Posts Tagged ‘Lake Hartwell’

1 Samuel 7:3-17 (Part 3 of 3)
Samuel Leads Israel to Victory

Water is important. Water is the elixir of life. Without it, we will die. We live in a water-like substance for the first nine months of our existence within our mother’s wombs. We need it to survive outside our mother’s womb. Watch any marathon, you will see that they require water stations at multiple points throughout the race. And, you have seen what happens to a runner who is not properly hydrated in a marathon race. Some will faint and collapse in a heap during the race. Some will have their muscles seize up on them because of the lack of hydration in their bodies. Water is important.

Water was always important in my family growing up. My mom would take us swimming from the time we were little boys, babes in arms almost. As a result, my brother and I loved the water growing up. Whether it be going to a swimming pool when we had a YMCA nearby or just running through the sprinkler in the backyard or swimming in a lake, we loved it. When we moved to Anderson, SC when we were middle schoolers, we thought it was the coolest thing that we had Lake Hartwell nearby. My dad bought a boat and through one of the best friends I had when we lived there, Donnie Garrison, we had access to a private cove on the lake. His dad owned a big farm right there on the lake. Donnie and I were in the water all the time during the summers. Water skiing was our thing on the weekend and when we weren’t skiing we were swimming. Lake Hartwell was the fluid that lubricated our friendship. When we were not swimming, we exploring the woods around the lake on the Garrison property. Man, I remember those summer weekends, my dad would be pulling us the skis behind the boat for miles and miles and it was an every weekend thing from May to September. It was so much fun. And dad had gotten really good about knowing how to maximize our leanouts on turns. Donnie and I had gotten so good at skiing that on our leanouts on turns we would almost be horizontal. The g-force against us was wild. We would probably be doing about 30 miles per hour going through those turns (and it seemed like 60 mph when you were on the skiis and leaning out almost down to the water on a turn). Man, I still remember those days. I can still feel the speed on those turns in my mind right now. And the wipeouts on turns would be spectacular…like a rock skipping on water. And the one of us that didn’t wipe out on the turn would be laughing like crazy when dad would have to circle back around to pick the downed skier back up. Water was so important to us in those days. Had to be in it, on it, or by it.

Water is important to the Christian faith as well. Jesus, the man who needed no forgiveness for He was God in the flesh, was immersed in water to fulfill all righteousness when He began his public ministry. We are baptized in the water as a public profession of what God has already done in our souls through the salvation of Jesus Christ. It is symbolic of the change wrought by believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose on the third day to give us hope of eternal life with Him. It is the symbol of our salvation. Water is important and it is symbolic to Christians. When we get baptized, we are lowered into the water as persons with no hope and that are mired in the scales of sin. We are immersed in the water and it is during that immersion that it is symbolic of what Jesus has done for us. He has washed away our sins by His death on the cross. He took our sins with Him to the tomb and left them there. Just as the immersion in the water is what cleans away the dirt and nastiness of our sins. Further, just as Jesus was laid in the tomb, we are immersed in the water. Just as Jesus left death and sin in the grave, we leave symbolically our sins in the waters of salvation. They stay there. We are redeemed and made clean in the waters of Jesus’ gracious salvation. Just as Jesus arose from the grave, our coming out of the water in baptism symbolizes our new life in Christ. It symbolizes our victory over death in our sins. Jesus’ resurrection from the grave assures us that that we have new life and no longer are we suffering under the death penalty of sin. Our arising from the water in baptism symbolism that new life. We have been bathed in the water covering of what Jesus did for us on the cross and we symbolically arise from the water clean and free from the death sentence of our sin’s filth. You can, thus, kinda say that water is a wee bit important as a symbolic thing in the Christian faith. It is important to God that water be a symbolic of life. It is important in the organic world and it is important to us as God’s people as a symbol of the necessity of God in our lives, the necessity of faith, the necessity of cleansing ourselves and making ourselves right with God. Water is important.

It is that idea of the importance of water in the physical world and in God’s relationship with man that I thought of this morning. Just as water was pretty much the basis of my and Donnie Garrison’s friendship, we see the importance of water in the life of God’s people as well in this passage, 1 Samuel 7:3-17. With that in my mind, let’s read it together right now:

3 Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord.

5 Then Samuel told them, “Gather all of Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and, in a great ceremony, drew water from a well and poured it out before the Lord. They also went without food all day and confessed that they had sinned against the Lord. (It was at Mizpah that Samuel became Israel’s judge.)

7 When the Philistine rulers heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they mobilized their army and advanced. The Israelites were badly frightened when they learned that the Philistines were approaching. 8 “Don’t stop pleading with the Lord our God to save us from the Philistines!” they begged Samuel. 9 So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered him.

10 Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. 11 The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way.

12 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah.[a] He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

13 So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for some time. And throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the Lord’s powerful hand was raised against the Philistines. 14 The Israelite villages near Ekron and Gath that the Philistines had captured were restored to Israel, along with the rest of the territory that the Philistines had taken. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites in those days.

15 Samuel continued as Israel’s judge for the rest of his life. 16 Each year he traveled around, setting up his court first at Bethel, then at Gilgal, and then at Mizpah. He judged the people of Israel at each of these places. 17 Then he would return to his home at Ramah, and he would hear cases there, too. And Samuel built an altar to the Lord at Ramah.

In this passage, we see that pouring water on the ground “before the Lord” was a sign of repentance from sin, turning from idols, and determining to obey God alone. It was Samuel’s way of demonstrating to God that the people were ready to repent of their sins and become a renewed people before God. The people of Israel during the time of the judges had been a horrid, sinful lot and it is here that water poured on the land was symbolic of how they wanted to turn from their sin and return unto God.

When I read this passage I really picked up on that water thing because I understand the importance of baptism as a symbolic gesture in the Christian faith. The water symbolism used in Christian baptism has its roots in the Old Testament. Here we see one of the examples of how water is symbolic of the cleansing of the people. That is what baptism symbolizes in the Christian faith. The people of Israel had already committed to repentance and Samuel’s pouring out of water on to the land “before the Lord” was symbolic of what had already happening in the life of the people of Israel. Similarly, baptism, the act, does not in and of itself impart salvation. It is simply a beautifully symbolic and powerful testament to what has already occurred in the believer’s soul. Salvation has already occurred and baptism is how we “go public” about our faith, about our already occurred salvation experience. Water is important. It is important to God. It is important symbolically in God’s relationship to man. Water is reality is the most important thing that we need physically to survive and not die. It is the same as a symbol of what God does for us through Jesus. We need Jesus as much spiritually as much as we need water physically. It is no wonder that God influenced us to use water as the most central symbol of the Christian faith.

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 8:23-27
Jesus Calms the Storm
Picture if you will a 12 year-old boy on a slalom water ski being pulled behind his father’s boat. Back in my pre-teen and teenage years, this was Saturdays in the Summer. My best friend from those years, Donnie Garrison, and I would ski any chance we got. Just find my Dad or Donnie’s Dad and get the boat on the water. We became really good at it. Not professional but really good. No two skis for us. It was slalom all the way. Man, could we get air when we jump the wakes. Time of your life, huh, kid? We would ski for hours on end every Saturday. And the best part was coming back to our beach cove at Donnie’s property which was our base of operations on Saturdays. When we would come back from a run, Daddy would drop each of us off so that we could show off coming for a landing and see if we could make to shore without stopping and just hop off on land. Then, the next guy. Afterwards, Donnie and I would argue over who had the best run and the best landing. Great times.

Man, those memories come flooding back in HD picture quality when you allow yourself to think about them. The reason I bring up those summers of skiing every weekend on Lake Hartwell is that it brings back one memory as clear as day. Picture, if you will, my Dad pulling us along for another Saturday on the lake. This time we all decided so see how long we could take it. From the Garrison’s cove near Stone Creek Cove on Lake Hartwell down to the Hartwell dam is about a 7 mile ride by boat. It we could make it there and back, we would have slalomed 14 miles. If you have ever water skied, you know how much pressure slaloming puts on your lower back so this was an endurance test. Picture if you will, as we get down to the dam and get as close as we can before the roped off area in front of the main part of the dam, we make the turn to head home. As we look north back toward where we came from, we see a storm cloud approaching of fierce proportions. Picture if you will racing back to our home cove some 7 miles away by water. Picture if you will the heavens opening up and lightning flashing everywhere. Picture my Dad flooring the boat motor to get back to our cove as fast as possible. If he stopped it would take 10 minutes to get me and my friend Donnie and I back into the boat, pick up the skis and the ropes, and then to get back up to full speed. We had no time. Lake Hartwell was white-capping because of the storm. I was a great slalom skier back then, but this was work to stay upright. Lake Hartwell was like an ocean that day…deep pits between waves, white caps, wind blowing hard. Rain was hitting me hard and felt like little bee stings all over the front of my body. Add to that, we were getting tired from the long run. There was pain along the way that made me wonder if I was going to make it back to our home shore, but through it all though I trusted my Dad to get me back to our cove so I could drop the rope and slide into shore for a perfect landing!

That leads us to our Scripture passage for today. Let’s read:

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

There are three striking features in this passage. The first is that Jesus was sleeping during this furious storm. Why was he sleeping? The second thing is that fear had taken hold of the disciples that they did not think that would make it back to shore so much so that they cried out to Jesus. Finally, it is striking too that Jesus with a few words or less spoke and calmed the storm. The Scripture passage demonstrates to us that we must have faith to fully experience the power of God through His son, Jesus Christ.

The first point that I mentioned was that Jesus was sleeping through the storm. How could he sleep through a furious storm? Well, first off, Jesus was tired. Likely tired as any minister is after busy day of preaching, counseling, meetings, etc. Jesus was living his life in a human body so he got tired and needed sleep like the rest of us. Yet, in the midst of a raging storm, he continued to sleep. In his very core, He knew that He was secure. He had faith in the Heavenly Father to guide his human life through the storm. As I mentioned earlier, about water skiing through a torrential downpour, I had faith that my Dad was leading me to safety. Same here. Jesus knew His Heavenly Father was going to take care of him. Jesus also knew that he had the power of God at his hand. Jesus was living what he preached. Serenity in the face of the storm. Do we react to storms in this way? Do we have the serenity to allow us to have peace and comfort through the storms of life? Don’t you think too that Jesus’ sleeping through the storm was to see how his disciples would handle it? Often storms of life are not of our own making. Often storms of life are forced upon us. Storms being forced upon us can be a factory shutdown where we lose our job by no fault of our own. Storms can be an unwanted divorce. Storms can be a husband’s or wife’s affair. Storms can be an unplanned pregnancy. Storms of life can be the unexpected death of a loved one or a close friend. Storms of life can take many shapes and forms in our lives. Can we handle it as Jesus taught us? Can we trust that God will guide us through the storm such that we can find rest, peace in the storm?

The second point that is interesting is that the disciples were distraught to the point of fearing for their lives. These guys had been hanging around with Jesus for a while at this point, but yet at the first sign of trouble they were just like the rest of us. They forgot what they had been taught and were ready to give up. In my earlier illustration, you know that I could have easily let go of the rope and let myself drop into the rough waters and wait for my Dad to swing around and come get me out of the water. In a sense that would have been like giving up on what my Dad was trying to do – get us back to our cove as quickly as possible. Isn’t that what the disciples are doing here? Their fear of the storm overcame them. Their fear overcame their faith. They had little faith that they were going to make it through the storm. They feared that their expectations were not going to be met. In their humanness, they wanted the boat. They wanted the calm waters. They wanted to reach the other shore dry and none the worse for wear. They had little faith that even if they were tossed into the water that there was purpose in it. They did not have faith that God would see them through the storm whether it was in the boat or not. They got so distraught that they came to Jesus and woke him and asked him to save them lest they drown. Jesus reminds them that they should have had faith in Him. He asks them “why are you so afraid?” In other words, in today’s language, “Yo dudes, why are you so afraid…you got me right here…You know I got your back.” Isn’t that the way it is with us. We shout and scream at the storm for upsetting our personal plan for the way things should be. We work ourselves through our own choices, our own dependence on ourselves, that we ultimately get to the point that we cannot control our world anymore. We cry out to Jesus to save us from the storm. Jesus was there all along. We know of his power. We ignore the power that faith in Him can give us but yet we focus on ourselves and work our lives into a frenzy of seeking our own solutions. What happens when we come to the realization and come to the back of the boat and ask Jesus to save us from our storms? He is immediately available. He has been there all along. Why do we ignore Him? Why can’t we, from the beginning, go sit with Jesus in the back of the boat and know that He is there. Knowing that He is there will calm the storm in us and help us weather the storms of our own making or the storms that are forced upon us by others.

The final point that is interesting here is that with a couple of words the storms go away immediately. Jesus, in some translations of the Word, says, “Peace. Be Still!” And the heavens dried up and the clouds dissipated immediately at his command. The waters became calm immediately. This passage reminds me that Jesus is the Son of God. He had the full power of God. The elements of the earth obey his commands as He is their Maker. The disciples were astonished that the storm went away in an instant. Apparently, there was no gradual dissipation of the storm as we are often used to with storms. He said those few words and BAM! The storm was gone as if it had never existed. If Jesus and the disciples had lived their human lives in today’s world, the disciples would have said, “Whooooaaaa! Dude, did you see what He just did. It was like…. Then, he said, “Chill out!, to the storm”…and then it was like….whoa!” This Scripture passage points out that Jesus was truly the Son of God. He has control of the elements. He can control any storm. This gives me great confidence in my Savior. He can help me through anything. He can calm the storm in my life or he can calm the storm in my soul. He is my source of strength. He is my defender and my shield. As Philippians 4:12 says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation!” I know that no matter what situation or season of life that I find myself in, God is right there. He is in my boat. He leads me into the situations I need to be in. He leads me to greater dependence on Him when I trust Him. Just as I trusted my Dad to lead me back to our cove on Lake Hartwell without question. I knew my Dad was doing the right thing for me. I trusted that. When we trust God with the very fabric of our lives, He will lead us to where we need to be. He will bless us for having depended on Him. He will show us a happiness and joy we’ve never known on a human scale. Just as the disciples were in awe of His control of the physical elements of the world, we will be in awe of the changes that he will wrought in our lives.

Do you have the faith? Can you trust in Him? Can you let go of your control of your life? Can you give it all over to Him…not just the parts that are convenient to give up? Can you give it ALL up to him? Can we trust God with everything, every aspect of our lives? Our marriage? Our children? Our jobs? Our money? Our time, talents, and resources? Sure, God does not want us to ignore the storms of life. He gave us brains to plan and execute. In prayer, we seek His guidance on how to plan and execute, but bottom line is that we must learn to depend on Him for the way through the storm. Bottom line is that He will teach us things that we need to know in the storms. Bottom line is that in the storms we learn dependence on Him. How freeing is it when we trust in the Lord totally and completely. There is joy that comes from that. There is peace that comes from that. He’s always right there in the boat with us, guiding us, directing us, toward the safe shores of home. He’s got this! Let us trust that! Let us know that! Let us live that!

Amen and Amen.