Several Sermons here.  The latest are at the beginning.

January 14, 2018

Title: Planting Orchards

Text: Acts 17

 

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

Acts 17:5   But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Acts 17:10   Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.

Acts 17:16   Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”

Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

Acts 17:19   And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

Acts 17:22   Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Acts 17:32   And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

 

In the story I am about to share with you it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction.  I apologize for any mixture of the two that make it hard to believe.

John Chapman was born on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts.  His father, Nathaniel Chapman, fought at the Battle of Concord, and served in the Continental Army under General George Washington.  In July of 1776, while her husband was at war and John was 2 years old, his mother, Elizabeth, died in childbirth.

It is believed that John’s father, a farmer by trade, encouraged him to become orchardist and it wasn’t long before John was working independently as an orchardist and nurseryman.

In 1792, at the age of 18, John Chapman began traveling widely planting apple orchards and establishing nurseries.

Legend says John planted apple trees in random and unplanned places, but the truth is that he had a very strategic plan.  Research suggests he created numerous nurseries by carefully selecting the perfect planting spot, fencing it in with fallen trees and logs, bushes and vines, sowing the seeds and returning at regular intervals to repair the fence, tend the ground and sell the trees. He soon became known as the “apple seed man” and later simply as “Johnny Appleseed.”

Johnny Appleseed was a staunch believer in animal rights and denounced cruelty towards all living things, including insects.  Some say his passion for apple trees was rivaled only by his love of animals.  He was known to purchase neglected or abused pets from their owners and place them into better homes.  Though it cannot be proven, some say he anguished over killing a rattlesnake that had lunged at him, and that he would even douse his campfires to prevent mosquitoes from being lured to a fiery death.  He was a practicing vegetarian in his later years.

He objected to the pruning and grafting of trees saying it was the sinful infliction of suffering upon a living thing.  Johnny chose to grow his trees exclusively from seeds.

As noble as that might appear, the result was his apples that were largely unfit for eating.  Ironically for such a devout man—Johnny Appleseed’s apples were best suited for the production of hard cider.  Generations later, however, he is often credited with the cultivation of some of our best-loved varieties, such as the Red Delicious and the Golden Delicious.

After his death, the legend of Johnny Appleseed grew.  “Johnny Appleseed” festivals and statues dot the Northeastern and Midwestern United States to this day, and Johnny Appleseed is the official folk hero of Massachusetts.

As we open our Bibles to the book of Acts, we similarities between Paul and Johnny.  From a certain perspective, it is not hard to see some comparisons between the itinerant work of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts and the Legend of Johnny Appleseed.

If we focus on chapter 17 and even back up to chapter 16, we see a pattern in the life of Paul that is not completely unlike the life of Johnny Appleseed.

If we give it a superficial look, the Apostle Paul’s travels seem similar. Paul’s travels went something like this:

Chapter 16: Paul enters Philippi, preaches for some time and is eventually asked to leave.

Chapter 17:1 Paul enters Thessalonica, preaches and is eventually chased out of town.

Chapter 17:10 Paul enters Berea, preaches some and is subsequently chased out of town.

Chapter 17:15 Paul enters Athens, speaks of Christ in the Areopagus, and then leaves for Corinth.

Some would say that Paul’s work was random and unplanned.  But just like Johnny Appleseed, the truth tells a very different story.

Legend says Johnny Appleseed randomly scattered his apple seeds, letting them haphazardly land wherever they flew.  That is not true.  Research reveals he created numerous nurseries by carefully selecting the perfect planting spot, fencing it in with fallen trees and logs, bushes and vines, sowing the seeds and returning at regular intervals to repair the fence, tend the ground and sell the trees.

Likewise Paul’s work was not haphazard.  Paul was careful where he exercised his ministry.  Listen to how he started most of his ministries in the cities he visited.

Acts 9:20 [Shortly after his conversion.] “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.”

Acts 13:5 [With Barnabas at the beginning of his journeys.] “And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.”

Acts 13:14, 15 “But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”

Acts 14:1 “Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.”

Acts 17:1 “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul , as his manner was, went in unto them and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures.

Acts 17:10 “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.”

Acts 17:17 “Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.”

Acts 18:4 “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.”

Acts 18:19 “And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.”

The Apostle had a plan.  What might appear to be just jumping from place to place was actually the carrying out of a plan.  Although Christ’s death opened the door of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles alike, Paul was very careful to begin with the Jews in an attempt to lead them to the Savior.  He did not exclude Gentiles and in fact always preached the Gospel to all who would listen.  Remember Acts 17:17, Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.”

Paul offered the Gospel to all who would listen.  But he tried to always begin with the Jew.  He says in Romans 1,

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Go to a city, begin in the synagogue, when kicked out by unbelief continue preaching in the streets and town squares.  He had a plan.

Do you have a plan?  When it comes to witnessing to people, family and friends, do we have some kind of a plan?  Maybe it’s to keep our life pure before God and let them see me serving Him.  Maybe it’s to love all people right where they are with the hopes of leading them to Christ.

Whatever it is, seek the Lord to show us the how of witnessing.  We know the “what,” to reveal Jesus, but what is the “how” of our witnessing?

Second, stick to one thing.

Although Johnny Appleseed was eventually a vegetarian and although he loved and cared for all animals, his one overriding passion was the establishment of apple orchards.

In the same way, although the Apostle had great wisdom concerning many of things, “law and grace,” “salvation and sanctification,” church conduct, “relationships between husbands and wives” and many other areas he really only had one message.  He sums up his message in 1 Corinthians 2.

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1Cor. 2

“…I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  That’s a powerful and pointed message.  There are a lot of important points Paul could have and did preach…but there was only on essential thing – salvation through Jesus Christ alone.

There are a lot of directions we can go in our sharing of faith.  There are lots of subjects we can talk about in our sharing of the message.  I mean the Great Commission says that as we make disciples we are to “…teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  But be careful not to get the cart before the horse.

A person can keep all the commandments and be the best person in the world but if that person does not know Christ the will be lost for eternity.  We’re all sinners.  Some of us live better lives than others of us and some of us know God’s word better than others of us.  But the bottom line is heaven awaits all who know and accept Jesus Christ as Savior, not those who know God best.

Paul wrote about holiness and justice and kindness and relationships and social responsibility and governmental respect and purity of language and industrious work ethic…he taught all those things and more…but he preached only ONE THING…salvation comes through Jesus Christ.

Our message to the others is Jesus is the only way to heaven, the only way to the Father.  Jesus reminds us, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father except by me.”

Some may not like that exclusivity, but it is none-the-less the truth.  In witnessing start with Jesus; teach all you want about purity, but start with Jesus.

After his life was over, Johnny Appleseed was honored and given many accolades for his work.  Today, he is credited with the cultivation of some of our best-loved varieties, such as the Red Delicious and the Golden Delicious.  During his life he had a few idiosyncrasies, but he accomplished his life’s work…planting apple trees all across the mid-west.

Paul was many things: tent maker, theologian, church planter, debater, Jewish scholar, preacher and teacher.  But when his life was over he knew one thing, he had faithfully represented the Gospel.  He had shown that Jesus was the Messiah, the only way to heaven.

Many, many years ago a family sat around the kitchen table.  The siblings were all grown up, some with kids of their own, and they were celebrating Father’s Day with their Dad.  As they gave him a hard time about some of his odd ways and his odd sayings everybody was laughing and having fun.  In one of the few lulls during the conversations the oldest daughter said, “But of all the great things Dad has done it was Dad who lead me to Christ.”  The other daughter chimed in, “Me too.”  The other two children immediately confirmed that they too had found Christ as a result of their Dad’s witness.

What will you be remembered for?  You showed your sons how to be men and gentlemen.  You showed your daughters how to be women and ladies.  You taught manners and a work ethic and honesty and kindness and politeness and all the other good ways to live.  But did you demonstrate Jesus?  Will we be remembered as someone who put others on the path to heaven?  We can do a lot of good and great things but there is only one message that will lead others to eternal peace, Jesus.  Can we say with Paul, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

 

*END*

January 7, 2018

Title: Balanced Disciple Making

Text: Acts 16:16-34

 

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.

But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

 

Staying balanced is a very difficult task.  Work too much and you’re a workaholic.  Work too little and you’re lazy.  Be lenient with your children and you’re spoiling them.  Practice touch discipline and you’re abusive.

For my four years of Bible college I regularly heard L.E. Maxwell being quoted as saying, “The hardest thing in the world is to stay balanced.”

As you can imagine quotes about learning to stay balanced are everywhere.

Jessye Norman is quoted as saying,

“Problems arise in that one has to find a balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself.”

Byron Pulsifer says,

 

“The critical part of a balance in life is choosing priorities.  If you are trying to balance a family and a career, the choices are complex because both are important.”

 

Balance is sometimes hard because we may be forced to choose between two important events.  And, friends may be of no help.  Often friends see only one side of a discussion without looking at someone else’s side.

I also learned a long time ago that although research and study is good for gaining understanding and facts, when it comes to making a decision on how to balance your life the cacophony of voices only leads to confusion.

Our goal is to serve God and bring people into the kingdom of God.  But what people?  Do we reach out to all people?

IMAGINE THIS: You read in the morning parchment that a man that was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked.  A gang of thieves jumped him, stole his clothing and money and savagely beat him.  You are appalled that the thieves just walked away, leaving him on the road to die.  The article states that as he lay there several people approached, a priest and then a Levite, but neither stopped.  It wasn’t until a Samaritan came upon the scene that the injured man received any help.  The Samaritan bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn, and took care of him.  Before the Samaritan continued on his journey he provided for the man’s care.  With a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach you set the article down and go about your business.

Two weeks later you receive a summons…jury duty.  As you enter the jury box you look over and there at one table is the man who was beaten.  At the other table are the men who did the beating.

What emotions begin to rise in your heart?  Do you feel pity, anger, a sense of justice, a sense of vengeance?  Are you happy that these horrible men will finally get what they deserve?  Do you wonder what made these horrible men choose the lifestyle they live?

Then you think about something Jesus said:

Matt. 5 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

And in another place He says:

Luke 6 27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

Now what do you do?  The Greek words in these verses are very descriptive.

The word “enemies” means unfriendly, hated, hostile and an adversary.  To “curse” means to doom a person; to express great loathing for someone.   The word “hate” is just that, to detest and even persecute someone because you do not like them.  And to “spitefully use” means to insult and slander; falsely accuse and threaten.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

Do we suddenly look at this gang of men in a different way?  Where is the balance between justice and mercy?  We know they will be punished but is there any room for leniency?  Where is the balance between our outrage over what they did and our pity for them as people?

Where is the balance?

Let’s make it even more difficult.  Turn to Acts chapter 16 and start in verse 22.  Let me set the stage.

Paul and Silas are in the city of Philippi.  They have been preaching the Gospel and many were listening.  During that time a demon possessed slave girl was following them shouting about what they were doing.  Paul has finally had enough and casts the demon out of her.  Because she is now healed, her owners have no way to make money; they are angry and they drag Paul and Silas to the town square.  The accusation they make against them is a lie yet the magistrates listen and accept the lie; there is no trial or even a hearing yet Paul and Silas are punished.

If you jump to Acts 16:22 we read:

22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Paul and Silas are subjected to mob vengeance: no trial, false accusations, a beating with rods and confinement in a filthy cell in the inner part of the prison with their feet in stocks.

Verse 25 says that in spite of the struggle they are able to praise God and sing hymns to glorify Him.  They are testifying to the glory of God as the rest of the prisoners listen.

AND THEN…the earthquake!  God shook the earth.  More importantly He shook the very foundations of the prison and the cell doors bounced off their hinges and every prisoner’s chains fell off.  Look at verse 26:

Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

The jailor awoke in terror knowing that if any prisoner escaped he would be executed.  Luke records that the jailor drew his sword and was about to fall on it.

At that moment Paul calls out, “Ha, serves you right for messing with God and His servants. Die you dirty Roman thug.”

No, that’s not what Paul says.  Verse 28 reveals, “But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

Hmmmm.  Unjustly hated.  Falsely accused.  Unlawfully beaten.  Cruelly treated.  Brutally confined.

“…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

Why didn’t Paul let the jailor die?  Why did Paul reach out to rescue him?  How did Paul find the balance between “just punishment” and “undeserved mercy?”

Let’s go back to one of the quotes I read at the beginning.

“The critical part of a balance in life is choosing priorities.  If you are trying to balance a family and a career, the choices are complex because both are important.”

One of the steps to maintaining balance is to choose the right priorities.  As Paul looks up and realizes the jailor is about to kill himself he might remember, “…God so loved the world.” Maybe he thought about himself; thoughts he recorded in 1 Timothy.  He says:

15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”

Paul recognized that he had been given a second chance…he needed now to give a second chance.

To speculate a bit and project it to our time we might think, “…God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

“…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

Paul’s desire for the salvation of others was greater than his desire for vindication or vengeance.  He was able to look at the jailor not as the man who had treated him brutally the day before but as a man for whom Christ had given His life; as a man who needed salvation.

And the result… [the jailor cried out]…“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

Our priority is not vindication.  Our priority is leading people to Christ.  Not an easy balance to keep but an important one to pursue.

Remember this event in the life of Jesus.

Luke 9 “51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village.”

Balance comes when we have the mind of Christ concerning others.

Balance comes when we have the mind of Christ concerning others.

Two short passages then we close.

“…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Rom. 12:2

And this:

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Balance in life comes when we know the mind of Christ; when we submit our will and our way to Him and His Word.  When we conform to His will as opposed to the will of the world.

 

*END*

 

12/24/17

Christmas Eve Service

2018 Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

“A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

His disciples answered “You see the people crowding against you and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5

 

“The Touch”

SHOW SHORT VIDEO

This “Woman” knew the world had much to offer – except to her. Condemned by the Levitical system that pronounced anyone with an “issue of blood” unclean and untouchable, her life was one of loneliness and shattered hopes.  All she wanted was to be normal.  All she wanted was to be loved.  All she wanted was for someone to tenderly touch her.  But it seemed impossible – everyone around her knew of her twelve-year affliction and everyone knew the Law.

Visualize the struggle of going 12 years without any significant touch; no hug, no kiss, no gentle hint of affection.  For 12 years not only had no one touched her, they went out of their way to avoid touching her.

Touch is the first sense we acquire and the secret weapon in many a successful relationship.

Imagine:

You’re in a crowded subway car….  Still-sleepy commuters, lulled by vibrations, remain hushed, yet silently broadcast their thoughts.

A toddler in his stroller looks warily at his fellow passengers, brows stitched with concern. He turns to Mom for reassurance, reaching out a small hand. She quietly takes it, holds and squeezes it, and releases. He relaxes, smiles, turns away—then back to Mom. She takes his hand again: squeeze and release.

A twenty-something…sits stiffly, a leather-bound portfolio on her lap. She repeatedly pushes a few blonde wisps off her face, then touches her neck, her subconscious movements both revealing and relieving her anxiety about her 9 a.m. interview.

A couple propped against a pole shares messages of affection; she rubs his arms with her hands, he nuzzles his face in her hair.

A middle-aged woman, squished into a corner, assuredly bumps the young man beside her with some elbow and hip. The message is clear; he instantly adjusts to make room.  The Power of Touch https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201303/the-power-touch By Rick Chillot, published on March 11, 2013 – last reviewed on October 5, 2016

From the very beginning we survive on touch.  Some need more, others less but without it, life is a lonely existence.

Jesus touched.  In various places the Bible records:

1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying,I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matt. 8

14   Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. 15 So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them. Matt. 8

27   When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”

28 And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. Matt. 9

13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10

12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Luke 7

 

We are a people desperate for touch.  Yet we are also a people that fear touch.  As an article in Psychology Today says, “This is a touch-phobic society….”  Because of the abuse and misuse of physical touch we are generally very skittish of touching or of being touched.  As a school bus driver many, many years ago we were told that we were never to touch a student.

Yet there is an enormous amount of communication that can happen through touch.   Touch conveys many positive emotions, but for fear we shy away.

In the Gospels the touch of Jesus changed many people’s lives.  In the verses I read a few minutes ago and in many other ways and places it was Jesus’ touch that turned people’s lives around.  Whether it was a physical touch or just Jesus being in their presence the lives of many were touched by Jesus.

Today Jesus calls us to bless people and touch their lives.  There are times when we can correctly touch someone physically and times when our touch needs to come in other ways.  In fact the phrase “their gesture really touched me” comes from a context in which there is no physical touch.

An aptly spoken word of encouragement, a timely sent card or an appropriately timed phone call can do wonders for touching someone in a special way.

But there is another avenue of touch that we can examine.  Instead of waiting for Jesus to touch us, maybe we need to reach out and touch Jesus.

It is possible that the most important part of this event in Jesus’ life is often overlooked.  We focus on the woman touching the hem of His garment and we are reminded that Jesus said it was her faith that healed her, but back up in the account and read her words.

“When she heard about Jesus…she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’

We do not always have to wait for Jesus to come to us and touch us.  Maybe it is up to us to touch Him.  Instead of waiting for Jesus to reach out to us, maybe we should reach out to Him.

I thought of something very simple as I was preparing this.  Although Jesus went from town to town teaching and healing, it was actually the crowds who came to Him.   We do have accounts of Him reaching to individuals or small groups, but the bulk of the time it was the people who came to Him.  He was constantly being mobbed by crowds of people seeking to be healed.

Instead of waiting to be touched by Jesus, maybe it’s time for us to reach out and touch Him.  Maybe it’s time for us to seek Him and reach out to Him and through prayer and the Bible touch Him.

This night do not wait for Jesus to come to you; you come to Jesus.

 

*END*

 

 

12/24/17

Christmas Eve Morning Service

Title: Women Affected By Jesus: Mary Magdalene

Text: Mark 16:1-9

1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

 

There is a woman affected by the life of Jesus who demonstrated great commitment.  We know her as Mary Magdalene.  The surname suggests that she came from Magdala, a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Mary Magdalene was a devout follower of Jesus.  In spite of that, she has been tagged with many labels.  Among other things she has been called a prostitute, clairvoyant, mystic, celibate nun, matriarch of divinity’s secret dynasty, Jesus’ wife, an apostle, the Beloved Disciple and the writer of the Gnostic Gospel of Mary.

One of the most extreme myths surrounding Mary Magdalene is that she and Jesus were married and when He died she was pregnant with Jesus’ child.  She then went to France with Mary, Jesus’ mother, Lazarus and others, where her descendants eventually founded the Merovingian line of kings.  These people believe she lived out her life in a cave before dying at the Chapel of Saint-Maximin, located in the Southeast of France.  This church boasts that they have Mary Magdalene’s skull which has been encased in gold and is on display for all to worship…I mean for all to see.

Some even say Da Vinci’s painting called “The Last Supper” portrays not 12 male disciples but rather 11 male disciples and one woman…Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene was either Jewish or Egyptian, certainly middle-Eastern.  Although many artists paint her with red hear and fair skin, the historical Mary Magdalene would have had dark skin and dark brown eyes.  Her hair could have been brown or deep red, but it was probably black.  She might well have looked like many other Arab women.

Although many aspects of Mary’s life are hidden in mystery and myth, we do know that she was a diligent follower of Jesus.

The reason for that could be as simple as what is spoken of in Luke 8:

1 Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, 2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Mary Magdalene was committed to Jesus because she had been healed of 7 demons; she knew the feeling of hopelessness.  It was a hopelessness Jesus had replaced with love and hope.

I find it interesting that theologians downplay the severity of 1st century demon possession.  They say the demons cast out would most likely have been a form of mental illness.  While I believe demonic possession can look like mental illness it runs much deeper than that.  Mental illness is not demon possession!

What I read in other places in the Bible demonstrate not mental illness but rather demonic control.  Mark in his Gospel writes, But Jesus rebuked [the demon], saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.” Mk. 1:25, 26

The world “convulsed” means to throw into convulsions.  What might appear to us as some kind of seizure was actually demonic brutality.  The father in Mark 9 says the demon that possessed his son “…seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth and gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.”  “…he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.” Mk. 920ff

Do not downplay the horror of demonic possession.  It is this from which Mary Magdalene was delivered.  Her love could very well have been grounded in the fact that she knew what she had been delivered from.

Do we understand what we have been delivered from?  Hell is no figment of our imagination.  Some will can explain it away and justify their rejection of it but the human soul is eternal and rejection of Christ means we have to spend eternity somewhere other than heaven.  There are lots of arguments against hell.  “God is too good to send someone to hell.”  “God doesn’t hold grudges.”  “God does not operate by the law of “lex talonis;” the law of retribution…“an eye for an eye.”  And all those arguments have some philosophical basis but none biblically explain what happens to the soul of the person who rejects Jesus.

In addition, wickedness is rampant.  We do not have to look far to see the effects of sin in society.

A news article caught my eye on at the end of last week.  It caught my attention because I saw the words “Michigan” and “Montana” in the same sentence.

Police in Michigan are working with law enforcement in Missoula, Montana to determine whether a box containing the remains of three children found at a home there could be connected to three brothers who went missing from Morenci, Michigan in 2010.  In September of this year (2017) a cleaning crew was going through a shed after a tenant was evicted when they found a box containing the bones and teeth of three children.

In 2010, Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton went missing after last being seen in their father’s backyard.  The boys’ father, John Skelton, was convicted of unlawful imprisonment of the boys, but he never revealed their location. By Andrew Surma

Is that not the epitome of evil?  Evil happens when we do not allow the Holy Spirit to control us.

Paul tells us what we are like without God.  He says,

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Rom. 1:28-32

Now that’s a list…a list we need to avoid.  Without Christ that is what we are like, or could become.  Those who truly submit to Christ on a daily basis will be kept from evil.  Mary Magdalene followed Christ because she had experienced the alternative.  She knew life outside of Jesus was horrible.

Her commitment drove her actions.

Her commitment drove her, along with several other women, to support Jesus and the disciples.  In the Luke passage we read earlier it says:

1 Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, 2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

It looks like Mary Magdalene, and others, gave financially to Jesus and His disciples.

Her commitment drove her to stay with Jesus in His most bitter hour.  John records:

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” John 19

When almost everybody else fled and ran from Him Mary Magdalene stayed by His side.  It could have meant arrest, it could have meant being cast out of the Temple; it could have meant any of a number of dangerous things…but her commitment kept Mary Magdalene there…near the cross…near the Savior who had done so much for her.

Her commitment drove her, along with some others, to go to the tomb on the first day of the week to properly anoint Jesus’ body for burial.  Jesus was put into the tomb quite quickly in order to avoid defiling the Sabbath and the burial preparation wasn’t fully done.  She would not allow the One who had done so much for her to suffer any kind of improper burial.

Each of these activities could have gotten her in hot water with the Jewish leaders, the Roman officials or even her own countrymen.  But Jesus had done so much for her, she could not lessen her commitment, danger or not.

Her commitment drove her to receive a reward.  Mary Magdalene was the first to see the resurrected Christ.  Mark records:

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. Mark 16:9

In her hour of deep grief Jesus came to her and took away her grief.

On Tuesday of this week I read an article that about made me blow a cork.  The article was, “10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often.”  And the author, Carey Nieuwhof, lists the 10 reasons.

Number 8 was, “Failure to see a direct benefit in attending church.”  With that in mind I continued with this message and began to wonder if maybe we have stopped asking “what can I do for Christ” and begun asking “what can Christ do for me.”  Is our commitment to Christ directly related to what we get out of it or will we commit even if we receive nothing?

I understand it’s not a commitment issue.  I look out at this congregation and realize many of you are fully committed and engaged…to church.  But are we fully committed and engaged to Christ.

Mary Magdalene supported Jesus even though there’s a good chance she had to get the money from some other source than earning it herself; a husband or her family.  She stayed at the cross even though it meant only pain and grief and danger to see Jesus die.  She went to the tomb thinking nothing would change and life would be hopeless once again.  But she went because she was committed to Jesus Christ.

Church holds no meaning if we are not fully committed to Jesus Christ.  Mary Magdalene’s life is shrouded in mystery and painted with myth, but one thing we do know is that she was fully committed to Jesus.

Christmas is tomorrow.  Are you ready to meet Jesus?  Are you committed to Jesus?  We will not see Him if we are not committed to Him.  Christmas is nothing without Jesus.

 

*END*

 

 

Title: Advent #4 Women Impacted By Jesus – Disenfranchised

Text: Matthew 15:21-28 & Mark 7:24-30

 

Matt. 15

21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

23 But He answered her not a word.

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

 

Mark 7

24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.

 

Disenfranchised.

In Old French the word “enfranchir” means “to make free.”  When we add the negative prefix “dis”, we make it “disenfranchise” which means “to make unfree.”

When we talk about a disenfranchised person or group we are technically talking about this person or group’s exclusion from a decision making process.  On a very generic level it is a person or group who is deprived of their right to vote; their ability to have a say in decision making is taken away.  They become, in a sense, “unfree” or as some would say “enslaved.”

The word has a deeper meaning as well.  A disenfranchised person is one who is stripped of their power; deprived of the ability to determine their own destiny.   Post-Civil War African Americans were disenfranchised when they were deprived of their ability to have a say in their own life.

Being disenfranchised is a very harsh place.  The rules work against you, your rights are violated, and you have little or no power to change your situation.  The disenfranchised have no influence to make people listen to their opinion or to positively affect society.

A disenfranchised population doesn’t rest easy, and often organize and fight back against their condition to demand basic rights and freedoms.

If you make a list of disenfranchised groups it could be quite long, depending on how you look at or view a certain group.

People with limited mobility can feel left out because of physical barriers.  People without valid ID are often not allowed to participate.  Individuals with felony convictions have limitations put on them by the courts.

Individuals deemed “mentally incompetent,” undocumented immigrants, low-income individuals, people experiencing homelessness, women in the workplace, teenagers (particularly teenage girls) often feel a sense of exclusion…disenfranchisement.

Not all of us would agree with all these groups and sometimes we might say some of these individuals or groups got to where they are as a result of their own wrong behavior.  Maybe so, but there is still that sense of disenfranchisement.  There is a feeling that they have no power.

As part of our preparation for Jesus’ coming, I want to look at an issue that came up in the life of Jesus.  There were groups of people who were typically disenfranchised from general society.  As we read the Bible we see a group who had to deal with feelings of disenfranchisement.

Both Matthew and Mark record the account.  It begins with Jesus trying to get away.  Both gospel accounts say Jesus and His disciples head north to the area of Tyre & Sidon.   These cities are in an area known as Phoenicia.  It is outside Israel, about 100 miles from Jerusalem and 20+ miles from Galilee.  It’s an area that was probably populated by some Jews but also had a population of non-Jews.

The reason I say “non-Jew” is because when we meet this woman Matthew calls her “…a woman of Canaan…” and Mark calls her a “…Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth….”   There is no contradiction here.  The prevailing custom among the Jews to call all non-Israelite nations Greeks.  Everybody who was not Jewish was Greek.  The contrast between Greeks and Jews also occurs in the writings of Paul.

In addition, the Jews often disdainfully gave the name of Canaanites to all the inhabitants of Phoenicia.  There was a sense where they looked down on anybody who was not part of Israel.

So as we meet this mother notice right away that she has two strikes against her.  She is not and Israelite and she is a woman, both causes for her to be disenfranchised, powerless.

Jesus and the disciples go to this area intent on getting some R & R.  Mark records, “…He entered a house and wanted no one to know it….”  It was not unheard of for Jesus to find times of respite and rest.  There were times He sought solitude in order to commune with His Father or to just rest.

But, as the account records, He cannot remain hidden primarily because of a mother’s love for her daughter.  The writers record:

Matthew – 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

Mark – 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

So this woman finds Jesus and begins to harass Him.  She wants Him to heal her daughter and it appears that she gets so annoying that even the disciples want Jesus to grant her request just she’ll leave.  Matthew records, “And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

So the woman comes with her request…and Jesus…ignores her.  Matthew tells us that Jesus wouldn’t answer her.  And even when the disciples talk about her, Jesus won’t address her.  There is a point when Jesus does speak to her, but initially He will not even acknowledge her.

Jesus seems to treat her as Jewish society does, as not worthy of the Messiah.

And when Jesus does speak to her His words seem rude to us.   He says to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” 

By that He means that the message of salvation and healing should go to the nation of Israel first.  In fact, I can even remove the word “first.”  Jesus says healing is for Israel.

Notice the last words, “little dogs.”  There is a Greek word that means “dog,” a full grown dog, but the word used here is a word that refers to a “puppy.”  Jesus doesn’t even give her the honor of calling her a grown up dog; she’s a little dog.

It is hard to understand the actions of Jesus concerning this woman.  He appears to be rude.  It is easy to say that He was testing her, and He probably was.  We might also say that Jesus is teaching His disciples a lesson, which is possible also.

But as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus, it is important to look at the response of the woman.

Notice her persistence.  The words of the disciples indicate that even they are getting a bit irritated at her constant asking.

As a driver in a car have you ever heard this, “Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we there yet?”

Eventually even that question will be answered with a “yes” but the persistence can be very annoying.

The woman did not give up.  Her daughter was demon possessed.  She knew that was not right. She knew Jesus could help.  Her love for her daughter would not allow her to give up.

“Lord, Son of David, cast the demon out of my daughter.” “Lord, Son of David, cast the demon out of my daughter.” “Lord, Son of David, cast the demon out of my daughter.” “Lord, Son of David, cast the demon out of my daughter.” “Lord, Son of David, cast the demon out of my daughter.” “Lord, Son of David, cast the demon out of my daughter.”

Are we persistent in our prayers?  If we know it’s God’s plan and we know it meets the criteria of His will and it doesn’t cater to our own selfishness, then don’t stop laying it at His feet in prayer.

Luke 11 5 And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Live as if God was your Father, then pray to Him as if He is our merciful Father.

The next thing we see in this woman is that she knew things about the God of the Jews.  When she calls Him “Son of David” she acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah; the long-awaited for Jewish Savior.

How is our knowledge of God?  How is our knowledge of the will of God?  Our prayers may not be answered because we’re praying outside the will of God.  It is important to get to know the Person we are praying to.

It’s like knowing the do’s and don’ts when meeting the Queen of England. There are some things we need to know.

There is basically a “no-touch” rule.  When meeting the queen wait until she extends her hand to take it and do not grip it tightly or pump it.

There are to be no hugs, no kiss on the cheek and no touching the shoulder.

Women should do a small curtsy and men should bow their heads slightly.  Never turn your back to the queen.

Refer to the queen as “Your Majesty” on the first reference, and then “ma’am” subsequently.  Do not call her by any nicknames and do not ask about her famous grandchildren, Prince Harry and Prince William.

At meals do not chow down.  Tea is accompanied by small snacks.  When drinking tea raise only the teacup to drink, not the cup and saucer, and return the cup to the saucer after each sip, and no slurping.   When the queen takes her last bite…her guests are done also.

Know the God we serve.  Know the God from whom we are seeking answers.

It also says, “…she came and worshiped Him….”  The Greek word has several meanings, to do reverence or homage by kissing the hand, or by prostration; to pay divine homage and adoration; to bow one’s self or fall down before.”

This woman knew who Jesus was and in knowing Him she knew her place.  She bowed herself because she knew she was outside the nation of Israel, she knew she wasn’t one of the chosen nation and she knew she was a woman.  She knew she was “disenfranchised;” powerless.

Do we know whom we address when we go to God?  He is not our equal!  He is not our servant! There are times, like in this account, that it appears that He is not even our friend!  He is God and He will be treated as God or we will not be granted audience.

A relatively familiar quote from C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” illustrates the point.

“Beaver says, ‘Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.’ ‘Ooh’ said Susan. ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion’….  ‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver …’Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’” C.S. Lewis

When we pray let us not forget who we are addressing.  God is kind, merciful, loving and caring…but do not ever forget that He is Almighty God.  The woman was persistent, but she bowed in the presence of Jesus, Son of David, Son of God.

Finally, she knew anything from Jesus was better than everything from people.

“[Jesus] said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’  27 …she said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’”

The woman knew she was not part of Israel, that she was powerless to receive, she was disenfranchised.  But she also knew that Jesus had power to heal and that He looked for at a person’s faith, not their DNA.  She did not need Jesus to move heaven and earth, she needed Him to heal her daughter.  She knew He could and she believed He would.

Preparation for Christ’s entrance means we not only know Jesus can save but it means believing that He will save.

The story ends, Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”

Come to Him.  Know Him and make your requests.  And believe that the God we address can answer our prayers.

 

*END*