146. The feasting table of faith in the storm.

Continuing from the previous Pebbles…the disciples are in a panic.  They are struggling against wind and wave, fighting for their lives. Real life.  Circumstances are out of control without a clear resolution.  All the good intentions of calm sessions in therapy are thrown overboard when reality overwhelms purposeful and wise life goals.  Where, you may ask, is God?  The clatter of confusion speaks louder than anything and foolish fear is right back on the governing seat of heart and mind.

The disciples were fighting a violent storm on the lake, when Jesus approached them on the water.  They could not see in the darkness and had no way of knowing who or what this ghostlike image is.

He speaks command-like certainty to them to calm them down. [Pebbles 145]  His voice is the means by which they recognize their Master.

Can you hear him speak to you this moment, even in the raging circumstances?  He brings calm and reason with his voice.

What is the next step?  We all know Jesus can calm a storm.  How wonderfully grand that story has been told in words and art!  I would expect nothing less in this case.  Speak to my waves, Jesus.  Speak to the wind, Jesus.  Bring me some calm so that I would know I am safe in the boat.

As if the storm in the dark is not enough to focus their attention on Jesus, He does not address the situation. Everything is still in crisis mode.  The boat can capsize, the people can drown – I mean, lives are at stake!  Get this miracle on my circumstances done now!

Actually, not yet.  It is time for faith living.  Could we experiment a bit in stormy, deadly waves?  Let’s do something counter-intuitive; something completely irresponsible.  Oh no, you might say, stay in the boat and continue praying.  Don’t push matters too far.

Trust our impulsive friend Peter to push matters along.

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 So He said, “Come.

Key words to live by.  On the command of Jesus we will ride out the storm.  His voice says: Come!

I have no doubt that Peter would have walked with Jesus to the edge of the water, through the storm in the darkness, keeping his eyes fixed on the face of Jesus and his ears pitched to hear Jesus’ voice.  However, he looks down and sinks.

Jesus was always very truthful about the cost of discipleship.  He never allowed emotional commotion to rule over rational decisions and wise deliberation.  In spite of an emotional and impulsive decision to get out of the boat, Peter quickly sensed the daunting and terrifying scope of the storm.  This would not be a walk in the park!

Nevertheless, Jesus will never let him sink.  He reaches out and pulls Peter to safety.  Peter did not suffer defeat that night. Defeat would have been drowning. He took a mighty step of faith, and even when it looked too big and too frightening, he could stretch out his hand to his Saviour who was right there next to him.

He touched Jesus in faith.  Together they landed safely on the beach. He survived the storm, with many lessons learnt and sharpened life skills for the next one.

Defeat is a matter of perspective.  Peter walked on the water and in spite of his sudden panic and the demobilizing fear that sunk him, he walked out of the storm on the arm of his Master.  He did not die. He lived and completed the full purpose of his life.  We do not emerge from the storm with a shining certificate for good behaviour. Mostly we come out of it with a few scars, maybe even open wounds, but always holding the Hand that saved us from drowning.

Storms are fierce.  We may falter and fail, but hell will not prevail. Victory is to keep the faith, not to be offended with God for the storm and walk out on the beach on the arm of your God.

I am sure we are all familiar with modern teambuilding strategies. One of these is a very high narrow bridge over which all partakers must walk.  The walk is scary and each participant is fastened with a cable, held by supervisors on the ground.

It is not easy.  The height is chosen to make it creepy.  How will you know that the guy on the ground is strong enough to tighten the cable when you miss the step?  They look far away and much to relaxed.  Our brain gives us three options for a split second decision.  Fight, freeze of flee.

One of the participants was overcome with fear in the middle of the bridge and took a very logical decision: freeze.  He could not move forward and backward was even more terrifying.  On the other side, one of the participants who had just finished the walk, turned around and walked to the frozen figure.  He commanded him to look up into his eyes and take each step together. With his eyes away from the height and the narrow walkway, they walked in unison to complete the rest of the bridge.  Fear did not prevail. It was beaten, even though he needed help.  He completed the walkway, just in another way.

Where is your eye fixed? Are you looking at the waves and shy away from the wind?  Take the hand of Jesus; hear his voice.  You will walk in victory within the storm.  The stumbling block will become the certain step of victory. It is faith and trust that grow deeper roots, that shape the victory.

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!’ Then Israel shall dwell in safety, The fountain of Jacob alone, In a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew. (Deuteronomy 33:26-28)

When Jesus got into the boat, the storm calmed down.  His presence is the solution.

He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. (Psalm 107:29)

And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:6)

The tabernacle is where the Ark of the Covenant is, the symbol of God’s presence.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing. (Psalm 23:5)

In closing – who is this Jesus? What is his name?

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved,
 for You are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)

The Hebrew for SAVE is yasha with a deeper meaning to loosen, or to open wide.  It is the word for God’s reaction to all our needs.  He gave his Son the name – Yeshua– He saves.

It says it all.  All you need is in his NAME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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145. Don’t worry… you are safe!

These are the most wonderful words to hear. In the panic, in the most difficult state of affairs, in the middle of the fight, within the helpless disappointment of things spiraling out of control, these words will bring calm and reason in your mind.

You are out of harm’s way. You are protected. Always and everywhere – without exception or interruption.  It is the truth.  It is guaranteed.

Have you truly heard the Word of God?

…for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!   (Hebrews 13:5, AMPC)

Permit the Holy Spirit to burn the Word of God into your heart and mind.

Most people who grew up in church would know about the stories in Matthew 14.  Maybe familiarity renders them powerless.  It is power-words from a miracle-working Saviour.  After the picnic-feast for roughly 10 000 people (5 000 men – John 6:15), the people are ready to crown Jesus King and Messiah and live the political solution they have been anticipating for centuries.

 Jesus sends his disciples away on a boat to the other side of the lake.  Were they part of the problem?  Perhaps.  They were very aware of the oppression of Roman rule and this wonderworking man was their ultimate weapon of guaranteed victory.  Jesus slips away to spend time alone in the mountains.  He had to focus on the grand plan of which earthly kingship had no part.

The lake of Galilee (sometimes called the Sea of Galilee) is the biggest freshwater lake in Israel.  The particular geological structure of Mount Arbel creates a wind tunnel through the Arbel Pass to blow up raging storms over the lake.

The disciples were in a fishing boat roughly eight meter long, two meter wide and one and a half meter deep.  The measurements were taken from a recent archaeological discovery of a fishing boat on the northwestern bank of the Sea of Galilee.  The boat could carry one-ton fish with a crew of five.  Instead of the catch, the boat could carry ten passengers with the crew.

The night was divided in watches of three hours each.  Jesus spent a few hours in the mountains and then walked around the lake to meet his men on the other side as agreed.  By the fourth watch, He sensed their panic and came to them on the water.

In the mayhem of the storm they struggled against wind and wave.  When they saw this figure approaching, they did not recognize Him.  That is exactly what a storm in your life does.  It blinds you to become aware of his presence.  Darkness and noise hold you captive to the situation.  Things are always worse in the night – true?

How will you recognize Jesus in your storm?

Precisely like the disciples recognized him! They heard his voice with these wonder-words of peace:

But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid! [AMPC]

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” [The Message]

Jesus speaks clearly and direct.  No niceties – straight to the point. He knows your fear and knows the way out.  This is what He says:

I AM!

He is the source of every possible miraculous solution for your circumstances.  He does NOT calm the storm.  He speaks first to you and your mind.  The point is not the storm.  The point is the recognition of his voice.  He is there!  He is present in the storm!

Hear the echo of 2 Kings 3:18:

And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord.

Faith in his words is the test.  Nature will obey him.  Faith is your choice.  Will you obey him?  The heart of the matter is your choice to believe him and obey his words not to fear.

The presence of Jesus elevates your situation from crisis-level to expectation-level.

What happens next?  Oh, very good, you might say.  Now that I recognize his presence, He will act on the situation.

Well, that is not how the story continues!