Thursday, August 29, 2013

Attention everyone! "HOPE has left the building!"

Psalm 69:13-14 (MSG) “And me? I pray. God, it's time for a break! God, answer in love! Answer with your sure salvation! Rescue me from the swamp, Don't let me go under for good, Pull me out of the clutch of the enemy; This whirlpool is sucking me down.”

Reading: Matthew 14: 25 – 31
Have you felt hopeless in the midst of what seems to be an unbending circumstance? Perhaps there has been a time in your life that you thought things were destined to stay the same and NEVER change. You were stuck in that situation, end of story. Hope had hopped a flight out of town and you were left with nothing but yourself. Have you ever felt this way before? If you have you are not alone. There are plenty of us out there, believe me.

One afternoon while I was playing with my son in our front yard, I was quickly reminded of how I sometimes deal with the unpleasant circumstances in my life. We were hitting golf balls that day and he had just hit an impressive loft shot for a boy his age. As I followed the ball up into the air, I was distracted by the beautiful sunset just behind the tree line. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky that afternoon and what I saw looked like a magnificently painted canvass. The top burst with a vibrant cobalt color reminding me of calm Caribbean waters. As my eye drifted down I saw radiant waters flowing into a softer blue, but they couldn’t linger there as the bottom of the canvass quickly exploded up with a bright reddish-orange glow. Apparently, this day was not going down silently. It was making its exit with resounding splendor. I stood captivated by the beauty, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t enjoy God’s masterpiece in its entirety. The bottom part of the canvass had been distorted by trees and rooftops in the distance. The “stuff” in my neighborhood had taken my focus off of the masterpiece.

I was quickly reminded of what happened to Peter when he jumped out of the boat and walked on water to meet Jesus. In Matthew chapter 14, the disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. When the disciples were a good distance from the shore, the wind began to howl and waves started to pummel the side of the boat. Place yourself in the boat with the disciples. How are you feeling about the circumstances surrounding you? How do you think the disciples are feeling?

During the storm, Jesus was making his way out to meet them. The disciples noticed him, but they didn’t realize who it was on the water. How would you feel at this point? The disciples had just witnessed the incredible miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 men plus their wives and children. Their faith in him had to have been kicked up a notch. But now they’re in the middle of the lake and a big storm has come up on them, and next they see someone walking on water. Would you be a little freaked out or what? I think I would be. The Bible says the disciples were terrified when Jesus called out to them. “It’s a ghost!” They screamed out in fear. Jesus calmly replied “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” (NLT)

Wait, did you catch that? “I am here.” Jesus is standing in the middle of a howling storm, on his way to be with his disciples and they think he’s a ghost. “I am here.” They are terrified. “I am here.” What happened to that incredible “faith high” they had just been on hours before? “I am here.” I have to admit, I probably would have done the exact same thing.

Peter responds, "Lord if it's you, tell me to come and I'll come.” Peter didn't ask questions. He was willing to get out of the boat and leave everything just to be with Jesus. "Come" was the response Peter heard. Without hesitation Peter threw his leg over the side of the boat and started walking towards Jesus. In that moment, Peter didn’t hear the howling wind or see the crashing waves. All he saw was Jesus. “Come Peter. I am here.”

The story doesn’t end there. Peter had allowed his current circumstances (a little wind and rain) to divert his focus. Peter had walked closely with Jesus and had witnessed the healing and miracles he had performed first-hand yet he was still distracted by the conditions that surrounded him. When Peter began to sink he screamed "Lord save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and saved him.

"You of little faith...why did you doubt?" were the words Peter heard. What do you think went through Peter's mind at that moment? I can only imagine. I know what would have been going through mine "I don't know why I doubted you Lord. I just watched you feed 5,000 men and their families. I have watched you turn water into wine. Oh Lord, forgive and help my unbelief. Help me not to doubt you."

Just like Peter on the water that night, I too have lost sight of Jesus in the middle of my circumstances. Have you ever done that? When I looked up at the sky that afternoon and wasn’t able to see the beautiful sunset in its entirety because of a few trees, it reminded me of letting my circumstances take my focus off of Jesus. I don’t want to do that. Jesus never intended for our circumstances to get the best of us. He proves that in this story “I am here”.

When the storms of life begin to pummel away at you, make the words of Matthew 14:27 personal by inserting your name. “Don’t be afraid Sheri. Take courage. I am here!”

Point to Ponder: What circumstances are distracting you from seeing Jesus clearly?  Write them down and then ask Jesus to help shift your focus from the circumstance to Him.

Thank you for the reminders you give us each and every day to keep our focus clearly on you! Help us to know you are here in each and every moment and to see you in front of our circumstances. Help me hear your calm and gentle voice saying “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!” Amen

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