Tag Archives: Mark

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Mark 4:37 – “Losing Your Head”)

“Losing Your Head”

Mark 4:37, “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.”

This morning, the Bible continues to amaze with its richness and depth. After repeated passes through its pages over the years, I never cease to be amazed at what “new” things are found each time. No matter how many times you squeeze the passages, honey keeps pouring out. One of the death knells of a disciple of the Lamb, and especially to a minister of the gospel, is to develop the mindset about Scripture and say, “I got that.” Scripture warns about thinking we know something more than we do or have our situation figured out. (I Corinthians 8:2, 10:12) The study verse before us sits within a story that I have attempted to preach about many times in the past. The story is rich and full of doctrinal weight as well as practical lessons. Yet, for all my reading, studying, meditating, and eventually preaching on this lesson, I recently saw something that previous glances had missed.

The story before us is the wonderful account of Christ calming the wind and seas with a simple command, “Peace, be still.” (Verse 39b) So many things take place that it is easy sometimes to fail to see some of the weight of the lesson. For example, the men in the boat are often chastised by us today for their lack of faith, and indeed Christ Himself rebuked them after rebuking the wind and sea. Have we considered lately their experience level? Many of the men in the boat were experienced and hardened fishermen. They were not novices. Yet, these men who had gained the mastery of life on the water were in great jeopardy to the point of thinking that their lives were about to end. (Verse 38) While Christ rebuked them as is within His purview, I grow less quick to point my finger at them as I consider how these masters of the sea were made to doubt. This was not their first storm to navigate, probably, but it “got to them.” It reminds me of those live feeds when meteorologists and storm chasers realize that the storm is bigger than they thought or doing something they did not predict. The look of horror that engulfs their faces is how I imagine the disciples were. “We’ve never seen anything like this…”

Yet, there is a simple thought contained in our study verse that is rich to consider. They had been fighting this storm for a certain period because the boat was now “full” because of the waves. Having been on a few vessels that had slow leaks, there is something unsettling about watching water rise in the boat. Enough water from the waves had filled the deck so that inundation or capsizing certainly seemed inevitable. Now, put yourself in their place. You have been in situations like this, but now you are where you have never been before. It is just one thing after another, piling up over and over. Now, if one more thing happens, it is all over. In our struggles with the pressures of life, have we ever said, “I’ve had it up to here, and I can’t take one more thing.”? The disciples looked over their vessel and said, “It can’t take another one.” When looking through the lens from that perspective, I generally share in mortal man’s plight in Scripture. While I would like to say that in the face of those trials I would stand tall, I fear that I would be dashing below deck to tell Christ, “We’re goners!”

While growing up, there was an expression tossed around our house that is a variant of the cliché “use your head.” My parents would tell us at times “use your good sense.” When making decisions and trying to reason through things, the command was to utilize the teachings that we had been given to make the right decision. To use good sense means that we see things for how they really are not how they appear to be. Perspective is both powerful, and sadly, at times, crippling. To the men on the boat, the storm is too big. Reality: someone bigger was still with them. To us today, life seems roughshod and at times, perhaps unbearable. Reality: Christ is still on the throne. Using good sense means that we do not let circumstances determine our values but rather constantly lean on the unchanging fullness of our Almighty Friend.

The interesting thing about this passage is that it begins with Christ’s simple declaration to them, “Let us pass over unto the other side.” (Verse 35b) His final statement in the lesson is, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (Verse 40b) The simple lesson is this: 1. I told you we are going, 2. How did you think we would not make it? Consider the richness of Christ’s promise to us that where He is there will we be also. (John 14:3b) Just as nothing would or could prevent the disciples making it to the other side, so nothing in this realm can or will keep us from being with Him in heaven. Had Christ desired it, He could have commanded that vessel to glide the rest of the way in the storm being full of water all the while. No matter what manifestation His power takes, He can overrule and overcome any problem that we face. Even if it seems that we are losing our mind with constant toils and struggles, there is more power with us than with anything we face.

Have you ever felt your boat to be full? Did it ever seem like you could not take one more thing or even part of one more thing? I freely confess that my life has had moments when I thought one more thing would crush me. Mortal man is prone to doubt and despair. Yet, before we lose our head about all that happens around us, let us remember that He who has all power loves us and watches over us. Nothing will plague us that is too much (i.e. more than we can bear) because of His lovingkindness to us. (I Corinthians 10:13) When it seems like we cannot take one more thing, let us recall to mind that we have one more thing with us that they do not: the Lord. He can mercifully take the monster in front of us away, as He did to the storm for His disciples. He can guide us through the storm in ways no man could have fathomed possible, or He can simply take us home to be with Him on the “other side.” No matter the deliverance used, He can deliver and has promised to deliver.

One of the more amusing things that I have encountered since being in the ministry is how so many people seem to subconsciously equate it with Old Testament prophets. They ask me to predict the future and foretell things that will be. My patented answer now is something to the effect, “My crystal ball is broken, and the last technician to fix them died.” So much of the future is murky that many things are impossible to tell. These days, the things that seem “likely” in the future are dark to consider. Yet, the thought that should drive the disciple daily is that no matter what comes of good or ill, Jesus is there! We may think Him uncaring at times like they did in this lesson, but friends, He always cares and will deliver His own. No matter how full life seems or how full the troubles make things, let us never become overwhelmed in mind and spirit to forget about our Powerful Friend.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Mark 7:2)

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Mark 7:2, “And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.”

This morning, society, as we have mentioned many times before, continues to bleed its thinking into our communities, churches, and families. When society’s mentality makes Godly people waver on issues such as judgment, discipline, marriage, or even the Bible’s stance on homosexuality, the devil no doubt takes great delight in the confusion that comes from such things. However, one of the most prominent societal mindsets that invades us and our borders on a regular basis is the subject matter of fault finding. Fault finding can be rather blandly put into two categories: 1. correct faults and 2. incorrect faults. While that can go without saying, part of the rub with society is that each category is generally viewed the wrong way. In other words, correct faults are ignored, while incorrect faults are pointed out strenuously and with much fanfare.

In our verse above, we see – as so often happened – that the Pharisees and other groups were “after Jesus” and his followers to find fault with Him and them. By the end of Christ’s ministry, they are pointing to incorrect faults in bringing false witnesses against Him at the mock trial that they held the night before His crucifixion. In the realm of Jesus, no one will ever find a correct fault, but in our realm, people can find real and certifiable fault with us as we fail so often. However, what seems to be the case today was the case then. The fault that people find so often with the followers of Jesus is an incorrect fault that His followers have no reason to be ashamed of. The biggest and easiest example of this today is the constant push of society for Christ’s followers to “feel bad” for calling homosexuality a sin according to God’s word. We have no reason to feel ashamed for thinking that as God’s word is very plain on the subject.

Incorrect fault finding more often than not revolves around persons and personalities rather than principles, whereas correct fault finding revolves around principles no matter what persons or personalities are involved. The fault found in Christ’s followers here revolved around whether hands were washed or not, not whether or not the food was blessed and sanctified by God through prayer. (I Timothy 4:4-5) At other times, Christ Himself was faulted by others for visiting certain types of people – like going to Zaccheus’ house in Luke 19. Rather than focus on what Christ did while with Zaccheus (principles of action), they focused on the man himself.

People can find any number of faults with churches as a reason not to either attend or join. I have heard people say any number of the following: “they’re just a bunch of sinners,” “churches are full of hypocrites,” “I don’t know what my wife would say,” “they don’t have anything for my kids,” etc. All of these “faults” miss the main mark of correct fault finding through principles. Rather than focus on the people that are there or what this body can or cannot do for you from your perspective, what is the principle that should be viewed? Is the church the pillar and ground of the truth, and should she be worth attending, standing with, and contending for? Scripturally speaking, the answer is yes, yes, and yes. (Hebrews 10:25, Jude 3) We should earnestly contend for the faith, and part of that is through regular attendance in the assembling of ourselves together for the cause of Christ.

People in the church can find any number of faults with others in the church, and I have heard any number of the following: “the deacons run the church,” “that preacher preaches too long,” “people don’t care what I think,” “I just can’t get along with so-and-so,” etc. Again, all of these faults revolve around people rather than principles worth contending for. Most of the “gripes” that people – self included – find ourselves caught in are housed in the realm of non-essential matters. How things are “run” in the church matters more in the sense that it is done decently and orderly than who the person is doing it. The length of a minister’s sermon is less important than the attendance of the Spirit is throughout the discourse. Differing personalities should take several backseats to the attention of heavenly things that members of the body should be focused on.

In the realm of correct fault finding, we see the opposite come true so often. If something is worth contending for principally, then it needs pointing out. Paul pointed out to Corinth that they had a fault among them that merited swift action to the point of exclusion with the fornicator. (I Corinthians 5) Today, as it likely has always been, matters of church discipline are either excused or ignored by many out of fear, misguided affection, pride, etc. Perhaps one of the most egregious forms this takes is when someone is offended with someone else. If the fault is a correct one, then one has due diligence before him to take the steps laid out in Matthew 18. However, though people may have correct faults with one another, they get handled incorrectly by either talking to others about it or just stewing over the matter rather than exercise Scriptural diligence.

Beloved, as frail creatures of dust, we will no doubt be sure to find fault with one another if we are looking for it. Whether or not the fault is a correct one or not will not matter to the fault seeker. The Pharisees and others were so interested in finding faults with Jesus and His followers that they would stoop to anything that worked in their minds. However, their own decorum showed – and was pointed out by the Master – that they were at great fault for what they did and what they omitted. We should not be looking for faults in people but seeking to uphold the principles of the Master.

If that be our course and direction, we will not find the trifling matters with and against one another. Furthermore, the only way others will find fault with us is like with Daniel and it be with our religion. (Daniel 6) The difference between the Master and His followers is that they could only find incorrect faults with Him, whereas we may find correct fault in ourselves and others. So, let us strive to be only found in fault by the world in an incorrect way, and not have correct faults that injure our brethren and shame our Master’s name. May it be so with us that we fault principles rather than personalities and look for heavenly blessings rather than earthly problems.

In Hope,

Bro Philip