Faith After the Storm

Mark 4.39-40
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?”

Reflection: Faith After the Storm
By John Tillman

How tired Christ must have been to be asleep during the storm. 

Mark gives us the beautiful eyewitness detail that Christ’s head was on a pillow. Jesus had healed and preached all day long. Then he had preached it all again to his disciples who had heard the stories but, just like the crowd, had a hard time understanding.

Jesus was beaten down by the demands of his work so much so that the wildly rocking boat, the crashing waves, and even the boat filling up with water didn’t wake him. In the midst of this terrible storm, Jesus slept on until his shaken disciples shook him awake.

The disciples don’t seem to wake Jesus because he can save them from the storm. They merely wake him to complain about his treatment of them. “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” The drowning seems a foregone conclusion. There is no direct request, merely bitterness and accusation. 

How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations.

Don’t you care, Jesus?
Why don’t you answer?
What’s wrong with you?

When Jesus calms the storm, the disciples’ fears should be as calm as the sea, but instead they are heightened. The disciples are more terrified than before. 

Jesus asleep on the pillow is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot hear or dispute our complaints, our fears, our version of events. But Jesus standing and rebuking the storm rebukes us as well. “Quiet. Be still.”

Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around. He is no longer the servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department. Instead he holds power that cannot be debated with. He is someone who demands our service, demands our compliance, We may be as terrified by a Jesus who calms storms as we are by the storms themselves.

As we examine our hearts this weekend, spend some time contemplating the fearful question of the disciples, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Though we still have no faith after the storm, he is willing to do great things through our lives. If the winds and waves listen to his rebukes…we can too.

Be stilled and calmed by Christ this weekend.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33 (Listen – 2:59) 
Mark 4 (Listen – 5:01)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 34 (Listen – 4:18), Mark 5 (Listen – 5:21)
Genesis 35-36 (Listen – 9:33), Mark 6 (Listen – 7:23)

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This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

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Read more about Thanksgiving Stirs God’s Heart
When Simon (not yet called Peter) saw what Christ had done for him and his partners, he skipped right over being thankful to being fearful. “Go away from me! I’m not worthy. I don’t understand! You don’t know how sinful I am!”

Read more about Prayer from the Belly of the Beast
We may not be in the beast’s belly because of wrongdoing, but because our world is filled with beasts. But regardless of how we came to be there, our prayer may be sharpened, amplified, and have greater effect on our hearts.


The Focus of Christ’s Anger

Mark 3.5
[Jesus] looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.

Reflection: The Focus of Christ’s Anger
By John Tillman

It isn’t too often we see Jesus angry, so it makes sense to pay close attention to when and why it happens. 

The word translated “angry” here is used many ways. Paul says we should rid our lives of it. Paul also uses it to describe God’s wrath that will come on the disobedient.

Jesus spent a lot of time with people who, by every cultural definition and religious law, would be under God’s wrath. Jesus ate with sinnersJesus spent time with heretics. Jesus graced the homes of financial swindlers and race traitors. Jesus spoke to fallen women. (Speaking to women at all made him an outlier to his culture.) Jesus touched lepers. Jesus befriended and praised foreign occupiers.

Shouldn’t Jesus have been angry with them?

In our culture of outrage, we can’t get enough of anger. We decry escalation of conflict using escalating rhetoric. We bemoan the sinking values of personal responsibility while refusing to take responsibility for the ills of society. We claim to value love and peace yet we high five those spewing hateful vitriol. We claim to value tolerance and diversity, yet we embrace politicians who seek domination and oppression of any opposition.

An angry Jesus could get a lot of retweets in our culture. Of course, we would want him to be angry with the same people we are and in the same way we are. However, when Jesus became angry, he was usually in a house of worship or the homes of the religious elite. 

Christ did not sling stinging rebukes or harsh language at the wide variety of sinners he encountered. He saved those for the Pharisees—who are the people in the Bible most culturally similar to modern, Western Christians. 

Why would we expect him to speak any differently today? Is Jesus angry…with us?

Part of prayer is seeking knowledge of our wrongdoing. In prayer we can honestly and openly seek to find the focus of Christ’s anger in our lives. Christ’s anger is a good anger. It is an anger that calls us to turn back. It is a healing anger that grieves at our selfishness and hard-heartedness. 

Seek today for what in your life causes Christ to grieve, to be angry. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart and cleanse you.

Prayer: The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 32 (Listen – 4:40) 
Mark 3 (Listen – 3:41)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

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Read more about A Sign of Immaturity
As Christians, Pharisees would be the most frequent attenders of your church. They would not be similar to “cultural Christians” whose only identifying mark of Christianity is on a census taker’s form. In fact, they would probably look down on such uncommitted believers.

Read more about We Confess :: Worldwide Prayer
The gospel is better served by time spent confessing our own sins than time spent accusing the world of theirs. When we call others to confession, we ought to be inviting them to join us, not sending them somewhere we’ve never been.

Theology is Like a Watch

Scripture: Mark 2.7, 16, 18, 24
“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
“How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Reflection: Theology is Like a Watch
By John Tillman

Jesus wasn’t sinless because he never broke laws. He constantly broke them.

In this one short chapter of Mark, Christ breaks (or supports those who are breaking) five separate laws (some of which were punishable by stoning): he blasphemes, he eats with ceremonially unclean people, he eschews required religious fasting, he defends working on the sabbath, he defends David’s eating of the holy bread.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) described the interdependence of laws and truth when advising new disciples learning about theology and the scriptures for the first time:

“Truths have a dependence on each other; the lesser branches spring out of the greater, and those out of the stock and root. Some laws are but means to other laws, or subservient to them…Therefore it is one of the commonest difficulties among cases of conscience, to know which law is the greater.”

Christ recognized the priority of the greatest laws. We see this in Christ’s teaching. Jesus referred to “lesser” laws with language that exposed their second-tier authority. He often said, “your traditions,” or “Moses permitted,” or “you have heard it said…” Baxter continues:

“Upon this ground, Christ healed on the Sabbath day, and pleaded for his disciples harvesting the heads of grain, and for David’s eating the shewbread, and told them, that ‘the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,’ and that ‘God will have mercy, and not sacrifice.’”

Baxter refers to theology as an intricate watch—meaningless unless all the parts are in proper order:

“Theology is a curious, well-composed frame. Just as it is not enough that you have all the parts of your watch or clock, but you must see that every part is in its proper place, or else it will not go, or answer its end; so it is not enough that you know the various parts of theology or law, unless you know them in their true order and priority.”

When Jesus is asked what the two greatest commandments are, his answer tells us how to set our watch by the two guideposts on which hang the entire law—Love God and love others.

*Richard Baxter selections condensed and language updated from A Christian Directory.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Again, you have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You must not break your oath…But I say this to you, do not swear at all…All you need say is, ‘Yes’ if you mean yes, ‘No’ if you mean no…” — Matthew 5.33-37

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 31 (Listen – 7:47) 
Mark 2 (Listen – 3:55)

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This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

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Read more from The Heart of the Reformation
Luther’s intention wasn’t division, but renewal. The heart of the Reformation is the recovery of the gospel, inside the Church, for the good of the world.

Read more about Created Anew
The rabbis speak of “right intentions”: yetzer ha-tov (the good inclination) vs yetzer ha-ra (the evil inclination). It is possible to serve the Lord out of joy and it is possible to serve him out of duty. On the outside, acts of service appear the same: “but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Grace that Makes Us :: Worldwide Prayer

Mark 1.14-15
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Reflection: Grace that Makes Us :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

Through his grace our weakness is made strong.
Through his grace he leads us from doubt on to faith.
Through his grace we can share the gospel with others.
His grace makes us his own.

This prayer from Brazil celebrates and thanks God for his grace and its effects in our lives.

A prayer of thanksgiving from Brazil
Our Heavenly Father,

We praise your name and adore you with all our heart. We lift our hearts with joy because you are a great God who, regardless of our sins, loves and watches over us. With great compassion and love you have led us through the valleys and up the mountains to the right paths. Help us to overcome our weakness and lack of faith.

Lord,
It is your grace that makes us what we are. We are not worthy to stand before you, but at Calvary you bought us with a price which we cannot measure nor understand. You have given us a new name and a new life. We praise you and offer ourselves to you.

Lord,
Help us to remember we are strong only in you. We ask that the Holy Spirit will control our lives. It is you Lord Jesus who holds onto us in every circumstance. Renew our faith in you, expect us to “bear fruit” and make us willing to share with people around us, the needy, the lost, those who need a word of hope.

May all see Jesus in us.

For it is in Jesus’ holy name we pray.

Amen.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms. — Psalm 95.1-2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 30 (Listen – 6:10) 
Mark 1 (Listen – 5:05)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Free to Become Like Children :: Worldwide Prayer
Spirit of God, we thank you
That you have brought the riches of salvation
Into the poverty of our human experience.

Read more about Emptiness Filled by Love :: Worldwide Prayer
Compassionate God, we are sinners in need of forgiveness. The emptiness within us can only be filled by your love.


God of the Weak and Doubtful

Matthew 28.16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Reflection: God of the Weak and Doubtful
By John Tillman

Some of the details that ring the most truthfully from the scriptures regarding the resurrection of Jesus, is how long it took the disciples to fully believe and understand what had happened. They were incredulous. They did not trust their eyes that saw or their hands that touched. They couldn’t believe it. 

We sometimes skim over the many mentions of the disciples’ doubt looking for examples of strong faith to emulate. We should emulate faith. This is the purpose of the great chapter of faith in Hebrews and the descriptions of faithful moments in the lives of many throughout scripture. But we shouldn’t overlook the importance of the presence of doubters among the disciples. 

If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt. When God shows us a story of the faithful, he points us to where he is calling us. When God shows us his doubtful children, he comes to where we are, puts his reassuring hand on our shoulder, and claims us as his children as well.

The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe. Even up to the moment of Christ’s ascension into Heaven before their eyes, doubt was among them.

It was these doubtful few with whom Christ placed the responsibility of his most precious and vital mission. It is to this confused assemblage of rebels and failures, that Christ entrusted the Gospel.

Oh you of little faith…
He accepts and encourages you today. You who doubt his care. You who doubt his provision. You who doubt his presence with you. You who doubt that you are loveable, that you are valuable, that you are called, that you are his precious child… He calls. He loves. He holds out his hand, and trusts the gospel, to all of us doubters.

Christ did not allow Peter to sink in the waves when his faith was too weak. He will extend his loving hand to you as well.
He did not turn away the father who struggled to believe. He will not turn you away.

Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.
In doubt hold out your hands.
In weakness cling to him.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Look upon your covenant; the dark places of the earth are haunts of violence. — Psalm 74.19

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 29 (Listen – 4:45) 
Matthew 28 (Listen – 2:39)

Read more about Rend Your Hearts

In every news cycle, the governments and powerful leaders of our world give us new reason to mourn and lament. Rending our hearts and not our garments doesn’t mean silence. It means taking personal responsibility for our failure to bring the gospel of life and light to a culture of darkness and death.

Read more about Taking Advantage of the Desperate

There is a reason economically disadvantaged neighborhoods often contain payday lenders and abortion clinics, but few doctor’s offices or grocery stores—monetization of desperation.

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

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