Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Antibiotic for Fear

“And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” – Mark 4:41

Since I was a little girl I’ve loved fishing. There’s just something about being by the water, holding a fishing pole, watching the red and white bobber, and waiting in anticipation that gives me such excitement! But I don’t care to fish from a boat. I don’t swim well, and being in a boat sort of makes me uneasy. I’m far more at ease being on the banks, able to move around, and feeling that good solid earth under my feet.

The other day my husband and I went fishing. This was a real treat since it was only the second time all year we’ve had time to go. As I stood there, this time fishing on the bottom and trying to feel the fish bite from my line, the waves were ripping! The wind defeating me every time, pushing against my line and removing the tension I’d had in it. It was then that the words of the disciples from Mark 4:41 came to me when they said “even the winds and the sea obey Him”.

They learned this not through Jesus preaching to them, not by explaining to them how He controls the waves, nor by revealing the chain of command of the elements under His feet. They learned His authority over the wind and waves by Him showing them in an example they would never forget.

Jesus had been teaching a large group of people along the shoreline from the boat. But when it began to get dark He told them to cross over to the other side. In fact, Jesus said “Let US cross over to the other side”, telling them His very intent for the future. Jesus then took a nap in the front of the boat.

And then the windstorm came.

And then the giant waves came.

And then the boat began to fill with water!

Where was Jesus? He was still asleep - asleep in the FRONT of the boat. One of the lessons I’ve learned on a boat, thanks to my brother, is never – ever – be in one when there’s a storm! The other is to stay in the back when the water is rough because the front of the boat takes the hit of the waves first.

I think Jesus purposefully placed Himself in the front of the boat to be an example to the disciples. What was the example? His statements when they woke Him say it all. He stood up, spoke to the wind and the sea and said two things.

First He said to the wind and the sea, “Peace, be still.” Whenever we are in a fearful condition, we need to be able to remain calm, and take control of our fear.

Having lived in fear for years after being mugged, I can tell you the only way to overcome it is to control it, and the only way to control it is to remain calm, and control your mind. The more you allow fear to enter into your mind, the more it will control you. As Christians we are to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). That means we control them. We harness them, we cuff them, and we decide how long they stay in our minds. We do not fear what we control.

The disciples were looking at the waves and the water rushing into the boat. In their minds they had thoughts of drowning, of death. What they’d overlooked was the one controlling it in the front of the boat.

The second thing He said was directly to them, and spoke to the root of the problem. He said “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” He didn’t say “that you have just a little faith”. He said “that you have NO faith”.

To have faith you have to have an understanding of who Jesus is. When you know Him, you know His power and His care for you. You trust that all things – fearful or not – are in His control. The disciples admitted their lack faith when they said “WHO can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Faith is the antibiotic for fear. Where there is faith, there is knowledge and understanding of the power of God, who is in control of all things. Where there is faith, there is trust in God. Where there is faith, fear dies.

Faithie Robertson

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Robe, The Ring, and The Sandals

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.” – Luke 15:22-24

Being the mother of son who spent the last two years living away from home, I know how it feels to wonder about your child’s welfare. I know the worry of all the questions that would come in the early morning hours. Is he healthy? Is he eating right? Is he cold? Does he have clean clothes? Are his friends the right group of people? These are the things that occupy a mother’s head. It’s not that my son has caused such worry, it’s simply love.

I guess that’s why the story of the Prodigal Son, as told in Luke 15, is one that always speaks to my heart. I can imagine how the father felt those years waiting for his son to return home and waiting for him to “come to himself”. I can imagine him hearing sounds coming down the road the first few months and running out the door thinking maybe, just maybe, his son was coming home. Then I can imagine that one day life just continued on without the father running to the door, but with some sadness.

But then on that day when the son “came to himself” and realized his state of affairs, he realized who truly loved him and returned home. And yes, his father ran out of the house to meet him with open arms. Hollywood could not create a scene so touching!

Of course, this story is an analogy of one coming to Christ and receiving him through faith. Some call it salvation, some call it conversion, and some don’t know what to call it. But what it’s called isn’t half as important as what creates it. It’s an admission of whom you are, “coming to yourself”, and that you aren’t who you should be. It’s then a trust, faith, that God does love you enough to intervene for you, to save you from yourself. And once that faith is born, it is realized in the renewal of your identity. It’s an understanding that you are not who you were, but that you are a child of God.

There were three gifts given to the son that day, and they’re all meaningful, and give insight to the gifts given to the children of God when He receives us as His children.

First, he was given a robe - a covering. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived the carefree life before sin, and did it completely naked. Stark naked! There was no shame because there was no understanding of right, wrong, or not living up to an expectation of what they should be. But once they committed the sin of not obeying God, one we’ve all committed, they realized their nakedness and covered themselves with leaves. The leaves hid their nakedness.

The robe given to the son represented the salvation received from Christ. It is His righteousness, His perfection that covers our sins. We’re no longer subjects of shame or guilt. Because we accept Christ as our savior, He does just that. He saves us from ourselves.

“For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,” – Isaiah 61:10

The second gift the prodigal son was given was a ring. The ring was a symbol of identity. Often a signet ring would be used with wax to mark a document as having been written by the one owning the signet ring. When we come to Christ, we do receive an identity. We are no longer children of flesh and blood, but children of God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit that connects us to Him.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name…” – John 1:12

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” – Romans 8:16

The last gift he was given was the one I found most intriguing. He received sandals for his feet. To understand the meaning of the sandals we have to go back to verse 15, where it says the prodigal son “joined himself to a citizen of that country”. To “join himself” meant to be taken into slavery. Once a slave, his sandals would be taken from him to prevent him from running away.

When we are living without God we are slaves. Why? Because there really is no freedom found without Him. Living without Christ as your savior means that you are living on your own merits – under the condemnation you bring upon yourself through sin. There’s no freedom in following sin. That road leads to death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

Have you ever read the Ten Commandments? They weren’t written for the purification of people, but to show us where we fail. They’re a mirror of our guilt in sin. No one can keep all of the Ten Commandments. No one ever has, and no one ever will – except Christ. This is why there’s no freedom without Him. You’re condemned to the life you have. You have no way to free yourself from the bondage of sin, which leads to death. But when Christ comes, when you accept Him as your savior, His righteousness becomes your righteousness in the sight of God. You become an heir to all that Christ owns as a child of God. You’re not just a slave being taken care of, but a child of God.

“Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” – John 8:34-36

There’s just one more thing about the sandals. Do you know why the child of God can wear the sandals? Because once you’ve found Christ, and understand the joy that comes through knowing him, there is no struggle, no war of wills, no shame, no guilt, and no inner turmoil. There is love without condemnation. You’re content to stay with Him, to live in that love, and not run away.

For someone living without Him, what I just said is a mystery. There is no way to fully understand the joy of knowing someone who doesn’t reside physically on this planet until you’ve experienced the joy of knowing Him who lives spiritually within you. And that is what makes it so hard to explain to someone who is without Christ why they should be saved. That is why Jesus says in John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” When God draws you to Himself, then you will understand. Friends, I pray that understanding has or will come your way. There is freedom in Christ, sweet freedom!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Luck, Karma, and Mother Nature

Luck, Karma, and Mother Nature…what do these three have in common?

They are three ways in which Christians and non-Christians deny God and the power of God. Oh, it’s not something we intentionally do. We do it unconsciously – not considering how our words feel when God hears them. We don’t consider how they conflict with what we believe in our hearts to be true about God. They’re just sayings - words that we’ve heard all our lives. But the fact that we don’t consider what we’re really saying doesn’t decrease the weight of the sin in saying them.

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:36-38

Luck is seen as a force that causes unmerited good in our lives, or unmerited bad. “Good Luck”, “Better luck next time!”, “a string of bad luck” and other sayings are so commonly used that we sometimes say them without even considering what we are agreeing to with our words. If you believe in God – you cannot believe in luck. Instead you know that all things that happen are according to God’s will. That includes the good, and the bad. He allows bad things to happen in our lives to make us stronger, and blesses us with good things. Thinking that some other force can bring us good or bad diminishes our belief in God’s power over the circumstances in our lives.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” – James 1:16-17

Karma is actually a Buddhist and Hindu belief that our actions create a cycle of cause and effect.  An unseen force will cause the good we do to others to bring good into our life, and the bad we do to others to bring bad into our life. Belief in Karma is the opposite of believe in God’s grace.  However, Karma is much like God's will for how we treat others. 

In Matthew 22:39, Jesus taught "‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  But when we fail to do so, God offers grace.  The law of grace says that God is merciful over my actions.  Grace gives me what I don't deserve, and prevents what I do deserve.  Grace is rooted in God's love for us, which worked in our live even while we were sinners, even before we were born (1 Peter 1:17-21), and continues to work today.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8
"If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." - 2 Timothy 2:13

Mother Nature is the name we’ve given to weather and environmental change. She’s often blamed for things like floods, hurricanes, and even recently the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. To believe that anything other than God could control the weather is to doubt God’s power over the earth that He created. This includes Global Warming. The whole idea that man can cause the earth to be destroyed prior to the day that God decides to destroy it is just another way we deny God’s power.

“Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.” – Psalms 135:6.8

It’s hard sometimes to believe things like the Tsunami that hit Japan in March of 2011, or Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in August of 2005, could be caused by a loving God. But to think we could even understand the thoughts and ways of God is to place ourselves on His intellectual level.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9

God holds us accountable for not only our actions, but our thoughts and our words. It’s important to see these three sayings as what they really are – idolatry. They replace the powers of God with other forces. Luck, Karma, and Mother Nature have no place in the life of a Christian.  Being a Christian means putting down our false idols and worshipping Him and Him alone. 

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer." - Psalms 19:14