More about Mustard (by my mom, Beth Smith)

Back in my day, teenagers, including me, were wearing mustard seed jewelry, usually one tiny seed in a clear plastic ball attached to a bracelet or necklace. You were really in style if you had one! It came with a card that had Matthew 17:20 printed on it. Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Well, personally, I didn’t move any mountains, but the mustard seed and the verse did help me learn that faith is important and powerful. I grew up thinking if things went well, I had faith. If things didn’t go well, it was my fault for just not having enough faith. That’s not true at all! The Amplified Bible describes faith as, “trust and confidence that springs from our belief in God.”

Maybe you’re thinking, “I guess I just don’t have faith.” If you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior, you do. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” (Don’t get a big head about having enough faith to accept Christ. It was, after all, God’s grace that gave you the faith to believe.)

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” The New Living Translation puts it this way, “We live by believing and not by seeing.” The world says, “Seeing is believing.”  The spiritual world doesn’t work that way. First we must believe, then we’ll see. Our aim is to trust God and his Word without demanding any other evidence.

But how in the world do we do that?

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV). When we really know who God is, we can believe. We find out who he is by reading his Word and spending quiet time with him in prayer.

In Matthew 14:28-31, Peter walked on water, but then he felt the wind, became frightened, and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and saved him and said, “Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” We waver for the same reason that Peter did. We forget who God is and what he is like. Sometimes we stop thinking about him altogether. We forget that:

  • He loved us before we loved him.
  • He loves us all the time.
  • Nothing can separate us from that love.

When we believe those truths, our faith becomes firm and grows just like the tiny mustard seed that, under the right conditions, becomes a mighty tree.

So, grow your seed! Be rooted in a healthy understanding of God’s love and grace, watered by the reading of his Word, and fed by a constant practice of faith.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2: 6-7).

photo credit: @jlanzarini via Unsplash.com

Pure Gold by my mom, Beth Smith

Early prospectors during the gold rush were fooled into thinking they’d found real gold instead of something called iron pyrite, worthless rocks with flecks of shiny material in them. So many were fooled that iron pyrite became known as “fool’s gold.” I want you to know where our real gold is—where we have a neverending supply of genuine gold—in the Word of God.

Remember the crippled beggar to whom Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6 KJV). What did the cripple do? He went “walking and leaping and praising God.” He received far more than he asked for. Would he have traded his healing for a truckload of gold coins? Of course not! Here’s a bit more from the Bible regarding gold.

  • The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:72 NIV).
  • I love your commandments more than gold, more than pure gold” Psalm 119:127 NIV).
  • Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable that silver and yields better returns than gold” (Proverbs 3: 13-14 NIV).

Are you a bit timid about mining gold from the Bible? If you don’t have a modern or revised version, I recommend that you get one and try it out. That can make a big difference.

Another important thing to remember as we go into our gold mine, the Bible, is that we do not go alone. John 14 says that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Ask him to help you understand what you are reading! The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, which means “one who is called along side to help.” He will help us if we allow him to.

On more than one occasion, I’ve “just happened” to read a portion of the Bible that was exactly what I needed in that moment. God will do the same for you. The next time you read a verse that makes you think, “That was for me,” you can be sure it was God at work. Our gold mine is filled with power for living in God’s world, in God’s way. “Every Scripture was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well-prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 (TLB).

It’s time for us to think not “Thar’s gold in them thar hills,” but, “thar’s gold in this here Book.” (It hurts me as an English teacher to write that way.) It’s not fool’s gold, but the real McCoy. So pull out your Bible and read on!

photo credit: @zlataky via Unsplash.com

How Good Is Your Memory?

Every time I re-read portions of the Old Testament, I’m astounded by the way the Israelites got caught in this loop:

  1. Cry out for help. (For example, “Let us out of Egypt!)
  2. Experience God’s miraculous provision. (Like parted seas.)
  3. Find a reason to complain. (“We’re thirsty!”)

REPEAT:

  1. Cry out for help. (“Give us food!”)
  2. Experience God’s miraculous provision. (Like manna from heaven.)
  3. Find a reason to complain. (“We’re so sick of eating the same old thing!”)

REPEAT…REPEAT…REPEAT…

But I have grumpy days, don’t you? I feel sorry for myself or evaluate my lot in life and decide it doesn’t measure up to someone else’s. I long for something I don’t have and forget for a while all God has done and all I’ve been given. I’ve seen miraculous provision in my own life, so how am I any different from those Israelites? I am ashamed to admit that I can get tired of manna too.

I was knocked upside the head by this quote not long ago: “If God never did one more thing for you, you ought to be the happiest person in the world.” (I heard it in a TV sermon, but don’t remember who was preaching.) Oh my, yes! When I step back from my doldrums and recount the miracles in my own life and in those of my loved ones, I realize any one of those gifts from God should be enough to keep me rejoicing until eternity. How quickly I can forget!

So, today, I want to leave you with this verse, Psalm 42:6, from The Message.

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you.”

Has God ever done anything for you? Then, next time you find yourself grumpy or dissatisfied, refresh your memory! I plan to do the same.

Photo: Nam Anh on Unsplash.com because “an elephant never forgets,” or so they say.

“What If?” to “Even if!”

Even if I don’t get well…  Even if I fail…  Even if someone hurts me… Even if…

Recognition of all the hard things life brings can be enveloped in the realization that we’ll never face any of those things without the surrounding love of our Lord. My fear of what might happen has been overcome by the assurance that, while most of the things my imagination drums up will never occur, even those that do will be managed by my King.

Last week I wrote to encourage you to trust in the face of tragedy. Today, I want to back those words up with the Bible.

  • Daniel 3:16-18 tells us, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”
  • Esther 4:15-16 says, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
  • And in Matthew 26: 39-42, you can read this about Jesus: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’…He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

We’ve all been plagued by imaginary horrors, by the “What if?” that marches across the brain, pushing out peace. Fearlessness is not a matter of mental determination. It’s a matter of prayer first and obedience second. First, we make every worry a topic of our prayers because Philippians 4 tells us to. Then we begin to change the thought patterns that cultivate fear. I hope you’ll take up the weapon of “Even if!” to join Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and our Lord in defeating the enemy in his fearful ploys, finding the peace that passes understanding once again.

Photo credit: Adam Wilson @fourcolourblack via Unsplash.com

Do Nothing

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Nope. This won’t be a blog giving you permission to become a long-term couch potato. (You know me better than that!) I do, however, hope to influence your pace and your motivation. We’re past the holidays, and past those early days of the new year when we thought maybe we’d do a better job of living this year than last. (Why, exactly, do we think a flip of the calendar will empower us to do that?) Now, for many of us, an overwhelming life has returned, or at least it’s creeping up on us. I can’t believe that’s how God means for us to live.

So then what? Let me share a few wise words that are not my own:

“Do nothing in a hurry. There is always time for all that is in the will of God.” (Jessie Penn-Lewis) Do you believe that? I do. So when I say, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” I need to realize that God didn’t goof. This means, of course, that I have. I’ve taken on too much.

Now is a good time to evaluate yet again the pace at which we live. If you need a nudge to make sure you are living at a reasonable pace, perhaps these words will help:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). Take a moment to ponder this question: Are the frantic places in your life there because they make you look more spiritual, or valuable, or accomplished? It’s an easy trap, one the Enemy is deft at setting for so many of us.

“Being dependable doesn’t mean it all depends on me.” (Uncredited, but Biblical.) Are you actually doing more to help the human race than you’re meant/called to do? I’ve been there.

And lastly, I’m struck by the words Bonnie Gray wrote on the (in)courage[1] website, “Don’t minimize the things that give you rest and joy. They’re often the first things we start letting go of when we’re stressed, but they may be the very ways we can experience God’s peace in the midst of anxiety.”

Are we leaving time for rest? For joy? I hope so. If not, there’s no better time to start than right now.


[1] (in)courage – a DaySpring community (incourage.me)

One More Look at Elijah

Last week, when I shared thoughts from Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I left out one of the most powerful quotes in the book, particularly appropriate for those of you who read last year’s essays about the miracles of Elijah and Elisha.

“My favorite verse is quite possibly James 5:17, which reads, ‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently.’ Don’t keep yourself from praying desperately and courageously for the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah. As this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently.”

Have you ever said, “There’s nothing I can do but pray?” That only feels like a helpless position when we forget that prayer is powerful, that everything else we do to help in any situation is actually secondary to our prayers.

Of course, powerful prayers don’t promise us a yes from God every time. As Francis Chan said, “There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true…Do you trust God that when He says no or “not in this way” to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?”

Now in my grandparenting years, I’m often put in the position of having to say no—to climbing on the furniture or eating too much ice cream or going out in the cold without a sweater. I marvel at how toddlers can insist that they know better—until I realize that sometimes I do that to God.

The possibility of a “no” answer should never keep us from praying big prayers. Why wouldn’t we ask? My grandchildren will ask me for anything they want, even though they know by now that I won’t always grant their request. We can trust God to give us the right answer every time. Friends, let’s make this the year of asking and accepting, of looking for miraculous answers and praising God in everything he does. Elijah had nothing on us. Rather, just like us, he had God.