Saturday, 6 June 2015

Mustard Seed Faith

"I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." (Matthew 17:20, NLT)

Faith is integral to the Christian life. It is our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection that saves us, not our good deeds. It is our faith that Jesus is coming again that gives us joy and hope. It is our faith that God is in control that ought to sustain us in times of trial. But what is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NLT). It is believing in and trusting God’s character, that He is who He says He is and that He will follow through with His promises. It is choosing to believe that He is in control even when His plans haven’t come to fruition yet. It is choosing to trust Him when all else seems hopeless.

Christ spoke the words of Matthew 17:20 after the disciples had been unable to cast out a demon in His name. When this text was written, the mustard seed was probably one of the smallest seeds known in the Middle East. Therefore, what Christ was ultimately saying to His disciples when He spoke those words was this: You were unable to cast out that demon because your faith is too small

I sometimes like to imagine what the disciples’ faces must have looked like after Christ made that comment. After all, they had given up homes, job security, family, and everything known to follow after Christ into the unknown. His disciples spent more time with Him than anyone else. They knew Jesus inside and out. They saw Him perform miracles, heal the sick, restore sight. They were His inner circle. If anyone had a reason to believe in Christ and the One who sent Him, it was them. If anyone had a reason to have faith in Him, it was them. Yet, despite being able to see, smell, hear, and touch Jesus, Christ accused His very disciples of lacking the necessary faith to heal and to cast out demons. I wonder if, after Jesus’ uttered those words, the disciples stood there in disbelief, mouths agape, eyes wide open, wondering how they, his inner circle, could possibly lack faith?

As I read this passage, I often think it was surely so much easier for the disciples to have faith because they experienced life with Christ tangibly every day. And yet, Jesus’ words indicate the exact opposite. In spite of His physical presence, the disciples still wavered in their belief. Peter’s lack of faith caused him to sink into the ocean. Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection, even when he saw His nail-scarred hands. Even experiencing Christ first hand wasn’t enough for the disciples. They still lacked faith.

Then how much faith is enough? 

Have you ever seen a mustard seed? Years ago, I was given a small jar with the tiniest black seed inside. Along with the jar was a card with Matthew 17:20 penned beautifully on the cover. At the time, I was going through a particularly difficult struggle and a dear friend took it upon herself to remind me that in times such as those, I needed to have faith. Faith the size of a mustard seed. It seems like such a small amount, yet, I suspect for most of us, faith the size of that miniscule seed is elusive.

Fast forward twenty years or so. I’ve long since misplaced the tiny jar containing that precious seed. But I’ve never lost sight of that verse, often re-reading it when the changing seasons of life left me feeling like I was being tossed about like a grain of sand in the ocean swells. Every time I start to sink, I am reminded that faith is what will keep me afloat. Faith is what propels me to keep going when life just doesn’t seem fair. Faith is what I cling to when fear or uncertainty threaten to overwhelm me. Faith is believing that God really does love me, His child, even when I feel unlovable.

Faith even as small as a mustard seed is what I desire for my own life. Faith is what my husband and I ask God to bless our children with. Faith in Christ is the root from which all else will flourish. When all is said and done, I long for Timothy’s words to be my own: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV). I’m not there yet. In fact, I still have a very long way to go. My faith is small, but my desire to become more and more like Christ is strong.

May He increase my faith and yours!


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Do I Have the Right to Complain?

                I had the privilege of voting in our provincial election yesterday. Even though the outcome was a far cry from what I had hoped it would be, I’m thankful I live in a country where I have the right to vote. Blood was shed so that people like me could vote and enjoy the many other freedoms we partake of.

                Last night as I was pondering the impact this election could have on my province, my friends and my family, I was feeling overwhelmed and…bitter. The newly elected political party is advocating higher taxes, especially for corporations, which could drive thriving business opportunities out of our province. The new premier is advocating some significant changes to our social welfare system which, in my opinion, are a threat not only to Christians, but to anyone who believes in the sanctity of life.

                Because of these historical (and unprecedented) election results, my Facebook feed today is covered with “political” commentary. It seems I’m not the only person in my somewhat conservative social circle who is disappointed by the election’s outcome. It’s so easy for people, myself included, to complain about their political leaders. I’m guilty of this, especially today. Some say “You don’t have the right to complain if you don’t vote”, but I wonder, is the inverse also true? Do I have the right to complain because I did vote? 

                As a Christian, I believe the Bible addresses the issue of obedience to authority in several places:

Romans 13: 1-7 (ESV1) says this: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

1 Peter 2: 13-15 encourages Christians to “Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Matthew 22:20-21). 

These are just a few examples of what God’s Word has to say about the responsibility of Christians who are under the authority of fallible, earthly leaders. Regardless of whether or not we like or agree with those in powerful positions, whether in our churches, our cities, or our nations, God still tells His children that they are to be subject to their authority. In his sermon based on Romans 13:1-7, former pastor and author John Piper nicely sums up the reasons Christians are to be obedient to their leaders:

“So the argument of the text is clear. Submit to civil authority 1) because it’s instituted by God, 2) because it is good for you that there is civil authority, 3) because you will get punished if you don’t, and 4) because if you don’t, your conscience will condemn you for breaking the higher moral law of God.” 2

                To answer my earlier question regarding whether or not I, as a Christian, have the right to complain about political or spiritual leaders, I advocate that from a Biblical perspective, I don’t. Whether it seems evident or not, God is still LORD over all (1 Chronicles 29: 11). His is the kingdom, the glory, the majesty, and the splendor (1 Chron. 29:10-11). My job is to be obedient to whoever He places in leadership over me, and to do so without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14). My Facebook comments in the past 24 hours are evidence that I have much opportunity to grow in this area. Much.

1 All Scripture in this post is taken from the English Standard Version.

2 Piper, J. (2005.) Subjection to God and Subjection to the State, Part 2 [Online sermon transcription]. Retrieved from





Wednesday, 29 April 2015

My New Year's Challenge or "What I'm Learning from Reading the Bible Through"

            Last December, after a time of prayer in which I was seeking direction for the coming year, God impressed upon me the need to be reading my Bible more regularly. How could I know Him, truly and intimately KNOW Him, if I wasn’t digging into His Word daily? How could He, the Potter, model me, His clay, if I wasn’t seeking His face? And so it began.

            I’m the mother of two young children, and the wife of an amazing, godly husband. For some of you, that’s probably not a huge feat! But for me, well…it’s a challenge…Every. Single. Day. You see, I’m an introvert. I had no idea how much of an introvert I was until I got married nearly six years ago. My days went from having too much time to myself, to suddenly having to share my time with my husband. I literally went from having at least five hours a day of “me time”, which was often used for reading, or exercising, but almost always involved at least some Bible study and prayer, to having (and wanting!) to share my time with my new husband. 

            Not quite a-year-and-a-half after I was married, a sweet Christmas present, in the form of my beautiful daughter, arrived a month early! A month! I wasn’t even finished work yet, never mind feeling psychologically “ready” for her arrival. But there she was. A pre-Christmas blessing. Seventeen-months later, along came my son. And since then, carving out time for myself every day has become a real challenge. Maybe it’s because I’m an “older” Mom? Or maybe it’s because I’m an introvert who was single well into her mid-thirties, and got used to having plenty of “me” time.  Whatever the reason, the first thing to go by the wayside after having my son was my personal time with the Lord. Sure, I’d read my Bible in fits and spurts, and I’d have the best intention to follow a devotional guide daily. You know, the ones where there is one key verse, a paragraph or two to help you apply it to your life, and a short prayer at the end. But even then, my time with God was sporadic at best.

            So last December, when I felt God calling me to something more, I groaned inwardly. Ok. Maybe I groaned outwardly a little, too. And I might have shaken my fist at Him. I asked God what He had in mind. In the days and few weeks that followed, I started to feel led to embark on a journey that I hadn’t done in many, many years: Read the entire Bible from start to finish, in one year.

            To some of you, I’m sure this doesn’t seem that challenging. If you’re one of those people for whom this comes naturally, I aspire to be more like you! But for me, a person who has often started new years with good intentions of following a Bible-reading plan, but then gotten sidetracked quickly by the endless lists in Numbers, the idea of reading the entire Bible through in one year seemed daunting.  But then, everywhere I turned, it seemed like there was some confirmation that I was, indeed, supposed to do this. So…not one who often likes to take on a challenge alone, I sent out an email to the ladies’ Bible study group I’m a part of, and a few other ladies I knew who might be interested, and dared them to come alongside me to read the Bible through in its entirety this year. Some accepted the challenge. Some didn’t. But I’m so glad I did because I’ve learned so much. SO MUCH in the few months since I started reading His Word chronologically.

            First, as one of the women from my ladies’ Bible study group pointed out on a Wednesday morning a few weeks ago, the Word of God does not return void.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
As John Piper, a well-known theologian, put it so aptly, God’s Word is the very SEED of life. He says: “When he draws near to you in his Word, he wants you to feel the way your brown backyard would feel when the rain starts to fall on it. He wants you to feel the way a Minnesota cornstalk would feel when the moisture starts coursing up through the stem and pushing out plump, yellow kernels of corn, or the way the farmer would feel when there is plenty of corn for feed and for planting next year's crop. And he wants you to remember those cool, fall mornings at the breakfast table with the smell of fresh toast whetting your appetite.”1

             We are to drink in God’s Word. To desire it with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. His Word IS the rain that waters our souls. It IS the food that nourishes are bodies. And that which is planted, and tended with care, will not come back empty. 

            Second, because God’s thoughts and my thoughts are very, VERY different, I need to be digging into His Word to know His thoughts.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
In some ways, these verses need no explanation. Most of us are very aware of the sinful nature of our thoughts and actions. Left to our own devices, our selfish desires take over, often leaving behind a wake of destruction. We see this in the news and in our own lives every day. In the murder of a local woman two weeks ago. In our neglect or fear of the homeless person begging for money downtown. In the quiet-nudging of the Holy Spirit telling you to spend that money you would rather use to buy the red coat you’ve always wanted, to instead use it to meet the needs of a poor women in a laundry mat.

            God’s thoughts aren’t my thoughts, to be sure. But reading His Word regularly is slowly opening me up to saying and doing things differently. On days when I’ve had little sleep because of children waking up overnight, His Word reminds me that I can choose how I respond. I can choose to stay in my head, snapping at every little thing the kids do to seemingly try to annoy me, or, as Galatians 5:16 says, I can choose, instead, to walk in the Spirit and not gratify the fleshly tendency to be angry, short-tempered, and lacking compassion.

            I can look the other way when I see someone hurting, or I can take to heart the story of the Good Samaritan. I can question God, telling Him I’m not good enough for whatever it is He’s called me to do, or I can remember Paul, whose heart God turned from persecuting Christians, to ultimately, dying for them. My thoughts are not His thoughts. His ways and His thoughts are so much higher, and so much more worthy of striving toward.      

            Third, starting the day with God’s Word and prayer is ideal. It really is. The Psalms testify to this:
Psalm 5:3 says, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice”.
Psalm 143:8 says “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”
Mark 1:35 says this: “And rising in the early morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus} departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”.

            Those of you who know me well will know that I am not a morning person. Not in the slightest. So do I faithfully read God’s Word and pray every morning? No. Do I read His Word and pray most mornings? No. So why would I say this is something I’ve learned? Because I can tell you that there is a noticeable difference in my attitude between the days I commune with God early in the day versus the days I commune with Him later in the day, or not at all. Setting my heart and mind on God’s Word at the start of the day gives me a glimpse into His perspective, rather than my own. When I wake up with thoughts racing and start planning for how I think my day should go, almost without fail, something happens to throw off my “schedule” and sets me into a mood that is inconsistent with my calling as God’s child. But when I start the day reading even one or two Scripture verses, or a whole chapter, all of a sudden my mind has a focus other than myself and my plans. It’s so much easier to hear His voice before my own voice and thoughts kick in in full tilt.

            And remember that verse from Mark I mentioned previously? Even Jesus needed time alone with God. When did he do it? In the morning. In this specific instance, the Bible says that he was healing people until late the night before. Yet…he still got up “very early” to take time to commune with God. How much more, then, should I?

            One final lesson I’ve learned from this Bible reading journey is that no matter where I am, reading one verse, or one chapter, or reading whatever I can for 5 minutes makes a difference. Truth be told, I’ve been behind in my Bible reading more often than not since January 1st. But there are a few dear souls who are on this journey with me, from whom I’ve received great amounts of encouragement and wisdom. One of those women has said, over the years, that sometimes reading one verse is all she can do, and that’s ok. That’s freed me up to have days when one verse is all I can handle. But usually….usually one verse spurs me on to another, and then another, and pretty soon, I’ve read a whole chapter and walk away feeling lighter.
            I’m trying to make a point of reading God’s Word throughout the day, in the breaks that come between kids’ activities and doing housework. And when the needs of my children are endless, or housework calls, even that few minutes alone with the Lord, be it in the bathroom, the garage, or the laundry room, are what keep my roots grounded in Him. And that’s really what God wants for us: to ASK of Him, to SEEK Him, to KNOCK on His door, and thus, to KNOW Him. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

            Praise God that His Word is easily available to us, and that all we need to do is read or listen to it. If I can encourage you to do one thing, it is this: Read your Bibles. Read them often. Read them with a heart that is seeking. Wear them out. You won’t be disappointed.

1Piper, J. (1998.) The Great Invitation: God’s Triumphant Word. [Online sermon transcription]. Retrieved from