Demo of Julie's Bible Reference Library

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Wet Walk

Treasured friend,

A few weeks ago I intended to get us back to Matthew 14--to the scene where Jesus walks on the water in the middle of a storm to get to His disciples. I got sidetracked on a couple of other meaningful passages (not the least of which was last week's between-the-eyes hit on the necessity of rest--which I needed desperately--I suspect you might have needed it, as well). But I do want to come back to Matthew 14 today.

Here's the passage:

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear.
Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!” Matthew 14:22-33 (HCSB)
I guess I love this passage so much because I see both what I am (in Peter leaping out in faith, thinking better of it, sinking, and crying out for Christ's help) and what I could be (in Jesus creating a space for His quiet, intimate, personal relationship with His Father in the midst of a chaotic and exhausting season of life).

More often I'm sinking and crying out in desperation than intentionally carving out a time and place for communing with my Father in heaven. Perhaps you are too. Reacting to the crises roiling around you. Leaping out on the water and praying there will be rocks under foot to keep you from drowning--not realizing there was no trick to walking on water--only well-placed, unwavering faith in the Son of God.

I love that Jesus works with the little faith of Peter--and of each of us. He doesn't chide Peter ahead of time for not having enough faith to follow through with the whole walk. Even though He knows how it's going to unfold, He doesn't keep Peter from making the leap. He sustains the miracle so Peter does indeed take a few steps out there on the water (the only other human ever recorded to have done so, other than Jesus Himself).

And when Peter's faith peters out (it had to be said), He doesn't say, Peter, you have no faith, or your faith is of absolutely no use. Just , my friend you have small faith, weak faith, "little" faith -- enough to start, which is good (better than the others still cowering in the rocking and rolling boat) -- but not enough to finish. It's great, though, that Christ does have the supply of what we lack. He simply reached out and lifted His disciple to safety. And, do note that Peter knew enough to call out for Christ to save him as he sunk into the white caps of the stormy lake.

That, I suppose is the most powerful observation from the scene. Jesus has the power to lift us to safety--not just barely, as if the effort of it will put Him in peril or drain His strength supplies--but plenty of power to lift each of us out of the waves, limitless power, unsappable power, uninterruptible power to carry us to safety in the storm and through the storm. Ultimately, as with the end of this scene, to overcome and calm the storm--and in so doing to bring honor and glory to Himself. And He is as near to us as to Peter--near enough to hear us when we call; near enough to offer His strong arm to keep us from sinking in defeat.

Another passage I've been reading for a writing project I'm doing today is from the Gospel of John (chapter 9) where Jesus heals the man born blind--after His disciples want to know whether the man's sins or his parents' caused his blindness. I love that Jesus sluffs off that question entirely and points out that the man's suffering will result in ultimate glory for the Son and His Father in heaven. It's nobody's business what got him there. Only that God has a plan in and through it--one that's good for the man and good for the King's reputation.

That's the way I want to see the storms I'm facing today--through the eyes of faith--even if it is Peter's "little" faith. Even then, it's well-placed faith in the Christ Who not only walks on the water to meet the disciples in the storm, but holds the power to bring them through safely and restore calm to all the forces of nature at work against them.

Perhaps the key to that healthy and God-centered outlook comes at the opening of the scene: in getting away quietly to be alone with God. To seek His perspective. To ask His wise counsel. To submit to His ultimate authority over my life and that of my loved ones.

If you have more thoughts on this passage and how it speaks to you, I'd love to hear them. Post a comment here, or drop me an email at conferences@joymediaservices.com. I'd love to know how God is at work in your life through the challenge and encouragement of His Word.

Blessings,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Email from God

Treasured friend,


I know that title must sound rather odd—especially coming from me. But I’m pretty sure I received one last week--an email from God, that is.


I know I’ve mentioned it to you on many occasions, but it bears repeating here that my work load has been heavy since mid-winter. I’ve been juggling project deadlines in between shuttling my dad to doctor visits and trying to do my share of household work—including a portion of what used to be “his” work.


It was Thursday around 2 o’clock. I had been writing all day—about seven hours at that point. That’s a pretty intense assignment. And it probably surpassed the wise max for one sitting. But all I knew was I had so much more to get done—it was a rare day without doctors or other interruptions (even the dinner was made already), so I had to capture those hours to move the paying work forward.


The only problem was I was slowing down from fatigue. No, more than that—I was weary to the bone. My head was throbbing. Unconsciously, I brought my hands up to massage my throbbing temples. I’m so tired, I moaned.


That’s when the email dinged. Now, I’m usually pretty disciplined about letting it ding all it wants and ignoring it until I’m done writing. But for some reason, when my right hand returned to the mouse, I clicked open Outlook and found the new email. It was a weekly devotional I receive from the Assemblies of God Women’s Ministries department—designed especially for Women @ Work. The headline read:


The Rest of Your Life


And the subhead read:


Coffee Breaks Are Not Optional

It might as well have been flashing neon. I read on:


Learning to work well is great, but working well is not sufficient to create a balanced life; we must also learn how to stop working. That’s called rest. … It was on God’s Top Ten List.


You know, I found myself thinking, I may not have too much trouble with some of the commands on that list: don’t murder—sure, no problem. Don’t steal—okay, what’s not mine doesn’t belong in my sticky fingers. Honor your parents—I’m working at that every day. Don’t take God’s name in vain—got it—I love that Name, and will work not to do or say anything that would discredit that Name. But Sabbath rest? I’m pretty-much too busy to get that one covered. Surely, God you didn’t mean for me to worry about that one.


As I read more of the devotional, I was reminded of the command from God that all of us rest—regularly and intentionally. And I found a bullet-list of warning signs that I’m not up to snuff on that particular command: mental fatigue (check); irritability (check); anxiety (check). Kinda like looking in the mirror.


So, I considered the emailed article, written by Ed Gungor, pretty much an email from God, sent from Ed’s keyboard. And I did a little homework on rest. I found a great challenge in the book of Hebrews.



So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:9-13 (ESV)


This passage attributes to God an invitation to His children to enter the gift of His rest. Rest is a privilege He offers—and a failure to accept this offer He considers an affront—a sin, every bit as appalling to Him as our failure to keep any of the other commands. Failure to rest is disobedience—plain and simple. It amounts to crossing the Word—and it will pierce me to the bone. God won’t let it slide.


But God …I began. Then I stopped. No “buts” allowed. I pushed back from the keyboard; shut off the monitor; and went to the family room to rest. Was it convenient? Nope. Was it in the schedule? Nope. Was it without cost? Nope. Was is necessary? You bet! Because I never want to be found on the wrong side of the Word—and when I give account to God one day, I want it to be a joyful moment, not a shameful one.


My prayer is that this challenge will be one you’ll take to heart, as well.


Blessings and prayers,


Julie


© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Relentless Pursuit of God

Treasured friend,

I had intended to return to Matthew 14 for this week’s devotional thought – but as I was reading devotionally myself in Isaiah 26, a passage jumped out and ministered to my heart – so I thought I’d share it with you today. (Perhaps next week we’ll return to Matthew 14—where Jesus walks on the water—because there’s some meat there to sustain us, as well.)

Now, on to Isaiah 26, beginning with v. 7:

The path of the righteous is level; You clear a straight path for the righteous. Yes, Yahweh, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown. I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You, for when Your judgments are ⌊in⌋ the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:7-9, HCSB).

The heading for the section in my translation is “God’s People Vindicated.” And I love that. The injustice and suffering that swirls around us in this world of exhaustion isn’t getting the last word. And it isn’t as out of control as it feels. God is at work—sometimes, as in the case of His faithful servant Job, His hand clearing a path for our feet is deeply hidden behind the scenes—but He is there, at work and ready to meet the righteous on their path of seeking Him.

I love that the passage gives us a defining picture of the abstract concept of righteousness. It’s not sinless perfection—none of us could ever claim that. But it is a passionate desire for God’s renown—God’s reputation. It is an adoring, zealous seeking of Him—even in desperate times when He seems so tragically far removed from us. A pursuit of Him leads us in the paths of righteousness—the paths that are level and straight. It sounds a lot like Psalm 23: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (NKJV).

The picture in my mind is of a bruised but persistent hunter: panting, gasping, wheezing through the dark underbrush of a dense forest in the dead of night—even then undeterred because she’s hot on the trail of God. Never giving up the pursuit—not when scarred by thorns or thistles; not when chewed up by deep-woods insects; not when tailed by blood-thirsty predators.
I want to be that brand of righteous person, whose path God can ultimately level, as I seek Him that ardently.

As I read and studied further, I went to my Life Application Bible Notes on the passage, where I found this comment:

At times the "path" of the righteous doesn't seem smooth, and it isn't easy to do God's will, but we are never alone when we face tough times. God is there to help us, to comfort us, and to lead us. God does this by giving us a purpose (keeping our mind centered on him, 26:3 [we studied that verse on Father’s Day; Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because He trusteth in Thee.]) and giving us provisions as we travel. God provides us with relationships of family, friends, and mentors. God gives us wisdom to make decisions and faith to trust him. Don't despair; stay on God's path.

I suppose I needed that challenge and encouragement this week, as our family suffered the terrible shock of the unexpected death of one of our own—my dear aunt. As all of you who have suffered a similar loss know, in those hours, we are more obviously desperate for God’s face, for His wisdom, for His provision of faith to battle the crouching enemy of despair.

I know this passage encouraged me to keep pursuing God in righteousness, even when I don’t understand what He’s “up to” in my life, and in the lives of my beloved ones.

May you find hope there today, as well.

Blessings,

Julie


© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com