October 6, 2016

Mark 9:23, 29 “If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” … He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

I have always loved the father’s exclamation in verse 24, but just now what strikes me is the proximity of these two statements by Jesus. There certainly is absolute truth, but what we take as blanket statements often have subtleties that we overlook. We tend to think that if everything is possible for him who believes, then all that is required to do anything is just to believe. However, here Jesus follows that up with saying that you can believe until you are blue in the face, but if you fail to pray, nothing is going to happen. Down through the centuries countless Christians have taken verses out of context and even built denominations on them, insisting that all other positions were invalid. That is sad indeed. We exclude people from the Kingdom of God, either actually or by refusing fellowship, over things that are not so black and white. C. S. Lewis wrote that one thing we can know for sure is that when we get to heaven, every one of us will discover that there were things about which we were mistaken. We need to read the whole Bible, with the Holy Spirit as our guide, and we need to let the love and grace of God cover all our interactions, both with believers and with non-believers.

My primary motivational gifts (see Romans 12 and Don and Katie Fortune’s books) are Teacher and Perceiver. Both of those, and especially the latter, have a tendency toward being black and white, so I’ve got to be especially careful on this issue. Without the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, I could found a cult! Even on this trip I have been accused of being judgmental, because I was talking about how grieved I am at people not living as obedient children of God. I replied at the time that I am fully aware that I am just as much in need of the grace and mercy of God as anyone, but it is not loving to fail to confront sin, to excuse it and accept it as normative. It may be normal, but there’s a big difference between that and it being normative, that is, a standard to which others are to conform. Jesus’ words about sawdust and planks (Matthew 7:3-5) are very important, but we aren’t to say that everyone should have sticks in their eyes. I am to walk in the truth I have been given and share that truth in love with as many as will receive it, not backing down, but I am also not to reject someone because they don’t yet see things as I do. I may be the one who needs to change perspective!

Father, it all gets very complicated sometimes. Help me walk in both humility and assurance, trusting Your Holy Spirit absolutely and my own intellect not at all, (Proverbs 3:5-6) so that I may indeed walk straight, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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