Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Families Moving Forward

I'm looking forward to Berea participating in this ministry again. Families Moving Forward helps people in our neighborhood with resources at our church!

Monday, August 20, 2012

“Smile at the Storms”
Mark 4:35-41

Now this is the part of the service where I am going to teach you a new song.  I actually had in mind that I was going to do a Children’s Message, but in the early service there aren’t very many children to bring forward, so I’m going to teach the whole congregation a children’s song.  OK?

Our Director of Music, Susan, asked me where I learned this song, and I have to tell you it was taught to several family friends around a campfire years ago by a Supreme Court Justice of the state of Texas--a very dignified man.  We had so much fun with him as a family.  This is a little song that he taught us about smiling at the storms, which is the message for today.  So this is a song with actions and you all have to do it.

Christ In My Vessel”

With Christ in my vessel I can smile at the storm,
Smile at the storm, smile at the storm,
With Christ in my vessel I can smile at the storm as we go sailing home. 
Sailing, sailing, home.    
Sailing, sailing, home.
With Christ in my vessel I can smile at the storm as we go sailing home.

See what a little vacation does to you—I just feel so refreshed!

Storms happen in life!  Today I want to talk to you about three “C’s, inspired by our text.  They are:  Crisis, Confusion, and Comfort.  All three of these things take place when Jesus calms this amazing storm that comes up on the Sea of Galilee.  First, the Crisis!  We tend to be surprised when we run into crisis.  Our life goes along and all of a sudden we’re faced with a crisis or a problem or a storm of some sort, and we’re surprised, we’re shocked, we’re saddened, and we’re irritated.  It’s always amazing to me that we tend to think that our life shouldn’t ever include these storms.  Jesus said to his disciples in John 16:33:  “In this world you will have trouble...”  We have all sorts of trouble.  We have economic trouble, we have relationship troubles, we have health troubles, we have loneliness, sadness, grief—all kinds of troubles, all kinds of storms; all kinds of crisis in our life.  It’s natural, it’s normal. 

One of my favorite broadcasts from Focus on the Family years ago was a man named David Ring.  He was a man who had cerebral palsy, and he wanted to preach.  The truth is, he couldn’t talk clearly.  He couldn’t walk straight because of his cerebral palsy.  When he spoke to audiences, he would come out on the stage, limping as he did, and in his halting speech, he’d look at the people and say, “I have cerebral palsy.  What’s your problem?”  We all have storms.  We all have crisis.  I want you to think about something you might be facing right now.  You don’t have to share it with anybody.  I’m not going to preach about it, and wag my finger about your storm.  I left a blank in your sermon outline and I don’t have an answer to insert in that blank because it’s your blank to fill.  What’s your crisis today?  What’s your storm?  Are you grieving, are you hurting, are you angry, are you bitter, or are you afraid?  What’s your storm? 

In this wonderful lesson we have today Jesus and his disciples encounter a literal storm on the lake.  There are some real interesting things about this storm, which leads me to the “Confusion”—that’s the next “C.”  I’ve been confused in times of crisis.  I’ve struggled and I’ve wondered, “Where is God?  Does he even see what’s going on?  Does he even know of my hurts?”  I know that I’m not the only one in this world with those same kinds of questions, with those same kinds of feelings, with those same issues of confusion.  But here it is, plain as day, the confusion was really real on the Sea of Galilee that day.  A furious squall comes up, that’s what the text says, a furious squall.  The disciples are all panicked, they’re worried, they’re concerned, they’re scared, and where is Jesus?  The text tells us that he’s sleeping on a cushion in the stern of the boat!  I wish I could just show you a picture of what that might look like--a furious storm, and a man in the back of the boat just snoozing away.

You know what’s confusing about that?  It looks like when we care, when we’re scared, when we’re worried, it looks like he’s resting.  It looks like he’s not even there.  It looks confusing because we’re scared of the storm, we’re scared of the crisis, and there is our Lord asleep on a cushion!  So if you like to fill in the blanks, the confusion is this:  When we care He rests?  A question mark there!  When we care about something he rests?  Is this really right?  The disciples get up and say, “Lord, aren’t you concerned that we’re going to drown?  What in the world is going on here, Lord, you’re sleeping on a cushion!  Our boat is about to get swamped.”  Have you ever felt like that? 

I’ve got a really good relationship with the pizza guy down the road.  He gives me a great deal on pizzas—had some last night.  I called him to make an order for some pizza last night and he said, “Mark, I’d love it if you’d come and talk to my Dad.  He’s losing his faith.  He says he prays and he calls out to God and nothing happens.”  I think it’s like this confusion here.  When we’re worried, when we’re concerned, when we’re scared, when we care, he rests?  What is this?  If you’ve ever felt like that, and I know I have, we need to turn our confusion around.  We need to turn the words around and make that question mark a great exclamation point--its right there in your outline:  When He cares we rest! 

Psalm 55:22 tells us, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.  He will never let the righteous fall.”  See, really brothers and sisters, it’s the other way around.  We’re looking at the storm; we’re scared, we’re wondering, “Why in the world he’s sleeping on the cushion while we’re the ones that are caring.  We’re the ones that are worried.”  So the issue of him taking a nap is really a-okay.  We’ve taken it all on ourselves.  We’re handling our crisis, we’re handing our storm, and we’re handling our stress all by ourselves.  And as our boat is sinking we get mad at God—“Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”  Cast all your cares upon the Lord.

 Another verse says, “Cast all your anxieties on Him.” because he cares for you.  We say, “Yes, that sounds easy, but boy it’s hard.  It’s really hard.  But when we address the confusion in that particular way, when we take those cares and concerns and throw them at the Lord and say, “Lord, move over on that cushion and let me take a nap there too.  Let me settle down because this storm is scaring me.  I’m going to trust you.  I’m going to put my confidence in you.  I’m going to put my hope in you because that’s what I’ve got.  And as I face this storm I’m going to smile at the storm, because you’re in the boat with me.”

The Comfort portion of the story is really important.  There are two really big things that you and I need to know that will help us smile at the storms.  First, is to believe His Word.  When we take up the Scriptures, believing and trusting in his promises, holding fast to his utterly reliable Word, you can smile at the storms.  He has said, “I will never leave you.  I will never forsake you.”  It says there, we just read it a little while ago in Psalm 55:22, “He will never let the righteous fall.”  When we believe his Word and rest on his promises, and trust in what he has said, you can smile at the storm.  Look at the Gospel Lesson for today, it’s printed right there for you.  What was the word that the disciples needed to believe?  You see it there in the text?  There’s a word there the disciples needed to believe.  Got it?  The word that the disciples needed to believe was this:  “Let’s go to the other side.”  Jesus said, “We’re going to the other side of the lake.”  Right?  If they would believe that Jesus literally said and really meant, “We’re going from this side of the lake to the other side of the lake.”   What difference did it make if a storm came up somewhere in between?--they were actually going to go to the other side of the lake.  Believe His Word.  Trust that what he says is what he means.  What he says is what he will deliver.  Believe His Word.  That’s one of the really big things it takes to smile at a storm.

The second is to acknowledge his presence.  With Christ in my vessel I can smile at the storms! When we know that our Lord Jesus Christ is present with us in the middle of our struggles, in the middle of our crisis, in the middle of our storms, we know that at any time he can simply stand up and say, “Wind and waves, be still.  Crisis, simmer down.  Worry, take it easy.  Pain, go away.”  When we acknowledge his presence with us, in our lives, in our situation, we can smile at the storms.  When this happens it builds faith. 

I read a great book while I was on vacation.  Actually, it was a two volume book.  The first volume, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” and the second volume, “Fresh Faith.”  The author makes the point that throughout the Scriptures it seems that God is looking for faith.  He’s not looking for awesome prayers; He’s not looking for awesome worship; He’s not looking for awesome deeds of righteousness; He’s looking for faith.  Jesus says, “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  When we smile at the storms our faith gets stronger, and our ability to trust God deepens, and that’s what God is looking for in his people.  He’s looking for people that no matter what their crisis’s, no matter what their fear, no matter what their pain they find their answer in the grace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who dealt with our greatest crisis, our greatest storm, our greatest fear, our greatest pain, and that was sin.  When he went to the cross and paid the price, he calmed the storm for good.

 I know out here in the congregation, just like me, there are plenty of worriers.  Plenty of hurting people, plenty of grieving people.  You say, “Lord, I am still afraid of the storm.”  We can even feel that it might be sinful.  We’re afraid; we have a lack of faith; we lack the power.  And God says, “OK.  I can handle that.  In fact, when you’re weak and when you’re afraid, when you’re worried, that’s when I can be really strong for you.  So I thank God for the cross.  I thank God for my Savior, Jesus who is in my vessel.  I hope that God will fill you with his spirit and with his grace so that you can smile at the storms because he is faithful.