Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
If you've known me for much longer than a minute you know that I absolutely LOVE God's Word. More than just words on a page of history, I believe that the Bible is God-breathed. Words straight from His mouth to my heart. I especially love the accounts of the great women of the faith. Rahab, Ruth and Naomi, Deborah, Abigail and the like. Reading about Esther and King Xerxes draws me in more than any modern day love story. Mary Magdalene reminds me that I can be healed of every demon that would control me. Martha and her sister Mary show me that I need balance in my life.
Today I am captivated by a woman whose name I do not know. I am intrigued by her story. She is from Canaan (Matthew 15: 21-28) or Syrophoenicia, part of the province of Syria. (Mark 7:24-30). She's not a Martha or a Mary, a Ruth, a Jezebel or a Bathsheba, popular names that bring to mind specific stories. She is unnamed and identified only by where she comes from. Have you ever been there? Labeled only by where you've been?
Maybe we're not given her name so that we can more easily focus on her condition. We are all in a condition at one time or another. This woman was desperate. Her mother's heart was breaking over her little daughter. The Bible tells us that the girl was demon-possessed and suffering terribly. By looking at other accounts of demon-possession in the Bible, we can assume that this young girl would be seized by a demon and would be thrown to the ground, foam at the mouth, become rigid and exhibit violent behavior, much like an epileptic seizure in our day. And our woman was helpless to do anything about it. All she could do was watch and be filled with anguish. She felt powerless, with no where to turn. Can anybody identify with that today?
What was there about her that earned her a place in the Bible? What was there about her that warranted her receiving an answer to her prayer? First of all, she was persistent. Mark's account says that she begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter's body. The word used there for "begged", meant to ask earnestly, to continue asking. She persisted even when Jesus didn't answer her. She had probably become quite annoying with her pleading because the disciples told Jesus to send her away, "for she keeps crying out after us". Don't ever let anyone keep you from Jesus. They'll tell you to give it up. They'll tell you it's hopeless. They'll tell you it doesn't make any sense to trust Jesus for your answer. She probably entreated her false, foreign gods to no avail. But she heard about a Man. A Man who was healing the sick and driving out demons. She didn't know all of the theology, but she knew that in Him there was some inkling of hope for her little girl. And she wouldn't be deterred. Not even when it seemed that Jesus was telling her No!
Not only was she persistent ...she was humble. In Mark we find that she fell at the feet of Christ. She knew that He was able and she was not. She knew that He had the power to save and her only hope was in Him. Her Greek idols had let her down. No doctor could help. No ones good advice could stop the terrifying condition that gripped her little girl. She fell at His feet. I've dropped to my knees and to the floor many times. Often because my legs wouldn't hold me anymore and in humble submission I hit the floor to demonstrate my absolute dependence on the Lord's help. I have fallen at His feet and pleaded that those I love would be able to escape the trap of the devil, who at one time or another had taken them captive to do his will (see 2 Timothy 2: 26). Like Jacob I have held on so tightly and refused to let go until He blessed me. (see Genesis 32: 22-32)
Then Jesus says the most amazing thing. "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." Was He calling her a dog? Before we start to think that Jesus was being mean to her, we must understand that He was not referring to the wild, scavenger dogs who roamed the city. He used the word, "kunarion" which was a little dog or a puppy. Jesus was picturing a family sitting down at mealtime around the table. The food was provided by the head of the household. This woman was not a part of the family (Israel) because she was Greek. She wasn't allowed the best of the food. But she saw herself as a little dog or a puppy, under the table, eligible for the crumbs that might fall. She just wanted some of the blessings. Everything belonged to the master...even the puppy under the table. Because of this, she took no offense.
She would not take no for an answer. If she could have just a crumb, her daughter would be healed. She went unnamed. She was an outsider. She was like a puppy under the master's table. She was not part of the in-crowd. But her faith told her that there was enough blessing in this Man for her. Her faith told her to never give up. Her faith told her that He was the answer to her prayer and her daughter's deliverance. And that faith is what got her prayer answered.
You may feel nameless and faceless in a crowd of insiders today. People may identify you with your past. People may identify you with your condition. You may be powerless and hopeless in a seemingly hopeless situation. Remember that just a crumb from the Master's table is sufficient for the answer to your prayer. No matter where you have come from or what you've done, you belong to the Master, Christ. Throw yourself at His feet. Be persistent. Don't ever give up. Don't take offense even if it seems that He is telling you No! This account tells me that He loves that kind of faith! And even if your name never appears in the annals of something important...be certain that your Savior knows your name and you are so important to Him.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
American idols aren't made of wood and stone. They are made of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. (1 John 2: 16) American idols are fashioned from the stuff we think we just can't live without, material and otherwise. They are shaped and cast by what society tells us we must have to be deemed successful and worthy.
Some American idols are quite obvious. Men and women alike are chasing the American dream that is becoming more and more elusive with each passing year. Chasing bigger houses that are now in foreclosure because the dream wasn't backed up by the good sense and Godly wisdom to know that you couldn't afford it. Fancy cars and clothes and jewels are being marketed to our young people in movies and music videos. Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money...and life will be good. My sons are bombarded with the lie that more money will buy more cars and houses and more cars and houses will buy more beautiful women. TV commercials ask, "What's in YOUR wallet?" Marriages, even Christian ones, are disintegrating and the number one reason for divorce is money problems! People are working 24/7 at the expense of their relationships chasing the idols. The idols made of wood and stone that will never satisfy. What ever happened to chasing after the One who provides for our every need? What ever happened to contentment with what we've been given from the hand of God? We are worshiping the created instead of the Creator. Idolatry at its finest.
Other American idols are of the flesh and blood variety. We worship Hollywood icons, rich moguls and those who we think are in the know and part of the in-crowd. We want to hang with the important people and let everyone know that we do. We cozy up to the pastor, the head of the company, the one with the fat bank account. But Jesus tells us that "when [we] give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and [we] will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14: 13-14) Doesn't sound like a Who's Who list of American Idols does it? I believe that we will be very surprised when we get to heaven and see who's there! Someone once said, "those who are last will be first.." James put it this way, "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Him to Whom you belong?" (James 2: 5-7) Simply put, those poor folk may have a higher rank than you do in the Kingdom of God. Remember this? "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16: 7)
And then...some American idols are not so plain to see with the naked eye. They are our inner idols. Our dreams, our hopes, our inner longings. And we are a very unsatisfied lot. Married people want to be single. Singles want to find that special someone to marry. Figuring that any husband is better than no husband at all, women marry just about anyone who comes along and shows an interest, and they suffer for years to come. Unemployed men long for a job. Those who have a job hate the one they have. We live vicariously through our children and find our worth in their good grades, their prowess at hockey or soccer or ballet. We make our own children our idols!! And if we don't have children, we think we will never be complete or worth anything without them. We need to STOP! Again, as evidenced by what we pursue, we worship the created rather than the Creator. The gift rather than the Giver. It is God who will give us the perfect spouse. It is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth...in other words, He will bring the job to us. Children are a gift from God. Not something that we use to puff ourselves up and make us feel good about ourselves. We are to pour into them...not use them to pour into us and fill up our need to feel adequate and esteemed. We can even make our ministry our idol. Out of balance service to the Lord can be the biggest thing that interferes with our relationship with Him. We can idolize our work for Him and never spend a minute with Him. God is not so much about service. He's all about relationship.
Deuteronomy 16: 21-22 says, "Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the Lord your God, and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates." Have you already figured out where the poles and stones are in your life? We all have them. I have them and so do you. But God says that when we worship our individual idols we "feed on ashes, a deluded heart misleads [us]". We are so deluded and misled by the enemy and by our own refusal to renew our minds that we can't even see that "this thing in my right hand is a lie." (Read Isaiah Chapter 44) It's your choice. Will you pursue the created or the Creator? Will you set your sights on the gifts or the Giver? Will you worship the Truth or continue to pursue the lie? Will you worship things made by human hands or worship the "one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and ...one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live?" (1 Corinthians 8: 6) I remember reading something about seeking first the kingdom of God and all else being given to me besides. (Matthew 6: 33)
Someone named J. McMath said this: "That for which I would give anything and accept nothing in exchange is the most important thing in my life. Whatever that is...is my God." That is so powerful...I think I'll just stop there.
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