Now it came about on one of those days, that He and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." And they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended upon the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger.
I know Christians who hold to a belief that if they are walking in the will of God they will always have smooth sailing. They declare that sickness, financial need, calamities and unexpected difficulties, are always the result of disobedience, or Satanic attack, but are never the will of the Father. Some immediately change course when they see storm clouds gather. Trials, however, are the regular portion of those who follow Christ faithfully.
In the Scripture above it is plain to see that the disciples did not launch out to cross the sea on their own initiative. They were not out of the will of their Lord. Yahshua told them to get in the boat and cross to the other side. Christ then fell asleep and, as the disciples had no other directions from Him, when they saw stormy seas ahead they knew they must continue on their course. After a while things became desperate. Yet there was great reason to be at peace. Christ was in the boat with them.
And they came to Him and woke Him up, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?"
This was not a lone incident. We read of another occasion when Christ sent His disciples across the lake and a storm arose to resist them.
And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat, and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already many stadia away from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.
Once more we see the disciples following Christ’s instructions and encountering fierce opposition. This time Christ was not in the boat with them, but neither was He far away.
And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Yahshua spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
Who is this One whom the wind and the waves obey? Who is this One who walks upon a stormy sea, making it bear Him willingly as if it were the ground of a quiet park? He is the same One who is with His disciples today. He is the Son of God, and He is always near.
The rest of this story is well known. Peter responds to Christ saying, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the waves.” Christ replied, “Come.” Peter then got out of the boat and began to walk on the water, but taking his eyes off of Yahshua and looking to the wind and the waves, he began to sink in doubt and fear.
But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Yahshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
For many years I have found these two stories to be a great comfort. I have often found Christ directing me to go here, or go there, only to be met with trials, sickness, financial distresses, or unexpected difficulties. Satan would come to torment me, suggesting I must be out of the will of God. He would tell me to turn around and give up. Oftentimes I have heard the adversary’s voice whispering to me that life would be much easier if I returned to work as a computer professional, had a regular salary, acquired a home, and pursued a much more secure life.
There was a time when my Lord was content to permit me to live such a life. He even led me to a job in the computer field. He taught me many valuable lessons while there. But like a child progressing through the grades at school, there came a time when I had to graduate from the elementary things and go on to more difficult lessons. In 1999 the Father instructed me to launch out into the deep, leaving the safety of the shore behind.
The path to maturity in Christ is one where the disciple must be willing to embrace vulnerability. The Spirit of Christ will lead the saint to venture forth into circumstances where they are in a position of much weakness. At such times the saint must find their strength in Christ.
II Corinthians 12:9-10
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
We will never learn the strength of Christ; we will fail to reckon on His abiding presence with us, if we are always walking through this world in a position of strength. If we have a steady job, money in the bank, good health, a comfortable home, and an expectation that tomorrow will be much like today, then we are prone to lean upon our own strength. Our security insulates us from a close dependence and reliance upon Christ.
I have found that when I am walking in vulnerability I am much more careful to discern the will of Christ in all things. When I feel secure, settled in a place with money in my pocket, I am more prone to spend money without careful inquiry as to the will of Christ, and make decisions without appropriate consideration of the will of God. However, when I am daily cast into a dependent state upon Him, trusting Him to provide food, shelter and the daily needs of life, I am encouraged to consider all that I do lest I get out of His will.
As Randy and I have been on this trip we have known numerous trials. There is no doubt that Christ told us to get in the boat and go to the other side. We dare not turn back. We must confront the storms, and look to the Son of God to deliver us in our need. I will share a recent series of events with you.
I wrote in a recent post about our departure from Columbia, MO. We had gone about 40 miles down the road when Randy had a rear tire blow out on his van. It took us several hours to get it repaired, at which time Randy also discovered that his gas tank was leaking.
The next day we camped at Longview Lake Campground in Western Missouri. Randy was led to get one more tire replaced, and to find the part he needed for his gas tank to fix the leak. I got on Google and found a local Walmart and a repair shop who said they could fix the gas leak. I printed out maps for Randy using the address of the campground supplied on their letterhead, and the addresses of the other businesses. With maps in hand, Randy set out.
It didn’t take long for Randy to call me back and say that the directions and maps didn’t make sense. It took him well over an hour to get to the auto repair shop which was about ten miles away. He even called the shop for directions, and they could not tell him how to get there. Randy was frustrated, and had his situation aggravated by rude motorists who honked at him as he was trying to find his way about in a strange place.
Randy finally arrived at the shop to be told that he needed to go to the Dodge dealer to get the part he needed. The shop worker gave Randy bad directions, and he ended up lost again. By the time Randy made it to the Dodge dealer, and paid $30 for a small rubber bushing, he had burned up a lot of gas and hours of time. He then had to drive to another town to purchase a second tire at Walmart. No longer having any confidence in his maps, he asked a secretary if she knew how to get there. The woman said she lived in the town where the Walmart was located, and she kindly wrote him out an entire page of detailed instructions. Randy followed them perfectly to his destination.
The employee in the tire department was going to lunch about this time (2:30 in the afternoon), so Randy had to sit and wait. It was several more hours before he got out of Walmart, having had both new tires moved to the front. I had printed him out a map from Walmart back to the campground, so Randy began to try to follow it back.
Randy called me around 6 P.M. saying he had no clue where the campground was, for the directions he followed took him to a completely different location. We talked back and fourth on the phone three or four times, and I suggested that Randy pull over at some location and I would use my GPS to come and get him. Randy did not want to give up, but by 7 P.M. he was at the end as tiredness and frustration had brought him to give up on the effort. He pulled over at a convenience store, told me his location, and I drove to his location and led him back.
As we examined the matter to see why the maps and their instructions were so far off, it was discovered that the address on the campground letterhead was not their own address, but the location of the County Parks office in a nearby town. The map looked deceptively right, for the Parks Office was located right next to a lake, just like the campground, but the lakes were about ten miles apart.
I spoke to the campground host the next day to see if they had a mail drop, and she told me they didn’t even have an address where they were at, and no mail service. This confirmed to me that it was not their address on their letterhead. It seemed that the events of that day were perfectly ordered to sow confusion, and to lead to a great trial for Randy. Before the day was over the enemy had suggested to him that he should give up and head back to Georgia, assuring him that he could find Macon and home again.
Although the enemy is often present in our trials, we must recognize that nothing enters our lives that is outside of the will of the Father. He has determined that His sons must be tried. Spiritual fruit is matured under stress. As Randy and I talked about the situation later, we looked at the spiritual fruit that was required for him to pass through this specific trial successfully. When he was lost he needed peace. When he was aggravated he needed patience. When he was being honked at by rude drivers, he needed gentleness and humility. When he was tempted at the end of a long day to give up, he needed longsuffering and self-control.
The next day Randy and I drove to a campground outside Mena, Arkansas. We stayed at Shadow Mountain Campground. Having driven all day, and neither one of us having the comfort of air conditioning while driving, we were very tired. We got two campsites for the night, and the owner told us there was a fishing pond on the property. We had both brought fishing poles, and decided to wet a hook before it got dark. In about an hours time we had caught more than a dozen white perch, and warmouth perch, and Randy also caught one bass. We did not keep the fish. I was too tired to clean them and cook them.
The next morning I arose early and went fishing again, In about thirty minutes I had caught 7 or 8 fish, and I kept three of them to cook and clean. Randy went fishing shortly afterwards, and he also kept three fish. We had a brunch on these fish before getting back on the road.
As soon as I pulled out of my campsite and headed up a hill on the campsite property, my van died. I could not get it to run, and it was determined that the fuel filter was clogged and gas was not getting to the carburetor. Randy drove me into Mena about 4 miles away, and I purchased one for about $5.00. Returning back, Randy and one of the campground employees replaced it, and my van was running once again. I looked at my GPS where the van had died, and it identified the road as Pioneer Lane.
Those following this blog know that the Father has been speaking to me much through the symbolism of pioneers. My last message in Columbia was on the topic of Pioneers versus Settlers. During the message (which will be posted as soon as I can get it edited) I read an allegory I had come across some years earlier that compared Christian doctrine to Pioneer Theology and Settler Theology. Following is a brief excerpt.
by Wes Seeliger
There are two views of life and two kinds of people. Some see life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are SETTLERS. Others see life as a fantastic, wild, explosive gift. They are PIONEERS. The visible church is an outfit with an abundance of settlers and a few pioneers. The invisible church is the fellowship of pioneers. To no one's surprise there are two kinds of theology. Settler theology and pioneer theology. Settler theology is an attempt to answer all the questions, define and housebreak some sort of "Supreme Being," establish the status quo on Golden Tablets in cinemascope. Pioneer Theology is an attempt to talk about what it means to receive the strange gift of life and live! The pioneer sees theology as a wild adventure, complete with indians, saloon girls, and the haunting call of what is yet to be.
The Wild West offers a stage for picturing these two types of theology. Settlers and Pioneers use the same words but that is where it stops. To see what I mean--read on.
IN SETTLER THEOLOGY--the church is the courthouse. It is the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small. This makes the thing easy to defend, but quite dark inside. Its doors are solid oak. No one lives there except pigeons and they, of course, are most unwelcome.
Within the thick, courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, trials held for bad guys. The courthouse runs the town. It is the settler's symbol of law, order, stability, and most important--security, The mayor's office is on the top floor. His eagle eye scopes out the smallest details of town life.
IN PIONEER THEOLOGY--the church is the covered wagon. It is a house on wheels--always on the move. No place is its home. The covered wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love, and die. It bears the marks of life and movement--it creaks, is scarred with arrows, bandaged with bailing wire. The covered wagon is always where the action is. It moves in on the future and doesn't bother to glorify its own ruts. The old wagon isn't comfortable, but the pioneers could care less. There is a new world to explore.
IN SETTLER THEOLOGY--God is the mayor. The honorable Alpha O. Mega, chief executive of Settler City. He is a sight to behold--dressed like a dude from back East, lounging in an over-stuffed chair in his courthouse office. He keeps the blinds drawn. No one sees or knows him directly, but since there is order in the town who can deny he is there? The mayor is predictable and always on schedule.
The settlers fear the mayor but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things going. The mayor controls the courthouse which in turn runs the town. To maintain peace and quiet the mayor sends the sheriff to check on pioneers who ride into town.
IN PIONEER THEOLOGY--God is the trail boss. He is rough and rugged-full of life. The trail boss lives, eats, sleeps, fights with his men. Their well being is his concern. Without him the wagon wouldn't move--the pioneers would become fat and lazy. Living as a free man would be impossible. The trail boss often gets down in the mud with the pioneers to help push the wagon which frequently gets stuck. He slugs the pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.
IN SETTLER THEOLOGY--Jesus is the sheriff. He is the guy who is sent by the mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat--drinks milk--outdraws the bad guys. He saves the settlers by offering security. The sheriff decides who is thrown in jail. There is a saying in town that goes like this--those who believe the mayor sent the sheriff and follow the rules won't stay in Boot Hill when it comes their time.
IN PIONEER THEOLOGY--Jesus is the scout. He rides out ahead to find out which way the pioneers should go. He lives all the dangers of the trail. The scout suffers every hardship, is attacked by the Indians, feared by the settlers. Through his actions and words he shows the true spirit, intent, and concern of the trail boss. By looking at the scout, those on the trail learn what it really means to be a pioneer...
IN SETTLER THEOLOGY--the Christian is the settler. He fears the open, unknown frontier. He stays in good with the mayor and keeps out of the sheriff's way. He tends a small garden. "Safety First" is his motto. To him the courthouse is a symbol of security, peace, order, and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The banker is his best friend. He plays checkers in the restful shade of the oak trees lining the courthouse lawn. He never misses an ice cream party.
IN PIONEER THEOLOGY--the Christian is the pioneer. He is a man of risk and daring--hungry for adventure, new life, the challenge of being on the trail. He is tough, rides hard, knows how to use a gun when necessary. The pioneer feels sorry for the town folks and tries to tell them about the joy and fulfillment of a life following the trail. He dies with his boots on.
One thing the Spirit is urging me to do as I travel across the country is to encourage His people to embrace a Pioneer theology. I am not advocating thrill seeking, or a lust for adventure. What the Spirit is desiring is surrendered lives, people who will go where He leads, and do what He says. Our Father wants His sons and daughters to hold nothing back, to not be daunted by fear, or a desire to hold onto things of this world.
Randy and my own adventures have continued. The evening of the same day that my fuel filter had gone out found Randy’s van running hot. We finally had to pull over, near Carthage, Texas. There was a little country store there with a water hose around back. Randy cooled the van down and determined that the thermostat was stuck, not allowing water to circulate through the engine.
By the time the problem was determined the auto parts stores had all closed. Randy decided to pull the thermostat out, and run it without it, as this would permit water to circulate again. We needed some RTV gasket making material, and there was a Walmart about 15 minutes away. Being a small town, the Walmart closed at 9 P.M.. We got what we needed and left ten minutes before they closed. This was the grace of God.
The RTV material has to sit for an hour before tightening the bolts back down, so we stood outside behind this country store looking at the stars and the moon, which was full and glorious. As we looked at the heavens I was reminded of Paul’s words describing the resurrection of the dead.
I Corinthians 15:41-42
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.
I mentioned to Randy as we looked at the moon through his binoculars that surely those who attained to the glory of the moon or sun had to walk a more afflicted path than those who received glorified bodies equivalent to the stars. There is great reason to embrace the path the Father has chosen for us. As Peter has declared:
I Peter 4:12-13
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.
Randy and I got back on the road around 11 P.M.. We drove until we were within about an hour of our destination and seeing a rest area, we pulled off. It was 2:30 A.M.. We parked and got some sleep. In the morning around 7:30 we were back on the road.
We had not gone far and I noticed my oil pressure had dropped to nothing on my gauge. I did not hear valves tapping, and the engine was not getting hot, but the gauge was below the low mark. Being concerned I stopped and added a bit more oil, though the dip stick did not indicate that the oil level was below normal levels. Adding oil did not correct the problem. Having been told by a brother that low oil pressure on an older engine can be a sign of the motor bearings being worn, and that adding a thicker oil can improve pressure, I stopped a short distance down the road and had the oil changed. I had 20/50 oil added in place of the 10/30 I had been running. I also had a quart of Lucas Oil Stabilizer added. The bill came to $55.50. This seemed like an omen of grace.
Back on the road my oil pressure continued to drop to the bottom of the gauge, but then it would come back up for a time, only to drop again, and then back up. Such erratic oil pressure is something I did not understand. We were able to make it to Spring, Texas with no evident ill effects. All the way down Hwy 59 my GPS kept telling me that we were heading toward Humble, Texas. I knew there had to be a message in that.
Randy and I got a campsite for 5 days only to learn that there are no toilet or shower facilities here. This was almost too much for Randy. Checking around we found that there were no campgrounds in Spring with toilets and showers, other than one RV resort, and they do not permit vehicles over ten years old. We did not meet the criteria, and their prices were very high. We had to settle for more humble accommodations. I sensed that we were where God wanted us to be, and that we were being tested in our humility before God. Would we be willing to experience whatever He chose for us?
The campsite name on their letterhead is Trinity Spring Oaks RV Park. The address is 22014, which I found symbolic. Fortunately, both Randy’s van and my own have toilets in them, but we had never used them. I hooked mine up and it worked fine. Randy’s leaked from the water connection, so he had to pull it out and attempt to patch the leak. His attempts were unsuccessful. He has gone now to a local RV store to purchase a replacement. (I printed him out a map
Yesterday I replaced the oil pressure switch on my van to see if that would correct the problem of the pressure dropping. I have not tested it yet, for I have to drive it in hot weather, which won’t be long in coming. It was 94 here yesterday. It is possible that I will have to rebuild the engine, for the oil pump was recently replaced and the oil pressure switch was also replaced a couple years ago.
Randy also discovered that when his van ran hot that the manifold gasket on one side blew out, so he will have to replace that. He is able to do the work himself, but it is a tough job as it is in a hard place to access.
The Father has a provision for all of our needs. He desires that we would trust Him, rather than getting in a panic. The enemy would seek to discourage God’s sons when they encounter difficulties, but Christ never said that we would have smooth sailing when we did His will. Time and again the disciples encountered storms and trials when they were following faithfully the Lord’s instructions.
I am encouraged when I read of Christ’s words to Peter and the other disciples. “Why did you doubt? Why were you fearful?” Even though it seemed their boat must soon sink, the Lord saw no reason for anything but peace. I am encouraged that I too can find a place of abiding peace in the midst of storms. I must wrest my eyes away from the wind and the waves. I must not focus on the boat filling with water, seemingly soon to sink. I must place my attention on the Lord who is right beside me. He can put the angry waves beneath His feet, and mine as well.
I know that others of God’s children are also encountering difficulties, obstacles, and fearful circumstances at this season. Some have written to me to tell me so. Be encouraged. God has a place of abiding peace for you as well in that which you are experiencing. Press into Christ. Set your eyes on Him. He is a present help in a time of trouble.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
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