Help My Unbelief!

Mark 924 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 17:14–20 (ESV)

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 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.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today, we read of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy. The boy’s father went to Jesus because his son’s symptoms were very violent and because Jesus’ disciples were unable to drive out the demon.

The accounts written in Matthew and in Mark seem to give different reasons for why the disciples were not able to effectively handle the demon. In Matthew, Jesus says the problem was the disciples had “little faith” and that if they had the faith of a mustard seed they would be able to move mountains. In Mark, Jesus tells the disciples that the only way to drive out a demon of this nature is through prayer. So, which is it? Why are there seemingly different reasons given by Jesus?

At first glance, Matthew and Mark may seem to be at odds, but when we better understand them both, we see that they are, in fact, in agreement. In Matthew, we must understand that Jesus is not speaking about the disciples ability to muster a certain quantity of faith. Consider the words from David Turner in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Matthew and Mark:

The issue is not the intensity or amount of faith but the degree to which that faith perceives its object. The power of faith is in the person in whom it is placed. Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal the epileptic boy because they had taken their eyes off of Jesus and looked at the obstacles, just as Peter did during the storm when he began to sink (14:31). Faith is not believing in faith but in the heavenly Father.

When we consider this understanding with Jesus’ comment on prayer in Mark 9:29, we see how the two accounts compliment each other. The disciples’ faith had failed because their eyes were not on Jesus and this is evidenced by their lack of prayer and trust in God.

Prayer tells us a great deal about our faith. Are we trusting in ourselves and our own strength and abilities or are we trusting in God and his plans and purposes? How does your prayer life reflect where your faith truly lies?

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Knock Knock


Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. If you would like to follow along each day as we read through the life of Jesus Christ in 2019, please be sure to subscribe to this page or to our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 7:7–11 (ESV)

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Parallel Text: Luke 11:9-13

Do Not Pray Like Hypocrites

Matthew 66 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I do not publish supplemental material, but do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are currently working chronologically through the life of Christ from the four Gospels. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:5–6 (ESV)

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Time Alone

Bible Study Woman

Reading the Word

Luke 4:42–44 (ESV)

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Parallel Text: Mark 1:35-39

Understanding and Applying the Word

With the word of Jesus’ ability to heal and perform miracles spreading, the people have been flooding to him and bringing those who are in need of healing. Even in the midst of the people’s needs, Jesus is sure to care for his own needs as well. We are told that he withdrew to a desolate place. Mark’s account tells us that the reason was to spend time in prayer.

It can be easy to pour everything you have into serving and helping others. However, there is also a very real need to take care of your own needs, which include spiritual needs. Jesus took time to himself to spend in prayer with the Father. We need to learn from his example and make time to spend in private devotion and prayer of our own, so that we can continue to find the nourishment we need, which will enable us to serve others in an even greater way.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

When No One Else Cares

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench

Photo by Inzmam Khan on


Reading the Word

Psalm 142:1–7 (ESV)

1 With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
2 I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.

3 When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
4 Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.

5 I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
7 Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The historical background of this psalm is when David was hiding in the cave of Adullam to escape the hands of Saul (1 Samuel 21:1). We get a sense of David’s emotions as he writes of feeling alone (v. 4) and trapped as in a prison (v. 7).

The attacks of others can cause us great suffering, both physically and emotionally. We get a sense of that in David’s words. However, we can follow David’s lead in turning to the Lord in those times of despair. David knew that God heard his pleas and he found great comfort in knowing that he was not alone, but that God was with him. And even in the midst of his trouble, David saw that the hand of God was generous and good (v. 7). May we find comfort in the Lord’s presence and have the eyes to see his overflowing grace in our lives.

**Want to read the Bible every day? Be sure to subscribe to this page and follow along! We are currently reading through the Book of Psalms. In 2019, we will focus on the Life of Christ for our daily readings.

A Defense Against Sin

chain linked fence

Photo by Min An on


Reading the Word

Psalm 141:1–10 (ESV)

1 O LORD, I call upon you; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
6 When their judges are thrown over the cliff,
then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant.
7 As when one plows and breaks up the earth,
so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

8 But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
9 Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me
and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I pass by safely.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this psalm, David calls on God to protect him from sin. He asks that the Lord would guard his mouth and his heart that he might not speak or desire evil (vv. 3-4). He also asks that God would make him receptive to the correction of the righteous (v. 5).

It is difficult to admit when we are wrong. It is especially difficult to admit we are wrong when someone else lets us know it. We immediately become defensive and seek to justify our words and actions. We must remember that God has placed others in our lives to help us defeat sin. Others are able to see things that we may be blind to or help us deal with sin that we have become callous to. Let us pray that the Lord would keep us from sin and that we would be receptive to the words of others who are there to help us grow and turn from sin.

**Want to read the Bible every day? Be sure to subscribe to this page and follow along! We are currently reading through the Book of Psalms. In 2019, we will focus on the Life of Christ for our daily readings.

Let My Cry Come before You

Study Read Book Bible

Reading the Word

Psalm 119:169–176 (ESV)

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! 170 Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word. 171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. 172 My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right. 173 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. 174 I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. 175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We often take prayer for granted. It is an amazing thing that the great God who created everything cares to listen to the prayers of mankind. Why does he concern himself with us? We are insignificant when you think of the vastness of the universe. Yet, we are told that God does care and that he does hear and answer prayer.

The psalmist prays, “Let me cry come before you…Let my plea come before you.” It is a wonderful thing to know that God has heard. And it is also a wonderful thing to know that God answers prayer according to his word. He has not left us in the dark about his plans and purposes in the world, nor has he left us wondering what he desires from us. He has told us all of these things through his word to us. And most of all, we find that God is a God of salvation. He saves us from our sins and gives us life through Jesus Christ. Let us praise God for hearing us, for giving us his word, and for saving those who call out to him.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

I Hope in Your Words

Psalm 119147 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested reading from Scripture. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are currently reading through the Book of Psalms.

Reading the Word

Psalm 119:145–152 (ESV)

145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes. 146 I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. 148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. 149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life. 150 They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your law. 151 But you are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are true. 152 Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.

Hope for the Poor And Needy

Psalm 10922 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 109:21–29 (ESV)

21 But you, O God my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! 22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. 23 I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. 25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads. 26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! 27 Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it! 28 Let them curse, but you will bless! They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad! 29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses we see David’s hope. His trust is in God, who he calls “God my Lord” in verse 21. The titles that he uses reflect on God’s sovereign rule over all. While David is “poor and needy” (a description of his weakness), God is in control and full of steadfast love towards David.

What are you going through? What is it that you are facing that makes you feel weak and powerless to overcome? David sought the Lord in prayer and trusted that the sovereign One would be faithful to him. You and I can rest in the truth that our God is in control and that he loves his people. Let us call out to him and trust him. We may be weak, but he is all-powerful.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

He Loved to Curse

Romans 1219 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 109:16–20 (ESV)

16 For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death. 17 He loved to curse; let curses come upon him! He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him! 18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones! 19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around him, like a belt that he puts on every day! 20 May this be the reward of my accusers from the Lord, of those who speak evil against my life!

Understanding and Applying the Word

David continues to pray for God to take action against his enemy. In these verses, he calls for the enemy to have curses fall upon him. Why? Because David’s enemy is one who loved to curse others. It would be fitting for such to happen to him.

This psalm is hard for us to understand if we cannot accept that God is a just God and calls for us to long for justice as well. David’s prayer reflects that he longs for justice. He desires that the one who is evil will be repaid with evil. An important thing to note in this psalm is that David leaves justice in the hands of the all-knowing and perfectly just God. It is ultimately God who knows when and how to judge a person. It is also God who may choose to extend his grace. David calls for justice and leaves it in God’s hands. This is what we are called to do as well, as Paul states in Romans 12:19:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!