Mustard Seed Faith (Reblog)

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As long as we have unsolved problems,
unfilled desires, and a mustard seed of faith,
we have all we need for a vibrant prayer life. 

—John Ortberg

Mustard seed faith is sometimes a difficult concept but one that is very important to understand. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in the Middle East, but that smallest of seeds grows into one of the largest of plants. Jesus therefore used this illustration several times to show us that even the tiniest grain of true faith can do very great things.

And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him;
and the child was cured from that very hour.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said,
“Why could we not cast it out?”

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
—Matthew 17:14-21

We see here the central need of faith, without which nothing can happen. When Jesus spoke about removing mountains he was using a phrase which the Jews knew well. A great teacher, who could really expound and interpret scripture and who could explain and resolve difficulties, was regularly known as an uprooter, or even a pulverizer, of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. After all, the ordinary man seldom finds any necessity to remove a physical mountain. What he meant was: “If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.” Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path.
—William Barclay 1

Beloved, having and holding onto true faith is difficult in hard circumstances, but it is possible. In our own physical strength we cannot move mountains. We can’t make something from nothing. We cannot by ourselves change someone’s heart and mind about something. These are under God’s care and control.

What it does mean is that if we rely on the fact that God knows what is best for us, we can rest on the assurance that His ways and means are perfect. And if we believe—have true faith—in that fact, we will be able to pray with a faith that will steadily grow.

Just like that tiny mustard seed.

We will then understand that what we may regard as unanswered prayers are actually part of God’s grand design to mold us into becoming who He wants us to be—completely and absolutely trusting that His ways are best.


1 Barclay, William. “Commentary on Matthew 17:1“. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible”. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/view.cgi?bk=39&ch=17 . 1956-1959.

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God will uphold you with His righteous right hand

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 “Do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
surely I will uphold you
with My righteous right hand.” 
—Isaiah 41:10, NASB

New American Standard Bible (NASB). Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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Changing Things Up … AGAIN

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Beloved, I am beyond tired these days. It is more a bone-deep weariness, and feels like I’m treading mud. 

I’ve written before about the chronic pain illnesses I live with daily—Fibromyalgia (FMS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), and daily migraines. The pain that goes along with these wears me out very easily. Summer is my worst season because of the effects of our monsoon weather, and heat also exacerbates my symptoms.

Earlier this summer I thought that sharing blog posts from other authors would be a good way for me to cut down on my computer and internet time during this season, but in fact, it has made things worse. Maybe that’s because I’ve been posting something everyday, but I receive so many great devotionals by email and enjoy sharing them with you. That still translates into more time spent working on my blog.

I thought that I was on the right track because I was doing the work of the Lord but He has been nudging me for several weeks about this. Yesterday I finally got it.

I have been so focused on the work of the Lord that I’ve neglected the Lord of the work.

In my typical overly-ambitious way, I believed that the more I shared about God and how He enables us to live with joy, faith and hope, the more I was doing what He has planned for me right now. But that is apparently not His plan at all—whether that means just for now, or for the unforeseeable future.

My sweet hubby, Rick, has been cautioning me to cut down on my computer and writing time, but I always assured him that I was following the Lord’s leading. I should have listened more closely to Rick’s counsel. He knows me best and completely understands my limitations, and he is the head of our household and my spiritual leader. Why do I so often have to learn things the hard way?

So here’s the deal. For an unknown period of time, I need to go back to posting only three times per week: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. I have already scheduled posts for tomorrow and this coming Monday and Tuesday, but after that I’ll begin the Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday schedule. Please bear with me because for probably a month most of those posts will be reblogs of some of my earlier posts.

Beloved, thank you for your understanding. I covet your prayers.

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The Daniel Protocol

One of the sites I follow is Koinionia Institute Strategic Research Center and I learn so much there. Last week they published this excellent article. There is a wealth of information on this site so please take some time to browse while you’re there.

The Daniel Protocol

By Steve Elwart
August 3, 2015

 

Many claim “I’m a loyal person!”
but who can find someone who truly is?
—Proverbs 20:6, ISV

 

With all the worldview changes occurring today, what is a Christian to do? Does one hunker down and withdraw from the world or does one stand and fight? The answer may lie in The Daniel Protocol.

Issues for Today

Over the past few years, world events have brought new meaning to the Biblical prophecy of a time where good is called evil and evil is called good. Some of the issues we face today are:

  1. Sanctity of Life: There has been a steady encroachment on the sanctity of life by abortion, euthanasia, cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
  2. Religious Liberty: Every day religious liberties are being attacked. Christians are ostracized, fined, and imprisoned for following Biblical dictates. People are being told to “keep their religion to themselves.” Moral virtue is being decried as intolerance. It is acceptable to condemn Christianity, but nothing bad can be said about Islam. What a few years ago was called “mainstream religion” is now being called “extremist religion.”
  3. Marriage: The recognized concept of marriage that has been in place for millennia has been redefined. All kinds of sexual proclivities are not only considered acceptable, but are now deemed natural. The family, the foundation of any nation, is being eroded in the name of Progressivism.
  4. Terrorism: There is a war being waged where the enemy is not acknowledged. Shootings in the name of Allah are termed “workplace violence.” Jihadists who murder Christians, burn villages, and enslave women and children are called “warring tribes.” The violence being perpetrated on innocents is being termed “war in the name of fundamentalist religion,” placing many Christians in the same category as ISIS and Boko Haram. It is a clash of civilizations that is being put in terms of mere criminal activity.
  5. Judicial Roles: Judges are usurping the role of legislatures and creating law out of thin air.
  6. Faith-based solutions: Churches and faith-based organizations are being told they cannot operate unless they repudiate their religious mandates. Many Christian services are closing rather than bending to pressure from the State, leaving many people without help or hope.
  7. Education: Education is becoming less about learning and more about becoming “good citizens.” Those that choose to educate their own children along religious precepts are being put under great pressure to turn over their children to the State. Sometimes this means imprisonment.
  8. Media: All this under the watchful gaze of a Progressive media that is only reporting the news that fits their worldview.

Read the rest here.

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Wonders of the World

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Wonders of the World

By Patricia Knight

On a torrid day in August, with a steamy haze rising off the lake, it amazes me that the same body of water that solidly freezes into a two-foot block of ice in the winter has melted into a comfortable lake for swimming, just four months later. God produces wonders and miracles every day right before our eyes. Some of creation has become relinquished to common place, like the lake full of ice converting to the refreshing temperature we tend to expect in the summertime.  The whole scenario recurs every year without fail.  Our surprise level is often stunted with familiarity.

If God can pique our interest with the smaller observations of life, our hearts and minds are then prepared for more grandiose vistas. “The Lord has done great things and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3). Feast your eyes on the arch of a rainbow until the prism colors melt into the blue sky. Follow the reflection of a full moon on the surface of the lake as a single canoeist divides its yellow beam. The lake will come alive with waterfowl swimming in formation on a moonlit night. A skier slicing through the newly fallen snow throws powdery white fluff in an arc in his wake. Bright sunlight reflecting off the ice coating a tree branch deceives us into thinking there are diamonds close enough to harvest. An infant’s first smile melts the most unresponsive heart. Grasp the tiny fingers in your hand and feel the trust.

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A loving God has created all of the wonders of the world. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)  A gigantic waterfall tumbling over rocks and bending trees, has mighty, surging power. It enables us to think big thoughts. A slice of canyon wall in the afternoon sun reflects all the earth tones of God’s palette. In autumn, the chlorophyll drains from the monochromatic green leaves as God drenches His paint buckets of color throughout the forests. At a distance a large snow-capped mountain against an azure sky literally appears majestic purple.

We have only to gaze upon the wide-eyed excitement of a child to realize we may take for granted some of the beauty and wonder of this world. Have we lost our sense of astonishment? Do we allow ourselves to meditate on the marvels of God’s creation? God takes great delight in lavishing His gifts and creations upon His own as He advises us to become more like little children. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). Jesus was particularly referring to adopting the faith of a child; one cannot have faith without wonder and fascination.

Matt-18-4-Child-Flowers-25--AMPA child would consider novel the lowly but symmetrical spider’s web implanted with diamond droplets after a rain or the simple entertainment provided by a dandelion blossom. Consider the concentration of a child trying to catch the drips on an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Youths watch the sun go down and the moon come up with intense interest. There is wonder and fascination at the grandeur of an eagle suspended in the air currents above. Chasing lightening bugs on a pitch-black night provides further exhilarating excitement.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). Lightening streaking across a black sky causes tingles to radiate up and down our spine as we recognize its power. Engage a child in a game of identifying animal shapes in the clouds. Clouds accommodate our play; they are constantly shifting and remodeling. Watch the honking geese flying south in a perfect “V” pattern.

Observe the striated, meandering layers of colors in a sunset. Listen to the sounds in the night. Many animals are nocturnal and roam while we cloister ourselves away in our houses. Open a window and listen to the night conversation.

“For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God” (Psalm 86:10).  God has created all of the beauty, magnificence, and power that comprises our world. He wants us to be attuned to our surroundings so that we can visualize Him through His creation.

As beautiful as our world is, God provides more astounding opulence and grandeur in heaven. God has fashioned streets of gold (Revelation 21:21). Illumination is supplied entirely by the glory of God (Revelation 21:23). We are only given short glimpses of heaven, for it is too magnificent to describe in earthly words. Frequently in His Word, God assures us heaven will be a place of splendor and majesty and holiness. We will know only goodness and purity. Awe and wonder will permeate our surroundings as we stand in God’s presence. What indescribable resplendence and glory! Heaven far out-strips our imaginative abilities. The beauty on earth is but an introduction of what the eternal experience of the believer will be. Riches and joy will last forever.

While we remain on earth, we have tremendous opportunity to not only see with our eyes, but to experience with our whole being, the beauty around us.  There is neither excuse nor substitute for ignoring the treasures in lovely words expressed, unique occasions experienced, and magnificent creations purposely placed in our paths.

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Investigate your surroundings. Admire beauty and accomplishment. Elevate happiness and joy. Make a practice of serving others with goodness and kindness. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:4-5).

Regardless of the season of the year, God provides myriad opportunities for adventure.  Non-essential activities of each day can rapidly clutter our lives and demand time that needs to be allotted for indispensable worship and service for our Lord and Savior. Look to Him and He will provide the peace and joy so essential to every aspect of our lives.  God will open our eyes to the glory of His creation in the physical world. Whatever the experience, God will elevate it and enrich it so that we can see Him through every wonder of the world. From that point, worship ensues. The more time we spend in fellowship with the Creator of the world, the more we see Him in His creation. God is as near as His next handiwork.

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Six Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage

This article by Dennis Rainey of Family Life contains some wonderful advice and goes along well with my Marriage Triangle series of articles which I write for TRC (The Relevant Christian).

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Six Steps for Resolving
Conflict in Marriage

By Dennis Rainey

There is no way to avoid conflict in your marriage.
The question is: How will you deal with it?

Few couples like to admit it, but conflict is common to all marriages. We have had our share of conflict and some of our disagreements have not been pretty. We could probably write a book on what not to do!

Start with two selfish people with different backgrounds and personalities. Now add some bad habits and interesting idiosyncrasies, throw in a bunch of expectations, and then turn up the heat a little with the daily trials of life. Guess what? You are bound to have conflict. It’s unavoidable.

Since every marriage has its tensions, it isn’t a question of avoiding them but ofhow you deal with them. Conflict can lead to a process that develops oneness or isolation. You and your spouse must choose how you will act when conflict occurs.

Step One: Resolving conflict requires knowing, accepting, and adjusting to your differences. 

One reason we have conflict in marriage is that opposites attract. Usually a task-oriented individual marries someone who is more people-oriented. People who move through life at breakneck speed seem to end up with spouses who are slower-paced. It’s strange, but that’s part of the reason why you married who you did. Your spouse added a variety, spice, and difference to your life that it didn’t have before. 

Read the rest here, and while you’re on the Family Life site, please take the time to browse the great articles and resources there.

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A Part of Everything

Here is another great devotional from Greg Laurie. His Harvest.org site has tons of good resources, so please check it out while you’re there reading the rest of his post. John6-66-DesertedHim-LoneTree--AMP

A Part of Everything

At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.

When Jesus laid out for His disciples what it really meant to follow Him, many of His so-called disciples left. Then Jesus turned to Peter and the others and said, “Are you also going to leave?” (John 6:67).

 Peter said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (verse 68). I love that. Peter was saying, “Lord, we don’t know everything about You. We don’t get You at times. But this much we know: We are sticking with You. We have made a commitment to You, and we want to be close to You.

Are you willing to say that to Jesus? Are you ready to say, “Lord, I want You to go with me wherever I go”?

Read the rest here.

Used by permission from Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, PO Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514.
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Lean on God for powerful strength

No matter what is going on in your life:

  • if  you are alone and lonely
  • if you are in dire financial straits
  • if you are living with chronic pain
  • if you are in the midst of the worst valley of your life

leaning on and trusting God for strength and direction always produces a mighty faith, joy, and hope. And how can you not share all of that with those who need to hear it? 

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When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful.
—D. L. Moody

As I’ve written about before, the short version of our church’s mission statement is “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 29:19). To be able to do that effectively, we pray for each mission. We also pray over our bikes and riders, that God will use these to spread His Gospel message, for His glory.

Each year we also gather in several different places for the annual bike blessing. These are photos from the bike blessing on March 15, 2015 at the Grand Canyon Harley-Davidson dealership in Mayer, Arizona. The prayer blessing was led by Pastors Joe and Tim of our Full Throttle Biker Church. I thought it particularly appropriate to make up a collage using photos from one of this year’s bike blessings to illustrate D. L. Moody’s wonderful quote.

Please visit Full Throttle Biker Church and Celtic Cross Ministries on Facebook to find out more about us.

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Jesus vs. Demons

Here is another great devotional by John MacArthur. Please visit his Grace to You site, where you will find tons of wonderful Biblical information, sermons, studies, links and other resources. This was last Sunday’s daily Bible reading, which I subscribe to via email. 

August 2 – Jesus vs. Demons

“When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him . . . and they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:28–29).

Demons can attack people mentally, physically, or spiritually. Spiritually, they oppose true religion, promote the false, and control the occult. Intellectually, they advocate false ideologies, insanity, and masochism. Our Lord always recognized demonized people as being victims of powers beyond their control and in need of deliverance, not condemnation or exhortation.

By calling Jesus “Son of God,” the demons controlling the Gadarene men showed they knew His true identity. They recognized Him as their spiritual antagonist who had the full authority to destroy them at will. Their question “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” further recognized that there is a God-ordained schedule, not yet completed, when He will relegate them to eternal damnation. As in other subjects, the demons had a correct doctrine of last things. But such belief is mere recognition, not acceptance. James reveals that even they tremble at the consequences of unbelief: “the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19).

Demons despise everything about God and His Son. Yet they can’t do anything but pay Jesus the greatest deferential respect when in His presence. That supports Paul’s teaching that one day at the name of Christ, “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).

Ask Yourself

Seeing the demons so obviously in fear of Christ’s dominance should encourage us that He is more than able to handle any situation. Have you been withholding a need from Him, not sure He cared or could do anything about it? Bring it boldly to Him today.

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610,www.moodypublishers.com.

This devotional originally appeared at Grace to You.


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With skillful hands he led them

Here is another great devotional from Streams in the Desert.1 This one  really adds weight to all those times when we feel like God is not hearing us when we’re waiting for certain things to happen. I like what what J. Vernon McGee has to say about this passage:

David is a type of Him who is David’s Lord and David’s Son. God was faithful to them, and He is faithful to us today, my friend.2

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And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
   with skillful hands he led them.
—Psalm 78:72
 
When you are unsure which course to take, totally submit your own judgment to that of the Spirit of God, asking Him to shut every door except the right one. But meanwhile keep moving ahead and consider the absence of a direct indication from God to be the evidence of His will that you are on His path. And as you continue down the long road, you will find that He has gone before you, locking doors you otherwise would have been inclined to enter. Yet you can be sure that somewhere beyond the locked doors is one He has left unlocked. And when you open it and walk through, you will find yourself face to face with a turn in the river of opportunity—one that is broader and deeper than anything you ever dared to imagine, even in your wildest dreams. So set sail on it, because it flows to the open sea.
 
God often guides us through our circumstances. One moment, our way may seem totally blocked, but then suddenly some seemingly trivial incident occurs, appearing as nothing to others but speaking volumes to the keen eye of faith. And sometimes these events are repeated in various ways in response to our prayers. They certainly are not haphazard results of chance but are God opening up the way we should walk, by directing our circumstances. And they begin to multiply as we advance toward our goal, just as the lights of a city seem to increase as we speed toward it while traveling at night.
—F. B. Meyer
 
If you go to God for guidance, He will guide you. But do not expect Him to console you by showing you His list of purposes concering you, when you have displayed distrust of even half-trust in Him. What He will do, if you will trust Him and go cheerfully ahead when He shows you the way, is to guide you still farther.
—Horace Bushnell
 
As moves my fragile bark across the storm-swept sea,
Great waves beat o’er her side, as north wind blows;
Deep in the darkness hid lie threat’ning rocks and shoals;
But all of these, and more, my Pilot knows.
 
Sometimes when dark the night, and every light gone out,
I wonder to what port my frail ship goes;
Still though the night be long, and restless all my hours,
My distant goal, I’m sure, my Pilot knows.
—Thomas Curtis Clark

1 Copyright © 1997. Streams in the Desert, by L. B. CowmanZondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

2 Copyright © 1982. Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, by J. Vernon McGee. Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

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