Matthew 14-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He responds to a courageous heart of faith

I’ve had some great friends in my life.  In fact, I had a friend that came and cleaned my kitchen floor for 14 years.  No matter what was dropped or spilled while cooking or eating, the mess was cleaned up by this faithful friend for all those years.  When my friend passed away several years ago, I grieved for quite some time; and even today, I miss that extra help in the kitchen.  Yes, Toby, my Miniature Schnauzer was a great friend and a good little floor cleaner.  He never missed a crumb!  I have to admit that sometimes I intentionally dropped a scrap or two just because I loved him.  It’s hard to believe, but Jesus had a discussion with a woman about this very thing! 

@ Matthew 15
“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.’” (21-22)  Right from the beginning of this story, I liked this woman.  First of all, she was a mother on a mission to save her daughter.  I understand the heart of a mother whose child is sick.  We will do just about anything to save our children.  She had a mother’s heart.  Secondly, I admire her courage.  It was courageous for a woman, a Gentile woman nonetheless, to approach a Jewish man she did not know to ask a favor.  She was brave.

The woman was a Canaanite whose ancestors had been the bane of Israel’s existence, but she had obviously heard about the miracles of Jesus, disregarded her heritage and came to Jesus.  When Jesus informed this dear woman that He was sent only to help the Jews, she was undaunted by His response, “But she came and worshiped Him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’”(25)  She was tenacious.

Strangely, Jesus again resisted her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (26)  Jesus was reiterating the mindset of a majority of the Jews of His day.  They knew themselves to be children of God, and all others, well….were not.  However, Jesus, in His only trip outside of Palestine, was about to prove that His message was for everyone, and this courageous, tenacious mother was assisting Him whether she knew it or not.

The woman replied to Jesus, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” (27)  What a clever response!  Evidently, she had a Toby or two in her life, canine friends who were only too happy to take whatever would come their way in order to satisfy their needs.  And this woman was not too proud to receive whatever the Lord would do for her, scraps and all.  She was humble.

“Dear woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘your faith is great. Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was instantly healed.” (28)  No doubt through the faith of this woman, news spread throughout this Gentile region about Jesus, the healer of Jew and Gentile alike.  She had great faith.

It’s easy to allow hindrances to keep us from receiving the miracles that God has for us.  Are we willing to walk down the aisle at church for prayer, admitting we have a need?  Are we brave?  Will we ask again and again from the Lord until we receive?  Are we tenacious?  Will we humble ourselves and receive whatever the Lord has for us, however He chooses to give it?  Are we humble?  Will we believe that God is able to do anything we ask?  Have we great faith?  Apparently, these are things that grab the heart of God and cause Him to grant our requests. 

Moving Forward:  I believe the Lord has set a banquet for me today; but even if He offered only a scrap, only a crumb, it would be just what I needed for my miracle. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 13-14

Genesis 20-23 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider 

@ Genesis 22
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (2) I remember a sermon my husband preached many years ago on the story of Abraham and Isaac, and it’s distinctive in my memory because of the touching illustration he used. Tom started to tell the story of the sacrifice of Isaac and called our young son up front to stand with him.  As the story unfolded, he asked our son to lie on the altar, and with tears streaming down his face, he spoke of the incredible anguish that Abraham must have felt as he raised the knife in obedience to God.  Now if you know my husband, the crying is not so significant, but because I knew him so well, I could tell he was shaken by the thought of sacrificing someone he loved so much.

When I read this story, I can’t help but focus on the journey to Moriah.  Abraham had traveled across that entire region of the world to live in Canaan, but I would imagine that journey did not compare in intensity to the 50 miles to Moriah.  While Isaac was enjoying an outing with his dad, Abraham was facing the greatest testing of his life.  We know little about the conversation on the journey, but what we do know speaks volumes to us.

As Moriah came into view, “Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’”  Then we will come right back, not I will come right back, but we.  Abraham’s statement wasn’t trickery or deceit, but somewhere during the journey, he resolved in his heart that they would both return.  The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (Hebrews 11:19)  We will come right back. No wonder Abraham is listed in the Faith Hall of Fame!

Then, as they continued up to Moriah, “As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’” (6-7)

I’ve imagined Abraham pondering every promise from God as he took each step to Moriah > God would make him a great nation> his descendants would be like the dust of earth that couldn’t be counted > as many descendants as the stars in the sky > God would make him the father of nations.  With confidence, Abraham could reply to his son, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered.  And they both walked on together.” (8)  Isaac was the son of promise, and God would provide.

We may walk through situations that seem to be completely unlike what our loving God would allow His children to endure.  It is then, like Abraham, we are challenged to act on what we know the character of God to be, not on how the circumstances may dictate His character to be.  I’ve lived long enough to know that things are rarely as they seem.  Our resolve to walk in obedience and faith will be undergirded as we think over the promises of God and remember that He doesn’t lie and that He can only be faithful. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider – God will provide. 

Moving Forward:  “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. He was even called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)  I want to be like Abraham. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 1-6

Matthew 8-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the healer!

Nothing stirs up faith in me like reading Matthew, Chapters 8 through 10. I think of them as the Miracle Chapters.  Matthew shared one example after another of the miraculous healing and delivering power of our Lord.  I’ve heard it said several times that if we don’t have faith to believe for healing or for a miracle, we won’t be healed, and that it’s all about our faith. I’m just not sure that Jesus would completely agree with that statement.

Matthew’s examples include the story of healing for a man with Great Faith – “A Roman officer came and pleaded with [Jesus], ‘Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.’ Jesus said, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed’…[Jesus} said, ‘I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!’”(8:8-10) The Gentile Roman soldier was a man of Great Faith.

Matthew included illustrations of Faith that brought healing:  “A woman who had suffered for twelve years…touched the fringe of his robe…when he saw her he said, ‘Daughter, be encouraged!  Your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” (9:20-22)  Then Matthew told the story of the two blind men who shouted to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on us!’…Jesus asked them, ‘Do you believe I can make you see?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they told him, ‘we do.’  Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘Because of your faith, it will happen.’” (27-29)  Without a doubt, we know how Jesus felt about faith and healing.

But then, Jesus also performed a miracle for those with Little Faith: When in the storm-tossed sea, the disciples cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.” (8:25-26)

Jesus saved and healed a man with Borrowed Faith:  “Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven’…And the man jumped up and went home!” (9:2,7)  One time I was in a desperate need of healing for body, soul and spirit, and I seemed to have no faith to believe for a miracle.  My husband and two others, all full of faith, touched God on my behalf, and I was made completely whole.  Borrowed faith.

Jesus even performed a miracle for a man with No Faith: “A demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus. So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed.”  Full of the devil, this man was set free by Jesus who performs His miracles for reasons we may not even understand – the crowds were amazed.

These illustrations are not intended to minimize our need for faith to believe for miracles, quite the opposite, but I believe we put God in a box when we say that someone is not healed because of their lack of faith. We just don’t know all the purposes God has for the trials we face, but we do know we must stay connected to the One who does.

I believe that Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord that Heals, that Jesus, the Great Physician, will perform miracles on our behalf.  As we learned from the Roman soldier, our faith blesses the Lord, and who doesn’t want to bless the Lord?  From the other healings mentioned in these chapters, we know that faith gets the Lord’s attention.  Who doesn’t want the Lord’s attention?  Our faith brings healing.  Who doesn’t want healing?  Bottom Line: Jesus is the healer. Whether we believe or not, Jesus is the healer.  It’s all about Him.

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that His miracles are not exclusive to my measure of faith, but I’m equally thankful that He responds to my faith with healing and blessing. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 9-10

Romans 1-2 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will determine our faith in Him by our deeds

My mom seldom made pies for her large family because of the time factor involved, but one day she made a beautiful blueberry pie.  I watched her roll the pastry dough, mix up the blueberry filling, top the pie and slide it into the oven.  The smell as it baked was almost intoxicating – I love pie.

After dinner mom sliced up big pieces and topped them with vanilla ice cream.  We all took a big bite simultaneously and then one by one our smiles turned to frowns from the bitter filling.  It seems mom mistakenly used baking soda instead of cornstarch to thicken the sauce.  It looked like a blueberry pie and smelled like a blueberry pie, but it sure didn’t taste like one.  The old English phrase comes to mind, “The proof is in the pudding,” or more accurate is the original saying, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  In our reading today, Paul challenged us with the proof of a believer. 

@ Romans 1
The church in Rome had been around for quite some time, but the Apostles had not had opportunity to visit Rome.  Paul longed to visit the church to strengthen its members in the faith and to teach them, but in the meantime, his letter to them would have to suffice.  His first order of business was to establish their faith.  In this chapter, faith is not the same faith of hope and trust mentioned in Hebrews 11 but is a faith signifying a belief in God.  “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’”(16-17)  Our belief, our faith in God, is what we live by and what brings us to eternal life. 

@ Romans 2
But then Paul made a statement that could be considered contrary to this scripture when he wrote, “He will judge everyone according to what they have done.  He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers.(6-7)  We may look like a believer, walk like a believer, go to church like a believer, but He and others will determine if we truly are a believer by what we do.  In other words, the proof is in the pudding.  Our deeds give overwhelming proof of our belief and what is in our hearts.

Paul went on to write that the condition of our hearts is not determined by strict adherence to the law, but rather by the work of the Holy Spirit, “One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God.” (28-29)  Only a heart that is submitted to the spirit of God will do the good deeds that the Lord will judge.  Like that old saying, the proof is in the pudding.

Moving Forward:  As I submit my heart to the Lord today, I pray my deeds will prove my faith in God – overwhelming proof!

Tomorrow @ Genesis 1-3

2 Chronicles 1-5 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our firm foundation

It’s always troubling to watch television news reporting on the California mudslides or similar places that seem to occur every year.  We see homes literally sliding down the hillside, sometimes into the coastal waters below.  As the furnishings and memories of a lifetime are swallowed up in mud and debris, I often wonder if the great ocean view their homes afforded them was worth the devastation.  There’s nothing like building on a firm foundation. 

@2 Chronicles 3
Whether building a home, a marriage, a church or a family, we want to build something that will last, something that will survive the storms of life.  David had chosen such a place for his son to build God’s temple. “So Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David, his father. The Temple was built on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the site that David had selected.” (1)  Solomon’s Temple on Mount Moriah was built on a firm foundation, both in structure and in history, and the history is intriguing.

Mount Moriah was a place of faith:  Mount Moriah was first mentioned in Genesis 22:1-2,9-11, “Sometime later, God tested Abraham’s faith. ‘Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains’… Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar…Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’”  Is whatever we are building in our lives based on faith in God, is He the sure foundation?  As with Abraham, God may give us an opportunity to demonstrate our faith in our process of building to be certain that it will stand.

Mount Moriah was a place of sacrifice:  Because of David’s sin of taking a census, the hand of God was set to destroy Israel, but the angel from God halted its destruction at the threshing floor of Araunah when David repented.  This special place where God would spare His people was Mount Moriah.  David went to purchase the land, but the owner, Araunah, wanted to give it to him – David would have none of it. “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!’” (I Chronicles 21:2-4)  It will cost us something to build on a firm foundation.  Careful planning, diligence and countless hours are just a few of the sacrifices that go into building a marriage and home or anything that will last.

Mount Moriah was a place of worship:  Solomon completed the beautiful and ornate Temple for the Ark of the Covenant to dwell, the presence of God.  May all that we build be a place of worship to God, where His presence dwells.  Solomon’s Temple was built with careful planning and the very best quality of supplies and furnishings – it was built to last forever.  However, 400 years later it lay in ruins.

The Temple had a firm foundation – it was built on faith in God, it was a place of sacrifice to God and it was a place of worship to God.  Should it not have lasted forever?  Although the foundation was good, the structure lost its function when the Israelites left the Temple and put their faith in other gods, sacrificed to other gods and worshiped them in others places.  They abandoned the very principles the Temple was built on, and God allowed pagans from other countries to demolish it.

From this sad history we learn not only to build our lives on faith in the Lord, but also to hold fast to those principles that guided us from the very beginning.  The world will forever attempt to seduce us with many other areas to place our faith, to offer our sacrifices and to bow our knee to worship, but it never ends well for us. What we build will last when we build on the Lord, our sure foundation, and we stand firm. 

Moving Forward: On Christ the Solid Rock I stand!

Tomorrow@Psalms 111-113

Numbers 13-16 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will provide all we need to step into our destiny

I remember when my granddaughter learned the word humongous on Sesame Street and used it with great excitement whenever she saw something she considered really large.  I thought of her this week as I read the story of the twelve spies.  The spies returned to the Israelite camp with a humongous cluster of grapes so large that two men had to carry it; but, unfortunately, all they remembered were the humongous giants in the land.

@ Numbers 13
“We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But…” (27-28)  The children of Israel stood at the threshold of their destiny to occupy their promised land and allowed the little three letter word but to keep them from it.  “‘…the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!…We can’t go up there against them! They are stronger than we are!’  So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites.” (28,31-32)

The names of all twelve men are listed in Chapter 13, but of those names, we only remember two of them.  The others are all very forgettable.  When we are positioned by God to step into His destiny for us, we can easily lose sight of it if we focus on the humongous obstacles that may be present instead of the humongous promise He has given to us.  Those grapes were huge and represented God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, rich and abundant.

Joshua and Caleb were impressed by the grapes, not by the giants.  “They said to all the people of Israel, ‘The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!’” (14:7-9)

When we are on the edge of something wonderful that God has planned for us, we want to have the faith of Joshua and Caleb, not the fear and doubt of…of…whatever their names are.  God will never promise something to us that is impossible to attain.  Of all the Israelites standing in the camp on that day, only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land to receive God’s humongous blessing. 

Moving Forward: I don’t want to miss all that God has for me because of obstacles that I perceive to be bigger than they really are.  I want to be Joshua and Caleb who saw the huge blessing God had waiting for them. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 20-24

Daniel 1-6 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: “He is the living God and He will endure forever, He rescues and saves his people.”

I developed a Chicken Salad recipe several years ago that has become somewhat infamous in my little world.  It has very simple ingredients and is easy to make, but there are some necessary steps involved that give it the taste that everyone seems to enjoy.  I’ve given the recipe out to dozens of women and men alike and even posted it on my website.  Occasionally, someone will say they made the chicken salad, but it just didn’t taste the same as what I had made.  My response is always the same, “Did you follow all the steps and not compromise?”  Well, they just thought it would be easier to skip toasting the pecans or decided not to chop those golden raisins.  They ended up with a chicken salad that wasn’t the real deal.  Compromise will do that to you…fortunately, this is just chicken salad.

The book of Daniel gives the stories of men who would not compromise their faith in God.  Life would have been a great deal easier for them if they had just been willing to politely eat the food put before them, skip the prayer time or bow to the statue for just a split second.  But no, they decided to follow the recipe step by step, and when it was all said and done, they were the real deal.

When facing the fiery furnace because of their refusal to bow to the golden statue, the captive Hebrew young men responded, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (3:16-18)  No compromise!  At the risk of death!  Likewise, to the edict that prayers could be offered only to King Darius, Daniel responded by opening his windows and praying to the true and living God.  No compromise!  God’s response to these faithful children living as captives in a foreign land was to give them great favor and promotion.

We practice compromise almost every day when we negotiate a deal, agree on who is taking the kids to school and even when driving through traffic – after all, yielding our right of way is easier than having an accident.  But when it comes to our faith and the standards by which we live, there’s no room for compromise if we want to be the real deal for Him. When we live without compromise we may face some ridicule, we may lose some friends or we may even lose the job promotion.  After all, Daniel did spend some time in the lion’s den, but fortunately, he didn’t stay for lunch!

Shocked and thrilled by the outcome for Daniel, heathen King Darius’ life was touched by God’s faithfulness to Daniel, and we read in 6:25-27, “Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:  ‘Peace and prosperity to you!  I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he will endure forever.  His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end.  He rescues and saves his people; He performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’”  And the best news today is – God hasn’t changed! 

Moving Forward: “I have decided to live like a believer, turn my back on the deceiver, I’m gonna live what I believe…” (M.Card)  No compromise! 

Tomorrow @ John 3-4

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