Thursday, July 30, 2015

Are You Bailing Water?

I had the opportunity to attend a Bible class in Clyde, Texas this past Sunday.  The preacher there taught a lesson from Mark 4:35-41 which is the story of Jesus calming the storm.  He made several points which could have made a wonderful class on their own.  I wrote down four focus points.  I wish to discuss one of them in this post.  First I want us to focus on the story starting from the beginning.  Jesus has been teaching the people all day.  He has worked hard trying to lead those who have followed him.  In the book of Mark, this story follows several parables.  Mark tells us that it was evening.  Think of yourself when you have had an especially busy day, especially a day when you were serving others or teaching your children or others and you have given all you have emotionally and physically.  You are tired.  Our Lord was tired.  He got into the boat with the disciples.  As they worked with the boat to get to the other side of the Sea of Galilee he lay down on a pillow in the stern of the boat.  I remember doing this as a small child when my family would go fishing on a lake.  I would always go to sleep while they fished.  The gentle rocking of the boat put him into a deep sleep.  It must have been a deep sleep for a great windstorm came along and began to fill up the boat with water but he slept on.  The disciples must have been working to bail the water out of the boat and yet water continued to pour in.  The text tells us the boat was already filling.  I don't know about you but I am not a great swimmer.  I am slightly terrified (okay, maybe a lot terrified) of ending up in deep water without a life jacket.  I would panic.  I would not gently walk over to Jesus and quietly say, "Um, Jesus, would you wake up and help us get the water out of the boat?"  No, I would be yelling, "Help! Help!  The water is coming in faster than we can keep up.  Grab a bucket.  Help us get the water out before we drown."  I would never consider that Jesus might do anything else.  The disciples question to Jesus was "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"  What an interesting question!  Still, they have no idea what Jesus might do next.  Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!"  The wind ceased and all was calm.  What just happened?!  They probably expected that he would help bail water from the boat.  Instead he calmed the storm.  Wow!

I began to wonder as the preacher talked.  How often do I ask Jesus for help with what I am working on in my life expecting just help doing what I am already doing?  Maybe I am dealing with some anger and I ask Jesus to help me stay calm by making the medicine or food work the way it is supposed to.  Maybe my marriage is struggling and I ask Jesus to make the counselor I have chosen to work things out.  Maybe we need to reach out and teach others but keep reaching out the same way we always have while feeling like we are only bailing water and not getting anywhere.  Meantime, Jesus is with us wanting to do so much more.  He does not want to bail water.  He wants to calm the storm!  I have heard the term "thinking outside of the box."  I bet the disciples never expected Jesus to calm the entire storm.  The text tells us that they were filled with great fear and asked who this man is that even the wind and the sea obey him.

I don't know what you need Jesus to do for you.  Maybe it is time to think outside of the box and realize he has the power to calm the storm if we will only believe and trust that he can.  Maybe it is time to fear God and lean more on His power.  What that is for you I don't know.  Sometimes we will not know until He has taken over.  Will you trust him?  Ask him to calm the storm within not just help bail water.  You may be surprised at His action in your life.  When He does, you can rest beside still water and know that you believe and trust in an all-powerful God and Lord.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Righteousness and guilt

I have been struggling with guilt which then becomes anger and a feeling of hopelessness.  The guilt ranges all over the place of feeling that I don't measure up as a substitute teacher, as a manager of my home, as a faithful Christian leading others to Christ, as a mother, as a financial planner for our home, as a friend, and I could go on.  I wonder how God could forgive me when I fail so often.  I struggle to keep his simple commands to love myself and my neighbor as I should.  I struggle to love him the way he deserves to be loved.  I struggle to read my Bible daily.  So many things get in the way.  Still, this morning as I read my Bible I read a chapter in Galatians.  I was trying a reading program and became frustrated that I was only trying to follow a program.  So I chose to read the letters written by Paul because I felt I needed some instruction from the New Testament.  I really needed this chapter today.  It talked about how we are righteous not because of all that we do right but because of what Christ did for us.  He went to the cross.  I must believe and have faith.  I do not have to be captive to guilt because I put on Christ when I submitted to him in baptism.  I am in Christ.  His grace covers me.  Granted I do not have license to do anything I want but I am not under the law of guilt either.

Along with my Bible reading I read a timely article in the Christian Woman magazine.  It was written by Carol Kelly James titled "My Robe of God's Righteousness".  It fit right in with my reading in Galatians 3.  She pointed out her daily struggles and choose to remind herself that she had put on Christ and was wearing the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus.  She went on to talk about putting on God's righteousness.  What a timely article!  How many of us struggle with trying to be "good enough"?  I do often.  I want to put my hope in God and Christ Jesus and know that I have been granted grace in Christ Jesus.  Want you join me as I walk beside still waters and listen quietly as God restores my soul and covers me with his robe of righteousness?

Father, thank you for your Word.  Thank you for your Son, Jesus.  Thank you for people today who can share encouraging lessons from your Word.  Thank you for covering us with your robe of righteousness.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thoughts concerning Hell and God's love for us.

This week I had the opportunity to teach English literature to a high school class.  The reading for the day was an excerpt from Jonathan Edward's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".  First of all I was surprised to see a religious sermon in a public classroom textbook even if it was put there as a fine literary example.  Next it was a challenge to teach such material in a public classroom.  How do I honor the material as I should without becoming "preachy"?  Still, I found some of the writing very interesting and strangely uplifting.  It was a classic "hellfire and brimstone" sermon such as which we try to stay away from these days.  We don't want anyone to think of our God as angry.  Yet if one paid close attention to the sermon there was also great hope and comfort for those who chose to be born again, convert and follow Christ.  He noted that no amount of goodness and right behavior will save us but we must be a part of Christ's body because it is only Christ's blood which saves us.  Wow!  This is what I believe but for some reason this sermon resonated with me that day.  I don't think I take Hell seriously enough and so I don't feel enough of an urgency to tell others of Christ.  I want to help my friends and others outside of Christ to understand His love for us but I wonder if we don't grasp the depth of that love unless we understand the severity of Hell.  God does not want us to spend eternity in Hell even though because of our sin we deserve it.  There is no way we can be good enough in our earthly bodies to stand in the presence of our Holy God.  It is through His great love and mercy that He sent Jesus to live among us and suffer a horrendous death so that we could choose to follow Him and therefore spend eternity in His presence. 

We don't want to picture our God as angry and as a disciplinarian because we are afraid that people will not understand the depth of His love.  Let me ask.  When you see a parent discipline a child because they are about to run into the street or do something that will harm them, do we see that parent as angry and uncaring?  No!  We see that the parent loves that child enough to discipline and correct.  Say the child continues to try running into the street even after being warned.  Will not the parent become "angry" and increase the level of discipline or correction in an effort to turn the child from doing something that can take their life?  Of course they would.  Why then do we become so afraid to suggest that God will do all he can to keep us from Hell (in this analogy the street full of cars that can take our child's life).  Why do we not give warnings about the existence and severity of Hell? 

Jonathan Edward's dipiction of mankind as dangling over Hell as a spider in danger of falling into the firey pit might seem a bit extreme but he comes back to pointing out how Christ comes and rescues us from the firey pit by his grace.  God loves us so much but we cannot understand that love unless we understand the danger we face without Him.  We may think we are good but it is by the grace of God that we are saved from Hell.  Satan wants us there.  God does not.

May you feel the warmth of God wrapping around you today as you look to Him in love.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Yesterday I was privileged to witness the baptism of a young man who has become a part of the student center we work with.  This was a planned time and he had invited Facebook friends and the entire congregation with whom we worship and other friends of his.  He had chosen 2 pm on Saturday as the time of his new birth into Christ.  I'll admit I was tired and not wanting to get out much but because of how special he has become to us and the student center I was not going to miss such a life-changing time for him.  It was amazing to witness someone who has chosen us to fellowship with and to make the decision to put Christ on in baptism.  He did not grow up in the Churches of Christ as so many who I have seen baptized have done.  His was a conscious choice made from study and research.  As I reflected on the events of the day in the wee hours of the next morning I began to feel uncomfortable with some of the events.  Not the baptism by any means but of the people who were not there.  He had invited those from the community that do not usually attend a Church of Christ to come.  They came.  He had invited a friend who lives in Lubbock.  She came.  Several came from within the congregation - not many but some.  I will refrain from naming or describing those who were not there but their absense has caused me to think about myself and those around me that I worship with.

We, as in those within the Churches of Christ, have become so accustomed to seeing our own children who have grown up within the church be baptized that I fear we have forgotten the excitement and importance of supporting those who choose to follow Christ and put him on in baptism at a later age who did not grow up "in the church".  Why were more people not there when they had been invited?  Granted the Christian walk does not end at baptism, it is a beginning but it is a very important beginning.  Had he been getting married then I am sure more would have come.  He did get married in a way as he became a part of the church that is called the bride of Christ.  I am disappointed at the absense of some but so thankful that I was able to be there.  In the future, I pray that if I am invited to the baptism of someone that I don't know very well that I will join in their joy.  We will be family on that day and I want to be there to witness their new birth as they become my brother or sister in Christ.  I pray we all will.  Let's not miss these opportunities to encourage and bless each other with love especially when invited to witness a new birth.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I start this post with a thank you to one of my Facebook friends who is also my friend in real life, Rachel McCarty. She shared a blog called "Hands Free Mama" which I read with delight.  I then went to the original site and read more.  What an encouragement!  It led me to consider my own blog.  I started this blog as a way to share devotional thoughts from God's Word which I still will do from time to time.  I did not want to make it very personal or share too many personal stories but after reading the blog mentioned above I plan to change my focus.  I have many joys in my life and do not focus on them enough.  Many of those joys I want to share.  They don't all involve my family.  My husband is a director of a student center for the students attending the university where we live.  There are many joyful times with the students.  I am a substitute teacher and volunteer at my daughter's school when I am not teaching.  I find much to be joyful of there as well.  I also see things that are a concern and wish I could help more.  My hope is as I write that I may encourage women to look at all the joy in their lives even if it is just one little thing that day.  I must go for now as I have an assignment to teach this afternoon.  Watch for more as the days and weeks go by and I pray this blog will be a blessing as we go.  If you wish to read more from the blog that encouraged me you can find it at    Blessings to you today. Susan

Monday, July 15, 2013


Today I was reading 2 Corinthians 12.  I especially noticed verses 9 and 10.  Paul has a weakness, a thorn in the flesh.  He has asked the Lord to remove it but the answer is no.  The Lord said to Paul "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness."  I often feel I have many weaknesses whether they be physical or spiritual.  I wish I could be stronger in whatever area I am bothered by at the time.  I have never considered being thankful for my weakness.  That would be like giving in to the weakness.  Or would it?  Paul continues in verse 9 "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  He goes on to say he is content with weaknesses among other things.  Now we have no real idea what Paul's weakness was.  He is not specific but what can we learn from Paul?  I want to be a better mother to my daughter by being more consistent each day and to have more energy and clarity of mind to keep up.  I often feel that I am not as strong emotionally as I want to be.  Maybe I should be rejoicing that I don't feel as strong because when I feel really weak is when I turn to God and ask for him to give me strength.  If I was always consistent and strong then I would never feel the need to turn to God.  What about my spiritual life?  If I am always on the mountain top than I will never ask the questions of doubt that then can serve to increase my knowledge of God and deepen my faith.  God provides for me in my weakness and doubt.  I pray often that God will give my the energy I need for the day and the clarity of mind to accomplish the tasks at hand for that day.  Will you join me today to ask our Lord for the strength you and I need to get through this day and rejoice in our weaknesses that send us to God? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confidence and Service

John 13 tells the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  Many of us have read that passage many times.  I know I have.  One of the verses caught my eye in a way it never has before the other day.  Verses 3 and 4 read “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.”  Something about verse 3 struck me this time.  Jesus knew all things were under his power yet he took on the dirty task of washing feet because he knew who he was, where he had come from, and where he was going.  Now that is confidence.  Yet, it was not a confidence in himself.  His confidence came straight from God, his Father.

I can imagine the disciples as they watched their master.  This man that they looked up to and believed to be God’s son and their Savior got down on his knees to take care of them.  Their feet would have been really dirty and maybe even stinky.  I know how dirty my daughter’s feet get when she wears sandals or goes barefoot.  They don’t tend to stink but they sure are dirty.  The master of the house never would wash feet.  That job was left for the servants.

Jesus showed us how to really care for others.  We put their needs above our position in life, our phobias (dirty feet, ugh!), or our own needs.  Yet Jesus knew how to place limits as well.  Peter did not need a full bath.  He only needed his feet washed.  Jesus set the limits to what was really needed.  Can we serve too much?  Maybe so, but we must never say no because we don’t want to serve.   We must only say no when the service is not really needed.  My daughter might as for ice cream right before sitting down at the supper table.  I am not serving her needs correctly if I give it to her right then.  I am serving her well when I feed her healthy food first. 

Let us follow our Master’s example and serve as we should regardless of who we are and how we feel.  Let us find our confidence in whose we are and where we are going when Jesus comes again.