straining at the oars

Sail Boat Bulletin Cover

At times we are tempted to think that we do this all on our own.

I was once talking with a friend who was struggling. He was going through a difficult time in his life and there was no easy solution. It was going to take time and it was going to take God.

In a moment of frustration he said to me, “I feel like I’m a just a speck in the ocean that’s being tossed all around and nobody knows but me.”

Maybe you’ve been there.

Maybe you’re there now.

I had a professor who would say, “Speak to those who are weary and hurting. Speak to them often. We are so very fragile.”

And so if that’s you today, I want to share with you an encouraging thought from God’s Word.

In Mark’s Gospel the account of Jesus walking on the water generally the miracle itself is our focus. The event comes right after the feeding of the thousands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples had actually travelled across the sea to spend some needed time away from the masses, but are immediately inundated as they arrive. After the crowds are filled and leave, Jesus sends the disciples on their way, now across to the other side, as He goes on a mountainside to pray and spend intentional time with God (we should learn from Jesus).

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on the land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night (3-6am) He went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:47-48a).

If you go on reading you see where Jesus steps into their boat and immediately, powerfully, divinely calms the wind and the waves and the storm. Looking to Matthew’s account we see where Peter has the faith to step out of the boat and actually walks on the water toward Jesus! But when he takes his eyes off of Christ and becomes fearful of the chaos around him, he quickly sinks (something we should take to heart).

Here’s what I’ve been getting at…. Mark says that the disciples were rowing in the boat in the “middle of the lake.” John affirms they were “three and a half miles out to sea” (John 6:19). Jesus, as He is on a mountainside praying, sees the disciples “straining at the oars.” They’re three and a half miles out to sea! At 3am! Half way across the Sea of Galilee at 3am and yet Jesus divinely sees those He is closest to struggling. He sees those that He loves “straining at the oars.” He sees them pounded by the wind and the waves, tossed back and forth in a sea of uncertainly, and it’s immediately upon seeing His disciples struggle that He is filled with compassion and begins to walk toward them across the water.

The love of Christ is revealed in our Savior’s actions as He comes to us in our time of need.

This is what I want you to hear: You are not alone.

You have a Savior who is filled with compassion as He sees you “straining at the oars.”

Glory to God!

Jason

straining at the oars

oregon coast

At times we are tempted to think that we do this all on our own. I was once talking with a friend who was struggling. He was going through a difficult time in his life and there was no easy solution. It was going to take time and it was going to take God.

In a moment of frustration he said to me, “I feel like I’m a just a speck in the ocean that’s being tossed all around and nobody knows but me.”

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’re there now. I had a college professor who would say, “Speak to those who are weary and hurting. Speak to them often. We are so very fragile.” And so if that’s you today, I want to share with you an encouraging thought from God’s Word.

In Mark’s Gospel we’re presented a unique perspective of the account of Jesus walking on the water. Generally the miracle itself is our focus. The event comes right after the feeding of the thousands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples had actually travelled across the sea to spend some needed time away from the masses, but are immediately inundated as they arrive. After the crowds are filled and leave, Jesus sends the disciples on their way, now across to the other side, as He goes on a mountainside to pray and spend intentional time with God (we should learn from Jesus).

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on the land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night (3-6am) He went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:47-48a).

If you go on reading you see where Jesus steps into their boat and immediately, powerfully, divinely calms the wind and the waves and the storm. Looking to Matthew’s account we see where Peter has the faith to step out of the boat and actually walks on the water toward Jesus. But when he takes his eyes off of Christ and becomes fearful of the chaos around him, he quickly sinks (something we should take to heart).

Here’s what I’ve been getting at…. Mark says that the disciples were rowing in the boat in the “middle of the lake.” John affirms they were “three and a half miles out to sea” (John 6:19). Jesus, as He is on a mountainside praying, sees the disciples “straining at the oars.” They’re three and a half miles out to sea! At 3am! Half way across the Sea of Galilee at 3am and yet Jesus divinely sees those He is closest to struggling. He sees those that He loves “straining at the oars.” He sees them pounded by the wind and the waves, tossed back and forth in a sea of uncertainly, and it’s immediately upon seeing His disciples struggle that He is filled with compassion and begins to walk toward them across the water.

The love of Christ is revealed in our Savior’s actions as He comes to us in our time of need.

This is what I want you to hear: You are not alone. You have a church family that loves you dearly. And you have a Savior who is filled with compassion as He sees you “straining at the oars.”

Glory to God!

Jason

just to be

Ocean BulletinI like Thanksgiving more than Christmas.  Is that ok for me to say?  It’s not that I dislike Christmas.  Or that I dislike giving gifts.  Or receiving Starbucks gift cards… (Hint.  Hint.)  Both holidays provide an atmosphere of thankfulness and appreciation that we choose to embrace.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy traveling or eating or sharing or spending time with extended family.  I do.  We do that with both holidays.  I think what it is, is, the busyness of it all.  To me, and maybe this is just me, but it seems like with Thanksgiving there’s less of an agenda.  Sure we plan and schedule and balance time with family and friends, but I think I like Thanksgiving more simply because Thanksgiving just is.  It just is.  The goal is just to be.

We carve out time just to be.

Sail BoatI love the portrait of Christ and His followers in Mark 4.  Jesus’ disciples find themselves in a desperate situation as their boat is overwhelmed in a storm, at night, on the Sea of Galillee.  Where is Jesus?  Asleep.  As He stands to His feet after being awakened by His panic-stricken followers, He “rebukes the wind, and says to the waves, ‘Quiet!  Be still!’  Then the wind dies down and it is completely calm” (Mark 4:39).

Here’s my point: Things are about to get busy.  For you and your family.  If they aren’t already.  And odds are that between now and New Year’s some of us are going to find ourselves a bit overwhelmed.  A little overextended.  Slightly (ok, maybe more than just slightly) overcommitted.  And maybe even more than moderately stressed.

My prayer, is that we would allow Christ to step in and bring calm.  That we would be receptive of Him as He speaks stillness into our lives.  That we would intentionally create opportunities to simply be still.  And to carve out time to just be, with Him.

To “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

If we will, I believe we will find the seas of life a little calmer; and face the storms of life with a little more boldness.

Glory to God!

Jason

reevaluate. refocus. reengage.

focusI think most families find themselves looking forward to summertime.  I know ours does.  The kids are out of school.  Vacation time is planned.  Youth excursions are in the works.  Trips to grandma and grandpa’s are scheduled.  Relationships are renewed.  Memories are made.

Bald spots are soon worn in the front yard where first, second, third base and home plate are (this drives my OCD nature crazy but Tiersa assures me that when we’re through raising kids I can concentrate on raising grass).  Something just seems to be different about summertime.  It does for me at least.  It’s a bit of a reprieve from the busyness (and chaos) of the school year.  Maybe it’s simply where we are in life.  But with where I sit right now it sure seems that even though there’s a lot planned for the summer, there’s also a whole lot of potential as well.

evaluateBut the fact remains: “potential” and $1.25 will get you a Coke.  It’s not simply that the potential is there.  It’s what we do with that potential that’s important.

One of the things that I dearly love, love, love about Jesus is we way He communicated.  With anyone and everyone His timing (and I envision, tone) was perfect.  He knew exactly when to turn over tables and precisely when to write in the sand.  He knew emphatically what needed to be communicated so as to reflect the Kingdom in the most genuine, brilliant way.  Often, His response was not anything at all what we’d expect.  But exactly what needed to be said.  And I just love that about our Lord!

house of cardsIn Mark 2 when His disciples are questioned as to their fidelity to the Sabbath, Jesus instructs, “The Sabbath was made for mankind, not mankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  He takes us back to Creation and says the whole meaning, the whole purpose in this, is not that humanity was created for Sabbath, but rather that Sabbath was meant for, it was created for, mankind.  Left to ourselves we become enveloped in ourselves.  In life.  We get lost in our busyness.  We hide in our busyness.  And in the end not only is God cheated, we cheat ourselves, and we cheat those He has entrusted us with.  The potential is there.  But are we doing anything with it?

Can you identify some things that need to change in your life or in the life of your family?  Some things that are not going the way that God desires or intends?  Perhaps the very thing you need to do this summer is first, to slow down.  To take a step back.  And then, to reevaluate, refocus, and reengage.

Glory to God!

Jason

kingdom potential

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, He was indignant.  He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” – Mark 10:13-15

Jesus saw value in people.  I love that about Jesus.  Even when everyone around Him was oblivious.  Even when those closest to Him were blinded by their own nearsightedness.  Jesus saw Kingdom potential in everyone.

“Anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  A child lives in the moment.  A child throws caution to the wind.  A child holds nothing back.  A child loves with her whole heart.

Jesus calls for two actions in these words: 1) That we would come to Him as a child – trusting, loving, believing, willing.  And 2) that we would see Kingdom potential in children.

At the time of this writing Danny and our youth group have been in West Point, Nebraska for almost a week.  One of the primary reasons for their trip is to invest in the hearts and lives of hundreds of children in the community through a VBS they’ve been planning for weeks.  Not only is God at work within them, drawing them closer to Him and to one another, but He is at work through them, revealing Christ to the children of West Point, Nebraska.

As well, we are anticipating and planning our Family Bible Fair, July 30-August 1 here at WE.  A time as a church to bless the lives of children and see them grow in the Kingdom.  This Sunday is a crucial day of planning.  Don and Nancy will be tying together loose ends Sunday morning (please come by and see them at the information table in the foyer) and we will have an important meeting at 4:30p for all of those involved.  I encourage each of you to not only come to the Family Bible Fair and bring your children or grandchildren (or anyone else’s children for that matter) but to also consider how you might invest in the lives of the children who will be a part of this event.

Glory to God!

Jason

a rhythm of life

“Busy” describes the lives of most.  “Hectic” or “pressured” probably does a better job of describing the lives of many.  We over-commit, over-book, and over-obligate.  We put demands on ourselves and demands on our children that very often do more harm than good.  I say “we” because I have been just as guilty, if not more, than you.  I look to my peer group, to those who have children at home, and I see us overextending ourselves in too many areas of life.  Spending exorbitant amounts of time and energy in arenas that grant us little in return.  Placing emphasis in areas of life that in the grand scheme of things possess little significance.  Running full speed in a rapidly spinning hamster wheel and getting absolutely nowhere.

What is needed is a reprioritization of what’s important.  To sift through the things that comprise our lives and determine what’s important and what’s not.  To determine what we’re investing our lives into that’s really worthwhile and what it is that needs to be scaled back.  Or completely cut out.

We spend so much effort seeking to provide for a lifestyle that we’ve created, so much so that we spend little time investing in the family we’ve created the lifestyle for.  How does that make sense?

I have to believe that Jesus’ life was one of complexity and simplicity.  It was balanced.  In every way it was balanced.  Does “balanced” describe your life too?  If not, perhaps some reprioritization is in order.

Jesus spent intentional time with God.  He set aside God designated time.  Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”  When is the last time that you did that?  Is it a part of your normal rhythm of life?  When is the last time you removed yourself from the static of the world and just spent some time in communion with God?  Seeking counsel from God.  Refocusing upon those things in life which truly matter.

Spending time in prayer and in communion and in silence before God, and committing ourselves to a rhythm of life that intentionally facilitates balance and simplicity in a life filled with complexity, is such a Christ-like way to live.

Glory to God!

Jason

the kingdom of God

“Are You Sowing the Seed of the Kingdom Brother” was a song that we sang in church when I was growing up.  Like most kids (and not a few adults) my brothers and I were often bored with church.  So we had to create ways to entertain ourselves.  The only problem was that our mother and Granny Cranshaw sat in between us to separate us and keep us from getting into trouble.  Therefore we had to be subtle.  And so when Bill Mercer would lead “Are You Sowing the Seed of the Kingdom Brother” my brothers and I would smile as we sang.  And no one knew why but us.  Because what we actually sang was, “Are You Sowing the Seed of the King Dumb-Brother?”  I can’t sing that song today or even type about it now without smiling….

We sing about the Kingdom.  We speak of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We use Kingdom language.  We hear of the Kingdom of God, “Father your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  My question is: What do we mean?  What is the Kingdom of God?

My belief and my assertion here is that our view of the Kingdom of God (and what we mean by “Kingdom”) has a significant, direct impact upon our view of the Christian faith, and upon the way in which we see God at work within humanity and within us.

A man comes to Jesus and says, “Tell me, greatest command… what is it?” Jesus says, “Are you ready?  Here it is, plain and simple: Love God.”  “And I know you only asked me for the greatest, but the second is so similar I’ll go ahead and let you in on it too: Love others.”  And what’s crazy is as this religious leader (who’s top ten list of greatest commands of God, Jesus had just blown to bits) acknowledges the validity and profundity of what Christ has shared with him (love God and love others), he replies with, “You are correct in saying ‘love God and love others.’”  And I’m like, “Well duh, of course He’s right, He’s Jesus!”  But as Jesus peers into the man’s heart, and internalizes the sincerity and profound reality that all of the sudden this guy really gets it! – Jesus affirms with a smile (I picture Him with a smile), “Oh dear friend, you are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34).

The New Testament Greek word for Kingdom is basileia (bas-il-ay-ee-a).  Basileia is the reign of God.  It is the rule of God.  The Kingdom, rightly understood, is the reign and rule of God.  His spiritual reign and rule.  Just as we understand the concept of a physical kingdom in a Richard the Lionheart sort of way (that which is under the reign or rule of one physically), the Kingdom of God is the spiritual reign of God.  Where?  How?  It is the reign, the rule of God, in the hearts and lives of those who have submitted their whole selves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and who belong to (are subjects of) the Almighty God who is enthroned as King above.

Kingdom of God: the spiritual reign and rule of God in the hearts and lives of those who live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  

Oftentimes we leave the concept of Kingdom at salvation.  And yet what Scripture calls us to is much more….

Glory to God!

Jason

straining at the oars


At times we are tempted to think that we do this all on our own.  I was once talking with a friend who was struggling.  He was going through a difficult time in his life and there was no easy solution.  It was going to take time and it was going to take God.

In a moment of frustration he said to me, “I feel like I’m a just a speck in the ocean that’s being tossed all around and nobody knows but me.”

Maybe you’ve been there.  Maybe you’re there now.  I had a college professor who said, “Speak to those who are weary and hurting.  Speak to them often.  We are so very fragile.”  And so if that’s you today, I want to share with you an encouraging thought from God’s Word.

I was reading recently in Mark’s Gospel the account of Jesus walking on the water.  Generally the miracle itself is our focus.  The event comes right after the feeding of the thousands on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus and His disciples had actually travelled across the sea to spend some needed time away from the masses, but are immediately inundated as they arrive.  After the crowds are filled and leave, Jesus sends the disciples on their way, now across to the other side, as He goes on a mountainside to pray and spend intentional time with God (we should learn from Jesus).

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on the land.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.  About the fourth watch of the night (3-6am) He went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:47-48a).

If you go on reading you see where Jesus steps into their boat and immediately, powerfully, divinely calms the wind and the waves and the storm.  Looking to Matthew’s account we see where Peter has the faith to step out of the boat and actually walks on the water toward Jesus!  But when he takes his eyes off of Christ and becomes fearful of the chaos around him, he quickly sinks (something we should take to heart).

Here’s what I’ve been getting at….  Mark says that the disciples were rowing in the boat in the “middle of the lake.”  John affirms they were “three and a half miles out to sea” (John 6:19).  Jesus, as He is on a mountainside praying, sees the disciples “straining at the oars.”  They’re three and a half miles out to sea!  At 3am!  Half way across the Sea of Galilee at 3am and yet Jesus divinely sees those He is closest to struggling.  He sees those that He loves “straining at the oars.”  He sees them pounded by the wind and the waves, tossed back and forth in a sea of uncertainly, and it’s immediately upon seeing His disciples struggle that He is filled with compassion and begins to walk toward them across the water.

The love of Christ is revealed in our Savior’s actions as He comes to us in our time of need.

This is what I want you to hear: You are not alone.  You have a church family that loves you dearly.  And you have a Savior who is filled with compassion as He sees you “straining at the oars.”

Glory to God!

Jason

they seek Jesus

Look closely within the Gospel of Mark and see something that too often we fail to recognize at just a cursory glance….

        The men who bring their paralytic friend to Jesus to be healed in Mark 2….

        The man who comes to Jesus and pleads for the life of his daughter in Mark 5….

        The woman who touches His cloak, also in Mark 5….

        The Syrophoenician woman whose daughter was demon possessed in Mark 7….

        The man who is deaf and mute, also in Mark 7….

        The blind man in Bethsaida in Mark 8….

        The man who brings his son to Jesus in Mark 9….

        Even the children who are brought in Mark 10….

        Blind Bartimaeus who pleads for mercy, also in Mark 10….

Over, and over, and over again – we see it.  We see it in their stories.  We see it in the lives of those of faith.  It’s so clear.  So evident, that too often we miss it.

What is it?  They seek Jesus.  These people seek Jesus and they are blessed beyond comprehension.  They seek Him and He brings joy to their life.  They seek Him and He brings healing.  They seek Him and He brings about restoration.  They seek Him and He makes everything right.  They seek and He blesses.

And this is precisely the place we fit in to the picture….  What are we to do as believers today?  We seek Christ.  We seek Him.  We pursue Jesus.  And when we do – He blesses.  He brings joy.  He heals.  He restores.  He makes our lives right.  He calls us beyond ourselves.

The Prophet Jeremiah reminds us of God’s promise – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). 

Jesus puts it in perspective – “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7b).  

Glory to God!

Jason

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What an awesome, amazing day today at West Erwin!  God is so good….