Thursday, November 15, 2012

A study of Ephesians 1:1-10

This is not a sermon (though it may will turn into one someday), this is just my thoughts and connections as I study the letter to the church at Ephesus.  The words in black print are Bible verses   from the American Standard Version.  Words in green are my thoughts on the scripture.

Ephesians 1  ASV

1.   Paul, (not Saul but Paul.  Not the former person but the new man.  The man remade in an instant of transformation at the moment of contact with the Son of God) an apostle (Messenger … but different from the term used for angels who are also messengers of God.  The term used here is of and emissary or ambassador.  An angel is sent to deliver the message.  Where an apostle is sent to speak for the sender.  It is a broader concept almost as if this type of messenger has also been given the ‘power of attorney’ by the sender.) of Christ (The anointed one.  In Hebrew, the Messiah.  Christ is a title not part of his name.  It literally recognizes Jesus as King in the same way that David was anointed King by Samuel.)  Jesus through the will of God, (The will of God … this is all part of the plan that God as set in motion through his divine will.  This not a random or accidental fact that Paul is an ambassador, nor is it of his own choosing.  He is an apostle because God re-created him as his emissary.)  to the saints (not Saint with a capital S.  Paul is recognizing that he is not speaking to non-believers but to those who are believers in the Lordship of Jesus.) that are at Ephesus, and the faithful (Faith full: filled with faith.  And not just any faith but faith in the lordship/kingship of Jesus) in Christ Jesus;
2.   Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, (Paul as a good Jew and steeped in the Jewish tradition did not begin his letter with Shalom.  Shalom means peace, an all encompassing type of peace.  Peace in your family, your self, your finances, your society etc.  Instead Paul wishes his readers the blessing of grace. Grace is the love of God, freely and limitlessly given without restrictions and totally undeserved.  Obviously to Paul this grace was a much greater blessing than peace.)
3.   blessed be the God and Father (This is not the common Jewish designation of God as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  Paul in this salutation acknowledges the singular distinction of Jesus, he is the Father’s Son.  Paul acknowledges that Jesus is more than a prophet, more than a teacher, more than a healer, more than a spiritual leader more even than a king; he is recognizing the divinity of Jesus and he wants audience to understand that special distinction.)  of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Again, Paul is recognizing that both he and his readers belong to Jesus.  They are servants and He is Lord.) who hath blessed (divinely favored or favored by God) us with every spiritual blessing (Paul is not discounting earthly blessing but he is about to enumerate the more important spiritual blessings and doesn’t want his readers to start mentally cataloging earthly blessings such as health, wealth, etc.) in the heavenly places in Christ:
4.   even as he chose us (Remember Christ himself reminded his followers that they did not choose him but that he had chosen them.  As I am writing this, it is the day before a national election where we will choose our next president.  We will choose the person who will be the recognized leader of our government for the next four years.  Not everyone who goes into the voting booth will choose the person who will win the election.  Some will cast the ballot for a different candidate.  In this election we can reject as well as choose.  Not so with Christ.  He chose.  We did not.) in him before the foundation of the world, (As John said at the beginning of his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.”) that we should be holy (Dedicated or devoted to the service of God.) and without blemish (By Jewish law nothing that is blemished, spotted, defective in anyway may be dedicated to God.  Since “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, it is only through the redeeming transformational power of Jesus that we can be seen as ‘without blemish’ before God.  Jesus is better than Clearasil, Oil of Olay, or Neutrogena.  Amen?) before him in love: (dedicated in love … not dedicated out of fear, or duty … not dedicated as an exchange for favors.  We are dedicated in love as a sacrifice pleasing to God.)
5.   having foreordained (We are non-denominational so I’m going to sidestep all arguments fore or against Calvin’s understanding of these terms of ‘foreordained’ and ;predestined’ and just say that they mean appointed beforehand) us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, (Paul as a Jew was not claiming his birthright as a ‘son of Abraham and inheritor of the promise of God’.  He was acknowledging that, through Jesus, Jew and Non-Jew had both been adopted into the family of God.  This was a vastly more important relationship than being a son of Abraham) according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: (Again Paul is saying that is all the will of God, a gift, unearned and purchased by Jesus.)
6.   in whom we have our redemption (redemption requires a price.  We have said and believe that our salvation is a gift, however it free to us only because Jesus paid the price of our sin, of our rebellion against the will of God.) through his blood, (this is the price, His blood in exchange for ours.  One day during communion we received the bread and dipped it into the chalice of juice and as I removed the bread, I automatically held my other hand under it to catch the drip.  And drip it did, right into the center of my palm.  As I looked at the round dot of red, my heart was broken, once again by the realization of the depth of Jesus’ and the Father’s love for me.) the forgiveness of our trespasses, (Trespass is such a gentle word.  We have just wandered into a place where we did not belong. At times in my life maybe what I did was trespass.  However there were also times that I SINNED!  I was willfully disobedient to the will and law of God.  In those times when I just stepped off the path, a gentle nudge was all I needed to get me back into the will of God.  But there were times that took off running, jumping fences, scaling walls and kicking down doors as I ran from God.  I deserved a whack upside the head, to be shackled and thrown into the pit.  However, God gave to me ((and you)) … according to the riches of his grace.
7.   which he made to abound toward us (Grace that comes not in a trickle but a flood.  An overwhelming, all engulfing outpouring of grace.  A grace that doesn’t just hide our sins it completely removes them.) in all wisdom and prudence,
8.   making known unto us the mystery of his will, (The mystery of His will?  Did you realize that God gave more than ten laws to Moses?  Orthodox Jews follow all 613 in the law of Moses.  God certainly never intended his will to be a mystery.  He tried repeatedly to make his will known to us.  It was only man’s hard heartiness that made his will a mystery to us.
9.   according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him
unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, (Bless you Paul for that image, “sum up all things in Christ”.  Did you just hear Paul say, “Jesus is the answer?”  Imagine a balance sheet; on one side is everything … everything ever … past, present and future … everything, add them altogether and on the other side of the = sign is Jesus.  “All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.” John 1:3.) 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Price and The Prize

Mark 12:38-44

38.  As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,
39.  and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!

        We haven’t changed that much in the last two thousand years have we?  We know these people.  Amen?  We may even BE these people.  Opps!  I’d better back off before I start meddling.  It’s too early in the sermon to start stepping on toes.  Don’t worry; the toes that get stepped on are my own.  Remember, every message I deliver was delivered to me first.

40.  They devour widow’s houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.  They will receive the greater condemnation.”

        Okay, here is confession time for me.  And please understand, I’m not telling you this to be boastful.  I’m telling you this in all humility.  When I am preaching, I write the corporate prayers in advance because I want to be sure to cover all the concerns of the congregation.  My goal isn’t for length but for completeness. 
        That is the difference between these public prayers for others and my personal prayers which are much different.  99% of my prayers are quick, one topic prayers, more akin to post-it notes than letters.  I talk to God a lot because I talk to Him about what is on my mind.  And, well, I guess my mind does hold a lot of thoughts at a time!  But the point is I don’t have to get “caught up” with God.  I don’t have to fill Him in on what is going on, ‘cause He’s there with me all the time. 

        Those prayers are also nearly always silent.  You could follow me around all day and never realize when I’m talking to God.  If you ever hear one of my public prayers and think to yourself, “I wish I could pray like that!”  you will have missed the point completely.  Public prayers may be for public use but they are not for public entertainment.  Prayer is “talking to God” and that is ALL it is.

        My mother had a saying, “He almost threw his arm out … patting himself on the back.”  It was her way of saying that someone was a little too full of himself.  That seems to describe the scribes that Jesus was talking about.  But let’s not get too smug here.  How many of you have a trophy case?  A scrapbook or shoebox full of mementos of past achievements?  How many have your old report cards from grade school?  Medals, ribbons, awards certificates, letter jacket letters?  I think I still have my sharpshooters and badge and even my good conduct ribbon from the military.  They are in a jar in a drawer someplace. 

        We all like to be recognized for what we’ve accomplished.  Especially we like to be recognized for achieving a goal that we had to really struggle to achieve.  I don’t believe that there is anything inherently wrong with accepting the praise of others for our honest achievements.  The problem arises when we fail to give God the praise for the strength, the wit, the ability to achieve those goals.
        I’m reminded of the old pioneer’s prayer that went like this, “God, I thank thee for this bread, that I baked, from the flour that I ground, from the wheat that I grew, in the field that I planted after I plowed after I cleared it of timber and grass and stones.  Yes, I thank you for this bread that I baked in the oven I built from the stones I gathered from the field and carried to the house that I built from the lumber I milled from the trees that I felled in the land I homesteaded. 
        I am sorry to say that I have at times had a few too many “I”s in my prayers and not enough “thee”s and “thou”s.  A more proper prayer would be, “Thank you, Gracious God, for this bread which you have provided.  Thank you for the seed that you created to grow in your good soil and watered by the rains in their season.  Thank you for the health and strength that you have given me to work the soil.  Thank you for the creative mind to conceive and construct my home.  Thank you most of all that you loved me enough to send your son to die in my place for my sins.  Amen.”

        You see, Jesus was trying to show his followers (that’s us) that we need to take our eyes off of ourselves and onto God.  And to be sure that his listeners heard the message he repeats it with another illustration.

        But before we get to this next part of the reading I don’t want anyone to start squirming in their seats.  We’re going to be talking about money.  And I know when a preacher starts to talk about money people start thinking, “Okay, here it comes … he’s trying to get into my wallet.”  So, let me make this clear.  I am not going to pass the plate.  I’m not going to take an offering.  If you have a home church, I encourage you to support them even while you are away from home.  This ministry has very little expenses and does not need your money.  By the same token, I was told by a couple who attended our service back in Iowa, that they felt the “need” to give and that I was being selfish for not allowing them to do so.  So, if you feel lead to support this ministry, it will be humbly accepted and put to use as God directs us.  But again, don’t hear the following part of the sermon as a plea for money.  That is not what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples.  He was teaching about giving all (not just money) to God.  He was teaching about the price and the prize of following Him.

        Okay, now as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”
41.  He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.

        Praise God!  Rich people SHOULD put in large sums.  Jesus never spoke against that.  As a matter of fact, he made it pretty clear that the rich should put that money to its best use here in this life because it wasn’t going to follow them to the next.  He was quite pointed as to what happens to people who are bad stewards of the assets they are in charge of.  He also praised those who used their resources to gain an increase.  I believe that God gives us more than we can use for the purpose of giving to others.  So listen to what Jesus has to say.

42.  A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.
43.  Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”
44.  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.

        Now wait a minute!  All she put in was a couple of coins.  Those coins were an insignificant portion of the total treasury.  What difference could those coins make in a treasury so well stocked?  Well, that’s the point; you see Jesus wasn’t looking at the good it was going to do the treasury.  He was looking at the good it was going to do this poor widow. 
        Wait!  What?  Did I just say that Jesus was looking at what the widow had just gained?  Yep!  Stay tuned, we’ll get to that in a minute.

        Yes, she had given all that she had.  Jesus never asked anyone for less than all they have.  Think back to when Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John.  Do you remember what happened?  Matthew 4 starting with verse 18
18.                While Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two brothers, one was Simon, also know as Peter, and the other was Andrew.  They were fishermen, and they were casting their net into the lake.
19.                Jesus said to them, “Follow me!  I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish.”
20.                Right then the two brothers dropped their nets and went with him.
21.                Jesus walked on until he saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  They were in a boat with their father, mending their nets.  Jesus asked them to come to him.
22.                At once they left the boat and their father and went with Jesus.

        Do you see?  He asked EVERYTHING of them.  Leave your business.  Leave your family.  Leave all of the things that you have planned.  Leave it all.  Because there is so much more to gain! 

        In Luke 14:26 there are large crowds following Jesus.  He was becoming extremely popular with many people.  He was healing them and feeding them.  It appeared that life would be good for his disciples.  And so, many followed him.  Then he turned and said to them, … “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life.  Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”

        There is Jesus disclaimer.  In this day and age, to keep from being sued, it seems everything has a disclaimer attached to it: “Results may vary, consult a physician before proceeding, side affects may occur … some serious … including death.”   Jesus didn’t want these ‘fair weather’ followers to be unaware of he ‘side affects’ to become His disciple. 
        To become his follower, you must be willing to loose everything, to own nothing, not even your own life.  And he never promises that it will be easy.  Indeed he says “pick up your cross and follow me.” 

        We, in this day and age, are so far removed from the reality of “the cross”, that I think we fail to take in the impact of what Jesus was saying.  What those present were hearing him say was, “If you follow me, you must be willing to be tortured and executed in the most painful, brutal and humiliating way possible. 

        If you are looking for “sunshine and lollipops, where all your dreams come true”, don’t bother following Jesus.  He demands all that you own and all that you are … nothing less will do.
        “So what’s in it for me?” we ask.  If I am to give up everything, even my will, what will I gain?  That seems a fair question to ask.  Amen?   The Psalmist does a good job of answering that in the 23rd psalm.
1.  The Lord is my shepherd … He provides guidance for our life.
2.  I shall not want … He provides for all our needs.
3.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures … He provides us with rest in a turbulent world.
4.  He leads me beside the still waters … He refreshes us.
5.  He restores my soul … our sin laden soul is cleansed and made new
6.  He leads me in the paths of righteousness … He gives us clear instruction and examples of how to live our life.
7.  for His name’s sake … We are children of God.  We are Christians.  We are His namesake.
8.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil … even in death  there is nothing to fear.
 9.  for You are with me … Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 20b
10. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me … we actually have the full armor of God … belt of Truth … breastplate of righteousness … the gospel of peace … shield of faith … the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-18
11.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies … Yes, even in the presence of our enemies.  Hear what Romans 8:38 & 39 say, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
12. You anoint my head with oil … There are two ways of anointing with oil.  One is as a sign of acceptance and friendship, as when a host would anoint his guests with oil; it was a refreshment from the heat and dust.  The other use of anointing with oil is to sanctify or make holy, as in the anointing of the sacrificial altar or the priests or the king.  Both of these are true for us as Christians.  … Romans 8:17… “and if children then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”
13.  My cup runs over … Blessings beyond blessings are ours.  More than we can consume … enough to share, just like a 3 Musketeers Bar.
14.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life … Again from the 8th chapter of Romans in the 28th verse we read … “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Goodness and Mercy even in those times when we don’t see them … God is at work turning everything into what is good for us.  Sometimes it’s ice cream and sometimes it is cod liver oil, but it is always good for us.
15.  I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever … Jesus said in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  As a follower of Christ our eternal home is already prepared; the woodwork is polished, the knick knacks are dusted, the bedspread is turned down, and the cupboards are fully stocked and the curtains are drawn back … home is waiting for us.

        All of this on the day when we give our life to the Lord, we lost everything … and we gained everything.  Paul understood this concept and tried to pass it on to the church at Philippi.  Philippians 3:
8.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

        Okay, I said earlier that it was too soon in the message to start meddling.  Well now we're far enough into it that it is time to start meddling.  I want you to think for a moment what you have gained by knowing Jesus as Lord of your life.  (If you don’t know him as your savior and your lord, come see me afterwards and I will pray with you about that.)  Maybe what you have gained is a better life … not necessarily an easy life … but a better life than you had or would have had without Him.  Perhaps what you have gained is a hope beyond this life.  The reassurance that where He has gone, you will also go to live with Him for eternity.  Maybe you have gained victory over an illness, or weakness or addiction that had held you.  Maybe you were raised in a Christian home and never strayed far from the path so for you what you have gained is a continuation of that fellowship into the next life.  What ever you have gained is personal and between you and God. 

        Now think, if you can, of what you lost by become a child of God.  Anything of value?  Speaking for myself here, I can’t think of anything that I can say that I gave up.  There are things that I no longer do, places I no longer go, thoughts I no longer have, and emotions that I no longer feel.  But, in truth, what ever was left behind was, as Paul said, rubbish. 

        Actually, I’ve heard that a translation closer to the meaning of his words would not be rubbish, but sewage.  That is what we who have found the Lord have left behind … sewage.  And in exchange we have gained it all!  Praise God.  Amen.

        Let’s bow our heads in prayer.  Father, I pray that if there is anyone here who has not yet made that commitment to surrender their will to yours, that you will speak words of power and reassurance to their hearts right now. 
        And Lord, for those who already have given our lives to you, we praise you for our salvation, for out strength, for our courage, for our peace, for our relief and for our comfort, but most of all we thank you for your abiding presence in our lives.  Amen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

“So Whadda Ya Want? A Kosher Deli?”

Bread, bread and more bread.
          Jesus used so many symbols in his teachings, shepherds, sheep, wine, water, and of course, bread.  These were all things that were common items to his listeners.  They would have understood some subtleties about sheep and shepherds that more modern and urban folks just don’t fully grasp.  I suppose if he were to tell us parables in this age he would use the internet, cell phones, automobiles and things that are common to all of us.
            The good news is; we all understand bread.  Across all cultures and across all time we understand bread.  Bread is not exciting.  My oldest son liked to eat bread with nothing on it.  No peanut butter and jelly, no honey, not even butter.  He would call it dull bread.  Seriously, he would come in and say, “May I have a slice of dull bread.”  Yes bread is not exciting unless you are starving.  A person can live a long time on bread and water.  It is that basic.
            Jesus tries to tell his followers something about bread.  Most of them miss the point.  In the video we watched where he feed five thousand people with a little boy’s lunch, do you think he may have been demonstrating that God will provide.  So often we look at our own lack, our shortcoming, our need or our desire and its attainment is so far away, so far beyond our ability to achieve.  And yet…God has a limitless supply.  The catch is we have to align our will with God’s instead of expecting God to align with our will.  He will provide what we need, when we need it.  And in most cases … surprise! … It will be different from and so much better than what we were expecting.
            Bread.  So basic.  So common.  Every day, many times a day we have bread.  That is what Jesus wants us to remember about Him.  Every day, many times a day we need to commune with Jesus.  Are you listening?
            Those people back there on that grassy hillside missed the point.  Some saw the power and wanted to make him a king. 
            For selfish reasons!  They weren’t looking to make him a king for His glory.  No!  They wanted a king who could feed them, care for them, and make them rich and give them power.
            Some of them, after they realized that he had managed to slip away unnoticed followed his disciples across the sea.
          Oh yes, in the verses between the feeding of the five thousand and when the crowd found Him on the other side of the sea, the disciples got into a boat and started across the sea without Jesus.  He caught up to them by walking on the water.  You remember that story.  Right?  That’s why our reading starts with, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
          Jesus knew why they had followed Him so He answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.”  These people were not following so that they could truly become the People of God that they claimed to be.  No!  They came for earthly things.  They would have been happy if Jesus would have opened a Kosher Deli with an all-you-can-eat buffet!
          Don’t get smug here.  Examine your self as I have to examine myself.  I’ll admit there are times that I’ve treated the God of creation like a genie in a magic lamp.  I’ve gone to God with my wish list…but left my work clothes behind.
          Hear again what Jesus said, “Don’t work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has sealed him.”
          I know that we, like them want to ask, “Okay, so what do we have to do, so that we can work the works of God?”
          But you see they weren’t listening.  They only heard what they wanted to hear.  They and we so often hear “Don’t work for the food which perishes.  Work for the food that gives you eternal life.”  Right?  Is that what you heard?  That is what I’ve heard for years when I read that passage.
          However, look what is really says, “Which the Son of Man will GIVE you.”  Give you.  It is a gift.  You can’t WORK for it.
As a matter of fact, Jesus answered them this way, “You want some work to do well this is the work that God expects, believe in him whom he has sent.”
          Now these same people who had followed Him into the wilderness and up the mountain and then across the sea BECAUSE OF THE POWER THEY WITNESSED, had the audacity to ask him, “What then do you do for a sign, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you do?”
          I’ll tell you the truth; it is a good thing that God didn’t choose ME to be His messiah.  My patience would have run out right there.  “You want a sign?  Another sign?  You can’t see all of the arrow shaped signs with flashing lights that are pointed at me?  I’ll give you a sign.  I got your sign right here!”  Yep!  It’s a good thing it wasn’t me standing on that sea shore with those people.  ‘Cause if I’d of had the power of God at my finger tips …..”  It wouldn’t have turned out well for them.
          But there I go getting all smug and superior sounding again.  I forgot for a second that I’m not Christ.  I’m one of the people in the crowd saying, “Yeah sure, you fed me yesterday … but what have you done for me today?”  Oh yeah, I’d have been the loud mouth at the front of the crowd saying, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. As it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’  Yep!  That would have been me out there spouting Bible verses at God incarnate because I have my own agenda, my own goals, my own plans and You, Jesus, what are you going to do for me?
          Jesus took them down a peg or two when he said to them, “Most certainly, I tell you, it was NOT Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven.  Have you forgotten that it was my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven?
          Now pay attention because I’m going to explain it one more time, the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
          They interrupt and say, “Lord, always give us this bread.”  Okay!  Free bread for life…hmm…I wonder if that includes donuts?  Oh and the cream filled horns!
          Jesus tries again to get them and us to understand, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
          “But I have repeatedly told you that you have seen me, and yet you don’t believe.  Well believe this, “All those whom the Father gives me will come to me. He who comes to me I will in no way throw out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.  This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise him up at the last day.
This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
          Now that right there is about as short and direct of a sermon as I have ever heard.  Did they get it?  Has it soaked in yet?  Well stay tuned ‘cause the stories not over yet.
          The Jews therefore murmured (You know what murmuring is right?  Murmuring is those things said under your breath but loud enough that the offending party can still hear you.)  So these Jews murmured concerning him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down out of heaven.”  But they said "We know this guy." He is Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? He is just the carpenter’s kid so what is this nonsense about, ‘I have come down out of heaven?’”
          So Jesus said, I can hear you, you know?  Look, I’ll draw you a picture, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.”  Now I KNOW that you have all read the prophets, since you were quoting scriptures to me.  It is written in the prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except he who is from God. He has seen the Father.”
          Not that anyone has seen the Father, except he who is from God. He has seen the Father.
          Did that sound like a ‘dig’ to you?  Na na na na Nahna you haven’t seen him but I have, so there!  No, that’s probably not the way Jesus meant it.
          But he does go on to say, “I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, which anyone may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
          So many times when I read passages like this, I think, “How can these people be so dense?  How can they not see what is in front of them?”  Then I remember that it took me twenty some years of hearing hundreds of sermons in dozens of different denominational churches before I saw what was right in front of me.  Jesus own disciples, who were with Him day and night for around three years, didn’t see the fullness of what He was saying until much later.
          At that final Passover meal with them, He took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it He broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then he tells them that “the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.”  This gets the disciples into a debate about who would betray Him.  So quickly, after He had said “Do this in remembrance of me” they were already forgetting about Him and arguing over their own interests.
          In our passage about the walk to Emmaus, He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  It wasn’t until he was at the table with them, when he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them, that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
          In the twenty-first chapter of John it records that after Jesus death, after his appearing to them several times, the disciples were still confused as to what to do.  Peter says, “Let’s go fishing.”  They’d been fishing at night with no luck when someone on the shore tells them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat.  They catch a lot of fish.  This should have jarred a memory loose.  This was the same thing that Jesus had done when he first met Peter, Andrew, James and John.  But it wasn’t until Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast,” then took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish; that they recognized Him.
          Bread, bread, and more bread.  Story, after story, after story.  It has to be repeated some many times for them and for us before it is remembered.

          In a minute we are going to take communion together.  We are going to eat dull bread.  We are going to take it into our bodies.  Our bodies will break it down so that it can be used to fuel and repair and renew the body.  Two thousand years ago Jesus had a confrontation with people who could not grasp the fact that God wants us to do the same thing with Him.  He wants us to feed on Him, to take Him into ourselves to become a part of us.  And just as our physical body can not live without constantly renewing our food intake, so our spiritual body needs to be constantly fed. 
          Remember as often as you do this … as often as you do this, remember Me.

"Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Dance Before the Lord"

2 Samuel 6:1-19
          David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.  David and all the people with him set out and went from Ba-a-le-ju-dah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim.  They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of A-bin-a-dab, which was on the hill. Uz-zah and A-hi-o, the sons of A-bin-a-dab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and A-hi-o went in front of the ark.  David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 
          When they came to the threshing floor of Na-con, Uz-zah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it.  The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uz-zah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God.  David was angry because the Lord had burst forth with an outburst upon Uz-zah; so that place is called Perez-Uz-zah, (which means, Outbreak against Uz-zah) to this day.  David said, “How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?”  So David was unwilling to take the ark of the Lord into his care in the city of David; instead David took it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.  The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.
          It was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.”  So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.  David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.  So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 
          As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Mi-chal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.
          They brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD.  When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.

          Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle.  It’s so much fun watching toddlers dance.  Sure there isn’t any gracefulness but there is sure a lot of enthusiasm. 
Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle.  The joy just bursts forth from them.  Dance isn’t taught; we do it naturally.  I’m not talking about a set of structured steps done in a certain pattern, but REAL dance.  That movement that is linked to our very emotions.  Even before they can walk or talk, babies will move to the music.  We are wired for it by our creator.  Every human culture, no matter how primitive, has music and dance.
          Our emotions drive our movements.  If we see someone sitting all slumped over, head and shoulders down; we recognize the defeated emotions that the other person is feeling.  When we see someone jumping and waving their arms or fist pumping, we know that they are literally jumping for joy.
          Life is a dance, join in.
          Now, I don’t dance, not the waltz, Texas two step or polka.  If I did, I’d look like a have two peg legs.  But I move to the music.  I clap.  I tap my feet.  I wave my hand like I’m conducting the choir.  Music and emotion move me.
          Big emotions burst forth with explosive movements.  Your team has just won in the last second of the game, you know how you’re going to react; explosive movement that captures that exuberance.
          By all accounts King David was an emotional kind of guy.  His heart ruled his head.  Sometimes it got him into trouble.  When you think of David, what is your first thought?  Do you remember his triumph over the giant Goliath? Do you remember David as the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba?  Do you remember his failures as a father? Do you remember Him as a humble shepherd?  Or, do you remember David as the “Sweet Singer of Israel?”  
          Do you know how God remembers David?  The answer is given to us in Acts 13:22.  There, Paul quotes God and tells us that God looks at David as “a man after God’s Own heart!” God remembers David as a man who cared about the things that God cared about; who loved what God loved; hated what God hated; and whose heart beat in time with God’s. 
          Today’s Hebrew scripture reading clearly shows a mixed bag of emotions that David was going through.  King Saul is dead and David has been recognized as the new king.  His first order of business is to bring the Ark of the Covenant home.
                At this point, a little history regarding the Ark is in order.  The Ark of the Covenant was built at the command of the Lord.  The word Ark means “chest or box.”  The Ark was a box of wood that measured 45” long and 27” wide by 27” high.  This box was overlaid in pure gold.  It was topped by a golden grate called the Mercy Seat.  On either side of the Mercy Seat, were two golden cherubim.  Inside the Ark were a golden pot of manna; Aaron’s rod that budded and the two tablets of the Law that were given to Moses at Mount Sinai. It was here that God promised to meet with His people.  It was here that the blood of the atonement was place on the Day of Atonement.  It was here that the shechinah glory of God (Literally The PRESENCE of God) rested as the children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness.
      This Ark was vital to worship in Israel.  It was symbolic of God’s presence among His people.  It was often carried into battle in front of the soldiers.  It was central to their lives; their worship and their relationship with God.  But, the Ark had not been kept in the central position that it deserved; and, as a result, neither had God.
      You see, way back in the days of Eli, some 75 years earlier, the Ark had been taken by the Philistines.  However, God punished the Philistines the whole time the Ark was in their possession.  Their solution was to place the Ark on a new cart and allow the cattle that pulled the cart to take the box back to Israel.  So, after 75 years, David is about to take Israel and lead them to go after God.
          David’s desire is clear and simple.  He wants the Ark returned to its place as the centerpiece of worship and devotion in Israel.  He wants God placed back in the center of the national consciousness. David was seeking to unify a formerly divided nation with God as their true King once again.  David desired God’s presence, God’s blessing and God’s guidance.
          David was motivated by no ulterior motives.  He was not after glory or power; David merely wanted to see God restored to His proper place as the Sovereign God of the nation of Israel.  He strongly desired that God would be glorified among the people of Israel.
          David knew that neither he nor Israel would amount to anything without the presence and power of God.  David knew they did not possess the power or the ability to fend for themselves.  They needed God.  They needed His presence and His power.  Therefore, David set out to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem to restore it to a place of prominence in the eyes of the nation.
          That sounds pretty good, right?  Certainly, David has good intentions; however, he is letting his emotions drive him without thinking it through and doing the proper preparation.  Some 30,000 chosen men of Israel accompany David to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem
          He is going as if going to war.  There is no need to TAKE the ark from the Philistines.  Indeed, the Philistines are the ones who instigate its return to Israel.  David took warriors but what he needed was priests.  God had given very clear instructions about how and by whom the ark was to be moved, and it wasn’t by ox cart or warriors.  The ark was designed with rings on the legs.  Wooden poles  covered in gold were placed through the rings.  The ark of God was to then be carried on the shoulders of selected priests by the use of the poles.  The ark itself was to never be touched.  It was a physical representation of the presence of God and therefore completely holy.  Since the holy nature of  God is fatal to sin, men must NEVER touch the ark.
          So here we have David and all the house of Israel dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.  A great big parade.  Everything is sunshine and lollipops!  
          But then, opps! When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, the cart hit a bump and the ark shook so Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, and God struck him there because he touched the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. 
          Apparently good intentions are not enough. 
          David’s motives in bringing the Ark to Jerusalem were proper; but his methods were faulty.  Instead of being successful; David’s methods for transporting the Ark resulted in the death of a man named Uzzah.  This angered David, and created fear within David’s heart toward the Lord.
          Let’s take a moment to examine David’s disappointment a little more closely and seek to determine what caused his plan to fall apart.
          The Bible says that they “set the Ark of God upon a new cart…”  David’s first problem was rooted in the fact that he either forgot or ignored the clear command of God as to how the Ark was to be transported.  The Ark was to be lifted by means of two golden staves which were to be passed through golden rings fashioned on the corners of the Ark.  The Ark was then to be lifted up and carried upon the shoulders of a family of Levites known as the Kohathites.  David made good plans and good preparations, but he neglected to do it God’s way. He paid a high price for this decision.
            Another flaw that mars David’s decision is the fact that he did not seek God BEFORE he made it.  Up to this moment, David has always gone to the Lord for guidance and direction.  Time and time again, David asks the Lord for help.  Here, he does not seek the Lord, but he just assumes that God will bless him because he is doing a good thing.
            Another problem David has is his methods were the same methods that had been used by the Philistines.  When the Philistines had the Ark and wanted to return it to Israel, they had placed it on a new cart. 
David did the same for the first two miles of their journey, then the oxen shook the cart and threatened to dump the Ark off the cart. At this point, Uz-zah reached out his hand in an effort to steady the Ark and prevent it from falling.  This seems like a logical thing to do, but apparently God did not agree.  He killed Uzzah on the spot!  You see, the Ark was not only supposed to be carried only on the shoulders of the Kohathites; it was never to be touched by human hands.  The penalty for touching the Ark was death, as Uz-zah and David quickly found out.
          There are some absolutes that can not be broken even by those who ‘mean well’.  Looking across a canyon and seeing someone needing help doesn’t mean you can step off of your cliff and walk directly to the other person.  The law of gravity will kill you if you step off into thin air.  The law of holiness will do the same.  It isn’t vengeance.  It is simply one of those absolutes.
          If these verses teach us anything, they teach us that God is very interested in the details.  We may think that God does not care about the little things in life; but He does!  When God gives a command, He expects it to be followed to the letter.  A heart that is follows God does what God says to do, and it stops doing what God says not to do. 
          God is intensely interested in the little things of life; even the things that we may not think matter at all.
      Does God’s reaction seem harsh to you?  After all, Uzzah was merely trying to do a good thing.  But, that is the price for disobedience and for violating the holiness of God.  God honors obedience and He will judge disobedience!
    Some other truths that we should take note of here are the following:
·         God’s blessings come only through obedience and those who defy His Word and His will are going pay a terribly high price.  The best thing a child of God can do is align themselves with the Word of God and walk in humble obedience.
·         Failing to seek God’s will is just as dangerous as ignoring what He has already told you to do. His children should always pray before they make a move.
·         Trying to carry out God’s business using the methods of the world is a recipe for disaster.  We have no business trying to carry the church on the new carts of the world’s wisdom.  It is to be carried on the shoulders and in the hearts of the people of God!
·         Like Uz-zah, we are often guilty of reaching out with our hands instead of reaching up with our hearts.  We are guilty of trying to do spiritual work in the power of the flesh.  We attempt to do the work of God with our hands and never really get under the burden.  That will never work and God will not bless it!
          A while back I was asked to give a short sermon to a women’s group.  I picked a passage of scripture and a topic that would go with the theme of the meeting.  I started to write.  It sounded pretty good to me.  But … oh no … but … this little niggling thought kept working it’s way into my mind.  It had nothing to do with the point I was trying to make in the sermon. It wasn’t just a tangent to the sermon, it was a totally different direction and not even based on the perfectly good scripture section I had chosen.  After a couple of attempts to ignore it, I shut up and listened.  God had a different message for that woman’s group than I did.  I went with His message.

          So, Uz-zah died because of David’s disregard for God’s instructions and David was angry.  God’s reality had just rained on David’s parade.   All that joy and enthusiasm disappeared like a popped soap bubble.   David took it personal.  How could God do this to him?  He was trying to do the right thing … right?  Amen? 
          Now this is where it gets personal.  Have you ever been angry with God because something didn’t go your way?  A friend of mine who volunteered at the VA Hospital told of how shocked he was to hear a man standing in one of the wards, scream and cursing God.  The way my friend, Lester, relayed the story, this person was in a rage and directing it at God.  Lester couldn’t believe his ears and was surprised that God didn’t strike this man down where he stood.  
          My take was a little different.  I saw this man’s tirade as a prayer.  He was being totally honest with God, maybe for the first time in his life.  Did you think that every prayer had to be sugar coated with “blessed is your name”, “we give you praise and glory.”?  Nope! Many times, we believe that we have to be perfect and kind, specificity in our communication with the Lord. What you can see here is that this man, like David, is openly reveling himself to the Lord.  Read the psalms.  A good share of them are, “What’s the deal here, God?  I’ve been good and all its gotten me is hardship and pain!”
          So, when you are upset, angry, downright pissed at how God has been treating you … tell him.  Then … Then …  Shut up and listen.  God will answer you.  He seldom answers in the expected way … that is one of the ways you can be sure it was an answer from God.
                    Good intentions are not enough.  It’s important to remember who is in charge and who makes the rules.
          David, after quite of few months of keeping the ark where it was, finally got back on track.  He aligned his will with God’s instead of expecting God to realign with David’s will.  The result was that the ark of God returned to it’s rightful place in the lives of the people of Israel.  Once more David and the people could dance before the Lord with all of their might.
                We do not have an Ark like Israel did; but we still need the presence of God just as much as they did.  We need God with us and we need His power and His manifest presence in our lives and our worship.  
          We need hearts like that which David possessed.  We need a heart that beats for God, His power and His presence.  We need to learn the lesson that we can do nothing without God, John.  We must have His presence and His power if we are going to serve Him; worship Him and carry out His will in our lives.
          Are we honest with the I honest with him? Am I bold enough to say that I'm angry at the Lord and then work through it to a point of dancing with ALL MY MIGHT?!
          May God grant us hearts that are hungry for God; that will not be satisfied until He comes by in power and glory and transforms us into all we can be for Him.  That was David’s desire; may it be ours as well.
          I think God smiles when he sees us wiggle, wiggle, wiggle with the joy of the Lord.  Come, Holy Spirit, Amen.

Portions of this sermon were borrowed from someoneelse that I found on line.  And they said that they had borrowed from someone also.  However, I had already written my sermon on the subject before I saw theirs and realized that they had said somethings better than I had.  Thank you everyone who posts online sermons.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?"

Gospel Reading:  Mark 4: 35-41
          That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let's cross to the east side.”  So they left the crowd, and his disciples started across the lake with him in the boat. Some other boats followed along.
Suddenly a storm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink.
Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don't you care that we're about to drown?”
Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Why were you afraid? Don't you have any faith?”
Now they were more afraid than ever and said to each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Hebrew Scripture Reading:  Psalm 107:23-32
Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Message “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
            Sometimes when we read scriptures like the short section in our gospel reading, we may miss some of the impact, especially if it is such a familiar story.  Here is a trick I’ve learned that helps me get a better understanding of scripture; imagine yourself as being there and living the events.  Try to see it through the eyes of the different people in the story.
            Imagine with me for a minute.

            You have just spent a long and active day with Jesus as he was teaching and touching multitudes of people.  Hoards of sick and disabled people have been brought to him for the healing of their bodies, minds and souls.
With compassion he has reached out to them all.  And you’ve been there to assist.  You’ve touched, supported and carried the lame, the infirm and even the lepers.  At times, the thought of touching them made your skin crawl.  You were both repulsed and blessed by the work this day.  Now you are hot and sweaty and you stink of too much humanity in too close quarters.
            Now towards evening Jesus says, “Let us go to the other side of the sea.”.
            This sounds like a great idea to you.  You’ve grown up on and around this sea and the idea of getting away from the noise of the crowds is appealing to you.  You remember lots of idle days drifting in the peaceful solitude of the sea. 
            Maybe you’ll even get a quick dip in the water before getting into the boat.
            The evening breeze is beginning to blow cool across the water.  Yes! This will be a fine time to be sailing.
            You help your friends pull the ropes that raise the sail and help to haul in the anchor.  You are on your way.  The cries of the gulls that follow your boat sound all too much like the cries of the crowds that follow Jesus where he goes.
            You marvel at the things you have seen him do and the things he has said. You shake your head in wonder, knowing you only understand a small part of what he says.  Who is this man that you’ve known for such a short time?  How is it that he, a carpenter’s son, can command such authority?  You have so many unanswered questions about this rabi who has called you to be his disciple.
            You focus once more on the world around you and realize that you are sailing parallel to the coast about seven miles at sea.  You notice the wind picking up a little and the water is becoming a little choppy.  However, this isn’t so unusual at this time of year.  And you actually find it a little refreshing to have a little of the spray in your face and the wind in your hair.  Yes! It is great to be alive and sharing this time with your friends and your teacher. 
            The evening stars are visible in the dusky orange of the sky. Then you notice that Jesus has gone to sleep on a cushion near the stern.  Well, he certainly deserves the rest and you take a blanket to cover him as he sleeps.
            Suddenly, you are jolted from your feet.  Your first thought is that you’ve stuck something big, another boat perhaps.  But then you realize that it was a huge wave hitting the boat broadside.  It seems to have come out of nowhere.  And It didn’t come alone either there are many more marching behind it.
            Just then the wind hits and it hits hard.  The force of the gale rips loose one of the heavy lines to the sail.  The knotted end has just struck one of the crew with the force of a professional fighter.  You’re sure that he has some cracked ribs but you will not have time to help him until that sail is secured.
            You assist those that are struggling to lower the sail before any more damage can be done.  Fighting the wet canvas is like wrestling a crocodile but you’ve finally got it down and stowed away.  The salt water stinging your hands makes you notice the red, raw rope burns from fighting the lines to the sail.
            The sea that was so calm a short time ago now looks like a land of liquid mountains dancing around you.  The swells are so deep that you can no longer see the shore and the stars have been blotted out in angry dark clouds.  The boat is swirling like a leaf in a whirlpool and you have lost all sense of direction.
            As if the storm-driven sea-spray wasn’t enough, now lightening rips open the belly of those clouds and the sky is as wet as the sea.  The boat is being swamped.  Everyone is scrambling for a hand hold so no one has a free hand with which to bail. 
            The boat is now bucking side to side and end to end like some crazed animal.   At times is nearly completely airborne before crashing once more into the sea. It takes all your strength to just stay in the boat and your fear is that the boat will capsize and dump its human cargo into the deadly sea.
            Impossibly loud above the fury of the storm you hear a horrendous crack and realize that one of the main cross braces has just splintered.  Before long this boat is going to implode under the force of the waves and wind.
            That is when you notice Jesus still sleeping.  How can he sleep at a time like this?  Doesn’t he know that we’re all going to die?  Doesn’t he care?
            You crawl through the broken rigging to where he sleeps and wake him. 
            To your amazement, he yawns, stretches and asks why you are so afraid. 
“Is your faith so weak?” he asks.  Then, in the midst of the storm, he stands firmly, raises his hands and says, “Peace, be still.”  Immediately the squall stops and the sea becomes flat as glass.
            You had been frightened beyond measure by the storm but this display of his power is even more frightening. 
            You had no idea. 
            Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey?

            I’ve tried to take you on a scary ride with the disciples by the storm through their eyes.  And to get a feeling of what it must have been like riding out that storm.
            While I was telling the story, where you remembering some of the storms that you’ve been through in your life?  Were you thinking of those times when it seemed that everything was coming apart at the seams and you no longer were in control?
            Jesus said to his followers, “Oh you of little faith, why were you afraid?”
Now listen, it wasn’t that the disciples didn’t have faith.  They had faith.  They had faith that the boat would get them to the other side of the sea.  They had faith that they could navigate to where they were going.  They had faith in their strength and ability to raise and set the sail and manage the tiller.  They had faith that they were in control.  They had faith … but their faith was misplaced.
            We aren’t that much different, are we?  Amen?  Don’t we tend to rely on our own strength and resources… until they fail us?  Be honest now!  Certainly I’m not the only one who does.  Am I?
          Hear this: God doesn’t want to be our life preserver.  I’ll wait to let that sink in.  God does not want to be our life preserver.
          He doesn’t want to be the last resort.  He wants to be the first.  Remember, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”?  When we put our self-will, self-direction, and self-reliance before God’s-will, God’s-direction and reliance on God, we are making them our god ahead of the true God.
          You see, He wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives down to the smallest minutia.  Remember, Matthew 10:30. “The very hairs of your head are numbered.”.  … Yes, I know that it easier with some of us … But the point is that no one loves us more than the one who created us. 
          Did you know that God has our names tattooed on him? Isaiah 49:16 reads, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”  Okay, so not really a tattoo.  And it doesn’t say that it is our names either.  We are engraved, carved into the hands of God.  That is how much He loves us.
          And he craves a relationship with us.
          So when Jesus was questioning the disciples about their faith, he was pointing that out that they should have been in such a close relationship that they realized they were being cared for by the one who created the wind and the waves.
          They had nothing to fear.
          Okay, let’s get something clear here.  Jesus doesn’t promise that we will never have bad things happen to us.  He does promise that he will be with us through the bad times.  He also promises that, if we will let him have control, he can take even the bad things and make them work for our good.
Romans 8:28 “All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”
          So, the choice is ours; we can go our own way and deal with the storms of life on our own.  Or, we can walk with God, even though the valley of death, and still be comforted.  That is the only way that we can answer the question, “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?”