28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” — Mark 9:28, 29 NKJV
While Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a man had brought his son, who was possessed by a demon, to the remaining disciples. They had been unable to cast the demon out of this particular boy, even though they had had success earlier in casting other demons out. They were confused by this and asked the same question that people are still asking today. “Why could we not cast it out?” We pray for the sick to be healed and when it doesn’t happen the way and the time we think it should, we ask the question — “Why?” Jesus explains that sometimes it takes more than a prayer, it takes fasting as well. Some translations do not include “fasting” in the answer Jesus gave. We know that Jesus spent many hours fasting and praying. Before His temptations in the desert with satan, He spent forty days fasting and praying. God does the healing, so why would we be required to pray and fast? The Scriptures never exactly explain the connection between fasting and praying. The Old Testament prophets and David fasted and prayed. John the Baptist and his disciples practiced fasting and praying. The disciples of Jesus practiced it, especially in Jerusalem after the Resurrection. Jesus made a practice of doing it, so it seems that it would be a good idea for us to try it as well. Each of us should do some resarch on different ways to fast, pray and allow the Holy Spirit to guide each of us into what and how long to fast. You may not think fasting is a good idea or that you have never practiced fasting. Think about this, in the physical world, what did you give up for a little while to get what you wanted the most? In the worst scenario, nothing unusual happens, in the best scenario, we end up with a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus, our best friend.
23 So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. –Ezra 8:23 NLT
23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?” 24 The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” 25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. — Mark 8:23-25 NLT
John tells us that if all the miracles that Jesus did were written down, all the books in the world would not be enough to hold them (John 21:25). What we read about is a sampling of the things He accomplished while He walked the earth as one of us. Those samples are given to show us not only His great love and mercy toward us but, also to show us that He uses all kinds of methods and people to demonstrate that love. Sometimes the healings were immediate, sometimes they were a process. Some required only a touch of the hem of His garment, others required a word and others a word and a touch from Him. He has the authority to answer our requests in any way or time frame He chooses. But know this, He always answers. Just because the answer wasn’t what we wanted to hear or did not come in the expected time does not mean that He didn’t hear and answer. Paul prayed three times for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed. Paul could have said that God didn’t answer his prayer, but after the third time, Paul accepted “No” as the answer. God’s answers can be compared to a trafiic light, green is “go”, yellow is “go slow” and red is “no”. We always want the green light, but when we have the red light, it gives others the opportunity to move. We must wait our turn. When we see the yellow light, we know that there is danger in proceeding, so we must be careful and prepare to wait, but be prepared to go when God gives us the green light. (Isaiah 40:31) The old saying that hindsight is 20-20 is true. When we look back over our lives, we can see clearly that God’s answer was the correct answer. The times we refused that answer is the times we experienced our troubles and sorrows.
19 God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
20 Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it! — Numbers 23:19, 20 NLT
God is the Creator, we are the created. We are bought and paid for with the blood of His Son, Jesus. He has every right, legal and anywise, to do with us as He pleases. He can, and does pour out blessings on those He chooses to bless and curses on those He chooses to curse. However, being a just God, He does not make random decsions out of anger or fits of jealousy. His decisions were made before the foundations of the earth were laid and they are based on HIs foreknowledge of our actions. He is never taken by surprise by any thoughts that we have or any actions that we commit. He can only reveal those decisions to us after the fact, so they often seem to be made in haste, but nothing could be further from the truth. Because of His great love for all of His creation, He has and still does warn us over and over about the consequences of unbelief and disobedience. The fact that He has complete foreknowledge of how we will respond has never and will never keep Him from warning us over and over and weeping over our disobedience. Recall what Jesus said about Jerusalem, how God had sent all the prophets to warn them and yet, they refused to be obedient and even murdered the prophets. Jesus wept bitter tears over Jerusalem saying “how often I have wanted to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not” (Matt. 23:37). He still gives us those warnings about greiving, bringing sorrow or rejecting the Holy Spirit.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
. — Ephesians 4:30 NLT
So, let each of us today, make a new commitment to listening to and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit so that God will be pleased with us.
17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? — Mark 8:17, 18 NLT
Depending on what version of the Bible you are reading the word “remember” appears between 148 to 168 times. Moses used it quite often when the Israelis would murmur and complain. He asked them to remember how God had delivered them out of the bondage of Egypt. Not only did He deliver them, but God brought them out with an abundance of riches that the Egyptians gave to them. Still, every time they got tired of the manna or they got thristy, they would complain and wish they were back in Egypt. The disciples, even after seeing all the miracles that Jesus had performed up to this time, were concerned about food for their physical needs. They had just witnessed Jesus feeding thousands of people with a few loaves and a few fish, yet they were concerned about what they would eat. Jesus admonishes them for not remembering these things. Had they remembered them, they would have been at peace with their situation, knowing that Jesus could provide for twelve people very easily. Jesus, the Bread of Life, wanted them to be conerned with Spiritual things and allow Him to be concerned with their physical needs. They needed to stay focused on Jesus and be content with what they had. The same thing applies to us. When we are in a rough patch, we need to stay focused on Jesus and what He has delivered us from in the past. We need to remember the situations He has carried us through. If nothing specific comes to mind, then just remember this — satan would like to kill us right now and he would, if Jesus allowed him to. Whether we draw another breath or not is dependent on the goodness of God and nothing else. So, every breath that we take brings life and when that breath goes out, it should carry a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for God’s goodness and protection for it is “in Him that we live and move and have our being”.
28 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”
29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone. — Mark 7:28-30 NLT
Hearing the words that Jesus had just spoken to her, it would have been understandable if this woman would have just crawled out of the room and left without receiving anything from Jesus. But instead she suffered the humiliation and showed great humility by humbling herself before Jesus. She told Jesus, I am not asking for the best, your leftovers will be more than sufficient to fulfill my needs. Because of her humble response, Jesus answered her request and healed her daughter. Is there a request in our lives that Jesus hasn’t fulfilled? Is it possible that our “unanswered” prayers only appear to be unanswered because we refuse to humble ourselves before the Lord? Is it possible that God can’t say “yes” because we refuse to say “yes” to His request? Is it possible that we will only accept our preconceived notion as the answer and we miss what God is trying to do in our lives? In this instance, Jesus first said “no” (which is an answer) but then because of her humbleness and persistence, He said “yes”. God always answers every prayer, just because we don’t like the answer doesn’t mean He didn’t hear and answer us. We need to be like the Phoenician woman, we need to be persistent but humble. If we give God a good answer, He will give us a good answer.
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. — 1 Peter 5:6, 7 NLT
11 Then the Lord said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?”
And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.”
12 And the Lord said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.” — Jeremiah 1:11, 12 NLT
The almond tree is particularly significiant in the Holy Scriptures. It is a sign of hope because it blossoms in the middle of the winter on a leafless tree. It reminds us that there is life even in our darkest hours. It is connected with charity in the book of Numbers becasue Aaron’s rod was from an almond tree and it blossomed and brought forth fruit overnight. Charity because the Levitical tribe lived on the gifts of the people, they had no earthly possessions. In the original KJV, the branch was called a “rod” which symbolizes power or leadership. In Old Testament times, the fruit of the almond tree was beleived to be the external expression of the goodness that is in all of us. Here in Jeremiah, the branch or “rod” of the almond tree is associated with God watching over HIs word and HIs people with power to perform. It means that He will carry out His plans and nothing nor anyone can stop Him from doing so. Our part is to spread His word among the people. Just as Moses told Aaron to take the incense and go between the dead and the living to stop the plague, we are to take the Word and stand in the gap to stop the advance of sin. We speak the Word and stand, God’s Word accomplishes and produces the fruit.
11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it. — Isaiah 55:11 NLT
3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world? — Matt. 24:3 NLT
Ever since Jesus ascended into heaven with His promise of returning, people have asked the question — When? The disciples had even questioned Jesus about this before His death and resurrection. Is when important and if so, why is it important? If we knew for sure Jesus was coming back at the end of this month, would it make a difference? Would it cause us to be more diligent in witnessing to our family, friends and neighbors? Would we be more committed to living a Holy lifestyle? Would it change our priorities? Would we gather our families around us and hold on to them tightly? Would we mourn or rejoice? Would we say. “even so, Lord, come quickly” or would we ask Him for a few more days to be sure our families were all saved? If we are truly honest with ourselves, would it really make any difference? If it would, then why doesn’t it make a difference even now? Only the Father knows when Jesus will return and only the Father knows when each of us will leave here. Since we don’t know either of these times, doesn’t it make sense to assume that it is today and live our lives accordingly? Shouldn’t we live each day seeking first the Kingdom of God and trust God to take care of the rest? If we could get to that point, then peace would overflow our hearts and life here on earth would be “joy unspeakable and full of glory”! Then “when” would become unimportant.
8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. — 1 Peter 1:8, 9 NKJV
35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”
37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months .”— Mark 6:35-37a NLT
Jesus is still saying the same thing today — “You feed them”. We are still doing the same thing the disciples did, we are asking –“With what?” When we have a worldly view of things, we see the impossibilities, when we are focused on Jesus and see through His eyes we see the possibilities. What an opportuinity and what an honor it is for us to be asked to feed the multitudes. This situation with the huge crowd and little resources was an opportuinity for Jesus to teach the disciples. Even though they had walked with Jesus for quite a while and had seen all the miracles that He performed, they still had not gotten the message. I am sure that if Jesus had said “tell them to sit down and I will feed them”, the disciples would have had litttle trouble believing that, but when He instructed them to feed the crowd, that was a completely different issue. We, like the disciples, sometimes hear the words but misunderstand our part. Jesus needed their hands and feet to walk and hand out the food, He would provide the food. When Jesus instucts us to do something, just obey and watch the miracle happen. When you look at your resources, they may seem too little to accomplish the task, but there will be more than enough. There were plenty of leftovers after everyone had eaten their fill and in the Old Testament, the widow’s cruse of oil did not run out, there was always plenty to fill the next vessel. God’s Spirit will not run out, there will always be plenty to fill the next person. Our part is to be carriers, God is the supplier.
30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” — Mark 4:30-32 NLT
Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had told His disciples that they were permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. He also stated that there would be some who would hear and refuse to believe (outsiders) and they would not be able to understand His teachings in the parables that He used (Mark 4:11,12). So, if the disciples were permitted to understand the Kingdom of God, then so can we understand it. Jesus told Nicodemus to enter the Kingdom that it was necessary for him to be born again. So, we become a part of the Kingdom of God when we receive Christ as our Savior. In doing so, we become eligible for all the benefits of that Kingdom here and now, not just in the future. As the birds nest in the shade of the mustard tree, so we live under the umbrella of God’s protection now. Right now, it is a spiritual Kingdom inside of us. When Jesus comes back, He will establish a Kingdom here on earth that will encompass all of His creation and creatures except those that refuse to hear and believe (Daniel 2:44, Rev.11:15). We are preparing to live in that Kingdom in our present life and one day that process will be completed when we are changed into immortal beings (1 Cor 15:50-53). Jesus taught us to pray “may Your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven”. So, while we are preparing for eternity, we live with the assurance that the hope that we have will one day be fulfilled. And it will be so — His will “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. That is why we end our prayers with “Amen” which means “let it be so”. Partially now and completely in the future.