Read Through the Bible – Week 40

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Welcome back to “Read Through the Bible”

This weekend, many Christians will enter the season of Advent – a time of hope when we listen to the promises of God and a time of expectation when we hear God’s promises to renew His creation.

The news is filled with many stories that create fear and uncertainty these days. We hear about gunmen randomly shooting innocent people, and we hear about bombs rocking mosques in the Middle East. We’ve all heard about the increasing tensions between the United States and North Korea, and we’ve witnessed missile launches. We’ve seen people of great prominence fall from public grace as the #MeToo Movement has exposed stories of sexual harassment, and we’ve wondered what Congress’ new tax bill will mean to our lives in the coming years. Fear and uncertainty seem to be all around us. Some of us are asking questions that we’ve never asked in the past. And we need hope. We need to find a source of hope and peace that reminds us that God’s still in control and that the forces of good are, ultimately, going to win.

Advent is time of hope when we listen to the promises of God and a time of expectation when we hear God’s promises to renew His creation. But Advent is, also, a time when we are called to reflect and to honestly admit that, at least sometimes, we’re part of what’s wrong. We don’t always treat other people kindly; and, when people step on our toes, we don’t always forgive quickly. We want to sit in the driver’s seat and self-direct the course of our lives; and, when we do that, we can be blind to opportunities that God sets before us. We sometimes misinterpret the actions of others and we’re not always willing to admit that people can change. That’s the story of Jonah. And that’s one of the stories that we’re going to encounter in this week’s readings.

Many of us are probably already familiar with this epic tale. We can almost picture the frightened mariners casting lots, and we can almost imagine the look on Jonah’s face when his compatriots decided that he’s the problem. We can easily picture Jonah being swallowed by a great, big fish and being vomited-out upon the dry land. Maybe, as you read the story of Jonah this week, you’ll be able to sense the anger that he felt when God decided to have mercy upon the 120,000 people that Jonah thought God would destroy? The story of Jonah is a short one; but it’s, also, a very human story in which we can all find a part of ourselves.

What if we began the season of Advent by honestly admitting that, sometimes, we are the source of the problems in our own lives? What if we began the season of Advent by just stopping for a moment to think about the times when we’ve thwarted God’s plan for our lives and futures because we weren’t willing to give God the reins? Have you ever had a time when you struggled to accept the fact that God can forgive people that you can’t? Can Advent mark a new beginning in your life this year and help you to prepare yourself to meet the Christ whose birth we’re going to celebrate in just a few short weeks?

Advent is time of hope when we listen to the promises of God and a time of expectation when we hear God’s promises to renew His creation. But Advent is, also, a time when we recall that the renewal of God’s creation sometimes begins with us. Perhaps, we can use the next few weeks to renew our relationships with people that we’ve hurt or with the people who have hurt us? Perhaps, we can use the next few weeks to more intentionally pray and ask for God’s guidance? Perhaps, we can use the next few weeks to allow God to work in our hearts and in our lives, so that we’re more prepared to meet the Christ as He comes to us on Christmas?

Here are this weeks readings:

Sunday: Hebrews 5-7 – Monday: Numbers 29-32 – Tuesday: 2 Chronicles 11-15 – Wednesday: Psalms 117-118 – Thursday: Proverbs 28 – Friday: Jonah – Saturday: Acts 3-4

 

 

Step Out of the Boat!

Peter on Water

I’ve always enjoyed sailing. I enjoy that moment when I first push the boat from the dock, catch a breeze, and feel the boat start to move through the water. I enjoy tacking into the wind, feeling the rudder-board vibrate beneath my feet, and feeling the absolute silence and total peace that I experience during long runs toward the down-wind side of lakes. But, when storms come out of nowhere and when my small boat is caught in open water, the fun quickly deteriorates into scary chaos.

We’ve all experienced different levels of chaos in the last few weeks. The sword-rattling between the United States and North Korea has kept our eyes glued to the television. We’ve watched a group of White Supremacists descend on Charlottesville, Virginia, and we’ve seen expressions of fear on the faces of people who were trapped in a church as they gathered for a prayer service. Chaos comes in many forms. And, as the forces of chaos surround us, we’d do well to reflect upon a story of chaos in the Bible that takes us right into the middle of a situation filled with life-rattling fear.

“Step Out of the Boat!” is a challenging message that’s designed to make us think about how we, as Christians, respond to chaos. Peter is trapped on the water during a ferocious storm and water is splashing over the sides of the boat. Peter is surrounded by people who are filled with consuming fear; and, when Jesus first appears, the disciples are even more frightened because they think that Jesus is a ghost.

And yet, even in the midst of the stormy chaos, Jesus invites Peter to¬†“Step Out of the Boat!” and to walk across the water. I’m sure that it was scary to release the gunwales and stand-up in a rocking boat. I’m sure that it was hard to throw your leg over the side of the boat and put a foot onto the water. Can you imagine what it was like when Peter first put both of his feet onto the rolling waves and stood up? Imagine what it was like to take a first, faith-filled walk across the water – to feel fear starting to fill your heart as the wind continued to blow – to realize that you’re sinking into the sea – and to feel the hand of Jesus grab you (at just the right moment) and lift you up.

It’s scary to “Step Out of the Boat!” in the midst of a storm. It takes courage to denounce the teachings of a pastor who believes that American leaders have the God-given power and authorization to destroy North Korea with nuclear weapons. It’s not easy to speak-out when little children are being detained in prison-like conditions. It’s not at all easy to stand-up and clearly proclaim that the Church is a place for ALL of God’s people. And it’s certainly not easy to openly denounce the cancerous racism and bigotry that was openly displayed in Charlottesville, VA over the past weekend.

As Christians, we must “Step Out of the Boat!” in times of chaos. We’re going to need to learn, again, how to let get of what’s comfortable and certain before God can use us to change the course of the world. And we need to remember that, even as we’re looking for the strength and courage to do what God’s calling us to do, Christ journeys with us – always opening us up to new and exciting opportunities in our lives and ministry.