Even Molecules Obey

When they saw Jesus walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Mark 6:49-50 (CSB)

After miraculously feeding thousands, Jesus told the apostles to board a boat and head to the opposite shore. He stayed behind for some time to pray alone. During the night, a storm formed that caused even the experienced fishermen to struggle.

In these conditions, Jesus stepped onto the water and began walking to the other side. When the disciples saw him and were frightened, Jesus spoke to calm them.

Both this and the feeding show Jesus’ absolute control over nature as the Son of God. Even the molecules of water beneath his feet bend to his will. This also shows the calming effect of God upon his people.

Scripture often confronts our fearful hearts with the command “don’t be afraid.” Fear and faith are opposite poles. Fear comes when we look at a situation and find it overwhelming, sometimes being overwhelmed by the sense of the unknown. Fear creeps in at times when we think we have perfectly rational reasons while other fear is irrational from every angle that we can view it.

Faith, however, trusts that God is actually in control. Even if we don’t understand a situation, even if it does overwhelm our abilities, and even if it ultimately leaves us drowned in a sea. Faith looks to God and says, “I trust you no matter what, because you are good, you love me, and you are bigger than everything in the universe you created.”

Trust Jesus in faith. Trust him even with your deepest fears. After all, there is not a molecule in creation beyond his control.

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Image taken and modified from pixabay.com.

Faith Conquers Fear

A great windstorm arose and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” – Mark 4:37-40 (CSB)

People have many things to fear. Do a google search for the number of phobias and you will run into seemingly unending lists. Whatever our own individual fears might be, we find this truth in the gospel: Faith conquers fear.

One evening, Jesus wanted to cross the sea with his apostles and so they left the crowds behind and set sail in a boat. While on their way, a great windstorm arose that frightened even the seasoned fishermen. And where was Jesus? Asleep.

The disciples had been with Jesus long enough to know that he was someone special, though they hadn’t yet fully come to realize his nature as the God-Man, our Savior-King. So, they woke him and asked if he even cared that they were going to die?

Jesus responded first by rebuking the winds and second by rebuking their lack of faith. The first act reminded them that he was the Son of God, and therefore the Sovereign over the universe. Every molecule in the rushing air and crashing seas obeyed his voice. The second act reminded them that they were his followers and instead of fear they needed to trust.

Faith trusts that God is in charge and he will take care of his people. He will keep us safe on earth as he wills to keep us safe, and even when he wills that death should overtake us, he will keep us safe by bringing us home to him.

This is why, especially after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles learned to stare down danger and remain faithful to God’s leading on their life. In prison, knowing he was going to die at the hands of Roman officials, Paul said, “The Lord has kept me safe and he will keep me safe” (2 Timothy 4).

The world might give you many reasons to fear. Your own proclivities might lead you to fear. Your Father in heaven, however, says, “Have no fear, I will take care of you regardless of what you see happening.” So, entrust your life and your fears to him and let his word and Spirit strengthen you.

Faith conquers fear.

Mark 4_39

Image taken and modified from pixabay.com

Don’t Fear the Fiery Furnace (a meditation)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:16-18

During Judah’s exile into Babylon, three Jewish friends served in the government of King Nebuchadnezzar. At one point the king decided to make a massive statue, overlaid with gold, and called all the leaders and authorities in the land to come to its dedication. When they heard the music play, they were commanded to fall down and worship the statue or face death in a fiery furnace.

Given to worship the One True God and not beholden to the gods of Babylon, though these friends respected and worked for the king, they refused to bow. The king had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego arrested and gave them one last opportunity to obey his command. Their response illustrates the heart of what it means to worship God and fear no one else.

They told the king that they would not bow, they expressed faith that God would deliver them from a fiery fate, but, they said, “Even if he does not, we will not worship your image.”

Though they lived hundreds of years before the life of Jesus, they lived out what Jesus taught: “Do not fear those who can only kill the body” (Matthew 10:28).

In the case of these friends, God did miraculously rescue them. The king had the fire burn as hot as he could and tossed them into the furnace, fully clothed and bound. Yet when he looked he saw the three of them and then a fourth man walking around quite alive and unbound. He called for them to come out and the three emerged without a scratch or singe.

Such could only happen by the protection of the One God who created and sustains all things.

So we who follow Jesus are to have the same attitude. Many things can happen in this world: persecutions, famine, disaster, terrorism, disease, accidents, and the list could go on. There are so many things that could threaten our lives and bring an end to our time on earth. Some we may see coming, others may take us by surprise. In neither case are we to be afraid.

The song “The Shadow of Death” by The Whistle and the Bells says, “But death can stare me in the eye but, oh, I will not blink. Oh, the shadow of death is not the end of my story, for the shadow of death is but my entrance to glory.”

This is the attitude of faith: No matter the situation, we trust in the hand of God to rescue us from danger and death; but even if he doesn’t, we will still trust in him because he will bring us into his glorious Kingdom through death. Don’t fear the fiery furnace.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Against the Flow (a meditation)

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear…” ~ Isaiah 8:11-13

How we view the world around us and the powers that control it determines much about how we live our lives. Fear and anger seem to be en vogue in the current season. On YouTube you can find rightwing and leftwing conspiracy theorists aplenty. In the news we are constantly shown images of murder, hatred, and war, as well as bombarded with threats of terror. In different wings of political discourse and debate we are told to fear those outside our country, those inside, those with different views, those who might threaten our comforts, and on and on.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Isaiah wrote his prophecy to the people of Judah throughout the reign of four different kings. During Ahaz’s rule, the nation lacked strong character in government. King Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel conspired together to attack Judah. Yet even with God’s assurance these two nations would fall at the hands of Assyria, there was doubt among the people and especially among the king.

Because of this rejection of him, God warned that judgment would also come against Judah by the hands of Assyria (8:5-10). Yet this would be different than the fates that befell other nations. With Ahaz’s son Hezekiah on the throne, Assyria’s armies marched up to the gates and walls of Jerusalem but no further before turning back (Isaiah 36-37).

In the midst of this turmoil, rejection of God, and fear, God called Isaiah and others faithful to him to a different mindset. They were not to think like the rest in their country and culture. They were not to see conspiracies and fear the things that frightened others.

The only one to fear was the Lord himself, and fearing him would be their deliverance. Isaiah was told that the Lord “will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble…a trap and a snare” (8:14).

No matter what was happening around them, Isaiah and the faithful were to follow a different path. We who are followers of Jesus are called to the same.

Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body, but rather the One who can cast both body and soul into hell (Matthew 10:28). Paul said not to conform to the ways of the world but to be transformed in thinking by God (Romans 12:2).

As Christians we know that Someone Else is in charge: the Creator of all things, the One who gave us Jesus to save us from sin, death, and hell. He is the One who works all things—the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly—to the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). The One who will guide us safely into his Kingdom and presence, even if our lives are cut short by those who can kill the body but can’t touch the soul (2 Timothy 4:6, 16-18).

Therefore, we don’t let ourselves be manipulated by messages of fear and dread. We don’t let others convince us to fear those who think and act differently than us. Instead, we swim against the stream of fear by trusting God, following his teachings, and sharing his love. After all, that is our great motive as those who belong to Jesus: love God supremely; love others deeply.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Isaiah 8_11-12

Good Reads 11.10.15 (on: prayers for marriage, battling sin, faith and fear, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On battling sin by imagining the greater joys: Imagine Your Way to Joy by Bryce Young

However, dismissing the imagination from the Christian life will neither save us from sin nor help us grow in righteousness. In fact, all hope of putting off the old man and putting on the new rests in a God-given, Christ-purchased, Spirit-empowered redemption of the imagination. What does “the new man” look like? We are given many details, but without the imagination, application is impossible. We know that the new man puts on kindness (Colossians 3:12), but one can only live out that kindness after the imagination has painted some concrete mental picture of the virtue. (click here to read more)

On things to pray for your marriage: Ten Great Prayers for Every Marriage by Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord, help us to love each other unconditionally. Dear Lord, allow us to respect one another in an empowering way. Dear Lord, teach us how to complete each other, building us into one unit You design. (click here to read more)

On the importance of taking part in a church gathering: Seven Reasons Not to Skip Church by Garrett Kell

The New Testament pattern of church life is that believers come together on the first day of the week to worship and serve the Lord, and that they regularly sit together at the Lord’s Table to remember His death on their behalf (1 Corinthians 11; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:24-26). Consistent with that established pattern, church members ought to voluntarily commit to regularly attend services at the church. Faithful church attendance does not earn salvation, nor does it act as a measure to rate spiritual greatness over and against other people. It does, however, reflect a growing commitment to the gospel, the good of the church community, and spiritual health. (click here to read more)

On Starbucks cups and real persecution: You Are Not Being Persecuted by Jess Novello

I am especially bothered by these claims of persecution in light of what is happening to our Christian brothers and sisters all over the globe. Every month, three hundred and twenty-two Christians are killed for their faith and seven hundred and seventy-two acts of violence are committed against Christians because of their faith. These acts of violence can include physical abuse, rape, beatings, false imprisonment, etc. This is persecution. Starbucks having plain red (okay, ombre…) cups is not the same as being imprisoned for over three years in an Iranian prison for your religion like Saeed Abedini. Persecution is real. It’s happening all over the world. It’s happening right now. It is brutal, terrible, horrific, and devastating. But, it is not happening at the hand of Starbucks or their red cups. (click here to read more)

On fear and faith: Afraid of Faith by Paul Tripp

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: no matter how theologically trained my brain is, my heart is still prone to forget. So once more today, I will remind myself of the truths of the Bible, not because my brain needs to be taught a new concept, but because my wandering heart needs to be ushered back into the throne room of grace. (click here to read more)

A prayer in the face of uncertainty and fear (a meditation)

We all face times where we feel overwhelmed. The world seems dark and the path set before us darker. It could be in the face of wars and rumors of war. It could be that phone call from the doctor you’ve been dreading. It could be an economic crash that causes you to lose your job.

We fear when the outcome seems uncertain or bleak. We fear when we are staring down a situation and we have no clue what to do.

hobbit armiesJudah under the reign of King Jehoshaphat faced such a situation. In 2 Chronicles 20, armies from four different nations threatened Judah. Hearing that the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites had declared war, and that a large army from Edom was on the march and closing in, Jehoshaphat was terrified.

But instead of letting fear overwhelm him, we read that he “begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting” (20:3). Yes, Jehoshaphat trembled with fear. Yes, the situation presented a daunting challenge and a dreadful outcome. But the king chose to trust in the One who was greater and had shown himself mighty against Judah’s enemies before.

At the end of his prayer, Jehoshaphat admitted his powerlessness, and then he concluded, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (20:12).

Here we find a prayer for those uncertain times and moments of fear. James said that when we face trials and lack wisdom, we are to ask God for help and he gives generously (James 1:2-8). That plea for help doesn’t need to be long and detailed, or couched in a bunch of religious language. Our plea only needs to admit our complete dependence upon God.

We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

It’s a simple prayer. Often in the face of uncertain times or great dangers, we don’t know what to do. So we ask. We go to God and beg him for guidance, and even fast if we feel we need to. After all, God is the great Father, the One who will never leave nor forsake us. So we seek him.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Image from: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

Sunday 09.13.15 (A fearless life and Sunday School Kickoff)

Join us this Sunday as we kick off our new Sunday School year with coffee and doughnuts in the gym at 930am before classes begin. Then during our worship gathering, we’ll take a look at 2 Timothy 4:6-18 and how to live with a faith that conquers fear. Hope to see you there!

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If you are a regular part of Sunday School, come and enjoy fellowship with members of other classes over coffee and doughnuts. If you haven’t been to Sunday School for a while, come back and see what you’ve been missing. If you have never been to Sunday School, come check out one of our classes. For more information about what classes are available, take a look at the Sunday School section of our Activities page.

Schedule
@930 Sunday School Kickoff in gym
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@7pm No evening activities at the church, a group from the Osage River Baptist Association is hosting a tent meeting at Frontier Village September 13th-20th, beginning at 7pm each night.

Sermon Notes
A Faith that Conquers Fear ~ 2 Timothy 4:6-18

We grow afraid when what is before us is too unknown or overwhelming. We need to look beyond the immediate circumstances or an unknown future and trust the God who is in control. A faith that conquers fear:

  • Fights daily to stay focused on Jesus (4:6-8)
  • Celebrates God’s work in others while entrusting him with our enemies (4:9-15)
  • Trusts God to defend, strengthen, and rescue–even in the bleakest circumstances (4:16-18)