When Your Stormy Days Need to be Calmed

You’ve had those days. The ones that seem like back to back to back full schedules. You ran from one appointment to the next. One crisis to contend with after another. People calling, emailing, and texting wanting a piece of your time.

You got to the end of your day and your head hit the pillow for a short respite until you did it all over again.

You’ve had those days. And so did Jesus. In Matthew 8 and 9 we find him leaving the mountain and his talk and beginning his walk among the people. No sooner had he hit the level ground than a leper came to him. Lepers weren’t supposed to approach the well and the well weren’t supposed to touch lepers.

But Jesus did. He broke tradition in order to break barriers.

Next he entered Capernaum and a centurion has a request that Jesus heal his servant. Jesus is willing to go to his house—which Jews weren’t supposed to do—but the centurion says he understands authority and all Jesus has to do is speak the word. His faith gets the attention of Jesus and his servant gets healed.

Jesus enters Peter’s house where Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. He touches her and heals her and next thing he knows many others are being brought to him for healing.

It’s enough to wear you out. And that’s what Matthew wants us to see. Following Jesus isn’t easy. Sure crowds are forming. But so are demands on his time, his emotions, his attention. This is what life in his kingdom is like. So Jesus makes sure people understand the demands of discipleship.

He reminds a scribe that he has no place to lay his head. He tells a disciple to let the dead bury the dead. It may sound harsh. And it may cause you to think twice about Jesus.

It did the disciples. They find themselves in a boat with Jesus in the middle of a storm. They are scared to death and he is sound asleep.  They wake him up. He stands up and rebukes the storm and it ceases. They ask, “What sort of man is this?”

They don’t know. But the demons do. Next up are two demon-possessed men who call Jesus “Son of God.” The demons get moved into some swine and the men are freed.

Finally, Jesus heals a paralytic. His friends had picked him up—literally—and brought him to Jesus. Jesus heals him and the people glorify God.

Following Jesus can surface questions more than answer them at times. The disciples are trying to figure out what kind of man he is. The demons know exactly who he is. And others find out that following Jesus may not be easy.

When your days are hectic and you find yourself in a storm Jesus may not look like what you think he would. He goes places you wouldn’t think he would go. He touches people he is not supposed to touch. He says things you don’t expect. If he has never done anything to make you ask, “What kind of man is this?” then you probably haven’t followed him closely enough.

Or maybe you have. And you didn’t think he’d take you where you wound up. You thought you’d get to skip the unsettled waters. You’d get a pass on sickness. You thought if you followed Jesus you would have no reason to go to places where the people are rough around the edges and their language is salty. You surely didn’t think the religious people would be your toughest opponents.

“What kind of man is this?” is a question we will ask if we follow Jesus. When you do at least be where the disciples were: in the boat with him. Only Jesus can turn a great storm into a great calm.

Question: When have you wondered what kind of man Jesus is?

 

A Balance Between Apathy and Hope

One article will talk about how we can “make America great again.”

Another article will show why “making America great again” is not necessary since America “is” great.

In a crazy political season, it might help to watch the world through some helpful lenses you can try on today.

One lens is the lens of “current reality.” Some people do not want to face current reality. They turn their face from any of the atrocities of life, the marginalization of people, the unfairness in systems. They don’t have to “stop and smell the roses” because roses are all they ever smell.

Others are just the opposite. In their world there are no roses to smell. Everything is going down the tubes faster than I can write this article. Leaders are all corrupt. People cannot be trusted. There is a conspiracy behind every bush you walk by.

The other lens is the lens of “preferred future.” It is the future we want so bad we can see it. The right person is leading. All bills are paid. Equal opportunities for everyone. Life is like living next door to Beaver Cleaver.

In a biblical worldview the preferred future is called “shalom.” God’s peace. “Peace,” mind you, is not the absence of conflict. “Peace” is present when things are working as they are designed to work. Preferred future, especially God’s preferred future, can be seen most clearly bookending the Bible. In Genesis we see a Garden where everything is in harmony. In Revelation we see a “new heaven and a new earth” where there are no tears, no death, no mourning or crying or pain. Even the lion and the lamb can lie down together.

And here’s the problem. Some will paint such a good picture of current reality that they see no need for a preferred future. When this happens you will find apathy. There is no reason or motivation for change.

Some will paint such a bleak picture of current reality that regardless of the preferred future there is a loss of hope. Talk of “Doomsday” turns into gloomy days.

Political prospects have learned to use these lenses. They will tell you how bad the current reality is. And no wonder. Without telling you that you will not need to vote for them as the answer to all the problems that exist.

This paradigm is useful in other areas of your life. For instance, here’s how it works in a marriage. If one or both of the two who make up a couple think there is nothing in their marriage that needs to be improved, then there will be little or no effort given to move towards an even better place. On the other hand, if all they can see are the problems and they cannot envision a better future together then they will have little or no hope that would move them to action.

Looking through the lens of current reality and the lens of preferred future equally can bring your sight into focus. It can even help you listen for a candidate that you could invest a vote in. One that sees that current reality is not all bad but neither is it all good. One that can envision a preferred future that will take a country to an even better place than it has ever been in.

For those who are invested in the politics of heaven there is a clear preferred future. Along the way we can find joy in the journey as we see glimpses of “heaven on earth.” Not everything is as it should be. But not everything is bad. And we can have hope that there is a preferred future we are moving towards that will come into being.

Regardless of what happens in an election.

Question: How do you view “current reality”? Do you have a “preferred future” you are moving towards?