Who is at the Helm of Your Life?

Ship's Helm

In early September 2017 Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston-Beaumont and surrounding south Texas area.  In the following days, nearby Mexico experienced an 8.4 magnitude earth quake and had a smaller hurricane make landfall.  Simultaneously, 27 fires were burning out of control in the Western USA and Hurricane Irma took aim at the coast of Florida.  Wars were waging in the Middle East and sabers are rattling on the Korean Peninsula.   All around us, people declare evil as good and good as evil.  Anybody listening?  Anybody seeing?  Are these unpredicted surprises?  Life is full of trials and tribulations (Psalms 34:9) and times will get worse before the return of Jesus (Romans 1: 21-32).

In Chapter 6 of the Book of John, we read that “Jesus perceived that they would come and take Him by force and make him a king, and so he departed again into a mountain himself alone, leaving the disciples and crowd behind.  And when evening came, his disciples went down to the Sea and entered into a ship and went over the Sea toward Capernaum.  It was dark and Jesus was not with them. And the Sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.  So, when they had rowed 25-30 furlongs, they saw Jesus walking on the Sea, drawing nigh unto the ship; they were afraid.  But, he saith unto them, ‘It is I; be not afraid’

Life is full of patches of ‘rough seas’.  Through these times, who is at the helm of your ship?  Many Christians have left Jesus behind and decided to journey on their own.  Don’t we all do this at times, taking up the oars and the decision making on our own?  When we do, the world will certainly rise up against us, seemingly sometimes in a series of great waves, and lost in the whirlwind we lose focus and begin to fear.  But if we look up, we will see him drawing nigh to our ship saying ‘Be not afraid’ and calling for trust in Him.

For the disciples in the storm of John 6 they responded well in verse 21, “Then (when they heard and saw and knew) they willingly received him into the ship; And immediately, the ship was at the land whither they went.”   When we hear, and see, and invite Him to be at our helm He immediately gives us access to a land better than we know, a land of rest that we could not get to on your own no matter how hard we row.

The new arrangement by Kristine Dimarco (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNqo4Un2uZI) says it so well, “Seas that are shaken and stirred, can be calmed and broken for my regard….Let go, my soul, and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know his name, the waves and wind still know his name.”   Do not try to go it alone.  There are currents and chasms that you cannot cross without being taken up on Eagles wings.  Remember Isaiah 26:3, “Thou shalt have perfect peace, he whose mind is stayed on Him, because they trust in him”.   Whatever the storm, believe and don’t fear.  Focus on Jesus and trust in Him today.

Phil Dougherty

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Experiencing Grace

Experiencing Grace

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus shares the parable of the Laborers with His disciples (the original twelve and subsequently with us). This parable is probably one of the clearer illustrations in the Bible of why we as God’s creation often don’t ‘experience’ grace. The workers portrayed here were all men who needed money to feed their families. They did not have regular jobs. We would call them day laborers.  If they did not work that day, they and their families would not eat that night. Luckily, there was a landowning employer (God) with work to be done who was willing to pay for their efforts.  In the passage, Jesus did not say why the landowner didn’t hire all of the men first thing in the morning, nor did he tell why the ones who were chosen later didn’t show up early in the day. What we do know is that this parable demonstrates how the beauty of the grace and mercy we experienced at salvation can fade as life happens.  At the point of salvation and Christ’s amazing grace (being hired) we are all excited and can’t wait to get into our new life (job) as a Christ Follower. Then life happens, and we work a little, and things just are not fair. It’s at this point that the glow of Christ’s amazing grace may begin to fade in our minds as we focus on the perceived blatant unfairness of this life.

In this parable we have five groups of men, including those hired at 6 am, 9 am, 12 am, 3 pm, and 6 pm.  All of the men were in need of somebody’s grace in order to feed their families. They had all agreed to a day’s pay for a day’s work, but based on what they thought of as a fair exchange. They all had worked their allotted time and would be able to go home and provide supper for their families. They had all received grace and mercy from the landowner.  But when pay time arrived, the first three groups who were hired were not happy. That sorry boss had the audacity to pay the lesser workers who hadn’t shown up and been hired until 3pm and 6pm, the same as those who had shown good character and made themselves available early in the day. Were they all going to be able to feed their families? Did they all get paid what they agreed to? Yes on both accounts. Then what was the problem?  Basic inherent greed and self-righteousness. They were not being treated fairly. They were better workers and deserved to be paid more than the sorry late comers!  What they were forgetting is that they had received the same grace as the last hired. The reality is that none of the workers deserved God’s grace! The last two groups of men went home with food for their families and rejoicing, knowing that they had received more than they deserved. The first three went home with food for their families grumbling, forgetting that they had also received more than they deserved. Forgetting that outside of being chosen by a very gracious landowner (God) they would be at home with nothing to feed their families.

The same can be true of us as today’s Christ followers if we, in any way shape or form, forget what Isaiah 64:6 says, that “All my righteousness is as filthy rags.”  If so, we miss ‘experiencing’ grace, because we will think we earned our ‘wages’.  If we think we earned grace, even subconsciously, the first time, we will most likely keep trying to earn grace.  This can lead to a life of fear and anxiety.  In contrast, we can live in the beautiful truth that when we surrender to the cleansing power of Christ’s blood (salvation) we are made righteous by His work, not our inadequate service.  We don’t have to get it right all the time and we don’t end up comparing ourselves to the worker next to us. Rather we fall on His mercy and work for Him out of love, truly appreciating what He has done for us that we could never do on our own, i.e. we got more than we deserved when we got Jesus.  What a place of peace and grace we end up in!!

Tim Smith

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A Spiritual Battle?

Battle

What can you ‘see’ in regards to the spiritual battle?  How does this relate to potential ‘revival’ or the opposite, ongoing ‘demoralization’.

The world around us is ‘scaled’.  For some, they see only the small area within which they live and the small circle of those they deal with or that influence them.  Others have vision of the ‘big picture’.  Some see only the physical.  Others see the spiritual.  What do you see?

We all see the physical.  Some care and some do not, but we all see.  We see the bad neighborhoods.  We see poverty.  We see the opposite, i.e. wealth and the abuse of wealth.  Do we see the spiritual in front of us?  Do we see the greatness of God delivered through people who are His hands and His feet, i.e. men and women of God sacrificially serving others doing good things to help those in need?  Likely, when we slow down and get our mind off ourselves.  Do we see the positive words of encouragement and truth being delivered (as opposed to the negative) and the Word of God repeated (on signs or through people)?  Do we see how this literally offsets and even wars against the evil (the drugs, the suppression of free will – like domestic abuse, the lack of hope – for a future, the depression)?  Do we see the spiritual balance in a building, an area, a town, a region, a state, a nation, on this globe?

At the source there is but one Good and that is the God of the Bible.  And at the source there is one primary representative of evil and that is Satan.  God delivered his good word through his Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:1).  Jesus’s work is supported by his people and the angels and by the Holy Spirit.  Satan’s effort is coordinated and supported as well by the ‘World’ and by his demons.  While these are simple truths, so many see only the physical.  When Paul says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers” this is what he means.  We see the physical (good and bad things and efforts) but what we see is the result of the spiritual efforts and natures of God and Satan and the supporting casts.

Do you see the channels by which good and evil flow into your home, your neighborhood, your region, your country?  God works through his children and his angels.  Christian men and women serving Christ Jesus bring the truth of Jesus and the heart of God to other men and women on this earth.  The children of God, those who have accepted Jesus Christ and are ‘sealed’ by the Holy Spirit bring life to those who are spiritually dead because as they go they have LIFE (John 14:6) in the form of the Holy Spirit in them.  The devil works to thwart the work of the Lord by seeking to kill, steal and destroy and to rob the hope and faith from the Children of God.  The Lord’s people thwart Satan’s effort by following the commands of Jesus, i.e. not worrying, not fearing, sharing with others, loving others, and getting in the mess with others to bring them out.  It is a war for the souls of men.  Do you see it?

If you see it, do you act?  Just going to church doesn’t get it done.  In fact in some cases a pacified church is a barrier to the battle.  Serving on a grounds committee or a bereavement committee or other good efforts don’t fully get it done.  Lukewarmness and show don’t get it done.  What offset’s evil and furthers the Kingdom of God is surrender to the Lord and the subsequent following of his commands.  It is vision, compassion and applied obedient effort.  His vision and your effort under his direction.  Do you see it?  Do you act?  Christian men, if you want demoralization, sit back and continue to do nothing.  If you want revival, see and act!  Act in what way and at what scale?  In the way you are called and at the scale that the Lord allows you to see.  What do you see?  Lord, open our eyes, fill us with courage, and empower us with the Holy Spirit to do your work today!

Derek Dougherty

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