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Mustard-seed

I read these words the other day: Doubt does not discredit faith – disbelief does.

If we’re being truly honest, I hazard it’s impossible to be human and live without doubt. For some, the admission of doubt may seem unholy. I prefer to think that it’s impossible to have faith without it. Indeed there would be no need. But we mustn’t confuse doubt with disbelief. If, on occasion, we are assaulted with uncertainty, it doesn’t equate to a complete lack of faith.

I love this passage where a father brings his son to Jesus to be healed. The father’s honesty is striking:

…the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

~ Mark 9:24

His words seem so contradictory, but we can just as easily echo his sentiment. We believe not because we have all the answers, not because all the things of God make perfect sence, or because we have seen Him with our own eyes. We believe because we came to a point that disbelief was no longer an option. That enough of this love story stretched across the dividing line between reason and experience and penetrated our hearts, that whatever else was left (the doubt) became secondary. Then, we leaped from disbelief to faith.

For some, that leap requires much more effort. The gap to God can seem so vast. It’s often blockaded not only with a plethora of doubt, but others things too. Things like hurt, pain, pride, reason, disillusionment, and distortions of God’s true character. It makes finding – and often keeping – faith an extraordinary act of will. But it took more than that. It took an extraordinary act of love.

Jesus broke through the hurt, the pain, the pride, human reason, disillusionment, distortion and doubt to reach us. Into all the confusion, He injected love. Love so pure, so real, so sweet and unconditional that our hardened hearts and stiff resolve softened. All the things that seemed so dear, so certain, so important, paled in significance. That’s where faith had a fighting chance.

It didn’t mean we had all the answers, but rather that what we did have was enough. Enough to understand the truth of our circumstance and what could be done about it. And so, with our mustard seed faith, we reached out to the open arms that were there long before we were: arms extended on the cross, and then wide and waiting with massive expectation. All at once we were enfolded, engulfed, consumed, and filled.

It didn’t mean that we would never doubt again, that we had all the answers, that our faith was rock solid, or we ourselves were unshakable. It didn’t mean that some circumstances wouldn’t bring us to our knees, or to the brink of a darkness so complete our eyes of faith grew dim. It simply meant that, at one point, we began a journey by placing our trust in the One who can be trusted. It meant that ever since, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) by putting one foot in front of the other to find firm ground beneath our feet, even when we can’t see one foot ahead.

Some questions will be answered. Others will remain a mystery this side of heaven and preside in the wobbly area of faith. Even now, we may have doubts, questions, and confusion, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have faith. It means we require it. It means if we don’t let it go, our faith will grow.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 

 

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  1. In what ways has your faith been tested? What has made it stronger?
  2. It’s okay to doubt. God is not threatened by our doubts and questions. Bring them to Him knowing some will be answered and others will require faith this side of heaven.

 

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Right before the Canada Day long weekend, along with a sizeable crowd of hardcore people, I completed an exercise challenge called Rebellion. At the party to celebrate our achievement, I bought this t-shirt. The saying on the front resonates with me. The two obvious reasons are that it includes words from Canada’s national anthem (the country of which I officially became a citizen 33 years ago), and secondly, by working out and completing the challenge, I grew stronger and free from indulgences that might otherwise keep me off track. But a less obvious and deeper meaning for me began 29 years ago at age eighteen. Read the rest of this entry »

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People who are mad at God aren’t always truly mad at God – they’re angry at a person or system linked to God.

That system or person failed them in some way, and because it somehow represented God to them, they transfer ownership for the wrongdoing to God. Even though God didn’t deal the blow, He’s been made responsible for it.

Disillusioned, the wounded leave the faith and walk away from God, carrying deep pain and anger with them for years. What’s sad about this misrepresentation is they miss the true nature of God.

Religious systems and religious people are imperfect. They fail. They sin. The sin harms. The harm hurts. The hurt runs deep.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been hurt in this way, I want to say sorry on behalf of the people who caused you harm. But I also want to encourage you that they are not God. God is love and His love never fails (1 John 4:8; Psalm 136). Although you may feel you want no part of God if this is how He looks, don’t mistakenly bundle God’s infallible character with the flawed character or behaviour of human beings.

What they said or did, or failed to say or do, is no reflection of the true nature of God. I hazard a guess that God is deeply saddened when people leave Him on account of people. He understands this kind of pain and is likewise pained when His relationship with those who have been wounded is fragmented. He offers healing, counsel, direction, and the gifts of deep love, joy, and peace; being severed from Him doesn’t afford these pleasures.

Sometimes the anger toward God isn’t misplaced. Instead, the wounded one isn’t mistakenly blaming God but rather asking why God let it happen. As difficult as this is to absorb, we’re not often privy to these kinds of answers. Sometimes, we merely need to trust. That’s where faith comes in.

Can you believe in a God who doesn’t always tell you why? Who allows hurts this side of heaven? Who isn’t a divine Genie? Bad stuff happens to good and “bad” people alike. We aren’t living in heaven…yet. We just have to trust, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time…Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:8-10 (Message)

Let’s not make it about people, but about God. He’s trustworthy, perfect, and loves us unconditionally. Let Him heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

May you have the courage to trust God despite the wounding.

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  1. Make a list of those who have wounded you.
  2. Can you forgive them one-by-one? Can you forgive God for allowing it? Return to God and ask for forgiveness for your anger, knowing He is quick to forgive, then rest in Him believing it’s done.

 

 

 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecc 3:11

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We live in a 130 year-old home. There is a great deal of maintenance needed to keep it in decent repair. It seems there is always something in need of attention: some wood rotting here, some paint peeling there, or chips requiring touch ups on the wide baseboards. Our old home is never in perfect condition!

Which rather reminds me of life.

In my experience, there is always something falling out of place or already in need of repair! The trouble is, we live in a world that whispers we need to have life figured out and have it all together. It tells us we need to make plans and goals and make them happen. That we need to somehow strive but also be centered.

But what would happen if we began to think that instead of things falling out of place, they are actually falling into place? That the parts in need of repair aren’t something to bemoan, but instead celebrate that we’re under construction. What would happen if instead of being centered, we make Christ the center? Instead of comparing, we grow grateful for what we’ve been given and trust God will meet all our needs according to His riches? And instead of frustrating ourselves with the pursuit of perfection, we rest and accept that God will make all things beautiful – even the messes.

Because here’s the truth: God made you, He loves you, and there isn’t a thing you could do at this moment to make Him love you any more or less than He already does. You might not feel like it, but, thanks to Jesus, you are already perfect in God’s sight.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”

Hebrews 10:14

God sees us as perfect, but I love the rest…we are being made holy.

That explains the messiness.

God sees you as perfect, but loves you so much that He is willing to lead you to further beauty. A fancy word for that is sanctification. If we are in Christ, we are being made more Christ-like. This means the rough and rotten bits are being removed and repaired. That can be painful and discouraging. It can look messy and unkempt. It may appear that things are falling apart. But take heart, it’s your loving Father at work doing what He does best.

You know, if you look at our house from the street, you can’t see the paint chips and rotting bits. Like your life, take a few steps back, try to see it more as God does, and things will look a lot more beautiful.

May you find courage today to embrace and celebrate God’s handiwork in your life!

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  1. In what areas of your life might God be at work?
  2. Can you follow Him as He leads you through the mess and out the other side to beauty?

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ~ Deuteronomy 33:27

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A friend of ours has his own carpet cleaning business. Sometimes he posts pictures or videos of the disasters he has to clean up (think flooding from a burst sewage pipe). It helps that he has a sense of humour – wading through fecal matter requires that kind of character and internal fortitude!

How do we respond in the midst of life’s messes? How do we react when the floods come and the water grows murky? It’s easy to buy into the lie that if you are a good Christian, you’ll simply pull on your rubber boots and dance through the dung. Or you may believe the opposite – that it will never get cleaned up. But don’t.

It’s true that swimming in rising water is exhausting, and sometimes circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. People sinning really does hurt. Sickness is daunting. Loosing a loved one can bring us to our knees.

But during, or even after a crisis, take comfort in these:

1. God never leaves you or turns away from you. 

Be strong and courageous, Do not be terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. ~ Deut 31:6

God is not mad at you. He has not turned his back on you. Nothing you can do, or fail to do, will make Him love you any more or less. He is there for you with open arms. You are accepted.

2. No matter where you are or what is happening, God loves you and desires an intimate relationship with you. 

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear. ~ Isa 65:24

Just knowing God longs to be with us gives us hope and courage. Being with Him reminds you of who you are. And you are loved by Him! Sit with Him and your soul and spirit will be revived and renewed.

3. You can tell God all about it. Your disappointments, your feelings of betrayal, your deep wounds, your broken heart. He knows anyway. He won’t judge; He’ll heal you.

Cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. ~ Psalm 55:22

God wants to carry your burdens for you. It is not His desire that you struggle alone. So go ahead and pour out your heart to Him. Hand over your heavy weights and grow lighter and more free.

4. He can give you the strength to forgive. 

Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~ Eph 4:32

Forgiveness is tough. It’s a journey. It takes diligent effort. It can’t be done on our own strength without God’s help. When we understand how much we have been forgiven, when we agree with God’s plan for forgiveness, we can accept His help to forgive.

5. It’s never too late. When you turn to God, He will restore and redeem all that you thought was lost.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; He’ll have compassion on you; He’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, our God, will get you out of there…He will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God… ~ Deut 30:3-6

Sometimes we think a circumstance, a situation, a relationship, or our life is beyond broken. Don’t believe it. God can do anything! It may not look the same, may never be the same, but God has a way of restoring lives beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.

6. You can exchange anxiousness for thankfulness.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~ Phil 4:6

Try giving thanks in the midst of crisis. Thankfulness doesn’t mean denying that what you are going through doesn’t exist, but rather the proclamation that God is good and there is always something to be grateful for.

7. You will come to deeply understand the goodness of God.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ Psalm 106:1

Those who have walked through crisis, and hung on to their mustard seed faith with whitened knuckles, know beyond a doubt that their God saw them through it and never ceased to help and love them.

8. You will come to live in His abundance. 

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

It’s true, after the crisis, nothing will look the same. The past is gone, but God miraculously makes things new. He heals and helps your heart align with His. Your desires begin to line up with His and you begin to recognize His overflowing goodness and love, even in the midst of the circumstances, but especially when you look back on them.

Don’t give up or give in! These present trials will not remain forever, but you can be sure God’s love for you always will!

I bless you that you will know that God is with you no matter what!

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  1. Which of the above truths resonate most fully with you? Which one the least?
  2. Ask God to help you grow toward greater freedom and understanding in your areas of doubt or struggle.

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