Start praying for bigger things…

Dear Children of the Kingdom;

May the grace, mercy and peace of Jesus be with you. As we enter the popular week-end of Easter, with all its festivities and often elaborate church performances, allow me to focus your attention on a more humble, but far more substantial act: Prayer. Prayer is your lifeline to Jesus. Today, I would like to exhort you to make full use of prayer, moving beyond the elementary needs we so often express to God through it. Among those are the need for good health for us and our families, prosperity in all things, and safety.

If your prayers are limited to those elementary things, then you are missing a great deal about what prayer can, and was always meant to provide.

Look at what the Apostle Paul said about Himself and Timothy to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:9,10 – And so, from the day we heard [of your love in the Spirit], we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

What a powerful confession. Paul and Timothy prayed constantly for the Colossians, not for their families, jobs, health, etc. but so that they might filled with the knowledge of God’s will so that they would be able to walk worthy of Him by bearing all the fruits that Jesus and His Father so long for.

You see, this is making full use of what prayer is supposed to be about…Father, cause me to grow in You, that I may fully understand Your Will, so that I will be bearing all of those fruits You so desire!

The secret of a deep relationship with Christ, the secret for abounding in all those fruits Jesus look for, is prayer. It is not your many acts of charity, it is not your bible study, it is not your observance of the Sabbath, it is not your tithing, and it might not even be what role you will play at your church’s Easter performance. Any of those things could be fine. But they amount to nothing unless you have a real relationship with the One who is our very lifeline…Jesus. And not just prayer, but what you pray for, is the greatest instrument yet given to us to grow in that intimate relationship. For that kind of prayer can only be made by a heart that really loves.

Does not the word say…

1 Corinthians 13:1 – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Do not be satisfied with where you are in your spiritual journey. Instead, continue to strive to know Your Lord more, to know the Father more. Pray for bigger things. I say, Pray! Seek bigger things, spiritual and eternal things. Can you imagine for a minute the joy of God our Father when He hears such prayers? Can you imagine the joy of our Lord Jesus when He hears that what you really want is to be just like Him and spent time with Him?  As you first seek the Kingdom of God, did not Jesus promise that all your needs will be met (Matthew 6:33)?

As we celebrate the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus this Easter, let us strive to honor Him, not just with our words and performances, but with our heart.

May you therefore be encouraged to start praying for bigger things…

May Jesus be glorified in our lives, today and forever.

Amen.

True, Tongues Shall Cease. But Have They Already?

untitledThe topic of the “Speaking in Tongues” is way too vast to address in one article. And even if we wanted to do it, we would not be able to, because I for one do not understand everything about it. But we believe that the question of whether tongues have already ceased or are still available to Christians today can be answered in one article, and with a fair amount of certainty. Here is the key verse, the source of all controversy:

1 Corinthians 13:8 – Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

It is without question true that not only tongues, but also prophecies and knowledge will cease and vanish away. So the only question that truly remains is

When will all these ceasing take place?

The context provides a definite answer to this question.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 – Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

God tells us exactly when this will take. It is when that which is perfect has come. You and I will agree that the only perfect One is our Lord Jesus-Christ. At the time of Paul’s writings to the Corinthians, Jesus-Christ had already come the first time, was crucified, was resurrected, and then was seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 8:1). And we can also agree that He is still there today because He has not returned yet (otherwise, we must have missed the memo!). When He returns, there will be no more need for tongues, prophecies and knowledge because He, the perfect One, will be here Himself.

Speaking in Tongues_2

There is no need for an ambassador when the president is around himself. But when the president is not around, the ambassador, who represents him, testifies that he (the president) exists. Likewise, the Spirit we have received from Jesus-Christ testifies of Him (John 15:26). But when Jesus-Christ is here Himself, there will be no more need for any testimony from anyone…He will be here Himself!

Verse 12 further confirms that the time for tongues, prophecies and knowledge to cease has not yet arrived.

1 Corinthians 13:12 – For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

It is quite evident that today, we do not know the same way we are known of God. God and Jesus-Christ know us better than we know them. Therefore, verse 12 is still the present. We know in part, we do not know everything, and we certainly do not see face to face. That is the case because that which is perfect (Jesus-Christ) has not yet come (His second coming, and everything this second coming implies for us).

Conclusion: Therefore, it seems to us that the logical conclusion from the scriptures is that not only speaking in tongues, but also prophecies and knowledge have not ceased. If one maintains that tongues have ceased, then such should confess that prophecies and knowledge have ceased as well. But how can our God allow for knowledge to cease?! It is precisely the lack of knowledge that destroys His people (Hosea 4:6), so He (God) will never allow such things. Those things will stop when His Christ, Himself, is here! So now, the who, where, when and how  of speaking in tongues are a different matter. We should endeavor not to be stuck in our ways, which is the hallmark of pride, and instead endeavor to study the scriptures and voluntarily submit ourselves to what God is telling us, at least to the best of our understanding.

To God, His majesty, and to His Son Jesus-Christ, be the Glory for all Eternity! Amen.

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.

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 1 of 7)

mountain_peak_at_sunset-wideMatthew 17:20 – 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.” [New International Version (NIV)]

It can be argued that this statement made by Jesus-Christ is one of, if not, the greatest statement ever made about faith. With it, we can move mountains! That is certainly some power that God has placed at our disposal. The issue at hand however is on the kind of faith that can help us move mountains. Is it really a faith as small as a mustard seed? The short answer to this question is NO! The next few articles will be dedicated to this topic.

Argument 1: It is a matter of Bible translations, and here…it really matters!

Here is the same verse in two other popular Bible translations: The King James Version (KJV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Matthew 17:20 (KJV) – 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.

Matthew 17:20 (NASB) – And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

It is clear that while the NIV and NASB make explicit reference to the size of the mustard seed, which is very, very small, the KJV does not. However, what is very interesting is that in the Greek texts, neither the word size nor the word small appears in this verse. In other words, the NIV and NASB added these words, while the KJV left this verse intact. Another example is in Luke 17:6, where Jesus-Christ gives another teaching that is very similar to the one in Matthew.

Luke 17:6 (KJV) – And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

Again, in this verse, the NIV added the word small (“…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…”). However – and interestingly – the NASB did not add the word size as it did in Matthew (“…If you had faith like a mustard seed…”). Why such inconsistency in the NASB, especially since the teachings of Jesus-Christ in Matthew 17 and here in Luke 17 are essentially the same?

The important question is therefore whether the three versions (KJV, NIV, and NASB) are essentially saying the same thing. The short is answer is NO! As will be argued, adding either size or small changes entirely the message of Jesus-Christ.

It is a good idea to have several Bible versions and compare them as often as possible to detect any potential error in translation.