ARE YOU IN A STORM, OR IS THE STORM IN YOU?

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Matthew chapter 8, verses 23 thru 25; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

My Monday Morning Question is a good one, and a valid one; considering the times we are living in. And it’s not just in the United Methodist Institution, storms have permeated into the fabric of just about every area of life on this third rock from the sun. Storms are everywhere–not the meteorological kind. And these storms are an EF 5 tornado, Cat 5 hurricane, biblical proportion flood, a 50 foot tsunami, and a 7.5 magnitude earthquake all rolled into one! And that’s putting in mildly.

If you’ve lost your job, a child, a spouse, or inflation has you trying to decide do you buy your medicines or do you eat–these storms can and often are overwhelming to say the least. You feel like you are one of those disciples in that boat. The waves are rough and the wind ever rougher. You know that panic is about to invade your life–if it hasn’t already invaded your space. The fear of drowning hunts you down like a Kodiak bear.

And to my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you that we are in a storm. And the storm just seems to grow in intensity. For example, recently I’ve learned that Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and the North Georgia Conference Appointive Cabinet removed another conservative pastor from a growing church and demoted him–all without consultation of the pastor Dave Hinson nor the congregation known as Winder First UMC. And hearing these horror stories that even Stephen King couldn’t imagine, it only intensifies our emotions.

With all this in mind, let’s look at the opening Passage. Jesus had another busy day of teaching, healing, and contending with pretenders who said they wanted to follow Him. So, He gets into a boat with the disciples and tells them to go to the other side. So these disciples set sail. And what does Jesus do? He lays down and takes a nap. See! Taking naps are Biblical! But then that storm comes up! The disciples are fighting desperately to keep their boat afloat! And they have entered Panic Mode! And what is Jesus doing? He’s still asleep! Now, picture this: All of them are in a storm–and the storm is in all of them–except Jesus. He’s in the same storm they are in–and they, the disciples, have allowed that storm to be IN them. But that doesn’t mean that the storm HAD to be in them. It’s just that they allowed the storm to be in them.

Now, which would you rather be like? The disciples who allowed the storm to be in them? Or Jesus, who was in the same storm, but did not allow the storm in Him? Storms cannot be avoided. But you still have the choice to allow the storms to come inside you–or not! I leave you with this song I Will Fear No More. And listen carefully to this line: Even thought I am in the storm, the storm is not in me! So don’t give in or give up. Jesus stayed calm in the storm because the storm wasn’t in Him. And He will help you keep the storm from coming in to you!

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Sometimes It’s A Tractor Pull

Life is sometimes like a tractor pull! No, really it is. It can be loud and dirty. But that wasn’t my thought just a few moments ago. I’m not an expert on tractor pulls but I know a bit about how they work. A souped-up tractor is connected with a sled that has a lot of weight. The weight is at the back of the sled. Then when the tractor starts moving that weight starts moving towards the tractor until that tractor can’t go forward anymore. When the weight is at the rear, the tractor can handle it–but as it moves closer to the tractor the resistance sets in and eventually it overcomes that powerful engine.

So, how is life like that? I’ll tell you! Last night I left Dad’s home and headed back to our home. I will not tell you the details–but there was a deep–call it a mix of pain and frustration–in my mind and heart. It had nothing to do with Dad’s situation. Remember, life still goes on! This morning as I spent my time with God in private worship, my mind started telling me there were a lot of things I needed to get done today. A couple of times I started to take my earbuds out in order to get the stuff done my mind was telling me I really needed to do.

Then I remembered yesterday’s thoughts about priorities. My mind was like a tractor pull. My mind was in a race to finish all the things I thought I need to get done. Had I chosen that course, the weight of that sled would moved closer and closer to me until I came to a grinding halt. But what I needed to do–and what I did–was to disconnect that sled of things I only thought I needed to do–and to take those moments and simply rest in God.

And how is it with you this morning? Is there a weight you are that is slowing you down from the most important part of your day? That weight, whatever it is, is getting closer and closer to you–and eventually it will catch up with you and you will not be able to move forward. The way to disconnect from that sled of weight is to stay focused on where God wants you to be–right next to His Heart! I think I made Satan really mad when I put aside what he wanted me to think what I should be doing–and stayed focused on what I really needed to be doing! Remember these words of Jesus found in Matthew 11, verses 28 and 29.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The Message

The Nose Knows!–Saturday Stories 15 February 2020

Today’s Saturday Story is about a dog who can teach us a lot about knowing what really matters.

The Nose Knows!

It was somewhere around 2005 as best I can recall. My son Matthew and another buddy were deployed back to Iraq, along with their dogs. Their dogs were trained to sniff out and detect materials used for the making of those dreaded IEDs. Matthew’s dog was name Kitchee (I think this was how it was spelled). I wouldn’t make fun of that name; he was a big German Shepherd who knew not only how to smell explosive materials, but trained to violently attack anyone when given the command.

Each time Matthew would be deployed we would send him those famous care packages. We would send him whatever he needed and always something sweet and good to eat. We also sent something for Kitchee–a bag of rawhide chews. That dog was protecting Matthew so I made sure to always include a big bag of chews. Both soldiers, Matthew and Kitchee, always looked forward to that care package. I called Kitchee a soldier because he was–he had a rank and it was one grade higher than his handler. If Matthew had received a promotion, Kitchee did as well.

Back to the story. We had sent them a care package that arrived on their base while they were out on a mission. When they arrived back to the base Matthew picked up the package and he and Kitchee went to their room. Matthew told me he just put the package on his cot, released Kitchee from his leash, closed the door and went to the chow hall for something to eat. When he returned to their room that care package had been ripped open by Kitchee. All the contents were scattered on that cot except for that package of rawhide chews. And he was having a ball with those chews.

Kitchee bypassed homemade cookies and candy–his only interest was those chews. The box was sealed and those chews were still in a sealed factory package. But he could still smell them. He wasn’t interested in the other stuff–only what mattered the most to him–and what he knew belonged to him! The nose always knows!

Moral Of The Story

Kitchee wasn’t distracted from his mission. He bypassed all the things that weren’t meant for him. But how many times do we get distracted from our mission of becoming more and more like Jesus? God has things for each and every one of us that HE designed to help us become more like Jesus–and He sends them as a “Care Package” waiting to be opened for us to discover that special gift. It’s know as Every Day Life. Unfortunately we get distracted by the things not meant for us. But Kitchee? He teaches us that the Nose Knows! Don’t get distracted from what God has for you!