Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In the Storm

 "And now I advise you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only the ship will be lost. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve came to me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul! You must stand before Caesar, and God has graciously granted you the safety of all who are sailing with you.' Therefore keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be just as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island."
- Acts 27:22-26 NET

In the midst of a violent storm, God's promise transforms the outcome. Standing on them requires work, sacrifice, and faith instead of fear. Paul goes on to lead the men in a hearty meal before tossing grain overboard to lighten the load. Whatever we have to cast out along the way, we have the presence of God with us and the assurance that those "sailing with us" will also come through.

This reminds me of the lyrics of a worship song:

"I will not fear the war
I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way."

Paul's experience in this chapter is a beautiful illustration of the help God gives us in the midst of the storm. Hebrews 4:15-16 fit into the context of a chapter that teaches us about entering His rest. Only after we enter His rest can we embrace Him as our faithful high priest. We have confidence to draw near and receive mercy and grace when we come through Christ, not works. But once we draw near, we find something that is so intimate, so precious, that it's hard to imagine.

For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. -Hebrews 4:15-16 NET

He was fully God, but also fully man. In His humanity, His incarnation, He faced every temptation and overcame by the power of the Holy Spirit in His life. And by drawing near, the passage says, we will find "mercy and grace" to help when we need it most.

The help is in times of need, of weakness, of humanity. We get a rich understanding when we compare Hebrews 4:16 with 1:14 and 2:18. In Hebrews 1:14 "help" actually means “minister” or “render service”; this same word is used to refer to disciples and to practical acts of service. In Hebrews 2:18 "help" means “succor”, help in the idea of relief or rescue. But "help" as in Hebrews 4:16 is used ONLY twice in the New Testament, the other time in earlier in Acts 27:

After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables [literally = helps] in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along. -Acts 27:17

 John MacArthur describes this: “They would throw ropes around during the midst of the storm. throwing ropes around and securing and tightening and...with winches, to literally tighten the boards together so the whole ship wouldn't fall apart.” In classical Greek this word was used of the device used to make a ship secure, to help in times like Paul experienced.

And the author of Hebrews uses that same word, a word that gives the picture of making a ship secure by supporting cables, to describe the help God gives when we are tempted.

What are our supporting cables? Mercy and grace. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

Jesus comes to our aid to relieve and rescue us from temptation – He knows what it is like. When the temptation builds, He provides the way out. (1 Cor. 10:13) However, there are other times when we need more than a way out. We need to be literally be held together! We need to be saved from falling apart due to our weakness. In those times He wraps His “supporting cables” around us to give us the two things we need most when we come face to face with our weaknesses: Mercy and grace.

I know God’s grace is there for my temptation – but sometimes I think my weaknesses don’t deserve it. Sometimes weaknesses aren’t even sins – physical illness; limitations due to disability; fatigue from having too many toddlers pulling at you all day; the demands of work and family life. At those times, I don’t just need “succor”. I need His supporting cables of mercy and grace to hoist me up out of myself so I can see the throne of grace – the throne where He waits with nailscarred hands to welcome me to His table.

We can be strong when weak, because He supports us. In the storms of life, He puts His supporting cables around us, lifts us up, and undergirds us with mercy and grace. Baldwin Hall Bible Study describes it this way: “For those who have trusted Christ for salvation, mercy and grace are available in these tempests. Instead of being beaten by the waves and taken away to isolation in the deep, the grace of God secures us in place. A rope has been tied to our boat to secure us so we do not drift away in the storm. We are helpless on our own, but the grace of God keeps us from sinking or wandering away. His grace does not promise that the storms will not come, only that He sovereignly keeps us through them.”
Are you facing a storm today? I hope this lesson God has taught me resonates with you.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How to Abide

In John 15 Jesus exhorts us to "abide in Me". We often hear teaching on this that points out the truth that this is "our part" - that the fruit-producing is up to Him, while our part is to abide. Did you know, however, that John also teaches us HOW to abide? Consider these principles:

We abide by receiving Jesus. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:56). "Eating" and "drinking" is a vivid picture of partaking of or receiving Him, as John noted in John 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

We abide by obeying Jesus. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10)

We abide when His Word stays with us. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

We abide by loving other believers. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:10)

We abide by confessing who Jesus is. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)

Whatever we are going through, wherever we are in life, God desires that we seek Him. In the middle of a serious attack by the enemy, David heard a command from God: "Seek my face." (Psalm 27:8). Out of all the things he could ask in that difficult day, he said the one thing he wanted most was to "dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life" (Psalm 27:4). Only after seeking the Lord is he prepared to learn from Him ("Teach me your way", Psalm 27:11) and pray for deliverance (verse 12). The same principle is seen in John 15. Only when we abide do we know how to pray (John 15:7).

So it comes back to this: Learning to abide. John has shown us the way.