And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them,“Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:18-20
And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:28-29
So just as Hector settled in front of the mic for his teaching Sunday, he turned his head, listening. And then he asked, “Does anyone here have pain in their left knee? I am supposed to pray for a left knee.” There were not so many people at the Upper Room this Sunday, and no one said anything.
So I spoke up. “I have prayed for three painful left knees this week. Three. And none of them were healed.”
Last week was sort of a practice week for me to grow in faith, in stepping out into the invisible and waiting to be caught by Him. Saturday I went to a conference on the Holy Spirit all day and night. And I went up to the main speaker and asked to be anointed to be a more powerful intercessor. And really it was so I could pray for someone’s left knee. Which I did. And it hurt even more.
And one of my students sort of fell and really messed up her left knee. It was screamingly painful and swollen and the only crutches we could find were way too big and I knelt down by the side of the road and held that ice-packed knee and prayed for healing. And she came to school on Monday with a distinct limp and a brand new cane.
And Dustin rides his bike. Everywhere. To work and back. And up Mt. Lemmon. And on bumpy roads. And bike riding fills him with joy and his knee hurts so badly and my general experience with knees is they only get worse and ibuprofin can only do so much, so I prayed for his knee. His left knee. And he took another fistful of ibuprofin and headed out the door.
So I have been pulling Jesus aside privately and asking, Why not? And publicly too, I guess.
And last week I watched Father of Lights, a documentary with a rolling camera of God doing His thing of powerful love in the name of Jesus all over the world. And while it is not neat and tidy all of the time, it is clear that He is willing and able to step into the normal flow of brokenness and pain and bring healing and joy. With Chicago gang lords who changed from angry bleepers who drove by and filled homes with bullets just for the heck of it to gentle giants of peace. With an Indian guru who showed up because God spoke to him in a dream. With a bank president who gave up the earthly mansion to hold crippled babies in China, with children in India who grind rocks to sand for their entire lives, with an Egyptian who was crucified for the name of Christ and now is an international leader for human rights, and with a Muslim in the marketplace of Jerusalem who threw away his cane after twenty-three years.
And this is the same answer Jesus gave to John the Baptist when he asked, Are You the One?” The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.
But not all of the blind receive sight. There was also the clip of two Indian guys, one blind and one crippled who could not stop talking about Jesus their Savior, so the crippled rode the handle bars, and the blind guy peddled. All over the countryside, proclaiming His name. Rejoicing.
And my heart burned, and I showed this movie to the nice little Christian kids at my school, in preparation for their first team research project to learn what are reliable sources of information, how to correctly cite resources and how to avoid plagiarism. And as our last written assignment on The Pearl by John Steinbeck, we are going to do a presentation on people group who fits the Proverbs 31:8 admonition: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Even though Mr. Steinbeck was not a believer, he had a great passion for the destitute and the apowerless, whether for the tenant farmers of The Grapes of Wrath, the handicapped in Of Mice and Men, and in The Pearl, the oppressed Mexican villagers.
In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, righting injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme: try to understand each other. Journal entry (1938), quoted in the Introduction to a 1994 edition of Of Mice and Men
And the overwhelming message at school is that we are to love one another, even as Christ loves us. However, so often, we are caught up in the busyness of our small circle of friends and family, and we forget that God so loved the world, the whole world. Thus I want our last project to focus on knowing and telling the story of those who are often on the outskirts, the powerless, the lonely, the discouraged, those for whom Christ also has a message of hope and love.
So my students watched spellbound. Except I had a problem for one of the classes because I forgot my power cord at home and the disk wouldn’t play on my ornery school PC laptop and no one at the school had a Mac cord, not even Mr. Winslow or Mr. Dalton the Mac Men, and my battery had about ten minutes left on it, because it is five years old and has a permanent warning to service the battery.
So I told the kids about a time I was driving out of Mexico in the big double cab pickup truck at night with my three little kids in the back, and the way that always worked is that you had to fill up both tanks in Navojoa, and then drive five hours to Hermosillo and fill them up again, and then you could barely make it to Nogales, another five hours away.
But there was some holiday and every single gas station in Hermosillo was closed. And Hermosillo is a big city. And I drove and drove, hoping to find some small gas station along the highway, somewhere, but everything was closed. And then I made the goofy decision, at midnight, to just drive. And if I ran out of gas, I ran out of gas, and we would sleep by the side of the road (mind-boggling lack of judgement, eh?). And I drove and drove. Looking at the little dial lying flaccidly on empty. Looking for a little light shining over one of the so many Pemex stations. And nothing. And I drove until the morning dawn glint off the billowing sunrises and we hit the border and crossed over and drove into a nice clean shiny Texaco station, and that was that, and it really happened to me and the little girls, and of course it was impossible, and God doesn’t always do that, but he sure did this time.
So I told them that story and said that maybe God would step in and power my computer, and maybe He wouldn’t, but let’s just give it a shot and watch it until it dies. And the little red light warning that there were only seven minutes left flashed across the screen...three minutes before class let out. The same computer that can't even hold a charge long enough to take Language Lab attendance.
I sure had the kids’ attention.
And these couple of weeks, I am having different folks write about why they follow Jesus for the monthly Vineyard devotional. And every story is miraculous. Not so much about arms growing back after timid prayers, although they are there, but about transformed lives. About a God who is living and active right now. And about His word that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And this God is big enough to hold the universe in His palm and is certainly not a tame lion neatly caged by my understanding. But let me echo the words yet one more time, Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
And once again, let me echo the father of the child who cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.