What is the fear of God?

What is the Fear of God?

Daily Reading: (1 Peter 2:17):

“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

The phrase “fear of God” is found only 10 times in the Bible. 8 in the Old Testament and 2 in the New. 80% is Old Testament Law. When you go with just “fear God” instead of “fear of God”, that phrase is found a total of 21 times. 16 times it is in the Old Testament 5 times in the New. There are some other derivatives such as “fear Him” but they all are talking about fearing God. Is this something that believers should do?

In our verse from 1 Peter 2:17 in the context around this verse, Peter is elevating the respect, the awe, we are to have toward God. He uses the Greek word (phobeō)- which can mean to reverence, venerate.

What is the fear of God for New Testament believers? It is revering and not being afraid of God but worshipping Him (1 Peter 2:17).

How do I know that for sure? Because Jesus said so. What did Jesus say when He was tempted by Satan? Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10).

Unless you are studying a side-by-side comparison with what Jesus said compared to the verse He just quoted, you would miss the word change. Jesus made a New Covenant change.“ Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only,” is the text He quoted in Deuteronomy 6:13a.

When we worship the Lord, we are really, “fearing the Lord.” We are not afraid of God, it is just that our worship is born out of reverence and awe of God. This is what Peter was saying all along. 

Here is another common mistake placed on believers: “fear the wrath of God.” Why? There is no condemnation for you in Christ. Fear causes you to run and hide. When you did something bad when you did you run to tell your parents the bad thing that you did? Probably not, but that is what you should have done, and that is what I am trying to teach my kids. Like Adam in the Eve in the Garden they hide from God. They were afraid. The devil wants you to fear God, so you won’t receive from God.

Jesus died on the cross to reconcile man to God and so that we might live free from the fear of punishment. According to John the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ, it is wrong to fear God’s judgments (1 John 4:15-19). If we fear God’s judgments it means we don’t understand His love!

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (awe): For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).

We finally have the fear of God translated correctly. The fear of God that the self-righteous have is that God will judge them for not being righteous enough. The fear of God that the Christ-righteous have is awe and reverence that God has qualified them to share in the Kingdom. It is amazing that God is on our side and we therefore cannot be shaken or moved and our awesome God will judge our enemies with fire!

One last verse from the Old Testament: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

I picked this verse because in the New Testament fear was written in the Greek, so earlier we had a Greek word used (phobeō). Now since we are in the Old Testament in Proverbs, it isn’t written in Greek but in Hebrew.  The Hebrew word for fear is “yir’â”: respect, reverence, piety, revered.

Time spent marveling in how awesome God is (worship), is the beginning of wisdom. If you want to be wise, spend time with God (Proverbs 9:10). The “fear of the Lord” in the new covenant of grace is about honoring, worshipping, and reverencing God our Father through spending time receiving from Him.

Worship Him and all your fears will fade away in the light of His glory and grace. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15 NKJV).

What is the Church?

What is the Church?

Daily Reading: (Matthew 16:18):

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

We know that Jesus is not talking about “church” in the sense of a physical building yet we might think of the church as a place that we go to. So, if we know that the church is not a building than what is a church that Jesus is talking about where the gates of hell will not prevail against it? The answer comes from the definition of church in the verse itself.

“Church” (ekklēsia) is a called out assembly of Christians gathered for worship. When you break down the etymology of the word- “ekklesia” comes from two Greek words: ek “out” or “from” and klesia comes from kaleo “to call”. So ekklesia simply means the “called out [people]. 

What is the church? It is you and me gathered together worshipping God. We are a gathering of people called out of darkness into God’s light.

Can I worship on a zoom call? Absolutely. Can we be the church inside of a nursing home? Of course. Can I be the church that thinks outside the box? Can I gather virtually in my pjs and my socks? Can I be the church on a boat? Or out in the countryside next to goats? Can I be a church that meets in a house? Does it count if I attend one Sunday without my spouse? The answer is yes to all of those questions.

Paul paints a clear picture that we are the church in his letter to the church (assembled believers) at Corinth.

“For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17b).

The Greek word for temple that Paul used (naos) was used of the temple at Jerusalem, but not only that, it was only of the sacred sanctuary itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of Holies. God’s Temple is the most holiest place where only the High Priest could enter once a year to atone for the sins of the people. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the tabernacle/temple by the veil, a huge, heavy drape made of fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn and embroidered with gold cherubim.

There existed a barrier between man and God. The holiness of God could not be accessed by anyone but the High priest, and then only once a year. When Jesus died, an amazing thing happened and at that very moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51a). It was a supernatural event done by the power of God to make a very specific point: because of the death of Christ on the cross, man was no longer separated from God.

The Old Testament temple system was made obsolete as the New Covenant was ratified. No longer would we have to depend on priests to perform once-a-year sacrifices on our behalf. Christ’s body was “torn” on the cross, just as the veil was torn in the temple, and now we have access to God through Jesus: “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body” (Hebrews 10:19-20). The once-for-all-time sacrifice of Christ did away with the necessity of yearly sacrifices, which could never take away sins (Hebrews 10:11). Those sacrifices were merely a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice to come, that of the holy Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29). The Holy of Holies, the very presence of God, is now open to all who come to Christ in faith. Where, before, there was an imposing barrier guarded by cherubim, God has opened a way by the shed blood of His Son.[1]

So now where God would only dwell in the most holy place, Jesus has made that place you. You are the most holy saints because you are in Christ and now as the Temple the Spirit of God dwells within us. “For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17b).

What is the church? We are! As God’s Holy Temple, Christ becomes real to others through our lives. We are able to love because we first received Jesus’ love, we are the light because we have the light. The church is not something outside of you, but you are in fact, a member of the Body of Christ, God’s Holy Temple, Christ living in you.

[1] What was the Holy of Holies? https://www.gotquestions.org/Holy-of-Holies.html

What is a Christian?

What is a Christian?

Daily Reading: (Acts 11:26):

“And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”

In the entire Bible the term Christian is only used three times. The first time doesn’t appear until after Jesus’ earthly ministry is over, He has already been crucified, resurrected and has ascended into heaven. The term was first used in a Gentile city which clearly shows that “Christians” are made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

In Acts 11:26 the Greek word used for Christian “Christianos” means a follower of Christ.

There is a straightforward answer of “what is Christian”? A Christian is a person who is a follower of Christ. Now the better question instead might be “how does one become a follower of Jesus”? Anybody could fill out a survey and say, “I identify as a Christian because my grandparents or great grandparents were.” Identifying as a Christian, isn’t the same thing as knowing Christ. Salvation is a free gift, you have either received it by faith, belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, making you a follower of Jesus or you haven’t. Your good works isn’t what saved you or keeps you saved, your salvation once you believed is secured in Christ.  

Here are the other usages of the term “Christian” in Scripture.

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28)? 

“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).

So, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What the world needs is not more people who check the box identifying as being Christian but believers who actually follow Jesus. People who are actively engaging on a rescue mission, sharing the Gospel with the lost and hurting people of the world. We need more and more people who reflect the very love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, letting His light shine, and showing the Way to salvation. I want people to know what it means to follow Jesus.

We can learn what it means to follow Jesus through His first interactions with His disciples. “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me” (John 1:43).

Here is the good news for anyone who decides to become a disciple of Jesus is that when a rabbi asked someone to follow him, it was an incredible honor. This invitation was an offer of unlimited access to the rabbi. “Following Jesus” is unlimited access to Him, (He lives in the hearts of every believer).I will never leave you Jesus said, meaning unlimited access because Grace is a person, not a doctrine. This means that every blessing that we would ever need is inseparable from the person of Jesus!

The Lord being with you is all that you need in this life, because the Lord Himself is the One who blesses you. In Genesis 22:1–14 we discover that God is Jehovah Jireh. Jehovah is Jireh! God is my provider! You cannot separate your blessings apart from God, because He is your Provider. Did you see what this means and how awesome the invitation is to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus? We have access to God’s grace and provision in our lives all the time.

In Exodus 15:26, God is referred to as Jehovah-Rapha at the place where God healed the bitter waters of Marah, so that the children of Israel could drink. In Hebrew, it means “I am healing, I am health”! God is telling us “I am your health! I am your healing!”

Relationship with Jesus is a life of abundant victory and favor with God forever, who wouldn’t want this? Anyone who understands this would also want this for others.

For Jesus’ disciples (Christians) following Jesus included sharing in the enthusiasm of declaring the good news (Matthew 4:19).

What is a Christian? A Christian is a person who has been undone by the love of God in Christ Jesus, that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. He offered His life for mine so I might become the righteousness of God in Him and be highly favored by God. I am now a child of God; holy, royal, beloved with access to the Kingdom. I am a follower of Jesus which means that I am a Christian.

What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

Daily Reading: (Mark 16:15):

“He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.”  

Something to know about this verse is that the church is just about to begin. The church starts at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of believers, but in this moment in time, Jesus has resurrected from the grave and has appeared to people but the church founded on Christ has yet to officially form. The header of Mark 16 says “Jesus Has Risen.”The Gospel is tied into the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection there is no Gospel to share. The church after the Resurrection is given a mission to share the Gospel to the entire world.

Gospel is the Greek word (evangelion). This is where we get our word evangelism from. The Gospel is the glad tidings of salvation through Christ.

The basic meaning of the term “gospel” was simply an announcement of a good message. If a doctor came to examine a sick person and afterward declared that the problem was nothing serious, that was gospel or good news. In ancient days when soldiers went out to battle, people waited for a report from the battlefield about the outcome. Once the outcome was known, marathon runners dashed back to give the report. That is why Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” (Isaiah 52:7). The watchman in the watchtower would look as far as the eye could see into the distance. Finally, he would see the dust moving as the runner sped back to the city to give the report of the battle. The watchmen were trained to tell by the way the runner’s legs were churning whether the news was good or bad. If the runner were flying and the dust was kicking up, that meant good news.

The Gospel quite literally was tied to someone who was running to share the good news.The Gospel caused the messenger to urgently move to share it with others.This is what should be the case for the church. An urgency to share the gladest tidings of all time. If I tasted a great meal at a restaurant how quick I am to share that on social media? The greatest thing to ever happen to us, salvation in Christ. This good news should well up in our hearts and naturally cause us to move to share it.

In the text He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Go is an action step. It is a verb. But unless another verb takes root in our hearts, we will never do it, and that verb is love. If you don’t receive God’s love you can’t possibly extend God’s love.

The verses after this says: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” What this tell me is that when we go out as Christ’s ambassadors, we go out in power and authority. God will back up the message of the Gospel and as He does this, miracles will unfold. People will receive physical salvation that will lead to spiritual salvation (Mark 16:17-18). This only happens when the Gospel is preached. When the Gospel is preached God always backs it up with power because the Gospel declares you are healed in Jesus’ name. Salvation is both physical salvation and also spiritual salvation and is available through Jesus. Isn’t that good news?

What is Sin?

What is Sin?

Daily Reading: (James 4:17, 1 John 1:8):

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

Sin what is it? This is a tougher question to answer than you might think. I had a philosophy class about 20 years ago where the professor asked, “could a good deed that is done be a sin?” The class’s initial reaction, myself included, probably yours too, was no way! But then the professor introduced motive to the equation. Imagine a housing for homeless youth organization is established. The founder is labeled as an “unsung hero” by the President of the United States. Starting a homeless shelter for youth is a good deed, but now let’s introduce motive. Come to find out the founder of the organization abused the teens in the shelter for years. This is Father Bruce Ritter’s story at Covenant House. So, starting a shelter to help homeless teens a good deed to have access to abuse those teens (motive for good deed) is a sin. Motives are important.

There is a Disney movie called “Up” which features a character who is trying to get his last Boy Scout badge by assisting the elderly. He will do whatever it takes even though the main character (an elderly man) doesn’t want to be assisted. Once again we have a good deed (assisting an elderly person) tainted by an improper motive.

I still haven’t given a Biblical definition for sin, so let’s start to that with our main verse:

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17). We think of sin in terms of acting upon something (do’s and don’t’s), but you could sin simply by not do anything at all when there is a chance for good.

The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It means to miss the mark. Imagine a bullseye has been drawn and righteousness is only found in the center of the bullseye. Anything that is even slightly off center, is off target and that is sin. Sin is to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor. If it doesn’t bring honor to God, it is a sin because it is off the mark (hamartia).

Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So, it doesn’t matter if you think you are the most righteous person, we all share in the sin problem. We all missed the mark.

1 John 1:8: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

If you claim to not have a sin problem, well guess what? Not only is that a sin but that means you are unable to have your sin dealt with once and for all. Because the fact is, every believer in Jesus, first have to recognize their need for a Savior. The had to recognize their sin problem so they might receive the forgiveness of their sin. If you say you have no sin, the truth hasn’t taken up residence in your heart. The truth Jesus Christ is not in you (1 John 1:8).

Sin presented a severe problem, separation from God. God presented a solution to our sin in a Savior, His Son, and reconciliation forever to all who receive His Son!

What I found is that when we go back and look at what sin did, we can better understand what salvation offers.

but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17).

Sin brought with it death. Jesus the answer to our sin, brought life.

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Are you getting excited about this?  Let’s see what else sin brought so we might see what salvation offers to us.

Genesis 3:16-19: To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

What is sin? Anything off the mark of honoring God. What did sin bring? Off the mark of God’s creation, disease of the land, diseases of the body, pain and suffering, damaged relationships, death.

Jesus is the cure to our sin problem and the effects of sin that plagued us. Do you have pain and suffering, damaged relationships, health problems? Are you suffering financial hardship (disease of the land)? Jesus is the answer to the effects of sin that you are experiencing.

Isaiah 53:4a: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,”

Psalm 103:3: “Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.”

He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. He didn’t just suffer the sin of the entire world, He also suffered with every sickness, disease, pain so that we could be healed and made whole in every area of our life. Jesus did it all and He suffered all of this so we would be cured of our sin problem because He loved us so much.

The Greek word for salvation “sozo” is to save a suffering one (from perishing), one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health.

In Christ is the cure for all that ails us in the world because of sin. Sin brought with it the curse, whereas, Jesus is our covering and cure.

Kindness to Animals

Kindness to Animals

Kindness to Animals

Daily Reading: (Proverbs 12:10):

“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”

This verse is not saying that a nonbeliever will always will treat animals worse than believers. The opposite can be true. A believer is capable of treating animals with cruelty, but the difference is the righteous have the ability to live from the new Christ-like nature they have been given. The Apostle Paul is clear, any ugliness that comes out of our lives, including unkindness to animals does not come from our new hearts and transformed minds (Romans 7:15-23). Rather, it comes from our flesh (Romans 7:18). We can be unkind to animals if we act as what we once were apart from Christ. So, the obvious statement here is that it is God’s desire that we would care for and look after animals that He has entrusted to us in our care.

A true believer has a compassionate nature. Even the life of a pet is treasured (Proverbs 12:10).

“Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

This is before sin entered the world. We have a clear look at the world as it should be, the world as it will be when God restores it, as heaven comes to earth, and we enter into the place Jesus has prepared just for us. Animals were not killed at this point. Animals were not mistreated and they did not attack or come against mankind.

Before sin entered the picture God gave us an awesome task as He placed animals in our rule/care (Genesis 1:28).

That means we were created to act out of love, or, we might say, to act out of concern; not to use and abuse, but to act for the well-being of the animals that we governed.

God cares for the needs of His animals, and this was God’s original calling for how we should do the same, and according to Proverbs 12:10 this is still the calling of the lives of the righteous. When you care for animals, you are living in the way God intended you to live.

God gave Adam rule over the creatures of the planet and then God set in His heart how he would do this by taking ownership over them (Genesis 2:19-20).

Genesis 2:19-20 says: “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.”

If you have ever been to an animal rescue shelter before you know there is a chance you might come home with one of God’s precious animals. Now if you see an animal and you name it, well that’s called game over. By naming the animal you have connected to the animal. You are linking yourself to it. You are saying indirectly, “I want this animal to come under my care.” That is how God wired us back from the beginning when God brought the animals to Adam so he would name them. In naming them, the animals were placed under his care and he took ownership of them.

Unfortunately, the relationship between man and animals unraveled with sin. Sin continues to damage relationships today. God created animals to be friendly to mankind, but we find that after the Flood the relationship is anything but.

Genesis 9:1-2: “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.”

The Flood marked the end of an age. The relationship between man and animals is now going to be dominated by fear and by a measure of force that God never intended to exercise man’s rule over animals. When Jesus came into the world He ushered in peace and when He ascended into heaven, He gave us His peace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). So now we must reject the world of fear, center our attention on Jesus, gaze upon His beauty and allow love to enter in-fear to be removed. Isaiah 26:3 says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”When you keep your mind on Jesus, His perfect love and peace will follow and bring you into a place of rest because you trust Him. So fear has entered and our relationship with animals has been strained but the dominion is still there and we can still chose to display love and care.

When we move from Genesis to Proverbs, sin had wreaked havoc not just on mankind but also on animals. With age comes arthritis, bad hips, cataracts, am I taking about people or animals? Both because sin affected all of creation. Even though animals can bite us, animals can attack us and even kill us, including our own pets -Proverbs 12:10 says:“The righteous care for the needs of their animals,we are called to carefully and loving care for them.

Our verse says: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” The Hebrew word that is used for care is “yada” it means to know, to learn from experience.

Pete our adopted dog recently had some medical problems. He developed vestibular disease which is fairly common in older dogs. When he has them it looks like he is having a seizure but he is not. If we carefully observe him, we can catch it before they come on, give him medicine and prevent it from happening. We have learned to look for signs and this is part of what I think it means to care for the needs of animals. It goes beyond food and bathing and walks. Even among the same species, each animal is unique and a little different and needs slightly different care. There is a blessing to be found in caring for others and for caring in God’s creation.

When we stop and take care of an animal in our care, it should remind us that we are under the care of the Great Shepherd who watches over and loves us and cares for us.

Dogs At The Table

Dogs at the Table

Daily Reading: (Matthew 15:25-28):

“The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

In this text Jesus is telling this woman to stop pretending to be someone you’re not. Because if you keep pretending to be someone else you won’t be able to receive the help you need most.

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”Jesus did not answer a word (Matthew 15:22-23).

Many people don’t understand why Jesus would ignore this woman who was in great need. Jesus’ response was purposeful and powerful and it produced the faith she needed to receive the salvation she sought.

So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

The Law says in Deuteronomy 7:2-3: “And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them.”

So the disciples response is Law based and should come as no surprise but in the end, she is in the presence of grace and the voice of grace will deal completely differently with this Canaanite woman in need of help.

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment (Matthew 15:24-28).

The takeaway of the story of the Canaanite woman is for us to come as we are to the Lord with our need. Lean on His unfailing and unconditional love for you. You don’t have to pretend to be more than you are to receive the blessing you need from God. And you don’t have to pretend to be someone else to appear more deserving to receive from God. It is not the cleverness of our prayers or the accomplishments that we have made that gives us an audience with God. Simply come to God in all honesty with your need. Lean into Jesus to receive His unconditional love for you, come boldly because Jesus is our High Priest, and be ready to receive grace in our time of need.

A Canaanite woman who is desperately seeking healing for her demon-possessed daughter came to Jesus (see Matthew 15:22–28) the first part is great. The problem is in how she came to Jesus, this is where the train comes off the tracks. Knowing that He healed and did miracles among the Jews, she pretended to be a Jew, calling out, “O Lord, Son of David!” Only the Jews addressed Jesus as the “Son of David.”Yet this Canaanite woman used that term to appear as though she was also a Jew. She believed Jesus would refuse to heal her daughter because they were not Jews.

“Jesus did not answer her.” The purpose for His silence was to lead her to drop her pretense and cry out, “Lord, help me” (Matthew 15:23,25)! Only when her pretenses had melted away did she see the grace of God extended to her, that He is willing and wanting to help and heal her Canaanite daughter. Jesus is so good that what He actually did here is that He made a way for her to receive her miracle even though it was not yet time for the Gentiles to receive His blessings.

We have a cultural difference that Jesus capitalizes on, to the Jews at this time- dogs were dirty, unpleasant, beasts. The woman immersed in Greek culture gave her an appreciation of the positive qualities of dogs. Only a Gentile, perhaps only a Greek influenced one, could have spoken the memorable words about dogs eating the scraps under the table, for no Jew would have allowed dogs to be there. So, Jesus uses her own culture as an aid to lead her to the place to receive salvation for her daughter (Matthew 15:26-27).

This woman’s faith is incredible, because she sees something here, she sees grace. Look at the transformation, “even if I am a puppy and not a Jew, I am close enough to receive from the Master.” I know if I get close enough to Jesus, I could receive healing for my daughter because even puppies get to eat what falls from their masters’ table. When the Canaanite woman took her place by dropping the title “Son of David” and just leaned on Jesus’ compassion for her, her daughter was healed.

Come as you are to God your Father and lean on His grace. If He has delivered Jesus up for us, “how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Jesus does not want anyone to come to Him in falseness, pretending to be something they are not. He wants us to come as we are, in whatever our condition is. Only when we are honest with ourselves, He can come rescue us for “when we are weak, He is strong”.

Pigs and Pearls

Pigs and Pearls

Daily Reading: (Matthew 7:6):

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

To understand the meaning of these words of Jesus we have to look at the context to bring clarity to our understanding.

So, let’s look at verses 1-5 for some more context.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

The clear context leading into our verse is the statement not to judge others. What becomes confusing is the very next thing Jesus says would appear to have us make a judgment of others. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” What is important to know is that the mention of dogs and pigs throughout the Bible is used to speak of non-believers. This seems not only to be a complete contradiction to what we just saw in verses 1–5, it also seems to go against many other places where Jesus seems to be saying, “take the Gospel to everyone.” 

Imagine you have animals in your care, like pigs and dogs. You give them something which is very, very valuable, but it’s something they cannot digest. What Jesus is saying is, “don’t be surprised if they attack you. Don’t be surprised if they turn on you.”

The pig is expecting corn husks but in comes a pearl. Of course, the pearl has a value. It’s immeasurably more valuable than a corn husk, but the pig doesn’t have the ability to either perceive or assess that value.
What does this tells us? These animals are acting in accordance with their nature. Matthew 7:6 is about spiritual reality. What is a human being like without eternal life? A human being without eternal life looks at the holiness of God and says, “So what am I supposed to do with that?

That’s the difference between a human being with eternal life and a human being without. To have eternal life means you sense the awesome holiness of God and the sweet grace of Jesus Christ. You understand the astonishing death for us on the cross. You recognize the eternal value of the human soul, that God would give such a great price to rescue and redeem us. The dogs and the swine do not have the ability to take in spiritual truth so don’t be surprised if they attack you for it.  

In Matthew 7 Jesus is talking about human nature without eternal life. How do we move beyond being a dog or a pig, spiritually speaking? How does that happen? The answer comes with the pearl. The pearl is the Gospel of the Kingdom. It’s the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ.That’s the gospel of the kingdom. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).

The dog and the pig want to know, “does the pearl, does the Gospel of the Kingdom fill my belly? Does it make me popular? Does it build me a social media following? The message of the Gospel is that Jesus is all you need. He is your success. The beauty in the connection Matthew 7 has with Matthew 13 is the change in the way the man looks at the pearl compared to how the pig looks at it. The pig says, “Will the pearl enable me to get more of what I have?” However, the man gets rid of all he has to get the pearl.

Two utterly different approaches. The pig asks, “Is Jesus useful?” The man sees Jesus is beautiful. The pig tramples the pearl under foot, the man sells all he has because He perceives the value of the pearl. The man responds favorably to the Gospel.

Sparrows and Ravens

Sparrows and Ravens

Daily Reading: (Luke 12:6-7,24):

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

One of the most enjoyable activities for me is to watch birds come and eat out of a bird feeder. Taking care of God’s beautiful creation is part of what you and I were created to do and it can be so rewarding. As I was looking out at the bird feeder, the Holy Spirit reminded me that even in a difficult time in our life, God will care for me as He does even the birds.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).

Sparrows were a very cheap bird to be bought in Israel. You could get for one penny two sparrows, while for two you could get five. What a deal!  Adam Clarke Commentary said: “yet even it, so valueless, was not forgotten of God.”

“Not forgotten by God,” the word forgotten (epilanthanomai) can mean to forget but an even richer definition of the word is not cared for. Worry stems from forgetting about, not being mindful of, or doubting God’s care for you (Luke 12:6). Another way to say it is when you receive God’s love, when you wrap yourself in it, the things that trouble you will leave (1 John 4:18). That is why the next verse, Jesus tells us to “fear not” (phobeō). You could have a phobia of a lot of things- but gaze out at the bird feeder at those tiny little birds getting their needs met and remember God has promised to do the same for you. A skeptic would say, “well you are the one caring for the needs of the little birds, what does God have to do with it?” Do you not think that God worked on my heart to be mindful of the birds? God gave me the mind to think of them, the resources to purchase the food, and my reward was the joy of seeing the birds be feed through the provision of what God has given to me, bird seed. As I view the birds being fed, I can think,” how much more valuable am I to God?” I used my resources to assist the birds because I believe in the promise that God will meet my needs. And I can use my resources to help others because I believe God’s supply doesn’t dry up.

Later in the same chapter we move to another bird, the ravens.

“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds” (Luke 12:24)!

Maybe today as we consider the ravens and we consider the sparrows, believers and non-believers alike might see God’s care for them. For the believer their trust in God will grow and for the non-believer their restored relationship with God might begin. Consider the ravens how they don’t have to plan, they just go about their lives and know that what they need will be there.

So how does prayer fit in if God already knows you need something but you don’t seem to have it and now you are worried about it? This is an excellent question where the answer is directly in the text. “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Prayer will focus our hearts on the Kingdom (Luke 12:31). When we know that God knows what we need and has promised to supply it, we will use what we have for the Kingdom.

Remember the raven and the sparrow have little monetary value, yet God cares for them. How much more valuable are you to God? Have confidence that your loving Heavenly Father will care for your needs. This will free us from worry. As we put our minds on the Kingdom we are enabled to live lives of generosity, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

Consider the Ant

Consider the Ant

Daily Reading: (Proverbs 6:6-8):

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8).

Did you know that Scripture tells us to consider the ants (Proverbs 6:6-8)?Take a moment and marvel at how incredible they truly are. Here are some amazing ant facts:

  • There are more than 12,000 species of ants all over the world.
  • An ant can lift 20 times its own body weight.
  • Some queen ants can live for many years and have millions of babies!
  • Ants don’t have ears. Ants “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet.
  • When ants fight, it is usually to the death!
  • When foraging, ants leave a pheromone trail so that they know where they’ve been.
  • Ants don’t have lungs. Oxygen enters through tiny holes all over the body and carbon dioxide leaves through the same holes.[1]

Proverbs 6 shows us how God views these amazing creatures He has made.  

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!What is a sluggard anyway? In the Hebrew the word (atsel) means sluggish or lazy.  When it comes to the provisions of God don’t be lazy, look all around you, see it, take hold of it, and use it to prepare you for the seasons ahead (Proverbs 6:6-8).

The text says, “It has no commander,no overseer or ruler.”This reminded me of another verse in Scripture: “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). Be like the ant. If you are working for the Lord, oh the things you can accomplish, oh the obstacles you can overcome (Colossians 3:23).

Even the mundane tasks at work, do it as unto the Lord. You will receive your reward from the Lord, not your boss. When you do it unto the Lord, He sees and rewards. Jesus said in Luke 16:10, whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Matthew 25:21: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’” I believe those who are diligent like the ant with their time on earth are going to be entrusted to an awful lot of great stuff in heaven. What joy!

The text tells us that if we consider the ways of the ants, we would be wise (Proverbs 6:6) The ant is diligent and has initiative. It knows that it has to consistently prepare for the future. It doesn’t procrastinate or wait until the last minute to prepare its provisions. That’s the practical life wisdom we can learn from the ant. The provisions God has given you today, how super abundantly blessed we are, (taking care of our needs) also propel us forward into what plans He wants to accomplished in and through us. God’s supply doesn’t run out, it is consistent and constant and like the ant we should be diligent in spending time with our Savior receiving from Him so we are prepared to move forward by faith into the prosperous path He is leading us forward in.

[1] Ants: Fun Facts About Ants & Ant Information For Kids. https://www.pestworldforkids.org/pest-guide/ants/