Six dangers to your spiritual life (Part 1 of 6)

This series is about recognizing six very real and common dangers to our spiritual growth**. This said, that these dangers actually exist is not something to be afraid of. Hey, that is the world we live in! And that one falls into their traps is not the biggest matter either. The biggest matter – which can sometime be a matter of life and death – is what one does (or does not) in the presence of these dangers. And that is precisely why it is important that we learn to recognize them.

Hosea 4:6 – My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…

The lack of knowledge, the knowledge of God’s will and intent for our lives, is the deadly enemy of men. It is the lack of knowledge that destroys man. Knowledge, on the contrary, preserves life.

Ecclesiastes 7:12 – For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors.

Money may protect, but it does not preserves life (now…that’s deep!). On the contrary, knowledge, by virtue of wisdom, does. The dangers to our spiritual lives are all linked to “knowledge”. Therefore, the central question should be “what causes us to lack in that knowledge which preserves life?” Whatever is preventing someone from acquiring that knowledge of God’s will and intent for his or her life is, in essence, the danger that person is facing. And the six dangers to be discussed in this series deserve special attention for four reasons:

They are everywhere: Most of us will identify with at least one of them at some point in our lives. They are subtle: Some of them may appear completely harmless or even Godly.
They are often hard to overcome: Once (or if) recognized, some may take the rest of one’s life to overcome. Yes, they can be that dangerous. They are experienced, particularly, by Christians themselves.

Danger 1: I do not understand the Bible

This is perhaps the most obvious of the six dangers. If you do not understand a source of knowledge, then you simply cannot acquire knowledge from that source. If I do not understand an article’s description of a new drug and its interaction with the human body, then I certainly cannot gain any knowledge regarding that drug from that article. If an instructor tries to teach me in a language I do not speak, I will certainly not learn anything from him or her, regardless of how much knowledge he or she is trying to impart unto me. There is simply no knowledge without understanding.
In the case of the Bible, it may appear to you that it is full of contradiction. It may not seem to apply to you, or to your particular situation. You may want to believe that it is truly God who is the author of that Book, but you just can get yourself to be convinced of it. You do not know where to start, or where to finish. A lot of people you know always proclaim God’s goodness but you just can’t see it in your own life, and sometimes even in theirs.
Now, not understanding is really not a danger in itself. But when one does not do anything about it, then we have a real danger. Here is the attitude we should have.

Psalm 119:27 – Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders.

Many men and women before you were exactly where you are now; simply not understanding the Bible. These people, just like you, did not always understand everything. But God knew it just as He knows that you and I do not always understand what we read in the Bible (His Word). However, among them, some did not stand still; instead they asked God for the ability to understand.

Matthew 7: 7-9 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

The reality is, there is probably nothing else in this entire world that you can possibly ask God that will make Him happier than asking Him to understand His Word. Therefore, know that if you “really” want to understand the Bible, “you” should ask Him, and He will do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

Jesus-Christ said that His sheep will recognize His voice. “You” are recognizing His call, and you can respond. It is possible to understand the Bible. And this is one of the greatest requests you can ever make to God. And it is one God is most pleased to grant. Follow the good examples before you: Ask God!

**This series is a revised and expanded version of the article “Six evils of men posted which was posted in July 2011

Are you a “Time” dealer? (Part 2 of 2)

Here, we are seeing that one of the key traits of wise people – wise according to God that is – is their ability to seize every opportunity to change into a Godly moment what is by default an evil moment during the day. You may click here for Part 1.

Ephesians 5:15,16 – See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [King James Version]

“Time” here is not any kind of time: Every piece of “time” during your day is a good deal!

Here, the Greek word translated “time” (kairós) is only one of several Greek words translated “time” in the Bible. But the fact that it is this word kairós that is used here is very, very interesting! Kairós is very specific in that it refers not to any time, but to the right time, or the right moment. For example, it is often used to describe the time a tree is ready to bear fruits. There is a set time for that each year, and any other time is just not the right one to bear fruits.  Now, verse 16 states that the days are evil. So you when we buy time, we are essentially transforming an otherwise evil moment into a Godly one. And from kairós, we may understand that every moment in the day is the “right” moment to buy!

We believe an acceptable paraphrase could be…every moment is a good time to transform into a Godly one and one should, each time, endeavor to do this transformation, because otherwise, all the days are evil ones.

“Buying time” is really the “essence” of our ministry

The only other places where we are asked to redeem something – and that something being time – is in Colossians 4:5. And here, the notion of seizing every opportunity to turn an evil moment into a Godly one is repeated here. But here the focus is on our walk with the intention of gaining others.

Colossians 4:5 – Walk in wisdom toward them that are without redeeming the time

So what we see from these two passages is that to wisdom – both in our own personal walk, and toward outsiders  – reduces to the practice of redeeming the time.

So, are you a time dealer?

What God asks us to buy, time, is available everywhere, and…dare we say, every time. That is because in this day and age, days are evil. Every moment of time is an opportunity for us to seize, either to better ourselves with Christ, or to help someone with Christ. But it is our choice and therefore our privilege to decide just how we are going to that. And there are as many ways as there are individual personalities among God’s children. It is exactly in the How we are choosing to do this that the beauty – and the reason – behind our individual differences is best manifested and understood. And one thing is sure; when we do it, we are actually doing what God is asking us to do. And knowing that is worth its price in gold!

Are you a “Time” dealer? (Part 1 of 2)

imagesCA647KE9Here, we shall see that one of the key traits of wise people – wise according to God that is – is their ability to seize every opportunity to change into a Godly moment what is by default an evil moment during the day. This is what spiritual maturity means. And this spiritual maturity manifests itself both in our personal walk, and in our ministry (i.e. preaching Jesus-Christ). Jesus-Christ always did what His Father, our God, asked Him to do. Unfortunately, that included also for Him to literally give up His life…and He actually did it. To say that it was a difficult task is probably the understatement of the millennium! But this is how He had to demonstrate His unwavering love for God, doing nothing but what He was asked to do. Well, what about us? As children of God, what exactly is asked of us? In this article we shall see that what God is really asking us to do is to be experts at buying time! We, just like Jesus-Christ, should also demonstrate our unwavering love for our God, and there is one and only one way to do it: to do what He is asking us to do.

Ephesians 5:15,16 – See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [King James Version]

In God’s eyes, a wise person is one who walks circumspectly, or “carefully”. The verb “See” in verse 15 is in the present imperative active form, which simply means that what is stated is a “command” (i.e. that’s imperative part) that each of us “individually” (i.e. that’s the active part) must carry “continually” (i.e. that’s the now, always in the present part). In other words, we must always walk carefully. But what does than mean? Verse 16 actually explains it.

But first, let us keep in mind that this section is addressed to those who are already children of God (see Ephesians 1:1). Therefore, this section is about our individual responsibility as children who are dear to God (see Ephesians 5:1). Put it yet another way, these two verses are about what it really means to be in Christ! It is a privilege to receive a commandment from God, as it is very much proof that we are His and that He cares for us. God sets expectations for His children, as members of His family…“as my child, this is what I expect of you”. Yes, as a member of the family, you have a clear set of responsibilities?

Now, to verse 16. There are at least two keywords in this passage: “Redeeming” and “time”.

“Redeeming” means “Do not pass on a good deal!”

In God’s eyes, to be wise is actually to be in the business of purchasing time, whenever an opportunity presents itself.  The Greek verb translated “redeeming” here (exagorazó) actually differs quite significantly from another Greek verb (Lutroó) which is also translated the same way in other places. Exagorazó places special emphasis on the fact of seizing an opportunity to purchase something whenever the opportunity presents itself. In other words, this verb invites us to learn NOT to pass on a good deal when we see one! This verb is used four (4) times in the New Testament. In two of them (here and in Colossians 4:5) what is to be purchased is “time”, and the purchasers are supposed to be “us”, God’s children. The other two times, it is “us” who are purchased (from the curse of the law) and the purchaser is Christ (Galatians 3:13 and Galatians 4:5).

In other words, God is telling us to seize every opportunity to buy TIME.

As a note, Lutroó has a much different focus. It is often used to highlight the cost of a purchase, and in many instances, it is used to highlight what was the cost of our redemption, which was the blood of Christ. The fact is that it was very costly to God (actually, the life of His Son) to purchase us back (see Titus 2:14 and 1 Peter 1:18,19)…and He did it.

Therefore, on one hand, we are speaking of jumping on a good deal when we see one (that’s not so bad…actually that can be quite good!), while on the other we are speaking of a price to pay (often a big one…hum, not so enjoyable, but that’s not our part!).

The fact that it is the act of catching good deals (Exagorazó) that is emphasized, rather than the price of the deal (Lutroó) indicates that God’s commandment to us is not a burden, like it was for Jesus-Christ. In Part 2, we shall see how those good deals – units of times – are actually all over the place.

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 7 of 7)

Peak-Of-The-Matterhorn-MountainWe have an invitation from God

The truth probably is…your faith is larger than a mustard seed, Thank Goodness! No matter where, your diligence to follow God has not been in vain…but God is also inviting you to continue in your growth!

Matthew 17:20 (NIV) – 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.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read Part 6.

This series provided some arguments as to why Matthew 17:20 makes reference to the magnificent faith the mustard seed has, rather than to its smallish size. To move a mountain, one must have a strong faith, and God says it plainly. That kind of faith is completely devoid of doubt. The words small, or size (depending on the Bible translation) were added in the NIV and NASB versions of the Bible respectively. And it was argued in this series that these additions cause Jesus-Christ to contradict Himself right there in this verse, as well as elsewhere in His other teachings. The teachings from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians confirms that moving mountains requires the greatest of faith, not the smallest. Many examples in the Bible – among whom Abraham’s belief for a son – clearly speak of people who had strong faith. These examples certainly sound like that the faith these men and women displayed were larger than a mustard seed. It was then argued that the implication of this erroneous teaching could be devastating.

The fact is that God does invite us to build a faith that is whole, complete, a completely free of doubt! The very fact that some can pray and believe today without a doubt for some situations is proof that those individuals have at least some faith. Also, today some are able to believe without a doubt for bigger things than the they did in the previous year. This is indication that their faith has grown! Our faith grows after each victory, and our faith grows when we spend time with God, because by doing such we get acquainted to His will and His abilities.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 – We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

God is encouraging us to continue building our faith, by telling us what kind of miraculous feat we can achieve with it! Let’s strive to believe what God says, and nothing but what He says. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, so let’s ask God to tell us where we can hear His Word. He will answer us!

Your faith is larger than a mustard seed. But believe God to bring your faith to much greater heights, so that you can remove mountains!

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 6 of 7)

mountain_peak_at_sunset-wideMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – 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.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the fifth argument.

The takeaway:  Jesus-Christ’s statement in Matthew 17:20 is about how powerful we can be, not how weak we are!

Adding either of the two words, small or size to Jesus-Christ’s statement in Matthew 17:20, completely falsifies the Word of God. It does so by shifting our attention away from the kind of faith the mustard seed possesses, and placing it instead on the size of the mustard seed. By shifting our attention to the size of the mustard seed, Jesus-Christ is made to say that all we need in life to overcome even the biggest of challenges is nothing but the smallest of faith.  What a LIE! How many lives has this lie destroyed? Every day, many people face challenges they are unable to overcome. Yet they pray, and continue to pray! They give and continue to give. They attend church and speak to their pastors. But what they are being told instead is that they do not even have the smallest of faith, because if they did, the challenge would have already vanished away. How discouraging must it be to live with the thought that despite your best effort to please God, in His eyes, you are still faithless! Is that the God we know and love?

The TRUTH is that Jesus-Christ is teaching us about what we can achieve when we do not pay attention to the circumstances, and when we do not pay attention to our “apparent” shortcomings. The mustard seed may be small, but the mustard seed does not let its size dictate what it will achieve. The mustard seed has learned to believe without doubting, and as a result is able to achieve the unimaginable. Only with such kind of faith can the mustard seed develop into something as a great as a mustard tree. Jesus-Christ is telling us “Look, learn to trust in me. Do not let your “apparent” weaknesses fool you. With me, you can achieve the greatest of things, but you have to believe!” Look at Abraham:

Romans 4: 19-21 – And being not weak in faith, he [Abraham] considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

How can one describe a faith that is a small as mustard seed strong? That kind of faith is weak! Abraham was not weak in faith. Abraham had to be strong in faith, fully persuaded. Abraham was not worried even though he was already an hundred years old. Abraham had learned to trust God. That is the kind of faith Abraham had to build to see the promise come to pass in his life.

God is not here to condemn us, telling us that our faith is even smaller than a mustard seed. No, He is here to encourage us, telling us how far we can go. Now, that is motivation to grow our faith!

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 5 of 7)

500px-HIGHROCKMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – 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.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the fourth argument.

Argument 5: The faith which removes mountains is described as “all faith by the Apostle Paul

Another argument can be made from one of the teachings of the Apostle Paul, where he describes the kind of faith that is required to remove mountains:

1 Corinthians 13:2 – And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

The Apostle Paul describes this kind of faith as all faith, or faith in its whole, complete form. Bringing together Jesus-Christ’s statement in Mark, and Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians, we see that the kind of faith required to move mountains, is devoid of doubt and is complete! This is quite different from a faith that is as small as a grain of mustard seed which – in contrast – would be riddled with doubt, and would certainly be incomplete!

Let’s face it. The reality is that moving a mountain is great, challenging feat. And rightfully so, it requires a sizeable amount of faith. It simply goes again logic to believe that the tiniest of faith (which, frankly is probably not too hard to have) is sufficient to overcome the biggest of challenges. To represent such faith as small as the size of a mustard seed is to twist the truth, and we believe, grossly misleading!

There truly is a great message Christ is giving us here, but it is certainly not the one that some of the bible translations such as the NIV and NASB are implying.  All that was needed to change the meaning of Matthew 17:20 was adding a little, seemingly innocent – and dare we say…appealing – word (small or size). As will be argued in the concluding parts of this series, this is a case of private interpretation gone seriously wrong.  


Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 4 of 7)

Peak-Of-The-Matterhorn-MountainMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – 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.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the third argument.

Argument 4: This is what Jesus-Christ taught: the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but has the greatest of faith!

There are three other places where Jesus-Christ uses the mustard seed to illustrate a point. There, He uses it to describe the kingdom of heaven. Those references give us a clear understanding as to why the mustard seed is such a great example of the power of faith.

Matthew 13: 31, 32 (KJV) – Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Mark 4: 30-32 (KJV) – And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

Luke 13: 18-20 (KJV) – Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it…

These three records shed lights on what Jesus-Christ is bringing our attention to whenever He speaks of the mustard seed: The mustard seed, despite being the smallest of all seeds turns into the greatest of herbs, even to the point of becoming a tree. When these passages are taken together with Matthew 17: 20, Mark 11: 22-24 and Luke 17: 6 discussed in the previous articles on this series, it is clear that it is the faith of that seed, not the size of that seed which enables it to accomplish such a great feat. The mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, has the greatest faith among all seeds.

Matthew 17:20 is not about a faith the size of a mustard seed (which is “very” small), but a faith like the one of the mustard seed (which is “very” great).

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 3 of 7)

mountain_peak_at_sunset-wideArgument 3: Adding the words “small” or “size” to Matthew 17:20 causes Jesus-Christ to contradict himself in his teachings elsewhere.

Mark 11:22-24 – And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

Matthew 17:20 (NIV) – 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.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the second argument.

In Mark 11, Jesus-Christ describes again the power of faith as the power to move mountains. However, here we find an additional important peace of information: The person shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass. In other words, the faith required to move mountain is the one in which the man does not doubt. How is this kind of faith, one that is completely devoid of doubt, be the size of a grain of mustard seed? If indeed that faith is only as big as a grain of mustard seed, what kind of things would we be able to do with say, a faith the size of a watermelon? May be fly? Move the sun 50 degrees to the right in the morning and 23.5 degrees to the left in the afternoon? Breathe like a fish and stay under water for months at a time? To move a mountain certainly sounds like the biggest challenge one can ever have, so why would anyone ever wants to strive for a larger faith?

Jesus-Christ cannot be contradicting Himself. When He said…faith as a grain of mustard seed to move a mountain, that is what He meant. And when He said that one should not doubt in order to move a mountain, that is what He meant. The faith of a mustard seed is one that does not doubt.

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 2 of 7)

500px-HIGHROCKMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – 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.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the first argument.

Argument 2:  Adding the words “small” or “size” to Matthew 17:20 causes Jesus-Christ to contradict himself right here in this very verse

The KJV, NIV and NASB all agree with the Greek texts when it comes to how Jesus-Christ describes whom He is speaking to: He saw them as people of little faith. The Greek word translated unbelief (KJV), little faith (NIV) or littleness of your faith (NASB) is the word oligópistos, formed from olígos, meaning “little in number or low in quantity” and pístis, meaning “faith”.

Jesus-Christ is describing these people as people of little faith, not people of no faith. Furthermore, Matthew 17: 16, 19 tell us that these were disciples of Jesus-Christ.

Matthew 17: 16 and 19 – “…I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”…Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

As disciples, followers of His teachings, these people must have had some faith. This is also evident by the fact that they were surprised that they were not able to cast the demon out (Matthew 17:19). They must have had some faith if they thought they could cast a demon! May be because they had done it before…?

Therefore, if Jesus-Christ acknowledges that his disciples had some faith (although little), how can He at the same time imply they had no faith (their faith is not even the size of a mustard seed, which is sufficient to move even mountains)? This certainly appears like the kind of contradictory statement that would leave anyone scratching his or her head!

We believe that Jesus-Christ implied just that – that their faith was insufficient. But He certainly did not mean to say that their faith was smaller than even the tiniest of seeds…which would mean non-existent.