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What is a FunCtionaL atheist?

If I asked you if you believed in God, you would emphatically say ‘yes’. . .

If I asked you if you have faith in him, you would say you do. . .

If I asked you what you know about him, you could likely describe something of his nature, character, and behavior; you would mention things about his power, wisdom and love. . .

If I asked you if you think he is good and trustworthy, you would likely say ‘yes’. . . some would say, ‘of course!’

But I am wondering if there is a gap between what you say you believe and what you actually do. If so, could you be a functional atheist? Meaning, you say you believe these things about God, but you function like you do not because truth be told, you do not act on your faith in God by praying. hmmm...

The last few lines of Mark chapter six could be skipped right past, but they are interesting, particularly as you see the people’s reaction to Jesus is so very, very different than those at the start of the chapter when Jesus went to his hometown and was met with unbelief. Hmmm…

There is a lot recorded in this sixth chapter of Mark. To put it in context, in our last briefing, we saw that while it was still dark, Jesus went up on the hillside to pray, saw the storm threatening the disciples on the lake, so he went to them and quieted the storm1. This is the second time we have seen Jesus still the waves, rescuing his loved ones from danger. And then this:

“When they [Jesus and the disciples] had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore.

And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was.

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Mark 6.53-56

Here is what strikes me from this simple account:

Jesus had great compassion for the people who came to him, desperate to be in his presence.

people had faith that Jesus could help them, that He could heal them!

they acted on that faith by doing whatever it took to get to him.

The paved roads today between the towns and villages around the Galilee are hilly and windy; can you imagine walking up and down dusty roads, carrying sick loved ones to Jesus?

Perhaps you think, 'Well, duh Christine, if Jesus was in my next town, I would take my sorry tail over for him to heal me too!’ But don’t you see? Jesus is closer than the next town, my dear. And he has invited you to come to him in prayer any time, day or night, no matter where you are--to talk to him, bring your needs, your worries, your sicknesses, your concerns and he will hear you and respond. What’s more, he longs to give you good gifts, just as a loving father does his children.

One more thing to be noted about the sick who came to be in Jesus’ presence—

they reached out and touched him, even if they just got the fringe or hem of his garment.

That’s it! Prayer is reaching out for God. And it is that access point, where heaven touches earth, where we maintain our lifeline with our Creator, our Savior, and our Redeemer.2

Jesus is our role model in the way he prioritized prayer. Ah, Friend, it brings a smile to my face when I picture him climbing the Galilean hillside to find a place to pray, with the nature he created all around him. Heck, I remember sitting on the hillside of the Mt. of Beatitudes in a place of prayer, looking out at the Sea of Galilee.... So too I love talking with the Lord from a place of prayer in my backyard, and desperately loved spending time with him at the beach.

God listens, and he is ready to answer. Ask him. If you are so broken or so confused you cannot form the words, just reach out in faith and touch him.

Thought of an old song today – In the Secret…

Pray first,


The Footsteps of Jesus in the gospel of Mark, 22

1 – Mark 6.45-52

2 – Pray First, Chris Hodges, p.xvi

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