And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29)
The disciples had tried to drive out the demon. They had watched Jesus many times before. It didn’t seem at the time like something they couldn’t do. Jesus had said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can move mountains.”
Everyone was watching, too! What would they think if they weren’t able to get rid of this evil spirit? People might have thought less of them. They may have said, “You’re not really His disciples.” or “Look at you, you can’t do anything by yourself.” or “Where’s your faith?”.
Have you ever been afraid of what others would think about the amount of your faith?
So, humbly and privately they ask Jesus, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (verse 28)
Fair question, wouldn’t you agree? Why couldn’t they perform what seemed to be a simple task? Why couldn’t they do what they had been trained to do? What they had apparently already been given power to do?
“This kind”, Jesus said, “can only come out by prayer.”
Now there are plenty of commentaries on this passage, but what we can’t escape is the missing ingredient. Prayer.
I need to ask you to consider this next part of the post. The first part was about the disciples. This part is about you.
What are you trying to do today that can only happen…with success…by prayer?
Oh, you may be very spiritual. You may have great Biblical knowledge. You may even know the pastor personally. (Like that’s a big deal or something!) You may be a committed follower of Christ. You may have the “good attendance” pin. You may have a testimony. You know, the kind where everyone says “ooh” when you share it. You may be an example for others to follow. You may even give God the glory for great things He hath done!
But…you see — this kind — the kind you’re dealing with now — can only come out by prayer!
Today — whatever it is — no matter what people might think or say — turn it over to the God who loves you beyond your ability to understand! Let Him know you need Him and Him alone. Tell Him you realize that apart from Him you can do nothing!
PRAY! Pray like you’ve never prayed before.
Then get out of His way and let Him do His work!
You may now want to read THIS POST on prayer — Hezekiah’s example of effective prayer.
Is there something BIG that I can pray with you about?
Are you up for a challenge?
How about reading the Bible through this year?
I’ve heard so many people who would love to read the Bible through in a year, but never completed the task. It’s nearly impossible for the pastor to preach through all of it, so you are going to miss something unless you study on your own, but most believers haven’t read all the Bible. Some of the best nuggets of truth I discovered on my own, reading through the Bible in a year.
Here are 7 tips for reading the Bible through in a year:
Pray – Ask God to give you the motivation and strength to accomplish this goal. You can’t read the Bible like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you.
Pick an easy to read version – Currently I’m using the Holman Christian Standard. I previously wrote a post about versions. You can read that HERE.
Find a plan – You could simply read three chapters a day and do fine, but I have found having a printed checklist helps keep me disciplined. It may seem mechanical to some, but it will keep you on task. YouVersion has many plans to follow. There are more than you can imagine. The key is to find one. I like the balance of reading some Old and New Testament each day, but choose one that works for you. Here’s a LINK to other options. (Personally, I’ve chosen the ESV Study Bible plan available through YouVersion.)
Find a place - Choose the time and place that works best and that you will most likely stick with through the year. I find mornings work best for me. I travel frequently, so I can’t have just one place, but when I’m home, I have a certain chair. I’m moving this year to the dining room table, because I know I’ll be less distracted. For me, I need to turn off everything else and simply concentrate on the Bible reading.
Document your reading – I’ve found I get more out of my reading if I journal along the way what it’s saying to me. Even if I don’t understand it completely, writing the questions I have down helps me process them later and eventually something else I read seems to help answer my questions.
Discipline yourself – It will likely take you on average about 15 minutes per day to complete this. Once you’ve done it consistently for 30 days or so, you’ll be well on your way to having a habit formed.
Catch up when needed – If you miss a day, don’t sweat it…and don’t quit. Spend a little extra time and play catch up on what you missed. Of course, if you do this too many times you’ll eventually give up, so the key is discipline, but extend grace to yourself as you move through the year. Also, if you didn’t start on the first, start on the 2nd, or the 22nd, and go through the same time next year. You can begin today. There’s no legalism here…just encouragement! You can do this!
Keep the goal in front of you and follow through. This time next year you’ll be glad you accomplished your goal.
Who’s with me?
Here are 12 Bible verses that have helped shape my life. There are so many others, but these were the first 12 to come to mind. I memorized these years ago and they’ve been timeless truths…daily reminders…I have “hidden in my heart”. All verses are from the New International Version, because I that was the version I primarily used at the time.
You may want to pick one, write it on an index card and put it on the refrigerator, and hid it in your heart.
Here are 12 life-shaping verses:
Noah did everything just as God commanded him. Genesis 6:22
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 1 Peter 1:14-15
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3
I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. Psalms 13:6
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Proverbs 25:2
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
What is one of your life-shaping verses?
Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over three years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I can imagine the stress he experienced during those years.
Something strikes me, however, that seems to further complicate Elijah’s situation.
Consider 1 Kings 18:1:
“After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”
According to a couple New Testament passages, this “After a long time” was actually three and a half years. The famine was three and a half years long. For three and a half years, the people apparently continued to sin, Elijah continued to hold on by faith, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive…not speaking…even to His great servant Elijah during this time.
Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God in your life ever been eerily strong?
Imagine you had been faithfully serving…God is using you…you are in constant communication with Him…and then suddenly…everything is quiet. You have to wait.
The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah is not liked and unpopular. He’s an outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent.
God would soon do a miracle through Elijah…one he couldn’t even imagine…certainly not script, but during this period all Elijah could do was wait.
If you have been follower of Christ very long, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. We often call them periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.
What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?
If you are like me, you can figure out how to celebrate a miracle. You don’t need much help doing that. The tough part of life is figuring out what to do during the years of silence…during the years when miracles are seemingly nowhere to be found.
What do we do during the spiritually dry periods of life when we don’t hear clearly the voice of God?
Here are 7 suggestions for those times:
Don’t ignore the silence… – Some of the biggest moves God has made in my life have come after a period of spiritual dryness…when it seemed like God was doing nothing in my life. Stay very close to God and watch for Him to eventually display His power. He will in the fullness of time.
Confront known sin in your life – This wasn’t the problem of silence for Elijah, but the problem for the Israelites was that they were chasing after other gods and living lives in total disobedience to God. Sin may not be the reason you don’t sense closeness to God right now, but if you have known sin in your life it will affect your intimacy with God.
Go back to what you know – Get back to the basics of the faith that saved you. You’ll do it 100’s of times in your life, but you must remind yourselves of the basis of faith…which is the very character and promises of God. God is in control. He really is…even when it doesn’t seem that He is anywhere to be found.
Make a decision…Choose sides – You can’t adequately serve God and the world. (Consider Joshua 24:15) Something happens in life, often sin, busyness, boredom, or a tragedy…but if we are normal, we have periods where we grow away from our close relationship with God. God hasn’t moved, but if you’ve shifted in your obedience, get back securely on the right side.
Trust More…Not less – Times of silence may be filled with fear, but ironically, these times require more faith. Times come in our spiritual life when our enthusiasm isn’t as real as when we began our walk with God. That’s not an indication to quit…it may be that God is using that time for something bigger than you could have imagined…but whatever is next will most likely require a deeper level of trust.
Listen and Watch Closely – Some day God is going to make His plans known to you. Don’t miss them. He may come to your personally, through His Word, circumstances or another person. You’ll need to be in a position to know that God is moving. (Read THIS POST if you need help discerning God’s will.)
Get ready to receive – God will break the silence some day…and when He does it WILL be good. If you mope around in your sorrows, you’ll be less prepared to receive the good things to come. Not because of your circumstances, but because of your faith, clothe yourself in joy as you wait for God to bless you after the period of silence.
Are you in one of those periods of silence today? How do you handle these periods of time?
For years, when the boys were at home, we shared our list of “Thankfuls” each Thanksgiving holiday. We would each take turns (one item at a time) of ten things we were most thankful for that year. I remember early in this tradition the boys’ spellings weren’t always correct, but their lists were always sincere.
I miss those special times sitting in our living room, but that shouldn’t stop me from sharing my list with you.
Here are my “Thankfuls” this year:
1. My relationship with Christ. And the grace that got me there. (And keeps me there.)
2. My loving wife. She’s my best friend. She’s seen my best and my worst and keeps being my biggest supporter.
3. My two amazing sons. Jeremy and Nathaniel (Nate)…age 25 and 22…are simply two of the best men I’ve ever known. Seriously.
4. Jeremy’s wife Mary. If I had raised a daughter…or picked a wife for my son…I would have wanted a Mary. Thanks God.
5. My calling. I work for Jesus. How cool is that? I ran from it for years…but it’s the best “career” I’ve ever had. And, I’ve had several.
6. Family and friends. Cheryl and I are so blessed with amazing families…with low or no drama. We have friends we can call upon at any time day or night. The greatest asset of our married life together is people.
7. The staff and people of Immanuel Baptist. Nearing a year and a half with them, I can honestly say we’ve met some of the most loving, supportive people we’ve ever known. We’ve already made friends for life.
8. My health. Granted, I work on it, but I’ve had friends die of cancer (and other causes) this year…some younger than me. I am thankful for being able to run…and walk…and feel well enough to work…and play.
9. The city of Lexington. We adopted our new home quickly. It’s our mission field, and that’s what missionaries do. We love the sports, exploring the many restaurants, the neighborhoods, and especially the people. What a lovely place to live!
10. The future. I look around the world today and see a lot of darkness. But, this year, I’m thankful, as always, that I serve a risen Savior. That makes every morning new with His mercies and grace. I’m grateful the days ahead are bright…because He is my light. (Cheesy…maybe…but always true.)
There’s part of my list. I could continue, because I am blessed. No, my world is not trouble free…far from it actually…but when I pause and consider all that God has done and is doing around me…thanksgiving is my only proper response.
And for what (or whom) are you thankful this year?
It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Family and friends. Good food and good times.
Truthfully, this time of year is especially stressful for some. I am not referring, in this post, to the ones who have lost loved ones this year. That’s especially difficult. My prayers go out for you. I’m talking about those who have living “loved ones”…positionally speaking at least.
The holidays expose many people to broken relationships, hurt feelings, grudges from the past. Many will have to be around people, by default, that they wouldn’t choose to be around unless those people were blood relatives…or in-laws…or friends who aren’t your friends, but come with the package of celebration. They will be there…and the reality of that causes you to be less enthusiastic about celebrating this year.
That’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes…doesn’t it?
(Raise your hand if that’s your story.).
What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most…or who always seems to say the wrong thing…or who is…honestly…even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?
I want to encourage the Biblical approach.
Here are six tips:
Bite your tongue – When you are tempted to snap back…don’t. Sure, it will be difficult…even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26)
Extend grace – Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)
Put on another’s shoes – Anyone who hurts you…has a story. Usually they were hurt too…by someone. Remember…hurt people…hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Practice patience – Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)
Exercise humility – When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break point in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)
Pray for them – The last one is sometimes the most difficult…but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer…the One whose yoke is easy…the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life…and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)
Apply liberally, as needed.
You’ll have healthier, happier relationships this Thanksgiving and Christmas season…and even into the New Year.
Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?