Tag Archives: peace

Asleep in the Boat

Jesus sleepingIt was a dark and stormy night…

Sounds like Snoopy is writing again, eh?

Seriously, the Apostles are in the boat and the wind and waves have picked up because of the storm.  Where is Jesus? Asleep in the bottom of the boat.  HOW CAN HE SLEEP DURING THIS STORM?!

There is much fear on the boat tonight.  They can’t make any headway, and the boat is in danger of capsizing. It seems perfectly logical to be afraid during such a storm in quite a small boat.

Once, when I was a boy, I was fishing on Bull Shoals Lake in North Arkansas with my grandparents.  All of a sudden a huge storm came over the lake.  Waves were crashing over the sides of the bass boat.  Rain was coming down in sheets stinging our faces.  The closest land was an island with rocks on the shoreline – no sand.  We pulled close to shore, and Grandpa put us on the bank while we rode the storm out.  We could see the boat dock but couldn’t make it there because of the ferocity of the storm on the water.

I remember being scared, but only a little, because I trusted my Grandpa.

Jesus is still sleeping.  How can he have such peace during this storm?

The disciples wake Jesus with a jolt.  “Don’t you care if we drown?” They were in the boat with the Creator of the universe, but they didn’t understand. The didn’t yet know the true identity of the One who could sleep during a fierce storm.

Jesus got up and said, “Peace. Be still.”

That’s what I want in me – peace.  Don’t you?

The apostles were afraid because all they could see was the power of the storm they were in at the moment.  They had more trust in the storm than in the One sleeping in the bottom of the boat.  It shocked them that Jesus was able to take charge of the storm the way He did.  Then Jesus scolded them. “Oh you of little faith.  Why are you so afraid?”

Why are you so afraid?

We are afraid because in the storms of life, even though we claim allegiance to the Father, we still struggle for control and therefore put our trust more in the storms than in the One who is bigger than the storm. We put more trust in the chaos than the Creator.  We put more faith in what we see than our Father who loves us and has promised “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

When we find our identity as children of God, of the Father, of Abba (daddy), then what can stir our peace?

Think of the baby sleeping in his or her father’s arms.  Isn’t that peace?

Jesus said that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are little children when we put our trust in our Father instead of the storm.  He’s bigger than any storm you can experience.  He may not take you out of the storm, but He promises to bring you peace and comfort through it as you trust in Him and listen to the Spirit living within you.

The more I surrender my selfishness to a life filled with the presence of the Father the more I find peace.  If you want that peace, you can find it too.  If you want to discuss this more feel free to let me know.  I’m always interested in helping others along this path we walk together.  Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near…and life in the Kingdom is so much more fulfilling.


Same Words Different Meanings

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Christianity is a culture with many terms that are used almost exclusively within that culture.  When was the last time you heard the word propitiation used outside a church context (or inside one for that matter)? We often talk about righteousness and grace and justification.  Those words are good English words, but their meaning inside church culture holds great significance.  Outside that culture, however, these words are seldom used.  

We have other words that we use commonly but we’ve given them a different definition than their original intent.  

The term “pastor” is used nowadays to refer to anyone who is in a preaching role in a church.  Usually the pastor is the “head” of that branch of the church.  The bible doesn’t use this term this way.  In fact, I’m surprised that the bible includes this term at all.  It is only used once in English translations and the Greek word that it is translated from is always translated as “shepherd” in the other instances it is used in the New Testament.  A pastor is supposed to be one of a group of shepherds or elders of a church.  

Pastor is a term the church of Christ has tried to avoid for many years, but culture keeps using that term in its new definition, so many churches are giving up on fighting this original definition.  The original definition of “pastor” is being lost on this generation.

There are a couple other terms we use commonly in church culture that we gave up on a long time ago.  We don’t even readily argue for the perpetuation of the original meaning anymore.  

The first is “church”. 

I recently had the blessing of serving with a friend of mine who is living in a missional community with the intention of driving the darkness out of the city in which they live.  They live together – Christians in common – being the church in community.  

At this service opportunity a teenager asked my friend if they all attended church together.  My friend looked bewildered and said, “yes, this is it.” 

He was bewildered because he was living in the biblical definition of the word “ekklesia” that many translations interpret as “church”. Church didn’t become a building until after the Catholic church began to build buildings around holy places as shrines for worship. The english word, “church”, comes from a German word that was used to signify such buildings.  Ekklesia, on the other hand, denotes community.  It is the assembly of saints in every place.  It is the people – not the place, and definitely not a denomination.

The other term is “ministry”.

This same teen asked my friend where they did ministry.  This was still in the context of the previous question about where they attended “worship” (another term that has been redefined throughout the years). My friend looked around again and said “we do ministry by living.”

Christians often think of ministry as a program of the church where they attend where people who have something to offer provide goods or services to those “less fortunate”. This cannot be further from the biblical idea.  Ministry wasn’t intended to be relegated to a specific activity.  Ministry is an outpouring of love to those living all around us.  Ministry is seeing others as equals and treating them as such even if they are drug addicts and prostitutes.  Ministry isn’t enabling dependence on a welfare-like activity.  Ministry is living with those the world sees as less fortunate and encouraging them and respecting them and expecting the same from them.  It’s not a top-down kind of mentality; it is an equality mentality.  Ministry doesn’t feed the poor; it frees the poor.

If you’re reading this chances are you are part of a church that does ministry.  Read the book of Acts.   See how the church functioned.  Imagine what the world would be like if we were actively battling the forces of evil in the spiritual realms while living together in community without need for all the pomp and circumstance.  Could this really be what we are called to? 

This group that my friend is involved with has been actively battling the darkness for at least five years now, and they now have watched Jesus drive the darkness out of two whole neighborhoods that were the most dangerous places in their city.  They are now actively pursuing the darkness into a third neighborhood.  Even the police recommend they don’t follow, but they do anyway – family and all.  God continues to scatter the darkness as the light and salt of Jesus is spread in strongholds of the enemy.  

This isn’t just church talk.  This is really happening.  The book of Acts doesn’t have to be a historical document.  It can also be a playbook for how to live for Christ today, but that would require us to give up on fear and be filled with an unquenchable love and desire to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding.  It would also require us to remember the original meanings of so many biblical ideas.  It would require a restoration of first-century discipleship. I’m praying for a generation to rise up and change the world, and the generation I’m praying for is mine.  Won’t you join me?


Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


Waiting for a Tornado

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Several years ago I was heading back home to Ash Flat, Arkansas from a lectureship in Tennessee. The day of driving was filled with intensity as storms developed all around us. I counted 18 tornados that formed and crossed the highway within ten minutes behind us all the way home.

When we got into Arkansas we were having trouble contacting people at home because of the storms. About half an hour away from home we hit a wall of wind that nearly stopped the 15 passenger van we were riding in. After we got through the wall of the storm we got the call.

My friends Greg and Kendal were riding with us; they lived in Highland, and we were to drop them off on our way just past them to Ash Flat. The call basically said “Highland is gone”.

That evening, while we were traveling home, an EF4 tornado skirted the outside of Ash Flat and demolished Highland. In fact, houses on the same block as my friends’ house were damaged by the twister. The devastation was intense.

The next day we began to survey the situation. The temps the day of the tornado were in the 70s, but the next morning there was snow falling from the sky. Businesses and homes of friends were destroyed. No lives were lost, but everyone’s life was disrupted.

This week we are watching the story unfold of the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. I am seeing the devastation. I see the same looks on people’s faces that I saw the year of our tornado.

I see something else that I saw before: hope. During times of crisis people band together and help one another out no matter their race or economic status. People don’t care what church others go to or what they believe. In times of crisis we are all humans helping out our brothers and sisters in the storm.

I am saddened by the tragedy, but I am encouraged by the selfless love poured out in such an event.

We shouldn’t wait until there is a catastrophe for us to treat each other with the kind of love and selflessness being shown in Oklahoma right now and Arkansas before. We should be praying for each other and our country at all times. We should be searching for life in all circumstances. To this we are called as followers of the One who showed compete humility and self-sacrifice and love on our behalf through the excruciating experience of the cross.

I am praying for Oklahoma today. I am also praying for you. Let us find unity in Christ and selfless love now instead of waiting until something bad happens. Then we will truly have a wonderful life.


Filling a Full Cup

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Several years ago I watched a movie titled “The Forbidden Kingdom”. It didn’t look like much of a movie, but there was one scene where Jet Li was set to fight Jackie Chan. I watched it solely because I wanted to see that spectacular event, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The story is about a geeky American teenager – a huge fan of Kung Fu movies – who is transported to an ancient Chinese culture where he is the chosen one to fight the evil lord. It’s a pretty common story. Jackie Chan and Jet Li (their characters) are his trainers who are set to teach this boy true Kung Fu.

The problem is that the boy has filled his mind with all the moves from the movies he’s watched. He wants to do all these super cool moves, but they are just stunts from movies and not real Kung Fu.

When they realize this, his teachers get frustrated. They tell him it is impossible to fill a cup that is already full.

We are full people. We all have things and ideas and attitudes that fill our minds and lives each day. Walking the walk of a Christian is difficult because we are weighed down by what we have allowed to fill our lives.

Beginning next week we will begin a series at Aztec church of Christ where we will be talking about dying to self. But what does that mean? Death is such an intimidating concept.

Dying to self is dying to all the things that fill us that aren’t from God and don’t emulate Jesus. It is an emptying of rue cup so that the nature of Jesus can fill it.

Greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, frustration, impatience, un-forgiveness, busy-ness, addiction, selfishness, sin. All of these things fill our lives and hinder us from living free as God intends for us. The struggles we face in this life come because we are selfish beings who have yet to die to self.

Not all events are in our control, but our reaction to those events are shaped by how much of ourself we have allowed to die and be transformed into Christ’s likeness. Imagine a marriage where both people didn’t seek their own interests but only what God wills – only the love of the other. This can only happen when we die to self.

It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s painful, but then again those ideas only make us afraid because we are consumed with self.

It’s time to die young – to die before your physical death comes. It’s time to put yourself aside and be so focused on God that your life reflects the image of His Son, Jesus. If you die to yourself beforehand, the physical death we all encounter won’t be nearly so intimidating. It’s time to empty your cup so Christ can fill it.

Join us for “Die Young” beginning April 21. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about this concept of dying to yourself then I recommend you read the book “Die Young” by Michael and Hailey DiMarco.

God bless you as your life is transformed because you chose to die to yourself and live for Christ.


Peaceful Easy Feeling

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The days ahead are uncertain. Our world is changing. Our climate is changing. Our country is changing. Or children are changing. There is much to be unsure about.

Does it make you nervous? Are you worried about your ability to provide for yourself or your family? Are you the least bit nervous about what your children will have to deal with as they grow into the new world being created by the leaders of today?

I deal with thoughts of this continually. I have been charged by God to provide for my family, but as each year goes by it becomes harder and more uncertain. Frustrations rise and worry clouds judgment as we focus on what might happen in the future.

When I get caught up in that place, however, I have to remember a couple of things:
First, the future hasn’t happened yet. I can only control a certain amount of what may or may not happen in the future, but the vast majority of the future is beyond my control. This may seem disconcerting to some, but it can be a relief when you understand your role in this. You are not meant to change the future. You are meant to change today. All you need be concerned with is how you live today. Allow the concerns about tomorrow to cease and you’ll be free to live today to its fullest.

Second, in times of uncertainty, there is a God who does not change. Jehovah is not wishy-washy. His promises are not “pie crust promises”. His promises endure through the ages. He promises to take care of us today (Matthew 6:33). He promises that he has a great plan for our future (Jeremiah 29:11). And He promises that when things don’t work out the way we had hoped or expected He is still working all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

He is the God who brings comfort to the troubled. He wants to bring you peace in uncertainty.

When you focus on Him and live for today you find that you don’t have much time for worrying about tomorrow. Sure, I will still prepare my children for whatever life they will have to endure, but in the meantime I will enjoy them and love them. I will trust that those promises I rely on are also relevant for them.

May you find peace this year. May you be able to overcome the uncertainty in your life by trusting in the One who does not change. He is a rock, a foundation that cannot be shaken. Your trust is secure there.

If you’d like to know more about having a closer relationship with Jesus I’d love to visit with you. I am now the minister at the Aztec church of Christ in Aztec, NM. You can reach me in the office at 334-6626 or via email at jddobbs@verizon.net. You can also comment on this or any other of my articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org.

God bless you as you find your peace in Him.


The Cure For “One of Those Days”

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Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind I mean.

Maybe your car broke down after spending a couple thousand dollars to get it working just two months before. Maybe you’re out of a job, and the company you want to call you for an interview just turned you down. Maybe you can’t even get an interview at all? Maybe you studied really hard for that test only to fail. Maybe the person you love most of all treats you poorly without remorse. Maybe you’re out to lunch before a big, important meeting and you spill marinara sauce all over your blouse, and there’s no time to run home and change before meeting these priority clients. Maybe you just got fired. Maybe someone you loved just died.

Some days are definitely better than others.

As in all things we have a choice how we approach days like this. I’ll admit that some days you just get blindsided and no matter how prepared you think you are, you really aren’t ready for this kind of day. Yet, even when blindsided we have a choice.

Some people, when dealing with trying times such as these, choose to retreat back into their shell and succumb to depression. Some people become high stress and blow up at any given moment. Some people can’t move forward or back because they are dumbfounded as to what to do next. Yet some people deal with life’s unexpected dilemmas with ease.

How do they do that? I’ll admit it…the first scenario in the list of possibilities happened to me this week. My first instinct was to tense up and be hot-headed about the situation. How do people keep calm in all things?

When I had the issue with my vehicle I had a choice. On a normal day I wouldn’t have been ready, and I would probably have snapped at my wife and kids because of my immediate stress. That particular morning, however, I woke up early, and before I ever got out of bed I did my daily reading in the bible and in another book I’m engaged in. I spent some time in prayer, then I got up to fix breakfast and start my day.

I started the day in the word of God and with prayer. I really think that is what kept everything in perspective for me. It wasn’t nearly as hard to keep calm and not react. Through the day I prayed over the problem and looked at my engine. I didn’t fret about it. I just prayed. The prayer I prayed was that it would be an easy fix (I should have prayed for a cheap one too), and when I identified the problem it was extremely easy to replace the part that had malfunctioned.

You see, starting my day in the word and in prayer put me in a place of different perspective. I am constantly thinking about God and how to serve Him, but it is when I pray and read His word that I truly come into connection with Him. It is then that I can go through my day trusting Him to be my guide.

Face it. When you are frustrated or anxious about something, it is because you don’t trust that God will really come through for you. I know because I have been there too. Let me tell you a secret. It never gets any easier. I don’t know anyone who finds it easy to trust God. Oh, sure, they get better at it, but it is difficult to trust someone whom you cannot see face to face like you see your sister or friend. Yet, when we trust God fully we come into a perspective that will change our lives – literally. And the more we choose that perspective and see how He works in our lives, the more evidence we get that He really is working and will continue to do so.

When we trust God to guide us – when we trust that Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 are true – then we can be confident that it doesn’t matter what happens in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

When we trust Him we can know that either way it works out in the end, He is still working things out for our good.

Do you trust Him? Can you believe that it really doesn’t matter whether or not things work out the way you want them to? Can you believe that He has your best interests in mind no matter what?

You may not have experienced His workings in your life like that. Maybe you prayed for something and the opposite happened. Does that mean He doesn’t care about you, or He isn’t the good God that I make Him out to be? No! Again, it means our perspective is off.

Jesus said that when we pray God is the one who gives the gifts, and when He gives these gifts He always gives what is best for us. We may not understand it or even like it at the time, but it is what is best. If our focus is to look for how God is making things better for us, then we don’t have time to get down in the dumps over a situation. We don’t have time for anxiety. We have no reason for stress and anger.

This week I challenge you to start your day in the word of God and with prayer. YouVersion.com (which also has a mobile app for all platforms) has some great reading programs to spur on your commitment to being in the word. I challenge you to be persistent in prayer about everything. And may God show you just how good He is to you.

If you’d like to discuss this further, I invite you to comment on my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org or shoot me an email at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you as you look for His guidance each day!


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