What are the three most important words to you?
Some of you may have immediately thought of the phrase, “I love you”. Those are three very important words. Telling someone you love them satisfies a person’s deepest emotional need to belong, to feel appreciated and to be wanted. Everyone in your circle of friends and family needs to hear those three little words from you.
But that is not the three-word phrase I have in mind.
The Bible has some three-word phrases that have great meaning to us as Christians.
There is a story in the Bible about a day in the life of Jesus. It had been an eventful day. Beside the Sea of Galilee He had spoken His first parables. All day He had been teaching and healing; and as evening came on the crowds still pressed upon Him. Day after day He had ministered to them, scarcely pausing for food or rest. Now the close of day found Him so utterly wearied that He determined to find some solitude.
After He had dismissed the multitude, he and the disciples set out across the lake. The Savior was at last relieved from the pressure of the crowd and, overcome with weariness, He laid down in the stern of the boat and fell asleep.
The evening had been calm and pleasant, and quiet rested upon the lake; but suddenly darkness spread through the sky, the wind swept wildly down the mountain gorges and a fierce tempest burst upon the lake.
The sun had set, and the blackness of night settled down upon the stormy sea. The waves, lashed into fury by the howling winds, dashed fiercely over the disciples' boat, and threatened to engulf it. Those hardy fishermen had spent their lives upon the lake, and had guided their craft safely through many a storm; but now their strength and skill availed nothing. They were helpless in the grasp of the tempest, and hope failed them as they saw their boat was filling. Absorbed in their efforts to save themselves, they had forgotten that Jesus was on board.
Have you ever forgotten that Jesus is on board?
Now, seeing their labor was in vain and only death before them, they remembered at whose command they had set out to cross the sea. Jesus was their only hope. In their helplessness and despair they turned to Him.
But the dense darkness hid Him from their sight. Their voices were drowned by the roaring of the tempest, and there was no reply. Doubt and fear assailed them. Had Jesus forsaken them? Was He powerless to help His disciples now? Was He unmindful of them in their distress?
Their boat is sinking. They will soon be swallowed up by the hungry waters.
Suddenly a flash of lightning pierces the darkness, and they see Jesus lying asleep, undisturbed by the tumult. In amazement and despair they exclaim, "Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Have you ever been there?
Their cry arouses Jesus. As the lightning's glare reveals Him, they see the peace of heaven in His face and tender love in His eyes. They cry, "Lord, save us: we perish."
Jesus rises. He stands in the midst of His disciples, while the tempest rages, the waves break over them, and the lightning illuminates His countenance. He lifts His hand and says three little words to the angry sea, "Peace, be still."
Only three words. But the storm ceases. The billows sink to rest. The clouds roll away, and the stars shine forth. The boat rests upon a quiet sea.
A few years ago, I was witness to a very similar scene. With the murders of his wife and daughter, Loren Moreno suddenly found himself on an angry sea, tossing and turning with the assault of the waves, and in danger of drowning. I watched, as he turned to Jesus and said, “Help”. I sat beside him and felt the peace of Jesus emanating from him. Jesus had said, “Peace, be still” to Loren’s soul. And Loren rested in the arms of Jesus.
Some of you may be in the midst of a storm. Jesus is saying to you, “Peace, be still”.
In John 19, verse 30, the Bible tells us that Jesus said three words……….three words that changed our destiny.
“It is finished”.
It is finished
The battle is over
It is finished
And Jesus is Lord
He did not say, “I am finished.” He declared at the end of the day that His work was done. His work will never need to be upgraded or repaired. It will never wear out or be out of date. It will never be insufficient. “It is finished” was a cry of victory.
Even though “It is finished” are three very important words, their meaning is incomplete without the next three words, “He is risen”.
In Matthew 28:6 is the story of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb early one morning. But they didn’t find Jesus……….they found an angel instead…….an angel who said, “He isn’t here”, “He is risen”.
Of all the religions in the world, Christianity is the only one that has an empty tomb. Where would we be, if Jesus was still in that tomb? But He’s not……..“He is Risen”.
I enjoy taking trips, seeing new things and meeting new people. These past few years, I have been on a journey. But it was a journey I did not want to take. Had I known it was coming, I would have done everything within my power to circumvent it. The taking of this journey was beyond my control. And when it started, I felt like all I could do was hold on……..we were traveling so fast.
August 1st was a beautiful summer day. There was no indication of the storm that was coming.
The first of the month is always a long day at work for me. As bookkeeper, there are a lot of reports to do and statements to get in the mail. I worked straight through from 7:30 am to about 4:30. Hungry and eager to get home, I was a little dismayed when my husband, John, asked me to leave again as soon as I got home. He had purchased a new bicycle and very kindly asked me to take him to the cycle shop so he could ride it home.
We pulled out of our driveway just as the 5:00 news came on the radio. We heard the words “two females shot at 26th and S. Edison”. Our home is situated between Union and Edison. We had just reached 7th Avenue and could see Edison from our car. When John asked where 26th was, I felt a wave of concern. “Moreno’s” was my answer.
I sat in the car in front of the cycle shop, while John went in to change to cycling clothes and bring his others to me. While he was in there, my cell phone rang. It was a lady from our “care group” at the church, asking me if I had heard about the shootings. She had gone home from work early with a migraine. When she turned on the television, they were showing Moreno’s house. And the announcers were now saying “two females, one a teenager”.
I told John the news update when he came out to the car, and then I headed home.
As I drove, I voted “NO” on taking this journey. I really didn’t want to go there. I hurried home, turned on the television. Moreno’s home filled the screen. I called the Pastor. I got an answering machine. I called the church. Same result. I went down the list of pastors. They all have answering machines. I even called the church secretary at home. Another machine.
I called the pastor’s mother. When I told her I needed to get in touch with her son, she told me he had just left her home and should be walking in the front door of his house. She was right. I knew it was Monday and his day off. But I thought he should know. He said he would go right out to the house.
By now, John was home and had been hearing me on the phone. He, too, left to go to Moreno’s house. I cancelled the meeting I was to attend. I stayed home to pray and field phone calls from people in our care group and from the church. I called my boss to tell him I didn’t know if I would be at work the next day. He said for me to do what I needed to do.
John called to say they were following Loren to the Police Station. His next phone call was the hardest. John said, “The worst that could happen has happened. They are both gone”. Loren had been told his wife and daughter had been shot.
Then he called to let me know they were taking Loren to the hospital as a precautionary measure. Pastor Phil was there every minute. Loren’s brother and his wife came.
It was about 9:30 when John came home. I met him at the door and we stood in the kitchen hugging tightly and crying.
We went to bed. It was a strange night. We lay there awake, every fiber of our beings aching for Loren. John would say something and I would answer. 30 minutes later, I would say something and he would answer. Prayer for Loren was non-stop. How would he make it through?
Tuesday I was numb. I moved through the events of my day by rote. When I got home from work, I turned on the television. Until this happened, I did not know that there was local news on T.V. at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. I sat down to see if there were any new developments.
Linda’s picture filled the screen. That was all it took. The numbness was instantly replaced by intense pain, taking my breath away. And then the tears. John came home from work to find me in a puddle in the chair. It was true. This was real. Where did we go from here?
Wednesday morning I got up to do my usual routine. Exercise at 5:00. Lying on my back, pushing weights up and tears streaming down my cheeks and into my ears. Standing in the shower, tears mixing with the water. Sitting at my desk at work, my eyes leaking. Around noon I went in to my boss and said, “I think I need to take the rest of the week off”. He understood.
I went straight to the church. I didn’t know how to contact Loren. His location was being kept private to keep the media away. But I knew there would be family to feed. They had been a part of our care group. We wanted to be involved. I left the church with an address and phone number. I had promised food would be taken care of until the funeral.
Our care group met that night. We had a full house. Linda and Loren were not at small group. But they were. We could see them, sitting on the couch, Linda’s laugh echoing in the room. We had lost one of our family……..and we grieved. The pain was very real. But so was the need to reach out. To do something.
The meal planning began. The food would be brought to our house (to keep his location secret) and John and I would deliver it by 5:30 the next evening.
As we drove toward the address on the piece of paper, we had no idea how to do this. What do you say? His pain would be so much greater than ours. John had asked the pastor on Monday night how he did this. His answer, “One minute at a time”. We would have to do the same.
We carried the food through the house to the kitchen at the back. Loren was on a back deck, saw us in the kitchen and headed in. We met at the door, the three of us in a bear hug…trembling and crying together. No words were necessary.
We sat on the deck. The tears were dried. The sky was blue. There was a light breeze. A dog lay at our feet. And Linda and Danielle were gone.
Loren began to talk. Of God. Of love. Of peace. Three days after the tragedy, Loren had peace. Peace that could be felt. Peace that could be seen in his eyes. Linda and Danielle were in a better place, at the feet of Jesus.
And then he said those three little words that I can still hear in my head. Words that instantly changed my perspective. “I have Jesus”. That said it all.
Perhaps you are on a journey too. It may have begun slowly, with little warnings and signs. Each day takes you just a little further down the road. And you’re not really sure where your journey will end.
Or maybe you suddenly came to a cliff and the road went straight down, with life flying by on both sides and you knew before you got there what was at the bottom.
I’ve been on both kinds. Neither is pleasant to take.
Jesus is saying three little words to you, “Peace, be still”. Can you hear Him? Or are you so focused on the scenes flashing by that you wonder, as the disciples did, if He really cares?
Remember those three words, “It is Finished”? The battle is over. He has already fought it for us. God has it in control.
He’s not in that tomb. It’s empty. “He is Risen”.
There are three more little words that can take care of you as you take your journey. Can you say, as Loren did, “I have Jesus”? No matter what kind of journey you are on, if Jesus is in control of your life, you have nothing to fear.
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