I read the story in the book of Luke today of Jesus and his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. I came across a truth that I have overlooked as I’ve read this story in the past. I think it’s a pretty important truth; one that speaks to me now more than ever.
In Luke 8, verse 25, I read: He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid and they marveled , saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water and they obey him?
The disciples were in the boat with Jesus, the one they believed in and followed. They believed in him as their Master and as the Son of God. Yet, it seems that they had no idea of the magnitude of power that Jesus has, so they were living in fear. Do you think they would have been so afraid if they really knew the power Jesus has? Jesus has the power to calm winds, control waves, and end storms. His disciples, those closest to him, were unaware of it and so they were very afraid.
This is probably how things are today, too. We know Jesus and we follow him and yet so many times we walk around in fear like we don’t know how powerful he can be in our lives. We live defeated lives. We think our circumstances are caving in on us, we think the wind and the rain will wreck us, and we think the waves will overcome us.
I believe there is a different way to live. I believe there is an empowered way for us to live, acknowledging and knowing the power Jesus has in our lives and over our circumstances and living boldly on account of that knowledge. I believe I can stop worrying about circumstances that seem to be in control and follow Jesus and trust that his power is enough to overcome all circumstances.
I’m sure I spend way too much time and brain energy worrying about circumstances when I should be resting in the knowledge that Jesus isn’t overwhelmed by those very same circumstances. He’s faced the winds and the waves and came out victorious. Maybe I’ll spend more energy and brain power on the promises that he has spoken over me and I’ll let the power of the Holy Spirit that is in me take care of the circumstances.
We’ve been thinking and talking a lot about endurance at Grace Capital Church over the past few weeks.
I think people look at endurance in two different ways. Some feel that endurance is slogging through life, enduring all the troubles that come along with life, with the hope of making through yet one more day of life. Others feel that endurance is one step closer to victory; endurance is building ourselves up to be victorious over all the trials that do come.
I believe that endurance is a positive thing that can only lead me to victory. I believe that slogging through life with the hope of making it through one more day is better defined as perseverance. There are times we have to preserver, but we can always endure.
I’m training for a half marathon that I’ll run in October. My training is designed to build up my endurance, not my perseverance. Endurance sets me up for victory, perseverance sets me up for weariness. (Writer’s note: Victory for me in this half marathon is defined as finishing strong and within the timeframe I have trained for; I have no visions of winning the entire race.)
The funny thing is that I can endure or I can preserver; I can set myself up for victory or for weariness in the same circumstance. Think about it. I can preserver through a 9-mile training run and feel weary at the end, or I can endure a 9-mile training run and feel victorious at the end by knowing that I’m closer to my goal and that I’m setting myself up to reach that goal.
So, I can choose to endure. I can choose victory. Or, I can choose to persevere and become weary.
Sometimes we lead by position, because we possess the title of leader and are even paid to be the leader sometimes. Sometimes, though, we lead by our influence only. Perhaps we are not the positional or recognized leader, but people end up looking to us as leaders. This is influential leadership and is as old as time itself.
I saw this recently when I was reading from the book of 1 Chronicles. In chapter 11 before King David was king I read; In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prime over my people Israel.’
David was to be Israel’s shepherd. It’s interesting that God was telling him he would be shepherd and not king. Shepherds aren’t usually looked up to as leaders but here David was being put onto the position of shepherd.
True leaders lead! They lead regardless of their title or position. This can be where our leadership gets its foundation. We usually don’t start out in an organization as the top leader but we can still lead with our influence. People want to follow those who lead well ,those who are servant leaders, those who lead with integrity and truly care for those who follow, regardless of their title. We don’t need a title for this; only the mantle of leadership that God places on us.
I especially enjoy my Bible reading plan in January as I start reading in the book of Genesis and then continue to read some of the great stories of the Bible. In Genesis I read of creation, of Noah, of Abram who becomes Abraham, and then of Joseph and his amazing story. I love re-reading these and being reminded of the timeless truths found in such old stories.
Just as I was reading Genesis 1 this week, I was reminded of some of the things that God has put into order as he created the earth. For example, in Genesis 1:12 I read, “The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
The creation story fascinates me every time I read it. God created heaven and earth out of nothing. And He did it with such great order. Not only did He do it with such great order, but He even tells of of the order we can expect from His universe. We can expect, and only expect, that a pine tree will come from seeds of a pine tree; a maple tree only from the seeds of a maple tree, and fruit trees from the seeds of fruit trees.
This seems pretty elementary, but it is a basic tenet of God’s creation, things reproduce and only reproduce what they are. If we choose to plant maple trees, then it’s maple trees we will get. If we choose to make bad decisions, then it’s bad consequences we will get. This is a universal truth that cannot and will not change.
So many of us think we can change this universal truth. We think we can plant our maple seeds and get pine trees or we think we can plant seeds of deception and find truth or we think we can plant seeds of hatred and find love. The universe just isn’t made to work that way. We have to acknowledge that God has set the world up with such universal truths and, although God could do a miracle to work around this truth, all we do is subject to these things.
We reap what we sew.
I think we have too many uses for the word ‘love’ in our language. We love burritos, we love pizza, we love our dogs and cats (well, at least some of us love our dogs and cats!), we love our children, we love our spouses, and we love a beautiful day. Do all those things mean the same? Do we love all those things in the same way? I sure hope we don’t!
I think we often think that love relates to only how we feel. We love when we feel like it or we love when it feels good, but if we’re not really feeling it we think the love is gone. I could be cliche here and use the Hall and Oates lyrics that ‘we’ve lost that loving feeling’, but I’ll refrain.
I think Jesus teaches us to go way beyond love as a feeling as he teaches us that love is a decision we make and love is a verb. Take the story in Luke 7 for example. There was a woman there who was anointing Jesus’ feet with some very expensive perfume. This happened to be occurring at a Pharisees house (Pharisees were the really religious people of the day). The Pharisees started grumbling about Jesus letting this sinful woman anoint his feet and they said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”
The thing is, though, that Jesus knew exactly who this woman was. Jesus wasn’t a prophet, he is the Son of God so of course he knew he; he knew her past, he knew her heart, and he knew all about the Pharisees too. Jesus knew all of this, but he had decided to love her anyway. He had decided, way before this time, that he would love her.
You see, In John 3:16 we read that God loved the world so much that he sent his son so that we could believe in him and find life everlasting. The decision was made beforehand that Jesus would love this lady. The decision was made beforehand that he would love me, and the decision was made beforehand that he would love you. That decision has been made.
After Jesus made this decision, he walked it out in all he did on earth, showing us that love is a verb.
What would it look like for me to decide beforehand to love others? What would it look like for me to accept others and walk it out by showing love (the verb) to others by serving them, encouraging them, or walking alongside them? I fail at this every day, but today, I feel renewed in my passion to decide to love others by serving, encouraging, and walking alongside them.
I always like to be sure I have my children’s backs. I’m sure all parents feel the same way, too. We want the best for our children and are always watching out for them, even from a distance sometimes, to make sure there is no one sneaking up from behind to ambush them. We feel that sense of covering for them, a sense of wanting what is best for them, so we keep constant watch and are quick to stand up for them when the circumstance calls for it.
That’s the way Jesus watches our backs. In the book of Luke, chapter 6, we read this from The Message, “But Jesus stood up for them, “Have you never read what David and those with him did when they were hungry?”” Jesus was quick to stand up to those religious folks who wanted to drag his disciples down by criticizing their every move. He spoke up for them, covered them, and made sure they all felt securely covered as they followed him.
Every leader should feel this way about those we are called to lead. We need to love those we are leading, watch out for their best, expect the best from them, and cover them with our words and deeds. It seems like the Church is deficient in this area. Many skeptics say we are the only organization on earth that shoots our wounded. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we were known as the only organization that covers each other, not whitewashing or trying to hide things, and genuinely loves each other enough to stand up for our co-laborers in truth and in love and walk through difficulties together?
Wouldn’t those we follow feel so much safer and more secure with leaders who have there backs in truth and in love? That’s the kind of leader I want to be. As I do this, I think all those that I lead will be able to grow in their gifts and calling because they know they are covered in truth and love and they will know they love, accepted, and forgiven.
God asks for our obedience. Actually, He requires obedience from us before He asks us to sacrifice for Him. In Jeremiah 7, God says, “I delivered your ancestors out of Egypt, I never said anything to them about wanting burnt offerings and sacrifices as such. But I did say this, commanded this: “Obey me. Do what I say and I will be your God and you will be my people.” (The Message)
This shows that God cares so much more about our obedience than what we can offer him through our sacrifices. As a matter of fact, our obedience to God is the key to walking with Him. So many time, we want to talk about and be known for the things we’ve sacrificed for God or to Him. It seems He isn’t so interested in that. We should focus more on finding His will for our lives and being obedient to it. We need to be in His Word often enough that we know His desires for us and then we can be obedient to Him.
God might call me to sacrifice some things for Him, and if He does I want to be ready and willing to do that. However, He has already called me to be obedient, has given me His Word as a compass, and expects that obedience from me. In the end, obedience will always trump sacrifice!