Monthly Archives: October 2017

Oct 2017
What is Faith?

After some exchanges between the man and Christ, the boy is delivered from demon possession. The disciples ask Christ after the matter, “Why could we not cast him out” (Mark 9:28; cp. Matthew 17:19)? Matthew attaches records Christ’s words, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21).

Scripture tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6), so understanding faith is imperative! Some say faith is believing. This is only part of it. It is a dangerous oversimplification. In a culture of self-determination and fairytale imagination, you may “believe you can fly” or “if you can dream it, you can do it.” Is this faith?

Faith begins with an awareness of your circumstances. In salvation, I am aware of my sin and the prohibition in heaven against it. To enter God’s presence is an impossibility because of my sinful condition. The disciples in this story needed to be aware of their circumstance and realize their insufficiency in themselves. “Belief in yourself” is the devil’s lie leading you to a substandard, less than stellar life. If the future challenges you, if you feel inadequate for the task at hand, if you are questioning why God has brought you to this moment, believing in yourself is delusional! You must lock onto something or Someone greater than your circumstance. A Christian’s failure in faith is either because they refuse to encounter circumstances which challenge their own ability or they look at the Grand Canyon of an impossible situation and revel in their capacity to do great things. Both are failures in faith.

Being aware of your circumstance drives you to adjust your confidence. The adjustment in faith is done only through prayer and fasting. Prayer is not a discipline, but a dependence. Prayer actuates the power of God through you. Fasting eliminates the friction to His power working through you. You must strip away everything which could distract or dilute your access to the only Source of strength. Moses had to remove his shoes because even the tiniest sliver of sandal leather would have been a chasm between himself and God’s solution. Jesus told his disciples to fast. Once you eliminate every impediment, you are now a vessel prepared to receive the work of God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him” for it is by faith you come to God and the end of yourself.

Oct 2017
Crumbs of the Infinite

The competition of superlatives must be an unwritten rule of childhood. There is always the challenge between children as to who has the best toy, the strongest dad, or the winningest team. Sometimes the competition spills into the innumerable category.

“I love you.”
“I love you more.”
“I love you most.”
“I love you infinitely.”

Whoever gets to “infinitely” first is the winner. A young child may try to get the advantage by saying, “Infinity plus one,” but it is in ignorance for infinity absorbs everything.

Think for a moment: What if you were given a crumb of the infinite? How far would the crumb take you? If “infinity plus one” is irrational because you can’t improve upon infinity, then isn’t infinity minus a crumb a boundless portal of possibilities? What sort of potential energy of the miraculous would be possible in the crumb of the infinite? Is there anything too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:27)?

The Syrophenician woman’s plea was not pathetic. She wasn’t necessarily asking for the leftovers. She recognized Jesus as the Host of the table was extraordinarily gracious. The children at the table faired sumptuously in His bountiful blessing. The overabundance would spill from the table upon the floor. No, her plea was not pathetic; it was profound! She was not asking for only a crumb. She was saying she needed nothing more than a crumb for a crumb from the infinitude of God’s ability would sustain her for a lifetime. It is but a crumb of his power which overthrows the kingdoms of darkness in our lives. It is only a crumb of His goodness which loads us daily with benefits. It was only a crumb coupled with “be it unto thee even as thou wilt” (Matthew 15:28) and her life was changed.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world (Mark 8:36)! Just like “infinity plus one,” everything the world can offer you is lost in the smallest of crumbs which tumble from the Lord’s table. A crumb of the infinite will suffice.

Oct 2017
Wonderful Words of Life

Give a man bread, and he will eat for a day.
Point a man to Christs, and he will never hunger.

It’s not quite as elegant as the Chinese proverb about a man and a fish, but it is biblical. Jesus, having been moved with compassion, fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two small fish. The people spoke of making him, King. Why not make him king?

They were fixated on his works. People have not changed much through the centuries. We covet God’s blessings on our lives, yet, when the blessings seemed to have dried up, He is not our top interest. “Will ye also go away” (John 6:67)? When in the middle of difficulty, we covet His work of deliverance. When it does not happen according to our timetable, we turn away disappointed and disenchanted. Remember, it’s never been about the works of God. Oh, they are spectacular. The works of God are a mighty signature of His power! However, Adam and Eve were surrounded by the brilliance and wonder of God’s newborn works, but how much they would have traded all the works if they could cling to His words all over again. His simple words to them were the difference of life and death, fellowship and disfellowship. Their dullness to truly hear the words of God spelled death to the human race. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

As glorious as His works are, it is the words of God which are most valuable. Peter acknowledged, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus pictured the assimilation of his words as eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Drastic measures for the desperate times of man’s condition. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Some are waiting for the next great act of God as if He were some Houdini who works up something amazing in their life. God is waiting for the next great act in men and women—the act of hearing “these sayings of mine, and doeth them” (Matthew 7:24).

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty
Teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Christ, the blessed One, gives to all
Wonderful words of life;
Sinner, list to the loving call,
Wonderful words of life;
All so freely given,
Wooing us to heaven.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Sweetly echo the Gospel call,
Wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all,
Wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior,
Sanctify us forever.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life;
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Oct 2017
A Kernel of Truth

My mom was a philosopher. I didn’t realize it while I was growing up, but she would quote ancient Greek philosophers during my rearing. I never knew she was such an avid pupil of Epictetus and Zeno, but when she must have been when she told me, “You have two hears and one mouth; hear more, speak less.”

Honestly, my mom probably never heard of Epictetus or Zeno, but then the value of hearing did not originate with them. In Mark 4, Jesus emphasizes the action of hearing which eventually leads to the “Great Decision” in Mark 8. The word for “hear” is used forty-eight times in Mark and fourteen of those times it is in Mark 4. As you zoom into the context you notice Jesus is teaching and this is the first time we get to scoot in close to hear the Master in Mark’s account.

Present-day believers teach their children John 3:16 just like Hebrew believers for centuries taught their children Deuteronomy 6:4-6 which they called the Shema (shuhmah). The word “shema” means “hear.” Hearing in the Jewish mind had nothing to do with sound waves entering your ear canal, vibrating the tiniest of bones, sloshing through the cochlear fluid, and transmitting neural impulses to the brain. In Hebrew, the word for “obey” does not exist. They only had the word for “hear” or “shema.”

Listening to God was the equivalent of two actions: respect as you focus and response in your faithfulness. The afflicted man cries out in the psalms, “Hear me, O God!” He expects God to focus on his plea and according to His faithfulness act. The Old Testament prophets chastised the people for having ears, but not hearing. Jesus said, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). Those who reverence God’s Word and do it will be fruitful.

Some people will hear, but it doesn’t go to seed because Satan’s influence is too active. Others hear, but the difficulties or distractions make their “hearing” ineffective. Those who hear well were fruitful. What is the key to hearing well? If you examine the four characteristics in Jesus’ parable you will find most are too common, too careless, or too cluttered. Some people let anything and everything walks through their life and the soil of their heart is packed down and firm. Others let life happen “naturally” and as free spirits, they refuse to remove the rocks and obstacles to hearing in their life. Others have so many cares and concerns in their life, they hear is suffocated quickly.

What makes the fourth characteristic so unique? Preparation. The fourth soil condition is cultivated. It doesn’t happen naturally, but because of their expectation to receive something from God, they labored to restrict the traffic and remove the hearing obstacles in their life. Their heart is still and fertile for the seed of God’s Word. If you are to be fruitful in your hearing, then you must prepare the soil to receive the kernel of truth.

Oct 2017
Don't Miss It

The disciples hurry along, trying to clear the way so Jesus can make it to Jairus’ house. I can see one of the disciples out in front saying, “Excuse me, we need this cart moved out of the way, Jesus is coming through.” Another disciple escorts an elderly man out of the way of the pressing crowd. They have seen Him heal Peter’s mother-in-law, a leper, the paralytic man who was let down through the ceiling, and many others. This case was different. This situation was urgent. Jairus’ daughter was near death. They knew Jesus could heal her, but He had to get there in time!

Every doctor eventually shook their head and said, “I’m sorry. Nothing more can be done for you.” She was considered unclean nearly every day of her life. Untouchable and restricted from worship in the Temple and in the synagogue, her life was a terrorizing nightmare. She had spent everything she had to find a cure, but there was none to be had. Then she heard of a man who was in town who had extraordinary abilities. She desperately cut through the crowds she had carefully avoided for so many years in order to get to Jesus. With reckless abandon, she stretches her hand through the press of people. If only she could touch the hem of his garment, it would change her life.

These parallel events in this story portray our goal-driven nature. Both were goal driven and for good reason. However, in their drive to get Jesus to Jairus’ house the disciples would have overlooked the desperate woman. The disciples were so focused on a destination, they were missing the opportunities to make a difference. How many people have you run roughshod over because you were goal-driven? Sometimes we are so focused on goals we miss the needs around us.

If you are so busy, you don’t have time to stop and notice the people around you, then you are too busy. We need to be goal-driven, but it must be toward the right goal. The only person in the story who was not hurried was Jesus. He waits until the woman steps forward to acknowledge the miracle of healing. We are in a hurry because we are constrained by time, but time does not concern God. This is a good reminder to not push toward destinations without considering desperate people around you.

Remember, God’s work is not meeting a deadline, rather it is making a difference where you are in your journey.