Some Mountains Don’t Move

mtSo I have always wondered about the response Jesus gave his disciples when in frustration they asked him why they had failed to cast the demons out of a young man whose father then brought him to Jesus.

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them.  “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” – Matthew 17:20

It gets worse.  It’s not as though they’d never seen the miraculous.  This incident took place immediately after they descended from the top of the mountain where they had seen the face of Jesus shining like the sun, his clothing white as light; the very place where Moses and Elijah appeared and the voice of God spoke from the cloud, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.  Listen to him.”

(Big sigh.)  If they didn’t have enough faith after such a monumental experience, what hope do I have? Even if I could somehow conjure up enough faith, what if it’s not the right kind?  Are there varying degrees and multiple varieties of faith? If so, how will I ever get by with my little faith, my weak faith – my faltering faith? Who can tell me what quantity or quality is needed to get that mountain moved and while we’re on the subject, why am I so convinced this one needs to move, anyway?

Immediately I recall the words of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13:2:  “…if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but I didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”  Everyone is talking about love as a verb.  I get that – we are, after all, commanded to love.  But there’s something greater than faith, and the scriptures also tell me that “God is love.”   (I John 4:16)

In the Christian message alone, love precedes life; in every other worldview, life precedes love.  Therefore, in the Christian framework, love has a point of reference: God Himself.  Ravi Zacharias

I began thinking of Love as a person – THE person who, along with his two companions (Faith and Hope), is making this journey with me.  It takes Faith to accept what Love has already done and to place our hope in Love’s ability to carry us safely through this life and into the next.  It takes Hope to look ahead and cling to the ultimate fulfillment of what Love has promised all along. All three are important and all are necessary but without the enduring faithful love of God, Faith and Hope don’t get the job done.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1

Love was moved with compassion.  Love came down to seek and to save our poor lost souls. Love gave it all and paid our sin debt on a hideous cross of suffering. Love had the power to rise in victory over sin and death and hell, thus fulfilling the eternal plan and promises of God.  I am overwhelmed with this love and the realization that, to put it in Squire Parsons’ words (from one of my favorite Southern Gospel songs), “when I could not come to where he was, he came to me!”

Love is alive and well, calling us to exercise faith, have hope, and rest assured that he will make a way – not to grant our wildest dreams, promote our own agendas or participate in our self-absorbed schemes – but rather, to fulfill his good intentions, his perfect will and his greatest joy in our lives.

An active faith can remove mountains, not of itself, but in the virtue of a divine power engaged by a divine promise, both which faith fastens upon. – Matthew Henry

So don’t be discouraged with that insurmountable obstacle looming on the horizon. You may have examined all the options, looking at it from every angle.  You’ve worried, wept and prayed, but the situation hasn’t changed. That mountain stubbornly stands in the way, like Goliath to David, taunting you in your weakness, threatening to fulfill your worst fear and turn it into humiliation and failure.

But some mountains don’t move.  Maybe it’s supposed to be there. So whether God wants to remove it or take you to the top, no matter how miserably you’ve failed or how deeply you’ve fallen, remember this:

Love will make a way for me to stand on a mountain
That looks like it’s here to stay;
Love will make a way over and around it
To claim my hope and faith!
Goodness and mercy are running after me, but
Love will make a way!

These three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13

Advertisements

People Need People and Friends Need Friends

friends2Sometimes it’s what’s written on the inside cover that speaks volumes – long before you ever read the book.  For my high school graduation, our youth pastor presented me with a devotional book. “That was nice,” I thought, but I was so busy and preoccupied with the usual teenage angst and drama that I never read it.  After that, time accelerated as I went on to Bible college, got married, moved to Florida, had three babies and when the youngest was just 9 months old, moved to Sicily for two years with my U.S. Navy sailor husband.

We jumped right into ministry with the American church in a quaint little town at the top of a hill overshadowed by Mt. Etna, and I was soon recruited to help the Italian congregation with music as well. They had no musicians, so I played the piano for their afternoon services, accompanied some of the teens who loved to sing, and gave guitar lessons.  Then some new missionaries moved in across the street and a lovely friendship developed as Linda and I began singing for the Italian church’s weekly radio broadcast. How I wish I had a copy of those recording sessions from Pastor Vincenzo’s living room!

Our time in Sicily soon came to an end and my friends presented me with another book – this time an Italian hymn book that I cherish to this day. The kind words written in delicate European penmanship on the inside cover evoked torrents of tears at the time, but warm my heart and conjure up sweet memories of our time together. I can still hear their beautiful, heartfelt singing.

Circumstances and directions changed. We moved – again and again. And then I found myself in what felt like a wasteland to me. Oh, I was surrounded by family and friends, ministry, busy-ness, and lots of snow (2 feet for our first welcome-to-NY storm). But I was lonely. I missed my southern friends. I missed our church. I missed the recording studio in Jacksonville, FL, grieving for all the opportunities and dreams it represented to me as a songwriter.

That’s when the devotional book reappeared.

I had forgotten all about it but there it was, after all those years and moves, sitting at the top of an unpacked box, waiting to comfort and challenge me as I read the words that a young college student and servant of God from Lebanon (by way of Liberia) had written on the inside cover:

People need people and friends need friends,
And we all need love, for a full life depends
Not on vast riches or great acclaim,
Not on success or worldly fame,
But just in knowing that someone cares
And holds us close in their thoughts and prayers.

For only the knowledge that we’re understood
Makes everyday living feel wonderfully good,
And we rob ourselves of life’s greatest need,
When we “lock up our hearts” and fail to heed
The outstretched hand reaching to find
A kindred spirit whose heart and mind

Are lonely and longing to somehow share
Our joys and sorrows, and to make us aware
That life’s completeness and richness depends
On the things we share
with our loved ones and friends.

~ Helen Steiner Rice ~

Let’s save discussion of the devotional book for another time (it’s still my favorite and the impact on my life has been huge) but the point is this: our lives have become a constant whirlwind of activity.  We are filled to capacity with things to do – some necessary and worthwhile, others not so much – pressures, obligations, mindless diversions and distractions all competing for our attention and affection. Technology is great and social media has its place (I’m sure thankful for you, Facebook Friend), but let’s not forget that people still need real people and friends still need true and faithful friends.  God has already placed the people in our lives, so let’s go out and be that kind of friend to someone today!

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

Keep Me Tender

bb7Every time my Dad got up to preach he would pray, “…and Lord, please give me a clear mind and a warm heart with which to teach your Word. But if I ever had to choose between the two, Lord, I’d rather have a warm heart…”  I was always touched by that but as I got older I used to be a little afraid that God might take him up on that proposition and although he did repeat himself a lot in later years (jokes, that is – which we appropriately teased him about), and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when he was well into his 80’s, he never got confused about God’s Word and he always presented it with clarity and a warm, tender heart – 53 years in full time ministry, and many more after that, mentoring pastors and churches wherever God placed him.

Listening to Elvis on the radio one day (you’ll never guess which song), I began thinking about how much his music has influenced our society and our ideas about love. Judging by Hollywood’s perception of love, it really is “all about me” – love me tender, love me true – That philosophy has crept into our churches, too.  Love me, please me, help me – let’s just  be all about me and we’ll all get along!

We have no understanding of, and no tolerance for, the depth and sacrifice of genuine love.  But it is the only way we can ever touch the lives of others – by extending to them the selfless, unconditional love that only he can give.

Buy the Song | Buy the Album

If I Don’t Have Love

bb2This song developed out of a personal Bible study on genuine love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.  As I read the chapter through several times the melody began singing to me. There’s an interesting story about the song’s debut in church – a stark contrast, presented just moments before I was to get up and sing – the contrast between love and hatred; a story of how God gave me the strength and composure to get up and present a message of love in the face of utter contempt and humiliation.

I’d like to say there was a happy ending but all I can truthfully tell you is that God brought me through it with His grace and dignity and for whatever reason, decided to use me in a living demonstration of how love responds when hatred rages.  The good news is, I didn’t die (as appealing as that might have seemed at the moment) – but I can never sing the song without feeling that pit in my stomach as all of my being remembers an extremely uncomfortable moment.

Buy the Song | Buy the Album