Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Yes, it is cliché, but it is also true.

Faith is the final frontier, the final spiritual frontier.
No spiritual concept is more important than faith.
No spiritual concept is more misunderstood than faith.

Part of the misunderstanding comes from the translations of scriptures we use.

One of the most famous faith scriptures is the following:

… I tell you the truth, 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." (Matt 17:19-21)

On the surface this would seem to say that we can make anything we want to happen if we have enough faith.

According to this scripture, with enough faith, an underweight 50+ woman with bad knees, poor health and no knowledge of the game, could become the first round draft pick for quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys next season?


According to this scripture, with enough faith, Julia Louise Dreyfus will show up on my doorstep, fall madly in love with me and whisk me away to spend the remainder of my life reveling in nirvanic bliss.

NOT! (big heavy sigh)

Then what is the deal? The scripture is clear, right?


When we look at the Aramaic translation, we see a subtle, but important difference in the scripture:

… for truly I say to you, If there is faith in you even as a grain of mustard seed, you will say this mountain, move away from here, and it will move away; and nothing would prevail over you. (Matt 17:19-21 Lamsa)

There is a huge difference betweennothing will be impossibleandnothing will prevail over you”. A HUGE difference that renders a totally different context to the verse.

(take some time to think about this)

Another issue that is implicit in this verse is the precept that there can be more faith to have. When Jesus spoke to the masses 2000 years ago before His crucifixion, this may have been true. However, it is definitely not true today. After the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit was made available to all of us, a condition that did not exist prior to His death. Today, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have within us all the faith there is to have. Let me repeat …. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have all of the faith there is to have.

(take some time to think about this)

Then why do we have so much difficulty with faith?

One reason is because we dilute it and scatter it. Consider the example of a $10.00 roll of quarters. If we need $9.00 in groceries, we can pay for it with the roll of quarters. However, if we open the roll, and leave $1.00 on our dresser, $1.00 in a pocket, $1.00 on the table, etc., when we get to the store, we still have $10.00, it is just scattered and is not useful. That is the same way it is with our faith. We have scattered it so much that it is minimally usable.

We have placed our faith in the church, in the clergy, in the government, in the banks, etc ad infinitum. This faith is misplaced. Whenever we place our faith in something other than God, we commit idolatry.

It is certainly appropriate to trust each other, to trust our leaders, our church, but it is essential that we understand the distinction between trust and faith. It is a subtle distinction, but a distinction that is essential to effective prayer. Very simply, we can trust people, we can trust institutions, but our faith belongs to God and only to God.

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to it, Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets (Matt 22:37 -40 Lamsa)

As we can see Gods command for our love for him is ALL, his command for our love for each other is “as ourselves”. We trust each other, but our faith is in God. This is a subtle but very important concept to master.

(take some time to think about this)

As we restructure our consciousness and passionately embrace the distinctions of trust vs. faith we redirect our faith to God, and in doing so, we will experience miraculous transformations in all areas of our life. Transformations that will move us ever closer to fulfilling the command that Jesus gave us:

Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes me shall do the works which I do; and even greater than these things he shall do, because I am going to my Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do it for you, so that the Father may be glorified through his Son. (John 14:12-14 Lamsa)

Note: “Shall do”, not “can do it if you want to

(to be continued)



I prefer to use Aramaic translations whenever possible. I have found that the modern Aramaic translations provide valuable insight and a more accurate rendering to many of the scriptures.
Below is a translation of the Lords Prayer by Victor Alexander. Compare this with what is traditionally found:

Therefore, this is how you shall pray:
Our heavenly Father, hallowed is your name. Your Kingdom is come.
Your will is done, As in heaven so also on earth.
Give us the bread for our daily need.
And leave us serene, just as we also allowed others serenity.
And do not pass us through trial, except separate us from the evil one.
For yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory
To the end of the universe, of all the universes." Amen!
(Matt 6:9-13 victor alexander translation from aramaic

Places where I use (take some time to think about this) are places where there will typically be classroom discussions or class exercises. Since that dynamic is not practical here, I am marking these places so that the readers can take some time, not only to ponder their own thoughts, but also to try to imagine how a classroom discussion with 10 to 20 people would unfold.



  1. Thanks Carl. I love the Aramaic translations. The Lord's Prayer is so very different in aramaic. The nuns really drilled in that prayer. I don't know if I'll be able to undrill it as it seems glued to my soul. I've printed the translation out and will refer to the prayer often, then maybe drill it in next to the other version. That may do it.

  2. Butterfly:

    The main thing to notice is the tense.

    The traditional is spoken in future tense, as if it will happen in the future.

    The Aramaic speaks it in the present tense, it already is already here.

    That is the key ... it is already here, within us now, through the power of the Holy Spirit. One of the relatively unspoken about gifts of Jesus' sacrifice.

  3. Carl, thanks for these timely reminders of what faith is all about--timely, because the economic crisis tempts us to look for those idolatrous solutions that implicitly deify all too fallible leaders and all too fallible institutions.

    I had never encountered the translation of the Aramaic saying about faith that you provide--faith as nothing prevailing against us, when we hold on.

    I'm happy to have this new translation of the text. It makes it a whole lot more meaningful to me in my everyday life than the previous translation.

  4. Yea Carl, I noticed the tense is present - as Christ is always present - in the present. As we pray to Him - we pray to him in the present.

    Also, "To the end of the universe, of all the universes" was really important too. There are more than just one universe which is expanding. God's creation is never ending and multiple.

    A note about the other translation "for truly I say to you, if there is faith in you even as a grain of mustard seed, you will say this mountain, move away from here, and it will move away; and nothing would prevail over you. " That makes so much more sense and seems to align with a prayer I frequently say when we have severe storms coming to our area. I pray "Dear heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, please let these storm clouds pass us by and keep our neighbors safe." It has worked time and time again. I have watched clouds on's weather radar just split apart and go north and south of us. We had a dry spell too because of my prayer... so I had to add "please allow us a gentle rain." That worked too.

  5. A new prayer for Peace.

    Dear Father in Heaven, in the name of Jesus, let rulers of Churches and Nations and businesses and those in alliance or working with them or affected by them be enlightened by your living Word and let your Peace reign in their hearts and actions to make the world a world that is filled with your love and grace.

  6. butterfly: AMEN!


    The Victor Alexander Aramaic translation is found at:

    Another Aramaiac resource is the Lamsa Online Bible at:

    There is a good online concordance with a couple of dozen different translations that can be searched by keyword which I find really helpful: