Asleep in the Storm

Reference: Matthew 8:23-27 ~ Mark 4:35-41 ~ Luke 8:22-25

I have never been sea sick before but right now I am getting the full experience. The boat has been rocking for hours and I don’t think I can take it any longer. I lean over the side of the boat and let out a moan.

Maybe we made a mistake in taking this trip across the sea. At first when we set out there was nothing but a blue sky and a gentle breeze. Now dark clouds have crowded the horizon accompanied by strong gusts of wind.

“You’re not use to this are you?” one disciple laughs, seeing me in my sickened condition.

I shake my head. I really don’t see why he laughed when he asked the question. I don’t feel like laughing at all.

There is always that inward struggle where you have to weigh the need to throw up against the possibility of getting by without doing the disgusting act. I’ve been having this inward struggle the past few moments. Finally, I’ve come to the decision that it is just inevitable and I let it flow. Luckily I didn’t have a big lunch.

When I finish I look and see Jesus asleep in the stern. I’ve noticed that sometimes real life noises that occur when someone is sleeping can become a part of their dreams. Hopefully I didn’t just give Jesus a bad dream because I wasn’t quiet.

“The wind seems to be getting stronger,” I say, a little concerned.

“Oh that’s nothing!” Peter replies. “I had a day once where we were fishing in winds ten times as strong as this!”

This starts the disciples sharing their countless stories about past experiences in stormy waters. I just can’t seem to stomach their conversation at the moment. I look at Jesus again. It seems so funny that he lays in complete peace, able to shut everything else out so well.

I should follow his example and lay down across from him, I think. Maybe he can teach me a few things about being calm. I don’t know why this urge comes over me but I give into it and join Jesus in the stern.

I try to imitate him in his position of rest. He opens his eyes and sees me lying on the opposite side of the boat from him. I can see the peace in his eyes and the calm on his face. I don’t see his lips move but something seems to almost whisper the words, “Stay here. Stay in peace.”

I’m not really sure what is getting ready to happen but I decide to obey the silent words. Before long I realize my stomach ache is gone even though the tossing and rocking seems to have increased. The other disciples have quieted into hushed tones and I know they are beginning to be worried. This makes me worried too.

A sudden, violent wind howls across the sea and wreaks havoc on our little boat. I turn my eyes to see the disciples struggling to stand in the force of the wind. Their clothes appear glued against their bodies as a sea mist is being sprayed into their eyes. My heart begins to race at this sight. Things are getting worse and we could be in great danger. I just about get up to see if I can help the disciples when my eye catches sight of Jesus still lying in peace.

My full gaze turns back to him and our eyes meet. I realize he wants me to forget about the storm around us, forget about the waves, the wind, and the danger. I can see that he wants me to remain where I am, resting in peace.

If I’m going to do what he is wanting then I can’t keep pulling my gaze away to see the storm. I have to keep my eyes locked onto his eyes and keep my gaze locked onto his face. I make a decision to keep my eyes focused on him no matter what happens.

I hear a disciple scream a high pitched squeal and then suddenly a wall of water rushes over the side of the boat. The wave crashes into our boat and soaks me completely through.  But I work hard on keeping sight of Jesus.

The sky is now so dark someone might think it is the middle of the night. The wind continues to beat against us relentlessly. The waves have grown and seem to keep growing as they crash one right after another over top of us.

I hear the disciples yelling out commands and exclamations. They seem to be getting louder but making less sense. I can tell they are scared to death. Even with their screaming and the water that keeps washing over me, I am still able to stay focused on Jesus.

He is so calm. He is so peaceful. And even though it feels like our boat is almost upside down at times, I feel completely at rest. It almost seems wrong that I feel so peaceful. Shouldn’t I be up doing something right now? Shouldn’t I be helping the disciples in trying to fight the storm? Shouldn’t I be concerned? Am I being stupid and heartless to be resting at a time like this?

All these questions are silenced as I stare into the eyes of Jesus. He closes his eyes and I do the same. I can still see him even with my eyes closed. I can still see his beautiful eyes of peace and I relax knowing he is in control. My spirit seems to hear him say once more, “Stay here. It’s not about the storm around you but who is in the boat with you. I am peace. Stay here. Stay with me.” Those words echo through my mind over and over and over.

The shouts from the disciples grow louder. Suddenly all their voices are yelling in my direction.

“Master!!! Master!!! Wake Up!!”

My eyes are jolted open and I see all the disciples hanging on for dear life looking at Jesus asleep in the stern. Their shouts are for him as he is their last hope for survival.

“Don’t you care we’re about to die!? Our boat is sinking!!! We’re going to drown! How on earth can you be asleep! Are you going to save us!?”

I have never seen the disciples so scared before. The blood has drained from their faces and they look worn out from fighting this enormous storm.  Years seem to have been added to them in just a few minutes.

Jesus sits up and I do the same. My eyes quickly verify that we are indeed in trouble. Our boat is sinking, filling up with water, and the huge waves are about to capsize us completely.

Jesus looks out over the sea and the storm and says with authority, “Peace! Be quiet!”

The words are so simple yet so electric with power. The wind stops immediately and the sea slowly dies down until it becomes smooth as glass. The sun even begins to break through the clouds as the darkness dissipates. The danger had felt so real at the time but when things changed so quickly and drastically it almost made you question the reality of the storm.

Everything is so calm. It occurs to me that it is simply the manifestation of the reality Jesus was already experiencing in the middle of the storm. Out of peace he commanded peace. The great calm we now experience is the outward circumstances aligning with the world of peace Jesus was always in.

The circumstances around our boat were made subject to the peace of God. I realize that the storm that was trying to act big and scary was actually fake compared to the reality of God.

“Where is your faith?” Jesus asks, looking at each and every disciple after this great miracle.

I can tell they are just as much in awe as I am. In one command he changed the entire weather outlook for the day. In one command he silenced a storm. We worshiped him in awe and adoration.

In my heart I felt God speaking to me. It isn’t about the storm. The storm isn’t the reality you should live by. Life is never about the storm. It is about the One who commands the storm, the One who is peace itself, and the One who is in the boat with you.

*Interesting Side Note: After crossing the sea, Jesus set a madman free then got back into the boat and left. It might be said that he came across the sea just for that one demon possessed man. Isn’t true that the storms we endure aren’t exactly about us (though they seem to be at the time) but are actually for the freedom of someone else.

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Ever Had a Dream That Just Won’t Die?

It has been said that if you can imagine your dream fulfilled then you’re not dreaming big enough. Well, I guess that’s been my philosophy with PBMP (Peace Builders Media Productions). Who knows where it will take me but that’s the great thing about a dream isn’t it?

In Mark 10 Jesus says all things are possible with God. This is a big statement for those who are afraid. If Jesus was telling the truth (and we know He was) then the sky is the limit for us believers! So why not let God’s dream (which is entirely huge) become our own dream?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly says, “Ask anything in my name and I will do it.” What?!!!!! That’s craziness right? But if Jesus kept saying it then I guess we ought to start doing it. Why not ask for big things? Why not dream big? Why should I put a limit on what Jesus wants to do for me?

My dream for PBMP involves a college for the arts, a school for upcoming movie directors, a place where Christian actors can work in a pure environment, a hub for Christian media and creativity, and a company that produces amazing films, TV shows, and books. These are just some of the things I see in my dream.

“But your dream is just your own imagination,” you might say. But what if God took my imagination and made it His own desire too! What if He was the one who gave me this crazy, wild, huge dream? I guess we’ll wait and see.

What is God dreaming through you?

Not My Job!

                “And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.” – 1 Samuel 13:14

As Christians we sometimes get confused with what exactly we are supposed to be doing. Sure, we know that we are to obey God and that we are to “seek first the kingdom” but what about everything else in our lives?

The world says build a career, become famous, enjoy riches and the church says build your ministry, enlarge your crowds, broadcast yourself on TV. But is that really what God wants taking up our time? Should that be our focus?  Is that really seeking the kingdom of God first? I don’t think so.

So are those things evil? No. It is the pursuit of these things that detours us from what God wants. Our goal should not be to seek out a great job, career, or ministry. Our goal should be to seek God’s kingdom.

Yeah, yeah, I already know all this, you might say. I thought I knew it too. I always tried to put God first. I learned how to pray about things before doing them. I learned how to set time apart to be with God. But, something inside me still felt like I had to make myself successful.

I wanted to have an awesome career and I wanted to be famous in what I did. I wanted to be successful and rich. I wanted to be the best, the top, the important person. These desires were all underlying and I didn’t realize they were totally there. I loved God with all my heart and I wanted to glorify him but I felt an instinct or obligation to make myself successful. It sounds terrible when I put it down on paper but I believe many Christians have those motives hidden and muffled

One day God spoke to me and said, “Ethan, your job is to obey. My job is to take care of your future and your destiny.”

Those words drastically changed my perception on life. I suddenly realized that God would build my career – whatever it was. I suddenly understood that all I needed to worry about was getting up each day, listening to His voice, and obeying. What peace comes with this revelation! It isn’t my job to survive or provide for myself – it’s God’s. He will take care of everything if we just obey.

So many Christians worry about getting food on the table or perhaps getting a job promotion. Why do we worry when it isn’t our job to do so? God will feed you and God will promote you. God will bring about the change and God will bring about the success.

Looking through scripture there are so many examples. One is Saul who sacrificed unlawfully because the enemy was all around him. It wasn’t Saul’s job to sacrifice just like it isn’t your job to build a career. Saul might have thought he was doing a good thing by sacrificing just like you might think you are doing a good thing by building your ministry. But the problem was Saul disobeyed. He didn’t think Samuel would come in time. He became fearful. This too is the root of our problem; we aren’t comfortable letting God be in control, we don’t think He is actually good enough to care, we don’t think He will come in time, and we become fearful.

Let go of your fear and let God take control of your destiny and your future. It isn’t your job to make it big. It isn’t your job to plan out your life. Let it go! Obey His voice. He holds your future in His hands and He won’t let you drop. He cares. Oh how He cares so much for you! Rest and obey.