Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief"

“Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.  I asked our disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."
“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me”
“So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion.  He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
“If you can?” said Jesus, “Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit, “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.”  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?"
He replied,”This kind can come out only by prayer."
NIV  Study Bible,  Mark 18-29
I often think of mentors and what they have told me would make my life better or help me in my daily life.  Many have told me over the years the importance of daily reading off the Bible.  Dr. Willi Gutowski showed me this when I stayed with his family.  We were in the tropical paradise of Saipan. I had breakfast with his wife and he.  And daily at breakfast he read a passage from the Bible.  It had been a lifelong activity that had done him well.  Willi and Anita have all the outward success of human existence, loving family, love for each other, long history of work and service for others, as well as abundance.
It’s one thing to hear about things. It’s another to see them.  I loved reading Dr. Paul Johnson’s, “Intellectuals’ cause it showed so well the hypocrisy that is common in the world.  Dr. Carl Ridd, my early university Bible teacher lived a special life of a special man. I knew him in and out of the classroom and would that I knew him better. I counted it as a true blessing that this man took at interest in me in my twenties and kept in touch with me for nearly 20 years.  Not only did he teach me to read the Bible as great literature he introduced me to one of the greatest writings of the 20th century, Brothers Karamsov by Dostoyevsky.
There is little talk of morality today.  There is so much propaganda and knee jerk cowardly ‘consensus’ thinking. The herd instincts run strong. The goose step has returned. There is little independent thinking.  Yet people struggle on with leaders who are known more for their lies than their contributions.  It was not always such.  Individuals I have known decided their actions based less on narcissism or consumerism and more on right and wrong.
Dr. James Houston taught me to read the Bible as well. He was especially fond of Psalms.  He wrote a seminal work on Prayer but his main thrust was to ask about the person one was and wanted to be.  He used words like purpose, person, and meaning. He loved the inner world of the mystical saints of Christendom.  He was a gentleman and a wise man.  To him him and his wife together was to know love that had lasted long and run deep.  He now speaks so highly of his son but still revels in his work of teaching.
So I open my Bible and read this passage today.  Some say Mark is the oldest gospel record of the life of Jesus.  There are 4 Gospels and they are witness accounts of the life of Jesus. They’re followed by the Acts which tell of his disciples after Jesus is crucified by the authorities.  Then St. Paul, the Hebrew persecutor of the Christians is converted and joins with Peter and the others teaching the “Good News”.  For Good News is what Gospel means.  It was a story of personal relationship with God and that God was first and foremost love. Jesus taught that all the laws was to be understood in the key which was ,  love God and love your neighbour as yourself.
Reading this passage in Mark, I was touched by the phrase , “Oh unbelieving generation.”  Dr. Scott Peck believes this world is a kindergarten. We are hear to learn most that we must harness our thoughts and learn to focus them on loving rather than on fear and resentment.  I think an unbelieving generation isn’t limited to the time of Jesus in history but refers to this life.  The reason is simply that this generation, the one I am living in, seems so much and “unbelieving generation’.  But even there I know I must believe in this generation.  I feel for the human frustration of Jesus though.
And the father’s “If you can” resonated so well with my own approach to life, and belief and action.  “if you can’.  It’s all the little provisos.  It’s all the little legalisms that I myself couch my statements in and limit my belief with.  I’m like the father.  I’ve had Gilbert’s back to heal directly in my home and I’ve watched my own ‘tentative’ healing work.  I’m always saying ‘thy will be done’ not so much as to give credit to God but to create a back door if my own prayer and belief don’t work.
I hated that so called Christian song, “Even if the healing doesn’t come’ because it was itself negative.
Now I don’t want to be pollyanna. I know "if I have the faith of a mustard seed I can move a mountain."
Jesus says here, “Everything is possible to him who believes’.
But this passage hits it squarely with the father’s timeless statement that spoke to the very centre of my being.
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”.  Now that could be tattooed on my forehead it is so me.
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”  That will be my prayer today.  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."
Then I like the casting out of the ‘evil spirit”.
“You deaf and dumb spirit.  I command you come out of him and never enter him again.”
I must remember this and say it over and over again in my mind in my day.  It has the feeling of the formulaic.
And I like the mystery of the final statement he makes to the disciples when they ask why they failed, “This kind can come out only by prayer”.  No doubt the disciples prayed. I certainly pray.  Yet there is something deep and meaningful in this simple sentence which speaks to the whole of the gospel.  “this kind can come out only by prayer.”
Oh well, now I must go to work and hopefully I’ll think of this all through my day, I want to walk in the light.  I want to know the joy that comes with know Jesus. I want to fill my day with service.  But most importantly “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief"
“Because everything is possible to him who believes."

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