The Fashion Faux Pas of Faith

See this post at GatheringTogether.com.  Thanks to the editor, Kristine, who encourages writers from all different walks of life.

Mustard seeds make great jewelry.  I saw one in a store, a bauble with a mustard seed inside.  Around the outside was a gold tree, hanging delicately from a gold chain.  How precious.  The idea of a mustard seed inside a tree comes from Luke 17:6.  “He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.’”

Well, isn’t that lovely.  Jesus gave a word picture that makes for nice jewelry.  And a great verse to strengthen our resolve.  However, this lovely treasure of a promise hides inside a lesson we do not want to miss.  More waits for you to discover.

Most assume the verse dictates you can do everything you want.  We are like realtors.  With realtors, it’s location, location, location.  Let’s replace the word location, with the word context; Context, context, context.  Forgetting to read the verses before and after can really mess up what Jesus is trying to get at.  So let’s look at the context together.

Luke 17:1-10 says, “Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.  If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.  Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Strange—Jesus talks about forgiveness, throws in a nicety about faith and mustard seeds, and then continues to talk about humility and servant hood.  So disjointed.  If I was in the crowd that day, I could imagine hearing the first five verses, then swatting away a mosquito, and instantly getting lost.  There were three different topics in five minutes of spoken speech.  What is going on?

Jesus made sure every word counts.  No word in the Bible is there by mistake, so some kind of link is going on.  In Luke 17, the link is faith.  Forgiveness is a set-up to understand faith, and the “humility” is more so on faith than humility.  Do you see it?  Read Luke 17:1-10 again.

In the first four verses, Jesus said to forgive those who ask for forgiveness.  The apostles loudly admitted that you need a lot of faith in order to forgive sincerely.  It is hard work!  So Jesus replied.  Meaning he didn’t start a new story.  He didn’t change topics here.  Jesus was still talking about forgiveness, but he saw that the apostles understood how important faith is.  In fact, he didn’t only reply, he confirmed that what they said was true and expounds on the subject by using the famous mustard seed.

If I can paraphrase this segment of verses:  “Yep, you need a lot of faith to forgive.  You need to believe that forgiveness is granted.  That’s a lot of faith, and that’s a lot of power!”  (And then in verses 7-10) “But don’t abuse this power.  You have to forgive with true intentions, and correct motivation.  If you take this newfound faith away from forgiving, then you’ll be like the guy who takes all the credit.  And that’s not faith at all.  Give the credit where credit is due for the forgiveness—your heavenly Father.  By forgiving, you were just doing what he asked you to do.”

So you see, the mustard seed is just a small point in a long list of the reasons why faith is so crucial in forgiveness.  The next time you pass that jewelry in the store, remember the verses about forgiveness, not about getting so much faith that you can do the impossible.  Although the verse about the mustard seed denotes that you can do the impossible with faith, you have to give the credit to the one who instills that power via your faith.  Who cares what you do with your faith, as long as it is in the Father’s will, and not your own.

So have some faith, you can forgive.  If you can forgive, you have faith and will naturally give credit to God.  That’s the lesson of the mustard seed.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

“Stop bringing meaningless offerings!…Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”  Isaiah 1:13a, 16b-17a

The man had on a yellow suit.  The deep, Darth Vader-like sounds of his breathing scared me, even more so than the mask covering his whole face.  Every year, this man attended our school, and my teacher said he was a good guy.  He gave stickers out that took off the varnish of my dresser when I removed them later in life.

We learned to stop, drop and roll every year as the firefighters of our little town taught us.

More than fifteen years later, and I heard the sounds of the oxygen pushing into the firefighter’s mask as I read Isaiah 1:13.  God, the ultimate firefighter, expounded the lesson.  He tried to rescue the Israelite’s lives by repeating “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” He says,

“…wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight!  Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. ‘ Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ For the mouth of the Lord has spoken”  (Isaiah 1:16-20).

We fumble, we argue, we flee, we rationalize.  But no matter how logical our line of thinking, God makes it clear what we are to do when things get hot.

Isaiah 1:13a says, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!”  Okay, gut check!  If you didn’t catch it the first time, allow me to bring to a forte what I believe God is asking.  “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!”  (emphasis mine).  Not put your sin on hold, or wait until it’s convenient, or blame your disobedience on circumstances, or postpone what He’s asking.  Stop.  Now.

God knows it takes me a few times to really pick up what he’s asking of me.  The firefighters came back yearly so the children learned the lesson.  After reading verse 13, I continued to lazily read through Isaiah 1, when I saw it again in verse 16b-17a.  “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”  Exclamation point!  I get it!  I do appreciate he gives me direction on what to do to fill the void.  He tells me to stop doing something bad. It’s hard to take away something without putting something else in its place, good or bad replacements.  This is a time to choose a good thing.  How do I choose a good thing to fill up what I stopped?  God then tells me to learn. There’s no better way to learn than to daily be in his word.  It’s great to stop doing wrong, but if you don’t learn to do right, you’ll be the dog who returns to his vomit.  (See Proverbs 26:11.)

I don’t want to be a fool, someone who returns to a disgusting habit.  Some things are easier to stop than others.  God calls us to be “willing and obedient”  (Isaiah 1:19).  So I have to have some proper motivation on my part to stop.  And God forgives me.  “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  That’s God’s end of the deal.  We can’t clean up on our own.  We have to take on the duty to stop and learn.  Be “willing and obedient.”  Stop.  Learn.

Stop, drop, and roll.  Stop.  No caveats.  Drop it.  And then roll into God’s grace.  Reason with him about what you’ve done, get over it, and move on.  Not easy, but mandatory.  Maybe the prescribed way to put out a physical fire is the best prescribed way to put out an eternal fire.  Stop, drop, and roll.

Waiting

As seen at http://gatheringtogether.webs.com/molliebond.htm

Thank you to the editor, Kristine Mulholland, for her time and dedication to an excellent site.

-Mollie Bond, Sept. 2011

Who likes to wait?  I mean, just sit around, pick our noses, been here all day, kind of wait.  I picture people waiting for an airplane.  Usually they wait in the terminal, or wait in a line.  Waiting.  Doing nothing, just waiting.  In fact, different kinds of lines restrain us in different types of waiting.  Check out this oxymoron:  if you hold a first-class ticket, you have a “no wait” line you wait in.  There’s a different zigzagging line for people who have a coach ticket where you wait too.  After that wait to get to the ticketing counter, and off to wait again.  Even if you hold the first-class ticket, you have to wait in line at security.  Might as well finish this article while you stand in that line, so keep reading.

Here’s the neat thing about waiting.  God doesn’t expect us to sit around and wait.  That’s correct!  No more waiting!  No tickets.  No lines.  But before you rush to the front of the line at security, dial in and focus.  This will be better than getting two seats to yourself on the plane.

 Waiting, like the kind of waiting God refers to, is not a passive wait.  He proactively waits, and asks us to do the same.  What’s the difference between passively waiting and proactively waiting?  Those that passively wait expect their desires to fall into their laps.  They sit.  In the Bible Jonah just told the Ninevites to trade in their bad habits for God’s salvation, otherwise God would cream the city.  “Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city.  There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city” (Jonah 4:5).  Jonah sat.  He waited.  And then he whined to God about how long he was waiting for something he desired.  Jonah might have looked like a child who just couldn’t wait for the plane for one more second and starts to whine and cry and complain.  People who passively wait become whiners.

On the other hand those that proactively wait plan while they wait;  just like our Father who works according to “his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2b).  He’s not sitting around, waiting for His desires to drop into His lap.  He’s binding things together, building, twisting our lives with other people and waiting for the perfect moment to fulfill His plan for us.

The Hebrew language has several different words for waiting.  Psalms 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”  The “wait” in this verse means, “to bind together (by twisting)” in Hebrew.  This would be like twisting material into a tapestry.  Building something beautiful and useful.  It takes time and work, but it is worth the wait for the outcome of the final piece.  It is not passive, and results in non-whiners.

Another type of waiting is found in Ps. 37:7a, which says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him….” This “wait” denotes whirling.  It is a different word from Psalms 27, but still translated as “wait” in English.  Interesting that both words lead us to think about spinning and creating.  God’s proactive waiting takes work, time, and creativity.

So what are you waiting on?  Don’t wait for it passively.  That’s not waiting like God asks us to.  Instead, proactively wait by praying and letting God know you do not want to sit and wait.  Tell Him you will spin, twist, build, bind together, whirl, and create while you wait.

Maybe the salvation of someone else reminds you of Ninevites.  They seek after things far from the truth, and you cannot wait for God to get a hold of their heart.  Instead of sitting and passively waiting, be proactively waiting.  Pray for them.  Be their warm, loving friend who always has time on their hands to listen.  Do not sit and passively wait for God to do something.  Text encouragement to them while you wait for the plane.  Because you know what?  You are just waiting anyway.