Mustard Seed

Thursday, Aug. 27

Mt. 17:20. “Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.’” I think we all understand that a grain of mustard seed is small. We probably also understand that moving a mountain by just telling it to move is not small. At this point in my life I have no reason to move a mountain, so that is not an issue, but I have yearnings that are fairly big, and I can’t cope with them myself. For example, I would like all my grandkids to be devoted to Christ and involved in evangelism. Some of them have problems that I cannot solve. I have no doubt that God would like to see some radical changes, but I feel helpless. I am left with praying for them. But I have to admit that it looks fairly grim. My prayers are there, but my faith is weak. Maybe my faith is smaller than a mustard seed. But maybe it’s just not God’s time. I will persevere.

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O Me of Little Faith

Wednesday, Aug. 26

Belief is such an integral part of the redemption process. It’s vital and yet hard to pin down and hard to practice. It’s like sanctification itself, a growing thing that will never reach perfection this side of heaven. It’s the main theme in the Abraham narrative, reaching a pinnacle with the sacrifice of his son in Moriah. It was the vital element of God’s dealing with all the patriarchs and the prophets. It’s a key ingredient in every God/man encounter. It’s the linchpin in the list of persecuted saints in Hebrews 11. It’s an absolute requirement when it comes to salvation and also in the propagation of the gospel. It’s the main theme of John’s epistle. As the disciples were exposed to Jesus’ teaching and his miracles, John states on various occasions that the disciples believed. What was it they believed? It focuses on whether or not Jesus was the promised Messiah. Eventually, the disciples were convinced, yet they wavered during the crucifixion of Jesus. Faith was restored and greatly strengthened following the resurrection and was wonderfully solidified when the Holy Spirit descended on them at Pentecost. I have all this evidence and still waver in faith. I have no trouble accepting all the revealed truth of the Bible, but when it comes to living the life here and now, it’s hard. I think the disciples experienced the same thing. When they were with Jesus on terra firma it was fine, but when in the boat in the midst of a ferocious storm, it was different. When Jesus was performing miracles and crowds were following him, it was great, but when he was tried, convicted, and sent to the cross, it was different. My heart’s cry is still
“I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

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Elusive Faith

Tuesday, Aug. 25

Belief is a chimera, a wil-o,-the-wisp, an elusive thing. It’s also called faith, which gives it more of a spiritual tone. Whichever word you use, it’s still hard to grasp. Oh, I understand what it is; I just find it difficult to exercise it. Too often I am limited by lack of faith or weak faith. I’m reminded of the man in Mk. 9:14-29. The context was Jesus and three disciples returning from the mount of transfiguration. At the foot of the mountain, they found a crowd assembled. The crowd included “teachers of the law” (Jewish leaders), the disciples who did not go up the mountain with Jesus, and a man and his demon-possessed son. There was an argument going on, probably between the Jewish leaders and the nine disciples. Jesus asked what they were arguing about (as though he didn’t know). The father of the demon-possessed son stepped forward and explained the situation, including the fact that the disciples were unable to cast out the demon. Jesus said “Bring the boy to me.” When the boy arrived, he convulsed and fell to the ground, foaming at the mouth. The dialogue that followed is very interesting. Jesus asked how long the boy had been in that condition (as though he didn’t know). The father said since childhood and then said “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” That comment was just what Jesus needed. “If you can?” said Jesus. “Every thing is possible for him who believes.” In his eagerness to see his son healed, the man jumped on that and said “I do believe.” But then said “Help me overcome my unbelief.” I think the second statement was more accurate, but also the most pertinent. The man’s honesty was evident, and Jesus answered his prayer then and there. I can identify with this man. I do have some faith. And I would very much like to have more. The way for that to happen is to ask for it. This account was included in the Bible just for me. No, not just for me, for others, too.

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A Time to Speak

Saturday, Aug. 22

“Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted.” This opens a can of worms. Obviously a man cannot be quoted if he doesn’t say anything, so he couldn’t possibly be misquoted. That’s the easy part. But many people have been vilified or condemned by refusing to speak. Our courts do not require a man to speak if he thinks it would incriminate him. Assuming him to be guilty could be a wrong conclusion. He may think he’s guilty and not be guilty or he could be trying to spare someone else. Sometimes a person can be misinterpreted because of body language. He hangs his head as though ashamed. So the spoken word is not the whole story. Then there’s “hearsay evidence,” “circumstantial evidence,” and “guilt by association.” A can of worms, indeed! I think of Martin Luther before his accusers. He could have remained silent, thus putting the burden of proof on his accusers, and he could have recanted. But he chose to speak out no matter the cost. When Jesus appeared before Herod he kept silent (Lk. 23:9). Herod was an Edomite, “cousin” to the Jews, and was fully aware of who Jesus was, so speaking would be superfluous. But when before Pilate, he acknowledged that he was the king of the Jews. Pilate was a Roman and did not know who Jesus was, so Jesus had reason to speak. When Jesus appeared before the Jewish Council, he didn’t answer their questions, knowing that they already knew the truth, and they also knew that Jesus knew they knew. But then Jesus volunteered that “from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God,” a statement that guaranteed his crucifixion. Jesus knew that, too. He orchestrated his own death. So both speaking and not speaking can carry a message, and both can be misinterpreted or rightly interpreted. There’s a time to speak and a time to be silent.

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Praying with Passion

Sunday, Aug. 23
Lk. 11:9. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Asking, seeking, and finding might seem to be out of order. If I need something, I first seek it and when I find it, I ask for it. Since I’m reluctant to meddle with the inspired Word of God, I’m probably on the wrong track. The order of these words may not be the focus here. It may be simply a matter of intensity or persistence. A word often connected to this parable is “importunate,” which simply means persistence. I mentioned earlier that this was not the main idea of this parable. The main point is how much more God will give gifts to his children than human fathers do. I’m going to stick with that, but without question the man in the parable was persistent, and it was that persistence that got him what he wanted. But he was dealing with a human being, not God. I have a problem applying the persistence part of this parable with our Father in heaven. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that God is reluctant to give good gifts to those that honor him. Many times we don’t even have to ask. “Before they call I will answer.” Isaiah 65:24. We need to remember that parables have one main point. We need to stick with that. The core truth remains: God will not deny giving good gifts to his children. When prayer is not answered, there has to be a reason for it. There are several possibilities. We might be asking for something that is not good for us, or that would interfere with his plan for us or for others. It may not be the right time. It may be that sin has blocked communication with God. Maybe he has answered it in a different way, and we don’t recognize it. The point is that God will never let you down.

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A Time to Speak

Saturday, Aug. 22

“Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted.” This opens a can of worms. Obviously a man cannot be quoted if he doesn’t say anything, so he couldn’t possibly be misquoted. That’s the easy part. But many people have been vilified or condemned by refusing to speak. Our courts do not require a man to speak if he thinks it would incriminate him. Assuming him to be guilty could be a wrong conclusion. He may think he’s guilty and not be guilty. Sometimes a person can be misinterpreted because of body language. He hangs his head as though ashamed. So the spoken word is not the whole story. Then there’s “hearsay evidence,” “circumstantial evidence,” and “guilt by association.” A can of worms, indeed! I think of Martin Luther before his accusers. He could have remained silent, thus putting the burden of proof on his accusers, and he could have recanted. But he chose to speak out no matter what it would cost him. When Jesus appeared before Herod he chose not to speak (Lk. 23:9). Herod was an Edomite, “cousin” to the Jews, and was fully aware of who Jesus was, so speaking would be superfluous. But he did speak before Pilate, acknowledging that he was the king of the Jews. Pilate was a Roman and did not know who Jesus was, so Jesus had reason to speak. When Jesus appeared before the Jewish Council, he didn’t answer their questions, knowing that they already knew the truth, and they also knew that Jesus knew they knew. But then Jesus volunteered that “from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God,” a statement that guaranteed his crucifixion. Jesus knew that, too. He orchestrated his own death. So both speaking and not speaking can carry a message, and both can be misinterpreted or rightly interpreted. There’s a place for both.

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God’s Advisors

Friday, Aug. 21

“Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors.” This may be humorous, but it’s much more than that. It reveals a shallow relationship with God—if there is a relationship at all. It reveals an abominable attitude, a total lack of understanding of who God is. It is sheer audacity. It is blasphemy. The creator of the world, OUR creator, the eternal, holy God, the supreme judge, sovereign of the universe, all knowing God, the lover of our souls, the giver of unending grace, the glorious One who sacrificed his “only begotten Son,” can be advised by a finite sinful creature??? But, you know, we do that. When we think that we have earned merit of any kind, when we think we are OK, that God will overlook our faults because “God is love,” when we do what we please and excuse it as “we need a break,” when we do things with the idea that “everyone is doing it” or “it’s not a big deal,” we are compromising God’s standard. We are presumptuous. We are saying that God will compromise his standard. How wrong this is! The Bible teaches us that we will be judged for every word that comes out of our mouth, every evil thought, every evil deed. There’s another side of this. Paul makes it clear that upon conversion we are declared righteous, that our eternity in heaven is secure. Yes, we’re free. We’re free from the bondage of sin, but we then become bond slaves of God. Rom. 10:22. We are to be servants. We are soldiers. We have battles to win. We are to bear fruit. It doesn’t seem to me that God wants me to be an advisor.

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