garden I now have, that came with the house. The soil was already prepared for different kinds of vegetables and fruit. So, this year we decided to buy pre-grown plants and see how they do. So far so good. The other day, I read a passage in the bible that hits right at this topic.

1 Corinthians 3:6-92 (NIV) I (Paul) planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

What I realize is I may not be any good at planting seeds when it comes to growing fruit or vegetables, but I am able to plant seeds when it comes to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am able to water the seed someone else planted. I have even been given the opportunity to harvest and see people accept Jesus as their Lord and savior. Each one of us can plant the seed, water it and harvest it, because God is the one who makes it grow. In Luke 10:20 we are told, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” God wants us to be His workers in the field. Too many of us have been waiting to be invited into the garden.

Today, plant a seed, water or harvest. This action will look very different depending on the situation.
• Pray with someone who is hurting
• Do something nice for someone and let them know God loves them
• Help someone in need with a physical or spiritual matter
• Give someone an encouraging word
It can be anything; the key is to make sure the other person knows it is from God.

Perceptions and Your Name

Perceptions are a funny thing. How often do we meet someone and create a perception about them based on their clothes, hair, looks, or smell. We all do it. Most of the time it is unconscious and we don’t even realize we have established a perception about someone. In our mind, that perception become reality.

Now, take the same situation, same clothes, hair, looks and add a familiarity with the person’s name. A name you have heard before. A name that is well spoken of. Does your perception change? Probably! One of the best ways we can make sure there is no perception bias is by making sure we have a good name. In Proverbs 22:1-4 it says:

A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,

Favor is better than silver and gold.

The rich and the poor have a common bond,

The Lord is the maker of them all. 

The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,

But the naive go on, and are punished for it.

The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord

Are riches, honor and life.

What is your reputation? What would someone else say about you and your name? Do you know? Most of us probably don’t know for sure. We can hope others would say nice things about us. Too often we get so busy with life that we forget to step back and look at ourselves. Maybe it is time to ask yourself, “what is my life saying to other people?”

I spent six years in Asia. Over that time, I had the honor of meeting many wonderful people. While we were all culturally diverse, there was an openness to learn about each other. I met individuals from India, Philippines, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong. All were different and all had great stories. Each person had built a reputation and a name for themselves in the company. I knew who I should talk to about different topics, who could help him with others and who would be a sympathetic ear. I found out who had a heart for orphans, who had a love of travel and who was just plain fun to hang out with. It was a great time in my career and life.

Of course, all of these folks were able to get to know me as well. Because of the relationships that were built, I had the honor to share the gospel with many of them. One even accepted Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. It was a fruitful time of relationships and ministry. But it wasn’t until I was leaving Asia where I found out about my reputation. I found out what my name meant to those who he had built relationships with over a six-year period.

For my farewell party, I was given a word picture of the words my friends and co-workers felt best described me and my reputation. I was humbled to read words like trustworthy, empathic, creative, enthusiastic, kind, dynamic, genuine and passionate. It was insightful to read words like slapstick, fun, warm, poetry, jolly, sing, quiet and different. But it was honoring to read words like principled, committed, generous and Christian. Without this word picture, I would never have known what my name meant to others. It is not something we can fake. People will see through it.

So I ask again, what would others say about you? What is your reputation? Would they see Jesus in you? Is your day in, day out behavior consistently shining the light of God? Does your daily interaction with others reveal the heart of the Father who loves them? It can if you want it to. Let Jesus open your heart to a good name and a great reputation as a follower of Christ.

Today ask a few trusted friends or family to write down 5-7 words that best describe you. When you get them back do the following actions:

  • • Before you get any words back, write down what you think the best 5-7 words that describe you.
  • • Ask God to tell you how He sees you and write those words down.
  • • Read through all the words from the three lists. Are there similarities or differences?
  • • Are you surprised by the words your friends and family shared? If so why?
  • • Ask yourself, “are these the words I want to be known by?”

If you need to make any changes in your life so you can be known as a wholly devoted follower of Christ, go ahead and decide to make the changes. Ask God to help you and start being that person today. You can change your reputation!

Searching for the Heartbeat of God

1 Peter 4:7-11 (MSG) Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and He’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
I love the fact that we are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26). This means that God would have an appearance and aspects similar to a man and woman. No other creation bears His image. I think it is so cool that we look like God and that means we can be His sons and daughters. I also wonder if it means He has internal organs like we do? Does God have lungs, a liver, a stomach? Does He have a heart like ours? We know David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), however is our heart fashioned after God’s heart? It will be one of the many questions I ask when I see Him someday.

While we don’t know if God has a similar physical heart, we know He does have a heart that loves us dearly. I pray that each of us would have a heart like God’s and understand what His heart beats for. We know the normal resting heart rate for an average person at an average age is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. In contrast, the humming bird hearts can beat as fast as 1,260 beats per minute. I imagine the heartbeat of God is much more complex than a our own. It is not so important to figure out what God’s resting heartbeat is, but much more important to understand what He is passionate about.

If we align our heartbeat with His, then we will start to see and feel the world differently. In Luke 19:10, Jesus gives us a picture of what gets His heart beating. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” His greatest desire is to see every one of His children to know Him and have a relationship with Him. When we allow our heart to beat like Jesus’s heart, then we find the courage to do the things He would do.

Noelle and her family made a family budget at Christmas to make sure they did not overspend. After they had completed their purchases for the season, they realized they still had some money left over. Instead of absorbing it back into their overall budget, they felt led to give it away. So they split it up between the family members asked their children to pray about where God wanted this money to go. They wanted this offering to be Holy Spirit-led and given away when they saw an opportunity to give it to a stranger. One day, Noelle and her ten-year-old were at a fast food restaurant. Her daughter saw a man sitting in a corner and wondered what he was doing. He was disheveled and was most likely homeless. When they approached the man, Noelle noticed he was making lemonade out of the free water, lemon packets and sugar. Her daughter felt the stirring of Holy Spirit and told her mom she wanted to give her designated money to this man. The gesture moved the man to tears as he felt the love of Jesus, and in that moment Noelle’s daughter was perfectly aligned with the heartbeat of God.

Today, align your heartbeat with God’s heartbeat by looking for an opportunity to give someone hope. Maybe it is helping someone who is homeless. Maybe it is paying for someone’s meal or coffee. Maybe it is giving an extra tip to a waiter or waitress and let them know God sees them. Maybe it is helping a mother of a crying baby at the store. Maybe it is praying for someone in need of God’s intervention. Be open to the opportunity the Holy Spirit puts before you. When we seek to align our heart with God’s heart, we will see His children the way He see them. We will have compassion and be able to bring Heaven to earth and show others His heart!

Time for Divine Interruptions

Matthew 6:34 (MSG) Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes., 

There are only 24 hours in a day. Everyone is subject to the number of hours, minutes and seconds each day brings. In essence, it is a limited commodity for everyone. It does not matter if you’re rich, poor, black, white, male, female, Christian, or Muslim. Time impacts all of us. With so much to do, and so many distractions, a new term has emerged for those who are over scheduled, over committed and overtired. It is called time poverty. Time poverty is when a person does not have enough time to accomplish everything they need to in a day. Which is basically telling us what we already know. We are too busy.

It was not supposed to be like this. In 1928, John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2028 our wealth and technology would permit us all to work 15-hour weeks and dedicate our lives to leisure. Instead of having a lot of extra time to help others and relax, we find ourselves in a much different world.

  • Americans work an average of 8.8 hours per day as compared to the UK at 7.8 hours per day. Those in Italy and Germany work only 6.8 hours per day. This does not include the “shadow work”, which is all of the tasks that we spend time on without pay, for instance cooking, driving the kids, commuting, etc.
  • In America, we spend an average of 60 hours a week at work, as compared to 40 hours per week in 1967.
  • In America, we take fewer vacations than other parts of the world. We take an average of 14 days a year, as compared to Norway who take an average of 70 days per year.
  • We also do not get enough sleep. The average person only sleeps 6 hours a night, as compared to 8.5 hours a night a century ago.

More work, more tasks, less sleep, fewer vacations. It is no wonder we are tired and feel overwhelmed and too busy. But are we too busy for the divine interruptions that allows us to share the love of Christ? Lisa is not. She was at her daughter’s softball game and got to talking with an out of town grandparent. He asked Lisa if she knew where a particular place was that he needed to visit at the end of the game. Lisa’s initial thought was to teach him how to use his navi on his phone. Unfortunately, he struggled a bit. Instead of leaving the man to his own devices, Lisa chose to allow the interruption and offered to lead the man to his destination. The man was shocked that someone would take time out of their busy schedule to help him. He was so grateful. That day Lisa realized the value of not overbooking her schedule. It was a great example to Lisa’s daughter as well. Taking time to help a person in need is exactly what Jesus would have done.

Today, review your weekly schedule. Look at every activity and task that you have. Do you have enough open time to accommodate a divine interruption? If not, prioritize and take some things off your plate. If you are to truly make a difference in this world, you will need some time to engage with people.

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.

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 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.