Questioning Through Mark: 4:35-41

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

1. When has God called you to go to the other side? Jesus led his disciples away from the crowd, away from needs and possibilities, away from people hungry to learn. Going to the other side sometimes means leaving a fruitful place. It might not make sense when Jesus leads us away from something. Until we get to the something else.

2. Are you expecting a smooth ride? At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the disciples were fairly new followers. How sure were they of who this man really was? Not sure at all. He was wise. He was powerful. They understood that. He was about the Kingdom of God, and they were too. They’d made decisions to follow him, but they didn’t know what that meant. “A furious squall came up . . .” What were they expecting of Jesus? I’m not sure. Maybe they were upset that he was sleeping. But maybe the resentment went deeper, like “why is this happening when someone like him is in our boat?” We can ask that same question when trials come, as if a life with Jesus means smooth sailing. It doesn’t. No where in scripture are we guaranteed freedom from storms or suffering because we’re in the same boat with Jesus.

3. Have you ever asked the wrong question? “Don’t you care if we drown?” the disciples asked Jesus. How flippant. How focused on circumstances. How outrageous to ask the man you’ve committed to following if He cares.

But we ask. It is the question that haunts humanity. The Serpent got Adam and Eve wondering if God really cared, because if God cared, why would He hold back from Adam and Eve? Abraham wondered if God really cared about giving him an heir, because why would He be so slow? The grumpy, wandering Israelites wondered if God really cared about them out there in the desert.

If we’re focused on our circumstances, this is a fully legitimate question. Which is why we’re told not to fixate on our circumstances. We’re commanded to look up, beyond ourselves, and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. The Son of Man, lifted up.

“Do you care?” is a way of saying “I don’t think you do, because if you did . . .” fill in your complaint.

So what question should we be asking?

4. “Who is this?” the disciples said to themselves after Jesus stood and commanded the storm to cease. And they were so right to ask. When you see your wise rabbi calm the waves with several simple words, you better ask if it’s time to expand your view on him. You better wonder if you’ve misunderstood who He really is.

The infinite God, who accomplishes deeds with his spoken word, invites us to continually ask, “Who is this?” And He answers, continually with “I Am.” Deeper and deeper this question goes and the Answer reveals more of Himself. When we cease to be amazed by God, we cease to explore him. And that should terrify us.

Mark 4,40

5. Jesus asks a question of his own: Why are you so afraid? Umm, really? “Because we are about to die,” I can hear the disciples defending themselves, and I want to defend them also. Isn’t Jesus being too harsh?

No. Because he’s not asking if the storm is fearful to them. He’s not asking what about their present circumstances do they find fearful? The focus of the question is not the fear but the why. His next questions proves this, “Do you still have no faith?” In other words, after hearing me teach, being in my presence, following me . . . do you still not get who I am?

They didn’t get it. He was “Teacher,” and so they feared. What they feared is inconsequential. That they feared because they didn’t get it, is the point.

So what does this mean for us? The dark is a scary thing for my five-year-old (and I admit, I’m not crazy about it either). Riding her bike without training wheels is scary for my seven-year-old. All of us have fears and those fears range across the spectrum from irrational to rational, small to large. I’m not the expert on ridding yourself of fear. But ask yourself long and hard, “Who is this?” and take a look at Jesus. When the answer to “Who is this?” takes your focus off “Do you care?” see if your fears lessen.

Examining who Jesus is will strengthen our faith, and that, in turn, will lessen our fears.

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Taking Sides

I made the mistake last night of reading something right before turning my light out that lit up my mind and burned my heart. You can imagine how long I laid in bed, miles from sleep. I should know better than to stir myself up with controversial issues before seeking rest.

Because taking sides is not peaceful. By definition, you’re throwing in your lot with one idea at the expense of rejecting other ideas.

And we are all called to do it. Believing strongly about something is not a sin. Advocating for healthy choices and just legislation is not something we need to apologize for.

I’ve sensed lately in the huge world of social media that although there is much stand-taking (in good and bad ways), there is also the idea that we need to back off and focus on our shared qualities–like motherhood, or whatever. Whereas I agree that we should find connections with others through those shared qualities, I also believe that having strong opinions on issues and advocating for them, can be healthy, helpful, and should not be avoided.

Foundational to the Christian faith is that we take sides–meaning, we align ourselves with Jesus Christ and what He’s revealed as truth in his Word. I believe I’m a sinner. That’s a side that I land on. I believe that the only way to heaven is through acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That’s the side I’m on. And by aligning myself with those beliefs, I’m saying that the opposite side is not truth. I understand that’s offensive. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love you if you disagree. Love is not defined by ascent to beliefs of others. That’s way too simple and dismissive of Biblical love.

Taking Sides

I understand that some people are uncomfortable with controversy. That some people promote peace at all costs (but what is that peace they promote?).

But I want to encourage you today to take a stand. For Jesus, yes. But also for what the Lord puts on your heart to stand for–so long as you find scriptural support for it.

And there’s where it gets tricky, huh? We can all stand against sex trafficking. There is obvious scriptural support for standing against sexual abuse.

What about taking a stand for infant baptism? Or your interpretation of end times? Interpretation of scripture on these issues varies. Taking a stand on such issues must be done with huge amounts of grace and humility.

How we stand is vital. Are our words seasoned with grace? Are we encouraging dialogue? Are we honoring the image of God in those who believe differently from us?

Sometimes we are called to take our stand in silence, not defending ourselves. Sometimes we are called to take our stand with words that might have consequences.

So what was it that got me so stirred up last night? The issue of vaccination. I’m apologetically for it–for so many reasons. But this post is not about that. This post is to encourage you to humbly hold to your beliefs with gusto. Starting–and ending–with the truth of Jesus Christ.

Taking sides can be polarizing–because by nature, it contains a polarizing element–but it doesn’t have to be derisive. It can be graceful and a powerful element for change.

Questioning Through Mark: 4:26-34

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain– first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

1. God’s kingdom is explosive. It can’t be contained. Do I want to be a part of this? Do you?

as it is in heaven

2. God’s kingdom is not a smorgasbord. We don’t get to choose what we like about it and what we don’t. It’s a package deal. God’s kingdom brings salvation, rule, mercy, and judgment. The sickle is as much a part of his kingdom as the mercy seat. Have I ignored certain aspects of the kingdom of God?

3. The kingdom of God is unstoppable. When I look at evil in the world, am I discouraged? Do I capitulate to the lies that we’re in a losing battle? Or do I join the kingdom work with kingdom prayer, “Thy will be done . . . “?

Friends, put on your kingdom eyes today and see the scattering, sprouting, growing, and harvesting that is going on all around you.

 

Get On Your Knees–And Stay There

The stirring happens a bit after five. An awakeness stumbles into my sleep and jars me. I look at my husband’s clock, automatically doing the eight-minute math to make up for his funny time sensitivity that propels him to set his clock fast (as if time actually changes).

Not time to rise, so I roll over and push the alertness aside, seeking instead another half hour of sleep. Then, before I know it, the alarm is going off and I’m pushing the snooze. Too early. Too sleepy. Must. Get. Rest.

Now I’m reflecting on what would have happened if I’d obeyed the waking sensation at 5:15 and rose early to pray.

Mark 1,35

Not that rising early and praying is the ticket to answered prayer or a deeper spiritual life.

But how often do we miss the Spirit’s invitation because it’s inconvenient?

There’s always a good excuse not to get on our knees, and the best solution is to live on our knees. That is, bend the heart down and keep it there. Maintain that submissive posture to the Lord sometimes literally, but always metaphorically.

Kneeling is a posture of surrender, respect. All too often, we want to kneel only to ourselves and our own ideas. We’ve untethered ourselves from authority, making our hearts our own guide, doing what is right in our own eyes. And this is a problem.

Getting back on our knees and living from this position of submission reminds us that we answer to a higher authority. The highest authority. Jesus Christ, King of Kings.

Paul writes that someday every knee will bow to Jesus. Let’s bow now, before we don’t have a choice. Let’s live in that posture of humility.

So whether you actually drag yourself out of bed in the morning and fall to your knees, or whether your heart sits quiet at the cross of Christ during your lunch hour, get on your knees and stay there. Even as you walk about your routine, limp along injured from disappointments, and make the final sprint to bedtime.