Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Mark 4:38 NASB
In the middle of a storm or trial, it is very common for us to question what is happening. Sometimes in those questions God will speak to us and reveal why certain things are happening. But there comes a point where our questions can cross a line and we actually partner with Satan (the accuser) and begin to bring accusations against the character of God. We've all done it. Like, when we experience some sort of inequity that we don't see others around us experiencing and we begin to accuse God of showing favoritism. Even if we know that scripture says that He is no respecter of persons (Rom 2:11, Acts 10:34). The disciples in the middle of a storm wake Jesus up from sleeping and they have one concern; themselves. They never asked Jesus why He wants to go to the other side, they never asked Jesus how He can be asleep in the middle of the storm, they never asked Jesus if He was afraid, they never asked if He wanted to turn around. They never asked: "God, what are you trying to do through this storm? What is Your plan in leading me into this storm?" Instead, the disciples were content in staying at the elementary level of questioning and accusing instead of growing into maturity. When we begin to ask the deeper questions like those, we will start to take on the "mind of Christ" and see things from heavenly perspectives.
We all know that asking questions like "what are You trying to accomplish through this storm" is difficult to do though. Especially in a world that promotes the interests of man above the interests of the eternal God. Paul dealt with this same issue when addressing the church in Philippi:
But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:19-21 NASB
Paul said that he had no one else outside of Timothy that shared a kindred spirit and that did not seek after their own interests. This is one of the saddest, yet revealing group of verses in the whole of the New Testament; especially in the world we live in today. We live in a time where the interests of Christ take second place to the interests of men. Our safety, our security, and our happiness are what we are told to think on, plan for, save for, and live for. Sadly, when anything comes in and "rocks the boat" of our lives, the first thing to go is the interests and purposes of Christ.
How do we combat these influences from the world and stand firm on the word of God? Paul reminds us that the secret is humility and intentionally (daily) taking on the mind of Christ:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8 NASB
Jesus shows in Mark 4 that He did in fact care about the disciples by rising up to silence the storm. But the question to ask is: "Do you and I care about where Jesus is trying to take us and what Jesus is trying to accomplish through the storm"? What the disciples experienced through the storm and what happened on the other side of the storm was the divine plan of Christ. Let us move beyond ourselves and into the divine plans of God.
Questions to Consider:
1. Do you have someone like a Timothy in your life that you walk in unity with and share a kindred spirit with? If not, will you pray that God brings that person along? None of us are meant to walk the Christian life alone.
2. What are some of the interests of Christ that you are currently fighting to see accomplished? How can we as a church come alongside those efforts?
35On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Mark 4:35 NASB
We all know what happens next in this story. The disciples follow Jesus, they face a deadly storm on the sea, Jesus gets up from sleeping and rebukes the storm, and the sea becomes calm. Jesus certainly knew what was about to happen before He led His disciples into the boat that day. Yet, Jesus had a mission to go to the other side of the sea and was not going to let a storm divert Him. The disciples (and most of us) would have probably thought of turning around to head back to the closest shore; but Jesus never offered that as an option. Maybe the disciples would have thought that this was a warning from God to not continue to the other side and to turn back. Once again, Jesus never uses that as an option. So, why is Jesus wanting to go to the other side so badly that He would lead Himself and the disciples into a deadly storm?
The other side of the Sea of Galilee is what was called the Decapolis (which means 10 cities in Greek). In 64-63 BC, the Roman general Pompey brought the entire Near East under Rome's dominion. He incorporated the Greek cities east of the Sea of Galilee into a league of cities known as the Decapolis. Most of these cities resisted the Jewish religion and were pleased to have autonomy to be able to practice their own religion, education, culture and philosophy. This whole region was considered pagan as they worshiped other gods through sacrificing pigs and other animals and by teaching that the human form was the ultimate ideal. While all of this is important to note, Jesus is not going to the other side of the sea to try and specifically change the Greek culture; He is going over there for one man who is in need of freedom.
They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. 2When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, Mark 5:1-2 NASB
Jesus got into a boat, leaving behind crowds of people on the other side who were mesmerized by His teaching and authority, to face a storm that was considered life-threatening, to enter into a region that most Jewish people avoided because of their pagan practices, all to set free one man who was bound by demons who called themselves Legion. After Jesus gets done dealing with these demons (and pigs), He will be forced to leave the region. So, Jesus went through all of that to set free one man?
So, what's on the other side of the sea? I am and so are you. It was not by chance that Christ found you. He did not just stumble upon you one day and call you to follow Him. The calling of Christ is an individual and sovereign call that Christ Himself makes. If you are in Christ right now, it is because Jesus humbled Himself, left His heavenly home, took on human form and suffered as a man on a cross that was meant for me and you. My redemption and your redemption was costly; all of eternity will be spent trying to comprehend the unmeasurable grace of God. Jesus came to the other side of the sea for you and for me, let us give Him the praise and worship due unto His name.
"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."- C.T. Studd
Questions to Consider:
1. Where did you find yourself before you met Christ? Will you share your testimony this week with someone you don't know?
2. Do you struggle with thankfulness or expressing your thankfulness? Will you take the time to express your thankfulness to God through prayer or praise for what He has done?
On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. 37And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Mark 4:35-37 NASB
After one of the greatest teachings of Christ in the Sower of the Seeds, Jesus calls His disciples to get into a boat with Him and head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As they are obeying this simple request of Jesus, they find themselves in a life-threatening storm. Jesus, being all-knowing, has just led His disciples into an extremely dangerous situation. To make matters even more perplexing, we find out in verse 38 that Jesus is actually asleep in the midst of this storm! Get the picture, they obeyed and followed Jesus, and then suddenly, without warning, found themselves facing an impossible, fearful situation. How could this have happened? Why would Jesus lead His disciples who had obeyed His command into this situation?
One of the reasons for the storms of life is so we can see the mighty hand of God at work. To see a miracle take place is one of the greatest experiences that God uses of opening up our eyes to see Him rightly in all of His majesty. This is why the ministry and life of Jesus was marked by miraculous signs. But for a miracle to occur, something must go wrong or go against the natural order of things. If our desire is to have everything go perfect in our life and for us to never face any storms or trials, we are not only delusional but we are also asking for a life in which we will never see God move. These disciples (some who were fishermen) are about to experience something that they have never seen. Jesus is going to get up from sleeping and with these three words “Hush, be still” the powerful storm will cease. Without the storm, they would have never experienced this amazing revelation of Jesus as the Son of God who had authority over even the wind and waves.
They had obeyed Christ to get into the boat; Jesus led them into the storm which revealed the grip that fear had on them; but there was no safer place to be on earth than in the boat with Christ in the midst of a stormy sea. I am certain that those same disciples would have chosen to go through a thousand storms to have that same experience of seeing the power of Jesus once again. This is the joy of obeying Jesus and abiding in the boat of life with Him, we consistently gain new revelations of the power and love of Jesus; and we are never the same.
Questions to Consider:
1. Have you ever experienced a legitimate miracle in your life? Will you comment or share here your experience?
2. Are you facing some sort of storm in your life right now that you feel has come upon you out of nowhere? What is God trying to show you about Himself through that storm?
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,  so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,  obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
Thomas did not believe the other disciples when they said that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Rather than rejoicing, he expressed doubt. His doubts were swept away when Jesus paid him a visit. Thomas believed when he saw Jesus face to face. Jesus rightly told Peter, "You believe because you have seen me, blessed are those who have not seen me and believe."
It can be challenging to believe in something or someone that you have never seen. Some critics of Christianity would go so far as to say it is crazy for a person to base faith on something that is unseen. However, as in the case of Thomas, although he had not yet seen Jesus, Jesus was indeed alive. There are reasons that current-day Believers have put their faith in Jesus though they have not yet seen Him.
The Apostle Peter talks about some of the reasons "we" believe without seeing Jesus. v3: We have experienced God's great mercy. v3: We have been given a living hope. v4: We have an inheritance waiting for us. v5: We are protected by the power of God. v6: We rejoice even when our faith is tested. v7: Out faith is like gold test by fire. v8: We have love for Jesus, and inexpressible joy. I know that all of these "connections" to God seem to be subjective; but, I would contend that they are real. It should be "expected" that although we live in a physical world our connection to God is spiritual in nature. our unseen spiritual connection to God is real and it is what fuels our faith; and "yes," we believe without seeing!
Questions to Consider:
Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:8-14
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,  who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,  but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,  for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.  For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.  Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
The Christian Faith is centered on a relationship between us and God. As in any relationship, the relationship becomes more substantial as we come to know the other person. Covenant friendships are forged over time and and common experiences. Marriages flourish as a couple builds a dynamic relationship built on love and trust. The Apostle Paul speaks of his relationship with God in such terms.
Paul states: "I know whom I have believed." Paul is declaring that his faith is based on an ongoing relationship with someone that he "knows." Paul's faith is not in doubt, because he knows the person who is the basis of his faith. For Paul, God is not the man upstairs, God is living in him through the Holy Spirit.
Paul's unshakable faith gave him the strength to endure hardship and persecution. Paul placed his life, his destiny and all the things that he cared about into the safety of God's providence. When a Believer comes to a place in their relationship with God, where they can place everything that they hold to be of value and importance (including their own destiny) into the safekeeping of God; they are now walking in faith and not by sight.
Questions to Consider:
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
On July 11th 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law H.R. 619, a bill that required that the inscription “In God We Trust” appear on all paper and coin currency. Since the time of the Civil War the motto commonly appeared on most of the United States bills and coins. It begs the question, is "In God We Trust" nothing more than a motto or is it actually a statement of faith in the Almighty? As a people, and as a nation, do we trust in God?
On a personal level, the whole idea of trusting in God starts with a person's view of God. Do you believe in God's goodness of character or do you believe that He is somehow flawed? Do you believe that God is inclined to love you or does He wish you harm? It would be nearly impossible to trust in a god who lacks in character.
Both the Old and New Testaments reveal the heart of God. His heart is revealed as a loving Father who wants to bless, restore and heal. His character is revealed as having no flaws or deceptive motivations. In His goodness He has great plans in mind for His people. Plans of life beyond this life. Plans beyond our imagination. When I contemplate God's enduring love, amazing grace, and tender mercies, I can say without reservation, "I have put my trust in God."
Questions to Consider:
Scripture Reading Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is a step beyond hope. Hope is necessary in order for us form an optimistic view of the future. Hope is even included as one of the “Great Three” listed in 1 Corinthians 13:13. (Faith, Hope and Love) Faith takes hope to the next level. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for…”
The word “assurance” is translated from the Greek Word ὑπόστασις. (hupostasis) This word means that a person has concrete evidence that something is true. This is like a court case where the evidence is undeniable and demonstratively accurate. Faith is not vague and undefined. Faith is specific and clear. Faith is also the absolute conviction concerning the “things not seen.”
Would it be great to know the future? As a Believer in Christ, we do know the future. We may not know the details of how things will unfold, but we do know how they will ultimately land. According to Romans 8:28 “All things are going to work out for our good.” According to Jesus’ own words, He is preparing a place for us, and He is going to come back and receive us. This is not merely a hope, this is the future reality for those that are in Christ Jesus!
Questions to Consider:
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
There was turmoil in the church. The denomination that they were a part of had sent the new pastor. The former pastor of the church was a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, God-fearing man who loved God with all his heart. The newly installed pastor openly stated that he was an atheist and believed that God was a myth.
What we know, without a doubt, from Hebrews 11:6, is that this new pastor was not a true man of faith. Being a clergyman was his chosen profession, but he was not a believer. Faith begins with two prerequisites; 1) One must believe that God exists, and 2) That God is good. Specifically, He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
I do not understand what would motivate a self-proclaimed atheist to lead a community of faith, but that was what was happening in this church. This would be a church with some major gaps. This church would lack in being led with wisdom, because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This church would lack in evangelistic fervor because the heart of the gospel would not be preached with conviction. This church would lack in hope in the future because the pastor had no hope to offer the families of a deceased loved one.
Questions to Consider:
“The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. Mark 4:28 NASB
Jesus says that the soils of our heart is what will determine growth to happen or not happen. In this parable of the sower of seeds, three out of the four soils were in areas that were outside of the designated field where a sower would typically sow seeds. The seeds landed in these areas, and in some cases growth happened; but they were in areas outside of the prepared and cultivated field. Where the seed grew and produced fruit (Mark 4:20), someone had prepared that soil. This is what you do as a farmer, you prepare and cultivate the soil so that it is ready to receive seeds and that those seeds can grow without interference. The preparing and cultivating of the hearts of those that God has brought to us is of extreme importance if growth is going to take place. But how do we cultivate and prepare the hearts of others? Isn't that their job to prepare their own hearts?
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:19-21 NASB
What Paul is describing here in these verses is one of the way that we as a church cultivate and prepare the hearts of one another so that we can continue to receive seeds of growth in our lives. In verse 21, Paul says to "be subject (submit) to one another". Why do you think that is? Because If we are not submitted to each other then we will not give permission or authority for others to help cultivate our hearts. This may be an obvious statement, but we need each other more than we know. We need a community around us that helps keep the soil of our hearts soft and ready to receive. But if we keep everyone at an arms length distance away, and never let them get "too close", we will most likely develop a hardened heart as we miss out on the blessing of the church community.
Preparing the soil to receive seeds takes more effort than the sowing of the actual seeds. It takes time, energy, sacrifice, and attentiveness to make sure that the ground is prepared. Then after the seed is sown, it takes even more time and energy to continue to water the seed and to cut down the thorns that try and grow up around it. This is not meant to be the task for one person; this is meant to be a community effort.
Questions to Consider:
1. Do you have a community around you that helps cultivate your heart? If not, please reach out so we can get you plugged into a community group.
2. How are you currently cultivating the hearts of those whom God has brought into your life?
And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31“It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE.” Mark 4:30-32 NASB
In the beginning portion of Mark 4, Jesus speaks about one of the seeds that fell on the road and what happened to that seed.
as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. Mark 4:4 NASB
“These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. Mark 4:15 NASB
Jesus says that the "bird" that came and snatched the seed off of the road is a picture of Satan. We know Satan to be God's enemy and our enemy, but the word "Satan" means adversary and accuser. So, because of the hardness of the soil (pictured as a packed down road), and before this seed could ever go deeper and take root, Satan swoops down like a bird to snatch the seed away. If you have ever watched a bird swoop down to grab something to eat, they do so swiftly, with precision, and with stealth. Their domain is in the air, so they try not to spend too much time on the ground; so they come quickly and then disappear. How does Satan snatch up the seeds of the word of God that have been sown in someone? In two primary ways: 1. By bringing accusations against us causing us to feel unworthy of the truth of the word. 2. Bringing accusations against God causing us to doubt His goodness and the truth of the word. When we experience accusations against ourselves and against God, we should recognize that we are under attack and that something spiritual is taking place. Know this, the devil will do everything he can to make sure that the truth of God's word does not take root in our hearts because he knows that he is no match for the power of God's word.
In Mark 4:32 above, Jesus says that once the seed of God has grown it will grow up and become large enough to provide shade for the birds to nest under. We know already from the previous devotional titled: "Shade for the birds" that we are called to be a place for people to come and nest under and find shade from the trials and worries of life (see Matthew 6:25-26 & Matthew 11:28). To nest means to dwell or take up quarters, and the word under means to come under the authority of someone as a subordinate; to come under and remain under someone else. So, not only are we called to be a place of shade for the birds (people), but we are also called to be a place of shade from the thieving, swooping birds of the air. Demonic birds are constantly trying to steal the powerful word of God.
It's important to note that the hard, rocky, packed down hearts of people that the seed is sown upon is of major concern. If it wasn't a hardened heart where the seed fell then the seed may have immediately been hidden deep in the soil, untouched by birds of the air. But we must remember what the prophet Jeremiah prophesied: "Is not My word like fire?" declares the Lord, "and like a hammer which shatters a rock." Jeremiah 23:29 We should never underestimate the power of the word of God. If it falls in an impossible situation of even a hardened heart, the word of God can still break through causing tenderness to happen.
What Jesus is describing here in Mark 4:30-32 is what becomes of those who allow the word and seed of God to take root in them and transform them. These little seeds grow and become large trees with large branches. They will begin to stand firm in a new authority through the transformation of the life of Christ. When we allow God’s seed to grow in us, we will become a place of shade for others to come to for protection and concealment from even the swooping demonic realm of Satan. We will begin to walk in the authority of Christ to where even demonic "birds" of the air that fly around snatching up the seeds of the word of God, come up "under our shade" of authority. We don’t have the authority in and of ourselves, the seed of Christ in us gives us that authority.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Luke 10:17-19 NASB
We have been given authority over all the power of the enemy through Christ. This starts with us on an individual level in our individual walk, but it "branches out" to others that are in need of protection, deliverance and guidance from Satanic influences. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy but we as partakers of the life of Christ have been called to bring life and life abundantly. Let us walk in this calling and in Christ's authority.
Questions to Consider:
1. Are we a shade for ourselves, our families and our church that protects them from the demonic "birds" that fly around snatching up the truth of God's word?
2. Have you ever noticed how hard the devil and this world fights to keep us from the word and from prayer? How does the devil and the world do this in your life?