Week 4: Quiet! Be Still!: Preparing for Chaos in Your Daily Routine By Alex Russo

In the Gospel of Mark, we experience an often cited narrative in which Jesus, along with his disciples, cross a lake in a small boat. A very common, very normal, and very routine course of events. Picture this… it was a normal, rather calm day for Jesus and his disciples. On a standard commute across the lake (i.e. the sea of Galilee), the disciples were shooting the breeze, Jesus asleep on a cushion in the stern, when suddenly… “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Peace turns to chaos, calm turns to anxiety, and certainty turns to uncertainty. Panic sets in and the disciples begun to flurry about the deck of the boat in fear, panic, and utter chaos. Responding out of fear, they abruptly awaken Jesus and say to him “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

What happens next is quite normal for Jesus, but quite extra-normal for the disciples. Without hesitation, without batting an eye “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

What is intriguing about this particular text and what I feel is an often overlooked point it contains is the who and what of Jesus’ command. Certainly his first response is a command to the wind and the waves to halt, quiet, and bring stillness to his immediate environment. “Quiet! Be still!” he commands with authority and power. Jesus was fulfilling a prophesy once foretold in Psalm 89:9 which reads “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” He is also demonstrating his authority and omnipresent power over nature itself. But let us think for a minute... and let us challenge the text a little.

Who was Jesus really rebuking? The wind and waves, or his disciples?

As soon as peace was removed from their immediate surroundings, the disciples responded accordingly. Chaos begot chaos. As soon as peace was restored, the disciples responded accordingly. Peace begot peace. Just look how quick;y we are to respond to our environment? How capricious are our emotions and reactions?

When we live day to day, walking through the motions, routine to routine, we often forget what chaos and uncertainty is like. What seemed like a routine commute across the lake, something the disciples had likely done hundreds if not thousands of times, turned into an unexpected situation of chaos.

What does your normal routine look like? What have you become familiar with in your day to day schedule? What do you think about during your commute to work, school, or to church?

What I believe this text is telling us is to always be prepared and ready for chaos, even when we least expect it. Our routines often desensitize us to the jagged, uncontrollable, and uncertain events of life in a fallen world. When we are prepared for the uncertainties of this world how might we respond to them? Will we respond like the disciples in fear, anxiety, and loss of control? Or will we respond like Jesus, rebuking, commanding, and having authority over the situation. When Jesus says ““Quiet! Be still!” he is not merely speaking to nature but he is speaking to his panicked disciples. He is speaking to you and me.

How we respond to situations, good or bad, is directed correlated to our identity and knowledge of Christ. Mull over this for a while… after this whole situation unfolded the disciples said “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” They may have been with Jesus, but they did not know Jesus or have a confident understanding of his magnificent authority. Once we know Jesus and understand our identity in him, we can soon focus on our routines with Christ-like security, always being on guard (1 Corn. 16:13), and prepared for the uncertain nature of a fallen world.

When you are confident in your identity with Christ, responding to chaos becomes a normal and expected part of your routine. The storm did not take Jesus by surprise, and it should not take you by surprise neither.

Respond

  • How do you typically respond to the chaos that comes into your life unexpectedly?

  • Are you prepared for the uncertain events in your life? If not, what are some practical steps you can take to prepare for these chaotic times?

  • Think about Jesus’ command “Quiet! Be still!” What does that mean to you?

Week 3: The End is Near By Danny Skinner

The end is near! For some of us, this fast has been quite easy. It’s easy to put away the junk food or the Facebook app for 21 days, right? For others, it has been a time of total reliance upon God to get you through the day, hour, minute, or even second. Regardless of which group you fall into, I want to encourage you to continue to fight the good fight over the next few days. Come Wednesday night at the Gathering, we will be celebrating the end of this fast with an emphasis on prayer and worship! Today, I want to tell you that this one fast doesn’t just stop here. It’s not a “once a year” kind of a discipline in the Christian life. In fact, it’s a practice that should be put to use more and more as we grow closer to Christ in our relationship to Him. Read these words out of Matthew’s gospel account:

 

 

“Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

(Matthew 9:14-15)

 

Do you understand what’s going on here? John the Baptist’s disciples have come to Jesus, questioning why He and His disciples never fast. Of course, the Pharisees and all the other religious leaders would fast all the time! It was a practice that they prided themselves on. But how does the Lord answer? He uses a wedding analogy. To give some context as to why He would use a wedding analogy, one of the major practices of the people of God in the Old Testament was fasting. Fasting and mourning always went together. For example, in Nehemiah 9:1, immediately after the Israelites realized their sinfulness, in due part to reading the Law of Moses (Nehemiah 8), what did they do? They mourned and fasted. In the Old Testament, fasting is always a symbolic thing that the people of God would do to show humility, repentance, and renewal of their relationship with God. It was a way of expressing that they truly needed to rely on God and His promises, which included their coming Messiah. And so, they would fast regularly throughout their days; some would even fast twice a week (Luke 18:12)!

 

When Jesus uses the analogy of a bridegroom and the wedding guests, ultimately, He is saying “The reason you were fasting is because the Bridegroom wasn’t at the wedding. But now the Bridegroom is HERE, so there is no need to fast.” My friends, Jesus was referring to Himself as the Bridegroom! His disciples weren’t fasting like the Pharisees and John’s disciples because they were experiencing the true presence of joy manifested in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. When you go to a wedding, when the Bridegroom is present, would you begin to cry hysterically and mourn? Of course not! A wedding is a time of festivity and celebration! When Jesus was with His disciples, it was a time of festivity and celebration--the Bridegroom had COME and was PRESENT. But He goes on to say that there will come a time when His disciples WILL fast, right?


The people of God in the Old Testament fasted because they were mourning their sin and trusting in God’s hopeful promises. The disciples of Jesus were not fasting at that moment because they had the Promise of God physically with them. Anyone who comes to faith in Christ after Jesus ascended to Heaven fasts in order to draw closer and closer to Him. Christian fasting is a way of expressing our deep, longing desire to be present with the Bridegroom. It’s a way of showing that we truly do need Jesus in our lives, that we must be in total reliance upon Him. We fast because we have tasted of the heavenly joy that is in salvation, because we know Jesus has already come, and because we are expecting Jesus to come back again for us. So, although this 21-day fast is coming to an abrupt end, know that from here on out, you can fast in order to draw closer and closer to your Bridegroom.

Week 2: Fasting With Purpose By Domanique Cordova

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

Fasting was never meant to be a show of discipline or sacrifice. It was not designed as a means by which to display a person’s “spirituality”. It’s much more personal than that. Fasting was designed by a personal God. The God of the universe, who made the earth and everything in it and yet also made you and me and desires to be intimate with us. That, in broad terms, is fasting’s purpose. It’s a chance to strip away the things that don’t matter, that distract us from being one on one with our Creator. It is in those most intimate of settings, when it’s just you and God, that His blessings flow freely.

In the above passage from Matthew, Jesus warns against fasting for show. He basically says that, for those who fast seeking only to appear “spiritual”, that’s the only thing they’ll get out of it. The appearance of righteousness. Nothing genuine or eternal. This is because God doesn’t care what your fast looks like. He isn’t up in heaven weighing your fast against someone else’s. If you think that God’s blessing is determined by what you give up or for how long, you’re doing it wrong. True fasting is about the position of your heart.

Jesus’ instructions are clear. He demonstrates them Himself in Matthew 4 when He fasts for 40 days alone in the wilderness. Fasting is a personal commitment and act of worship to God. This isn’t to say that you can’t share about your fast. However, if you sharing it is more about the Instagram “likes” than bringing glory to God, you’re hindering the blessing that God wants to pour out on you. On the other hand, if your fast is just a means to an end, a way for you to “get something” from God, you need to check yourself. You don’t fast to be blessed. You fast to honor God and from that honor flows blessing.

The bottom line is that, as a Christian, you are called to be like God (Ephesians 5:1-2). He showed His immense love for you by giving something up. He sent His son to be crucified for your sin. How much more should you be willing to sacrifice some small earthly thing to give honor to Him, to show Him how much He is loved by you? He’s your Father. He wants to bless you. He isn’t interested in big, spectacular shows of “love” that in actuality bring more attention to you than Him. He wants to know you care when it’s just between the two of you. He wants to know you love Him from the secret places of your heart. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

 

Week 1: Where Life, Joy, and Pleasure are Really Found By Caleb Eaton

Psalm 16:11

“You make known to me the paths of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

When I was a young boy, like most children, I was in constant pursuit of pleasure. I LOVED theme parks and rollercoaster’s, trampolines, pools (especially with slides that dump you in the pool) and playing with action figures...not dolls! By nature, I was and am a pleasure seeker. I enjoy thrilling, sensational and adventurous things. Things that make me feel good! Don’t we all? I believe it is innate inside all of us to seek out things that bring pleasure and the sense of “feeling good.”

Of course the things mentioned above are innocent pleasures of life that can and should be enjoyed. Yet, sometimes we can live our lives in this constant pursuit of the pleasures of life. In other words, we live for pleasure. We live for the thing that makes us the happiest. As a youth and young adult pastor I hear quite a bit, “If it makes me happy, I should just do it, right?” WRONG! Excuse me, I didn’t mean to yell. We have to know that some things that make us feel good are not good for us. It’s actually called sin and usually sin feels good, smells good, sounds good and tastes good but only leaves us with shame, regret and guilt.

Hear me out, I am not saying pleasure is evil or we shouldn’t enjoy things that make us feel good. Pleasure is not the enemy and the Bible actually says God has given us richly, all things to be enjoyed! But to LIVE FOR these earthly pleasures, and to partake in pleasures that are sinful and damaging is the problem.

I love the psalm that is quoted above. It says, “You make known to me the paths of LIFE; in your presence there is fullness of JOY; at your right hand are PLEASURES forevermore.” What the Psalmist is saying is that real, long lasting and enduring LIFE, JOY and PLEASURE are actually found IN God! You don’t have to live your life in constant pursuit of the next best thing that will fulfill your desire for pleasure. We have the greatest pleasure while we are in the presence of God! This is the one and only thing that will fulfill the desire for life, joy and pleasure.

To conclude this brief blog, I want to highlight the portion of this text that says, “in your presence.” It is essential and absolutely imperative (especially during this 21 day fast) for every follower of Jesus to BE in the presence of God. Fasting is incomplete if we are just abstaining from something. We must draw closer to God in His presence. Life, joy and pleasure that are long lasting are found only in the presence of God. Knowing this, you will stop searching and constantly pursuing that pleasure to fill that need. It’s exhausting. The most rewarding thing we can do is pursue the great and magnificent presence of God.

You may be saying, “Cool Caleb! But, what do I do next?” Here is how we can apply this Psalm to our lives...

Take some time today to pray, read His word, worship Him personally and thank Him for things. Whether that time is 10 minutes or an hour, take time to get in His presence. I promise you, the most rewarding thing you can do with your every day life is to seek God in His presence.

If you make this a daily HABIT (shameless plug for our new sermon series titled...you guessed it, HABITS) watch God fill you with life, joy and pleasure.