Dear Brothers & Sisters,
We greet you in the name of Jesus! I hope this letter finds you well. We are very proud of you for having the courage to plant new churches. We pray for Pastor Mark Booker and his family as they go to Boston, Pastor Chuck Colson in Virginia, Pastor Tommy Hinson at Advent, and of course the theologian, Pastor Matt Anderson. And we pray for everyone in your churches.
After planting Resurrection, Advent & Ascension, we pray that you might start a new one in the ghetto and name it the The Church of the Glorification! Seriously, your approach to naming churches, which is not our practice here in Rwanda, is inspirational to me. These names give vision, vision stirs up passion, and passion leads to action with tangible, wonderful results. Amen!
I want to share with you all a meditation based on Jesus’ Calming of the Storm (Matthew 8:23). As Jesus and the disciples crossed the sea, there arose a strong, whirling wind , the tide began to rise, and a violent storm came upon them. The waves threatened to overflow the boat despite the vain attempts of the sailors to bail out the water. As the boat began to submerge, the disciples were scared to death. Their expertise in sailing, their acquaintance with the sea and weather patterns, and any other skills they may have had were all vainly utilized to rescue themselves. I can hear them yelling desperately: “We are about to become food for the big fish, and a supper meal for the hungry, angry crocodile! Oh Jesus how can you cheat us like this?. You promised that we would cross the sea but now we are drowning. Aren’t you worried that we are perishing?”
Jesus in response called them, “Little faith ones.” He did not call them “disciples” but referred to them only by description: people of little faith. He could not call them disciples, for discipleship is ultimately about being like one’s master. The so-called disciples should have behaved like Jesus, whom the gospel describes as being soundly asleep. Jesus was at rest, not caring about the tsunami, no matter how furious it may have been. Jesus trusted in his heavenly Father, who had told him that He had to cross the sea safely. His Father had given him a mission to accomplish on the other side of the sea shore: a demonic was waiting to be delivered.
Let’s think for a moment about the way fear works. First, fear deceives. The disciples said, “We’re drowning,” when in fact they weren’t. Second, fear is a catalyst for self-centeredness. In Mark’s account (4:35ff), the disciples ask, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” They never thought about the fate of Jesus, that he too would suffer if they all were drowned. Third, fear is often a means for blame-shifting. Instead of taking responsibility for their predicament, the disciples blamed Jesus, even though they knew that he was asleep and not the cause of the storm. Fourth, fear makes us forget God’s promises. Jesus believed that they would make it across the sea, and he slept peacefully because of his faith. The disciples, however, forgot the promises of God, and began to see themselves as fish food. Fifth, fear paralyzes and consumes our energy. The disciples wore themselves out bailing, rather than immediately turning to the one who had the power to save them. Even though fear is a normal physiological response when we are threatened, it can be an enemy of faith according to Jesus.
Now let’s think conversely about the benefits of faith. Faith vanishes fear. Why? Because it gives us hope. Faith enables us to see the ultimate goal, the final destination. Faith says, “God is trustworthy and his promises never fail. He is able and loving!” Faith sees the resolution beyond the problems and confesses, “Sooner or later this too will end, and all will be well.” While still walking through the desert, faith sees the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. This kind of vision provides us with emotional stability. It climbs up problems and uses them as springboards, so that we might be able to jump further in terms of patience, stability, maturity and victory.
Faith is no illusion (ala Freud), or an opiate (ala Sartre) to make us ignore reality. As a matter of fact, Jesus maintained emotional stability, even though he could see the storm and the boat sinking. Remember how I commended you on the names of your churches, names which give vision, and vision stirs up passion, and passion leads to action with tangible, wonderful results? Jesus’ secret was a vision to cross the sea and deliver the demoniac (which would lead to consequent passion, action & results as we continue in the story.) I am reminded of the words of a famous missionary, paraphrasing our Lord’s words in John 17:4, “I cannot die before I finish all the work God has given me to do on this earth.”
When jesus calmed the storm, the disciples responded by asking what kind of man he was, who could take command even over nature itself. What a remarkable thing for them to say in light of how they had already grown accustomed to calling him master! They didn’t really know him.
Yes, Jesus is the master of everything. We have every reason to rely on His promises and follow Him.
Deo and Beatrice
The Anglican Church of Rwanda