No Boys, It’s Not A Ghost

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.  Jn 6:19

It’s the middle of the night, the disciples are miles out to sea.  The wind is howling and the waves are battering their little boat. They’re drenched. Rowing with all their might. Getting nowhere. Then they see something. Can barely make it out in the darkness. It looks like the faint outline of a man. Is it a man standing up in a boat? No there’s no boat. Is it someone walking along the shoreline? No – they’re 3-4 miles from shore.  What is it?  The apparition is coming directly toward them. In terror they cry out “It’s a ghost” (Matthew 14:26).

Why are they frightened? Why don’t they expect it to be Jesus?  Because he’s never done anything like this before.

He’s done some astonishing miracles but none like this. This is completely unexpected. They have no category for a man walking on water. God’s provision for them is so completely surprising they’re terrified at first.  No boys, it’s not a ghost.  It’s Jesus, coming to help you in a way you never could have imagined.

God has ways of providing for us that we can’t possibly imagine.

So often in our trials, we try to figure out how God is going to help us.  ”I could sell hot dogs on Main Street over my lunch hour.” “I could check out that dating site, RiskyMatch.com.” “I could buy a lottery ticket — maybe that’s how God will provide for me.”

God has ways of providing that aren’t even on our radar screen. He put a gold coin in the mouth of a fish to pay the temple tax. (Can you imagine Peter saying, How am I going to pay this tax?  I know – I’ll go fishing.  Maybe I’ll catch a fish with a gold coin in its mouth.)  God caused the soles of the Israelites shoes to not wear out for 40 years. He provided water from a rock and manna from heaven. He multiplied a few loaves and fishes to feed thousands. He provided a ram in a thicket for Abraham.  In our darkest hours, Jesus comes walking over the chaotic waters of our lives and gets into our little boats and everything’s ok.

This is why Jesus says don’t be anxious about tomorrow.

We don’t need to know how God is going to provide.  All we need to know is our heavenly Father loves us and has ways of meeting our needs that we haven’t conceived.

We simply need to submit our requests to him with thanks and his peace will guard our hearts. And after he’s provided for us, we’ll say we never could have imagined God would have helped us that way.  And once again, we’ll have something to marvel about in our wonderful God.

How about you?  How have you seen God provide unexpectedly for you?  Do you have any stories of how God brought answers to prayer you never could have imagined?

It’s Not What We Do For God

green grass

Can you imagine if on the day my granddaughter was born, if her father Stephen began assigning her chores: “OK Charis, listen up and listen tight. First thing, change your diaper. Milk is in the fridge and bottles are in the cupboard. After your bottle, you can start by cleaning up the living room, then cutting the grass. And after that you can go out to the North 40 and fix the fence.”  (I’ve always wished I had a North 40 to send my kids out to fix the fence on).

Which do you think more about: all you have to do for God or all he does for you?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. (PS 23.1-3)

Ps 23 begins with God. The Lord of the Universe has taken upon himself the task of being the shepherd of his sheep. Because of who he is, we shall not want.

The Psalm is a catalog of all the ways our Great Shepherd Jesus cares for us. It begins with the Shepherd making a sheep lie down in lush green pastures beside still, soothing waters.

The sheep isn’t running around worrying about where his next meal is coming from – he’s lying down in green pastures. The Psalm doesn’t start with action, it starts with rest. Christianity isn’t so much about what we do for God, it’s about all God does for us. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 JN 4.10).

When Jesus hung on the cross, the Father’s wrath stripped him of all comfort, mercy and everything good, so that we could be made rich.

Jesus provides us with every spiritual blessing: forgiveness of sins, adoption as his children, eternal glory. He adorns us with his own righteousness. He lavishes us with gifts: his Word, his Spirit, and fellow believers. He heaps on us treasures of wisdom, joy and strength . He showers upon us each day’s “manna” – each day’s supply of grace and mercy.

Today, rather than focusing on all we have to do for God, let’s thank him for all he does for us.

photo by avalonblues

He’s MY Shepherd

sheep in grass

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (PS 23.1)

Oprah may have a personal trainer but she doesn’t have anything on me. I have a personal shepherd. And I need one. Why? Because I’m “singularly unintelligent, prone to wandering and unable to find [my] way to a sheepfold even when it is within sight.”* Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? He calls his people sheep. I lived on a sheep farm for about a year after college. Sheep are timid, fearful, dumb and you should smell their manure. A sheep definitely needs a shepherd.

Charles Spurgeon says of this verse, “The sweetest word on the whole is my. He does not say, ‘The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leads forth the multitude as his flock.’ If he is a shepherd to no one else, he is a shepherd to me.”

What a wonderful truth! Every Christian can say, “Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord, has taken upon himself the task of being MY shepherd. He’s dedicated himself to providing ME with green pastures and still waters. He’s resolved to restore MY soul when I’ve fallen in sin or when I’m weary. He’s committed to guide ME in paths of righteousness for his glory. He’ll never leave MY side, no matter how deep the valley or how dark the shadow of death I must pass through.”

Who needs a personal trainer when the Lord is their personal Shepherd?

Jesus knows each of his sheep personally. He knows us by name. He’s intimately acquainted with our hearts, our hopes, our sins and struggles, and will carry us through to the end. No one can snatch us out of his hand.

What a great and glorious Savior we serve. He doesn’t care for us because we’re good enough, smart enough, and doggone it people like us. We’re singularly unlovable, but Jesus shepherds us because he’s so great and good.

The Lord is MY shepherd. Now, where was that sheepfold? I saw it just a few minutes ago…

*see my last post It’s Not What You Know but Who You Know

photo by Max xx

It’s Not What You Know but Who You Know

sheep

Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (PS 23.1).

A great spiritual principle is that it’s now what you know but WHO you know.

When my daughter Beth moved to Philadelphia last January for an internship, a friend of mine, Mark, and his wife Jill graciously offered that she could live with them. I couldn’t foresee all Beth would encounter there, but I know Mark and Jill. I know their wise, kind and generous character. Since Beth’s been there, they’ve done everything from helping her with her car to getting her a mattress, and running her to the emergency room. I don’t need to know all the “whats” – only the “who” – Mark and Jill.

Similarly, we don’t need to know all the “whats” we’ll face in life – only one “Who” – Jesus, our Shepherd.

God compares his people to sheep. In ancient Palestine sheep “were totally dependent on shepherds for protection, grazing, watering, shelter and tending to injuries. In fact, sheep would not survive long without a shepherd. Sheep are not only dependent creatures; they are also singularly unintelligent, prone to wandering and unable to find their way to a sheepfold even when it is within sight”(Dictionary of Biblical Imagery). How we need a shepherd!

“In the word shepherd, David uses the most…intimate metaphor yet encountered in the Psalms,” more intimate than “‘king’ or ‘deliverer’…‘rock’” or “‘shield’…the shepherd lives with his flock and is everything to it: guide, physician and protector.” — Derek Kidner

See the intimate care Jesus exercises over his flock:

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40.11)

What a picture of God’s intimate care for us! Tending us, gathering us up in his arms and carrying us close to himself, gently leading us.

Isn’t it incredible that the Sovereign God of the universe would take upon himself the role of being the Shepherd of us singularly unintelligent, prone to wander, weak and helpless sheep?

Don’t worry about the “whats” of your life. It’s not what you know but who you know. Rejoice if you know Jesus, the good shepherd, who tenderly cares for you.

Photo by sarean.com