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doing the impossible, faith, Hebrews 11:1-2, increase our faith, James 2:17, Luke 17:5-6, more faith, Mount of Olives, move mountains, must be planted, mustard seed, never feel ready, pods, seeds have life, spiritual gas tank, spirituality
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6
Almost every believer I have ever met felt like they needed more faith. They’ve prayed for it, attended conferences, read books, attended services to bolster their faith, and even prayed earnestly for increased faith. The twelve closest to Jesus sure felt the need for an increased level of faith. Evidently they looked at Jesus and concluded,”Hey, we are lacking!” Jesus basically told His small band of ruffians they were not lacking, but slacking. The faith they had was enough! They were simply not properly using what faith they did possess.
Has your spiritual gas tank ever run dry? You go to church, worship, or spend some time with the Lord to fill yourself up. While your spiritual life may resemble a gas tank which occasionally needs filling, your faith level doesn’t operate along these same lines. Faith is not like a gas tank which constantly needs topping. The church is not a gas station that merely exists to service your Christianity. Like Jesus’ disciples, we falsely conclude if we had just a little more of God, just a little more faith, just a little more spirit …. then we could accomplish all of the things the Lord requires. Our request for the Lord to “top off our tanks” or “increase our faith” is invalid. These types of requests will not make us better disciples or stronger followers.
According to Jesus, we don’t need more faith. Faith is such a powerful weapon, we only need a tiny amount of it to do incredible things in the Kingdom. Faith is like an atomic bomb. The energy released from a tiny mustard seed amount of faith can literally move mountains. If you are a believer, then you already possess some faith.
I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land a few years back. As our group was walking down the Mount of Olives I began to pick some of the branches and twigs from the trees along the path. I noticed some little pods growing from some of the trees and asked our guide about them. He told me they were mustard seeds. The pods were about the size of a pencil eraser. As I examined these little pods, the guide then instructed me to break one open. It was then that I discovered the real size of mustard seeds. Thousands of little ground pepper sized seeds burst forth from the little pods. They were minuscule. Jesus obviously used the smallest item known to his followers to explain just how little faith we need to see God move.
Faith is our secret weapon, but it is not used to destroy like the atom. Just a minuscule amount of faith brings about the impossible. Jesus used the example of mustard seeds because even though they are the small, they possess something a pebble, a grain of salt or a grain of sand doesn’t possess. Mustard seeds have life! The question is not whether there is life in the mustard seed. Each seed has an abundance of life. The question is have we planted our faith in God’s Kingdom so that He might do the impossible? Sized doesn’t matter. What does matter is action. Have we planted what faith we do possess?
Jesus knew that the quantity of faith is not as important as whether faith is present at all. It’s like being pregnant- either you are or you aren’t. There is no such thing as being a little pregnant. In the same instance, you either have faith in God or you don’t. If we do, then God will work amazing things in our lives. It serves no purpose to keep asking God for more of something we have never used in the first place. Faith, like seeds, must be planted. This is why James said, “Faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
Are you planting what faith you do possess today or are you still waiting for the Lord to give you more. Your faith will not increase until you begin to use the faith you possess. None of us will ever feel qualified enough, know enough, or have enough experience to feel comfortable in seeing God move in our life. He only requires we believe in His process.
Blessings – From God’s Incubator,
devil means tempter, Donald Morgan quote, faith, master distracter, neglect our lessons, Satan means accuser, spiritual Groundhog Day, strengthen faith, the devil is real, the Lord's word and presence go together, turn my troubles over to God, undergo a similar trial
If you set your heart and mind on following Jesus, the storms of life will arise for two reasons.
The Devil Is Real!
If you begin to do the will of God, the devil is not going to let you grow unhindered. He will attempt to throw everything into your boat, including the kitchen sink. He wants to sink your ship and have you blame God at the same time. He is the master distracter. The Bible gives him two job descriptions. When scripture uses the word “devil” to describe him, it usually is referring to him being a tempter. When scripture uses the word “Satan” to describe him, it usually is referring to him being an accuser. He won’t appear in a puff of smoke in front of you in order to scare you. He has no interest in this activity. He wants to make the lives of God’s people miserable. If you are not enduring some of his antics, then you are not even worth attacking. Get busy, because I need some relief.
God Seeks to Demonstrate His Faithfulness and
Strengthen Your Own Personal Faith.
As I said yesterday, it was Jesus who led the disciples into the boat. Evidently, He led them there with the very purpose of strengthening their faith. How do we know? Faith was the issue on His mind once the event concluded. This wasn’t a demonic encounter. No, they will all experience one once they reach the other side of the lake. Instead, this event was carefully designed and orchestrated by God to increase their faith.
By the way – since this lesson didn’t take, do you think these fearful disciples will have to undergo a similar test again? Yes, Jesus will later allow them to be treated in the same fashion, only next time He will walk on the water and leave the disciples struggling on their own.
If we neglect our lessons… we will face them again down the road. I hear believers say all the time… “I’m tired of having to face the same temptations and trials over and over.” Life has become a “Spiritual Groundhog Day” for them. If you are truly tired of it, then learn and grow. It is the quickest way out! The Lord is not trying to hurt or hinder us… He is attempting to create opportunities for us to grow. We need to remember the Lord’s word and the Lord’s presence go together. If you get one, you automatically get the other. Jesus was on-hand or nearby on both occasions. You are never alone.
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I know I may have told this story before, but it is one of my favorites.
A middle-aged woman has a heart attack and is taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she has a near death experience. During that experience she sees God and asks if this is the end. God says no and explains that she has another 30 years to live. Upon her recovery she decides to just stay in the hospital and have a face lift, liposuction, breast augmentation, tummy tuck, etc. She even has someone come in and change her hair color. She figures since she’s got another 30 years, she might as well make the most of it.
She walks out of the hospital after the last operation and is killed by an ambulance speeding by. She arrives in front of God and complains, “I thought you said I had another 30 years.”
God replies, “I did, but I didn’t recognize you.”
I know and you know God always recognizes us. This story is usually the other way around. We don’t recognize God. We fail to recognize what He is doing in our life. We fail to recognize what He is doing in other’s lives and in general we miss what He is doing in the world around us.
Listen to the story from Luke as Peter has a personal encounter with Jesus one day by the Sea of Galilee. Even in this story Jesus was already working in Peter’s life… he just didn’t know it yet.
Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. Luke 5:1-3
Jesus was teaching and the people were listening to Him. Apparently, He felt a little crowded and wanted some space. He saw two boats near-by and asked to use Simon Peter’s as sort of a stage or platform.
But I believe there was clearly another reason why Jesus wanted to speak from the boat. Later on, He wanted to talk to the owner of the boat, Simon. Jesus is not only interested in crowds, He is also interested in you individually. Sometimes we need more than classroom instruction. We need individualized tutoring. The Lord knows when we need more personal attention and arranges life so that we get His undivided attention.
If we believe the Lord’s instructions cease after we leave the church pew, we are mistaken. If we believe the Lord’s instructions conclude when our Bible’s are closed, we are deceived. These events are merely the beginning of our journey. The real test arrives when we are called to apply what we have learned. How much one-on-one time have you received lately?
Why does Jesus change His approach for just one person? Why would Jesus change His focus from a crowd to a single person? Most ministers are trying to climb out of the single digits, not move towards them. Evidently Jesus recognized a hunger in Peter He didn’t see in everyone else. So, He rearranged His schedule to help Peter move from a shallow type of faith to a deeper faith. I don’t believe Jesus wastes His time. If you are receiving one-on-one attention, then He believes it is time for you to move into deeper waters as well.
There was an Episcopal pastor who was having a cup of coffee in the restaurant across the street from his church. He was reading his paper when the fellow next to him noticed his clerical garb and asked which church he led. He pointed across the street to the Episcopal Church. The fellow eagerly piped-up and said “Why that’s the church I go to myself!” At this the pastor perked up and said “That’s strange. I’ve been preaching there for five years and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you.” The man responded, “Come on now, preacher. I didn’t say I was a fanatic.”
Peter was a “fan of Jesus” at this point, but he wasn’t a “fanatic for Christ” either. He had been baptized by John the Baptist and witnessed Jesus being baptized as well. He had witnessed Jesus performing a few miracles including the healing of his mother-in-law. But until this point, he had yet to commit himself fully to Jesus’ teachings.
For many Peter’s type of committment would have been enough to give them security. Jesus knew the difference and so should we. Jesus wants to move each of us from the “fan” level of faith to the “fanatic” level. The only question is are we personally willing to go with the Lord to deeper waters?
– More tomorrow.
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5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘ You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” Luke 4:5-8
You might imagine this issue would occupy a major portion of the battle for good and evil. The first four commandments deal with this issue of worship. Satan came blatantly at Jesus, showing Him all the world’s kingdoms, and their glory… offering them for His worship. Satan probably will not approach you so blatantly. The devil comes at us for the same purpose but often in a more subtle fashion.
There was once a poor country pastor who was livid when he discovered his wife had purchased a $250 dress. “How could you do this!” he exclaimed.
“I don’t know,” she wailed, “I was standing in the store looking at the dress. Then I found myself trying it on. It was like the Devil was whispering to me, “‘You look great in that dress. You should buy it.'”
“Well,” the pastor persisted, “You know how to deal with him! Just tell him, “Get behind me, Satan!”
“I did,” replied his wife, “but then he said ‘It looks great from back here, too.'”
Satan never said to me, “Fall down and worship me.” But he has tried to get me to deviate from God’s plan for my life. He has gotten me so off track it almost ruined my commitment to God. Satan has tried to fill my life with so many other things and other people so they would occupy the Lord’s time and ministry. Many times we can find ourselves withdrawing from the physical act of worship for various reasons. The number one way Satan accomplishes this is by getting believers preoccupied and focused on other things.
He begins to attack us by making the “things of this world” so appealing and luring. He continues to lull us to sleep, getting us to focus on the wrong goals, the wrong areas, and the wrong people. He gets us to trade the best for something better, then we trade the better for something good, then we trade the good for something bad.
Jesus wasn’t even remotely fooled by Satan’s attractions. He quickly stood up and said, “I’m not getting distracted. It is written, ’You shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall you serve!’” Note how passionate Jesus was when he rebuked Satan over the issue of worship. Nothing was going to diminish the intensity of His love for God, and the passion with which He expressed it.
The same should be true for every believer. Our worship should always be guarded. We would all stay out of trouble if we would quickly and passionately defend our worship of God. In a Catholic church a sign was hanging over a shrine which said, “This Shrine is out-of-order. Do not worship here.” This is a little parable of what sin does to the Christian. It makes us spiritually out-of-order. Satan knows this truth and attempts to keep us out-of-order so that real worship isn’t important as it once was.
I read recently in Hebrew the word for faith (emunah) is the same word for stability. They are linked to each another. The Lord knew long ago the only way for His followers to survive the spiritual onslaught of the devil was to remain in faith. Faith creates stability. Worship feeds my soul like no other spiritual vehicle. I can be a physical, mental, and spiritual wreck. But… when I worship my Creator all the planets, sun, moon, and stars become aligned. Everything makes sense. Satan knows he will never be able to defeat the worshiping believer. There is a war going on in and around you today for your worship. How are you doing?
Abraham, Adrian Roger quote, back on track, faith, forget purpose and destiny, intense prayer times, is God moving today, satisfied with God's blessings, spiritual life grows stale, stale bread, tests, trials, unction
In a time of momentary victory, what gets most of us so distracted that we forget where we were, how we got there, and where we should be going? We forget our purpose and destiny. This may have been the danger with Abraham. Maybe he became so satisfied with Isaac and the sweetness of knowing God’s promise fulfilled. Maybe he forgot the real goal was not Isaac, but the Lord.
How common is this in our lives? We experience the blessing of the Lord and become satisfied with the blessing instead of in the One who originally blessed us. When times are good we often find that our spiritual life grows stale, our prayer looses intensity, our Bible study becomes sporadic, our worship becomes optional, and our giving becomes superficial.
All of a sudden a trial or test arrives from nowhere and rouses us from our spiritual coma. In our slumber, we discover God wants us to continue to strive for holiness. He wants us to hunger for a relationship with Him and not settle for the blessings He gives.
I had a colleague who was invited to give a devotional at a ladies missionary meeting. She pondered what to share to this group. Eventually, she remembered a word the Lord had given her four weeks prior. In fact, she had shared that same word several times to other groups. She decided to go with it, instead of developing something new. She related to me afterward that the devotional didn’t have any impact upon the group or upon her. In other words, there was no anointing or unction in what she shared. As she prayed about it afterward, the Lord spoke these words to her. “You offered up stale bread. That word was one I gave you weeks ago. At that moment in time, it was fresh bread and now it is stale. You haven’t sought Me since, therefore there wasn’t any fresh bread coming out of the oven. You didn’t have anything fresh to give that ladies group and that is why the devotional was flat and lacked anointing. Don’t rely on stale bread.”
I have been in church services when people stood up to give testimonies. Some could only relate what God had done in their lives years ago. Thus, they only offered stale bread. What a travesty! We all need to be asking, “is God speaking and moving in my life today?” The answer is He wants to move today… not just yesterday.
Abraham and Sarah probably had a thousand pats-on-the-back and a thousand congratulations. Why not, they were a hundred years old when God graciously moved. But, this wasn’t the end, simply the beginning. The Lord wants us to seek His “well done” everyday. He wants us to seek holiness, not just the comfort knowing we once were victorious. So times of testing often come to get us back on track.
When were your most intense prayer times? When did you felt closest to the Lord? I’m ashamed to say that my most intense and focused prayer times were often during intense battles with Satan and during times of tremendous need. These occurred not on mountain tops but in valleys.
We see our life most clearly in the difficult times. We search for the Lord most intensely when trouble looms. It doesn’t have to be that way . . . but most often it is. The next time you are tempted to complain in the storm, remember that very storm may have been sent to take you to the next level.
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When God’s ability is finally bonded with faith’s availabilty, it creates a spiritual tipping point. This passage doesn’t read like a spiritual tipping point, but it is, for both Abraham and Sarah.
Then they said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘Behold, in the tent.’ And he said, ‘I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh saying, “Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?” Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.’ Sarah denied it however, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh’ (Genesis 18:9-15)
It was customary in those days, as in some cultures today, for the women to neither be seen nor heard while male guests were entertained. Sarah thus prepared the bread out of the sight of the men (cf. verse 6), and she remained inside the tent as they ate. While she carefully kept out of sight, her curiosity got the best of her. She may have peeped through the folds of the tent or had her ear to the door, anxious to hear the conversation outside. I doubt that any of us could have avoided such a temptation either.
It was in this context the Lord assured Abraham that Sarah would have a son next year. It appeared Abraham either failed to mention what he heard from God previously in Genesis 17 about a son, or he failed to convince Sarah of its certainty. Whatever the case, the words of God were intended more for Sarah’s benefit than Abraham’s. It was vital that she, too, have faith in God’s promise.
Initially, Sarah’s response differed little from her husband’s response. He laughed too when God spoke to him the last time about a son. Now, Sarah was laughing as well. What was their laughter all about? Maybe it was a combination of surprise, shock, sheer joy, and unbelief. How could such a thing be? One wonders if Sarah’s laughter was not heard outside the tent.
Notice the rebuke is directed, at first, toward Abraham, not Sarah. “And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? ’” (Genesis 18:13). In essence, God is saying, “Hey husband, why is your wife laughing at such a wonderful promise? What have you been telling her?”
- Had Abraham deliberately kept God’s promise from her?
- Was his faith so weak that he could not convince his wife?
Somehow he had to give account to God for his wife’s response. I find it most interesting that Sarah’s response mirrored Abraham’s. He had provided the example for her. I personally have met people like this who could barely believe for themselves, much less pull along a “weak believing person”. In other words, their faith was so weak they were more easily pushed down than pulled up!
The words of our Lord speak as loudly to us today as they did to Abraham. “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14a).
Here was the bedrock issue. The only reason for such unbelief was a failure to comprehend God’s ability to work in and through us. This means there was a break down in our comprehension of what God can do through men. For most, the question has never been, “what can God do?” Everyone believes and knows God can do anything. We must personalize that question. “At my current faith level, what can God do through me? Do I personally believe God will powerfully move through me to others?”
This was the heart of the matter. Abraham and Sarah fully believed in their heart they were past the point of producing a miracle baby.
This is a sticking point for many who seek to believe the Lord for a promise. Most believe in God, but many believers have little or no faith in themselves. Fifty years earlier Abraham and Sarah could have easily believed for a child. Why? They were in the possible category. Now, while God was still in the possible category, they had grown into the impossible zone for God to do anything.
God was confronting them for thinking they were beyond living in the miracle zone. Understand, if the matter of having a son was not impossible, the glory for such a miracle would have not have been given to God. The birth would have simply been a product of love.
Now – The delay of Isaac’s birth was intended both to necessitate and to nurture the faith of Abraham and Sarah. God was not trying to torture and frustrate Abraham and Sarah. If God delays a miracle in any way, it only means He wants to develop our spiritual walk. God was not only providing a son, he was creating a “Father of many nations.” Creating a son was easy. Developing a Father of Nations was the difficult part.
Had Abraham and Sarah come to terms with their unbelief and sarcasm they would have grown more quickly in their relationship and faith towards God. It is high time we start getting honest with ourselves and honest with God. We spend so much time “acting spiritual”, we actually begin to believe we are someone spiritually deep.
Sarah lied to God when she said she didn’t laugh. I think she actually believed she didn’t laugh. Sarah did not deny her thoughts, only her actions. Sarah didn’t care what went on inside her mind and spirit. She only cared that others perceived her as having her spiritual act together. How do we know? She only tried to hide the fleshly error, not the heart issue. No one knew how sarcastic she had grown towards the promises of God.
Does anyone know what is really going on in you today? You could be floundering around “big time” spiritually. Your outward actions do not expose the truth. We all must learn to believe the Spirit’s assessment of our lives…not the fleshly hogwash we tell ourselves and others.
I believe God wants to accomplish some big things in our lives. These things can only be accomplished by the Lord working through people of faith so that He might receive all the glory. Have you arrived at the place where your faith is fully available for Him to use?
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Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:6-7
Every hot-hearted seeker of God will build an altar of dedication in their lives. Early on in his walk with God, Abraham learned the benefits of building this type of altar. In order to understand the process of dedication Abraham went through, we need to understand this sacred place called Shechem.
Shechem means “the shoulder – place to carry burdens”. It sits between two mountains, Mount Ebal (Barren) and Mount Gerazim (Fruitful).
I have had the privilege of visiting Shechem. It is now in Palestinian control. It is also the place were the Children of Israel buried the bones of Joseph when they entered the Promised Land. Shechem is seen as the entrance to the Promised Land.
Both Abraham and the Children of Israel carried the burdens of their past into the Promised Land. God wants all of His children free from burdens in order to be blessed with the fruit of the land. Abraham, the Father of Faith, was first to lead us into God’s promises. Abraham came to the place in his life where he was ready to spend time with God and allow the Lord to teach Him His ways.
Every day we must set aside time to come to our personal altar where we read God’s word, worship Him, and pray. Like Abraham, we must have a dedicated place set aside to experience the Lord. Here we will encounter Him afresh and the Lord will teach us His ways.
Do you have a Shechem or Moreh in your life? Where is it? If you don’t have such a time or place, you must purpose to build it now! It must be a quiet, sacred place where you go to experience God. Building an altar of dedication will not happen by itself. The responsibility is yours. Too many people are waiting for the Lord to move, yet they never arrive at Moreh to meet with their Creator upon His altar.
In Genesis 35:4 and Joshua 24:23-26 we learn more about Moreh in Shechem. Jacob buried the family idols at the foot of this same tree by the altar of his grandfather. In addition, the Children of Israel, under the guidance of Joshua, erected a stone of covenant at this same spot and purposed wholly to follow the Lord.
As we come daily to our personal altars the Lord will reveal those “idols” in our lives which need to be buried and forsaken. These are things we have placed before God and interfere with our worship. In these quiet moments at the altar we can bury these idols and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
This altar at Moreh was the same place that Jacob later built a well which existed in Jesus’ time. Do you think this is all an accident? Or is God trying to speak to us? Here Jesus told the Samaritan woman “He was the Living Water.” (see John 4:12, 21-23)
All this began centuries earlier because one man, Abraham, dedicated himself to the Lord and built an altar to God. You too could change the destinies of people’s lives because you sanctified yourself on God’s altar.