Walking On Water

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Matthew 14:28-30

Why can’t I keep my eyes on the one who never takes his eyes off me? I would much rather walk in the storm with you than sit with my fear until you get here. And I’ve seen enough to know that if you want me to, I can do anything at your word. But in spite of your command, and despite my faith and courage two steps later I am choking on sea water and screaming for help. My willingness, my faith, my courage, and my personal pride can’t overcome the shakiness of my legs. Wave dancing to drowning in an instant. Why can’t I hold eye contact even while you hold me upright?
It felt good to put a foot down on the top of the sea and feel it stop on the surface. It felt better to swing the other leg over the gunwale and stand with you in the middle of a storm. At your word I could defy the facts that I had known my entire life. Water isn’t wet, if you command it not to be.
Why don’t you ever look away? My legs, my heart, my little faith quit on you all the time and then I’m amazed that you step back in and pull me up to stand on my wobbly feet. You know what you are working with. It seems like you would find better raw material, somebody with some muscle tone to their thighs and balance to keep them standing when the surface shifts. It doesn’t make sense that one of these times you haven’t let me sink below the surface permanently. Yet somehow, you go from standing over there across the chaos, to instantly dragging me back upright beside you again. I’m not amazed anymore that you can, but I’m still astounded that you will.
You reach down for the one whose dreams are greater than the capacity of his backbone. You grab hold of the one who doesn’t have enough faith to trust you even in the middle of a miracle. You pull up the one whose courage lasts two steps at a time. Then you walk back to the boat beside my scrawny legs and let me try again tomorrow.

 

Our Fellowship, Our Joy

This post is by Rich Powell, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston Salem, NC. You can find out more about him here or hear his expositions of Scripture at gbcnc.org. Reprinted with the gracious permission of the author.

 

Because of his encounter with the incarnate Son of God, John was compelled to broadcast this wonderful One to us and all who would hear.

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

The apostle makes the point that joy and fellowship are inextricably linked. God is the source of joy. The God/man is the means of appropriating that joy through our relationship to Him and then with His people.

As believers, each of us has been baptized into the body of Christ.  The body is vital connection and interdependence with coordinated work upon command from the head (Christ). While there is a common mission for the church there is also a common divine objective for each member of the body- the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ- our joy!

COACHING-1Being conformed to Christ’s image is not something that is done alone. The mind of Christ and the law of Christ require investment with regard to others. Each of us plays an integral role in the spiritual growth (the joy of becoming like Christ) of the other. Our lasting joy in the Lord is proportionate to our maturity in the Lord and love of/fellowship with His people.

This is why the apostle Paul told the Corinthian believers that they were fellow workers for your joy. Fellowship is what the apostle John did- the blessing he received from God he shared with those around him. What has been entrusted to you (God’s blessings) is for the express purpose of contributing to the joy of others.

Our Very Miseries Will be Blessed- Calvin on Suffering

John_Calvin01When he wasn’t blasting the ‘effrontery’ of his opponents (dubbed miscreants and asses), John Calvin could write with gracious clarity and depth. The excerpt below shows the characteristic skill of his pen. I have long sensed a need to take more time to read passages like these with care. “Books,” says Thoreau, “must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”

Since I don’t have to work too hard to find material like this today, I have to fight the reality that the abundance of good reading can turn me in to a page skimmer rather than a reader.

We frequently read about great theologians- which is helpful, no doubt- but we need to devote time to hearing from them directly:

Faith does not promise us length of days, riches, and honors, (the Lord not having been pleased that any of these should be appointed us;) but is contented with the assurance, that however poor we may be in regard to present comforts, God will never fail us. The chief security lies in the expectation of future life, which is placed beyond doubt by the word of God. Whatever be the miseries and calamities which await the children of God in this world, they cannot make his favor cease to be complete happiness…

In short, if we have every earthly comfort to a wish, but are uncertain whether we have the love or hatred of God, our felicity will be cursed, and therefore miserable. But if God lift on us the light of his fatherly countenance, our very miseries will be blessed, inasmuch as they will become helps to our salvation.

Thus Paul, after bringing together all kinds of adversity, boasts that they cannot separate us from the love of God: and in his prayers he uniformly begins with the grace of God as the source of all prosperity.

In like manner, to all the terrors which assail us, David opposes merely the favor of God,- “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me,” (Ps. 23:4). And we feel that our minds always waver until, contented with the grace of God, we in it seek peace, and feel thoroughly persuaded of what is said in the psalm, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance,” (Ps. 33:12).

~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

 

Evangelism- No Time to Talk

“Are you a member of a good church?”

In the Bible Belt, this is a common beginning to a conversation with unexpected strangers knocking at your door. Granted, that doesn’t happen so often. A few months ago, two kind ladies from a local Baptist church came by while doing some door-to-door ‘visiting’. I answered ‘yes’ to their first question, and then I described our church’s location. I offered that I served as a deacon, hoping to indicate that I wasn’t the backslidden Southern Baptist they apparently thought I was- gauging from their strained smiles.

Given the tenor of the conversation thus far, the next question was unexpected:

“Sir, if you died today do you know if you would go to be with Jesus in heaven?”

Let’s get right to it, shall we? I hesitated: “Yes… would you like to come inside to talk about that?”

They both said that they were just “passing through” the neighborhood and that they couldn’t stay long. They couldn’t stay. They had the time to ask me about my eternal destiny, but not to hear what I had to say about it?

The lady gave one more attempt at nailing a hard answer from me. She asked if I was sure that there was a “point in time” when I “asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.” I reiterated that I would love to talk with them about that, but since they were in a hurry… The speaker’s companion realized how impertinent they must have seemed because she volunteered that they would love to hear my story.

I invited them inside to meet my wife and children, but I didn’t keep them long. I hoped that they would see that their questions were deeply personal and that they would therefore require personal answers. Again, they were very kind, but I was concerned with the outworking of their sincerely held beliefs. It was as though they thought life’s big questions don’t require contemplation or elaboration. Just answer the question. Bada boom, bada bing- read our tract, pray our prayer, provide the password (a ‘testimony’) so we can move on to the neighbors.

After they left, I wanted to help my kids think through the interview they had seen. I was obviously displeased with what I saw as a flippant representation of evangelism. Besides failing to even ask my name, there was the pervasive sense of mistrust- it didn’t seem possible to them that I was a Christian until I agreed to their- frankly, unbiblical terminology.

roman_road_02However, if I wasn’t careful, I could leave the impression that it is inappropriate to talk to strangers about God. Even now, after months of hesitation, this post feels more bitter than it ought to be. I do believe that talking to everyone about God is one of our highest callings, and I wish more evangelicals were as willing as these women to do so. I wanted my children to appreciate the zeal of these women, while acknowledging with grace that their zeal lacked biblical moorings. I wanted them to learn to go to people where they are, asking hard questions, while also being willing to listen to hard questions in return.

We should aim again and again to do this consistently with the spirit and doctrine of the Apostles. No trick questions, no heuristically chopping the Romans Road into a Few Random Bits of Paving Stones from the Romans Road.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. ~ Paul, 2 Cor.4:2