THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

March 11, 2009

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

There is a christian book entitled, "If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat." The premise of the book is that at times, if we want to accomplish anything, we have to get out of our comfort zone. It may be uncomfortable and we may be afraid, but unless we get out of the "boat", then we will never know what God can accomplish through us.

Matthew 14:22-33 records the story of Peter walking on the water. Jesus had been teaching the multitudes, and had just performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. Afterwards, Jesus had his disciples to get into the boat, and go before Him to the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. After the crowds left, Jesus went up to a mountain by Himself to pray.

At some point during the night, the boat with the disciples in it was in the middle of the sea, being tossed to and fro by the wind. In the midst of this, Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him, they became afraid, and thought they were seeing a ghost.

More than likely, during a normal day or night, all twelve of the disciples would have denied any belief in ghost. They were probably already scared, due to the high winds rocking their boat, and their imaginations became very active.

I can just imagine how their conversation might have gone. "Uh, do you see anything out there in the water walking towards our boat?" "No, I don't see anything." "Well, I see something, but my eyes must be getting bad. It kind of looks like a man." "Yeah, that's what I thought! I just wanted to be sure that I wasn't the only one seeing him." "But you know people can't walk on water. Maybe it's just the wind blowing the waves around." "Nope! It looks like a man, and he's getting closer to our boat." "You don't supposed it could be a .... um, you know .... a ghost?" "Well, we have seen Jesus cast out demon spirits and some strange things take place." "What if it's .... no, it can't be ..... but if it is, what are we going to do when it gets to the boat?"

The scripture doesn't record their conversation. But it does say that they cried out in fear.

Immediately, Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid."

I think it's interesting, that apparently the men still weren't sure whether or not it really was Jesus. Their imaginations had already conjured up ghosts, and now this man is saying that he is Jesus, and telling them to be of good cheer.

Isn't it a bit aggravating when you're going through a tough time, and some well meaning person comes up to you and tells you to cheer up? During a time of crisis, we tend to want sympathy and hugs and words of empathy. We don't want someone to tell us to, "Cheer up!" In fact, when that happens we can at times think that person is being hard hearted and uncaring. We think that they have no idea what we're going through or how we're feeling.

Yet in the midst of the storm, when the disciples were all afraid, Jesus tells them to be of good cheer. But He also lets them know that He's with them, and that they don't have to be afraid. We too can have that assurance today, that Jesus will be with us through every storm of our life. We don't have to be afraid, for He will always be right there beside us. He can also calm the turmoil around us and speak peace into our lives.

Fear can cause our minds to go places it should never go. It can cause us to imagine things that are not real, conjure up scenarios that would never happen, and see things that really aren't the way we think they are. It can cause us to doubt God, and question whether or not He's really there.

The disciples had just been with Jesus a few hours ago, and witnessed first hand Him feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. But now fear has gripped their minds, and they are unsure whether or not to believe that Jesus can really walk on the water and come to them.

Peter, the bold one, speaks out and basically issues an ultimatum. He said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

What was Jesus going to say? "Peter, it really is me, but you need to stay in the boat where it's safe."

Peter didn't ask, "Lord, can I come to you?" He didn't say, "Would it be possible for me to also walk on water?" No! He said, "Lord, IF IT IS YOU, then command me to come to You on the water."

Jesus responded by telling Peter to come.

Peter jumped out of the boat and began walking on the water to Jesus. But then he began looking at how boisterous the wind was, and became afraid and began to sink. The scripture doesn't say how far he made it before he began looking at the waves around him. He may have walked five or six steps, or he may have made it almost to where Jesus was. But when Peter cried out, "Lord save me," Jesus was right there to immediately stretch out His hand and pull Peter out of the water. I'm curious if at that point, whether or not Peter walked on water with Jesus walking beside him back to the boat, or if the wind perhaps blew the boat where it was positioned where Jesus and Peter were standing.

I've heard sermons and lessons taught using these scriptures that talked about Peter's lack of faith, and him sinking when he got his eyes off Jesus. That's true. But the fact is, he was also the only man who ever walked on water with Jesus. To me, that doesn't show a lack of faith, but is a show of great faith.

Peter was convinced that if Jesus would bid him to come to Him, then he'd be able to walk on water to get there. He was courageous in having the faith to jump out of the boat and to at least try. That's more than the other disciples did.

I wonder if perhaps the other men were standing on the deck of the boat, and for those few moments when Peter was actually walking on water, thought to themselves, "Why didn't I ask Jesus if I could come to Him on the water?!" Did they regret not asking Jesus if they too could come to Him alongside Peter? But they stayed in the boat, and never had the experience that Peter did.

We can allow all types of situations in life to keep us in the boat. We question, "What if I try and fail," or "What will other people think," or "What if I look silly and mess up," etc. But we can miss out on all sorts of opportunities in life if we are unwilling to ever get out of the boat.

I've mentioned before that I have never learned to swim. Growing up, my family just didn't go swimming much, and when we did, it was in the creek where the water was maybe waist deep. The thing is, I enjoy being around the water. I think sitting beside the ocean is one of the most restful things to do. I enjoy being out in a boat. I think water activities look really fun. But if I'm in the water and my feet can't comfortable touch bottom, I panic.

Jon and I have been trying to plan a vacation for several weeks now. I've been on the internet, researching various possible vacation locations. Some of the places that I've been checking out have snorkeling. I think that looks like one of the coolest things ever to do.

I told my husband a few weeks ago that I really wanted to learn how to swim so that I can one day go snorkeling, and so that we could also enjoy other water activities together. We want to one day go to Sea World, and would love to swim with the dolphins. Jon enjoys canoeing, and I want us to go together, without me being afraid the whole time of tipping over. But I know that none of these things will ever happen if I don't learn how to first swim.

For years I've come up with all sorts of excuses for not learning. I don't look good in a swimsuit (not many people do), or I'd be embarrassed for someone to teach me because what if I panic and can't do it, or what if I look stupid. But I know that if I want to ever fulfill some of my dreams, then this is the first step that I have to take.

About 15 minutes after telling Jon about me wanting to learn to swim, we were eating lunch with some people from church. The daughter, who is around 25, mentioned that she used to be a lifeguard and now gives private swimming lessons. Jon latched onto that like a dog on a bone! I'm sitting there thinking, "Okay God, you didn't waste any time on pushing me out of the boat, and finding me a teacher!" This girl gives lessons to all ages, from little kids up to 70 year olds. Jon asked about her giving me lessons, and we tentatively have it set up where she will begin teaching me to swim this summer.

Part of me is excited, and part of me is afraid and embarrassed. But I know that I need to overcome these feelings in order to succeed. And I am determined that I am going to follow through and learn. I may not be able to go snorkeling with Jon during this year's vacation, but if the opportunity presents itself at a later date, then I will be able to do so.

This is just a simple illustration (although true) on how we sometimes need to push past our own fears and insecurities in order to accomplish life goals. We can sit around and say, "I wish I could do this or that," or we can decide to push beyond our comfort zone and make a decision to get out of the boat and do something about it.

We can do the same thing in our relationship with God. We can sit around and think, "I wish my relationship with God was stronger and that I was a better Christian," or "I wish I knew more about the Bible and more about prayer," or "I wish I was more dedicated in my walk with the Lord." But the truth is, these are all things that each of us can do something about. But it will take work and effort on our part, and may require a little bit of our time.

If we want to know more about the Bible and prayer, then we need to begin reading and studying our Bible more, and spending more time in prayer. Knowledge comes from doing, not from wishing. And honestly, by spending time in Bible reading and prayer, our relationship with God will grow stronger and we'll be more committed to Him.

We have a choice to either be like Peter, or be one of the other eleven disciples. We can get out of the boat, by faith, and walk on water; or we can waste our life, by always standing on the deck and wishing we were more courageous. Getting out of the boat is risky and we won't know the outcome until we do so. But it can be the fulfillment of more than we ever dreamed or imagined. Staying in the boat where it's safe may be comfortable and give us security, but it will also cause us to fall into a rut and become very dull. It can cause us to become stagnant in our life and in our relationship with God. Getting out of the boat will cause us to grow and learn. It will build and increase our faith.

We all must choose for ourselves whether we are going to stay in the boat, or walk on water. Too often, I choose the safe route. But I want to begin choosing the path of faith and adventure. I don't want life to become boring and stagnant. This not only applies to life situations, but also spiritual. I want my relationship with God to grow and develop into an amazing journey. But I have to be willing to step out in faith.

Today may we all consider whether or not we've grown comfortable by sitting in the boat, and doing nothing but "wishing" and "dreaming". If so, then take a step of faith today and get out of the boat. This may be your time for some water walking!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

All too often, when we step out of the boat, things don't go perfectly. It's tempting to think that stepping out was a mistake, and that it wasn't really Jesus calling to us. Perhaps that's what Peter started to think. Or, perhaps a wave caught him by surprise and he wasn't sure how to catch his balance. In any case, things didn't go the way Peter expected them to. That's normal when we step out of the boat.

But, and here's the coolest part of the story to me, when it went bad, and Peter started to drop into the water, he didn't take one last deep breath. He didn't even try to hold his breath. He used up what might have seemed like his last breath to cry out to Christ!

I can't be sure from the writing, but I think Jesus was a pretty good distance from Peter when Peter started to sink. Before Peter jumped out, Jesus was barely close enough to be seen, but also close enough to be heard. However far away He was, Jesus grabbed Peter immediately.

ON THE MENEWE:

Apple Chip Cookies

ΒΌ cup butter

1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 cup half and half

1 cup apples -- peeled, pared and chopped

1 egg

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1/2 tsp. Baking soda

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar; beat in half & half, egg, soda, salt, nutmeg and flour. Add apples, chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350.

Glaze:

4 Tbsp. Butter, melted

1 tsp. Cinnamon

4-5 Tbsp. Half and Half

2 cups powdered sugar

To make glaze: combine ingredients to desired consistency and spread over the baked cookies.

LAMB TALES:

Many years ago, when I was young and not quite as wise, I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law who pastored a church in Austin, TX. They had a lady in their church who was the same age as me. We were quite different, but had became acquainted over the years of me visiting there. I was in banking and more quiet. She was a fire fighter for the Austin Fire Department, was loud and out-going, and was a little rough around the edges. But she was nice, and would always want the two of us to do something together when I was there visiting my sister and her family.

One particular time, she had bought a new boat and wanted me to go out with her, and two or three other people, to the lake. It was just the two of us for the first hour or so, then we picked up the others. We had been out on the lake for a short time, when she decided that she wanted to anchor the boat so the two of us could go swimming. I was too embarrassed to tell her that I couldn't swim. So when she dove out of the boat, I jumped in right behind her. Thankfully, I was smart enough to wear a life vest! I went under and swallowed some water and began choking, but thankfully the life jacket brought me to the top very quickly. I spent the time floating around, while staying near the boat either hanging onto the ladder with my hand or foot. As far as I know, she never found out that I couldn't swim. That was not one of my smartest moments, and I have never made that same mistake ever again!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. Proverbs 3:13

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

This edition of the newsletter marks the beginning of our third year. It's hard to believe that we have already been writing these weekly newsletters for two full years now. We pray that your life has somehow been encouraged or touched by what we have written, and will continue to write. Thank you and God bless you for taking the time to read these each week.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org