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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Pressing in to my Faith" by John - 5.3.17

Entry Submitted by John at 6:23 PM EDT on May 3, 2017

First of all, I began my walk in Christ, a lot of years ago. At the same time, while I know that God "directs the steps of a righteous man", each step I take is a physical exercise for me and, sometimes, I stumble and, my foot will land a little off-course.

I can honestly claim and, sincerely say that for the better part of life, I've enjoyed the times that I've been able to help people who were unable to help their self. Two times in my life, I had the very profound experience of being among people who, I didn't speak the language and, the only thing I could understand from them or, that they could understand from me was, when we smiled at each other or, we embraced and, those were two separate mission trips to Nicaragua, Guatemala and, Honduras. I've never worked so hard North sweated so much in all of my life and yet, felt so fulfilled when I came home. To go along with that, if I've said to myself once, I've said out loud to God, more times than I can recount, "Lord, one of these days, I'd just like to be in the position financially where, when I meet someone who needs help, I could just help them." In the Fall of 2003 when I first heard about this, at first I was apprehensive but then, not knowing how much time there was before it would happen, I didn't want it to pass me by so, I got involved. Little did I know how long it would be and, everything I would go through. Then, I'd have people make comments, purportedly giving me advice about, "well, if you would have..." whatever, then, they describe some option that they presumed was available to me and, proceed to tell me, "...then you woulda..." and, it's all in hindsight. Isn't it wonderful, how clearly we can see things when, we look back at stuff? I've caught myself doing that "looking back" business, more times than I care to recall and, every now and then, I'd let it frustrate me almost to the point of being depressed but, too much of that can prevent you from taking care of just the daily responsibilities of life. I was already a disciple, which means "learner" of Christ so, I began to bear down on my studies and, as I did, I discovered that I was less frustrated. Don't get me wrong, I'm way past ready to get on with what God has placed on my heart but, in the last thirteen and a half years, He has done a mighty work in me and, I'd just like to encourage the rest of you to just hang in there. He knows what you're going through and, whether you realize it or not, in order for Him accomplish what we're all waiting for, He has to work through people. In the meantime, while you're waiting, I hope what's below this, which is what the Lord gave me this morning, will in some way encourage you.

~~~~~~~~~<<<

"Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed." (Matthew 15:21-28 NLT)

Maybe I'm the only one who is just now seeing this.

Maybe I'm just late in catching on or, maybe it's just taken this long for me to be able to express myself in a heartfelt manner but, there doesn't seem to be a day that goes by that, in talking with someone or hearing someone talk about struggles in this life that, in some way, it's said, "Well, God is in control!"

Ok then, I have a question for you and, I appreciate the "respect for God's authority" that, that statement implies but, what does that mean?

Does the person who says that mean that they believe that God is in control of all the affairs of man? or, are they just confessing that God is in control of the affairs of their own life?

You see, as I understand the way we were created, which is

"in the image and after likeness of God"

and, with God being sovereign then, when you consider "man's" creation "in the image and likeness of God", don't we have to somehow associate man with having "sovereignty"?

Hear me out, here because, I'm not saying that God has abdicated His throne to "man" nor, am I suggesting that He agreed to give up or share His sovereignty in any way, shape or, form but, after declaring that "man" (that's male and female) were to be created "in His image and likeness", He said, "...and let them have dominion" and, spells out the parameters of that dominion and, all the way through the Bible, we witness the exercise of that dominion and authority in the lives of people like "Abel", "Noah", "Moses", "Abraham", "Isaac", "Jacob", "David" and, the list goes on, right up to "John the Baptizer."

...and then, while we may be able to take our understanding of God's standard for our own life and, point out all the "failures" of some of these people who are mentioned, the one thing they each had in common was "faith and, obedience."

Then, someone may ask, "which comes first...faith or obedience?"

Well, I may get corrected or, someone may have another way of saying this but, as I read the accounts of their lives, what I see is that, their faith is actually expressed through their obedience.

In fact, when you look back to the Garden of Eden and, the very first act of disobedience...what is it that causes them to disobey but, a lack of faith in what a God had already told them?

Well, how does all of that fit in with this passage of scripture and, this woman who, at that particular moment in time, didn't even have the right to expect anything from Jesus? and, I know someone is asking, "How can I say that she had no right to expect anything?"

Well, it's right there in the passage. Jesus said;

"I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel."

There aren't too many ways to interpret that. She wasn't an Israelite so, she was in no position to make any demands on God and yet, she did.

How could she?

What drove her to do this?

Well, that too, is shown to us at the end of this verse.

Jesus said to her, "“Dear woman,”...“your faith is great. Your request is granted"

but, before she ever heard Him say that to her, she had already assumed and, taken a position of obedience.

How can I say that?

Well, perhaps without her even knowing that it was already written, God's Word says,

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name."

Psalm 100: 4

...and, that's what she did.

Even after Jesus had told her, "I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel",

we read where it says,

"But she came and worshiped him..."


What drove her to do that?

Well, I submit to you, the very same thing that drives you and me to come before His throne of grace...and, sometimes. all we have is "hope" and, I'm not talking about a "wishful" thinking.

I'm talking about the kind of hope that may cause you to drop to your knees in gratitude for what He's already done for you.

The kind of "hope" that helps you remember your own past experiences when, your situation or circumstances were dire and then, aided by our own memories of "making it through" those times, we're pushed beyond the wishful thinking into "believing" and, knowing that "with God, all things are possible" and, we begin to realize that there's a "substance" to our "hope" and, it's that "substance", without which, it's impossible to please God.

What is that?

Yep...exactly what Jesus said she had..."faith"

but, Jesus said that she "had great faith."

What's the difference in her faith and mine?

Well, in the first place, I'm on the other side of Jesus' purpose for even coming.

She's on that side of "the cross" and, I'm on this side.

My faith is in the finished work.

Her faith came from a source without the knowledge of the finished work.

You see, at her point in time, as Jesus himself expressed, she was outside of His purpose but, later on, we see that His purpose includes and included her, you and me, all along.

Do you remember the account of Zacchaeus?

Remember, Zacchaeus wasn't a good man in the eyes of the people. In today's language, he was the head of the local IRS Office and yet, my knowing Jesus and, the economy of actions in His ministry, I know that His encounter with Zacchaeus, just like His encounter with this woman in Matthew 15, wasn't by chance, even though it may have appeared that way to a casual observer, as we read;

"Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

What does all of this have to do with the woman in Matthew 15?

Well, let's watch what Jesus says but, first...

...what would it have been like to have had Jesus physically in your home?

As we watch what Zacchaeus does, while we know, there's nowhere that you or I can go m, where God isn't, we can get an image in the response of Zacchaeus, of what it may have been like and, what we may have done with Jesus physically in our home and, pardon me, if you will, I can't help but think of the image of Zacchaeus that I have and, it's a bit comical.

I don't know if anyone else can relate but, since the time of the television show "Taxi", when I read or hear about Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus, I think of the character in that show who played the role of the boss, "Louie DePalma."

If you remember... "Louie" was kind of a scoundrel but, there was something about him that you couldn't help but like. Well, enter Zacchaeus, a scoundrel in the eyes of the people of Jericho and, what made it worse was he was "rich" and, had gotten that way through collecting taxes from their hard work but, he had one thing going for, whether they knew it or not, he was from a good family...God's family and, we know that from what Jesus says afterward but, we also witness the goodness that was awakened in Zacchaeus by Jesus' presence, as we read...

"Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Luke 19: 8

...and,

"Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19: 9,10

"For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost."

Jesus was speaking in "that moment" and, what He said, tells you and me where we once stood, before He came into our lives.

Who did He come to "seek" and "save"?...

"those who ARE lost."

So, the woman that we read about in Matthew 15... in the overall scheme of God's plan, where was she, as far as we can see?

Lost!

...and yet, she had a need and, she knew Jesus was the solution and source to meet to that need.

Guess what?

He still is!

Where does Zacchaeus fit into this?

Well, he had a need too. In one sense, it wasn't the same as hers but, in another, it was exactly the same.

She was lost...

Zacchaeus was lost.

At one time, I was lost...

...but, Amazing grace came along and, into my life...your life and, as I got to know Him more and more, like the woman in Matthew 15 who, at the time had no right to make demands from God, she "boldly" went before Jesus for what she "hoped" for...

That's what you and I are supposed to do when we pray.

Were to "boldly go before God's throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace in a time of need."

...enter "Zacchaeus".

In the eyes of the people, he had no "needs" except maybe, in their estimation, to be made to suffer a little of what they were having to endure but, from his own actions, it seems to me that he knew he had a need and, the source of whatever his need was, was entering Jericho so, knowing his need and, his own stature, he climbs to the top of a tree. Little did he know, Jesus had come to Jericho, specifically to see him.

How do we know that?

Well, what did Jesus do?

He's walking into Jericho and, you've got to know that He was surrounded by people but. as He walks along in what we can only assume, was a lot of noise and chaos, He looks up in the tree.

"Well, looky there! It's Zacchaeus"

and, while Zacchaeus may have been in hopes that he could just get a view of Jesus without being noticed...I mean, he wasn't the most popular guy in town but, no chance of going unnoticed.

In fact, I believe and, I think, you may too, that he was the very reason Jesus went to Jericho. Scripture says;

"Jesus called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

...and, we know the results of Jesus going home with him.

As I think about this story, I'm six feet tall...not really the "Zacchaeus" of my own family but, there was a time in my life when, like the "wee man", you could say, I just wanted to get up in a tree and get a look at Jesus but, just like what we see happened to Zacchaeus, all it took on my part was that little bit of "desire."

You could say, that desire was merely a "spark" but, with that spark, God started a "fire" in my life and, this morning, He just happened to stoke that fire a little but. What you're reading is a part of of that "fire" and, I hope you're blessed by it.

I started all of this with the account in Matthew 15 because, in so many ways, I could relate to the position this woman was in.

Her needs were dire and, while her actions didn't show it, her circumstance of not being born into the right family made for a predicament and yet, Jesus recognized her actions for everything they were...purely the exercise of faith.

Since that time and, her encounter with Jesus, as you know, a lot has happened.

"The lamb was slain."

"He went to the cross."

Read that last statement again.

"He went to the cross."

That means, He could have chosen to do otherwise but, as we know, while in the "Garden of Gethsemane" He said,

"Father if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."

...and, on His way to the cross, He took the jeers, the slaps and being spit upon, the ridicule, the blame and then, the beatings... but, why?

Well, we already know the answer but, God's Word answers it best.

"But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed."

Isaiah 53: 5

You've read it before. You've heard it preached. We know about the two thieves on either side of Him, hanging from a cross of their own and, how one accepted what he saw as his own fate while the other said,

"remember me when you enter your kingdom"

and, we know what Jesus said to him...

...and, while you may have never heard it said this way, we know , not long afterward, after Jesus had already said,

"Forgive them Father, for they they don't know what they're doing."

Jesus uttered His last words...

"tetelestai"

which is Greek for

"It is finished"

and, we just went through the season of and, I don't want to take away from the power of His resurrection but, just before He ascended, He said,

"I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28: 18-20

That's what this is all about, for me. It's about "Pressing in to my faith." Am I better than you? No... probably not even "as good as you" but, I am who I am...sometimes, my own worst critic but, wise enough to know that if God can use a Balaam’s Donkey to get through to him, He might be able to use me to get through to someone else.

Final question.

Can you imagine what Paul the Apostle could have done with Facebook? I mean, really!

in Christ,

John

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