Faith and humility is required

Our wonderful Savior would never ignore us, would He? It appears that is exactly what Jesus did to a Canaanite woman. Was Jesus prejudice or insensitive? The woman came chasing after the disciples and Jesus. The bible specifically says “Jesus did not answer a word.” (Matthew 15:23) The disciples then complained to Jesus “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us” (Matthew 15:23)

Jesus finally responds to her and it doesn’t seem very nice “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) Are we to assume that Jesus would only help fellow Jews? In actuality Jesus provided many miracles for those who were not of the nation of Israel. There was the centurion who had great faith (Matthew 8:5-13) and the one leper who came back (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus also told a parable where the central character and hero was the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). He also taught that God’s purpose was to bring salvation to the whole world. (John 3:16)

The woman then begs again “Lord help me!” Jesus then says what some might consider insulting “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) Was this Jesus or an impostor?

Then the woman said some very special words “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:27) The woman from the beginning showed desperation, due to her great need, as anyone would. However desperation does not move the hand of God. Faith and humility moves the hand of God. When we truly believe and yet understand that we are not worthy, God is willing to act. This is when we understand that it is not our will but his will that matters. Upon hearing these words Jesus immediately grants her request and confirms the importance of her faith when he says “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” (Matthew 15:28)

Although desperation may cause us to seek God, God is waiting for us to truly believe and humble ourselves. We must realize the sovereignty of God and accept that it is His will that will be done.

 

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When giving is not easy

When giving is not easy

The great prophet Elijah, under God’s direction had pronounced a drought on the nation of Israel as punishment for Idolatry. All the land had been afflicted. People everywhere were running out of food and starving, such was the case with the widow of Zarephath.

This widow was down to almost nothing, when God tells Elijah “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” (1kings 17:9) To Elijah’s credit he did not question God. Who would have ever thought a widow with next to nothing could provide a place of refuge.

When Elijah got there he asked the widow for food. She described the little she had. Once again Elijah is not disturbed. He instructed her to feed him first and then her child and herself. The nerve of this man to come into town as a stranger to take the little bit she had left. But Elijah understood God’s plan. This widow was about to find out that not only is there a God, but that He can take the little we have and turn it into a great blessing for ourselves and all those around us.

Shockingly she did not give the strange man a “piece of her mind” or in other words “tell him off”. No, remarkably she submitted. She would take the little bit of flour and oil and make bread for Elijah and miraculously there was still more left to make. The next day the same thing would occur. Everyday there was always more flour and oil to make bread. As long as she fed the man of God, she had flour and oil for her family. The widow practiced great faith, in obediently giving the little she had and God rewarded her faith.

It is not easy to give when we have little. But there are many ways of helping those in need. There are also multiple ways of helping to progress the work of God. When we sacrifice what we can in faith, God is faithful in return. I would never promise great wealth. However I know that God is able and willing to care for our needs when we learn to trust in Him. Jesus said “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33) Paul also said “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

 

 

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Elijah against 450 Priests

It was truly a spectacle for all of Israel. Elijah had challenged the king and the god Baal. He stood alone against 450 of Baal’s priests and all the people of Israel who had already turned from God. Baal’s priests placed a bull on an altar of wood. Elijah instructed them not to set a fire but to call for fire from their god. It seemed like a small thing for a mighty god to do. Four hundred and fifty priests called upon their god, Baal. They called and called from morning until noon. But he did not answer. Perhaps he was on vacation or asleep. Perhaps Baal was busy. Elijah, the prophet of God even made fun teasing the Baal prophets. (1 kings 18:27) In any case no fire. They began to get desperate and decided to cut themselves with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out. (1 kings 18:29)

Elijah had enough and decided to end the game. He called the people of Israel close to him. He wanted to make sure they didn’t miss a thing. Elijah the prophet was not just out there having fun. He desperately wanted his people to know the true God. He built his own alter and it included a trench which he filled with water, to make the burning of the sacrifice that much harder. Elijah did not mutilate himself. No bleeding necessary. He did not scream. He was calm and made a short simple prayer.

“O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” (1 Kings 18:36-37)

Then without a moment wasted a powerful flame descended upon the soaked alter and consumed everything, the bull, the wood and even the water. It was all gone. Elijah got his wish, as all the people fell on their faces and proclaimed, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (1 kings 18:39)

Elijah may have been only one man. But He knew he had to stand by the truth and do what was right even if it wasn’t popular. It is troubling to feel alone. We would all like to be popular and have many followers. It we would be great if all our ideas were well accepted by everyone. Life would sure be easy if we never had a disagreement. But when believing in God is not popular we have no choice but to stand alone. When everyone around us says the bible is just a fable, we must be willing to be different. Saying that Jesus is lord and Savior may not be the most acceptable belief but like Elijah we must stand by the truth. I cannot promise that we will see fire fall from Heaven, but I know that you will not be completely alone. Christ said He would be with us until the end. (Matthew 28:20) He also said “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33)

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God’s strategy

The mighty warrior Joshua was in the midst of a great campaign in the promise land seizing territories and completing God’s plan; however he experienced a minor setback. The city Ai defeated him. This really seemed to shake Joshua who was not used to defeat. Scripture relates that he “tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening”. (Joshua 7:6) Then he did what all wise men do who fear the Lord, he prayed and pleaded before God.

God provided all the wisdom Joshua would need. Not exactly what a confident and independent generation wants to hear. It wasn’t that Joshua did it his way. His wisdom came from God. God’s plan was to coax the army of Ai out of the city and with a strategically placed ambush, take the city and destroy its army. Simple enough and yet like Joshua we often do not see the solution to our challenges until we humbly present them to the Lord.

Joshua set 30,000 men behind the city and told them to wait patiently. He then led 5,000 men against the city. When the army of Ai came against them, Joshua and his men fled. Every last soldier in Ai abandoned the city to chase Joshua. The 30,000 who were waiting in ambush entered the city and torched it. Now those chasing Joshua looked back to see their city in flames. They turned and tried their best to take back the city. But now their own defenses could be used against them by the Israelite Army that occupied the city. In addition they had Joshua and his 5,000 to deal with. The Army of Ai was sandwiched between both forces and was completely destroyed.(Joshua 8:10-22)

Sometimes no matter how much success we have, life can present unexpected setbacks. We need not to give up. We should do like Joshua. Not that we should tear our clothes! Clothes can be expensive, and if made well, difficult to tear anyway. However we should present our challenges and difficulties before the Lord and trust that He will give us the wisdom to be victorious.

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Stubborn Unbelief

Moses stood before the mighty Pharaoh and asked rather politely to let his people go. Pharaoh was not interested in losing his wealth of slaves, forcing Moses to perform the first of many miracles. He had his brother Aaron cast his rod on the ground and it turned into a serpent. Pharaoh must have thought it a simple trick and did not believe. (Exodus 7:1-8)

Moses then met pharaoh by the Nile where with Aaron’s rod he turned the Nile into blood. That was a major trick and must have been devastating for the Egyptian economy and the health of their people. However Pharaoh still would not believe. (Exodus 7:14-24)

Many plagues later Pharaoh still would not change his mind. Then came the most devastating lost of all for Egypt, the slaying of the first born. Finally Pharaoh would let them go. But he rescinded only temporarily, still not accepting or understanding the power of God. He would send his army against the defenseless Israelites most likely expecting an easy victory. Was he surprised when he witnessed what had never been seen before? God had made a path through the sea. There were the lowly Israelites, former slaves, passing through the midst of the sea on dry land and on either side of them a high wall of water. Surely now pharaoh would believe that these people were God’s people and that perhaps he should just let them go. Perhaps he would wake up to the reality that slavery was just wrong or that people do not have the right to make subjects of other people just because they have a stronger army.

Pharaoh did not have any of these great revelations. Instead he was consistent in his unbelief. He ordered his army to pursue the Israelites through this path created by God. Then he would witness the collapse of water on his army. They were destroyed. (Exodus 14) Pharaoh could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he would have believed from the very beginning. However the price of unbelief can be even higher.

The price of unbelief can be as high as all eternity. John 3:18 says “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Christ is still trying to reach the most stubborn hearts, so do not be dismayed. Our responsibility is simply to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15)

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Esau’s bad trade

Esau was sweaty and out of breath, totally exhausted after a hard day’s work of hunting. He wanted two things, to eat and to rest. It is pretty much how most of us feel after a long hard day. We get home and want to just collapse on the living room sofa and perhaps if someone could just bring us our favorite meal, everything would be perfect. Jacob was more than ready to please. The wise younger brother had prepared a splendid meal that Esau could not resist and I am sure many of us would not resist either. However Jacob was not as nice as we would hope, nor was he so generous. Jacob was a man with a plan. (Genesis 25:29-34)

Jacob understood that blessings were worth more than rest or food. He understood how to make a good trade. Jesus also talked about trades. He said “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36) Much of what we can obtain in this world comes with a price. It will cost us money, or our time. Jesus made it clear that as we embark on our adventures of conquest, whether they are to obtain wealth, success, recognition, a higher position, or even someone’s favor, we must be sure of what the price is, because we don’t want to lose our souls. We never want to do anything that compromises our principals, our morality and most importantly our relationship with God!

Certainly this means saying no when asked to do something that we know is immoral, but it also means saying no when our time and energy is consumed, leaving little time for God. Our salvation is a great treasure that cannot so easily be surrendered. Our walk with God must be cultivated and developed to its fullest maturity and this takes time.

Esau ignored his great treasure and surrendered it easily. Jacob held that delicious plate of food, whose aroma must have truly been overwhelming, and simply asked for Esau’s birthright. Surely this meant great blessings, an inheritance and rights that should rightly belong to the eldest Esau. Esau agreed and filled his stomach and rested. Jacob would become the father of all Israelites, the chosen people, and from his lineage would descend the Messiah.

Let us not sell our great blessing for so little, all that this world has to offer pales in comparison to all eternity. Let us guard our salvation as it is our greatest treasure.

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Just like predicting the weather

Here in NYC we are debating the coming snow storm wondering if public schools will be canceled. Turns out many private and charter schools have already given up and announced cancellations. However the Public schools remain open so far. Why? To put it simply they don’t want to take action until they know for sure the weather will make it impossible to keep schools open.

The weather is an act of God. We know He is in control. We accept that the weather services can be wrong, even though they base all of their prognostication on reliable data and sound scientific predictors. Even with the greatest minds in science testing and observing we know they can be wrong. We understand the limits of the human mind and all the instruments we can use. In the end we are limited and God is not.

Perhaps we ought to apply this thinking to the rest of our lives. Sometimes we look at the observable data in our lives and make decisions rather quickly without considering God. We determine we have studied the situation, we have gathered all the advice necessary and we can reasonable determine what will happen next depending on the actions we take. Now we are ready to make a decision. Yet everything we have determined and all of our predictions can be 100% wrong just like the weather. God is the only one who knows, with 100% certainty, what will happen and what the best decision is.

The Israelites, like weather men, gathered information when they were approaching the promise land. The data they discovered was scary. Twelve men were sent to do this job. (Numbers 13: 19-20)

Sure enough they came back with their report. They described the strength of the people, giants and mighty fortresses. (Number s 13:27-28) They also brought their own informed and educated analysis. “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”(Numbers 13:31)

The people had heard enough. They were prepared to make a well informed decision. They decided to choose a captain that could lead them back to Egypt and enslavement. (Numbers 14:1-4) They gave up the dream of the promise land. They gave no consideration to what God had been telling them all along, that regardless of how impossible the situation appeared, all they had to do was believe in Him, obey Him and take action with faith, instead of depending on the “weather report.” They did not see the promise land.

We need to remember that even when it looks like rain and everybody says it’s going to rain, God has the final word. The situation may seem impossible but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) Instead of a storm it may just be a sunny day.

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