THE DOG WOMAN

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Matt.15:27

We’ve all read the story of when Christ didn’t respond to the Syrophonecian women, and when he did, it wasn’t very nice. Even the disciples were put off by her making a scene and just wanted Jesus to fix it. Make it all go away Lord please! Somehow women and hollering go together I suppose! We know there are two types of people in this world. The sick and the not so sick, as Mary’s Song says, “The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,” Lk 1:53. And if you have ever been in the “sick group” things can get just a little desperate. I like to call it “living in the world of the miraculous” when anything can happen.

This woman had quite an ear to the latest news at her village of hope and was desperate to find it. I am not sure just how many townsfolk knew of the condition of her little daughter. Imagine day after day being hit, punched, cursed at with a dark force inside your child. She was desperate and she just heard of a way out. Christ the son of David was coming to her town.

When she meets Christ he “answers her not a word”; and she cried all the more. If you read the passage at first she is crying for her daughter then she cries “Lord help me”-the more she looked at him the more she realized this was about her. His sharp reply was yet another push away. He will not give the food that is meant for the children to the dogs. What I love about this woman is that she is undaunted. The Bible even says, she followed him into the house. You know she could feel it in the atmosphere-hope swirling, love pouring down. The moment was for here and for now. She has learned as Jacob to wrestle for the blessing. She had heard to much about him and wasn’t giving up. Did she catch the twinkle in Christ’s eye or the gentle tone? Christ was creating a web that would entangle herself and take her faith captive! He was chasing her faith down developing it to its fullness. She takes the sword out of Christ’s hands and catches him with his own words. He was calling her a “little puppy” and thats when she caught it. The outside dogs were never allowed in but the children at the table always fed the little pups. She wasn’t asking for the children’s food but knew a crumb was amply enough to take care her of situation.

“Great is your faith”, Christ said. Let’s have great faith!

THE TOUCH THAT HEALS

Lk.8:43,44 – A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

Lots of people were in the meetings that day, it even says in one account that Jesus was being thronged by the crowds. Sounds like pushing and shoving and touching but who was really touching Jesus? Suddenly Jesus was stopped in His tracks, “Who touched Me”, He exclaimed. Someone had touched Him with the touch of faith and was immediately healed. What does this story say to us today? Is it possible that many who attend church never really “touch Christ”? They sing the songs, pray their prayers, listen to the preaching, and take communion but really never touch Jesus. There was something different about the lady with the hemorrhage that day. It wasn’t that she was sick that made her different, she was ready to receive her touch. Here is how J.C. Ryle describes this scene.

“We are told in these verses that “many people followed” our Lord, “and thronged him.” But we are only told of one person who “came in the press behind,” and touched Him with faith and was healed. Many followed Jesus from curiosity, and derived no benefit from Him. One, and only one, followed under a deep sense of her need, and of our Savior’s power to relieve her, and that one received a mighty blessing. We see the same thing going on continually in the Church of Christ at the present day. Multitudes go to our places of worship, and fill our pews. Hundreds come up to the Lord’s table, and receive the bread and wine. But of all these worshipers and communicants, how few really obtain anything from Christ! Fashion, custom, ritual, habit, the love of excitement, or an itching ear, are the true motives of the vast majority. There are but few here and there who touch Christ by faith, and go home ‘in peace’.”

What brought you to church this Sunday? Did you come out of routine or duty or did you come expecting a touch from the Lord? How will your touch come? It could be from reading a scripture, His presence in a song, a word spoken from the minister, or even through the laying on of hands in the prayer line. There are many ways you can touch the hem of His garment, one touch can change your world.

WHO HAS BELIEVED?

Rom. 10:16,17, 20 – But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying,

“I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”

Religion and faith can be a tricky business. The Jews had been the “chosen people” for so long in Paul’s day that they just took their spirituality for granted. Jesus had come on the scene and turned over the apple cart. All their pre-supposed rules and privileges suddenly meant nothing. Now, to make matters worse, the former Pharisee, the Apostle Paul, was converting thousands of gentiles to this Christian faith. This was absolutely unthinkable. Now Paul was going even a step further, it wasn’t good enough to be born as a Jew, now you also had to be born again. It seemed to much of the jewish world that the gentiles were taking their privileged place. In today’s passage Paul is talking about this very basic essence of spirituality; you have to believe the report of the gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word. What word? The word of the gospel; that Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and is sitting at the right hand of God as our High Priest. Only those that believe that report can be made righteous before the Lord. Here is how Luther describes this passage.

“I was found of them that sought me not. Isaiah writes this against the Jews who boasted of their merits. The Jews certainly do not like to hear that they have been rejected. When Christ told them that at the time of Elias there were many widows in Israel, but that the prophet was sent only to the pagan widow in Zarephath, they wanted to hurl Him over a precipice. For they perceived that they were rejected before the heathen and regarded as unworthy (of salvation). For them this was an unbearable thought; they were proud of the blood of the Fathers and boasted of the righteousness of the Law. But here it tells them: I have made myself known to them, (the Gentiles), because of my grace and not because of the zeal or merits of any man. Here the word applies: “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased”. All this was written and done in order that the overbearing arrogance of men (in spiritual matters) might be suppressed and the grace of God might be magnified. For “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”.

So who has believed the report? Those whose ears have been opened by the Lord by grace through faith. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable grace.

FAITH COMES BY HEARING

ROM.10:16,17 – However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Paul has just given us the clear path to salvation in the passage above, Rom.10:9,10 – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation”.

This is not a formula to get to heaven but rather an observation, our confession with our mouth flows from what we believe in our hearts. Obviously, man’s eyes and ears are closed to the gospel until the day of his new birth. A spiritual blindness blocks every person from the beauty and majesty of the gospel. It is only faith that can penetrate that veil and faith is not in the heart of the lost man or woman. Faith is the results of the sovereign work of grace in our hearts. What Paul is getting at in this passage is how faith comes. He says it clearly in vs.17, faith comes by hearing, an hearing by the word. The word Paul is speaking of is rhema in the Greek language. It means a spoken word. This shows the importance of proclaiming the scripture, that is what creates an atmosphere for our ears to be opened. Here is how Matthew Henry describes it.

“He shows that the word preached is the ordinary means of working faith (v. 17): So then though many that hear do not believe, yet those that believe have first heard. Faith cometh by hearing. It is the summary of what he had said before, v. 14. The beginning, progress, and strength of faith, are by hearing. The word of God is therefore called the word of faith: it begets and nourishes faith. God gives faith, but it is by the word as the instrument. Hearing (that hearing which works faith) is by the word of God. It is not hearing the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but hearing the word of God, that will befriend faith, and hearing it as the word of God.”

Henry says that the word of God begets and nourishes faith. The Lord sets apart men and women as anointed vessels to proclaim His word. In the atmosphere that anointed preaching produces faith comes alive.

THE WHAT IFS

Matt.6:26 – Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

I think too often fear of the future effects our actions. How many wanted to go into the ministry but the what ifs got them? “What if the Lord doesn’t open the doors for ministry? Maybe I should get a business degree just in case.” Then there is the impression to start a business to create wealth for a mission project or a ministry but the what if’s step in again. “What if I fail? What if I go bankrupt?” That’s probably why the Lord said “Make your calling and election sure”. Then there is the desire to start tithing and giving offerings. You guessed it, the what ifs showed up again. “What if the Lord doesn’t give back like the word says He will?” What is the answer to these “what ifs”? Soaking yourself in the promises of God is the sure answer. He says things like “even a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” and “I have been young and now I am old and I have never seen the righteous forsaken or His seed begging bread”. Here is how Charles Spurgeon explains this verse.

“Thought we may take; but anxious, carking care we must not know. Our most pressing bodily wants are not to engross our minds. Our life is more important than the food we eat, or the clothes we wear. God who gives us life will give us bread and raiment. We should much more care how we live than how we eat: the spiritual should go before the bodily, the eternal before the temporal. What we wear is of very small importance compared with what we are. Therefore let us give our chief care to that which is chief, yea, our sole thought to the one all-absorbing object of all true life, the glory of God.”

What if the Lord does come through? What if He opens the door for ministry and thousands are effected? What if He puts His hand on your business idea and millions of dollars actually go into ministry endeavors? What if you begin to tithe and you start to see unexpected income coming your way: raises, checks in the mail, inheritances, and new unexpected sources of income? You will never really know until you respond by faith; launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.

GIVING GLORY TO GOD  

Rom. 4:20,21 – He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

Have you ever seen the athlete after a victory or an actor after receiving an award smugly saying they are giving glory to God? What does giving glory to God really mean? We can learn this from the life of Abraham, he grew strong in faith giving glory to God. Our faith is connected to God’s promises. Taking Him at His word is how Abraham honored the Lord. All his circumstances; old age and barren wife said that God’s promise to have a son would never come true. Abraham decided to hold on to God’s promise no matter what things looked like. How was he able to do that? Abraham had encountered God. He knew God was real. He had left his homeland and his family because of that God encounter many years before. He had a conviction deep in his soul planted there by God that God’s word would come to pass, no matter what. Here is how Matthew Henry describes Abraham’s faith.

“He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, he was strengthened in faith, his faith got ground by exercise. Though weak faith shall not be rejected, the bruised reed not broken, the smoking flax not quenched, yet strong faith shall be commended and honored. The strength of his faith appeared in the victory it won over his fears. And hereby he gave glory to God; for, as unbelief dishonors God by making him a liar, so faith honors God by setting to its seal that he is true. Abraham’s faith gave God the glory of his wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, and especially of his faithfulness, resting upon the word that he had spoken. Among men we say, “He that trusts another, gives him credit, and honors him by taking his word;” thus Abraham gave glory to God by trusting him. We never hear our Lord Jesus commending any thing so much as great faith: therefore God gives honor to faith, great faith, because faith, great faith, gives honor to God. He was fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform…”

Like the scriptures says, as time went on Abraham grew stronger. How was he doing that? He lived a life of giving glory to God. If you are facing obstacles to God’s promises in your life it’s time to get stronger. Glorify God by staying with His word. His promises are sure and will suddenly come to pass.

RAISED BECAUSE ?

Rom.4:25 – He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

This is one of those verses that I couldn’t quite understand for many years. The NASB is helpful in this verse, it brings out the fact that Jesus was raised “because of” our justification. We have an understanding of the importance of the cross, understanding the resurrection is also critical. According to this verse Jesus was raised because man had been justified, declared righteous, by the sacrificial death of Jesus. When Jesus was raised from the dead all of His sons and daughters were raised with Him. The resurrection was God’s declaration that man had been redeemed. Here is how the ESV Study Bible describes it.

“Both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessary for forgiveness of sins and justification, raised for our justification. When God the Father raised Christ from the dead, it was a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin, and that the Father’s favor, no longer his wrath against sin, was directed toward Christ, and through Christ toward those who believe. Since Paul sees Christians as united with Christ in his death and resurrection, God’s approval of Christ at the resurrection results in God’s approval also of all who are united to Christ, and in this way results in their justification.”

Adam Clarke took it a little farther. He says that this is a title to eternal life in the bliss of fellowship with the Lord in heaven. Here is how Clarke describes this verse.

“He was raised that we might have the fullest assurance that the death of Christ had accomplished the end for which it took place; our reconciliation to God, and giving us a title to that eternal life, into which he has entered, and taken with him our human nature, as the first-fruits of the resurrection of mankind.”

What an amazing verse, we are not only forgiven for our sins by faith, we are connected to the life of the risen Savior. I was crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, raised from the dead with Christ, and I am seated in heavenly places with Christ. This is the point of Paul’s preaching in the book of Romans. We have touched the other world by faith, not only touched it, we have entered into the kingdom by faith in Christ.

CIRCUMCISED INDEED

Rom.4:12- And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Circumstances and situations change, people in the world don’t. One of the issues Paul faced throughout his ministry was people believing that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Circumcision was the mark of Jewishness and in Paul’s world was the evidence of being right with God. One of the first things to happen to a non Jew who was converting to Judaism was circumcision. As the church began to grow significantly in the gentile world in those days this belief was creating a firestorm. To the Jew, circumcision proved you were approved by God. Thousands of gentiles who were saved in Paul’s ministry had not followed suit, they believed they were saved by grace through faith and circumcision was not even a consideration for them.

In today’s world we deal with similar issues with water baptism. Many churches believe and teach that Christians baptize their children as infants guaranteeing their Christian faith. Others think baptism is the magic formula, you know “once you are wet you are set”. Water baptism is something that happens after conversion. Actually Abraham’s testimony was just like that. Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness to him several years before he was circumcised. So circumcision was given as a sign of Abraham’s faith, he was circumcised after he believed in the Lord. Here is how Martin Luther describes this passage.

“These words tell us that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. Afterwards he received circumcision as a seal (of his justification). All this God did in order that we may know that throughout the world all those who followed Abraham’s faith shall be his children. In this way (by faith) also the Jews will become his children, namely, if besides the circumcision of the flesh, they receive also the circumcision of the heart. According to the flesh they already are his children, but they must become also his spiritual children, in order that they may be Abraham’s children not only according to the flesh, but also according to the spirit.”

Abraham was praying for a family, he got way more than he bargained for. He was promised that all the nations of the earth would be his heirs. He had no way of understanding the ramifications of that promise. He became the biological father of the nation of Israel. He also became the father of this new spiritual race of humans who came to the Lord by grace through faith. Through the gospel all the nations and ethnic groups of the world are becoming sons and daughters of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus.

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL #1

PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL #1

 

Rom. 1:16 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Our world is in a constant state of change, and regretfully many of these secular changes gradually but steadily affect the church. Regretfully we are losing our moorings, our connection to the heritage of our Christian faith.

Over the past twenty years I have been on a spiritual safari, searching for the reality of God in my life and in His church. This journey inevitably leads me to the past, to the men and women who have gone before us. I find myself drinking from the ancient wells of our fathers. The wells of Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry and many others keep attracting me and calling me to drink. The more I drink; I am convinced of two things. First, I am a Protestant Christian. The message that birthed Western civilization penned by the Apostle Paul “The just shall live by faith,” and echoed by Martin Luther 15 centuries later is still the foundation of Western Civilization today, the undergirding of His church and the anchor of my soul.

Martin Luther was lost in the snare of human effort and a system of religious works until one day he read those words from Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” Those words brought freedom to his soul and began the revolution that drug Europe from the shadows of the dark ages. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

As a monk, Luther later wrote, he was tormented by the thoughts of damnation for sins, saying that he “hated this God who punched sinners, if not with silent blasphemies at least with huge murmurings. I was indignant against God. As if it were not enough that miserable sinners, eternally ruined by original sin, should be crushed…through the Law of the Ten Commandments…and so I raged with a savaged and confounded conscience.” He therefore turned to the Bible. The Catholic Church had always taught that grace was active, in the sense that it came into force at the Day of Judgment when the righteous would be separated from the damned. As he read Romans 1, Luther became convinced that the grace of which Paul wrote was passive, hence available to everyone. This led to his conclusion that salvation came not through penance and repentance, nor through the intercession of saints and martyrs or the prayers of the church, but by faith alone. It was an entirely new idea. As Luther re-read Romans 1:16-17, he wrote, I felt myself straightaway born afresh and to have entered through the open gates into paradise.” This led to the further belief that the Bible was the sole authority. In 1517, he nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg University.

Just like Luther, we are accepted by God not on the basis of our works but by faith in Christ alone. This is the foundation stone of our Christian faith.

Part 1 of 3 days – PROTESTANT AND PENTECOSTAL

GRACE FOR GRACE AGAIN

Jn.1:16 – For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

Paul tried his best to paint spiritual pictures with His words. He loved to use phrases such as faith to faith and glory to glory. These are called “hebraisms”. In today’s verse John tries his hand with these beautiful words”grace upon grace”. This was John’s way to describe the infinite nature of the Lord. He calls this facet of the Lord “grace upon grace”. Grace is the supernatural influence of God on our lives that enables us to see spiritual reality that was foreign to us in the past. One moment we have no interest in spiritual things, the next moment we are swimming with John and Paul in this world of grace to grace. Here is how Augustine describes this verse.

“What, then, is “grace for grace”? By faith we render God favorable to us; and inasmuch as we were not worthy to have our sins forgiven, and because we, who were unworthy, received so great a benefit it is called grace. What is grace? That which is freely given. What is “freely given”? Given, not paid. If it was due, wages were given, not grace bestowed; but if it was reply due, thou wast good; but if, as is true, thou wast evil, but didst believe on Him who justifies the ungodly (What is, Who justifies the ungodly? Of the ungodly He makes pious), consider what did by right hang over thee by the law, and what thou hast obtained by grace. But having obtained that grace of faith, thou shalt be just by faith (for the just lives by faith); and thou shalt obtain favor of God by living by faith.“

So the first moment we taste the grace of God we enter into this beautiful world. What this verse teaches us is that first taste is just that, the beginning of an unfolding, unending, unsearchable encounter with the Living God. He attracts us by grace, satisfies us, sustains us, and inspires us. He helps us in our darkest moments, fills us with unspeakable joy, and gives us a clear understanding of our purpose in life. Grace is more than pardon, it is actually the divine, given influence on our soul that changes our world. So go ahead and get started. Dive into the ocean of grace. Maybe you too will begin to talk this new language describing the indescribable world of God.