What goes in...

In our first 21 verses from yesterday, Jesus takes the criticism of the Pharisees and religious scholars and turns it right back on them, pointing out how they have abused the law. They had to realize He new that they were now trying to use it against him. Personally, the law and the Book of Leviticus can sometimes make my head hurt; I can’t imagine trying to actually live it out to the letter. Yet Jesus is able to live out the law perfectly in the eyes of God. He respects the law but is able to use it to bring about a change and, most importantly, a focus on God. What is that focus? I love the title The Message Bible gives to this passage: “What Pollutes Your Life”. Jesus knows that, as humans, what we put in our heart and mind directs what comes out of our mouths and actions.

With kids, we often talk about this concept as a recipe. If you put vinegar into your cookie dough batter, you’re cookies aren’t gonna’ taste they like should when all is said and done. This is why we are to take heed of these words in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

This chapter then takes us to an act of great faith as we witness a Canaanite women’s fight for her daughter. We rarely see Jesus turn anyone away and yet, here, it seems that is what is happening. What a test of faith this turns out to be. What I take from this passage is more than just faith put to test, but a message about who Jesus is here for. He came “the lost sheep of Israel”, but stretched His arms on the cross of all of mankind. His love, mercy, forgiveness and grace know no barriers of race, culture or heritage. He is available to all who will seek and submit, no matter the personal struggle or cost.


2 Great Deeds

Over the years I have told and reenacted these two great deeds countless times to groups of children. I love watching these pieces of history come to life and, more importantly, how they demonstrate how awesome our God really is. He can multiply food by the thousands and defy gravity by walking on water and all while involving Himself and interacting on a personal level with the people.

The walking on the water story became very personal to me about 4 years ago. Darin’s job had been cut in a work force reduction and we had been feeling a huge tug to move on…but to where, to what? I remember the day vividly, as I sat in the prayer room pouring my all out to God for direction. “Just show me what you want us to do,” I cried over and over again. And that’s when He brought me to Matthew 14:22. I saw the whole story play out in my mind, but this time it wasn’t Peter stepping out of the boat it was me. “Just sep out of the boat” God told me several times. But each time His command was met with a question from me “How?” “When?” And the only response was “You’ll know when it’s time.” I have to admit I walked away not feeling much more at peace and with little resolve, but I clung to the hope that I would know. A year later, I knew. We had a difficult and scary decision to make. Make a commitment to move to Arizona when our house hadn’t sold yet and neither of us had jobs lined up. And it was in that situation that I knew it was time, time to step out of the boat. I told Darin that instead of us waiting on God to put everything all in order, God was waiting on us to step of the boat and walk. So we did.

The great deeds in our reading today are powerful testimonies to who Jesus is. I love that Jesus is so BIG and powerful and so small and intimate at the same time. That just blows my mind sometimes! I share my story today because it was a very powerful lesson for me; a time when I truly feel my faith was tested. Could I step out of the boat? Could we totally go on faith? I thank God today for reminding me of it today so that I never forget how precious my faith in Him really is.

I encourage you today to reflect on a moment or moments in your life where you stepped out of the boat. But go beyond that, share it someone today. Let your “walk on water” be an encouragement, a testimony, a challenge to someone God has put in your life. And let us walk tall today, whatever challenges come our way, knowing our faith is enough.


Change is coming...

Notice in the readings the mixed reception that Jesus receives. This new 'way' draws much criticism and anger from the religious leaders of His day. The Pharisees are looking for ways to oppose and trap Him. They have trusted so much in their strict obedience to the Law that their hearts have become hard to the truth Jesus has brought into the world. Jesus quotes Hosea 6.6 a couple of times. I love this passage of scripture: "I (God) desire mercy, not sacrifice." The Israelites were trusting in their sacrifices to make them right with God. But as Jesus will continue to say, it is the condition of our hearts that connects us with our Heavenly Father.

I believe the church in our day focuses on sins of commission. We seem to focus on not doing certain things. But there are also sins of omission. These are things that we should do, but choose not to do. I believe it is possible to not do evil/wrong, but still fail to do good. This is what was going on with the Pharisees. They were completely preoccupied with staying away from certain things and in turn, they missed out on doing more important things (did that sentence make any sense?). We can be guilty of the same. Let's not focus only on cutting out certain things...let's remember to do good in the process.