Monday, August 29, 2011

Trusting God Through Storms

In Mark 4:35-40, the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee when a huge storm hit. Waves were crashing over the sides and filling up their boat. Jesus was sleeping in the stern as the disciples panicked.
Perhaps you are going through a storm and your boat is filling up. What should you do when the storm hits?

1. Remind God of His Promises.
Before they set sail, Jesus told them, “Let us go over to the other side.” He didn’t say, “Let us go under” or “Let us go half way to the other side, and then we’ll sink to the bottom of the sea.” He promised them ahead of time that they would arrive safely. If they would have remembered His Words and trusted Him, they would not have panicked.
We find many places in the Bible where people reminded God of His promises.  You can tell Him, “Lord, you told me in Matt. 6:34 to not worry about tomorrow, so I’m going to trust what you said.” “Lord, you told me in Heb. 13:5 that you will never fail me or forsake me.” “Lord, you said in Phil. 4:19 you would provide all my needs.”

2. Put your trust in the Lord.
Psalm 56:3-4 says “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You . . . In God I have put my trust. I shall not be afraid.” To “put” means to transfer from one place to another. You put gasoline into your car by transferring it from the pump to the gas tank. You put valuables in your safety deposit box by transferring it from your home to the bank. So when you put your trust in the Lord, you transfer it from yourself to Him.

3. Believe that He is in control of your storm. 
The disciples went to Jesus and yelled, "Jesus! Wake up!" I can’t imagine Jesus waking up, rubbing His eyes, and saying, “Whoa! I had no idea that this storm was going on!” Of course He was aware of their situation. To calm down the disciples, Jesus spoke to the wind and waves and immediately it became calm. By stopping the storm, it proved that He had control over it. But most people miss the fact that the storm was also under His control when He was sleeping. Jesus knew that His Father was controlling the size of the waves and the amount of water in the boat.
Are you putting your complete trust in God when you're going through a storm, and when everything is fine?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Walking by Faith, not by Sight

Second Corinthinans 5:7 says “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Does that mean we should close our eyes whenever we walk or drive down the road? Of course not. It means that as we go through life, we can't base our decisions simply on the things we can see, but we must also take into account what God has said.
Abraham had to walk by faith when God told him to leave his own country and go to an unknown land.  We can learn several things from him about how to walk by faith.

1. To walk by faith . . . you must hear God speak to you.
The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you” (Gen. 12:1-2).  Notice that his walk by faith began with God speaking to him. This trip wasn't Abraham's idea. It was God's. Abraham didn't leave his country because he was discontented, running from bill collectors, or didn't like the people of Ur.  He went on the journey because God told him to.

2.To walk by faith . . . you must obey even when you don’t have much information.
God said, “Go…to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1) What’s surprising about this is how little information God gave him. No map. No compass. We want all our questions answered before we start walking by faith, but then it wouldn’t take faith, would it? But Abraham didn’t know where to go. Once he walked through the front door, he didn’t know what would happen next. But he took that first step by faith, trusting God to lead him. God said "to the land I will show you." He had to get down the road first, and then He would show him.

3.To walk by faith . . . you must believe He is guiding you, even if you have no proof.  Heb. 11:8 says,  By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”  He left his house and just started traveling, having no idea where he would end up.  He had to trust that God was leading him even though he had no evidence of it.  After traveling 450 miles, he arrived in the land of Canaan and God finally spoke again, "To your descendents I will give this land" (Gen. 12:7).  The land turned out to be the Promised Land! 

When you walk by faith, you have no idea what will happen after you take the first step of faith.  Then you take a second step, then a third step, and eventually you end up where God wants you.  You don’t know where you are going, but God knows where He’s leading you. Just because you don’t know, doesn’t mean God doesn’t know. But if you will keep walking by faith, He will lead you to your Promised Land.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Church that Jesus Builds

After Peter told Jesus that He was the Christ, He replied, "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven...and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it" (Matt. 16:17-18). This was the first time Jesus ever used the word "church."  The disciples were probably thinking, "What's a church?" 

The Greek word for "church" means "the called out ones." These are people who are called out of the world to follow Him and His ways. What kind of church is He constructing, and what is it supposed to look like? Here are some things about the church that Jesus builds:

1) It is built on revelation, not speculation. Jesus told Peter that His Father had revealed this truth to him. Reveal means "to pull back the curtain or veil," so that you see things that you've never seen before. Once you actually see who Jesus really is, it will change the way you think and act.  It is a life-changing experience.

2) It is built more on followship than leadership.  Jesus continually talked about following and said little about leading.  "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24). He was looking for followers who would deny themselves. Leadership becomes easy when you have people who are willing to follow. So where do the leaders come from?  The people who faithfully serve Him with godly attitudes become qualified to become the leaders in His Church. 

3) It will fight Satan and not other believers.  Satan is the enemy, not other Christians. Jesus said, "The gates of hell will not overpower it." Hell is Satan's domain. I've never seen a soldier attack anyone with a gate because it's not an offensive weapon.  A gate is designed to keep an invading army from taking it over.  The Church is called to plunder the devil's kingdom and set the captives free, and the gates of hell aren't strong enough to keep us out!  Satan knows this, so he plants lies through gossip and slander so that Christians will attack other believers instead of him.

4) It is built on submission to authority, not resistance to authority.  "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable to you" (Heb. 13:17).  Contrary to popular belief, submission is not a curse word. Humility and submission are linked together, just as pride and rebellion are linked together. It's impossible to submit to authority without humility.  Humility is having a cooperative spirit.

5) It is built on love, joy, peace and not hate, anger, turmoil. Having a good attitude is a basic building block of His Church.  Gal. 5:20-22 tells us the works of the flesh are strife, outbursts of anger, dissensions, and factions, while the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace.  James 2:19 says the demons also believe, and tremble.  They believe in God, but they still act like demons.  If our faith isn't producing the character of Christ in us, then something is wrong with our faith!