The Storms of Life (pt 2) – Mark 4:37-40

(This is an unplanned follow-up to a post I did about this passage earlier this week.)

“I was in that boat.”
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. Don’t you hate when that happens? I usually try not to think about anything when I wake up so as not to get my mind going because then I have trouble falling back asleep. I checked the time: 2:30. I realized I was thirsty so I poured myself a glass of water and suddenly a realization dawned on me about the storms of life and specifically about this passage.
I felt God gently whisper something to me: “I was in that boat.”
Think about it for a minute! The disciples were never actually alone; Jesus was with them in the boat. Similarly, don’t I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me? So am I ever actually alone when the storms come? Never!
Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior!
Jesus promised that He will be with us. One of my favorite Bible verses (Heb 4:15) says that Jesus, because He has experienced being human, is able to sympathize with us! But that verse doesn’t say that Jesus is able to sympathize with just the good parts of human life; it’s talking specifically about suffering. Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness. Earlier, in Hebrews 2:18, the author states that Jesus is able to help us when we suffer because He has suffered Himself.
In fact, it’s doubtful that anyone has suffered to the degree that Jesus has. On the cross, Jesus absorbed God’s full wrath for the sins of all mankind (Mt 27:46). Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior! He is infinitely more familiar with suffering than we are.
And that is one of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel. It means that, no matter how dark the storm clouds, Jesus is always able to help us walk through. This is because, as Jesus promised in John 16:7, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. We have God dwelling inside us!
So my encouragement to you is the same as that of the author of Hebrews: look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured more suffering than we can ever hope to imagine on the cross and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2, paraphrase). Look to Jesus not only for an example, but also for hope and empathy!

Psychology 101 – The Gospel

For my “Theories of Personality” class final I had to combine all the theories that I had studied during the course and synthesize them into one core theory. We had studied Freud, Jung, Horney, Erikson, Adler, Allport, Maslow, May and a handful of others; now it was time to take a theory from each person and synthesize them! While I understand that some of these psychologists might roll over in their grave if they found out I was using their theory as part of the Gospel, here’s what I came up with:
My synthesis of these ideas is simple: we need God to rescue us from ourselves. In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth and it was very good. Then he created humanity; something went wrong. Since then we have been born with a fallen nature (evolutionary psychology). Because of this fallen state in which we exist, we sin against one another and against our children (basic evil). Additionally, our children are born in our fallen image and also have a predisposition to sin (collective consciousness). This sinful nature will manifest itself differently in men and women (anatomy and destiny) but we all fall short of God’s perfect moral standard. Consequently, we are in a constant struggle to redeem ourselves, especially when we compare ourselves to others (inferiority vs. superiority). The good news is that, because we are made in the image and likeness of God, He creates us all uniquely (traits) and influences the world around us so that we may seek him (environment). The best case scenario is that, through a series of events, we will be guided into a redeeming relationship with God (self-efficacy). Once this happens, we (the ego) will live the rest of our life in a struggle between our flesh (id) and our spirit (superego). There are three ways in which we mess this up. First, we may become legalistic and use religion against one another (token economics). Second, we may worship false gods and seek our fulfillment in the wrong places (displacement). Third, and finally, we may just altogether deny that we have any depravity at all (actualizing tendency). God is graceful and has given us minds that, although they are influenced by the world around them, they are able to stop and think, to ponder, to choose how we respond to our world (human dilemma). Finally, when we choose to accept the gracious invitation granted to us by God, we will have all our spiritual needs met (hierarchy of needs).

Consider the source

Recently a friend sent me a link to a blog written by a famous comedian. It was about why he was an atheist. My friend is a Christian and was simply sharing this article because they found it interesting. I read the article in its entirety and, to be honest, it troubled me deeply. Not because I agreed with the author or because he had challenged my beliefs; I was troubled because of his tone of authority.
After making what I considered a flimsy argument about how science can’t prove the existence of a God, so we shouldn’t believe in one, the author proceeds to explain that the burden of proof lies with believers, then he shares his anti-testimony explaining how he lost faith in Jesus at a young age. He then concludes his post by explaining why we should all be good to one another regardless of what we believe. I agreed with his last point, but I couldn’t help but wonder why he thinks human life has intrinsic value (unless still subscribes to some of his Christian beliefs, of course).
I could refute all his main arguments here, but that’s not why I’m writing this. There are two main things that troubled me about his post.

1). He appeals to the lack of scientific evidence for the existence of God as a sufficient reason not to believe. I’ve always thought this argument was insufficient. Let me ask you this, is the existence of God a scientific question? By definition, at least by Christian definitions, God exists outside of time and space. Doesn’t science specialize in the measurement of time and space? So is the existence of God a scientific question? I would say no. Or, to phrase it slightly differently; science measures the natural world; but God is a supernatural being. Can science prove or disprove God? Not likely; in fact I’d say it’s likely impossible. This is why faith is a part of the deal; but that faith is born from a lack of thinking. In fact, Pastor Timothy Keller would argue that a lack of faith results from a lack of thinking!
The existence of God is a philosophical question. It’s like me walking up to a mathematician and demanding he prove to me the existence of the ancient Mayan civilization. The mathematician doesn’t specialize in archeology or history; why am I asking him? So why do we appeal to a discipline that specializes in measuring time and space to determine the existence of an Individual that exists outside of time and space? I believe we ask far too much of science and fail to see that, as far reaching as this discipline is, it does have limitations.
That being said, please don’t label me as one of those “dumb, close-minded fundamentalists” who thinks that science is evil and can’t be trusted. Science fascinates me and I love reading about it. I can’t wait to see what’s next! But I know better than to ask questions science cannot answer.
2). The thing that troubles me the most is that the article was actually written! To be fair, the author stated that he gets asked why he’s an atheist often and this was a place for him to publicly explain why he doesn’t believe in God and why he thinks science is a better option (as though the two are mutually exclusive). But just like we’re asking the wrong questions of science, is it possible that we need to learn to be more discerning when we seek advice? Shouldn’t we learn to consider the source? Should I ask a car mechanic for health advice or a heart surgeon for car advice? For example, when pop stars start singing about politics I can’t help but roll my eyes; especially when they got famous by singing songs about crude topics that they wrote while they were on drugs (I realize that’s not a universal description, but it certainly applies to the band I’m thinking of at the moment).
So why do we suddenly listen to these voices? Why do we give them so much credibility? Am I going to put my eternal destiny in the hands of a comedian? Should we base our national policy off songs by punk bands?
I’m not saying that those people aren’t entitled to their opinions; they are. I’m not saying that anyone who disagrees with me is an ignorant fool; they aren’t. I’m not even “hating on” anyone, which is why I didn’t mention anyone by name in this entire post. I’m simply cautioning you to consider the source.
This equally applies when you go inside the church. You must make sure your pastor, elder, Sunday school teacher, deacon, or anyone else is teaching accurately. Read your Bible to make sure their message fits in with the broader context of the Bible. Buy a good systematic theology book and do some reading of your own. You’ll be amazed at all the incredible things you can learn. My theology classes have stretched my understanding time and time again; they’ve been a rich blessing.
1 Peter 3:18 tell us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” In this verse, Peter is urging us to grow in grace but he’s also challenging us to grow in knowledge.
I pray that we as a generation would grow to become more discerning in all areas of life, but especially in areas of faith.

The Chameleon Christian

Chameleons have always fascinated me. Their ability to change colors is just plain cool! Until I did some research for this post, I had always thought they changed their colors to blend in with their environment. I thought it was for camouflage or concealment. It turns out I was wrong! According to recent research:

“…evolutionary changes in the capacity for colour change are consistently associated with the use of social signals that are highly conspicuous to the visual system of chameleons. Moreover, capacity for colour change is unrelated to variation in the environmental backgrounds that chameleons must match in order to be camouflaged. Overall, our results suggest that the evolution of the ability to exhibit striking changes in colour evolved as a strategy to facilitate social signalling and not, as popularly believed, camouflage.”

In other words, the main reason that chameleons change color is not for concealment or camouflage but is actually for social reasons. Realize I said the main reason is in response to social signals; they do still change their colors for concealment, too. The Wikipedia page summarized it like this: “The primary purpose of color change has been found to be due to social signalling, as opposed to camouflage, although both social signalling color change, and color change for purposes of camouflage do occur in most chameleons, to some extent.”

Are you a chameleon Christian?

Do you ever find yourself doing this? Do you change depending on your social signals? Are you a chameleon Christian? A chameleon Christian is someone who specializes in blending in with those around them. At church they’re saying all the right things, quoting the Bible, and acting the part; once they get to work they’re cursing, laughing at crude jokes, or just simply blending in.

It’s easy to point your finger; harder to look in the mirror.

Now here’s the thing about chameleon Christians: it’s easy to detect when someone else is a chameleon Christian; it’s not as easy to take an honest look at yourself and see if you’re one, too! It’s easy for me to be hyper-critical of others, not so much for me to take a long, hard look at myself and see if I’m blending in. It’s easy to point your finger; harder to look in the mirror. And don’t mistake this as me claiming to be perfect. Quite the opposite! This is an area that I need to grow in, too! According to unChristian, one of the biggest problems non-Christians have with Christians is that we’re hypocrites. I think that’s likely the biggest problem we have with ourselves, too!
Ask yourself this simple question: Do you shine as a light (Phil 2:14-16) or do you blend in with the darkness around you (1 Jn 1:6)? This question, despite its difficulty, is worth answering. My prayer is that we may all look at ourselves and see where we can grow!

The Storms of Life – Mark 4:37-40

We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like? How does God most often seem to demonstrate His power? Perhaps for the same reason people tell us to be careful what we wish for…

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

There was a time early in Jesus’ ministry when He was traveling with His disciples in a boat at night. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself! During the day before, Jesus had spent some time teaching on the shore in this boat (Mk 4:1). At the end of the day, for whatever reason, He decided to go to the other side of the sea (Mk 4:35). (By the way, I have my suspicions that Jesus knew what He was doing.) All seemed well until “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling” (Mk 4:37). It’s at this point that the disciples get scared. Wouldn’t you? Mark 4:38 says that they woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Isn’t that an easy question to ask? When the storms of this life come, and they will, don’t we sometimes feel as though God doesn’t care? Don’t we wonder if He sees what we’re going through? I can make you one sure promise in this life: Troubles will come (Jn 16:33). Ask anyone who has been around longer than… a week! You’ll find that this life does bring storms. Storms may look different from person-to-person; for some it may be a bounced check, for others it may be a broken leg! But Jesus promised us that the storms will come (Mt 7:24-27).

Don’t you care that I’m drowning?

And don’t we find it easy to wonder why it seems as though God does nothing? Doesn’t it sometimes feel as though God is just watching from afar; as though He’s sitting up in Heaven on His throne watching us as the storm sweeps over us, the waves crash into us, and it’s all we can do to keep our head above water?
“Teacher, don’t you care that my life is falling apart? Don’t you care that I don’t think I can make it? Don’t you care that I’m hurting, I’m alone? Don’t you care that I’m drowning?”
“Don’t you care?”
But isn’t this what gives our lives their meaning? Doesn’t God demonstrate His peace through our storms? Doesn’t God demonstrate His power through our weakness? What would happen if we didn’t have any storms? I know I would become arrogant and self-reliant. Wouldn’t we start to think that we deserved all the credit for all our great accomplishments? I know I would.

Are we really that different?

After the disciples cry out to Jesus, He simply commands the wind and waves to “be still” and they obey (Mk 4:39). Just like that the storm simply stopped. It’s almost like He was God. It’s almost like He was in charge the whole time. It’s almost like the disciples were worrying for no reason… But we already knew that didn’t we?
It’s easy for us to read this story and wonder why the disciples were so terrified. I mean, they had Jesus with them. Surely they knew that God was all-powerful and could stop the storm at any time. How could the disciples be so foolish? But are we really that different? Is our storm really that much bigger? Are our circumstances the special exception where God has no power to act on our behalf?
Look at how Jesus responds to His disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s almost as though Jesus is disappointed. I can’t help but read this with my name in front of it: “Daniel, why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? After all that we’ve been through, after all that you’ve seen, have you still no faith?”
Have you still no faith?
So here’s how the conversation goes:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing,” we ask as soon as the storm starts getting rough.
Jesus answers our question with a question: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
So why are we still afraid? Could it be that we lose perspective? Could it be that we forget that, just as Jesus had power over the storm in Mark 4:37-40, He also has power of the storms in 2011? Could it be that we believe the storm has more power than God? I ask God to show Himself to me, but as soon as that takes me out of my comfort zone, I become afraid. Jesus simply asks us to trust Him even in the midst of the storm.
Which brings us to the original question: We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like?
I firmly believe that it will look like cloudy skies more often than clear skies.