Prayer Update – July 12, 2017

Becky and Kevin’s daughter Hayden is having surgery today for what is called craniosynostosis of the metopic suture. Her surgery began around 9:30am and the first update was at 12:45pm. Here is what Becky said:

The Neurosurgeon just came out finished with his portion. She had a small dura tear (the membrane that protects the brain) at the bridge of her forehead. The bone was a little extra thick and the dura had kind of grown into the bone. He didn’t seem too concerned, sutured and placed small graft. Plastics are rebuilding, putting back together and it should only be a couple more hours.

We praise the Lord for his protection thus far and the success he’s given through the surgeon. Continue to pray for little Hayden, for a successful surgery and recovery in these coming days and weeks.

Also, as we mentioned on Sunday, Mark’s mother is in hospice care in New York. The doctors have told the family she may live a few more days, or a week. She is beginning to be delusional, and is progressively getting worse. She is in much pain. Please pray for relief for her and for God’s comfort to be with the family. They are more mindful and more thankful than ever of our hope we have in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Further Updates to either of these situations will be in the discussion below. You are encouraged to comment as well to assure these families of your prayers for them.

 

Christmastime 2016 at SCC

Another Christmas Season is upon us and SCC is continuing it’s holiday traditions:

  • Sundays at Christmastime: Sundays at 10 AM at the OC Lion’s Club building is our weekly worship service. At Christmastime, the subject of our sermons center upon the message of Christmas and our worship music is many of the traditional Christmas Carols and hymns. Classes for children up to age 12 are offered, but children are also welcomed to stay with their parents.
  • GBHP#5: Saturday, 12/10 from 5:30pm to 8:00pm is our 5th Annual Gingerbread House Party, which also takes place at the Lion’s Club building in West OC off of Airport Rd. Each year we plan a night for families to come and build gingerbread houses together. We provide all the needed materials, something simple for dinner, and we’ll even clean up afterward! We hope you participate with us in this great holiday tradition.
  • Christmas Brunch: After the service on Sunday, 12/18, we will share a meal together. “On What Grounds?” from Berlin will cater the main items, but if you would like to bring something simple as a side dish, there will be a sign-up sheet available the Sunday beforehand. You may also email pastor Kyle.
  • Christmas Eve: Saturday, 12/24, our Christmas Eve Family Candlelight Service will be from 430-530pm. We will sing, hear the Scriptures, and reflect on Christ’s coming. Children will stay in the service as we gather as families in the family of God’s church.
  • No Service on Christmas Day: We do not hold Sunday services on the last Sunday of the year, which is Christmas Day this year. You’re encouraged to worship as a family, or visit another church.

Merry Christmas!

An illustration and explanation of the Church

Here is a video that organizes a lot of what we have talked about the last few weeks. I didn’t make this video, but I think it brings together many elements in an understandable way:

The Classic Christmas: Expecting consolation and redemption

At Christmastime children are overwhelmed with expectation. The soundtrack for the childhood Christmases of many was the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas record. The Chipmunks hit was “Christmas don’t be late”. One of the lines in the song is, “we’ve been good, but we can’t last, hurry Christmas hurry fast” and another line is, “we can hardly stand the wait please Christmas don’t be late.” This song strikes a chord with every child as they see the pile of gifts grow under the tree and door after door open on the Advent calendar.

One of the elements of celebrating the classic Christmas, is enjoying the expectation that’s cultivated during this season. A major part of our celebrating is looking forward to what is to come at Christmastime. We look back on Jesus’ first coming which causes us to look forward to his second coming and both of these work change in our hearts now, today. Jesus is the one who was, who is, and who is to come and this is communicated at Christmastime. So as exciting as it is to create that atmosphere of expectation and anticipation in our observance of the holiday, that same attitude should infuse our faith all the time. If we aren’t filled with an expectation and an anticipation as we wait for the Lord to move in our lives and in this world, then we aren’t properly understanding the Scriptures.

When Jesus instructed his disciples to pray “your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven,” this was a lesson in expectation. Not only can God move in our midst, but he will. Not only can God establish his rule on earth fully and completely, but he will. Not only is he transforming our hearts and lives into people who will live forever, it’s a work he will complete resulting in eternal life. This expectation is seen in the Scriptures and in the Christmas story.

In Luke 2:22-24, Mary and Joseph were careful to obey they law in regards to this son that God had given them. The law required a lamb to be sacrificed when the first son came. There was a provision in Leviticus 5 that allowed the sacrifice of pigeons or turtle-doves if a family was too poor to have a lamb. As an aside, this is evidence that Mary and Joseph were of humble means. Jesus wasn’t only born in a stable because there was no room at the inn, they couldn’t afford anything more. But going back, verse 23 is a quotation from Exodus 13:2. Now, why would the exodus story be reference here? Exodus 12 is the story of the tenth plague and the Lord delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt by the blood of lambs. Exodus 13 begins the journey to the promised land where God says he will lead them and not leave them. And in Exodus 13, God says that as part of this redemption, any time the first male is born, whether to a mom and dad, or to livestock, that male is to be set apart for God. The firstborn male belongs to God, so this is the observance that Mary and Joseph were participating in. The fact that they take Jesus to the Temple for their “purification” as it says in verse 22, is a demonstration of their faith in God and that God delivers his people and leads his people. The firstborn belonged to God, so they had to take the firstborn to the Tabernacle in Exodus, or the Temple in Jesus’ case. Exodus 13 says that families had to pay a sacrifice to purchase their sons back from God. This new birth and purchasing back with a sacrificial lamb was to be a symbol of how God had redeemed Israel from slavery. Whenever a family had their first son, they would sacrifice a lamb. This was to point to God’s redemption of Israel from slavery. The firstborn animals were given to the temple, but the firstborn sons had a lamb substituted for them. The lamb was killed to purchase them back, just like what happened in Egypt.

This is the gospel in the Old Testament. Jesus is the firstborn son given as a sacrifice. He is the firstborn and the Lamb that redeems us from slavery. The firstborn is given by the Father so that we all might be redeemed from slavery and exile. So these couple of verses here in the middle of the Christmas story aren’t only to show that Mary and Joseph obeyed the Law. This points to who this firstborn son is. He is the one who will be given as a sacrifice to release us from slavery to sin and death.

This ceremony was observed by Mary and Joseph, and when they arrive in the Temple, there are people there worshiping. We see one of them in Luke 2:25-35. He was an old guy named Simeon. The defining statement about Simeon was that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel. This idea of Consolation, carries the Exodus story forward again. Consolation can mean comfort, help, or encouragement depending on the context. In this time period many people were waiting for God’s Messiah to come and restore Israel as a political and military force. In Jewish thought, this Messiah was called by many names, but one was the Consolation of Israel. Israel had endured oppression and been ruled over for centuries and the expectation of the Messiah coming was growing and growing. This Messiah would be the one who would bring comfort in the midst of the oppression of this Exile and slavery under the Romans. During this time, many false-messiahs did come and attempted rebellion only to be crushed. So, for someone like Simeon to be expecting the Messiah in this time period, wasn’t the same as the people saying that the world is going to end on December 21st. It was different from that. This Messiah, or the one who would bring consolation to Israel, would restore Israel and overthrow the Romans. Consolation in this sense relates to what was lost or broken. Although Israel was a broken people, the Messiah would bring consolation and restore it.

This echoes back to the Exodus story on how God brought Israel out of Egypt as a great nation. The Messiah would make Israel even greater than before. Israel entered Egypt as a family but emerged as a nation. It was expected that the Messiah’s work would restore Israel in similar fashion. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died. In his long life, it’s likely that he saw or heard about more than one false-messiah. He wasn’t promised that he would live to see the results the Messiah would bring for Israel, but he would see him. So he went to the Temple which would be the proper place to meet the true Messiah, and there he waited with faith and hope, and he expected to see the Messiah as the years and decades passed. But, God keeps his promise to Simeon.

We don’t know how he knew, but when he saw Jesus, he knew he was the Messiah. He didn’t need to see the water turned to wine, the healing, the triumph over demons, the betrayal, the crucifixion or the resurrection. He knew what God was going to do. God was going to bring Consolation to his people through the this baby. Verses 29-32 are a song of Blessing that Simeon sings. He sang a song about Jesus being Israel’s consolation. This baby he is holding is the conquering Messiah who will be the light to the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel. He knew that God had brought light and Glory in this Baby. God had not abandoned his people in their suffering, but he brings consolation by joining with them in their suffering. He did it in Exodus bringing them out of Egypt and this Gospel is showing us he is doing it again in Jesus.

As this scene is unfolding in the Temple, a woman in her mid-80’s walks into the Temple just in time to see this. Her name was Anna and we read about her in Luke 2:36-38. She was a prophetess. Her life was devoted to worship in the Temple. She came to the Temple at the same time Simeon was holding Jesus and also realizes that this baby is the Long Expected Messiah. So, she begins to tell the other people in the Temple. It says she spoke of him to “all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” With Simeon, we talked about the Messiah bringing consolation and with Anna we see the Messiah is also going to bring redemption. Consolation relates to what is lost and broken. Jesus consoles by bringing restoration. Redemption relates to rescue from danger, release from slavery, or ransom from indebtedness. Again the story of the Exodus is echoed in Luke 2. People expected the Messiah to release Israel from Roman oppression and bring redemption. This baby will pay the ransom of Israel, Jesus will bring redemption to Israel. But it won’t just be for Israel, but as a light to the Gentiles as well. Jesus doesn’t free Israel from the Romans, but he frees humanity from sin’s oppression.  He brings a redemption that causes release from the captivity of death to eternal life. He pays the penalty that sin would have exacted from us and gives us resurrection instead. Because of Jesus, God offers us consolation for our past and redemption for our future. He forgives us of our past and he gives us freedom for our future. He pardons our sin and he seals our salvation.

Simeon and Anna lived in faith and hope for decades before seeing God fulfill the expectations that he placed within them by allowing them to see Jesus. Jesus the Messiah who is Israel’s consolation and redemption is also ours. Our attempts to find meaning and fulfillment in the pleasure, or power, or possessions of this world leave us empty and unsatisfied. They leave us longing for the consolation and redemption only found in Jesus. Our suffering, heartache, and brokenness fuel this same longing. When tragedy comes, we want it undone. We want it to come untrue. When the realization of that impossibility overwhelms us, we cry out wondering how God lets these things happen. Answer elude us all, but even if we had answers, it wouldn’t be enough. We want justice and restoration. And when we consider how even the best of lives eventually intersect with tragedy and death, we don’t know why God allows our world to operate this way.

What does all of this mean? Why do people go into theaters and schools and shoot people? It’s illogical, senseless, but most specifically, it is evil.

Where is God in all of this? He is infinitely strong so he will bring justice and he is infinitely good, so he has reasons which reason cannot comprehend. But most importantly, he has not abandoned us. One thing this does NOT mean is that God does not care. God identifies with those who suffer. He joins himself with Israel, with Mary and Joseph, with Simeon, with Anna, with people in Newtown, CT, and with us. He doesn’t merely watch us suffer, he steps into our suffering and he conquers it. He submits to death and then overwhelms it. God knows what it’s like to lose his son in a senseless act of violence, in a display of sinfulness and evil. And it is because of this that like Simeon and Anna, we await the Messiah who will bring us Consolation and redemption. His Kingdom will come and his will, will be done on earth as in heaven. He will reign in righteousness and justice, love will be his law, and we will be his people and he will be our God. Let today be the day you trust in Jesus for your consolation and redemption.

The Classic Christmas: Retelling the same old stories.

Christmastime is about stories, listening to them and telling them. When we gather with friends and family during the holidays, we tell stories. The reason we do this is because there is something about Christmas that points to a story larger than us. Unfortunately, people often don’t know where to turn to find this larger story, so many people look to temporary and material things to find meaning and satisfaction. Other people try to make their personal story the great story. Everyone else should be concerned with it. The holidays can be the most depressing and loneliest time of year for many people, and part of this is because they don’t understand the larger story. All people can see is their personal stories of heartache, or loss, or lack, so they don’t see how their small story fits into something much bigger and much greater than they realize.

It’s only when we open our Bibles and read the grand narrative of the Lord that we find how we ourselves are caught up into a great and significant role in a story. When we stop looking inside ourselves for significance and look away from ourselves to our Creator, we are able to find meaning for our lives. God is writing an amazing story. He created you and I to be part of that Story as we worship him and follow him. When we join our lives to his, we find forgiveness, purpose, and satisfaction. He gives us each a role to play in the story he’s telling. The Bible is full of people who were seemingly random and obscure people, but somehow they find themselves as part of this great work of redemption that God is bringing about. When we read our Bibles, we see otherwise normal people being used by God.

One of the characters in the Biblical Christmas story is a guy named Zechariah. Zechariah finds himself unexpectedly very near the center of a story much bigger than himself. In fact, eventually he will come to realize that he isn’t just part of a story, but part of the story. He had a major role to play in God’s plan of the redemption of his people. The story begins like any other. In Luke 1:5-10, we see that Zechariah lived in a certain place and time. He was just like the people before him and around him. Verse 5 says he was part of the division of Abijah and he was married. Verse 6 says he and his wife were righteous, walking blamelessly. But, verse 7 says they couldn’t have kids. They did everything right and still didn’t get what they wanted. They followed God devotedly, but still didn’t have the one thing their hearts longed for. So they spent their years simply doing their jobs and living life uprightly before God. Verses 8-10 say that as he doing his job he was chosen to be the one to offer the yearly sacrifice in the innermost room of the Temple. But, all of a sudden, the years of living faithfully before God allow him to be uniquely placed in a position to fulfill a great part of God’s plan. Luke 1:11-25 describe how Zechariah and Elizabeth fit into God’s plan.

In verse 11 when the Angel appeared, Zechariah knew that God was doing something different. This is not business as usual. The angel tells him in verse 12, “do not be afraid.” This is most frequent command in Scripture because seeing an Angel is terrifying. A religious experience of this magnitude isn’t something that makes you elated or joyous, it terrifies you. People often seek after religious experiences where they want to feel God and his presence, but the overarching theme of this type of thing in the scriptures is fear and terror. Our emotions should be engaged in worship, but most of the time when people feel God’s presence in the Bible, it’s a scary thing because God is about to shake things up in an incredible way. In verses 13-17, the angel tells him that his wife is going to have a child and the role John will play in God’s story is to point Israel back to God. It says he’ll work in the Power of Elijah, he’ll turn fathers toward their children, and lead the disobedient to wisdom. He will prepare the Lord’s people. Zechariah had a hard time believing this, so the angel makes him unable to speak. In verse 22 he comes out of the temple and he didn’t speak so the people realized he had a vision. Then in verse 24, Elizabeth gets pregnant.

Since we are looking at the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, let’ skip over some verses. Luke 1 interweaves the story of Mary with that of Elizabeth and Zechariah. This is appropriate because John’s story and work will be tied together with Jesus’ as well. In Luke 1:57-66, Elizabeth has her son, people just expected them to name him Zechariah after his father. But, they said they were naming him John, and as soon as this happened, Zechariah was able to talk again. Verse 64 says that when he named the boy John, he was immediately able to speak. After 9 months of silence, he speaks and of all the things he might have said, he blesses God, he offers words of worship to God. If it wasn’t enough that a lady who was well past childbearing years has a baby, the father is silent for nearly a year and then all of a sudden, he speaks. The people knew now that God was about to do something different. They knew the stories of how God had promised to be with them and to rescue them and in verse 66, they wonder what role this child had to play in this story.

The stories we tell at Christmastime are rarely new ones. We know we’ve told the stories, we know everyone has heard the stories, and we don’t care, we tell them anyway. Why do we do this? Because they matter. They are part of what makes our family our family and we recount them to one another. They ground us in where we come from. Some of them are embarrassing, or boring, but they shape our identity nonetheless. When Zechariah blesses God in verse 64, he is retelling a story that everyone knows. The substance of this blessing is found in our next passage: Luke 1:67-79. Zechariah retells the story of his family, the people of Israel. He retells the promises of God and reminds the people of God’s plan. This story tells the identity of God’s people and that they are part of a covenant and promise.

Zechariah’s Song is often called the Benedictus, which means “blessing”, because it’s what he said in verse 64. These verses are a declaration of God’s faithfulness to his covenant and promises with Abraham and David and extending to all of God’s people. This song is summary of the story of the Old Testament. Zechariah is recounting God’s covenant and promises made to his people throughout history. He’s retelling the same old stories. He’s also declaring that at this point God is fulfilling these promises and honoring the covenant. His son John is the one sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. This is why he quotes these passages in this song. They are drawing on huge Old Testament themes of God’s rescue and redemption of his people. Zechariah was overwhelmed with the knowledge that God was bringing these things to pass. There are probably lots of ways we could talk about this passages, but there are certainly two themes found here.

The first theme of Zachariah’s Song is Salvation in verses 68-75. Verses 68-69 mention God visiting and redeeming his people and raising up a horn of salvation for David’s house. This idea is found in 2 Samuel 22 (also Psalm 18) where David sings a song to God after the Lord delivers him from all of his enemies. In Zachariah’s day, the people of Israel were in their promised land, but ruled by foreigners. Many of them believed they were still in Exile because the Romans ruled them. So, many also believed that the role of the Messiah would be to overthrow Roman Rule. The Messiah was going to be like David and would save Israel from the oppression of its enemies. Verses 70-73 refer to God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 to make Israel a blessing to the whole world and how the result will be this deliverance. What we eventually see in Jesus’ ministry is that Roman rule is at most a symbol of true oppression. Israel had been exile and remained under the rule of the Romans because they were unable to serve God in righteousness and holiness as it says in verse 75. The least of their problems was Roman oppression, they could never live in holiness. They always failed to live up to God’s standards. Israel’s history is full of stories of God’s people not only failing morally, but running away from God and seeking after anything and everything except God to their own demise. Israel along with all of humanity continually turns away from God toward self and sin. Human-kind is without hope in the face of death, and is guilty of sin it cannot atone for. It’s this oppression that Jesus conquers on the cross, paying for sin, and then rising again overthrowing death. In Jesus, God pursues a people who did not seek him. Jesus pays for the sins of a messed up people. He brings salvation to the people of God because they could never achieve it or earn it themselves. This is the blessing that God promises in the covenants. Zechariah was awaiting this, looking forward; we can look back and find forgiveness and peace in this. Don’t trust in yourself to find salvation. It can never be earned or achieved. Trust in the salvation brought to us in Jesus who died for our sins and rose again. This is where we are rescued from the oppression of our souls. This is why Jesus comes at Christmas, to accomplish this salvation for us.

The second theme in Zachariah’s song is Preparation, found in verses 76-79. God had said that before he returned Israel, there would be a prophet send to prepare the way. In verse 76 we find a reference to Isaiah 40:3, which says, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” The word “wilderness” there is a reference to Israel’s state of Exile. Also, Malachi 3:1 says, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” Zachariah’s son John is this one preparing the people to receive their Messiah. He was to tell the people who God’s mercy is about to be displayed resulting in the forgiveness of sins. Verse 79 says the result will also be light for those in darkness and a guide to peace. No prophet had spoken to God’s people in nearly 400 years, but verse 67 says that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. God’s messenger had arrived and his Messiah would soon arrive, so it was time for the people of God to prepare themselves.

At Christmastime we celebrate the coming of this Messiah Jesus. As part of our celebration, it’s appropriate to be reminded that we are also to prepare ourselves. Prepare for the Messiah to come to us. Now, we’ve all been preparing, buying gifts, decorating, and planning menus. But this season has a way of getting past us before we know it. If we don’t prepare for this season, we will miss what God has for us in it. Some of us need to stop preparing for Christmas, and prepare our hearts for Christ. We know we have been seeking after things and living for things that are not good for us nor honoring to God. We need to retell the old story to ourselves of what Jesus has done. He has brought us redemption and peace. But grounded in what he has done is what he will do. He will continue to form us into his image. He will continue to work holiness in our lives. He will not abandon us to the grave and he will not count our sins against us.

So, prepare your hearts for Christmas be remembering the Gospel and seeing how in might be infused into your life this season. Be patient with your family. Be generous to those who don’t deserve it. Be humble at those holiday parties. Don’t look for your significance in things that can be bought or things that fade away. Look to the story Jesus is writing in your life and see how he has brought you through trial and loss, how he has blessed you and been gracious to you, all so that you might find yourself in him. The love, peace, joy, and hope that we search for everywhere else is found in him and in him alone. Prepare your hearts so they won’t look elsewhere.

Small Group Recap for the week of 9.9.12

This week in Small Groups at SCC, we took a look at 1 Thessalonians 1. Take a moment to read it, and reflect on these questions. Feel free to discuss what your group talked about in the comment section.

Context: The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to a church in the Greek (Macedonian) city of Thessalonike. He proclaimed the Gospel there on his second missionary journey to take the Gospel all over the Roman world.

(1) What does this passage teach about God?

Verse 9 refers to God as the “living and true God”.  Verse 10 refers to Jesus as God’s Son who will come from heaven. God raised Jesus from the dead. And because of this Jesus rescues us from the wrath of God, which is the death that we all face as punishment because of sin. We often don’t like to think about God in terms of wrath. But, if God truly loves, then he will display his wrath against anything that threatens that love. Also, in verse 10, it is important to keep the “Jesus who delivers us” together with the “wrath to come”. Jesus has made a way for us to not suffer God’s wrath, but instead be welcomed as sons and daughters into his Kingdom. We look forward to when Jesus is going to come again because we await his rescue, not his wrath. The way we “wait” (verse 10) is with expectation and is motivation for living and ministering faithfully.

(2) What does it teach about me?

The general theme of verses 2-10 is Thanksgiving. Verse 2 begins with “We give thanks…” and then in the verses following we see what thanks is given “for”. As we look at the people God has placed in our lives, how might we give thanks for them?

Paul remembers how the members of this church turned from idols to follow the true God in verse 9. In Paul’s day, people worshipped physical, actual idols made from wood, stone, or metal. They believed these statues possessed powers that they could benefit from if they worshipped them. In some places in our world people still worship this kind of idol. What about in places where people don’t worship physical idols? The famous reformer Calvin wrote, “the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” We have a natural propensity to substitute things for God.  Our minds naturally replace a proper worship of God for lesser things, for idols. We are quite creative when it comes to devising ways to avoid following God properly. Let us regularly remember this and make sure we are following the One True God and not any lesser thing.

 3) How must I believe or obey to align my life with God’s Word?

In verses 2 and 3, Paul mentions his constant prayers for this church. In this there is the implied command to pray for one another. In verse 4, he refers to these believers as “brothers loved by God”. This should remind us that because of Jesus, we are the family of God. We should care for one another like family. We are also loved by our Father. This is a truth we must never forget!

In verse 6 we see that following Jesus can lead to suffering. Is my love for comfort hindering my love for God? Also from verse 6, is the way we follow Jesus worth imitating? Verses 8 and 9 describe how the faith of these people causes life change that was noticed in their community. Is our faith known in such a way that it is obvious that we have turned from other things to follow God?

What truths or insights did you have regarding this passage?

Review and Reflect on Mark 9:14-29 (Part 2)

The disciples have witnessed this whole scene and naturally they wonder why they were unable to heal the boy. So they ask Jesus about it in Mark 9:28-29. After the disciples’ failure, they see how this father responds to Jesus in faith, and they wonder why they couldn’t perform the miracle. So Jesus gives them a lesson in discipleship. He teaches them that if they are going to do what he has called them to do, they have to pray. There are going to be times when they can’t just coast. There are going to be times when they are going to have to fall on their face before God. There are going to be obstacles before them that they won’t be able to overcome unless they pray. He shows them that their failure to pray is failure to exercise faith. Prayer is the action brought about by faith. A person who practices faith in Jesus prays. It is a demonstration of dependence upon God rather than ourselves. The reason they failed to perform the work of healing the boy is found in their prayerlessness and faithlessness, not in Jesus’ power. Jesus’ followers will fail, but he won’t. Jesus was willing and able to heal the boy, but when his disciples attempted it in their own power, without relying on God, they failed. If we are going to be involved in the work God is doing in our lives, our church, our homes, our community, and our world, one essential way we involve ourselves is through prayer. If we fail to pray, we fail.

There is a great book called “the Autobiography of George Muller”. He entered into ministry in a round-about way and pastored a small church in England. He was moved to start an orphanage that had only a handful of children. By the end of his life, he oversaw the care of over 1000 orphans. Many times in his morning prayers he would ask God for the food or the rent that was needed that day, and as he rose from praying, a knock would come at the door and a person would be there to provide the need. He would pray for a precise amount of money to pay the rent, or for that day’s food for the children, and it was provided over and over. He put himself in a position where God had to come through for him and over and over he did. He didn’t strategize or market or fundraise or network. He prayed and God moved. If you struggle to trust God with your needs pick up this book. Reading it will encourage you greatly.

Everyone recommends prayer, but few devote themselves to prayer. MC Hammer sang, “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.” Even Justin Bieber has a song called “Pray“. But, we don’t take time to pray because we don’t believe that God would move if we asked him. We don’t pray because we don’t believe it works. So, we work harder, or we worry and we place everything on our own shoulders which cannot bear the weight. We rush quickly to worrying, and stressing, and complaining, and griping, but when it comes to prayer all we say is, “All we can do now is pray”. Jesus showed us a life of prayer and in this passage he is teaching his followers about it. This is crucial to learn for our personal walk with the Lord.

If you want God to move in your life, or your home, or in our church, it begins and ends with prayer. If you want to be part of something great that God is doing it begins and ends with prayer. If you want to see someone in your life follow Jesus, it begins and ends with prayer. If you want God to set your life right, it begins and ends with prayer. Remember Jesus says that the proper response the Kingdom of God coming is belief and repentance. Prayer is one way we demonstrate belief and repentance. If you want God to move in your life, you have to believe in who he is and what he says, and you have to align your life accordingly. And this gives us plenty to pray about. So whatever it is that you see in your life that needs the hand of God to touch it, turn to him in prayer. If you’re tired of doing life your way because it isn’t working out like you expected, turn to him in prayer. If you want to be part of the great and eternal plan of God and what he is doing in redeeming and restoring his creation, it begins in prayer.

Review and Reflect on Mark 9:14-29 (Part 1)

We are going to look at  Mark 9:14-29 in two posts today and tomorrow. This story highlights an important aspect of what it means to be followers of Jesus. People will not always, but will inevitably fall below your expectations of them and fail you. So, we shouldn’t let other people’s sinfulness cloud our trust in Jesus’ faithfulness. In other words, because Jesus’ followers fail, it doesn’t mean he fails. The first thing this passage teaches us is that Jesus’ followers eventually and inevitable fail, but he remains faithful.

The failure of Jesus’ followers is evident in the disciples’ inability to heal the young boy. In the previous passage, Jesus was transfigured or transformed before John, James, and Peter. And like Moses coming down from the mountain having been with God in Exodus 34, the people are in awe when they see Jesus approach. The crowd of people has been arguing about something related to healing a man’s son and the disciples’ failure to heal him. Whatever the argument was about, Jesus approaches to see his disciples in an argument with the scribes. Seeing the disciples’ failure, the argument with the scribes, the boy who needs healed, and the exasperated father, Jesus has had enough. He calls them a “faithless generation”. They didn’t understand how God was working in Jesus, nor were they demonstrating faith in Jesus’ authority. His remarks in verse 19 “how long am I to be with you?” and “how long am I to bear with you?” are probably best understood as expressions or figures of speech. Something similar to saying “AH, you’re killing me!” or “You are driving me crazy!” Jesus is at a point of frustration with his disciples, the scribes, and the crowds because they simply don’t understand either who he is or what he has come to do, or both.

But even with such frustration and the failure of his disciples, Jesus doesn’t abandon his work. He says at the end of verse 19, “bring him to me”, referring to boy who needed help. Jesus’ work wasn’t dependent on his disciples’ ability to move the ministry forward. In another place, we read Jesus saying “I will build my church”. On that day, and even in our day, God has a great plan that he is working. His desire is for us to join him in it and see the great and mighty things that he is doing. But if we fail to act in faith or if we fail to understand how he is working, it will not thwart his plan. God is calling us to join him in knowing and practicing the Gospel, but if we fail to follow him, the harm is brought to us, not to him or his plan. God is calling us as individuals and as a church to bring the Gospel to our community. His plan will be accomplished with or without us. We need to align our lives with his will through repentance, and follow him in faith and we will see what he might accomplish through our lives and the church. Jesus was going to bring healing to this boy, but he desired to do it through his disciples. When they failed to heal him because of their lack of faith, Jesus still brought healing to the boy.

After the disciple’s failure, the next thing we see in this passage is this father’s wavering faith. This father believed that Jesus had the authority to heal his son, so he brought him to the disciples. But because of their failure to heal him, his faith was weakened, it became an insecure faith. After the disciples’ failure, the man is hesitant to trust in Jesus’ ability to help him. He says in verse 22, “if you can do anything have compassion on us and help us.” This man didn’t see Jesus feed the 5000 or walk on the water, but his disciples’ did. Jesus had demonstrated his compassion in many, many ways and he has helped countless people. But this man didn’t see any of those things, all he saw was Jesus’ disciples fail to heal his son. So Jesus calls this man to a deeper faith. Jesus says, “’If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes!” Jesus calls this man to genuine and deep faith in spite of the disciples’ failure to demonstrate that faith.

If you have seen a Christian demonstrate a lack of faith, it may have damaged your faith. We know that no one is perfect in our heads, but when others fail us, or fail to live up to the expectations we’ve placed upon them, it can damage our understanding of who God is or his love for us. We are still offended or shaken with we people fail us. There seems to be news stories all the time about a pastor that has embezzled money, or been unfaithful to his wife, or as recent as this week a pastor of a 30,000 member church was arrested and charged for allegedly hitting and choking his daughter. People see these things and it stokes the natural desire of their consciences and they are used as excuses to reject Jesus. But Jesus didn’t call this man to put his faith in his followers, nor does he call us to do that today. When a religious figure in your life fails or falls it can be tragic, but part of what causes people to lose faith is that they’ve spent more time and effort to follow that person than following Jesus. The church provides us with a context where we can have people who lead us in the faith, and who demonstrate life in Christ, but we have to understand that our faith was never supposed to rest in the ability of Jesus’ disciples, but in Jesus himself. Jesus’ followers will eventually and inevitably fail you, but Jesus will never fail you. We aren’t just imperfect, we are sinful. So we should strive to be examples to one another in faith and godliness, but more than this we should encourage one another to continually look to Jesus so that our faith will not waver because of another person’s sin.

In this story, this man had hoped the disciples could heal his son, and when they failed, his faith was shaken. So, Jesus calls this man to a deeper faith. And Jesus called him and he calls us today: to fully place our faith in him. And the man responds to the call by proclaiming “I believe, help my unbelief!” This is a prayer that I have prayed many times. It is the cry of a heart that wants to follow the Lord, but there is doubt, or problems, or circumstances that seem to be working against every attempt to follow. We know Jesus won’t fail us, but we are afraid to find out.

Look how Jesus responds in verses 25-27. He casts the demon out of the boy, who is killed in the process of the exorcism. Remember the story of Jairus’ daughter? They thought she was dead too. This passage uses the exact same wording as 5:41. Jesus takes him by the  and, lifting him up, and the boy came back to life. You may have many things that are holding you back from believing. You may have questions about why things have happened the way they have in your life. You may wonder what will happen if you decide to follow Jesus, and what that might mean for your life. You may only half-believe and you know in your heart that if you followed Jesus whole-heartedly it might wreck your life, but you also know it would wreck it in a good way. Today you need to cry out like this man did saying, “I believe, help my unbelief”. Jesus will call you to a deeper place. He will call you to a deeper faith. Don’t be afraid to follow him there.