COMPLIMENT HIM OR CRITICIZE HIM?

Most people, whether they go to church or not, know something about the New Testament account of Jesus walking on water. We all have probably heard jokes that assume we have some knowledge of Jesus doing so. Many of those who know something about the account of Jesus walking on water also know that Peter joined him.

Both Matthew and Mark tell about Jesus, but only Matthew tells us about Peter. Both tell how the disciples went ahead of Jesus in the boat, how they were having trouble going into the wind, and how Jesus walked on the water to them. Both tell how the disciples saw Jesus, thought he was a ghost, and were afraid. And both quote Jesus as saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”

Only Matthew tells that after Jesus identified himself, Peter answered, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus invited Peter, and he responded by walking on the water to Jesus. Matthew 14:30 and 31 report, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

Here’s a question to ponder: should we compliment Peter or criticize him? In my experience I have heard a lot more criticism of Peter than I have compliments. And I don’t think that is fair, do you?

No doubt, there is a note of scolding in Jesus’ words to him afterwards: Peter’s faith shrank and doubt entered. And there is certainly a challenge for us today in hearing what Jesus said to him. All of us probably need to cultivate more faith and chip away at our doubt.

But I want to compliment Peter. He did ask Jesus to call him to come to him. And Peter did walk on the water. I admire Peter’s courage for getting out of the boat. There were 11 others in that boat that night who did not ask Jesus to call them and who did not walk on the water. Peter’s faith was not as strong as it could have been, and the wind did cause him to doubt, but he walked on the water.

I’ve tried to imagine the discussion in the boat later that night among Peter and the others. I seriously doubt if anyone was critical of Peter. I’m confident they wanted to know what it was like to walk on water; and other than Jesus, Peter was the only one who could tell them.

Should we compliment Peter or criticize him? I’m perfectly willing to let Jesus do any correcting that is necessary, and I’ll compliment Peter.

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WHAT ABOUT OBEDIENCE?

Sometimes in our zeal to stress the Gospel message that we are saved by grace, we neglect Jesus’ call to obey His teaching. I think the reason this happens is because we are committed to making sure people know they are saved by grace through faith and not by what they do or don’t do. In his letters the Apostle Paul is uncompromising in his teaching that salvation is not by works but by faith. Two of his strongest statements are in Romans 3:21-31 and Galatians 3:1-14 if you would like to review them.

To believe and teach that salvation is by grace through faith, however, does not mean that obedience is unimportant or optional. No one is saved by “works of law” or obedience. Faith, repentance, and baptism are not works we do to earn, win, or deserve God’s forgiveness and acceptance. Yet in His teaching Jesus is clear that He wants and expects His followers to obey Him.

A window is opened for our understanding of the place of obedience in Jesus’ farewell instructions to the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20. After affirming that He has the authority to do so, Jesus instructs them to go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey everything He had commanded them. Wouldn’t it be an interesting study to go through the Gospels to note and study everything Jesus commanded His followers?

While we come to Christ for salvation by God’s grace through faith, we give ourselves to obeying Him because we have been accepted and forgiven. He tells us to teach those who become His disciples to obey the things He has commanded. Obedience to Jesus does not earn salvation, but flows from it. We are not saved because we obey Jesus, we obey Jesus because we are saved.

In addition to His farewell instructions, Jesus also underscored the importance of obedience during His ministry. One of my favorites is in His closing parable of two builders at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27. Both a wise as well as a foolish builder built houses: one on the rock and one on the sand. When the rain, streams, and winds came the house built on the rock stood while the one built on the sand fell. The difference between the two builders? Both heard Jesus’ words, but only the wise man put them into practice.

Another of my favorite examples of Jesus stressing the importance of obedience is in John 13 when He washed His disciples’ feet. During the evening meal Jesus removed His outer garment, wrapped a towel around His waist, and washed their feet. When He finished he put His clothes back on and returned to His place. He told them that He was their Lord and Teacher and that He had set an example for them to follow because no servant is greater than his master. What gets my attention is verse 17 when He told them: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Don’t miss the point that obeying Jesus blesses our lives.

Jesus’ strongest statement about obedience is in John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commands.” So simple, and at the same time equally profound. Nothing is more important than loving Jesus. That’s why even though we often let Him down, because we love Him, and with His help, we make the effort to obey Him. We obey Him not to earn His love and forgiveness, but because we know He loves us and we love Him.

I’m interested in what you think about this subject. Feel free to leave a reply below or email me at bobmmink.com, and share this post on Social Media.

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A 37 YEAR BATTLE CONTINUES

Last week an online Christianity Today Meditation entitled “The Gift of My Anxiety” got my attention and prompted this blog post. In the article author Laura Turner tells about her lifelong relationship with fear that began when she was four or five years old. She acknowledges “mostly I fear the future” and reveals “try as I might, I can’t get rid of it.” To my surprise she not only calls her anxiety a gift, she says “every bout of anxiety has driven me closer to God,” “persistent fear has kept me tethered to God,” and “If I could snap my fingers and be rid of my anxiety, I wouldn’t.”

I too battle anxiety. My first bout came on totally unexpected and for no reason when I was hiking the Appalachian Trail in my late 20s. I had never experienced it before that evening and there was nothing specific I was afraid of or concerned about. I was just overcome with anxiety and I have battled it on and off since then.

Through the years I have read widely and deeply about anxiety, consulted with counselors, and tried a variety of medications. Most of the time I have no anxiety, but there are times when I do have it—ranging from mild to somewhat debilitating. For the most part the only sure predictor for me is when I am preparing to travel by air—the intensity grows on the way to the airport, waiting to get on the plane, and then peaks as we board. Once we get to where we are going I am usually fine.

Experts report that while both women and men deal with the issue, women are more likely to deal with the problem than men. I guess that means I am deeper and more sensitive than most guys! My self-diagnosis is that my anxiety is neurotic and irrational and is technically called Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Unlike Laura Turner’s report, as best as I can tell, my anxiety isn’t really about the future. Nor do I see it as a gift; and if I could snap my fingers and be rid of it I would in a second. Of course I pray about it and do my best to trust and lean on the Lord, but I don’t see how it has driven me closer to God or kept me tethered to Him. I think I’m tethered and close to Him with or without the anxiety.

I think Laura Turner’s Meditation is informative and worth reading. I agree with her on the helpfulness of sharing your anxiety issue with someone. On more than one occasion when I have been with a friend and anxiety has come upon me it has been lessened by telling my colleague about it. Not only that, occasionally as others hear about my anxiety they are encouraged to learn someone besides them struggles with it. That’s my primary reason for writing about my anxiety in this blog. If you deal with anxiety perhaps you will be relieved to know there are others too.

Share this post on social media if you think others would benefit and feel free to leave a reply below or send me an email (bobmmink@gmail.com).

Here’s the link if you would like to read Laura Turner’s Meditation: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/julaug/gift-of-my-anxiety-ear.html?utm_source=ctdirect-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=15819991&utm_content=454389237&utm_campaign=email

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GETTING IT RIGHT

Last week while reading Frederick Buechner’s memoir The Eyes of the Heart, an observation he made about his deceased younger brother got my attention. Comparing his brother to himself he wrote, “I want to get it right about the way he took life as it came instead of, like me, brooding about the past or worrying himself sick about the future.” Read what he said again and consider which brother you are most like.

I wish I was more like his brother, but I am clearly more like the older Frederick. I wish I was better at taking life as it comes, but the truth is I spend too much time, energy, and heart brooding about the past and worrying about the future. How about you?

You and I both know people who are robbing themselves of a fulfilling life in the present because of what happened in their past. To get a better sense of its meaning I looked up brood in the dictionary. It means “to think a lot about something in an unhappy way” or “to dwell gloomily on a subject.”

We all have things in our past that negatively impacted us. The challenge is to keep those hurts and failures from destroying our present. It doesn’t mean we are not sorry for what we did or deeply hurt by what happened to us; nor does it mean we cannot learn from the past. But for our own good we need to deal with the past so that in the words of the Apostle Paul we can “forget what is behind” and “press on” (Philippians 3:13 and 14). Admittedly, for a lot of us that is easier said than done; but as trite as it sounds, we can’t go back. I do know, however, that talking with a counselor can be a great benefit for some who are so wounded by their past they struggle in the present.

We also know people who are too focused on and concerned about the future that they are treading water in the present. For me this is a bigger issue than brooding about the past. One morning last week after my prayer time I jotted down this question to myself: “Am I worrying so much about the future that I am not enjoying today?”

When I think about this habit I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching about worry in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:23-34. After a commonsense discussion about worry Jesus concludes in verse 34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” In this teaching Jesus is not forbidding our planning or preparing for the future. In the words of Archibald Hunter, Jesus is giving us a principle of living that “taking reasonable care, we are to face life trustingly, accepting each day fresh from God, and leaving the unknown in his hands.” In others words, rather than living a life of worry, we are to live a life of faith.

If I can borrow from Buechner, I too want to get it right about the way I take life as his brother did—as it comes. Both yesterday and tomorrow can be enemies of today. We can’t live either in the past or in the future. To get it right we must live in the present.

Share this post on social media if you think others would benefit and feel free to leave a reply below or send me an email (bobmmink@gmail.com).

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