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.

 

Matthew 11 Verse by Verse

Matt photoJohn the Baptist is in prison where he begins to question his confidence in Jesus.  The cities in which Christ ministers do not respond.  The doubts of a saint, however, are massively different from the doubts of a skeptic.  

Matthew 11.pdf

Matthew 11.mp3

 

Is this the Jesus we wanted? – Matthew 11:2-6

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

John the Baptist was languishing in prison.  Conditions were harsh even for him, a man unaccustomed to comfort.  Further, he was not a criminal, and he knew he didn’t belong there.  Where was that Messiah that was going to set the world right?  Jesus was certainly that very man, wasn’t he?  There was the voice from heaven and the Spirit descending like a dove.  He was a relative and John knew him well enough to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the one.  But again, here he was, locked up and no happy ending anywhere in sight.  Who can blame him for asking Jesus for some word of hope or instruction?

The doubts of a saint are vastly different from the doubts of the skeptic.  When we find we don’t have the Jesus we wanted, we need assurance, even if we are determined to believe.  It’s a question of trust.  We can trust someone during difficult times, but still acknowledge that the times are difficult.  Disappointment with God is a real thing.  Our faith may waver, but it will not fail.  Surely, as we wait, God will strengthen our heart.

The skeptic sees things differently.  Difficulties just add to his denials.  She builds a wall of doubt out of bricks inscribed with objections.  Trials are never an acceptable outcome of obedience.  Disobedience can always find its reasons.

The saint knows better.  The narrow gate and the difficult way lead to life.  The rugged cross is something to cherish and something to cling to, while awaiting to exchange it for a crown.  Is this the Jesus we wanted?  No matter, it is the real Jesus.  And he would tell us the same thing he told John: 

“The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

39 Books: Malachi – But What Have We Done Wrong?

39 Bks Torah Scroll WhiteMalachi – But What Have We Done Wrong?

The final writing prophet in the Old Testament delivers a scathing rebuke to people whose religion has deteriorated to mere formality..

39 Malachi.pdf               39 Malachi.mp3

The Source of Our Courage

Everyone probably struggles with fear in one form or another. I’m not really speaking of a serious phobia nor suggesting anything like paranoid behavior. I’m only pointing to the nervousness, doubt or hesitation that holds us back from that which we know deep down to be good. It can be revealed in our unwillingness to take the next step to advance our career, our reluctance to introduce ourselves to the new guy at work, or our inability to share an important struggle with a close friend who most likely would be happy to help us bear the burden.

We can learn a vital lesson from the life of Moses. Here was a man – a confessed murderer, no less – who fled from Egypt 40 years before. He then returned as a wilderness shepherd, staff in hand, and had the chutzpah to demand that Pharaoh release into his custody a large chunk of the Egyptian labor force. Courage exemplified.

So where did he get it? Was he just that kind of a guy – the kind of person I am not? Not hardly. If we journey to Exodus 3 to spy him at the moment God revealed this great calling upon his life, we find him just as fearful or hesitant as we might be – drowning, it seems, in a tank of inadequacy:

… Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” – Exodus 3:11 (NKJV)

But he was the guy to do it. So the Lord responded with:

… “I will certainly be with you…” – Exodus 3:12 (NKJV)

And that made all the difference. Moses, doubt intact, still did what he had to do. Later, Joshua received a similar command/promise:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

And what was true for them is true for us as Christians:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. – Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)