A Prayer Prompted by Mark 11

Dear heavenly Father,

Your people have often fallen into times of deep hypocrisy and in this chapter we see Jesus confront a group of people who were in one of those times.

Help us to be especially sensitive to the ways that our lives do not line up with your desires for us.

Let us always remember that you get to set the agenda in our lives individually and in the church.

And help us not to forget the importance of prayer. We know it can be really effective when we truly believe and consistently bring our requests before you.

We also know that before prayer comes a heart of forgiveness. Help us to be those people that refuse to hold grudges and refuse to let unforgiveness cloud our relationship with you.

And we thank you for all the ways and the times that you have forgiven us.

In Christ,

Amen.

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 10

Dear heavenly Father,

We acknowledge that we are sinful people who live in the midst of a sinful nation. Particularly in the areas of marriage and sexuality we have so distorted your desires for us that there is no way left for us to untie the knots.

Please forgive us, please transform us and please help us to make right whatever we can.

Help us to rely fully on the sacrifice of Jesus to cleanse us of our sin.

Help us to exercise a childlike faith and trust in you.

Like the blind beggar Bartimaeus, we really are helpless and have nothing at all to lose – except perhaps our sin and shame.

Therefore, we submit fully to Jesus as our Savior, Messiah and Lord.

In Christ,

Amen.

That one thing – Mark 10:17-22

Most Christians and many others are familiar with the story of the Rich Young Ruler, which, by the way, takes data from the combined Gospels to know these things (rich, young, a ruler) about him.  Here it is from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10.

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The man was obviously religious.  He was certainly concerned about the state of his soul and his standing before God, but his commitment also had its limits.  This fellow, by his own assessment, is not guilty of anything scandalous at all.  Jesus does not argue will that.  Christ does, however, point out that there is that one thing, his possessions, that are standing in the way of this man and eternal life.  His stuff had become his idol.  

Based on this story alone, it would be going too far to say that wealth is a problem for everyone or that it is always a problem wherever it is found.  It certainly can be, though, so it makes a good place for us to start in assessing ourselves.  Even poor people can be covetous and overly tied to their belongings.  For rich people the temptation is even worse.

Once we look at the areas of wealth and covetousness, we might actually determine that areas like these are not our biggest besetting sins.  Maybe we are truly generous.  Maybe riches are not, for us, an idol.  Fine, but maybe something still is.

The thing that impresses me most about this encounter of a random inquirer and Jesus is Christ’s ability to see beyond his generally high level of obedience to the commandments of God.  OK, so maybe he is no thief, murderer, adulterer or deceiver in any major way.  But maybe there is something else.  His riches, perhaps?  There is no commandment against owning stuff, only commandments not to be covetous or greedy and to be generous in considering the poor, etc. 

It’s not a simple rubric to use in giving ourselves a grade.  I my give regularly, but do I give enough?  I guess I want this thing or that, but is that covetousness or just a reasonable desire?  How am I supposed to know?  We may not know for sure, but in the case in question, Jesus did.  He pointed out to the man that one thing and it happened to be his possessions.

Perhaps for us there is also that one thing.  Maybe the right question to ask is, “If God asked me to give up anything, is there some request that would cause me to say no?”  Or worded differently, “Is there something Jesus might ask me to sacrifice that would so dishearten me that I would go away sorrowful rather than throw the thing away?”  If there is, we are in the same position as this man in the story.  

Any relationship, possession or position that I might consider more important than Jesus is probably my real god, my dead, debilitating idol.  As we know, God hates idols.  Therefore, so should we.

Mark 9 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

This chapter starts with the event known as the Transfiguration.  After healing a boy with a demon, Jesus proceeds through teaching on discipleship, heaven and hell.

Mark 09.pdf     (Omar Yamout)

Mark 09.mp3   (Omar Yamout)

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 9:23-24

The interaction between Jesus and the father of a demonized boy is highly instructional.  

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Heavenly Father,

We know that you are all-powerful and all-good.  You deserve every bit of faith and trust that we can give.  Sadly, however, that faith and trust is still sometimes sorely lacking.  We believe and yet we don’t.  We trust you, but not completely.  We have faith, sort of, but it wavers almost uncontrollably.

We believe, Lord; help our unbelief!  If the faith we have is no more than a mustard seed, please respond by moving the mountains that we face.  It may look as if our chances and hopes are dismal, but they are no worse than the hopes of this father with the demonized son.  Our challenges are no greater than those of the disciples on the Saturday after Good Friday when your body, Jesus, was still in the tomb.

Please act, Lord!  Please hear our prayer!  Please pull us up from the depths of our unbelief, doubt and despair, and teach us to trust more fully in you.

It is in your name we pray,

Amen.

(Un)Belief – Mark 9:23-24

Jesus has just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration with three of his disciples.  Now he finds the other nine stuck in a situation for which they can do nothing helpful.  It seems a father has brought his son to Christ’s disciples.  The symptoms the boy exhibits are similar to epilepsy, but are actually caused by a demon,  When the father asks Jesus if perhaps he can help, the following interaction ensues.

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Isn’t this where we so often find ourselves?  We believe Jesus has the ability.  We pray to God, knowing he is all-powerful and all-good.  And still we doubt.  Our faith falls short.  We lack something in the area of true belief.

Eckhard Schnabel, in his Tyndale NT Commentary on Mark, describes the man, “He acknowledges his lack of faith, which is not an unwillingness to commit to Jesus’ power but an inability to believe in the face of immense odds, given that the nine disciples were unable to heal the boy.”

The reassuring thing is that this admission on the part of the father, “I believe; help my unbelief!” turns out to be enough of an expression of faith that Jesus heals the son.  The demon doesn’t come out without a fight, but it is a fight that Jesus cannot help but win.

We need to be willing to express our faith in Christ and the lack thereof.  Our belief and unbelief which somehow coexist in our torn and divided hearts.  It is not a rejection of Jesus so much as a wavering acceptance with a desire for the waves to calm down.  The doubts of the saint and those of the skeptic are of a different species entirely.

We believe Lord, help our unbelief!  And help he will.