Tag Archives: Prayer

In the News

The events of Wednesday in Washington, DC were deeply disturbing.  As the joint session of Congress fulfilled its constitutional duty to certify the vote of the electoral college, the Capitol was breached by rioters (a term which I use definitively: “a group of people who meet in a public place and behave in a noisy, violent, and uncontrolled way, often as a protest.”)  The lawful machinations of the federal government were halted by the acts of a disgruntled few.  What are we to think of these developments?  What are we to say to our children?  What do these distressing behaviors indicate about our overall societal condition?

The words that I preached upon last Sunday came back to me as I watched the special reports:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:18-19

As Jesus began his earthly ministry in the countryside synagogues of Galilee, he started by drawing the attention of those who gathered toward the words of the prophet Isaiah, declaring that, under the Spirit’s influence, he had been commissioned to share the good news with the oppressed, as well as several other dismissed and discounted groups.  This term, oppressed, is used only once in the original languages of the Bible, and, as a perfect passive participle, truly means “the ones who have been broken or shattered.” 

The good news of Jesus Christ, the historical ‘evangel’, is that the day of the Lord has come which will bring about the restoration of the broken.  The sad news of our present-day, displayed earlier this week, is that many are seeking wholeness and repair through human might or mental gymnastics.  The startling reality is that we all are, to some degree, broken people: sin has caused its damage, fracturing relationships and corrupting worldviews; society has wrought havoc, deepening divisions and disenfranchising the marginalized; selfish ambition has severed many conduits for compassion and care.  Therefore, we all, in our brokenness, need someone to share the ‘evangel’, the good news of the Lord’s favor through Jesus, in ways that we can understand.

Join me in grieving the human condition that motivates a vocal and violent minority to take the measures that were broadcast earlier this week.  Join me in grieving the despairing brokenness that leads some to seek personal restoration through raucous and reckless behavior.  Join me in praying that those who know the truth would proclaim the truth to those desperate to hear it.

Your plight – your poverty, pain, and penitence – is not imperceptible to the one who is in power.  The one who governs all of creation cares about your brokenness and has brought you a cure.  The salve for your shattered self is the Son of God, who came to announce God’s grace for the captive, the blind, and the oppressed.  Jesus came to make you whole again.

As I think of the broken glass that fell upon the floor of the House chamber, I assume it will be replaced.  That is what we do; we replace what has been broken and make it all better.  That is not what God does.  God repairs the shattered panes that litter our lives.  He reassembles every piece, perfectly fitting each shard and sliver together until we are whole.  That is good news indeed for all those who are watching the daily news with dread.

We Win…We Have Reached 21

Considering all we have been through over the last 12 months, I have come to the conclusion that New Year’s resolutions are, at best, aspirational or, at worst, futile.  Perhaps you thought, on December 31, 2019, that this next year was the year you would get a gym membership and exercise more consistently but after 80 days all the fitness clubs closed, and you were left a little less resolute.  Or perhaps you thought you would adjust that unhealthy lifestyle and [fill in the blank] less, only to discover that it was all you had to do during the quarantine.  It is painfully apparent that there is no certainty to the future.

Yet, our human nature, or perhaps our spark of divinity imbued through the Imago Dei, longs for our improvement.  Therefore, the Apostle Peter writes the following to the Church:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  2 Peter 1:5-7

Whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or in the center of God’s will (N.B.: these two places are not mutually exclusive), there are areas of our lives where we could be doing better.  Honestly, I have learned a great deal about myself in the months of quarantine, and I recognize that there are things I desire to improve.  I suppose January 1st is just as good a day to begin as any other.   

Above all else, I desire this year to increase my perseverance, which Merriam-Webster defines as, “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”.  I long to be more patient, more forbearing, more tenacious.  My trouble is that perseverance is not something that a gym or a grocery store can supply.  Perseverance comes through faith in the promises and providence of God over the long haul.  It means, for me, delighting in the delays as part of God’s design and rejoicing in the roadblocks as they work toward my refinement.  For me, I will know that I am developing perseverance when I no longer experience opposition with annoyance but with amazement. 

But that is my struggle.  Your struggle is likely different.  Why not make an effort this year to work on what is weighing you down?   If you need accountability, I am available to provide an occasional prod.  If you need prayer, feel free to reach out and we can bring these concerns to God together.  If you need motivation for change, simply replay the past year in your mind and marvel at how much you have adapted, adjusted, and altered because of this disease; is not your health as important?  You have shown yourself to be resilient.  Let the changes you make this year be on your terms. Let me encourage you to read the Bible a bit more this year, attend worship a bit more this year, practice kindness a bit more this year, and marvel at God’s goodness a bit more this year.  Clearly, COVID cannot constrict the construction of your Christ-like character; become what you believe you are this year.

Arrived

Each year at Christmastime, I lead the church in the observance of Advent.  The term ‘Advent’ was adopted from Latin adventus which means ‘coming or arrival’ and it refers to the season of anticipation before the arrival of Christ, which, for our church, takes place the four Sundays before Christmas.   Through our observance of Advent, we are, as a community of faith, encouraged to demonstrate and appreciate the characteristics of Christian expectancy – hope, peace, joy, and love.  It is for this reason that we have been lighting candles and offering prayers since the last Sunday of November and will continue to do so through this weekend.

This year especially, I have been thinking about Advent and contemplating the arrival of what has been promised from a particularly secular perspective: I have been thinking about Advent every time I track a package.   Because of the pandemic, most of my Christmas shopping has been on-line and, because of this, I am regularly checking my Amazon app and entering tracking numbers on the websites of UPS, USPS, and FedEx.  Some days I am filled with elation as I see the progress of my purchases and other days I am filled with exasperation as I consider contacting customer service.

Many times, I am not in the most healthy of places.  As trucks go up and down the street, I watch from the window (like a kid with a quarter waiting for the Ice Cream Man), wondering if they will stop and, if they do, will they have something for me.  As the weeks turn into days before Christmas, I find that I am worrying more and more about the 3 Ds – delay, damage, or delivery to the wrong address.  I have become so preoccupied with my expectations that I risk missing out on the blessings of what is to come. 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6 (NIV84)

This is why I need Advent.  The words of Isaiah quoted above were written more than six centuries before the birth of Jesus.  Imagine the tracking information on Isaiah’s laptop: “Expected delivery – March 7, 2638, before 9 PM”.  The trouble with me is that I want things done on my time schedule; the gift of Advent is that it reminds us that all things are done on God’s perfect time schedule.  Jesus arrived just when He was expected.  Jesus will return just when He is expected. For that reason, we can have hope, peace, joy, and love today.

I will continue to check on the progress of my packages, confident that they will arrive when the time is right for them to arrive.  I have hope that they will be before Christmas, but even if they are late, as I reckon time, they will still get here.  I have peace in knowing that they are on their way or will be soon.  I have joy in the anticipation, which may or may not be resolved on December 25.  I have love in my heart for those receiving these packages and those carrying them to their eventual destination.

May God bless you in this season of arrival.

Quaran-teen

Yesterday, our unexpected blessing, our bonus baby – a surprise to all but God – turned thirteen.  My youngest, Joshua, following the faith of His savior, is now a man.  If we were contemporaries of Jesus, yesterday would have been his Bar Mitzvah (bar [בר] is a Jewish-Aramaic word meaning ‘son’ and mitzvah [מצוה] is a Jewish word meaning ‘a commandment’).   Joshua would have been seen not as a seventh-grader but as a “son of the commandment” – he would be responsible for keeping the Law of God.  This leaves me, as his father, with a nagging question: have I done enough to prepare him for adulthood.

Thankfully, we do not live in a non-adolescent culture and Joshua will not be an adult for another 5 years (legally) or more (culturally).  That said, I have been slowly realizing that how I see this boy – as my defenseless and impressionable baby and as my child in need of protection and correction – is not the way the world outside our front door sees this young man.   While I would seek to isolate him from the culture of the age, the societal gates of social media have been, with the change of a date, opened to him with its beckoning siren song.  In my head, I know that all these coming changes are natural and beneficial steps in his healthy maturity, but in my heart, I worry for he is still just a boy to me and his mother.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.  Proverbs 22:6

The above-quoted verse is typically mentioned when the topic of parenting comes around.  It makes sense since the command of training is good advice for new moms and dads and the promise of faithfulness is comforting during those rebellious stages.  As my boy enters manhood, I ask, as I said before, if I did a good enough job training him?  Ironically, that might not be the right question for the term Solomon uses for ‘train’ is not translated as ‘train’ anywhere else in the Scriptures; it is translated as “dedicate’.  The four other times the Hebrew Bible uses the term חנך, it is in reference to the temple.  This admonition is not, as I see it, to prepare my child for the world and hope that I have done enough, but to proclaim my child to the world and trust that he will remember who he is, and whose he is.

Today, I am wrestling with letting go of the precious blessing of my baby boy.  Today, you may be struggling with letting go of another blessing.  Can God be trusted to keep His word and continue to provide for His people?   My friend, the answer is yes.  As my son Joshua’s name declares, the Lord is salvation (or deliverance or redemption).   The Lord will carry all of us who trust His promises and bring us safely through to the other side.

Happy Birthday, Joshua.  Enjoy the beginning stages of adulthood. Remember who you are.

Still Giving Thanks

There is a ‘standing headline’ circulating through social and broadcast media: “Celebrating Thanksgiving to Be Quite Different This Year”.  As a consequence of surging numbers of COVID-19 cases across the globe, authorities are recommending, at least in my area of the country, that our observances of Thanksgiving be limited to small – and preferably outdoor – gatherings, that our travel plans be curtailed or eliminated, and that our traditions take a hiatus.  Under the circumstances, it seems to me that this is the most reasonable path to take, both for the sake of our loved ones and for the communities around us.

The requested modifications in celebrating this thoroughly North American holiday gives us an opportunity for beneficial correction.  This year we will not have the chance to celebrate “Turkey Day” or “Friendsgiving” or “Football Day in America”.  The Thanksgiving table may not, this year, look like the iconic Rockwell painting in its gastronomic bounty.  The chairs may not, this time around, be filled with friends from work or church, or school recreating the warmth of community.  The back yard or living room, this year, will not be shared by generations who enjoy tossing around the pigskin.  This year we might only have the opportunity to give thanks – alone with the grantor of all good things or with those in our closest of circles.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.   Psalm 95:2

Earlier this month, for another purpose, I formulated my list of ‘thanks’.  I have modified the entries slightly, hoping that my touchpoints might stimulate your thoughts toward thanks.  Today, I am thankful for:

TIME – I give thanks to God for the gift of time.  I would have never planned to spend so much time at home and share so many little moments with my family.  I cannot fully express the gratitude I feel to God for the ability to unexpectedly be together for much of the last year.  

HEALTH – I give thanks to God for the gift of health.  I consider myself fortunate that I have the availability of protective equipment and world-class care.  God has truly blessed me with the accessibility of masks and wipes, medications and medical professionals that enable me to resist much of the ailments that in other places or other times would have diminished my quality of life.

AMUSEMENT – I give thanks to God for the gift of laughter.  As dire as things are, there is an abundance of resources ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous that make me laugh.  I give thanks to God for giggling babies, on-line videos, satirical skits, and dog sweaters, along with another million amusing moments.

NETWORKS – I give thanks to God for the gift of connectedness.  I have been awed by the creative ways God has inspired others to engage with the community around them – Zoom, Duo, Facetime, YouTube, balcony concerts, calls, letters – and I am grateful to God for enabling me to participate in things I thought would be impossible to attend last Thanksgiving.

KINDNESS – I give thanks to God for the gift of love for one another.  Through signs, parades, and deliveries, we have cared for one another like no other time I can recollect.  This reminds me of the grace of God each time I see these expressions.  Thank you, Jesus.

SALVATION – I give thanks to God for the gift of forgiveness.  Countless times over the past year, as I reflect on the above-stated gifts of God, I have messed up: failing to appreciate what I have, ignoring the opportunities granted me, selfishly pouting for the things I am denied, or blatantly disregarding the Lord’s will and word.  I am so thankful to God that my sins are forgiven and that I am a new creation, saved by the free gift of His grace.

For what will you be thanks giving?

Let us all agree that we will get together a year from now for “Turkey Day” and “Friendsgiving” and “Football Day in America”.   But this year, in light of all we have been through, and continue to go through, let us all give thanks.

Purple People

In the days ahead, after the recounts and the legal challenges, one of the candidates for President will carry the requisite 270 electoral college votes and win the election.  At that same time, approximately seventy million voters will be, to some degree, delighted with the outcome and a similar number of voters will be, also to some degree, disappointed.  In many states, the margin for victory has been razor thin and large sections of our country are no longer ‘red’ or ‘blue’, but shades of ‘purple’ instead.  Whoever is inaugurated next January, he deserves our prayers.

Where do we go from here?  I believe this is a time for practicing the biblical behavior of reconciliation.  Reconciliation, when mentioned in the Scriptures, is found in the Greek term καταλλάσσω (katallássō) which means “to change completely toward agreement”.  Having an accountant at home, I know that the most common contemporary connection to reconciliation is related to the balancing financial records (i.e. to change the books to establish an agreement among diverse categories).  But the words of God represent a deeper level of agreement amidst diversity: the positive, complete change in relationships between rivals.  

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  2 Corinthians 5:18-20

The process of reconciliation begins and ends with our relationship with God.  Despite the fact that we willfully and intentionally deviated from God’s desire, by actively sinning against Him, He has changed completely our relationship through Christ, not counting those sins against us. (Please note that there is no mention of excusing or eliminating those sins, nor that those sins were no longer grievously offensive.)   God moved us from His ledger of opponents to His ledger of friends, based solely on the actions of Christ.  This is the first step of reconciliation: to know ourselves, in Christ, as a friend of God.

Once we have accepted our new position in Christ, we can move to the second part of reconciliation, namely that God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.  In other words, God has bestowed upon His friends that privilege of inviting others into God’s friend group, all on the basis of the actions of Christ.  In this ministry, we are welcoming mutual friends to share in the celebration.  Our shared relationship with God creates a shared relationship with one another, regardless of the diversity we express in our words and experiences.  We are able to befriend one another because we have a friend in Jesus.

This ministry of reconciliation is what we need right now.  Instead of dwelling on what divides us, we can rejoice in what unites us.  Instead of debating policies and positions, we could work together to defeat societal ills we all abhor.  Now is the time to focus on what we agree upon.  Now is time to cultivate the mutual friendships we have through Christ.  As we gather before the presence of God, we can share in the things we hold together: that we all have struggles, that we all have pains, that we all have gifts and that we all need love. 

Now is the time to work together and trust Christ to heal what divides us.

Duty and Delight

Earlier this week I walked to City Hall and filled out my ballot for the upcoming election.  I have always considered it a duty and a privilege to take part in the process which determines our representatives in government.  Even in local elections where only incumbents are running, unopposed, I delight in flipping that lever (when I was younger) or filling in that circle (now that I am older), making sure that my voice and my choice is heard.   I encourage each person reading this post, if you are registered to vote, to likewise engage in the process and cast your ballot for the candidates of your choosing.

Professionally, I am of the opinion that my position within the local church prevents me from divulging the candidates for whom I cast my vote.  Personally, my preference is to remain neutral in politics, seeing the benefits of our multi-party form of democracy as it fosters a healthy exchange of ideas.  In the days following this impending election, a winner will be declared in every contested race and our towns and cities, our states and commonwealths, and our country will move forward.  Our choice, each day following the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, is whether we will move forward united or move forward divided.

I, as a pastor of a small church in Boston and as a follower of Christ, am concerned with the aftermath of whatever the Electoral College determines.  It is for this reason that I offer the following observations for your reflection in the days to come.

I find it worth remembering that the course of history is long and the terms for our elected officers are short.  As hard as it is to imagine today, 2020 will likely be simply a footnote in the annuls of time.  How many of us could recall the details of the ‘Spanish Flu’ or the name of the President in 1918-1920 (prior to Googling it during the present pandemic)?  Most of today’s headlines will be the source of tough trivia questions posed by our grandchildren.  We, as human beings, are resilient, and we are capable of withstanding good and bad character, good and bad economies, and good and bad votes.

I also find it worth remembering that our hope is built, ultimately, upon God’s eternal nature (which we imperfectly reflect) not the political powers of the day (which imperfectly reflect us).  A foundational truth that sustains me in these days of uncertainty is this:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27

Before there were people groups, religions, classes or governments, there was a male and a female who were created in the image of God.  Somehow, somewhere woven among our DNA is a spark of the divine, which produces, among other things, a knowledge of moral excellence and a hunger for genuine community.  It is this mysterious impartation of the Almighty that gives me hope, despite the tensions and turmoil of this present hour.

Whether or not our votes are sufficient to carry our candidates to victory, let us commit ourselves to call upon history and the heavens to grant us hope.

Small Wins

It has happened again; God has allowed those around me to repeat a recurring theme through interactions I have had over the last 7 days.  I heard it first during a denominational meeting when a speaker encouraged me to ‘shrink the win’.  I heard it again while attending a virtual retreat as a facilitator asked me to reflect on ‘small places of growth’.  I heard it for a third time when I had lunch with a few colleagues when one of the participants commented on ‘the small victory’.  I heard it lastly at our prayer meeting when one of our intercessors reminded us of God’s ‘little blessings’.  God has been orchestrating my engagement with others as a means to focus my attention off the major problems of life and onto the (many times) minor peeks of sunshine.

God has been asking me to adjust my perspective.  In the days since the stay-at-home order was issued in the Commonwealth, much of the news and statistics about my region have been horrible.  The pandemic has exposed us to a great deal of death, damage, and dysfunction within our communities.  I in no way want to diminish the pain or loss that so many have suffered since March.  But I also do not want to make the mistake of seeing the last 220 days as filled entirely with bad news.  There is some light in the midst of this whelming darkness that is visible to those who are looking for it.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV84)

What are these glimmers of hope, these baby steps of growth, these small victories and little blessings about which God has been speaking to me?  This seasons-long quarantine has afforded the globe to be home with just a little more than television and internet, and this, in turn, provided the disparities of life to be displayed.  The world was watching, and many good people were pressed to action.  Medical inequity was broadcast and many responded with donations of PPE and calls to address the needs of inadequate care in nursing homes and among the poor.  Racial injustice was then captured on cellphones and many were outraged to the point of demonstration and a long-delayed dialogue about race began to rise.  Economic hardship gripped many and so neighbors helped neighbors with what they could share.

Many of us have spent time with the people we love, learned new skills or enjoyed new hobbies.  Many of us, because of the mild and dry weather, walked more and dined more on the sidewalks of our city squares.  The church went out digitally to the world instead of asking the world to come out to church.  We learned to adapt, to adjust and to practice mercy.  We made signs to appreciate the sacrifices of those who risked and shared tears with who lost.  We grew in compassion and care for one another.  Small victories.   

I am still praying that this pandemic is over soon, but until then, I am choosing to embrace the reality that there can be great warmth and light from a dumpster fire.

Thoughts on Prayers

In the early morning hours of last Friday, the news broke that the President of the United States was diagnosed with COVID-19.  After a whirlwind of breaking news reports, later that afternoon the Commander-in-Chief was flown to the hospital for treatment.  Many people from all across the political spectrum expressed concern, most offering the cultural trope of “thoughts and prayers” for a speedy recovery.   But, I wonder, what do we mean when we use the phrase “thoughts and prayers”?  About what are we thinking and for what are we praying?

In a days after the diagnosis, I heard from more than a few people (in conversation and through social media) that we, as Christians, are commanded in Scripture to pray for those in authority over us (and it is true, for 1 Timothy 2:1-2 does say that).  But what does the Bible teach through this command?  Frankly, if we read these verses closely, we find that this directive to pray for kings and earthly powers is a specific example of a more general principle found in the very same scriptural reference: that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people.  Indeed, we are to pray for our governmental leaders just as we pray for anyone and everyone else. Even more than that, Jesus, in Mark 5:44, teaches us to pray for those who persecute us.  We are expected to be people who pray for the needs of people, all people, irrespective of their reputation.

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  James 5:15 (ESV)

How, then, are we commanded to pray for one another?  Thankfully, the Word of God is not silent about this subject. 

  • James 5:16 encourages us to pray for each other so that we may be healed.  It is wholly appropriate to seek the Lord’s blessing so that people recover from illness.  We can rely upon and request for others God’s mercy, His divine nature which reduces or removes the just consequences of our existence in this fallen world.
  • James 1:5 states that, when we are in the grips of a trial, we can ask God for wisdom to grow through the process and challenge.  In connection with this, Colossians 1:9 directs us to pray for God to fill us with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.  We, too, can pray that these experiences of illness (physical, moral or financial) will all teach us the lessons of growth we need to learn in order to avoid the same trial in the future.  
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:11 teaches us to pray for each other that God may make us worthy of His calling.  Further, Matthew 26:41 tells us to pray for one another so that we will not fall into temptation.  We lift one another up so that we can remain faithful in the midst of any gathering darkness.
  • Finally, Ephesians 6:20 instructs us to pray that we may declare the good news of Christ fearlessly.  In the good times and in the bad times there are those around us that need to know that God cares and comforts, and despite our infirmities God can give us opportunities to offer hope.

God willing, these are the types of things I hope we are expressing when we offer our “thoughts and prayers”; Lord, help us not to voice an expectation of prosperity or success, but the blessings of mercy and guidance as we face affliction.  So, I ask you to pray for our President, and to pray for all those you know, that God will be merciful to the downcast and that He will guide us to eschew the reckless behaviors that lead to the difficulties we face.  May we all learn from one another as we pray with and for one another.  

A Question of Where

As we all endure a seemly endless barrage of bad news, including hurricanes in the south, wildfires in the west, racial unrest throughout the country and a pandemic across the globe, some may be wondering where God might be found in all of this.   It may be tempting to think that the creator and designer of all we know and sense is somehow detached or disinterested in the travails besetting the inhabitants of our little planet.  It might be rationalized that God has bigger things to address than the challenges we are currently being forced to endure.  In the fog of uncertainty, it is only natural to wonder why God seems still and silent.

It is the same feeling that the first followers of Jesus experienced and are recorded in Mark 4:35-41.  After engaging with a crowd of people earlier in the day, as evening approached Jesus felt it was time for him and the twelve to cross the Sea of Galilee.  While they were sailing a furious squall develops and nearly swamps the boat.  Can you imagine being one of a dozen people in a fishing boat, at night, in the middle of a lake, at the height of a high-wind thunderstorm?  What would you shout to God, who is peacefully sleeping (and apparently oblivious) through this life-threatening ordeal?

‘Teacher, is it no concern to you that we are perishing?’ Mark 4:38

I have to wonder how many times, in the crucible of distress, I have thought the same thing.  It is a natural human reaction to the difficulties of life.  Is it, though, a reasoned reaction for a person of faith to express?

The disciple of Jesus refers to Jesus as ‘teacher’, which is an accurate title for him.  But, I wonder, what meaning or relationship the term ‘teacher’ conveys.  It is natural to see Jesus as a guide, an instructor, or as a trainer.  Certainly, the scriptures give ample examples of the teachings Jesus conveyed, including the lessons taught just prior to their departure on this sea cruise.  But the primary role of Jesus was not teacher, for he essentially restated the doctrines and commands of the Old Testament, albeit with uncommon authority and unexpected application.  Jesus’ primary role was to show humanity the love of the Father though the giving of his life as a ransom for many.  If we are unable to see our relationship with Jesus as anything more than instructional, we will be blinded to his divine salvation.

The disciple of Jesus then asks him if our destruction is of any concern to him.  If we are expecting our relationship with Christ to be essentially functional – telling us what we need to know and how we are to act – then it will come as no surprise that we question his unwillingness to offer support when our lives are not working as we think they ought.  However, as any parent knows, apparent inaction is not a lack of concern but an opportunity for maturity.  Is it no concern to you that your baby keeps falling over as it learns to walk?   Is it no concern to you that your child may make bad choices as they go out with their friends?  Jesus’ response to the men in the boat with him is telling – ‘Have you still no faith?’  Our life is a concern to Jesus, as is our growth.

Besides, that boat was never going to sink.  Jesus made his dwelling on earth so that he would save his people from their sins.  Dying in a boating accident was not part of the irrevocable plan of God.  Despite the howl of the winds or the height of the waves, the lives of the boaters were never truly in jeopardy.  We would be wise to remember the promises of God as we respond to the pains of the world.  Those who know Jesus as the beloved Messiah can rest in the promise relayed by someone who happened to be in the boat that night, for Peter wrote, ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

As I endure this season of suffering, I pray my response will be, ‘Lord, thank you for the opportunity to grow and fulfill your purposes for me.’