Aaron Beard

"Two Men Sleep on a Boat" by Aaron Beard

Two Men Sleep On A Boat

I have never been in a circumstance in which I would be sleeping on a boat. I have never been on a cruise and the only “sea” fishing trips I have taken were in the gulf for 6 hours. I’m sure it’s pretty easy to sleep on a cruise ship (unless it’s a Carnival cruise ship), but it’d probably take some time to get used to sleeping on a fishing boat. They rock, make noises, and could not be comfortable.

Yet in the Bible, we read of two individuals who seemed to find it quite easy to go to sleep on a ship. Not only did they go to sleep on a ship, but they were sleeping through terrible storms. The storms were so bad, nobody else could sleep and everybody else thought the ship would be destroyed. Who were these men? You are probably already thinking about Jesus, but the one that you might forget about is Jonah. In their stories we have two men, sleeping on ancient ships, being sound asleep, a doing so during horrible storm. It sounds like their situations would be very similar, but their state was as different as night and day.

Here is Jonah’s story: “Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, "What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish." And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.” (Jonah 1:3-7)

Here is the story of Jesus: “And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:36-41).

Jonah was asleep in the belly of the ship because he was running from God. He was filled with guilt and most certainly anxiety. I am sure Jonah knew deep down inside him that he could not run or hide from God. Yet he was doing it anyway. Jonah was asleep trying to avoid doing what he knew he should do… preach to a lost world. He was sleeping in that ship in disobedience to the Lord. He was sleeping outside of God’s will. The storm died down and the winds ceased that night only because they threw Jonah overboard into the sea where he was swallowed by a great creature.

Jesus was also asleep in the belly of a ship. But Jesus was asleep because He had fully given Himself to doing the Father’s will. Jesus was exhausted from teaching a lost world. He was asleep in complete trust of His Father. He was sleeping free from guilt knowing He was living in obedience to the Father. He was sleeping out of feelings of contentment, peace, and fulfillment. This storm also died down, but because Jesus stood on its deck and commanded the winds and waves saying, “PEACE BE STILL”

We usually don’t find ourselves trying to sleep in the belly of ships that are in the middle of horrible storms. But we do find ourselves every night in bed trying to sleep in the midst of the storms of life. We all lay our heads down on our pillows at night either in peace and or in conflict. We are either worn out from running from God, or we are worn out by running with God. We have exhausted ourselves by trying to avoid serving God or in service to Him. We close our eyes with filled with anxiety and guilt or trust and peace. We fall asleep knowing we are living in God’s will or we fall asleep knowing we are outside of God’s will.

The stories of Jesus and Jonah are very different, but there is a similarity. Jonah spent three days in the belly of that sea creature before God caused it to spew Jonah out on the shore. Jonah became a figure of what would happen to Jesus. Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Jesus, like Jonah, spent three days in the belly of a beast. The beast for Jesus was the grave. On the third day, Jesus arose from the dead and came forth from the grave. Death could not hold him. Because Jesus conquered death, we change the way we sleep. We don’t have to sleep like Jonah, we can sleep like Jesus.

Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5). And later he adds, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21).

Aaron Beard

"Dealing With Deception" by Aaron Beard

Dealing With Deception

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” These are words that many of us spoke when we were younger when someone said something hurtful to us or about us. If we were creative we followed it up by saying, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” These statements sound good and they appear to provide some relief, however, they are just a defense mechanism. The truth is that words do hurt and we are not really made out of rubber. In some ways it would be nice if these words were true, but they are not. It’s no wonder Solomon wrote, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21). Among the many forms hurtful words take, lies are some of the most painful, difficult, and destructive words to be forced to face.

Sadly, our society views deception as normal, excuses are made for it, and it is even glorified. If you must lie to prevent hurting someone’s feeling, our culture gives you the green light to lie. If being deceptive helps give you an advantage in your workplace or social circles, it is rationalized. If you need to lie to achieve what you want, our world has deemed it permissible. If avoiding the truth is necessary to sidestep painful or difficult consequences, others will be understanding of it. While God’s people will strive to be a people of total truthfulness (Ephesians 4:25), we cannot control what others say concerning us or to us. With the prevalence and acceptance of lying, we will have to face people lying, manipulating, and purposefully misleading us; however, we are not alone. Consider some important things we learn from people of faith in God’s word who also had to deal with deceptive people…

When Nehemiah was making great progress in the work of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, there were men who opposed him through the use of lies. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem had tried their best to distract Nehemiah and upset the work he and God’s people were doing. When they realized nothing else would work, they turned to slander. Nehemiah 6:5-7 says, “In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, ‘It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king.
And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, 'There is a king in Judah.' And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.’” This message was sent by open letter which meant that anyone could read it. It named names and carried an official appearance, so many could have easily assumed the statements were true without doing any real investigation themselves. The letter contains lies about the goals of the people, the personal ambitions of Nehemiah, and their activity in Jerusalem. The lies in this letter were especially dangerous because they could have caused the people to rise up against Nehemiah and they could have caused the king to intervene and stop their work.

The lies had to hurt Nehemiah. It was an attack not only on the work he was doing, but it was personal. Nehemiah had laid his life on the line in order to do this work. He stepped up to make a difference when no one else was willing to do it. Nehemiah had given his heart and soul to building these walls. He had given himself fully to this work not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. He cared deeply about people and surely realized the threat this letter posed to everyone’s well being and work. Everything was on the line. Not only everything for which they had been laboring, but the spiritual and physical future of God’s people was on the line. Occasionally a person can keep silent when lies are spread, knowing the truth will eventually win out, but this was not one of those times. Nehemiah had to respond to the deception and manipulation being spread.

Next we read of Nehemiah’s response: “Then I sent to him, saying, ‘No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.’ For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:8-9). It’s amazing how few words Nehemiah needed in answering his opposition. He simply refutes the truthfulness of their statements. No evidence had to be given, no debate needed to take place, they were simply false. He also identifies the source of these lies. They made them up! They were inventions of the imaginations of his enemies. Perhaps Nehemiah was also indicating that the very things they were accusing Nehemiah of were true of themselves. They were the ones seeking personal glory and control. There was also a clear message for himself and those working with him. Those causing the opposition were trying to use fear tactics to get them to stop working. Nehemiah’s prayer shows his resilient attitude. He would not allow these evil men to make him give up. The next few verses show fear actually rising up within the hearts of those who opposed him and the wall was finished in a remarkable fifty-two days.

Like Nehemiah, there will be times in our lives in which we must face off with opposition that resorts to lies and manipulation to achieve their goal. Deceitful people will cause us problems with our jobs, in our community involvement, in our personal relationships, within our own families, and even in the spiritual work we do. It hurts, it is frustrating, and it challenges our self restraint. Do not allow evil to triumph by resorting to carnal warfare to win the battle. Learn from Nehemiah. Speak the truth in simple and clear honesty. Since truth is always consistent and lies are not, eventually the lies will be exposed. Identify the source of the deception. Perhaps it is gossip that has gone out of control, a personal grudge or vendetta, a person seeking self glory, or something else. There is a cause for the deceit and bringing that cause to light will help people see the truth. Above all, pray for strength and continue doing what is good. When good people give up because of opposition they surrender the victory to evil!

Remember the admonition of Paul as he too faced those who lied and manipulated situations to achieve a personal goal: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 1:7-9).

Aaron Beard

"Does Your Facebook Betray You?" by Aaron Beard

Does Your Facebook Betray You?

It was a highly pressurized situation. Jesus had been arrested on the way out of the Garden of Gethsemane and was in the process of going through one of a series "kangaroo court" hearings. He had been mocked, spit upon, and struck with a staff on his head while wearing a crown of thorns. During the last of these illegal hearings held by the Jewish leaders, Peter was standing outside in the courtyard. He was there warming himself at the fire and was surrounded by a group of people who were hostile to Jesus. At that moment, people started asking Peter questions about whether or not he was one of Jesus' disciples.

He likely assumed if he was identified as a follower of Jesus that he too would be arrested, beaten, or even killed. At first Peter politely denies his association. Then Peter gets even more adamant in his denial of his relationship with Jesus. At this point Matthew records these words: "After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, 'Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you'" (Matthew 26:73). Sadly, Peter begins to curse and swear saying that he did not know Jesus. Perhaps Peter began to curse and swear because he was angry and afraid. Perhaps it was an added effort to cover up the fact that he really was one of the disciples of Jesus. Peter did tried to cover up who he was, but he could not hide the truth forever. Eventually it was his speech that gave him away.

Does Peter's behavior during the trials of Jesus shock you? Perhaps it should, but considering the behavior of those who profess to follow Christ today, the less surprising his actions are. When around the world, it is not uncommon for Christians to either hide their faith or to behave in such a way that their actions betray them. One place where such contradictory behavior and speech is common is the internet networking blog called Facebook. Facebook can be a useful tool to glorify the Lord and spiritual things. This is very refreshing, especially with the sinful garbage that dominates the internet. But sadly, the Facebook activity of some who are supposed to be Christians does more to glorify sin and this world. Some profess to be Christians, while their Facebook activity tells a much different story. Whether we realize it or not, what we do on Facebook speaks volumes about us. When you look at a person's profile, pictures, updates, and comments you learn much about their life – their family, job, hobbies, dislikes, food preferences, daily activities, goals, dreams, relationships, and so much more. So if a person is trying to please God, would that also not be evident in the things they do on Facebook? It must be! Paul writes, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:1-4). If this is true of us, Jesus will permeate all aspects of our life. This would certainly include what we do on Facebook.

Consider some ways people who profess to follow Christ can be betrayed by their Facebook activity. Some will post pictures of themselves and others in clothing that is immodest. Personally speaking, I have been saddened and even sickened by having to see way too much of some of my friends who are supposed to be Christians. Our clothing should be consistent with that of a person confessing godliness with good works (1 Timothy 2:10). Based on some people's pictures on Facebook, they are certainly professing something but it sure isn't godliness! Occasionally you will find posts to links for videos that are unrighteous in nature. Many times the video is supposed to be funny, but its humor comes from sinful behavior or speech. Have we forgotten the admonition, "Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good" (Romans 12:9)? It is also fairly common to see people using language that is ungodly. Sometimes it is suggestive words about a person's picture, sometimes it is a vulgar joke, and sometimes it is the use of profanity or euphemisms. Perhaps one wouldn't dare type a curse word or take God's name in vain, but they will use abbreviations like "omg" and even worse without a second thought. Paul writes, "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5:4). There are some who would not do any of these things, but they show their approval of those who do. On Facebook you can leave comments under people's posts and pictures as well as clicking that you "like" something posted. Perhaps what we really need is a "dislike" option! Remember how Peter's speech betrayed him, making it impossible to hide that he was really one of Jesus' disciples? Christians need to carefully consider if their Facebook activity betrays their confession of faith and fellowship with Jesus.

This Facebook problem is a reflection of the problem of conforming to the world. Romans 12:1 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." It is a great struggle to live in the world while still living above the world, but this is our duty and our goal.

Aaron Beard

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