By the Content of our Faith

Scripture: Mark 7:24-30 First, a little background to the passage:  The Jewish people had developed a lot of animosity toward Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. The Gentiles were pagans, god worshippers. Some had sexual rituals…a Jewish person would not go to their homes for fear of being defiled. For one thing, they would abort children in their homes and Jewish people would consider it a cemetery. The idea of Jews was to avoid them all for fear of being defiled by one. To speak with a Gentile was taboo; to speak with a Gentile woman was scandalous.  The religious Jewish people had completely lost the mission they were “chosen” for- “to be a light to the nations” and replaced it with being “chosen” and special as if though God cared for only them and all others were defiled and unworthy.

 Observation: The woman in this story was a Gentile from the southern part of what is now Turkey. She would have been at least a former god/s worshipper of some sort. It is true and clear that Jesus’ mission was to the Jew first. They WERE God’s chosen. But why and what were they chosen for? To be a light to the nations. Jesus interacts with a number of Gentiles, even a female Gentile in the story of the woman at the well, and all of this is highly taboo and unheard of. So it’s important to watch what Jesus DOES, not just what he says. The first thing is that he spoke with this woman at all. This is in and of itself shocking. The Jewish term for Gentiles is often “dog” which denotes being outcast (dogs weren’t pets to them, they were kept outside the cities and were used to clean up other decayed animals. They were more like buzzards in our minds today I suppose). 

Jesus conversation with her is actually intended for the people (primarily Jewish) to overhear. He said what the people are thinking, ‘Why take from the children and give it to the dogs?” or “Why should a Gentile receive benefits intended for Jews?” This was a common idiom, albeit racist, Jesus is quoting from his culture. 

This context continues throughout the New Testament and Paul breaks through that the good news of Jesus IS for all and not merely the Jewish people. It’s hard for us to understand this as Gentiles who are the ones mostly who are believers, but the first context of Christianity was distinctively Jewish.  

Anyway, watch what Jesus DOES. Did he help her? Yes. Was he hesitant to do so? No. Did he want those with him to understand that he came for all? Yes he did. And the economy of the Kingdom is not heritage, it’s faith in the soul and heart. 

It’s hard for us to understand why Jesus would seemingly be so harsh with this woman and even seem to call her a “dog.”  But look carefully and we see that his words aren’t for her; they are for those whose attitudes deemed her unworthy. The closest similar context I can think of would be like a white man in the 60’s where some drinking fountains were for whites only. And there’s a line of people for the “white” water fountain and a black man walks up panting and parched, obviously in great need of water-much more than others in line. And the white man in front of the line turns and says, “Is it right for a black man to drink? Or even ahead of a white man?” And he lets him in front because of his great need. The question is not for himself, nor does it portray his beliefs.  What he DOES shows his beliefs and, while the others may not like it, they understand that what he DOES in that situation states a conviction that he holds.

Of course, while it speaks to racism, Jesus wasn’t talking about that-his focus here is about faith itself.  

Application: What Jesus DOES clearly trumps his words and he is also showing this truth: God accepts us not on the basis of “who we are” but rather by our faith. This woman came to Jesus, not her other gods or anyone else, because she had faith he could help her. He did…because of her faith, not because she had the right background, race, or even morals. Jesus judges not by the color of our skin, our background, or anything other than the content of our faith in Him.

Prayer: I have faith Lord. Help my lack of faith.

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God Can…Do I Believe God Will?

Scripture: Matthew 8

Observation: Jesus came healing, casting out demons, rescuing people. He was, and still is, in the seeking and saving business (John 10:10). It’s interesting that the one thing that separated the healed from others is they believed. This word translated believe is the word “faith:” they “faithed.”

The question was not “can Jesus?” The question was will you Jesus? “Because you faithed,’ Jesus said, ‘it has happened.

Application: How often have I believed Jesus “can,” but not that Jesus “will.” When I ask, I must as in faith and believe not merely that God is powerful enough to “do” in my life, but also loves me enough that He “will” in my life.

When requests are made unto God’s glory and not our own fleshly wants, I can boldly ask and know that He “will.”

Prayer: Jesus, you love me. I’ve always believed You can, now I believe that You will as I persevere in faith. My life…into Your capable hands.

Is God Holding Out on You?

Scripture: Matthew 7

Observation: If I keep persisting in prayer; I will receive. When I ask, I can know that God wants to give me good gifts. Keep pursuing, knocking, and the way I should step forward will show itself…the door will open.

Application: I ask, I receive. I ask and continue to do the unrighteous things of the world, then I should not expect to receive from the Lord (why would He give when it would cloud His glory to others rather than clearly reveal it?)

When I ask, God IS hearing and answering. Perhaps He is “holding out” because to give in the immediate circumstances would be less than the best gift. So, I keep asking-not with the attitude that God is withholding from me (as though God could be selfish), but rather trust that God is working out things for the very BEST gifts.

What seems even a disappointment is most likely God setting aside a lesser gift for a greater one.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for not trusting Your goodness and your heart. I know You love me as a precious child. I ask for Your blessings and humbly receive them with gratitude….for Your glory.

Your Secret Admirer

Scripture: Matthew 6

Observation: “Don’t do your deeds publicly-to be admired by others.” When I have an eternal focus, my heart is bent toward pleasing God. When I have an earthly, temporary focus, my heart is bent toward pleasing other people. Do they admire me? Appreciate me? Affirm me? Like my status on Facebook? Retweet me? Even bother to read my blog after I put out the effort to pour my very heart out to the worldwide web!? lol

Me, me, me…My, my, my…mi, mi, mi, mi, mi (and I’m just getting warmed up!) This attitude is a setup for a first class pity party of mardi gras proportions.

Application: I need to ask myself, what is my motivation? Do I seek to do good things only to be noticed or even respected? These may be good things, but their reward (as gratifying as it may be) is experienced now…earthly.

God notices EVERYTHING, and my rewards are eternal when actions are done for Him and all for Him. If it’s noticed and mentioned, praise God. If my life is an obscurity, unnoticed by all but Him, GREAT is my reward-in heaven (where it really counts anyway).

Prayer: Lord, this life you’ve given I return to You…all of it. If any notice or admire anything done (which is all by gift from You to begin with), then may it all reflect back directly to You.

Live Like Heaven

Scripture: Matthew 5

Observation: In Jesus famous “Sermon on the Mountainside” he talks up how differently the natural man thinks vs. the Kingdom of Heaven. The humble, the dependent, the peaceful, the persecuted-all these are the weak of the world…they’ll be Darwined out of here. It’s survival of the fittest; you gotta swim with the sharks!

Not so in God’s thinking; these that are the suckers of the world are the honored in His Kingdom. And true reward is ahead for those who place righteousness, purity, no drama relationships, a committed marriage, and integrity of their word above pridefulness.

Application: “Have it your way” is a good slogan for ordering a cheeseburger, but insisting on it for all of life will lead to a self-destructive misery now and a massive loss of reward in the Kingdom of Heaven. I must remember that I’m a foreigner, even an ambassador, of heaven in this land and not permit the obsessions and pursuits and ways of doing business and relationships here affect me into going with their flow.

Prayer: Jesus, give me your mind to view all things as You do…and your heart to love all just as You do. 

Prepared for Eternity

Scripture: Matthew 4

Observation: Jesus headed to the desert for a time of focused prayer and fasting and the notorious Stinker showed up. Each of the Enemy’s temptations were focused on the here, the now, the temporal…shortcuts. There were shortcuts for physical needs, to power, to a following… Jesus’ values were on the eternal. Momentary needs: physical, emotional, even perceived spiritual needs are put in a totally different light when I live life knowing I am prepared in THIS life for eternity. Jesus knew eternal life, even from before the beginning…and he gave it freely. First, he offered this eternal life focused way of being to his first twelve disciples. There was no contract, no details of the future…just “follow me.”

Application: I am an eternal creation. Everything I do, I think needs to be examined in the light of eternal value, reward, preparation. That is where I will exist most…beyond THIS earthly life. There is a NEW earthly life (Revelation 21) ahead where I will live, work, and worship.

Prayer: Jesus, as you did on the cross, “for the joy that is ahead” of me I endure and persevere through the pain of this life. I live aware, alert to the reality that I have life with You forever beyond this test called life. 

It’s All Heart

Scripture– Matthew 3 (  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%203&version=NLT)

Observation:  I’m sure John preached others before, but the first sermon recorded by John was simple: repent.  I remember my first sermon and I hope all copies have been burned- burned I tell you! John’s message? Turn from sins and go to the heart of following God. Funny, some of his audience were the Pharisees: super moral people…and he called them a den of rattlesnakes. Because they were immoral? Yes! In God’s way of thinking SELF-righteousness is as or more dangerous than plain old filthy UN-righteousness. The Kingdom of God is a matter of the heart; that’s where Jesus said the laws of His Kingdom are written.

Good fruit comes only from the source of its life: God Himself. Our purpose is found in Him, our Creator, and only Him. And His power to live is available. Jesus baptizes us, immerses us, overwhelms us with His Spirit-and fire and passion and desire to live life FROM Him. It only comes to me when I am IN him…not in myself.

Application: I choose to reject Pharisaism in a morally bankrupt world. The unrighteousness of the culture is not to drive me on one extreme of apathy or flippancy toward sin to the other extreme of cynicism and a loss of love for others enslaved by sin. Righteous anger toward injustice may be from God’s heart, but self-righteous disdain is quite another thing altogether.

I am to remember that my love, strength, and servanthood is only worth a dime in the eternal economy when it comes from the heart of God pumping His life in and through mine.

Prayer: Provider and Creator, forgive me for being religious without heart, “so called” serving without the immersion of life in the Spirit, for merely surviving and coping while the world persists blindly without Your love being shown through me, for making “religion “ all just a thing instead of ALL my life in You.