With this one we finish chapter four and with that the first quarter of the Gospel of Mark. In this passage we take a look at Jesus who has fallen fast asleep while everyone else seems to be panic’ing about the furious storm that is raging around them.
Tag Archive: faith
i’d love to make this sound like the cool kind of parable Jesus would have used, but i don’t think i can.
but if it was a fairy-tale type story it would begin with something sounding like ‘Once upon a time…’ and very quickly end up at the place of ‘Brett looked at the path and it was blocked by the giant obstacle. He didn’t know what to do next.’
and depending on your perspective on life and God and big obstacles, Brett might do very different things next.
if you’re a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that God placed the obstacle in your path so you wouldn’t choose that particular path. go and find another easier path, Brett. [this could be Balaam's donkey warning you off the path, it could be Paul being blocked from going to Asia in Acts 16, it could be the angel with the sword keeping Adam and Eve from re-entering the garden]
if you’re a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, you might see the obstacle as a sign that the devil is worried about the work you are doing and is trying to stop you. keep on, Brett, find a way around or through the obstacle because that is the path you are meant to be walking. [this could be the Israelites crossing the sea, Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel deciding to continue to pray and being thrown in the lion's den]
the main problem is that in either case the obstacle looks the same. it’s not like obstacles are divided into ‘push through because it’s the enemy placing it there’ kinds of obstacles and ‘turn around because God is trying to tell you to go a different way’ kinds of obstacles… they both simply appear as an obstacle and if you get counsel from wise friends of yours, you might find yourself listening to both opposing pieces of advice [both of which are an understandable reading of the scenario]
and so the key has to be the Holy Spirit – being in touch with and in tune with God so He can reveal to you which one it is? do i stay or do i go?
easy, huh? unless of course you are having a bit of trouble hearing God on the matter and then it goes back to making a hopeful choice…
this is a scenario that plays out often in our lives and happened again this morning [well, over the last few days] as we have had such issues trying to book a flight for Val:
GHE: It’s a sign from God – don’t do this Relational Tithe thing – you are meant to pull out of it and stay here!
GHF: It’s an attack from the enemy – God wants you to push through and defeat the obstacle and He is allowing it to be there to strengthen your faith.
ah okay got it, this could go either way, so which is it God?
[sound of crickets]
and so there lies the dilemma – i do think the solution lies somewhere in making sure we’ve taken enough time to ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ [psalm 46.10] and then also to invite the wisdom [and listening] of Jesus following friends – maybe as we listen together, someone will be able to make out the quiet whisper of God…
if not, though, we will have to make a call and follow the path of whichever one we choose, knowing full well that we serve both a Loving and Faithful God who knows our hearts and gets that we have done everything we thought of to try and ascertain which path it was… a God who, if we get it wrong while honestly trying to get it right, is so much full of Grace and Love and Forgiveness and Compassion that He will not leave us treading water in the after effects of a decision gone wrong…
therein lies a lot of the confidence i have in God… that He is able to make Himself heard when necessary, that He is able to direct and guide and beckon, that He is so quick to rush in and help out when things go wrong, that His bride, the church, has been created with a role of helping to ensure that we don’t fall face first on the ground and lie there, wounded and bleeding, without doing something about it.
and so Brett has some paths, and some obstacles, and a beautiful Valerie alongside him… and he is listening and asking and waiting… trying to figure out which is God and which is the enemy and which is just plain life…
and he is not TOO worried at all.
[i would LOVE to hear your perspective and thoughts on the two ways an obstacle can be looked at and maybe an experience you have had in that]
instead i got to hang out with my buddy Uel Maree for about an hour, catching him up on my story for the last two years and getting to hear some of his.
Just over a year ago now, Uel Maree, helping out a girls group on an adventure camp, dived into a river in a spot he knew well as one where they launched canoes regularly, but this time something was different. He has dived hands first, but whether it was a rock or a sand bar, something pushed his hands to the side and he took a direct impact to the head. Paralysed from the neck down and lying face down in the water, not able to do anything about it [but fortunately having taken a big breath] he told me he was filled with incredible peace as his friend who was a life guard was 20m away and would soon see what was wrong and come running. He did, and Uel was carefully taken out of the water and later helicoptered to the hospital where he was given a rather negative prognosis that there was like a 1% chance he would not be completely paralysed from the neck down. Uel and his family chose to think differently and with a huge network of support, much prayer and a fair number of miracles along the way, has physically come to a point far exceeding anything the doctors could imagine… and continues to push through for small breakthrough after small breakthrough.
i guess i was a little nervous arriving at the house and being ushered in by his dad [who first pretended i had arrived at the wrong house to really ease my nerves] as i didn’t really know how the visit was going to go. i had camped as a leader with Uel a couple of years before, but only really knew him through the facebook group that was set up after the accident and so had followed updates there and seen some of the progress and been so hugely encouraged by the amazing network and community that exists there. i had witnessed how the group and Uel had been an encouragement to so many other people besides Uel and a place where people and faith and needs had met up regularly.
so in some ways, i was anticipating hanging out with a crippled guy in a bed or maybe a wheelchair. but as i turned the corner, from the moment of laying eyes on Uel, what i encountered was life to the full. Uel was completely animated and positive and full of humour and just so much life, it really was such a joyful encounter. He started off all interested in my journey and what Val and i have been up to and it was a while before i was able to jump in and direct the conversation to him and his journey and some of what he had gone through.
and it was just completely encouraging and uplifting. having spent just an hour or so with Uel i walked away thinking that i know more crippled people than Uel who have full use of their bodies. i got to ask about the bad days and the times of frustration as well and there certainly are those, but for the most part it feels like Uel, faced with a potentially life-ending scenario, absolutely just chose to make the best out of every part of it and has stubbornly refused to accept any restrictions places upon his body by doctors and specialists as to how far he can go to recover.
what impressed me was how he spoke about God and how it took something like this to happen for him to really understand having a need for God and needing to rely on God and so his faith has increased immensely. a lot of people in a situation like this would no doubt end up feeling sorry for themselves, whereas Uel is going to be co-leading the home group that meets at his house every second week, he is working on pushing his wheelchair around [with specially enhanced door stopped bits added around the edges so he can grab hold of the wheels] and he is a machine on his iPad keeping up with his facebook group and the latest news and happenings.
what a legendary time and what an example of the ‘life to the full’ we are called to in Jesus. thank-you Uel Maree for fitting me into your busy schedule and for showing me a vibrant faith and attitude for really embracing life.
ah, Psalm 46 – if you come for a visit to the Simple Way, chances are good you will be faced by it in some form or other, and particularly verse 10 [a great one to set to memory] which says:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
So give yourself a minute now if you have time… even better if you have five to spare…
and be still…
and even stop, if you dare.
and know, that He is God.
That He is God.
Two amazing rules to live by:
 There is only one God
 It is not me!
So be still… and be reminded… that He is God…
that this is the story about Him [what? yes, this life thing is actually not the story about you]
and He has graciously and curiously invited you and me to be walk on players [with dialogue] in this tale of life and Love and beauty and depth and wonder…
so be still. and be reminded.
think back to that time, those times, when you absolutely with all your heart knew God to be true
remember that time when He spoke to you and you heard it clearly
remember that time when He intervened in your life
remember back to when you really had a strong sense of His presence – was it a time of worship? a camp moment? sitting in nature and just taking in the shouted message of a Creator that creation brings?
be strengthened by those memories [especially if now God is not feeling so real or close or present or involved]
let the strength of the times when He was, remind you to trust once again
to be still
that He is God
and He will be exalted.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
so, in light of that, join with me, in being still, and knowing that He. is. God.
in morning prayer this week we read from Matthew 9.27-34 about how Jesus heals two blind men and frees another man from some demon.
what was interesting about the translation we were reading from was that it said this:
‘As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
When He had gone indoors, the blind men came to Him, and He asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they replied.
Then He touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith, let it be done to you.”‘
Wo! Wait one second. Can’t it be according to YOUR faith, Jesus? I think that question would cause me to take a moment and really consider the likelihood of the healing following my answer.
Because when it comes to faith for money or provision or God coming through with an answer on direction or something to speak into a situation, my faith is really strong and in any of those cases i think i would be good with His response or challenge?
But when it comes to healing… hm, not so fast. Do i believe that God CAN heal? Absolutely. Do i believe that He WILL heal?
Um… CHEQUE PLEASE, table 9!
i have prayed for a lot of healing in my life [for other people] and cannot remember ever seeing [beyond a headache or some mild pain] instant healing [in the ways i have heard stories of healing, like this one] and certainly no blind or dead people [yet!] i have seen people get better but i haven’t witnessed [as in personally] people really get healed… like categorically undeniable [oh me of little faith i hear you thinking out loud]
and i am not looking for answers to this question. i am just wanting to share that i have it. if Jesus’ healing of the people i come into contact with is “according to my faith” then they might do better moving on to the next person, cos my faith [in the healing department] has taken a few knocks.
BUT i still believe God can and i still believe He does and so every new time i come across someone who needs healing i try to ask them if i can pray for them and if they say yes [like two people did this last week] then i pray, believing that God can and hoping that He will heal. and the fact that He didn’t [in any discernible way to me] heal either of those two people [have seen at least one of them since] doesn’t make me stop believing. it makes me continue to hunger and question and trust and take opportunities because my faith, when it comes to healing, is more like the father of the demon possessed child in mark 9.24 – Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
i do believe.
but i still call on Jesus to overcome my unbelief.
and keep on, taking new opportunities as they present themselves in the hope that God will let me in on the secret, or the mystery of how it all works some day [not so i can do some kick ass miracles, but so His name will be glorified... and maybe He is still working on me to fully get me from the one to the other]
this is a great psalm altho to be honest for some reason every time i read the line “as the deer pants” it makes me think of crocodile pants [i have no idea why the crocodile pants, maybe cos of crocodile boots or something] and so i get distracted by then thinking of these pants made out of deer and i have to slap myself in the head to refocus and start all over again…
if you’re a douglas adams fan [author of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' - and if you're not, you should be - the king of random astractive humour] then you will understand why the number 42 is the answer to the ‘meaning of life?’ question… and in some cases this song starts off by answering that question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’
the answer: ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.’ [vs.1] is a description of true worship – your whole being crying out for God… realisation of need, of the desperate kind of need that a thirsty animal has for water… of a need that drives the animal forwards to even risk danger from the wild animals, one goal in mind…
do i hunger for God? So, so much. i hunger to see Him at work in my neighborhood, to see the kind of life transformation that will really see change happening here… i long to see Him more deeply at work in my own life – helping me to Love my wife better, to be more patient and kind and not-wrong-remembering and so on… i long to see Him at work in my community life – filling me with the grace and compassion and generosity that is so often lacking…
but too often that hunger is replaced by easy distraction. or subverted by personal selfishness.
then the psalm moves on to describe how the writer is feeling quite overwhelmed by people around him, especially mocking his beliefs and helping feed any doubts he might have and he seems to be caught with the cry of the man whose son Jesus heals – “I believe! Help me overcome my disbelief!” – which is a cry i often seem to have… but he has some great responses to that:
‘These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.’ [vs. 4]
looking back and remembering when his faith was strong and when God did pitch up and reveal Himself and work in his life – that is a great attitude to have – in revelations 12.11 it talks about the enemy being defeated in this way:
‘They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’
so ‘the blood of the lamb’ which is what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross… and ‘the word of their testimony’ which is what Jesus has done in ad around our lives – our story – something the enemy cannot take away… and so when times get hard and doubts are rising, it is a great activity to look back and remember when you believed strongly and when God was answering a particular prayer clearly or vividly showing up and getting involved.
‘Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ [vs.5]
another response is choosing to praise God even when it doesn’t feel like the natural response – struggling with doubt? praise the One in whom your faith lies – it is a kind of stepping out in faith [a faith which is helped by looking backwards to those times when you were feeling more sure] and speaking the belief you are wanting to be in…
and it is also a response of hope – the kind of trusting hope that accompanies faith – i am not going to let my fear and doubts and struggles paralyse me – i am going to believe and press forward and experience… and like that deer seeking water, when i find the object of my seeking, then i will drink deeply and be satisfied.
i came across this article about barack obama’s personal faith and the unsurprising statement that it is the call to look after ‘the least of these’ [matthew 25, sheep and goats parable] that keeps him focused… very cool…
‘President Barack Obama gave an unusually personal speech about his religious faith on Thursday, saying that “it is the biblical injunction to serve the least of these that keeps me going and keeps me from being overwhelmed,” in address to a prayer breakfast in Washington.
The speech, delivered at the National Prayer Breakfast, comes on the heels of public opinion surveys that show only a minority of Americans know that Obama is a Christian and that a growing number believe he’s a Muslim.
“My Christian faith has been sustaining for me over the last couple of years and even more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time,” the president said Thursday, referring to his wife. “We are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but that we are true to our conscience and true to our God.”
“When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, I ask him to give me the strength to do right by our country and our people,” Obama said later. “And when I go to bed at night, I wait on the Lord and I ask him to forgive me my sins and to look after my family and to make me an instrument of the Lord.”‘