How big is a Mustard Seed?

Moses grew up as a prince in the then world power of Egypt. He ran away after he killed an Egyptian slave master in defense of a Hebrew slave. Moses settled in Midian, became a shepherd, and started a family. One day he was called by God to go back to Egypt and lead his fellow Hebrews to freedom in Canaan. Moses came up with several excuses why he couldn’t do what God had asked: “they won’t believe me”, “they won’t listen to me”, “I’m not a good public speaker”, and so on. But a question Moses asked God is interesting. He asked, “Who am I?” It seems that Moses didn’t think he had what it would take to do what God called him to do. He lacked faith in himself, he lacked self-esteem, he seemed to feel like he wasn’t worthy to take on the task. But mostly, he lacked faith in God.

But look at Elijah. Elijah took on 450 so called prophets of the false god Baal in a battle of faith on Mount Carmel. He was so bold and courageous that he mocked the prophets, and their god, when they were unable to bring supernatural fire down to burn their sacrifice. When it came to Elijah’s turn, he prayed to God to bring fire from heaven and show who the one true God was. He didn’t just hope or think that God would respond, he knew it. He knew it and believed it with every fiber of his being! He had a mountain of faith in God’s power, and God delivered in a spectacular way.

Who do you feel like most days? Do you feel like you can’t do what Jesus asks of us and share his good news? Do you lack the faith to change the world?

When some followers of Jesus couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy, they asked Him why. He told them they lacked faith. Then He said that if they only had faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains. Did you read that, they could move mountains!

We don’t need to lead a nation to freedom, face down idolatrous hordes, slay a giant, or build a boat to change the world. We only need faith the size of a mustard seed.

How do we grow our faith? Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Rome that faith is built by hearing God’s Word preached. We need to worship and study to grow our faith. Solomon prayed for wisdom, we also need to spend time in prayer and be asking for the Spirit to strengthen our faith. Pray for ourselves, pray for each other, pray for the church, just pray!

What could you do with faith the size of a mustard seed?

Jonah, a Rusty Gate, and Me

The Biblical account of Jonah has some crazy action! Jonah ran from God, got tossed overboard in a storm, swallowed by a giant fish, vomited out onto land, then finally preached God’s message in a very dangerous city, in a very dangerous country. The people living the city were so vile, that God had planned to destroy them if they didn’t change their ways! Jonah delivered the message to them and God’s transforming word did its work and they repented! God decided not to destroy them, and this made Jonah happy that he finally performed his God given duties. Right? No!

In fact, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” (Jonah 4:1) Jonah had a lot of things going into the mission field of Nineveh. He had God on his side, he had a life saving, soul preserving message from God. Through Jonah, God saved many souls on that day! But Jonah was also missing a few things. Things like: compassion, grace, empathy, and love!

In 1 Corinthians 13:1 Paul wrote, “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.”  Jonah spoke with more than human eloquence and angelic ecstasy, he spoke with the authority and might of God! But he did not love. Paul would go on to write, “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” Jonah did end up doing what he was told, he preached God’s life saving message and saved many souls, but he gained nothing. He was spiritually bankrupt! Because he did not love.

Are we any different? I can also go the ends of the earth, or the end of my street, and spread to gospel because it’s what I’m “supposed to do”. But just like a smile that never reaches my eyes, if the gospel never reaches my heart, I don’t benefit at all from the work I do! That’s called going through the motions. The people I teach may end up obeying the gospel and become saved, but if I don’t love them as I teach and preach, I will be lost!

So today, as I labor in God’s Kingdom, I need to evaluate myself. Every word I say, every action I take, every decision that I make, every thought I think… are they done with love?

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Don’t be a clanging cymbal, noisy gong, or a creaking rusty gate! Speak the truth and love (Ephesians 4:15)! 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Have a great week!

God can see in the dark!

All throughout the Bible, people have tried to hide their sins from God.  From the very beginning of creation, Adam and Eve tried to hide that they had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:8).  Then we see their son, Cain, killing his brother and sidestepping God’s questions (Genesis 4:9).  David, the man after God’s own heart, tried to cover his sin by having the husband of the woman he committed adultery with killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17)!  God saw through all of these people and their lies, and they all received different punishments. From hard work and painful childbirth, to wandering the earth, to the death of an innocent.

As if these weren’t bad enough, there are two dynamic duos in the Bible that lost their lives as a result of their attempted deceits.  First up, Nadab and Abihu.  They were sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses and High Priest.  They offered an offering of fire that God did not approve.  They were then stuck dead with fire for it (Leviticus 10:2).

Next up, Ananias and Sapphira.  They were members of the early Church.  They sold a field they owned and gave part of their profits to the Church.  This would have been a great thing, if only they hadn’t lied about it!  They told the apostles that they gave 100% of the profit to the Lord, but they held back a portion for themselves.  When questioned by Peter, Ananias was struck dead on the spot.  When Sapphira told the same lie, she too was struck dead (Acts 5:1-11).

This message isn’t very uplifting or comforting, but this message is very important: God can see in the dark!  Hiding our sins from the world, from our loved ones, from our brothers and sisters in Christ, from those who look up to us as an example does not work on God!  He knows what’s in our hearts (Psalm 44:20-21, Luke 16:15, Acts 15:8)!

While God does indeed see everything we do in the dark, John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Now that is comforting!

The F-Stop Blues

If you look closely at the lens of a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, you’ll see a ring near the base of lens that controls the F-Stop. The F-Stop represents the size of the aperture, or opening, in the lens.  The lower the number, the more light is allowed to enter the camera to create a bright and vivid image.  The higher the F-Stop, the slower the shutter needs to be to get enough light for a full exposure.  If the shutter is too slow the image will be blurry.

Our hearts can act like an F-Stop to God’s light.  If you open it wide, you will be bathed in God’s goodness and can absorb more love and knowledge and grow as a Christian.  But if you close your heart, you open yourself to blurry images of God, leaving yourself vulnerable to underexposure, leading to Satan’s darkness.

James 4:8 – “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

1 John 1:5 – “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

The Bitter End!

In the sailing world the rope used to control the sail’s angle in the wind is called the mainsheet.  The mainsheet attaches to the the sail’s boom and goes through various pulleys then into your hand which you then pull in or let out to control the sail.  The end of this mainsheet, or rope, is called “the bitter end”.

So you’re sailing across the sea of life (subtle huh?) and there suddenly arises a gale force wind so strong that the sail gets whipped forward and the mainsheet is being pulled out of your hand and the bitter end is approaching!  Usually one would tie a knot just before the end to keep it from pulling through the pulleys and losing complete control of the sail, but you didn’t tie the knot.  You figured you could just hold on to the rope and use your own grip to control the sail, but the knot that should have been there would save you the struggle for control, it would have kept that boom and sail steadfast and unmoving.

Our lives need that knot to help keep them from spinning out of control when the big issues come up.  Make God the knot that keeps your sail secure, let Him help keep the bitter end from slipping through the blocks and out of your control.

‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  -Lamentations 3:22-24

The Son of Man

Ok, my math skills are kinda weak, so I need some help here.  0.5 + 0.5 = 1?  Got it!  1 + 1 = 2?  Alright, on a roll!  So when does 1 + 1 ever equal 1?  When Jesus Christ was both human and God at the same time.

This isn’t a study about the divinity of Jesus, I think that most people visiting this blog already believe that Jesus was indeed God the Son in the flesh on this earth (John 1:1-2), if not, then shoot me an email and we’ll talk.  But, rather I want to take a look at Jesus, the Son of Man.

1. He was born just like you and me, though not under the same circumstances.  You, like me, we’re most likely born in a hospital.  A hospital that was clean and sterile, (mostly) free from germs.  Also, there was probably a nurse tending to your mother and a doctor that specializes in childbirth there to care for you when you were finally born.  Not Jesus, He was born in a stable, His first bed was a food trough that a horse probably ate out of minutes before He was born.  But still, He was brought into this world through a human birth (Luke 2:6-7).

2. He lived a normal life just like you and me.  Well, maybe not normal, I don’t remember teaching the elders of my congregation anything new when I was only 12 years old (Luke 2:41-51).  But what I mean to say is that Jesus worked for a living.  Mark 6:3  tells us that He was a carpenter, not an easy job even on the best of days.  His hands were calloused and he worked in the hot sun.  The average July temperature in Bethlehem today is 86° / 60% humidity, with a “nice” desert breeze.

3. He was tempted just like us in every way (Hebrews 4:15).  That really speaks for itself, you know yourself and you know the things that tempt you on a daily basis.  Try smashing your thumb with a hammer, like you know Jesus probably did given His profession, and not wanting to say something inappropriate.  But more than that, His God side (if you will) was tempted as well (Luke 4:1-12).

4. He had emotions just like you and me.  In Matthew 21:12-13 He was angered by the buying/selling and money changing going on in the temple where it shouldn’t have been.  And He cried when His friend Lazarus died, even though He knew beforehand that Lazarus would be raised from the dead (John 11:35).

5. He died, not at all like you and me.  He died FOR you and me.

And why did God the Son leave His Father’s side in Heaven to live and die for us?  So that He could mediate the difference in God’s expectations and our human failings (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 2:17-18).  The God of the Old Testament is the same God that we worship today, He has not changed.  His law was perfect, but humans are not.  When God would have destroyed us time and time again for sinning against him like he has done in the past (Genesis 6:17, Genesis 19:24-25, Numbers 16:31-35, etc), Jesus can say, stop!  And tell the Father that He has been there Himself, and that we as humans are doing the best that we can (Hebrews 2:17-18).  And if we continue to do the best we can and try to live a sinless life God is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:5-10), all thanks to Jesus Christ, our mediator.

Do not be conformed to this world!

Let me introduce you to King Josiah.  He was only 8 years old when he was made the King of Judah, when he was 26 years old he found out that he and his kingdom were not right with God, and he set out to change that. 

Josiah’s story of reform is found in 2 Kings 22-23.  Josiah was already doing right by God, he had workmen and the high priest, Hilkiah, sent to the house of the Lord and they were repairing it.  While there, Hilkiah found the Book of the Law which had been lost while Judah was busy serving false gods.  Josiah sent Shaphan, his secretary, to the house of the Lord to send money and check up on Hilkiah and the workmen.  When he arrived Hilkiah gave the Book of the Law to Shaphan and he brought it back to the king. When Josiah heard the Law he was angry that the past kings of Judah had not kept the Law of God and made God angry with the kingdom.  Then, 26 year old King Josiah began to destroy every idol, altar, and chapel of the false gods in Judah. 

How can we apply this today?  Let’s read Romans 12:2.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

King Josiah saw that his kingdom had conformed to the world, they had been worshiping the idols of the land they were supposed to conquer.  When Josiah heard the Law read to him, his mind was renewed by the Law, and he set out to transform his kingdom to be acceptable and pleasing to God. 

We too must study God’s word so that we can renew our minds and transform the kingdom that is our heart to be acceptable and pleasing to God.