Read the Bible-literally?

A comment on my blog post yesterday got me thinking about whether we should read the Bible literally or not?

I wrote a post on this very subject last year looking at one of the Psalms. I hope you find it useful.

andy-brown.org/2020/03/14/read-the-bible-literally-psalm-91-part-1/

June 23 Strengthen me

I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear this today! I hope you enjoy reading it, and that it speaks to you as it did to me.

“Lord, I call to You; come quickly to me.  Hear my voice when I call to You.” “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips…

June 23 Strengthen me

Don’t Speak Out of Your Pain

You have probably heard it said that people don’t always mean what they say when they are angry. Perhaps, you’ve even said things you didn’t mean when emotions were running high? Among other things, I’m quite certain the Apostle Paul had such things in mind when he wrote these words from Ephesians:

Be angry, and don’t sin.” Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath,

Ephesians 4:26 (WEB)

Anger is by no means the only time when need to be careful about our words. In fact, anger is usually a secondary emotion. By this I mean it always follows some other emotional trigger. When someone stands on your foot, you may get angry about it, but the first thing you felt was pain, then anger followed. Similarly, anger can follow on from embarrassment, guilt or emotional pain.

In the midst of significant pain, irrespective of the type of pain or the cause, try not to speak out of that pain. Words that erupt from pain may feel very real indeed, but in the cold light of day, rarely reflect a reality we would be happy with.

As in all other things, Christ is our ultimate example of this. As He faced the biggest trial of His life, and indeed perhaps the biggest trial of all time, He was especially careful about His words. Indeed, there were moments when Jesus simply refused to speak.

Now I have told you before it happens so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world comes, and he has nothing in me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do. Arise, let’s go from here.

John 14:29-31 (WEB)

And similarly, before Pilate:

Immediately in the morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, bound Jesus, carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

He answered, “So you say.”

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they testify against you!”

5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate marveled.

Mark 15:1-5 (WEB)

I cannot begin to imagine what Jesus would have been feeling in these situations, knowing what He was about to face. Were I in His shoes (laughable as it is), what might I have been saying? It seems hugely unlikely that I would have remained silent.

Yet, like a sheep before the shearer, He remained silent (Isaiah 53:7).

We would do well to learn to remain silent in times of great distress or pain. Too often we pour out words that harm ourselves and those around us. Christ did not say one word He did not entirely mean, and none of us can say the same.

I am no psychologist of course, and am certainly not advising you to simply bottle up your feelings and never share them. That’s quite a different and equally dangerous thing. I am merely saying that there is a time to speak, and a time to remain silent. When our emotions are high, when we feel an intense pain or boiling anger, that is probably not the best time to speak, or to discuss with others. Of course, we must find healthy ways of processing our emotions. Anger and pain are debilitating if not properly worked through, but often we require much time or space to do that.

I recently heard someone talking about a time of trauma they went through. They reflected that at the time, and shortly thereafter, they spoke often and loudly about the pain they had been through. Dear friends advised them to be careful about their words during that time, because it was clear their pain was driving what they were saying, rather than any reasoned opinion or thought. The realised this was good advice that they were sorely in need of. It took them a number of years to process what they had been through before they could speak about it with any sense of balance.

If you are not going through a difficult time right now, then please do not dismiss this. IF you are not going through a difficult time at the moment… then just wait! Chances are you will sooner or later, and when you do, don’t speak out of the pain you are feeling then and there.

For more on the power of words, check out my post Words can be Atom Bombs

God bless you!

Reliable

13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest

    is a faithful messenger to those who send him;

    he refreshes the soul of his masters.

14 Like clouds and wind without rain

    is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

Proverbs 25:13-14 (ESV)

Has anyone ever described you as “reliable?” How did that feel? For most of us at least, being called reliable probably isn’t all that much of a compliment. There isn’t anything exciting about being “reliable,” and it probably isn’t the one word most of us would choose to sum up our lives.

Yet God is reliable. And it is something I too strive to be.

These two proverbs were the focus of my Bible study for yesterday, and it got me thinking about the subject of reliability. Few times have I ever heard someone preach on the subject in church, and the most memorable one I can recall is one I heard about excellence (which touched on the same subject).

In verse 13, the proverb compares the cool of the snow in the time of harvest. Now that is not to sy they are hoping for snow while trying to bring in their hard-earned harvest, but uses the picture of cool snow to reflect refreshment. One paraphrase depicts a refreshing drink on ice to communicate refreshment. This refreshment is then likened to a faithful messenger or worker to the his/her master. I suppose good help is hard to find at times, and so it is like a breath of fresh air when we find reliable help.

Verse 14 paints an altogether opposite picture. Like the clouds which promise rain and never deliver, is the one who talks a good game and yet does not come up with the goods. I once heard someone at work described in such terms – “He talks a good game, but I’ve yet to see him kick a football!”

It reminds me of the fig tree in Mark 11 which Jesus cursed. It promised nourishment in the form of fruit by displaying its leaves, and yet, when Christ sought the tasty fruit, it had nothing to offer. Some feel sad for this poor little fig tree which Jesus was seemingly so hard on. However, studying it in context shows that this was a picture of the religious of the day. They boasted of how they followed all the commands and looked the part, yet bore little if any fruit.

We are not to be like this.

As Christians, we must seek to be a totally reliable people who stick to their word. If we say it, then it should be considered done to those who hear us. Far too many of us say things we do not mean or have no intention of doing. This is not right at all.

God never breaks His Word. If He has said it, then we need not doubt it will be fulfilled. He is totally, 100% reliable, and that is exciting! It means that everything He has promised you will be done. That is the difference between biblical hope and the hope of the world. When the world “hopes” it just means that it wishes it was so. Not us! For us, our hope is guaranteed by the promises of God and His Word.

What does that mean for us – His people? I think it means that if we make a commitment, then we must stick with it. I think that it means we need to be very careful about what we agree to, or what we allow others to talk us into.

Psalm 15 says:

in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Psalm 15:4 (ESV)

This phrase “swears to his own hurt” is interesting. I believe it means that a righteous person sticks to their word, even if it hurts them in the long run. Say they commit to helping out at church, and then realise they have double booked themselves and must miss the “must see” sporting event of the year. They stick to their commitment, despite the hurt of missing the game.

The lesson is not to commit, not to agree to build before counting the cost.

Are there examples in your own life where you have made a commitment that you wish you hadn’t? Do you need to see that through now despite regretting it?

The classic example for me is when the children are naughty. In a moment of temper, I say something ridiculous like “You’re grounded for 20 years!” (I exaggerate) and I know I don’t mean it, they know I don’t mean it, and my word is no longer reliable.

Let us not be a people who throw words away without thought. Let each of us mean what we say and say what we mean. Don’t be hasty with your words, and make sure you count the cost before you begin. If someone is pressing you to agree, and you’re just not sure, say so and ask for some time to think it over.

Let our words be few, but let us mean every single one of them.

A Gentle Answer

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)

This particular verse came up in my Bible reading this morning. It may be very familiar to you or perhaps it’s the first time you’ve read it. Either way, there is much wisdom in its words.

A gentle answer can make a huge difference in a single conversation, or an entire relationship. As I note these words, I wonder how many marriages broke down because somebody chose not to give the gentle answer but instead snapped in anger.

This post is for you today. It may only be brief, but it may make a world of difference in your life. If you are not in conflict right now, just wait! Conflict can occur between any two people at any time. If this is not a lesson you need today, then you very well may need it in future. I know that I do!

In the heat of the moment, please pause and take a breath. Before you react angrily, let this scripture come to your mind. A gentle answer is still an answer, and still gives you the right and space to say what you need to say. Saying it in a gentle manner however makes it much more likely that the person you are speaking to will hear you.

I pray that in all of your conversations this week, all your answers will be gentle. Ask God, as I will, to forgive you when your words spill out angrily. Speaking the right words in the right way can change a persons life.

God bless you and your words today.

Words Can Be Atom Bombs

Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.

Proverbs 25:18 (NIV)

You have likely heard the schoolyard or playground phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” But is this true? I think not! Sticks or stones may indeed bruise our body, or in a severe case, break our bones of course but words can wound as well. How many people took a physical beating at one point and are now totally recovered, yet those same people carry deep scars from vicious or poisonous words in their past.

A single fist may bruise an eye, but a single word can start a war if spoken at the right (wrong?) time.

If sticks and stones can break our bones, then words are atom bombs!

The writer of the proverb above likens false testimony to that of real life weapons. He clearly compares clubs, swords and arrows to that of spreading falsities about one’s neighbour. When we hear the word “testimony” we may automatically think of a courtroom. While this is certainly the place to tell the truth, we can give false testimony about our neighbours in any setting. It is every bit as important to be truthful in the court of opinion and on social media as it is in a court of law.

Jesus tells us, in Matthew 12:

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Matthew 12:36 (NIV)

If there was ever a Scripture to make us shudder, then this would be it! We speak often, and how much of it is “empty words”?

The Bible has a huge amount to say about our words, and Proverbs in particular talks of the important of how we speak. James, in the New Testament, is often thought of as the Proverbs of the NT, and he too warns of the power of words. It is hard for me to state how critical this subject is. Jesus was so careful about what He did and did not say, remaining silent at crucial moments.

Although the thought terrifies me, I toy with the idea of recording myself for an entire day and listening back to the conversations I have had. What would that reveal? Would I hear myself building others up and encouraging them? Or would my words be careless, inflicting wounds without thought?

Would you wish to be recorded for a day, and have to listen to it back? Let each of us take an inventory of, not just our words, but our tone as well. Often we communicate more in the way we say things than in what we specifically say. Instead of an entire day, why not just take stock for an hour. Make notes or record yourself, then pray over the results.

Are there words in your past that you deeply regret? Such words cannot be changed, but you can learn these lessons and avoid the dangers in future.

Like the psalmist, ask the Lord to set a guard over your lips.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

Remember, words are atomic bombs that can devastate a life. They are also a wellspring of life that can create and build up.

Watch your words today, and every day! Lord, do help us to speak out only good things to the people in our lives. Guard our mouths so that we utter nothing in anger or haste that will harm and wound. Holy Spirit, watch over our words this day and let them point people to You – in Jesus’ Name! Amen

Say What You Mean (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Say what you mean, and mean what you say

Some say talk is cheap, but actually it can be very costly. How many relationships were ruined after someone said something in anger that they really did not mean. Words can leave deep wounds, yet we seem to respect them so little in our society. A single misplaced tweet can be enough to cause outrage the world over.

Say what you mean. Be clear with your words and make sure everything you say is what you mean. Don’t be hasty and don’t let your temper get the better of you. Better to remain silent that unleash words which cannot be taken back.

Similarly, mean what you say. Don’t be a person without integrity. Do not say one thing and do another. If you make an appointment for 7pm, make sure you are there on time and be a person of your word. If you hit something unexpected that makes you late, call ahead.

Your children remember what you say, and they remember when you don’t keep your word. If you promise to take them out on Saturday, you had better make sure you do. Trust is more easily destroyed than built. One broken promise can devastate trust for a lifetime.

God is the perfect example of this to us. He says precisely what He means, and means every single word He says. There are no broken promises in God; if He has said it, you can consider it done whether you see it yet or not.

My words fall far short at times, but I strive to be a man of my word and to never say a thing I do not mean. I am challenged today, and hope you are too. Let us all come up higher and be people who keep our word.

Preach the Gospel (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Preach the Gospel, and if you have to, use words… let me tell you, you do have to use words!

St Francis is often attributed to having said “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!” There is much truth in this, and our lives and actions should certainly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

I am certain however, that St Francis never intended this phrase to become an excuse not to use words.

While our actions do indeed speak louder than words at times, we must all be ready to speak and proclaim the Gospel of Christ clearly when necessary.

When sharing the Gospel with someone, we may only have at most sixty seconds before they move on, decide they are not interested or want to hear more. We should all rehearse and practise that one-minute Gospel presentation. Don’t stumble over the words in the heat of the moment, have them stored away in your memory so that you can call upon them when needed.

Words without action may be ineffective, as we ought to give people a reason to listen. But actions without words to back them up may not give people a clear understanding of what Jesus has done for us all.

God made the world. We broke it. We deserve punishment for this sin. But God loved us and sent His Son to take the punishment for us. He died on a sinner’s cross, but rose to life again after three days. If we accept Him and put Him in charge of our lives, we can enjoy a new relationship with Him.

Let the world see this in your actions, and tell them what Christ has done!

Quick to Listen (audio)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

James 1:19 (NLT)

A short audio message from Andy about this particular verse considering respectful debate, the General Election and social media.

Never more have we needed this lesson from James!

https://andrewbrown100.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/quick-to-listen-1.m4a



Christ is… Enough?

I’ve been thinking about worship songs recently. In particular, their content and origin.

This began several months ago when singing the song “Christ is Enough for me…” It got me thinking… is Christ really enough? Of course He is, but what I mean is – is enough an adequate term to describe the One Who redeemed us?

Perhaps it’s just semantics, and maybe some feel it doesn’t matter all that much. I understand that, and certainly don’t want to come across as overly picky here. But for me at least, Christ isn’t just enough, He is everything – He is so far above enough that it can’t easily be put into words.

Maybe that’s the point – some of these truths can’t easily be put into words and so writing a worship song isn’t as easy as we might think.

I listened to a discussion the other day about this very subject. This particular group were rather critical of certain well known churches and ministries where many famous worship songs originate. They were especially scathing of Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Bethel.

Similar to my point above, they were disecting the song “Wreckless Love.” A quick examination of the definition of “wreckless” will show you that it really doesn’t apply to God. Again, perhaps it’s just semantics and there is no adequate way to describe God in words, and so, we must make do with the limitations of our language.

Likewise, we often sing about being “desperate for you,” when referring to God. The word desperate comes from the same word as “despair,” and again is not a suitable term for our relation to God.

So, what am I getting at?

Firstly, I think we should be very careful about the words we use, and sing. Words are extremely powerful and important, and I believe have a great impact on us. Many do not respect the power of our words, and yet the Bible teaches very clearly that words have power.

God made the world with His words, and so words can be creative. They can also be destructive too. I’m sure we can all remember a time when someone else’s words cut us deeply, and we still feel those wounds today.

James, in his letter, said this:

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

James 3:4-9 (ESV)

Some very strong words about the power of the tongue.

The point I am making is that the words we sing do matter. And therefore we should choose them carefully.

So what ought we to consider when choosing appropriate worship songs?

Theology

For some it will seem obvious, and for others it may not be something you’ve thought about very much.

The theology of songs matter. Put simply, what we are singing must be biblical and accurate.

The most important thing about a worship song is not a catchy tune, but instead a good sound theology.

For example, a song that pleads with God to forgive us over and over is not good theology. Of course we must seek forgiveness, but once received from God through Christ, we no longer need to plead over and over again.

Think of some of your favourite worship songs, and ask yourself if they are biblical. It may be that you’ve never thought about it before, but we live in a time now where just because someone is singing about God, does not mean it is biblically sound.

Sadly, there are those writing worship songs who do not have a strong grasp of the Bible.

Similarly, there are churches and ministries who have questionable theology and the music coming from them mirror that theology. As mentioned above, there are those who criticise Hillsong and Jesus Culture, and it’s not my intention to comment on that here. But let’s say you did not agree with their stance on certain doctrines. It may be that some of their music reflects those doctrines.

Just be sure of what you believe the Bible says, and try to ensure your music reflects those biblical beliefs.

Romance

Worship is an expression of love – no doubt. It is right for us to love our God and Father. But worship is not romance.

Some songs you hear are more akin to love songs than worship songs. Is that wrong?

We need to be a little careful in this space I believe. While the Bible does use romantic imagery between God and His people, such as the church being the “Bride of Christ,” we need to be clear what we mean by “love.”

We love God, and He loves us. No arguments here. However, it is not accurate to describe this as a romantic kind of love. I grow concerned when I hear certain songs which seem to portray our relationship with God as a romantic one.

Repetition

I once heard someone describe modern worship songs as “7-11” songs – meaning the same seven words repeated eleven times. This was a tongue-in-cheek comment, but has a ring of truth about it.

Are you familiar with the song “Set a Fire” by Jesus Culture? I was humming it the other day and wondering not just about its theology, but also the constant repetition.

The song asks for “more of God,” over and over again. This can be taken two ways. Firstly, I cannot see how God can give us any more than He already has. He gave His Only Son to us that whoever believes in Him will not perish (John 3:16). He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). He has given us His Spirit to dwell in us, His forgiveness, His justification, His redemption, He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, and on and on and on.

Given all of that, can we really ask for “more of God?”

I appreciate that if you accept what I’ve said, then perhaps the song is really asking for God to help us receive more fully the things God has already done. In that sense, I have no issue.

The constant repetition concerns me though. I know I’ve mentioned “Set a Fire,” but don’t want to single that out. There are other similar songs too.

Most songs have a repetition in them, such as a chorus or repeated verse – that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to those songs which repeat short phrases over and over again, in a melodic way.

There is a danger here – either willingly or unwittingly – to wander into Eastern practices.

Hinduism and Buddhism use mantras to “concentrate the mind for meditation.” A mantra is a phrase which is repeated over and over. Rather than increase concentration, it actually dulls the mind.

Singing the same phrase over and over, even if a good one, can have the same effect. Add to that the loud music and flashing lights that often accompanies large worship gatherings now, and we can open ourselves up to risk.

Jesus told us to avoid repetition in prayer:

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Matthew 6:7 (KJV)

Entertainment or worship?

Worship is not entertainment.

As mentioned above, some worship services are more like concerts now. I have no problem with worship being modernised, or the use of instruments, lights and AV, as long as it enhances worship.

Worship can be fun, and at times it absolutely should be! But worship can also be hard. It also can require sacrifice on our part. King David said that he would not give to God that which cost him nothing. Worship can sometimes be costly to us also.

Worship is not about making us feel better, nor about us having a great time. It is not about us at all.

I’m not trying to spoil your fun, nor do I want you to stand motionless in worship singing to a church organ. I just want to highlight the dangers of forgetting what we are there to do.

Give it some thought

There are many songs from many ministries, and we don’t always know where they come from. You could read the above and start crossing out lots of songs, even your favourites perhaps.

The point of this post was not to ruin your favourite worship songs. I just want you to give it some thought.

What we sing does indeed matter. How we worship does matter too. If you are being handed earplugs on the way in, then you have to wonder if worship is the primary focus.

We were made to worship God. Let’s do so appropriately!

Faith and Unbelief

I want to draw this mini series on healing to a close by thinking about a passage from Matthew 17. There is, of course, much more to say about the subject of healing and this was not meant to be an exhaustive study.

One of the major questions people have is, “Why was I not healed when I asked?” Great question! Some will say that it is not always God’s will to heal, in which case, that is one possible answer. I personally don’t hold that view, but understand I am perhaps in the minority.

There are some things we can learn from Matthew 17, which says:

As they approached the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, knelt down in front of him, 15 and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son, because he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. Often he falls into fire and often into water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”

17 Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverted generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me!” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was healed that very hour.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He told them, “Because of your lack of faith. I tell all of you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.”

Matthew 17:14-21 (ISV)

These events happen shortly after the Transfiguration of Jesus. He and the chosen disciples returned from the mountaintop to the unfolding scene described above.

A man approaches Jesus, seeking healing for his son who is described as an epileptic. He had first gone to the disciples, and the text clearly states that they (the disciples) were not able to heal the boy.

Before we dig into this, look at Jesus’ reaction… was He pleased by this turn of events? Clearly not! In fact, He had some rather strong words to say about it.

Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverted generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me!”

Matthew 17:17 (ISV)

Jesus was clearly not impressed with this situation. He did not react with comforting words, or reassure the disciples that it was not their fault. Instead, He rebukes them! Obviously Jesus was here expecting them to be able to minister to this young boy. If not, He would have said so – “Don’t worry lads, this was too difficult for you to achieve. I’ll have to do it myself.” No, instead He criticises them for their unbelief.

Jesus healed the boy immediately. Don’t miss that fact. He clearly wanted this person well, and delivered him from this sickness.

Verse 19 is important. The disciples ask a similar question to what we often ask, “Why couldn’t we heal him?” Or rather, “Why didn’t it work when I prayed?”

The very fact that they asked this question shows that they expected him to recover from this sickness. If they didn’t expect that, then they would have just moved on. It also shows that they had prayed for and healed others, but for some reason this time it had not worked.

What is Jesus’ answer?

He told them, “Because of your lack of faith. I tell all of you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.”

Matthew 17:20-21 (ISV)

Let’s read these same verses in other translations so we get a proper picture.

The NIV says:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, 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.”

Matthew 17:20-21 (NIV)

The ESV says:

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20-21 (ESV)

And the KJV says:

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Matthew 17:20-21 (KJV)

So, put simply, Jesus says you couldn’t heal this boy because of “something”. This “something” is translated slightly differently in the verses above. I think the differences are critical to understanding what Jesus was saying.

The “something” is:

  • Little faith
  • Lack of faith
  • Unbelief

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Little Faith

If this is correctly translated, then I struggle to understand this verse. Jesus says, you couldn’t do it because of your “little faith” and then says, “You only need little faith to move a mountain.” This is an apparent contradiction. On one hand, little faith is not enough and the other it can move mountains.

Lack of faith

This, if correct, makes more sense to me. Jesus says they lacked faith to heal, but points out they only need faith the size of a mustard seed to perform a miracle.

The issue I have with this is reflected in some of the comments I received in earlier blog posts on this subject.

An individual seeks prayer for healing, does not immediately receive it and is then told they “lack faith” for healing. They come away feeling condemned, unworthy and offended. It leaves them in a worse state than they were before.

Let me say this categorically. If you seek prayer for healing, and the individual or church tells you that you lack faith for it, they are letting you down and you should walk away. Such a person is not ministering to you, but judging you. They lack compassion and beyond that, I think they lack understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Am I saying you don’t need faith to be healed? Of course not, clearly having no faith in healing would prevent healing, but that is not the situation above. When a faithful believer seeks healing, they do so “in faith”. If they lacked faith, they would not come forward to ask for prayer in the first place! Something else is happening here.

Unbelief

The KJV translates this as “unbelief” rather than “little” or “lack” of “faith”.

In the Greek, we see that “unbelief” is the word – apistia – and “faith” used here as in “mustard seed sized faith” is – pistis. They are two different words – although clearly connected. This leads me to conclude that actually the KJV is probably the more accurate translation here, and even that “unbelief” is something different to little or no faith.

Many suggest that faith and unbelief are somehow mutually exclusive. If you have faith, then you have no unbelief, and vice versa. I don’t believe this to be true however, and don’t take “unbelief” to mean the same thing as “disbelief”.

In Mark 9, a man approaches Jesus seeking help. Jesus tells him not to doubt, and to only believe.

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Mark 9:24 (KJV)

 

Jesus did not correct this man, saying, “You’ve got it all wrong! You can’t have belief and unbelief at the same time!” So it seems possible to me that we can both believe and “unbelieve” at the same time. That, in my mind, is distinct from “believing” and “disbelieving”, which clearly cannot be done at the same time.

I think that this man believed, but that he also had unbelief. We might use the word “doubt” instead.

It is entirely possible that we should have faith in God, and yet have doubts at the same time. We don’t question God’s existence, or our salvation, but perhaps we do have doubts about God’s will to heal, or our ability to receive. Many feel unworthy and so have faith that God heals, but doubt God heals them.

I believe that a sufficient amount of doubt can hinder our faith. So how do we deal with it?

We lack space here to truly deal with the matter at hand, but here are a few ideas of mine.

Focus on the right things

Our minds generally guide the direction of our lives. IF our minds are focused on the wrong things, then that can certainly increase our doubts. If we focus on the problem, rather than the solution, which is Christ, then we cannot help but have doubts.

If you are seeking healing, are you spending time with Jesus and understanding what His Word says about the subject? Or are you googling the symptoms you have and telling everyone how terrible you feel? Don’t misunderstand, i’m not saying you cannot talk about your problems or gain understanding of things through research, but we must try to do these things in a positive way.

Paul says in Colossi ans 3 that we must keep our minds set on the “higher things” that is, the things that are above and not on the things that are below. I’m not talking about “positive mental attitude” here, as that alone saves no one. Rather, I’m saying we should train our minds to focus on the things of God – His promises – instead of the garbage this world offers.

And finally…

What I have said over the last few posts is by no means definitive evidence of guaranteed healing. Nor was that my intention. The subject of healing is more complex than we have had time to really get to grips with .

Some of you will disagree with much of what I have said, and that’s ok. I, like all of us, am still growing and learning. If nothing else, then I hope that what you have read has given you pause for thought. If you disagree, then that’s fine, but I have tried to evidence my points from the Bible and offer alternatives to the traditional views.

I state simply that I believe God wants His people to be well. The healthier we are, the better we can serve Him. The longer our lives are, the more opportunity we have to share our faith with others. That’s not to say anyone who is sick cannot do these things, but what more could we do if we were not hampered by ill-health.

If nothing else, then please pray about these things and seek the Lord for yourself. Pray for me also, not only that I would have a deeper understand of God and His Word, but that I too may be in good health. Thank you.

Love is a Verb (PoW#16)

Pearl of Wisdom #16

Love is a verb

You have no doubt heard this phrase before, but I think it is worth repeating.

A verb is an action word – it describes something we do. Love should be visible.

It is easy to say the words – “I love you,” but do our actions tell the same story? I can wish you well, hope that things work out OK for you, but if I do nothing to help, then I’ve not really loved you at all.

Being part of a church, I often hear of people praying for one another. If you believe in the power of prayer, then that’s a wonderful thing to do. Sometimes though I fear we are praying to God about things we could take care of ourselves.

If someone is without transport, we don’t need to pray for them, we need to give them a lift. If someone has a sick child or relative, we can provide a meal to give them one less thing to worry about. While doing our own shopping, we can pick up a few things for an elderly neighbour.

Love demands action – what is it demanding of you this week?