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Reflections

These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are listed in the index below with each theme divided into seven sections.

The Storms of Life – Self-Preservation

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 The Reading: Mark 4:35-41

“Don’t you care if we perish?” (v.38) RSV

We come to another of the unique insights that Mark alone records. The cry of the disciples is not an example of faith, despite the fact that Jesus answers and calms the storm! No, it is an example of fear, panic and accusation. No wonder Jesus commented when it was all over “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

The disciples have been ‘caring’ for Jesus. They’ve been doing their stuff and are probably feeling quite good about themselves. Now suddenly the tables are turned and their first reaction is to blame Jesus. How can he let this happen? Why isn’t he immediately making everything okay? Why doesn’t he care for us? This is an attack on Jesus and his love. Amazingly Jesus never reproaches them for this blasphemy.

And who were the “we” that the disciples were anxious about? Did “we” include Jesus, or just themselves? We, too, are often quick to blame God. We think that it probably wasn’t his ‘fault’ that the storm came, but we find fault with him for not sorting out the problem immediately. How dare he allow us to be upset, frightened and endangered. Doesn’t he love us?

It is pressures and crises that reveal what lies within us. We can be rather good Christians when we are in control and all is going moderately smoothly. But put the squeeze on us and, oops, something rather unpleasant comes out from us.

Jesus is looking for the sort of faith that is not frightened whether we sink or swim. The faith that trusts God come what may. St Paul was able to say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Now that is faith. Next week we shall see, in fact, exactly the sort of faith that he was looking for from his disciples.

Thank you Lord that you never leave us nor forsake us, and that we are within your protection. Forgive us when we fear and shout at you. Help us to praise you and rejoice in all circumstances. Amen. 

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1 Who else blamed God?

Job 3:1, 38:1-2, 40:1-2

2 How did Jesus speak to God when on the Cross?

Luke 23:34, 46

The Storms of Life – At Peace

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 The Reading: Mark 4:35-41

 “Asleep in the stern on the cushion” (v.38) RSV

The cushion at the rear of the boat was reserved for the honoured guest. Jesus did not needlessly turn down help and comfort when offered. There was no false abasement here. He had worked hard all day and now needed and accepted the best place to rest. He slept the sleep of the just. “God gives his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2). He laid down his head with human tiredness and in perfect trust in his Father’s “everlasting arms”.

Jesus was at perfect peace in this dark world of sin. We too can know this “peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippeans 4:7) if we truly believe that God has not only got the whole world in his hands, but in particular you and me.

He allowed the disciples to look after him, to minister to him. The disciples were only too happy to do this; it was something they felt able to do, and it lay within their power. We too are mainly happy to serve God, worship him, and keep his House in order. We even tend to feel empowered and useful.

There’s nothing wrong with that, unless we can only serve yet are unable to trust or receive help when we are weak.

How do we feel when in the hands of unreliable Christians who like helping but let us down when the going gets tough? And how do we feel when afloat on waters that are liable to churn up into a cauldron of swirling froth fit to drown us without any warning? Our lives are sometimes like that. All can seem to be going swimmingly until there is a stock market crash or an accident or ill health or our spouse goes off with someone else! What then?

Is our trust in ourselves, in fellow Christians, calm waters, or ultimately in God? Our trust at all times (good and bad) must be in the promises and presence of God. He will never leave us nor forsake. We can always sleep easy with Him.

Lord help us to trust whether waking or sleeping. May we be ever mindful of your good promises, and that with you we need never be afraid or anxious. Amen. 

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1. What enables us to sleep peacefully?

Isaiah 26:3-4

2. Are there times when you should not be able to sleep?

Jonah 1:5-6, Luke 6:12

The Storms of Life – Always Prepared

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 The Reading: Mark 4:35-41 

“… just as he was …” (v.36) RSV

Mark gives us by far the best description of this event on the Sea of Galilee. No doubt he got it straight from the mouth of Peter. That fisherman would have provided those telling insights that only an eye witness could give. Over the coming weeks we will note at least four phrases that Mark has which neither Matthew nor Luke mention in their accounts (Matthew 8:18, 23-27, Luke 8:22-25).

“Just as he was” is so significant. We have read that a great wonder and work of power had taken place, and we would naturally think that Jesus must have spent hours in prayer ‘psyching’ himself up for the ‘miracle’. However we read that he was totally unprepared. In fact he was dog tired. All day long (“on that day” v.35) he had been teaching the people with parables, and then he had explained the parables to his disciples. He now suggested that they take him across to the other side of the Lake in order to get away and get some rest.

If we read on (Mark 5:1-12) we see that when they do reach the other side there is no rest even then; they are met by the Gadarene demoniac – more work, more deeds of power.

When we are totally exhausted and are looking forward to escaping to a rest we are not usually at our best if things then start to go wrong! Unlike a tube of toothpaste when squeezed we do not exude smooth ‘toothpaste’, but something far less pleasant. Yet Jesus was always at rest, always in the Spirit, and always ready to respond positively to any circumstances. He was like those batteries we used to have called ‘Eveready’.

Even in his physical weakness Jesus found that God’s strength was perfect. We too need to claim the ever ready presence of God by his Holy Spirit in our lives. “Jesus, Jesus” we need to pray when aroused. We too will then be ready.

Lord, forgive us when we are not resting and being revived in the Spirit. Teach us afresh that you never leave us nor forsake us. Lord, be thou my strength. Amen 

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1 How did Jonah react after his ministry in Nineveh?

Jonah 4:4-11

2 How did Elijah recover/react from his defeat of the prophets of Baal?

1 Kings 19:3-10

3 How did David respond to the challenge of Goliath?

1 Samuel 17:38-46

Money – Topical

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 The Reading: Luke 12:15-21

“I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones” (v.18) RSV

Sometimes the theme of money is thought to be slightly unspiritual. And yet it is a frequent subject in the New Testament. Our use of our money and possessions is one of the clearest thermometers of our spiritual temperature. Unless our pocket or purse is converted, then we are keeping our love of money away from God’s influence. And as we know, “the love of money is the root of all evils”

(1 Tim. 6:10). Note that money is not the problem, but “the love of money”!

Jesus taught about paying taxes (Matthew 22:15-22), he told a parable about using talents (the currency at the time) (Matthew 25: 14-30), and finally he was betrayed for money (Luke 22:5-6). Ananias and Sapphira died for lying about their giving (Acts 5:1-11). Simon the magician was castigated for trying to buy the power of the Spirit (Acts 8:13-24).

The world’s bankers have shown that short term targets and greed are a toxic mix. Just like the man in our parable today, they are not satisfied with their wealth, but must always expand. In our story the result was different, he died and in that way lost his wealth. With bankers and others who try to amass colossal fortunes the result may be a catastrophic loss of capital not only for themselves but for others as well. Either way the lesson is the same. We cannot, or rather must not, live for money and ever more money. If we do, it becomes mammon and it will gobble us up.

The bible speaks much of money, its blessing and its curse, but the message is always the same, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness …” (Matt. 6:33). If we do not then whether we die prematurely or whether we lose our fortune we shall be called a “Fool!” (v.20). We are to lay up treasures for ourselves with God. This means investing time and energy in worship, prayer and acts of kindness. This way we will become a conduit for wealth and not a hoarder.

Deliver me O Lord from the love of money. May I love you first, seek you first and serve you first. Amen. 

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1 What is our attitude to be, whether rich or poor?

Philippians 4:11, Hebrews 13:5

2 Did Jesus tithe his life?

Philippians 2:5-8