28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.30 But when he saw the strong[d] wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,”Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
Keep Recognizing Jesus
The wind really was boisterous and the waves really were high, but Peter didn’t see them at first. He didn’t consider them at all; he simply recognized his Lord, stepped out in recognition of Him, and “walked on the water.” Then he began to take those things around him into account, and instantly, down he went. Why couldn’t our Lord have enabled him to walk at the bottom of the waves, as well as on top of them? He could have, yet neither could be done without Peter’s continuing recognition of the Lord Jesus.
We step right out with recognition of God in some things, then self-consideration enters our lives and down we go. If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where He engineers your circumstances. The things surrounding you are real, but when you look at them you are immediately overwhelmed, and even unable to recognize Jesus. Then comes His rebuke, “…why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Let your actual circumstances be what they may, but keep recognizing Jesus, maintaining complete reliance upon Him.
If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, “Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?” Be reckless immediately— totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything— by casting your all upon Him. You do not know when His voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him. You will only recognize His voice more clearly through recklessness— being willing to risk your all.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
One of God’s Great “Don’ts”
Fretting means getting ourselves “out of joint” mentally or spiritually. It is one thing to say, “Do not fret,” but something very different to have such a nature that you find yourself unable to fret. It’s easy to say, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7) until our own little world is turned upside down and we are forced to live in confusion and agony like so many other people. Is it possible to “rest in the Lord” then? If this “Do not” doesn’t work there, then it will not work anywhere. This “Do not” must work during our days of difficulty and uncertainty, as well as our peaceful days, or it will never work. And if it will not work in your particular case, it will not work for anyone else. Resting in the Lord is not dependent on your external circumstances at all, but on your relationship with God Himself.
Worrying always results in sin. We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we really are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are. Fretting rises from our determination to have our own way. Our Lord never worried and was never anxious, because His purpose was never to accomplish His own plans but to fulfill God’s plans. Fretting is wickedness for a child of God.
Have you been propping up that foolish soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God to handle? Set all your opinions and speculations aside and “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about whatever concerns you. All our fretting and worrying is caused by planning without God.
The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
The Good or The Best?
As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and physically gratifying possibilities will open up before you. These things are yours by right, but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God make your choice for you. God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the appropriate thing to consider, if you were not living the life of faith. But if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and allow God to make your choice for you. This is the discipline God uses to transform the natural into the spiritual through obedience to His voice.
Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. In this passage, it would seem that the wisest thing in the world for Abram to do would be to choose. It was his right, and the people around him would consider him to be a fool for not choosing.
Many of us do not continue to grow spiritually because we prefer to choose on the basis of our rights, instead of relying on God to make the choice for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eyes focused on God. And God says to us, as He did to Abram, “…walk before Me…” (Genesis 17:1).
5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
God’s Assurance by Oswald Chambers
My assurance is to be built upon God’s assurance to me. God says, “I will never leave you,” so that then I “may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6). In other words, I will not be obsessed with apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s words of assurance. I will be full of courage, like a child who strives to reach the standard his father has set for him. The faith of many people begins to falter when apprehensions enter their thinking, and they forget the meaning of God’s assurance— they forget to take a deep spiritual breath. The only way to remove the fear from our lives is to listen to God’s assurance to us.
What are you fearing? Whatever it may be, you are not a coward about it— you are determined to face it, yet you still have a feeling of fear. When it seems that there is nothing and no one to help you, say to yourself, “But ‘The Lord is my helper’ this very moment, even in my present circumstance.” Are you learning to listen to God before you speak, or are you saying things and then trying to make God’s Word fit what you have said? Take hold of the Father’s assurance, and then say with strong courage, “I will not fear.” It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in our way, because “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you….’ ”
Human frailty is another thing that gets between God’s words of assurance and our own words and thoughts. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God seems to be nonexistent. But remember God’s assurance to us— “I will never…forsake you.” Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s keynote? Are we continually filled with enough courage to say, “The Lord is my helper,” or are we yielding to fear?
You are a leader. If no one else, you are leading your family. Most likely you are leading beyond this. It could be coaching ball team, managing a few people at work or running an organization.
You are a leader.
With the Positives…
I’ve found there are a lot of positives with leading. Along with finding pleasure in those under me doing great work, there is also the simple fact that more gets done without me involved. My household is a great example.
Kia and I have delegated some of our household chores to our kids – dishes, laundry, some meals, etc. It’s incredible after years of doing all of these things to have them done without my involvement (though breaking up disputes is a regular occurrence).
I remember the pleasure when all my children were able to dress themselves. Now I can tell them to get up, get dressed and have no part in the process.
As much as that sounds like parenting…it’s really leading. I’m leading my kids to adulthood – responsibility, autonomy, decision making, etc.
You are a leader.
Yet with all of the positive that comes with leading, there also responsibility. It’s why so many people don’t like the idea of leadership.
I’ll be honest with you. Most of the time, I don’t feel the full weight of the responsibility on me. I don’t mean the day to day, get-the-job-done responsibility. I feel that. I mean the larger, these-are-my-people responsibility. Too often, I miss it.
Recently, I got a (good) wake up call.
O God, you know how foolish I am;
my sins cannot be hidden from you.
Don’t let those who trust in you be ashamed because of me,
O Sovereign lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Don’t let me cause them to be humiliated,
O God of Israel. -Psalm 69:5-6
As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, Sunday School teachers and even friends of children, we are in a precious place. We are leading children – not just into physical and emotional maturity, but more importantly, we are lead children into spiritual maturity.
As I read those verses from Psalm 69, I realized my mistakes, can lead them astray. My words, my actions, even my thoughts, can destroy the faith of a child.
I hope that’s a wake up call for you too. You are leading your child’s spiritual life.
You are a leader.
Will you lead well?
Let me give you one piece of advice on how to lead your child well spiritually. I’ve become more and more aware of this in the last several years. It became super clear in a book I read about intimacy last year.
Donald Miller, in his book Scary Close, made this observation about the teenage and adult children of his friends. The ones who were the most mature (held your eye, had real conversations, weren’t overly dialed into their phones) had one thing in common. They all had parents who were open, honest and vulnerable with their children.
My advice? Be vulnerable. Share your weaknesses. Be honest about your mistakes.
Kids are dying to know we are human. They need to see it. God already knows we are foolish; they need to see it too. When you do, faith will become real in their lives.
When we are open and honest about our small mistakes and short-comings, something amazing happens. We are less likely to fall into large, image shattering sins.
This week, I challenge you to find one opportunity to be real with your family. Show a weakness. It’s okay. It’s better than okay. It’s leading well.
16But as the Ark of the lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the lord, she was filled with contempt for him.
17They brought the Ark of the lord and set it in its place inside the special tent David had prepared for it. And David sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. 18When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the lord of Heaven’s Armies. 19Then he gave to every Israelite man and woman in the crowd a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people returned to their homes.
20When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”
21David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. 22Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!”
Their gifting seemed above and beyond the normal person. They taught themselves the physics of flying, figuring out lift, thrust and other aviation theories with little or no help. They built a motor from scratch. They constructed multiple airplanes by hand. Orville and Wilbur seemed to have an unnatural ability – unfair to everyone around them.
Then I listened to an interview with another author, Malcolm Gladwell.
Charlie Rose interviewed Gladwell after the release of this book Outliers. In Outliers, Gladwell studies people like Bill Gates and the Beatles. He wanted to know why they were successful when so many from their generation with the same advantages (or more) were not. Orville and Wilbur were not a part of the study, but they easily could have been.
In the interview, Rose asks the question, “Aren’t some people just much more naturally gifted, talented, able?”
The Story of Saul and David
It’s a wonderful question. Aren’t some people successful because they have something more than the rest of us?
I’ve been reading the stories of the first two kings of Israel – Saul and David. From a distance, appears this is the case with them. David has something more than Saul. So David is wildly successful, and Saul is a bumbling misfit.
Gladwell gave a surprising answer to the question.
Yes, some people do have natural abilities or talents that others don’t, but it’s not the difference maker. Intelligence, talent, ability – this all make up a minority of why people succeed. It is far from the majority of why people succeed.
It’s true of Saul and David.
Saul is no less anointed or gifted than David. Saul is described as tall, dark and handsome (seriously). Men easily follow him into battle. He is a warrior. On top of all of that, read what 1 Samuel 15:17 has to say about him,
And Samuel told him, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The lord has anointed you king of Israel.
The Spirit of God is on Saul. I believe Saul never really believed this to be true. He never could see himself as the man everyone else around him saw. Add these things together, and Saul became a rudderless leader who squandered opportunity after opportunity to be truly successful.
David was also gifted, and no more than Saul. David was also anointed, and no more than Saul. But David was the greatest king of Israel – far greater than Saul
How Bad Do You Want It?
Malcolm Gladwell describes in both the book and the interview a story about young Bill Gates. As a teenager, Gates discovered the nearby University of Washington had a mainframe computer. This super computer sat unused between the hours of 2AM and 6AM every night.
In his passion for programing, Gates would wake himself up every night at 1:30AM, get out of bed, walk 2 miles to the university and program for 4 hours.
Gladwell admits Gates had both ability and access others didn’t. It isn’t what made him successful. What made Bill Gates a success was his passion and desire to program. His passion drove him out of bed in the middle of the night to walk 2 miles and sit a computer. His drive created Microsoft.
David wasn’t better than Saul. He had more passion for God.
David longed to be in the presence of God, and the opening story sums up his desire for God. David was willing to dance in the streets in underwear. He was willing to be a fool. He was violently passionate for God.
It drove him not just to be the greatest king in the history of Israel, it also led him to be called, “a man after God’s own heart.”
As a believer in Jesus, you have the same anointing as David. The Holy Spirit on you like it was on them. The question is how passionate are you for God? What will you passion drive you to do, be, say?
Yesterday, Pastor David asked the question,
“What can you bring to the Lord?”
Today, I ask the same question, but with a twist.
“How passionate are you to bring that thing to God?”
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:26-27 (NLT)
It’s interesting what James doesn’t say here. He doesn’t say, “Following Jesus is not about religion, it’s about relationship.” He says there is an empty form of religion, and there is a form of religion that is pure and genuine in God’s eyes. And that good religion is characterized by two very practical habits.
A Bridled Tongue
James has an awful lot to say about what we say. It’s a major theme throughout his letter. And it shows up again here.
Of all of the things he could have emphasized about the nature of genuine faith in this moment, he lands on speech. When your tongue is out of control, he says, it betrays an empty faith. It’s like hearing/knowing truth, but never doing anything with it (vv 22-25). Pointless. Not real faith at all. Good and true religion, however, brings hearing and doing together; it’s a faith that produces ethical results – in this case, a bridled tongue.
An Unbridled Generosity
But James continues: good religion is also characterized by caring for orphans and widows.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that James appeals to God theFather at the very moment he calls his readers to care for those who are fatherless. Here is James, again, playing up the idea that true faith brings hearing and doing together. It’s not just experiencing God’s character (as Father), it’s about exhibiting that character to others! It’s doing what he does. It’s caring for the marginalized and disenfranchised. It’s giving to those who can’t give us anything in return.
And it stands in stark contrast to the corruption of the world. It’s as though James sees caring for orphans and widows as an antidote to the world’s corrupting influence. The world which marginalizes orphans and widows. The world that lusts for power at all costs. The world that celebrates relentless ambition and self-promotion. The world that shows partiality to the rich (see James 2:1-6!). Pure religion, says James, resists such corruption. Instead, it reflects the character of God by caring for those on the margins.
Religion or Relationship?
How we talk to others and how we care for others…that’s s a sweeping range of human interaction! And genuine religion radically affects both.
So maybe it is about relationship after all. Or better: relationships. For genuine religion, it seems in James, only shows up when our relationship with God begins to affect our relationship with others.
So, it’s time for a heat check. How genuine is your faith? Look back over your last week. Are there signs of life – in the words you’ve spoken (or not!) and the people you’ve helped?
1 God presides over heaven’s court;
he pronounces judgment on the heavenly beings:
2 “How long will you hand down unjust decisions
by favoring the wicked?
3 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
4 Rescue the poor and helpless;
deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
5 But these oppressors know nothing;
they are so ignorant!
They wander about in darkness,
while the whole world is shaken to the core.
6 I say, ‘You are gods;
you are all children of the Most High.
7 But you will die like mere mortals
and fall like every other ruler.’”
8 Rise up, O God, and judge the earth,
for all the nations belong to you.
What is justice?
As a country, collectively, we ask what will make us great (again)? We’re all asking – no matter what side of the aisle we live on. Is it a wall? Is it deportation? Is it immunity? Is it open restrooms? Is it more tolerance? Is it less tolerance?
What is justice?
The question goes far beyond our American borders. It reaches out to European counties asking these same questions. Do we open our borders? Do we rescue migrants at sea? Do we deport some but not others? Do we bail this country out or let it sink?
What is justice?
It’s not just America or Europe, it’s the world. What is worse? Be oppressed or oppress others to survive?
What is justice?
It’s not just the here and now around the world. The cry for justice has been through all of history and through all people groups.
Justice begins and ends with the marginalized in society – poor, oppressed, orphan and destitute. As Pastor Chris said on Tuesday, it’s messy. Sometimes there is a reason…a fault, and it’s not pretty. Sometimes no one is at fault, but it is just as ugly.
But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.-Galatians 4:4-7 The Message
God has more than justice on His mind. Redemption is first priority. God wants the mess redeemed – orphans adopted, the oppressed set free, the poor clothed and the destitute filled with hope.
This is justice.
Justine isn’t not about walls or bathrooms or borders or deportation. It’s so much more. It’s about redemption.
Redemption is justice because none of us deserve grace.
23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.24Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.-Romans 3:23-24 NLT
Yes, Jesus is returning with a sword of fire, but not now…not yet. Now is a different justice.
Now is the justice of entering into a mess seeking redemption so God can be glorified.
My challenge to you. Being just, go out seeking redemption.
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold–along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned–to pay the debt.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
That’s A Lot of Dough!
In 2015, the average salary in the United States was between $23,000 – $48,000. The median would be $30,500 per year. In this story, according to the King James Version, the man owed 10,000 talents. Both words have deep significance.
Ten thousand was the largest numeral in the Greek language, and a talent was the largest unit of currency of the day. In literal terms it meant this man owed 200,000 years worth of an average man’s wage.
In 2015 terms, this man owed $6.1 billion.
One time I was in debt $100,000 from a business deal gone bad. That stung. I thought I would never get out of the pit I dug. It was only 61,000 times less than what this guy faced.
For him, there was no hope. This guy was up a creek with no paddle in a boat full of holes, and a 10,000 foot waterfall was moments away.
Kingdoms at War
The story isn’t about money though. It’s about two kingdoms at war.
The Kingdom of God is in direct opposition to the kingdom(s) of this world. The deeper you dig into the teachings of Jesus, the more obvious this becomes.
God’s Kingdom is about mercy.
“Then his master was filled with pity for him…”
God operates out of a “mercy first” policy. He forgives when we don’t deserve it. He pardons the sins of the worst sinner. God grants grace upon grace to His creation.
This doesn’t match the kingdom of our every day life. That kingdom says, “You owe me.” Period. No debate.
Do you need a more clear an example than this man? He walks out the gate, sees a man who owes him a fraction of this debt, and he assaults the man.
“He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.”
We read this passage with horror, but why wouldn’t this servant act this way? It’s the culture he lived in (we live in). You owe me! I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what you do. I don’t care about you. You owe me!
Where Do You Live?
Which kingdom are you living in? Are you from the Kingdom of mercy first, or are you dwelling in the kingdom of you owe me?
Forgiveness is releasing the debt owed to you. One of the most difficult challenges in life is truly forgiving someone who has truly hurt you. It’s why Jesus commands Peter to forgive 490 times. I don’t forgive my enemy (or my brother) one time only, but I forgive each time the hurt returns to my heart. That can be over and over and over again.
Search your heart. Are you holding a debt against a friend, a neighbor, a family member? They probably owe you, but will you show mercy anyway? Will you forgive?
Allow the Kingdom of God to enter into that relationship. Forgive.
15Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 16They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites.17Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
18But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me?19Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin,20he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
21“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
22His reply amazed them, and they went away.
What’s the Real Question?
My wife, Kia, is a professional portrait photographer. When it comes time for clients to pay, she occasionally receives some variation of this question,
“Do you offer discounts for orders paid in cash?”
Have you ever noticed how some questions aren’t the real question? The question is meant to ask another question – in a non-direct way.
When a client asks Kia, “Do you offer discounts for orders paid in cash?” they usually mean this,
“Can you remove my sales tax? It is paid in cash, so you won’t claim this income.”
The question is all about deception and integrity.
Deception & Integrity
Which leads to our Scripture passage for the day. Jesus is asked a question by the Pharisees. The question is pretty straight forward, “Should I pay my taxes?” But what was the real question behind their question?
To understand this, we need to take the question in context. Their question is in response to a story Jesus just told about a king and a wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14). Those invited to the feast blew the king off. Some even killed the king’s servants. Jesus tells of how the king exacts judgement on these people.
The Pharisees know who Jesus is talking about – them! They aren’t very happy about it, so they develop a plan to trick Jesus. They want him to speaking poorly of Caesar, taxes and Rome. This will allow them to present Jesus to the authorities as traitors.
What’s the question behind the question? Deception and Integrity. The Pharisees attempt to deceive Jesus. They try to destroy his integrity.
Commands of Christ
All month we’ve been focusing on the Commands of Christ. This command from Jesus holds true today. Give to the government what belongs to the government. Give to God what belongs to God.
When it comes to us paying our taxes, usually it comes down to this same issue. It’s not about ability, it’s about deception and integrity. Can I deceive the government? Will I keep my integrity?
If you enjoy the rights of citizenship, pay for it. If not, be involved in government. Make a difference. You don’t have to agree. You just have to obey.