Friday, September 25, 2009

denomination endorses healthcare legislation on one condition

This is straight from the FRC, but there's very little commentary to add to it, other than, should a church endorse legislation?

Reports today have the predominantly African American Church of God in Christ, with an estimated 6 million members, set to endorse the President's health care plan. The endorsement is to be carefully worded, to ensure that President Obama stays true to his promise that abortion will not be government funded--a condition that every single version of health care reform pushed by leading Democrats in the House and Senate fails to fulfill.

The issue of abortion is of utmost importance in the African-American community for it is this community that has been targeted by Planned Parenthood and their ilk. Since Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973 over 13 million African-Americans children have been killed. The targeting of pro-abortion forces is highlighted when you consider that African-Americans make up only 13.5 percent of the population, yet Planned Parenthood's Guttmacher Institute reports that of the approximately 1.21 million abortions that are performed annually in the United States, 37 percent are performed on African-American women and their unborn children. Preliminary data currently being compiled on all abortion facilities in the U.S. shows that over 20 states have abortion facilities in areas where the African-American population is 50 percent or higher. In fact in 10 states and in Washington, D.C. abortuaries are located exclusively in minority areas. If the current versions of the President's health care overhaul pass those numbers are sure to increase.

Monday, September 21, 2009

book report: The Expanded Bible

As my kids get bigger and my house feels smaller, collections get squeezed out. At least I can keep bikes in the garage. But I do have a weakness for Bibles, translations and study Bibles. For the past year, I have been reading my Greek New Testament almost every morning then I re-read the chapter in English. Until I received the Expanded Bible from Thomas Nelson publishers, I had been using a newer, more literal translation. But for the past few weeks of both letters to the Corinthians, I have been greatly enjoying the Expanded Bible.

Although it is "expanded" it's not the Amplified Bible. When I first opened this Bible, that was what I thought I had, a re-hashed concept. Honestly, I hated it at first. But when I read the introduction, and learned the apparatus and the intentions, I became intrigued then enthralled. However, this isn't for everyone. Part of reason for my enjoyment was my struggles with the Greek. Sometimes the editors of the Expanded Bible insert in brackets the literal translation. The base translation they used was the New Century Version, a paraphrase. Therefore, one can enjoy the natural English paraphrase, but at critical verses, see the literal translation that the paraphrase is derived from. Additionally, important cross references are inserted in the verses as well as brief, explanatory comments. The slogan on the Bible's jacket is "Study the Bible while you read." I think they have achieved this. I hope this Bible is so well received that an Old Testament will follow someday.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why put your faith in Jesus Christ?

Can I keep this short? I'll try.

The world around us should force us to ask "why?" over and over again.
Why is this beautiful? Why is that ugly? Why does most of the world agree about these observations? Why is this right? Why is that wrong? Why does most of the world agree about these judgments? Why do awful things happen? Why do good things happen? Why am I here? How did I get to exist on this privileged planet? Why do I have a mind? Why am I different than animals? Why do I feel such extreme highs and lows?
These questions then lead us to ask, who can answer these questions?
The problem is most of these questions are not materialistic. Answers can't be found in science, which can only attempt to explain material patterns. Science can't explain why there is order in our world instead of chaos either. Hence, we look to those who claim to have answers to these non-material questions. But there is an industry of charlatans. A sucker is born every minute and if they have any money, someone is always willing to take it from them. Therefore, one needs to weed out the charlatans. But how?
Someone who can speak authoritatively about matters supernatural would be worth inspecting if they could act supernaturally. Is there anyone who can violate the order of nature? Can those violations have non-random effects? Can that person perform miracles, not illusions, but genuine miracles? How could the illusions be distinguished from the miraculous? There are many wise people who speak religiously, but does anyone combine wisdom and miracles? Is there anyone who combines wisdom and miracles and refuses any profit to themselves? Is there a supernatural person who it wise and of the highest ethical standard?
Mohammed? Benefitted from a large harem.
Confucius? Buddha? No miracles.
Moses? Pointed toward someone in the future.
Jesus Christ? Wisdom, ethics, supernatural.
His wisdom, ethics, ans supernatural were recorded by four witnesses within 30 to 60 years after his ministry. These three qualifications are interdependent. If he wasn't supernatural, then his claims to divinity are either unethical or foolish. If he wasn't wise, then no fool's babbling, despite amazing feats, would assist anyone in their quest for meaning. If he wasn't ethical, then he'd be a fool for not using his supernatural powers to defeat his enemies and declare himself king.
Are the four gospel accounts of him trustworthy? They are in agreement with each other. They describe the same person, and the same miraculous deeds, and the same teachings and parables. Ten of the twelve disciples all preferred grisly executions to denying Jesus was their God, one was nearly tortured to death and died in exile, and one killed himself before Jesus was resurrected.
Resurrection. That's the big topic. Jesus raised a few people back to life, including a guy who had been in a tomb for four days. But all those people eventually died again. Unlike them, he came back to life, after a death none worse can hardly be imagined, and never died again. There are many people in the world today who have near death experiences. But he was gone for at least 48 hours, then came back! If that isn't true, then why do all the other resurrection stories fade to black but this one keeps shining? The body wasn't stolen. The wrong guy wasn't executed. The witnesses could not be shut up. Here is someone who has answers about our existence after death, and he's the only one with credibility. He came from one place, heaven, and when he died visited the other, hell. Before his death he proclaimed himself the gatekeeper to heaven. He said no one comes to the Father but through him. Who is the Father? That's how he referred to God over and over again. He modeled an emotionally intimate relationship with God. And he said he and God were one. He even referred to himself by one of the holiest names for God in Jewish culture, I am. Can one be of the highest ethics, teaching things like love your enemies and love your neighbor as yourself, and at the same time declare themselves God, and be listened to at all, by anyone? One can if one can back up that claim. His resurrection certainly gives him credibility. Forty days after his resurrection he floated up to heaven, before many witnesses. They lived convinced lives ever afterward.
How does one little religious sect take over the world without violence?
Proof in courage, in conviction, in love, in miracles, in wisdom, in ethics.
No Christian can live up to the standard of Jesus Christ, but that doesn't change who Jesus is, just proves he can conquer the world with weakness.
It's impossible to come to faith in Jesus, as God, as savior, without acknowledging weakness. God hates pride and the proud.
But for those who admit their weakness,
  • their need for forgiveness from Him because they can't maintain their own ethics, not to mention His
  • their foolishness, acknowledging their own wisdom is minuscule or even wrong before the one who created everything
  • their inability to stop nature, their need for supernatural intervention
those are the ones He welcomes into his heavenly kingdom.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CNN and abortion coverage

It's interesting that one of the top of the page stories at Google News this morning is about a the murder of a disabled anti-abortion protester in from of a Michigan high school, but there is nothing on CNN's website. Why is there still a farce that news organizations maintain that they aren't political?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Time for bickering

President Obama said last night, the time for bickering is over. My wise wife asked me, "Isn't this [process] called debate?"
So can someone tell me why the national conversation is not debate but bickering?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

abortion and free market health care

Some point to Lasik eye surgery as an example of free market success in keeping down medical costs. High medical expenses are one source of motivation for nationalized health care. Lasik is generally not covered by health insurance so the costs are paid entirely out of pocket. Since it's introduction, costs have fallen, due to increased competition. Since the surgery is a cash transaction and medical malpractice does not seem to be a tremendous problem in this field, the profits are still available for the service providers. Then I wondered, what other procedure benefits the same way? Abortion. Although it is covered by some insurers, not all women want the procedure on their records. Abortion also is usually a cash transaction. The doctors also seem almost immune from malpractice and they get away with murder. Maybe liberals will reject nationalized health care because it might cause the abortion industry to suffer.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sermon on Mark 9: 30-50

Here is the rest of my sermon notes on Mark 9. The first half is here.

After climbing a mountain and being affirmed by God the Father, Jesus told Peter, James, and John about his resurrection again, Mk. 9:9, which they still didn't understand, and he pointed to Biblical prophecy in general, but I look at Isaiah 53 in particular. He explained to them that the prophecy they were thinking about, the arrival of Elijah, predicted in Malachi 4:5 in particular, was fulfilled in John the baptizer, Mk. 9:12-13. They didn't understand the death and resurrection talk in the previous chapter either, Mk. 8:31. He is focused on teaching his disciples but life interrupted in the case of a demonized boy. Jesus delivers the boy then resumes his important teaching.
9:30 They went out from there and passed through Galilee. But Jesus did not want anyone to know, 9:31 for he was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”

Mark keeps picking up with this conversation because it's important to him, and as well to Peter who probably was Mark's source, that he keeps bringing it up to his readers. The good news depends on this murder and resurrection. Without Golgotha and the empty tomb there is no acceptable sacrifice for our sins by the only one who could pay the price. But like many today, the disciples don't get it.
But they did not understand this statement and were afraid to ask him. 9:33 Then they came to Capernaum. After Jesus was inside the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

Many Bible translations like to separate v. 32 from v. 33 with a heading, like "Who's the greatest?" but I think the key to v. 32 is v. 34. What could they possibly be afraid of? Peter, James and John were able to talk with Jesus about their doubts. Jesus was teaching them. School was open. It's time for questions. But if they were arguing about pecking order, then I'm sure insecurity was the real reason they were afraid. They weren't afraid of Jesus, they were afraid of each other! No one wanted to appear ignorant. Despite no one knowing what Jesus meant, they still had the temerity to argue about superiority. How does this happen?

I think the first clue is they were having a "conversation" apart from Jesus. How quickly the neglect to maintain fellowship with Jesus results in the manifestation of pride. This results in Jesus sitting down, which is a serious thing.
9:35 After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 9:36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 9:37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

When Rabbis sat down, it was time for serious learning. He gathers the boys and delivers God's methods. Greatness is recognized in servanthood. In contrast to the kingdom of man where the greatest are known by how many are under them, the kingdom of heaven recognizes those who are under the most. Then, by example, he takes a child in his arms. I have fellowshipped with children in cultures where they aren't highly valued. I have friends at my job, raised in the Orient, who did not have a name for the early years, only their birth number. As Christianity has spread, cultures have been transformed by v. 37. According to Jesus, welcoming a child equals welcoming him which equals welcoming the Father. Jesus values children. Hence, typically, Christians value children. It was Christians in the 1st century who were taking home babies left outside to die by parents who didn't want them, and those parents were exercising their legal prerogative. The church has always been pro-life. The earliest, non-canonical writing of the church, from the turn of the 1st century is the Didache which, among many topics, addresses abortion and infanticide. 1. But the second commandment of the teaching is this: 2. "Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery"; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods". Wherever Christian missions have gone, orphanages have been started to care for those children no one else will care for. Sponsoring orphans is the most frequent way most Americans encounter this aspect of Christian missions, especially through huge organizations like WorldVision. My trip to Haiti included painting at an orphanage. They now have three children in their care. I've also been following another missionary family's blog in Haiti who are trying to prevent malnutrition in Haiti. The current excitement about abortion among Christians like myself is not a new, political thing. It is as old as the church. The church has always been pro-life, because Jesus values children.

In response to this profound statement, John tries to exert authority.
9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” 9:39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say anything bad about me. 9:40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 9:41 For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water because you bear Christ’s name will never lose his reward.

Jesus must have stared at him for a long moment. He just bailed out the crew when they couldn't deliver a boy from a demon. Now John wants to forbid someone from joining in the defeat of Satan's kingdom?! Why? The exorcist was doing battle with Jesus's name, and Jesus points out that he's at least temporarily on their side. Jesus lays out a few clues to determine who is on Jesus's side.
  • Person performs miracles in Jesus's name.
  • Person shows kindness because they recognize Christ on you
These people should be given the benefit of the doubt. This was very practical for the early church that suffered extreme violence, and betrayal to persecutors was a constant threat. This still happens in many countries today. If you want updates on the persecution of the church around the world today I suggest you read the Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus is upset with John for potentially damaging the nascent faith of a new citizen of the kingdom of God. So Jesus gives a general warning about this.
9:42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone tied around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.

The Greek word translated "little ones" is different from the one for children, mikrons instead of paediea or teknon. Jesus is surely referring to new believers. God is eager to reward those who are kind to his kids but he will also respond with serious repercussions to those who harm his kids. Jesus warns that one would be better off drowning than causing one of his kids to sin. What then should one avoid doing?
  • Causing believers to doubt
  • Stopping them from doing kingdom stuff
  • Tempting them to sin.
Paul talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthian church. 1 Cor. 8:11-12 So by your knowledge the weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed. If you sin against your brothers or sisters in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
Paul says sinning against our siblings who are weaker in the faith is equivalent to sinning against Jesus himself. No wonder Jesus warns that such offenses deserve drowning. It's wonderful that God considers an offense against us as serious as an offense against his only begotten son, Jesus. He takes adoption seriously. Hence we should take our sin seriously. Jesus continues.
9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two hands and go into hell, to the unquenchable fire. 9:45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 9:47 If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! It is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 9:48 where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.
If you don't think drowning is serious enough, how about unending burning? It's not crazy fundamentalists who make up stories about hell, it's Jesus himself who describes and warns against this punishment by taking it's cause seriously. He uses hyperbole to get his point across. I believe it's hyperbole because we never read of the apostles living lives with one eye, one hand and one foot. But they took the warning seriously as they preached the message of repentance. The blind can lust and the paralyzed can hate. The issue is in the heart. If it's not taken seriously, by turning from the things condemned in the New Testament and asking God for forgiveness of those things, then the sinner will suffer the same judgment of the enemies of God. Jesus's language here is a quote from the end of Isaiah. This is how Isaiah concludes his long book. 66:22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth I am about to make will remain standing before me,” says the Lord, “so your descendants and your name will remain. 66:23 From one month to the next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to worship me,” says the Lord. 66:24 “They will go out and observe the corpses of those who rebelled against me, for the maggots that eat them will not die, and the fire that consumes them will not die out. All people will find the sight abhorrent.” Isaiah 66. Those who object to the doctrine of hell say they can't understand how heaven can be a good place while hell exists. This passage, quoted by Jesus in part, indicates that part of heaven includes an observatory of the enemies of God suffering for their rebellion. That's the data, whether we like it or not. Even if we don't like it, I'd rather be the observer than the observed. So I need to daily confess my sins and forgive those who sin against me.

The process of confession and repentance purifies us and prepares us for our heavenly citizenship. Jesus concludes, 9:49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 9:50 Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.
Salt prevents decay. Fire removes impurities. But they both are painful. I enjoyed the slogan I saw this summer on a Marine's shirt at a recruiting tent. It said, "Pain is the sensation of weakness leaving the body." Welcome the pain of the conviction of sin. Jesus himself tells the church in Revelation 3:19 All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! In Hebrews 12, we learn 2:7 Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 12:8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. 12:9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 12:10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 12:11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. The pain and suffering leads to peace and holiness. But we need to keep the painful salt in us. Don't lose it. It reminds us that we belong to Jesus.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sermon on Mark 9: 1-29

This is the outline of my sermon I was privileged to give at our church this past Sunday on the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9. Here is part 1.

Highlights of Mark 8
  • Jesus feeds 4000 with 7 loaves of bread and a few fish
  • Jesus heals a blind man by putting his spit on the guy's eyes
  • Jesus and his crew head up north into Gentile territory and Peter declares Jesus is the Christ
  • Jesus foretells his suffering, rejection, betrayal, murder and resurrection
  • Peter rebukes Jesus
  • Jesus rebukes Peter (calls him Satan)
  • Jesus proclaims the way to life is through death and suffering.
Highlights of Mark 9
  • Transfiguration - Jesus is affirmed by God
  • Demonized boy delivered
  • Who's the best?
  • In-or-Out excorcist
  • Don't hurt God's kids
  • Cut it off or go to hell
  • Be holy and be at peace with each other
Mark 8 ends on a downer. Jesus tells them he's going to be killed and resurrected, but the disciples don't get any of that, then he calls Peter Satan, then he tells them to take up their cross, like telling us today to take up our electric chair, and follow him.

Snowy Mount Hermon as seen from Mt. Bental.Image via Wikipedia

Mark 9 begins with a morale booster. And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” Mark 9:1 Jesus promises some of them a foretaste of God's kingdom, as if they didn't have one already. But this experience turns out to be different from anything they have already experienced. Since they are up in the north of Israel, they are probably climbing Mt. Hermon, which is 1.5 miles high. It's the only ski resort in modern Israel, up in the Golan Heights area.

Only Peter, James and John get the invitation to climb with Jesus. 9:2 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and led them alone up a high mountain privately. I can see this mountain having enough room for privacy. Who knows what the other guys were thinking staying down at the base. "Phew, we finally get a break from Jesus' fitness plan." When they go

Icon of the Transfiguration (15th century, Nov...Image via Wikipedia

up there, Jesus "was changed in form before them" (BBE). The Greek word for "transfigured" is metamorphoo, the same word that we derive metamorphosis from when speaking of that change from caterpillar to butterfly. Jesus' change was dramatic, 9:3 and his clothes became radiantly white, more so than any launderer in the world could bleach them. I'll only mention here, but I'll come back to it later, but this entire scene is a fulfillment of the last two chapters in the Old Testament in Malachi. In this case, look at Malachi 3:2. [Umblog note, if you hover over the reference, any verse reference should pop up a little window with that verse in it.] Also, notice Daniel 7:9. John experiences Jesus again like this in Revelation 1:14 and Rev. 20:11 as well.

Not only does Jesus metamorph, he has company. 9:4 Then Elijah appeared before them along with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. How did these guys get picked?


  • law-giver
  • only man to see God and live
  • foretold God would raise up someone like than him from among them, Deut. 18:15
  • dead and buried, Jude 1:9
  • confronted an evil ruler, Pharaoh
  • worker of miracles
  • ΠΡΟΦΗΤΗΣ ΗΛΙΑΣImage by giveawayboy via Flickr

  • met God in the still, small voice 1 Kings 19:11-12
  • never died 2 Kings 2
  • confronted an evil ruler, Ahab
  • worker of miracles, including raising the dead, 1 Kings 17:17-24

As a result of this taste of the kingdom of God, the disciples are afraid. 9:5 So Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 9:6 (For they were afraid, and he did not know what to say.) Peter doesn't seem to be the type to let nothing to say stop him from saying anything. Peter again reveals his misunderstanding of Jesus. By suggesting three shelters for them, he reveals his mis-understanding of the Christ, as another great prophet. [How did he know who the other two guys were? Did they have name tags?] But he is enjoying the moment.

Peter is having his spiritual high, his "mountain top" moment with God. This was an experience that he never forgot. In fact he directly referenced it 30 years later in his 2nd letter, 2 Peter 1:16-18. It's a good thing to hold onto intense encounters with God. It's a taste of heaven. The good God who leads us by still waters and into green pastures also brings us through valleys in the shadow of death, see Psalm 23. It's the snippets of heaven that help us get through the normal darkness of a world in rebellion to God.

But Peter is clueless. God the Father comes down and makes it as plain as he can. He takes away Moses and Elijah and declares the identity of Jesus, God's son. 9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my one dear Son. Listen to him!” 9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus. And, then, the party is over. And Jesus wants them to keep the affair private until his resurrection. 9:9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 9:10 They kept this statement to themselves, discussing what this rising from the dead meant. They just don't understand the resurrection stuff. They don't understand why the Christ will be killed by the very leaders who are supposed to be on the look out for him.

In their confusion, doubt arises. Every supernatural experience will be followed by doubt. Supernatural means it's not supposed to happen. If it's not supposed to happen, is there a natural explanation for what just happened? There are too many pieces of prophecy they are trying to put together. So they ask. 9:11 Then they asked him, “Why do the experts in the law say that Elijah must come first?” 9:12 He said to them, “Elijah does indeed come first, and restores all things. And why is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? 9:13 But I tell you that Elijah has certainly come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written about him.” Jesus isn't angry with honest doubts. But his answers aren't easy either.

Part of the context for their question is Malachi 4:4-6. They want to know how all this fits together. Jesus let's them know this prophecy has been fulfilled, and if that one is fulfilled, what about Isaiah 53, that speaks of God's suffering servant who is cut off from the land of the living, yet shall see his offspring and prolong his days, Isaiah 53:8-10 ? Won't that prophecy also be fulfilled? John the baptist is described in Mark 1:1-6, as the fulfillment of Elijah, including his appearance. Like Elijah, John the baptizer also challenged a wicked king and his wicked wife. But John did not escape death like Elijah. John knew he had to get out of the way, John 3:30. Jesus uses their doubt and question to show them the prediction of his death and resurrection is essential prophecy, something they need to embrace. He comes back to it again after an interruption at the bottom of the mountain.

9:14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and experts in the law arguing with them. He can't leave them alone for a couple of hours. If they aren't finding trouble, trouble is finding them. When Jesus appears, the crowd loses interest in the argument. Perhaps he has some afterglow from his transformation on the mountaintop, like Moses did, Exodus 34:34-35. 9:15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran at once and greeted him. Jesus tries to break up the fight his guys are not winning. 9:16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” But he never gets the answer. Instead a desperate dad clamors for Jesus's attention. 9:17 A member of the crowd said to him, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that makes him mute. 9:18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able to do so.” Some Bibles add a heading about the boy with epilepsy. This isn't epilepsy though. This is demonization. The demon makes the boy mute and gives the boy seizures. We also find out the demon tries to kill the boy. This dad is terrified for his boy. He heard about the band of miracle workers and sought aid from them.

Jesus responds with exasperation. 9:19 He answered them, “You unbelieving generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you? Bring him to me.” What caused such a forceful ejaculation from Jesus? Unbelief. Whose unbelief? The disciples', the religious leaders', the crowds'. Jesus knows his time is short. He makes it so simple, but we confound ourselves. We want a religion that is hard. We want a religious challenge that we can succeed at, while others flounder. Jesus simply asks for love, a love that denies self to worship God alone and serve all first before ourselves. This love depends on faith. How else can one love someone one can barely comprehend? Jesus demonstrates this love by calling for the victim.

9:20 So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 9:21 Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 9:22 It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” I think this dad has been rescuing his boy from certain death for years. I reckon the boy is not a child anymore. He may be an adolescent now, bigger and stronger, while the dad is older and weaker. Without deliverance soon, the demon, with the strength of a teenage boy will succeed in killing him. The dad has no other resort, except this miracle worker named Jesus. The dad doesn't know if the miracle worker is able to do anything. Like Peter, he also has an incorrect understanding of Jesus's identity. I imagine Jesus responding with a chuckle and a wink. 9:23 Then Jesus said to him, “‘If you are able?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” With those few words, Jesus gives that dad hope, something he has lost. And the emotion of hope erupts from him and awakens faith. 9:24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It's short, easy to memorize, and useful in all situations. Jesus commends small seeds of faith. God delights in the existence of faith, not in its quantum. The dad is quick to admit his lack. God rewards the humble with his grace, see James 4:6, 7. Faith only grows by exercise. When we see God intervene on our behalf in small things we are able to trust Him for those greater things. This is why I believe God does answer prayers for parking spots. It's a kindness of His.

9:25 Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 9:26 It shrieked, threw him into terrible convulsions, and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He is dead!” 9:27 But Jesus gently took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. Jesus is not seeking a spectacle. He is not interested in using the boy for his own glory. He cares for the boy, his dad, and God's glory. Jesus loves God and loves his neighbor. Interestingly, I don't read of Jesus ever touching someone when he casts out demons. He only touches them after the exorcism. For a moment, the dad might have worried that the demon finally succeeded. But Jesus. Those two words change everything. In the presence of Jesus, the situation shifts in his favor, to his glory. The boy is restored to his dad, never at risk again of this demon.

The humiliated disciples wait until they have some privacy and ask Jesus what they were missing. 9:28 Then, after he went into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” 9:29 He told them, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” But who prayed? Jesus didn't. The only prayer I see is the prayer. The dad asked Jesus to help his unbelief and Jesus did. This indicates to me that the disciples were trying to do spiritual work without establishing a spiritual attitude and connections through the spiritual act of prayer. Everything is spiritual, so we need to always be in prayer, 1 Thess. 5:17.

Prayer increases our faith, our expectations, our worship, our humility.
Prayer demonstrates our weakness, our need, our humility, our dependence, our connection to God.
Prayer opens our eyes to God's plans. Prayer opens our ears to God's plans. Prayer opens our minds to God's plans.

The disciples didn't get it, but the dad did.

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