Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bonnie write a sermon...what!?

Here is a paper I wrote in the counseling class I just finished.  The class was called Dynamics of Biblical Change, and it was through CCEF (Christian Counseling Educational Foundation).  I highly recommend everyone in the world to take this class.  What you are about to read paper, sums up the main things I learned.  Hope you like it. 


  

All people in this world have storms brewing in their hearts; things deep down inside that are not calm and peaceful.  Let’s read Mark 4:35-41:   

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side."  Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.  And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.  Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They became very much afraid    and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

I find it almost comical that Jesus was sleeping during a storm that was so frightening,

the disciples thought death was upon them.  And isn’t that how we think much of the time?  We think that God is ignoring our needs or sleeping through our lives.  What a shame!  The disciples beckoned Jesus, and He instantly got up and calmed what the disciples were so terrified of.  In Luke 12, Jesus tells his followers to consider the lilies of the field and how they grow.  Lilies grow on their own, without man’s help.  They are beautiful and fully taken care of by God.  In the same way, God has His people in the palm of his hand.  He will fulfill our needs, and he will calm the storm.    

I would like to relate Jesus’ calming the weather (Mark 4:35) to Jesus calming our sin.  And when I use the word “sin”, I am talking about the heart issues- not the actions.  If a man steals money from a bank, the actual act of stealing is simply a thorn.  Deep down, that thorn has a root, and it is the root that I will focus on.  The root is the motivation as to why we do the things that we do.  Why did that man steal from the bank?  Does he really need money?  Does he crave money?  Does he lack the discipline to get a job?  Does he desire to have power over the bank and its employees?  Does he desire to spend money on earthly items?  All of these questions can be rooted down even further:  Why does he crave money?  Why does he lack the discipline to get a job?  Why does he want power over others?  The why question (motivation question) will reveal what storms really reside in our hearts.

As for me, I have struggled with a fear of man since I was a little girl, but my pride has kept it hidden.  Only recently have I asked God to calm this storm (not that it is completely calm!)  I have a tendency to idolize people and value their opinions of me over God’s opinion of me.  For example, I once asked a past roommate of mine what she thought of my latest painting.  She told me that the spirally lines made her want to barf!  I got extremely offended and put a wall up between us for the rest of the semester.  I’ll teach her right?!  Wrong!  If I could have handled her comment with a heart that fully knows my worth in Christ, I wouldn’t have been controlled by whether she liked my paintings or not.  I could have been open with my roommate the rest of the semester, and been available to love her as Christ does.  I could have served her.  I could have feared God instead of fearing her.  If I feared God, honestly loving her would have been the only option.  Fruit would have appeared, rather than thorns! 

Only the good news of the gospel can free us from vicious cycles like the one I just illustrated. Christ loved us so much that he lived a perfect life, gave his life as atonement; He had the Father turn his back on Him, and then He rose again, triumphing over all evil, providing salvation.  John 10:10 says that Christ came so that we might have life and have it to the fullest.  We must ask ourselves:  what would it look like to have life to the fullest.  In order to shoot for “life-to-the-fullest,” we must learn to apply the reality of the gospel to the storms in our heart.                

May we open our eyes and see what storms are brewing within us.  We fear man- instead of fearing God.  We want praise-instead of giving God the praise. We want to control our lives- instead of letting God control. We want this and that- instead of giving this and that.  We crave power- instead of recognizing God’s power.  We escape to TV, food, fantasies, drugs, people, and anything else that brings temporary satisfaction- rather than finding our escape in the Lord. We decide our self-worth in whether people like/dislike us or if we succeed in our careers- instead of knowing that we are worth everything to Christ before we were even born.   

            One thing that I once believed and many of my friends still believe to this day is that people just need love.  Love will fix the world’s problems.  Now, I am not discrediting love by any means, but in the circle I grew up in, love meant acceptance of others and being nice.  Perhaps a hippie kind-of love?  We can learn a lot from this kind of love: in meeting people where they are at in life, as Christ does with us.  However, this kind of love ignores real human struggles.  It ignores the storms, and our dire need for a savior.  Deeply knowing our need for Jesus Christ, our savior is the only thing that can give us life to the fullest.  I have found within the past few months, that sin is embedded in all I do!  No motivation is pure!  Not to be a downer, but we need to put ourselves in the correct place.   May God be God and may we reside in our place of submission and need.  God desires to be Lord over our lives and to save us from all the sin that creeps into the details of our lives. His love meets us where we are, but it doesn’t just stop there.  It exposes our sinful motives and transforms us into the image of His son!

The phrase “Christ died on the cross for you” may be used in almost ever sermon we hear- but what does that actually mean to us?  Are we understanding of Christ’s life? Do we understand that the Father rejected Christ, so that we can have a relationship with Him?  Do we realize that we are accepted, approved, and loved by the greatest most beautiful being in the universe.  If Christ’s atonement has become a clich√© to you, please pray to God.  Sincerely ask Him to grow a desire for Him- in you.  For life in the fullest will only be attained with Christ.      


Here is an assemblage art piece, created by Washington based artist, Heidi Peterson, that may strum a chord within you in contemplating the gift of Christ’s salvation on the cross.  His blood was poured out and tears were shed.  He opened the door for us to be saved.  He gave us the ultimate gift. 

And how does Jesus’ death fit into the storms of our lives today?  Simply put- Jesus is the only one who can point to the storm and say “Be Silent!”  How have you tried to calm the storms in your life?  The disciples on the boat were in panic saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  Jesus asked them and He asks us this today: “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith”?  Why are we afraid?  Do we have no faith?

I personally want to get away from the phrase-God saved me back in 8th grade…to the phrase; God is saving me every day, in every moment, and in every situation.  God desires to save us from all of those hidden struggles that constantly creep in.  God wants to save me from my inner longing to avoid confrontational people and situations.  God wants to save me from seeking man’s praise.  God wants to save me from feeling like I have to prove myself to other people. 

If I imagine myself on that boat with Jesus, I probably would have panicked just like the disciples.  I imagine that the huge approaching wave represents a monstrous fear of man situation.  What will I do?  Will I panic first?  Will I cry out to Christ as the disciples did?  Or will I attempt to “handle” the situation on my own?  My hope is that we can humble ourselves before the Lord and truly be honest with ourselves about our storms.  We need tofaithfully cry out to Christ, our savior.  I am reminded of the lyrics of a praise song, In Christ alone:

In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song;

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My Comforter, my All in All, Here in the love of Christ I stand.

God is alive and more powerful than any of us can fully understand.  He has the power to calm the most dangerous “storm”, dramatically act in us, and change our lives for eternity.  Let God into those storms, you will bear beautiful fruit.  Let God change the details of your life.       

Question to think about: 

What are the storms in my heart?

Do I really trust that God has the power to calm the storms in my life?

What can I pray for?

How can I bear fruit amongst the storms?

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