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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 – Made Harder by Unbelief

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The Reading: Mark 6:45-52 

“They were distressed in rowing … he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.” (vv.48-51) RSV

We draw today to the end of coping with the storms of life. This story follows soon after the calming of the storm (Mark 4:35-41) that we have been studying. But this is different. Jesus wasn’t even with them in the boat since he had sent them on ahead of him. They were fulfilling his will and walking in obedience, so the storm was not because they were out of God’s will.

When Jesus did arrive – across the water – he was at first not welcome: a ghost! Why did the disciples not recognise him and welcome him into their boat? It was not just because they couldn’t see or that his arrival was unexpected. The answer lies in the text, though it is not obvious at first, “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” (v.52). Earlier in the day they had witnessed and had taken part in the miracle of the Feeding of the 5000, yet they had ‘hardened their hearts” in ignorance and unbelief.

Such an attitude of heart means that they were not growing in faith and awareness of Jesus. It meant that they were starting to follow Jesus and his commands in their own strength. Their discipleship was starting to become an uphill struggle. Their joy and energy was gone and they were “distressed” (v.48). The result was not that they were in danger (there was no storm), but that they were going nowhere fast.

When our faith shrinks and we baulk at what Jesus has done, we too will not recognise him. We will mysteriously be bereft of his presence. Indeed we may think he is a “ghost” and a threat. If he comes into the boat he may rock it! How foolish can we become? Very, it seems. Spiritual blindness quickly follows hardness of heart. They were exhausted and struggling. Discipleship had become an uphill slog.

Lord Jesus Christ, you know that we are struggling to row the boat of life. Forgive us for striving in our own strength. Come and bring your ability to calm us and to calm our surroundings. With you alone can we make it to the other shore. Amen. 

Explore More – Luke 10:39-42

1 Why was Martha “distracted by many things”?

2 What did Mary have that Martha had neglected?

The Storms of Life – How to Weather Them

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 The Reading: Acts 27:1-44

“… take heart … for this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong.” (vv.22-23) RSV

The story of Jesus calming the storm may give the impression that God always wants to and will stop our crisis and make things calm once again. That is not necessarily so. Today’s story about Paul being shipwrecked on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1) is just such a case.

Prayer does not always give us what we think we want/need. Paul did not have his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) taken away, and Jesus did not have his crucifixion taken away. Both of them started off their prayers requesting those things, but both came to understand that the highest purposes of God would not be fulfilled that way.

So, with the ship being in severe trouble Paul set about praying. During the night he had a visitation – an angel. Lucky man, that sort of thing doesn’t happen to most of us! Yet, maybe it does and we don’t recognise an angel when we see one (see Hebrews 13:2). Anyway, one way or another God spoke to Paul. The message was good news and bad news, the good news was that no one would die, but the bad news was that the ship would be lost.

Paul, amazingly, had such an authority and calm awareness of what was going to happen that he was more or less given a free hand to tell the crew and the soldiers what to do. God will give us authority when we listen to him and move in the Spirit. Hearing God is the key to life. Did not Jesus say: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”?

The storm in our lives may not always end up altogether happily but with God there will be a constructive and positive outcome. Sometimes our beloved possessions may have to be jettisoned. Sometimes the outcome puts us in a different place than we were before e.g. Malta! Travelling with God is not necessarily a smooth passage, but whatever happens, He is with us, and all things will work together for good.

Thank you Father for the excitement and unpredictability of life. And thank you that you are in it with us – a steady hand at the helm. Help us not to wrench it away from you. Amen. 

Explore More – Genesis 39

1 What ‘storm’ of temptation did Joseph encounter?

2 What was the cost to Joseph of overcoming the temptation?

3 What was the positive outcome?

The Storms of Life – Authority

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 The Reading: Mark 5:21-24, 25-34, 35-43

“Little girl, I say to your arise.” (v.41) RSV

Last week’s thoughts may have been a bit of a bombshell to your understanding of the Christian walk. Indeed it may have even seemed blasphemous. But remember that Jesus was accused of blasphemy by the received theology of his day. It is a shock to many a devout believer that we are not mere servants who don’t know what our Master is doing, but are heirs, sons, princes. We have the authority of the Master to do his work, yes, and even greater works!

We have been looking at the calming of the storm (Mark 4:35-41), but Jesus applies this same authoritative use of words of command in all his ‘miracles’, whether it be over demons or nature or sickness. Today we have read about the healing of the 12 year old daughter of Jairus (a ruler of the synagogue). The request is made, and the situation deteriorates with the delay caused by the pressing need of the women with a 12 year old flow of blood (vv.25-34). But Jesus is undaunted.

When he arrives at the home of the ‘dead’ girl he puts out all the unbelievers who only confirm that the little girl is irreversibly dead. He takes with him the girl’s parent together with his strongest disciples: Peter, James and John. In the room, he does not kneel down and ask his Father to heal her, but as his Father’s ambassador he speaks on behalf of God, indeed, as the mouthpiece of God, and gives instructions to be obeyed.

Faith needs commands. Are we prepared to take authority and command? “Little girl, get up.” She responds, and rises. How often have we spent ages, even years praying for something or someone, and have had no apparent response. Why? Perhaps it is because God has been whispering in our ear. “You do it. I’m not going to do it for you.” Are we prepared to speak to the weather, or to our child, or work colleague, or to a disease? If so, then we need to hear what God is saying. It’s not a matter of forcing (and failing!) to make our own will come true. Pray and listen. What is he whispering? When you know, go and do it.

Father, this seems too much to believe. Help me to digest this new aspect of ministry. Help me to listen to you, and then to be bold enough to act upon it. Amen

Explore More

1 How did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead?

John 11:38-44

2 How did Jesus heal the demon-possessed boy?

Mark 9:21-29

3 What would have given them the authority?

Mark 9:28-29

The Storms of Life – Dominion

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 The Reading: Mark 4:35-41

“Peace! Be still!” (v.39) RSV

Matthew, Mark and Luke all say that Jesus “rebuked the wind and the sea”, but only Mark records what he said: “Peace! Be still!” He did not pray. In fact he had been asleep and was to all intents and purposes unprepared. He was woken suddenly by panic stricken and accusatory disciples and told to sort it! (v.38)

What would we have done? Become annoyed? Told them that God doesn’t control the weather just for us? Entered into intense and fervent prayer? Or would we have spoken to the elements? God wants US to have dominion of the earth. He has given us that authority. It is faithless to keep on banging at Heaven to get God to do something about it. He has (in Christ) given US the tools to do the job.

Desperate, pleading prayer can be an act of faithlessness! Yes, that may seem a bold statement. But Jesus prayed in order to see what God was doing and then to do it. And he prayed in order to hear what God was saying, and then say it. Prayer is not so much to get God to act, but rather to be so in tune with Him that we do his work with him. We are meant to be growing up to be His co-workers, not to remain His dependants.

It is by “saying the word” that God created the world, and similarly it is by “saying the word” that Jesus performed his ministry. We are to follow in his footsteps and continue his works. Remember how the Roman Centurion wanted Jesus to heal his sick servant? He sent messengers to bring Jesus to his house, but before he arrived he sent out others to stop him: “I am not worthy that you should come into my house. Say the word only and my servant shall be healed.” Jesus extolled this man for his great faith.

Are we prepared to take courage, and having first heard what God is wanting to do, bring it to pass by speaking the word?

Lord this is awesome news. Help us to take up the weapons that you have given to us. Your word is powerful and active, and is the means by which you achieve your purposes. Keep us from wrongful and selfish use of this authority, but forgive us when we fail to take responsibility and to take charge. Amen.

Explore More

1 When did God first give dominion to Man?

Genesis 1:27-28

2 What authority did Jesus give to his disciples?

Luke 9:1-2