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“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the work themselves”. John 14:11

“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

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  Luke 18:17

It is said that we live in an information age and I would agree with that.  Of course, as with any concept or slogan, we have to define terms.  Is it that there is more information out there?  Is it that we have more access to the information in ever increasing speedier avenues?  The short answer is yes; yes to both.  Let’s define information.  Is information, facts, statistics, opinions, perspectives, data, impressions?  Again, yes.

I’ve been reading some books that, among, other things detail the development of the internet.  One of the interesting aspects of the majority of early designers and developers of the internet was their vision for its use.  Many of those people felt that the internet would become a tool where the freer flow of ever greater amounts of information would allow a greater connectivity between users.  The end goal of the increased connectivity and greater sharing of larger amounts of information, was to enhance decision making.  The internet pioneers saw decision makers having more and better information at their disposal, allowing them to, not only see, but purposely analyze and incorporate the varied information into a vastly more accurate and positive decision outcome.  Hmmm.  I’ve also read some recent articles from some of those very same designers who have become quite discouraged about how the internet has actually being used and what passes for information being distributed.

Now understand this is not a critique of the internet or even having more information.  It is in gathering and subsequently sharing information that many advances have come to pass.  With a dear, cherished loved one now being cancer free for many years, I’m very grateful for the breakthroughs that come with greater knowledge attainment and dissemination.

No, this is a cautionary post on the peril there is when we rely on human-centered knowledge and worldly experience as the highest arbiter of truth and wisdom. You see, if we’re not careful, we start to fall into the worldly trap of only believing in or on things which we feel can be proven.  There is an ever growing societal sense that, with the enhanced and advanced tools available to us, we can gain enough information to confidently know and understand everything.  We don’t find the idea preposterous, that has been put forward, that there is a provable “theory of everything.  A theory that explains how all processes work and that we can understand it.  We declare we’ve found the “God” particle, the Higgs boson, which is what started creation.  There was an article based on a study that came out in 2016 that appeared to identify the part of the brain where lying takes place and what happens physiologically when we lie.  When the study was announced there was speculation that lying may be a chemical process, which may allow us to one day manipulate and even terminate people’s ability to lie through some sort of brain manipulation.

So a fundamental question can become, if all is knowable, everything can be eventually proven and thus understood, then should I only believe that which is proven or at least seems provable?  Conversely, is it foolish to have faith in something that seems, at the very least, bewildering, or worse yet forever incomprehensible? Do we discard as fantasy, that which baffles, instead searching for that which appears concrete?

Throughout the Old Testament, God as the Heavenly Father, and in the New Testament, God as Jesus Christ (along with the Father) is very clear about the primacy of, the virtue of and the overwhelming need for; faith.  Abraham relied on faith to leave Ur and travel to the promised land.  The people of Israel needed faith to follow Moses from Egypt.  Jesus described the power of faith in being able to move mountains.  It was imperative that the disciples believe/have faith that Jesus was the true Son of God.  He implored them to believe His words or believe He was the Son of God based on the miracles they had experienced.

Jesus was also quite clear about the sin and destruction would come from requiring a sign.  He spoke of the faithless generation that would only believe in a statement if proof could be shone. Jesus prophesized the impending destruction, both temporal as well as spiritually eternal, that would come upon the generation who would not believe in Him without human understood and agreed with, proof.

Additionally notice how Jesus often dealt with those whom He healed.  He did not ask the blind man, do you understand how I will restore your sight.  When speaking to the woman who just touched his cloak and was healed, Jesus did not ask her to explain how she had been healed.  Like the Roman Centurion whose servant Jesus saved, in all these cases, Jesus lauded the faith the people had shown in coming to Him; their steadfast belief, in the face of all evidence at that time, that Jesus could perform the miracles He did.

Ah, Doug, you say; that was back then and they were ignorant and superstitious.  There is so much we can do today.  We can, in some cases, restore sight.  We have weapons that can move mountains.  We know about genes now and will soon be able to fix and maybe even design our offspring before they are born, heal all manner of diseases and even stop the aging process.  Do I really need faith any more?  Besides, God gave us our brains; aren’t we supposed to use them? With all that we’ve learned, aren’t concepts like good and evil outdated?

For those asking those questions; I would ask you to look around.  Are we acting more civil toward each other through our greater knowledge?  Has our human wisdom allowed us to understand how to prevent wars and threats of war? Where is the theory that lays out the cure for our ever increasing rates of depression as well as increased suicides? Where is our lasting example of our human utopia? Where is the logic in our self centered, self indulgent, self destructive tendencies? Are they any less now then, years, decades, centuries past?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is not that God in the forms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are playing some capricious game of holding back the good/complete information from us to keep in some type of servitude.  As Their creations, They know we are not capable of understanding the Mind of God in Its entirety.  We don’t have a common enough experience/frame work with which to pass information across effectively.  But God loves us and is not willing that we should perish in our willful ignorance.  God has sacrificed everything, in the form of Jesus Christ coming to earth and dying for us so that we might be redeemed and have an eternal loving existence with Him.

Do I understand it; can we understand it fully? I don’t believe we can but our lack of understanding is both irrelevant as well as it does not negate the truth of God’s lovingly perfect plan for our life here and eternally with Him. To have that life starts with one thing; FAITH!

Let us be humble, not resting on our understanding, but kneeling in faith before our Father.  In faith let us call upon the promise of Jesus Christ and receive the peace from God that yes, surpasses all understanding.  By faith let us be open to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who will bring about the limited understanding we need to live into God’s perfect plan.  Use prayer and reading of scripture to have an informed faith; not looking for or relying on proof, but being open to the faithful hope that will reveal all things needed in time.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we freely admit that Your Ways are above all our ways and Your Mind is as inscrutable as defining the beauty of a rose or baby’s laugh. Yet we also confess that we are all too often willing to rely on our own ways and own understanding instead of putting our faith in You.  Forgive us most merciful Heavenly Father and guide us back to a faithfully fulfilling relationship in and with You. Strengthen us to withstand the logic of the world and the demand for a proof or sign.  Fill us with the Holy Spirit who will give us what we can take in revelation of You.  Let us seek through prayer with You and study of Your Word a humble spirit of faithful obedience.  That in living out our faith in You, Heavenly Father, we would spread Your Love, Forgiveness and Mercy that will bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

 

“…seeing a fig tree….He came to it and found nothing on it…and said ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.”  Matthew 21:19

“Immediately the fig tree withered away….the disciples saw it..and marveled…” Matthew 21:19,20

“….I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also say to this mountain, be removed and cast into the sea, it will be done.” Matthew 21:21

“I am the vine…..every branch that does not bear fruit, He takes away….anyone who does not abide in Me is cast out as a branch and is withered…..John 15:2, 5

I must say that there have been times past, in my walk, where the story of the fig tree has perplexed me.  Not so much in terms of the power of faith, but I have been tempted, wrongly I add, to see Jesus’ actions as those of an impetuous man, taking his hunger and frustration out on an innocent fig tree.

I praise Our Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit who patiently corrects my thoughts and shares two great lessons with me.  Two lessons I want to now share with you.

First, is the direct lesson of faith.  It is true that Jesus is hungry and that is why he approaches the fig tree in the first place.  Finding no figs on the tree, Jesus commands that no fruit ever be found on this tree again.  Jesus power is immediately shown as the tree withers on the spot.  No fruit will ever be found on it again.  I digress for a moment in speaking of the disciples’ reaction.  One might think after having spent nearly three years with Jesus, the impact of His words on the tree would come as no surprise.  After all, they have seen Jesus heal the sick, walk on water, raise the dead; they have been a part of feeding thousands with just a few loaves of bread.  Yet they are astonished by what happens to the fig tree.  The are awestruck in the presence of Jesus and His power.  I sometimes lament that I and perhaps we are not so nearly awestruck as we read and contemplate the power of Our Lord and Savior; but back to the fig tree.

Now Jesus makes a startling statement that is very often quoted.  I have seen this statement used as a wonderfully hopeful promise, as well as an instrument of judgement and derision.  Jesus tells His disciples about the power of faith.  For Jesus tells them if they ask and truly believe and do not doubt, then they can ask for the seemingly impossible, for a mountain to be moved and it will happen.  Those that choose to see this as a wonderful promise, see that it is not based on our strength, talent or worldly wisdom, it is in our faith.  Also it is important to understand the faith is not in ourselves and our power to move the mountain.  It really has nothing to do with the mountain, it is the complete faith in Jesus Christ and the power and wisdom of our Heavenly Father.

Sadly, I have also seen this example used by those who do not believe and sadder still, by those who profess to believe as a process of judgement.  For there will be a situation that a believer will be involved in, which she or he may be praying for.  Unbelievers will chastise in advance about:  “Oh you believe that you can move mountains so why don’t you just pray for this result or that; as if God was some sort of genie, wish fulfill-er.  Yet I have also heard this used by those of faith against others, judging them saying that their faith must weak because of a seemingly different outcome than what was prayed for.  Again remember this Dear Sisters and Brothers, the faith is in the perfection of our Heavenly Father and His will, through Jesus Christ.  Who are we to question the outcome of someone else’s prayer or the strength of their faith?  We must be humble in our thoughts here remembering the man who cried out to Jesus at the healing of his son, I believe, Lord help my unbelief!

So now I come to the second lesson, besides faith, but tied to it, that I believe Jesus is teaching with the fig tree.  You see the fig tree had no fruit.  Jesus, the Son of God, was there at the creation of all things and all things were created through Him.  The fig tree was created through Him.  The fig tree was created to have fruit and it did not.  So the fruitless tree was cast out.  In John’s gospel, Jesus makes that same warning to all of us.  We are to be branches that bear fruit.  We are to be a source of spiritual sustenance for our sisters and brothers plus the greater world so in need of spiritual feeding.  Yet we are just branches.  Our ability to bear fruit only comes from abiding in the vine, in the stalk from where all our power, wisdom, strength and light come from.  That vine is Jesus Christ.  First we must abide in Him and never attempt to rely on our own human capacity.  Second though, we must be willing to bear fruit.  We must be willing to provide our Jesus given talents and energy, not just into growing big ourselves, in becoming the largest most prosperous branch.  We must be willing that our energy goes into growing fruit, whose sole purpose is to be picked from us and to feed others.  It is for others nourishment and not ourselves.  Yet as branches abiding in the vine we must have faith that we will be nourished and blessed beyond all that we would ever want.

Faith to ask and the belief that, in the asking, it will be granted but also understanding that our asking should be based on our desire to bear fruit, not for our own glory, but for the feeding of those in need and to the glory of He who planted us; Our Heavenly Father.  Those are the lessons of the fig tree.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You that You listen to our supplications and grant to us our answers based on Your Perfect Plan and Will.  Pour out Your Spirit on us that our asking be always be in the faithful desire to be worthy branches in Jesus Christ; always striving to bear fruit that nourishes a spirit starved world in need of Your Love.  That in our faithful asking and Your Blessed granting, Your Holy Name will be ever praised.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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