When Life Gets Stormy

Can God use a storm to teach you about himself? Can he use a storm to redirect you to a new opportunity? Chances are that most of us would say “Yes” to both of those questions. But could God send you into unemployment? Can he send you into cancer? Can he send you into a trial in order to teach you to depend on him alone? While those questions are a bit more difficult to answer, they are still true nonetheless. Mark 6:45-56 shows that Jesus sent his disciples into a storm in order to reveal himself to them.

The story of Jesus walking on the water (45-52) comes on the heels of him feeding the 5,000 (30-44). Immediately after the miracle, Jesus hustled his team into a boat and sent them to the other side of the lake. Meanwhile, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray.

Normally, the Sea of Galilee can be crossed in 6-8 hours, even in poor conditions. Heading into a stiff wind, the disciples are making no progress at all. In fact, they get blown off course, landing at Gennesaret on the western shore instead of Bethsaida on the northeastern shore.

In the dim light of the early dawn (3-6AM), Jesus saw the disciples straining against the oars. He went to them, walking on the choppy waters.

The phrase, “He meant to pass by them” (48) strikes us as odd. Why would Jesus walk across the storm tossed sea and not stop to check on his men? Rather than bypass his disciples and ignore them, the phrase means to “pass beside” in order to reveal himself. The language comes from the Old Testament where God passed by Moses (Exodus 33:19-34:7) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12) in order to reveal his glory to them.

Unnerved by the storm, the disciples think Jesus is a ghost. He calms their fears, speaks words of reassurance, and calms the storm. He once again demonstrates his power over nature.

The disciples are left awestruck by the miracle. They hadn’t understood how the feeding of the 5,000 revealed Jesus’ true identity. They had an earth-centered rather than a God-centered outlook on life.

Landing at Gennesaret, the whole countryside came out to see Jesus and to seek healing (53-56). The healing took place wherever Jesus went—villages, cities, fields, or marketplaces.

There are four lessons I take away from this story.

  1. God will sometimes send us into a storm. Whether unemployment, cancer, or a financial setback, God may send us into a trial to shape our character and teach us about himself. If God sent us into a trial, we can trust him to take us through it.
  2. God sees us in the storm and knows where we are. We may feel alone, but we have not been abandoned. If God sent us into the storm, he will monitor our progress and come to us at the right time.
  3. God reveals himself to us in the storms of life. God will use our trials as teachable moments to help us discover new aspects of his character and power. Nothing is ever wasted in the will of God.
  4. Rather than become hard-hearted, we need to learn the lessons he has for us. If the disciples could see and experience Jesus’ miracles up close and remain hard-hearted, then I need to be careful the same does not happen to me. I need to commit myself to believe his promises and obey his commands.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 19, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


How’s your appetite for God?



Becoming an iceberg pastor

iceberg pastor

You can read the full article at “Being an iceberg pastor.” The author argues for the importance of personal growth in addition to doing the tasks of ministry. “…in amongst the many and varied jobs that need to get done in church life, a pastor must carve out time to grow, and that is part of his job.” I agree with him, though it is often hard to make the time to pursue it. His article resonates with the ideas presented by Gordon MacDonald in his book, Building below the waterline: Strengthening the life of a leader.

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Posted by on April 17, 2015 in Books, Leadership, Character, Quotes, Ministry


Doing the wave

Funerals tend to be somber affairs. Graveside services tend to be held on the coldest, wettest day of the year. Families tend to be teary eyed and mournful. Which made the laughter at last week’s funeral so out of character, but healing nonetheless.

A funeral home down the street from the church asked me to perform a wake and a funeral for an unchurched family. I was told going in that the deceased was a football fan. When I arrived at the wake on Wednesday evening, I saw several poster boards full of pictures from his life. In several photos, the individual was wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey or standing in front of a poster with the saying, “How about those Cowboys!” I commented on that fact during my remarks to the large crowd of family and friends in attendance.

On Friday morning, the family gathered for a private memorial service. Just before the funeral director began the service, one of the family members said, “We need to do a wave!” Sure enough, the wave proceeded from left to right down the front row, and then repeated the pattern in the next row, all the way through the 25+ family members. I commented that I lived in Seattle for a number of years where the wave was created. (It was created by a trumpet player in the band at the University of Washington.) However, this was the first time I had ever seen it at a funeral. One of the family members commented that the deceased would have insisted on it, in fact, the individual was probably laughing right then.

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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Fun, Funerals


The universe puts us in our place

Calvin & Hobbes - universe dwarfs man

Psalm 8:1–4

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Calvin and Hobbes, Scripture


The problem of “ME”

“Frequently the toughest integrity test a leader faces is the challenge of ‘me.’ Often I discover that my biggest problem is … me. Too many times God cannot bless or use me as He would like because I am in the way. No wonder Jesus repeatedly encouraged His followers to deny themselves.”

Dave Earley in Pastoral Leadership Is …: How to Shepherd God’s People with Passion and Confidence

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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Books, Character, Integrity, Ministry, Quotes


A new way to zone out


I need to remember this for the next time I zone out in a meeting.

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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Calvin and Hobbes


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