TO WHOM SHOULD WE DO GOOD?

In Matthew 15:22-28 Jesus is confronted by a Canaanite woman. Historically the Canaanite were were pagan and spiritual enemies of Israel often leading them into idolatry. It would seem natural Jesus after having taken on human nature in coming to us would be repulsed by her request for help. Initially in the text it seemed as though that was the case but in carefully reading it through to the end we find that her faith not only brought her to Christ but led to her daughter’s healing. It causes me to ask if I were confronted by someone in need of help who had done myself or my family wrong would I be Christian enough to help them irregardless of the past? The answer should be most certainly yes.

To me this text has a great many spiritual lessons among which are first of all that our faith is seen in how strongly we hold to Christ as our Savior. For many their faith is weak when it comes to being tested. It is then we must remain ever stronger. As parents in the case of this mother we must also show this strength when the trouble is with our children. We must always remember that their trouble is ours as well and we can and most certainly should intercede on their behalf with our Lord and Savior.

As verse 25 would indicate I believe Jesus may well provide obstacles to our faith. Perhaps it is to see how earnest we are in our faith but He does hear and when He answers it is not only for our benefit but needs be for His glory as well. Indeed if our faith is an active faith we will turn whatever is against us into something for us. Faith is so critical that I believe it is the one grace that honors Christ most and when expressed Christ honors most in return. It is for that reason that we should take a lesson from Christ when it comes to faith and it is to all that WE SHOULD DO GOOD.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Our faith should always find us following our Lord and Savior without question.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Matthew 15:27 “An active faith turns what is against us to something for us”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me to do great good for others.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. To whom did Jesus most direct His ministry on earth?
  2. As Gentiles are we or not blessed through our support of Israel?
  3. What crumbs do the false masters (gods) throw to people that distract us from faith in our Lord and Savior?
  4. To whom are you doing good?

HOMECOMING KING

For those of you who have had the experience of being selected a homecoming king or queen you know the elation and good feeling that comes from the popularity that goes with the selection. Today I want to share the message of a true Homecoming King by the name of Jesus Christ. Christ in His return to Galilee in the message related by John 6:22-71 was drawing large crowds in his homeland but some of those who were disciples discovered that what was expected in the relationship was more than they could handle. The message Christ would share in these verses was that He was the bread and living water that like the bread we consume for physical nourishment would not only nourish the body but more importantly the spirit. Communicating with those who would follow Him on a higher plane (spiritual not just physical) was more than some disciples could understand and accept and so they fell away as verses 60-66 tell us.

Today we need to understand that living in the spirit is indeed special. Our horizon goes far beyond what the eye can see and our vision is far greater than most any man or woman can imagine. Our perspective is eternal and if the Holy Spirit is indeed truly present in our lives we have a spiritual insight that goes with our claiming the moniker of Christian. An insight that the world will not understand.

Bread as we all know obviously does not nourish a body that is not living. So also Christ as our spiritual bread does not nourish a spiritually dead person.Without this spiritual nourishment many are nothing more than ‘Christian Zombies’ walking around in their faith but missing so much. In fact many, I believe, are walking in spiritual blindness not unlike the Pharisees of Christ’s time or the atheists and others of our time.  In fact without the soul the flesh of man is of no value (vs. 63). Sadly that is the case for many including those who may at one time have been selected HOMECOMING KING.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Today seek the Spirit to save the soul.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE: John 6:63 “without the soul the flesh of man is of no value”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for Your presence in my life.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How do you exercise your faith?
  2. In what ways can bread be of both physical and spiritual value?
  3. What are the teachings of the Holy Spirit that keep us away from guilt and danger?
  4. Do you have the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?

LORD OF THE SEA

One of my favorite hymns is: Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of life’s tempestuous waves. God as creator of all that is shows us this through the story in Matthew 14:22-33. Peter as a devout follower of Christ wanted to imitate Christ and so he heard Jesus call him out of the boat to walk across the stormy Lake Genesserat. The problem was that he toke his focus off of Jesus and began to sink. That is the bottom line for all of us as well. When we take our focus off of Jesus we begin to sink and sink rapidly and without the saving hand of Christ we will drown.

I believe the example in Matthew is rich in many spiritual lessons among which are: faith grows with testing. Peter was richer for the experience he had that early morning as he understood what is required to have an improved relationship with his Savior. We to face many tests in life. We can use those as times of growth or as so many do times of turning away from our faith. That is the free will that has been given to each of us.

Another lesson is that the boat that Peter was in much like the church for Christians today was meant to get them to a place of safety. Peter discovered that when leaving the boat as for those who somehow feel less of a need for the church  there will be consequences. If our churches are on the right path they should take us to the Heavenly shores. In fact as vs. 30 tells us when we step outside the church whether after a Sunday morning service or whenever be prepared for storms. Just as Peter wrestled with the waves after leaving the boat so we also when leaving the church if we are devout in our faith will face the many storms of this life that satan confronts us with. What is important is to know that Christ will always be there as He is THE LORD OF THE SEA.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Our Savior will save us from the stormy seas of life.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Matthew 14:22-33 “How faith can be strengthened”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may I always keep my focus on You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What storms have you come through?
  2. Are you  facing a stormy sea at this moment?
  3. How do you handle the storms of life?
  4. Has your faith grown when confronted by difficult moments?

GRACE

In this one word we have the key that unlocks the door to all things glorious. Without grace humankind is no better than the worst thing our mind could ever imagine. To understand grace we must first understand that all people sin as noted in Ecclesiastes 7:20 and pleading ignorance will not go unpunished (Leviticus 5:17).

For a moment consider the meaning of grace and a gracious God. Though deserving of punishment we have a God so good that this act of mercy and kindness is offered to all including the undeserving as a free gift from Jesus Christ who is God’s only Son Who sacrificed Himself on the cross for our sins (Romans 3:24).

This salvation comes to us through our faith and trust in Jesus. It is available to all mankind (Titus 2:11) and once received will result in good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) done for others bringing glory to God and not for a purpose of bringing honor to self.

Grace is a most amazing word from the Greek ‘charis’ which means beautiful. Indeed when we say someone is charismatic we see in them the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. As those fruits and gifts are shown and grow we are in truth seeing the molding of a person by God’s mighty hands.

Today we need to look at our lives and those of others around us and ask if we have come to that ultimate feeling of brokenness that drives us to faith, or if our lifestyle and comforts are keeping us from God. We need to understand that grace carries a warming label and we can fall from it. Christ warned us of this in Matthew 26:41 and Peter affirmed it in 2 Peter 3:17.

To all we need to know that it is important for us to strive for sinless perfection knowing that only when we leave this sinful body will we find it in eternity and understand fully the true meaning of GRACE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Grace grows through God’s goodness.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Titus 2:11 “salvation is available to all”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord keep me in Your grace.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How do you understand grace?
  2. What are the dangers of grace?
  3. How does someone fall from grace?
  4. What makes a person charismatic?

 

 

THAT IN WHICH YOU CAN BE CONFIDENT!

I doubt there are few who would disagree with me that the world is going crazy. There was once a time when all its various institutions (government, news, education and even churches, etc.) were looked upon with greater favor than they are now. Sadly the desire for money, power and self satisfaction have brought them and other institutions to the low point we are at now. The question then must be asked in what or whom should we place our confidence?

The first and most obvious answer is God the Father as Christ noted in John 14:1 and in His Son Jesus Christ (John 20:31). In a world becoming ever more secular there is no one else who can give us the fullness of life we seek now and for all eternity.

In an effort to build on this rewarding relationship it is important to become well informed on Their teachings. This begins with the writings of Moses (Pentateuch) centered in the first 4 books of the Old Testament (John 5:46). Christ Himself here spoke of how Moses foretold of His coming as the Messiah which early Messianic Jews agreed with (Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17 and Deuteronomy 18:15-18).

In addition  the recorded words of the early prophets lead us to Christ as He in Whom we can have confidence. Finally the recordings of the Gospels (Mark 1:15) which contain first hand accounts of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Each of us have been given the free will to choose in what or whom we will place our confidence. Our decision has enormous consequences. Choose carefully in THAT IN WHICH YOU CAN BE CONFIDENT.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Follow God faithfully and feel His presence forevermore.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 14:1 “God as object of our faith”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord my confidence is in You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. In what or whom do you place your confidence/faith?
  2. How did the world fall into secularism so fast?
  3. How did the early writings (both within and outside the Bible) point to Christ as our Savior?
  4. How did the Bible come to be universally accepted as God’s Word?

CALMING THE SEA

My family is often a slight bit perturbed at the fact that I can sleep through most any storm. In fact I enjoy hearing the wind blow and can sit and watch weather for hours on end. I always figure why worry over something you can not change and if there is indeed a Tornado or something truly dangerous approaching then I will respond in kind. In Matthew 8:23-25 we see Christ in a similar situation after a long hard day falling into a deep sleep on a boat. The winds come up and the ship seems to be in danger of sinking and the disciples become alarmed.

The text is rich in so much information from the fact that perhaps this was a test to see about the faith of Christ’s disciples or perhaps it was to show that Christ was both human (needing sleep) and divine (calming the storm). Whatever the lesson it did show that the disciples still had doubts about Christ despite seeing His many miracles performed. Not unlike many today who still do not understand our Lord and Savior. In this example God used a calamity to provide additional evidence for the divine nature of Christ and His control over even the elements. Something which many of us know as on occasion we pray for rainfall in times of drought.

I believe that Matthew 8 is evidence that in the hands of God mankind can sleep with a good and pure conscience. If we who believe in Jesus Christ repent and confess our sins, which we need to do on a regular basis, then we should be able to rest easily. In fact it seems evident to me that on earth satan can create storms but our Lord will always be there to still the storm we face in life.

The message that this text brings to us is that we must learn trust and have faith. A faith that is not afraid to speak out when challenged. A faith that can CALM THE SEA.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY:  Calmness comes with commitment to Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Matthew 8:23-25 “Great calamities are God’s great opportunities”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may I always find my peace in You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How did you handle great storms in your life?
  2. What calamities are and will the church and Christian believer face?
  3. Where is tranquility found?
  4. How important is it to speak out for our faith?

ALL IN!

The expression ‘all in’ is commonly used in today’s world to indicate total commitment. There is nothing left ‘in the tank’ so to speak. This certainly applies in the world of sport but should even more so apply in the realm of our faith as well.

With age I realize this more than ever. The greatest share of my journey through this life is over. In many ways I was ‘all in’ living out what I have to this point. Continuing to grow in faith, I now realize I must be all in as it relates to my faith als0.

To understand the meaning of this we look at Psalm 71:14 where we see one of the circles of life. Here we see how hope and praise go hand in hand. Our hope lies in our faith for which we praise God. The more we find ourselves in praise the more our faith grows and the stronger our hope becomes. It comes naturally when you are all in at the spiritual level of your life.

Praise whether in prayer or some other form of conversation with God should come easy. We need to praise God for how we are wonderfully made and the ability to have an understanding soul (Psalm 139:14). We praise God for His power (Psalm 21:13) seen in events of nature and miracles heard of on a regular basis.

Traveling around the world we praise God for the wonders we see in the heavens (Psalm 89:5) and on earth. Indeed all that was, is or ever will be shows the loving kindness of a Creator (Psalm 138:2) who reveals His truth to us as we grow in our faith, hope and praise in and of Him. Today if any have not already made the commitment it is time to be ALL IN.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Praise is precious for the spiritual power it places within us.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Psalm 71:14 “growing in praise”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I want to be all in with You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Can you think of any other circles of life that add meaning and purpose to who we are?
  2. How do you build on faith, hope and praise?
  3. Explain how we are ‘wonderfully’ made?
  4. Are you ‘all in’ with God?

WHAT IS THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR ….!

As a child playing in our farm yard I would often find something that I wanted to keep to myself. Often time it was an oddly shaped tree branch that magically became a gun to kill the bad guys in our yard (not a one survived). Occasionally my mother would come outside and I quickly hid my ‘gun’ behind my back. Seeing this action she would ask what I had in my hand. Eventually she discovered it was just a stick and life would go on.

God in Exodus 4:2 asked Moses that same question: “what is that in your hand”.  A rod or stick of sorts if you please. For Moses simply something that helped him along life’s journey but in the eyes of God when matched with Moses faith it became so much more.

Barbara Fairchild once said: “little is much if God is in it”. Our faith in God when matched with our thoughts, words and deeds and related objects can do much. The fruits of Moses faith and his ‘stick’ are well documented in the book of Exodus but we to can experience the fruits of faith. Faith justifies (proclaims as not guilty) us before God (Acts 13:39). Once justified our hearts are purified (Acts 15:9) as our lives are changed in an almost unbelievable fashion.

Perhaps most important is our faith gives us access to God. Today our local schools have closed off access to us because of mankind’s sin. Remove sin and you have access to our Creator God. Difficult to imagine with a human mind but true never the less. It is our inheritance as Christ’s own words tell us in Acts 26:18.

Knowing this life is no longer stressful. Anxiety no longer has a place in my life for as Romans 5:1 assures me: “having been justified by faith we have peace with God”. That is WHAT I HAVE IN MY HAND AND MORE IMPORTANTLY IN MY HEART.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The freedom that comes with  faith helps me face all my fears.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Exodus 4:2 “A question from God”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen my faith.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. In what or whom do you have faith?
  2. How can we use what God has given us to demonstrate faith?
  3. Access is removed by sin so how should society respond?
  4. Has faith changed your life?

WHAT IS GREAT FAITH?

Often time to find the answer to questions that should have an obvious answer for we who call ourselves Christian has to come from outside the realm of our faith. One such example is shared in the Gospel of Luke 7:1-10 where a person outside the realm of the Christian followers of that time came to Christ to request the miracle of healing for a valued servant. This Roman Centurion had befriended the Jewish people of Capernaum by building them a synagogue unlike how so many other Romans treated the people of Israel.

The Centurion showed us what it means to have great faith when it tells us in verse 7 that he came to Jesus and said that simply your word can make his servant well. He did not need to have Christ visit the home, lay hands on, or bring the servant to Christ. He simply said “your word” will be sufficient. Today we as followers of our Lord and Savior are again asked to believe simply by looking at God’s Word and receiving all that is necessary in the instructions Scripture provides. We should not need to see great miracles or any number of other pieces of evidence. The Word should be sufficient and when it is it shows that we to are people of great faith.

This particular text shares with us what I believe are three other spiritual lessons. The first is the Centurion’s example shows that helping people we hold in high regard is very scriptural. He was of help to his servant not unlike we should be willing to help all others who we serve or who serve us. Volunteering where needed or just being there when someone has a need is indeed honorable. Secondly, I believe this is an example that Christ is okay with ethnic diversity and working together with those outside the faith. Galatians 3:28 underscores that fact and this case of the Centurion and how he handled approaching Jesus is also evidence of that fact.

Finally, I believe the healing from Christ is meant for anybody, anytime and anywhere. Christ does not keep office hours where you have to visit Him in a certain place and time. He is there for us 24/7 year round. Simply call on him and share with Him YOUR GREAT FAITH.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Great faith comes as you grow closer to our Lord and Savior.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Luke 7:1-10 “an example of great faith”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen my faith.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How did the individuals written about in Hebrews 11 show great faith?
  2. What are ways that you can follow in the footsteps of those who have shown great faith?
  3. Do you currently volunteer to help others in any way?
  4. How strong is your faith?

IS THE CHURCH LESS SIGNIFICANT?

The answer to the title question sadly might very well be yes. When you look at the voice of the church it is growing ever more silent and insignificant. I don’t speak for all denominations as the more evangelical and those who whole-heartedly do praise and worship seem to be growing and are unafraid to speak out the truth of God’s Word.

The church that is struggling is the one where youth are leaving as a result of worship that seems lifeless and that take positions on matter of Scripture that are to quick to appease (become politically correct) rather than to speak truth in power.

The question then is why is this happening? One answer I believe lies in the experience of Zachariah recorded in Luke 1:20. Zechariah was made mute for his questioning faith. He did not trust God fully or take Him at His face value, and as a result his faith was silenced. The penalty Zechariah paid may very well be ours. Both personally and as a church at large. As long as we try to redefine God’s Word so it fits our lifestyle we put ourselves in danger of being silenced or of little value.

Certainly we have to acknowledge that some may be born mute or as was the case with Moses less eloquent. In those cases it was not brought about by lack of faith. Moses for example still led his people out of slavery. The key is the level of trust and faith. If absent or weak not only are we less significant but so also is THE CHURCH LESS SIGNIFICANT.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The mouth is most assuredly muted when our message is not tied to the might of God’s Word.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Luke 1:20 “becoming mute as penalty for a weak faith”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord keep me strong in the faith.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What makes us less significant as a spokesman for our faith?
  2. What has made the church less significant?
  3. What must change in the church and in our lives?
  4. In what ways are we redefining God’s Word?