Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Canaanite Woman - Pressing in through Faith

By Ken Halsted on 8-3-2011

Before I get to the Canaanite woman, I wanted to give a little background so that the story makes much more sense.

In Matthew 11, Jesus pronounced judgment on Chorazin and Bethsaida suggesting that if the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon had experienced what Chorazin and Bethsaida did, they would have long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes (Mt 11:21–24).

"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." (NIV)
Jesus was constantly being rejected by his own people. The Pharisees accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the law of the Sabbath. They accused Jesus of Healing on the Sabbath and his disciples of working on the Sabbath (picking heads of grain to eat), just to name a couple of events. His own people were constantly rejecting the work of Jesus and Jesus himself.

Everywhere He went, Jesus performed miracles. You would think that if people had any doubt, they’d believe in Him just because of the things he did and said. Things no man had ever done throughout history. No one understood the heart of man the way Jesus did and he proved it in the things he said and declared. He had a way to bring out the simple truth regarding the condition of man’s heart.

John 7:46 - "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared. (NIV)

John 14:11 - Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (NIV)

But most people, sadly, did not believe in Him. They not only rejected him, but they became a force working against him.

The Pharisees had even done that which can hardly be imagined. They accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons. Jesus said we can sin against Him all we want and we can be forgiven, but blaspheming the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven. That’s how despised Jesus was. Now let’s contrast Jesus’ own people’s response to that of the Canaanite Woman.

In Matthew 15:21, after yet another confrontation with the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, while in the Gennesaret/Galilee area, Jesus does something different. He heads north into the Region of Tyre and Sidon. Mark’s account talks about this being ‘Phoenicia’ which was the name given to the region by the Greeks. This was the same area where God sent Elijah when the widow fed him (1 Kings 17:9). This region was the northern tip of the original promised-land but nevertheless, was Pagan territory. Mark 7:24 says “he entered a house and did not want anyone to know it, yet he could not keep his presence secret”.

I believe Jesus went there for the sake of a woman. Mark talks about this woman being a Phoenician woman and Matthew talks about her being a Canaanite woman. Both accounts are correct. Phoenicia was a region full of people of diverse backgrounds, mainly because it was a region containing many Canaanite ocean port towns. This lady was a Canaanite and a Greek.

Now that I’ve set up a little bit of the background, this passage will make much more sense.

Matthew 15:21-28

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." 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 their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (NIV)

I’d like to point out some things that I found interesting. One, the Canaanite woman cries out ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me’. She addressed Jesus as LORD! This pagan knew He was Lord but yet Jesus’ own did not? She addresses him as Son of David, from the royal line of David and as Canaan’s captors and victors. She gave him full reverence in doing this and I find that quite simply, amazing.
Next, she tells Jesus what she needs from him and how that her daughter is demon possessed. She knew it was a spiritual matter and that Jesus was king of the spiritual realm.

I believe what happens next is a powerful test that Jesus puts her through. Obviously, at this point, his heart is bursting for her and I believe he’s there FOR her. I believe he preached in that region but I believe he went north into Pagan territory just for her. He tests her resolve by saying nothing at all and ignoring her. After much begging, even Jesus’ disciples were asking Jesus to send her away. They were tired of hearing from her (Luke 18:5-8). In Luke 18:8 Jesus said “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”. Here was a woman with faith, who believed in Jesus, who believed Jesus could heal her daughter and He is ignoring her? He is testing her to see how much faith she has.

Jesus answers and says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” or I was sent only to my own people, not you Pagans. This only emboldens her more and she runs over and kneels before him and says “Lord, help me!”. He again tests her and says “it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs”. Her reply is “Yes, that’s true, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table”. Jesus has had enough at this point and says “Woman….you have GREAT faith! Your request is granted”. Every other version I referenced said “Oh Woman…you have great faith” showing the great compassion he had for her.
I think one of the amazing things that jumped out at me was the ‘character’ of God. How he loves to prove his own. How he loves to see his children PRESSING in to him. How he loves to see someone, just for once, BELIEVE in him truly, seek Him truly, not take NO for an answer and keep pressing in. This shows a marvelous character of our God and how amazing He really is.

I was blown away by the fact that Jesus left his people and went into Pagan territory just to show his love to us gentiles (here and with the Samaritan woman) long before he commissioned the apostle Paul. He then went back to Galilee, where he came from and continued on with his original mission of being with the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus was doing only what God, the Father, told him to do. Thank you God for your love and example that even early on in your mission you reached out to us Gentiles and showed your glory and grace to the ‘thirsty’.

The Spirit and the Bride say come and take of the water of life freely. Whosoever will.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Awake Thou That Sleepest And Arise From The Dead And Christ Shall Give Thee Light

I had the joyous privilege of attending a backwoods Church in Marshall Arkansas for a few years. One of the things that I heard there, a lot, was “Standing in the gap” and “Paying the price”. That made sense to me then, and I knew what Donnie Chisum, the Pastor there, meant when he said it. He was saying that loving others, and discipleship in general, comes with a cost. He was saying that having faith FOR others comes at a cost. He was saying that the lost, don’t know they’re lost, and so you, who are supposed to be made alive by the Savior, are to try and help show them the way and that the path to show them the way is going to be a long, arduous one.

How much do you love others? Do you love them enough to see them set free from the chains of sin, their own minds, their own screwed up nature? Do you love them enough to pay the price it’s going to take to help them along the way? It’s a completely self-less love that usually gets very little in return for much expenditure.

How free do you want to be? Do you want to be free enough to help free other people? You know you love people when you are willing to pay the price to help set them free.

God is the one who sets people free and why He uses nuts like us to ‘help’ in the process is something that boggles the mind. Yet He does. Of course if we don’t go along, it’s not like all is lost. God’s work will be accomplished. We are not that important. He’ll find someone who is willing to be a vessel.

And that reminds me, one of the things I hate hearing people say is “What if you didn’t witness to that person and they split hell wide open and it was all because of you!!!!!”. I’m sorry folks, but God isn’t that reliant upon us. He isn’t in Heaven wringing his hands hoping that we’ll finally see the light and do His work for Him. No, God’s work goes on and we can choose to be a part of His plan. We can be His children and work in His kingdom, because He wants us to! He loves seeing His children as His son, victorious and faithful. But if we’re not, His plans will definitely go on. He’ll use a blind child if he has to, a donkey, a rock, raise up Saints from grave bones, but it will go on.

Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to be a part of the Kingdom of God and share in the reward that’s coming. That blessed day when our faith will become sight. We’ll see Him as He truly is and we will become like Him. Isn’t that cool? Our natural children become like us Parents, don’t they? They start saying the same things we say. They watch the same shows we watch and want to do the same things we do. Their mannerisms come from us and others they hang around. They become mini us’s. If we’ll keep our eyes on Jesus, and do what He did, because He did what Father God did, then we’ll become just like Him. That’s what I’m hoping for. That's why I reckon scripture says "We will become like Him for we will see him as He is".

Jesus, let your light shine at Harvest Church in each person there, and as we go along the way of our lives, so that each and every person sees it and wants that light. Some will run from the light (lest their deeds become known) but some will see it and run towards it and be changed for all eternity. Thank you Jesus that we can water and plant and share in the work you have going, but thank you even more that YOU are the one who brings the increase. If we work in our own power, we will toil in vain, our money will fall into bags with holes, we'll eat but never be filled, we'll drink but never be refreshed. It’s not by our own might, intelligence, giftedness or power, but by your power and for your glory.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Great truth from the greatest Table Waiter that ever lived!

In Acts chapter 6, the Apostles decide they’ve had enough of the ‘table waiting’ and decided to seek out someone among them full of the Holy Spirit. They decided on Stephen, a man who fit the bill and who was ‘wise’, ‘full of Grace’, ‘power’ and who did many miracles, to boot. I don’t know how long he got to be a waiter, but we know he was murdered, not long after. He was killed by a bunch of Jews called the ‘Synagogue of the Freedman’. Just their name is scary but what’s really scary is that they rejected Jesus Christ. Stephen told them as much, as they falsely accused him of blasphemy against Moses and God. They dragged Stephen to the Sanhedrin to accuse him. One of the priests stood up and asked “Are these charges true?” and what follows is a huge dissertation of all that God had done for them over the years, only to be rejected time and time again.

I’m not going to list all of it here, but I do want to list two sections of it that I found to be very interesting:

Acts 7:20-27

"At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father's house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Interesting that Moses said he WAS NOT later on, to God!) "When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, 'Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?' "But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? (NIV)

And then:

Acts 7:34-35

I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.' "This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, 'Who made you ruler and judge?' He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. (NIV)

I find it interesting that Moses just assumed that his people would know he was trying to bring them justice and set them free. But they did not. I’m sure he must have already sensed that God was enabling him to do so and was calling him to do so. Through Stephen’s message, we find a little bit more about the original Exodus story. A little more insight into the ‘why’. This man Stephen, who was FILLED with the Holy Spirit, and being prophetically used by God, gives a little glimpse of that Why. It says that ‘Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them’ and set them free. But they did not recognize it!. I find that extremely interesting and insightful. Maybe Moses jumped the gun and felt the calling of God, and decided to take matters into his own hands. Maybe God was ready at that time, or about to be ready at that time and Moses quit on God by fleeing. I’m sure there are different ways to look at that.
But the main thing I wanted to concentrate on is the fact that GOD’s OWN PEOPLE KEPT REJECTING HIM and His work. This is the point Stephen was trying to make. Look at how many times, you who are supposed to know God, look at how many times, over and over again, you have rejected Him and what He was TRYING to do. In the 2nd passage of scripture above, Acts 7:35, it says and God himself sent Moses to be both their ruler and their judge! How funny that the Hebrew asked Moses “who made you ruler and judge?”. God answers this 40 years later with a resounding “God did!....that’s who!!!”.

I’m not so sure it was wrong of Moses to kill the Egyptian. I’m not going to definitively say it was or was not. I know that’s just a personal opinion of mine, and probably one that doesn’t fit with the majority, but King David was going to kill Abigail’s husband and every male they saw just for refusing to give his men some food and help for protecting their livestock. That sounds wrong doesn’t it? Abigail changes David’s mind but God finishes what David was going to start anyway, just a few weeks later. So you see, we can’t mess with God’s anointed! Am I saying God is a mobster we can summon at any moment to rub people out we don’t like? Of course not, lol. But my point is that God cares about the things His people care about and He is trying to be IN their lives. I wish we would try to be in God’s life as much as He tries to be in ours.

Oh and please don’t send me emails about how I’m advocating murder, but if you must, my email address is:

I’m simply saying, I’m not so sure God wasn’t using Moses to start the delivery even at that point. You have to remember, God is using Stephen during this talk, and this part of the story is a key point in God’s over all point of “How they kept rejecting Him”. It doesn’t say one thing about Moses being wrong, or about Him doing something he should not have, but rather, about the people doing something wrong in response to what Moses did. They did not recognize that God was trying to deliver them.

All throughout this chapter, the people are told of one event and miraculous sign after another of how God was trying to deliver…..but yet He was being rejected over and over. He would send a prophet who would be stoned, beaten and killed. Over and over again, even until the end when Jesus himself was rejected. The final, great rejection! Stephen, in Acts 7:51 said “You are just like your Fathers! YOU ALWAYS RESIST THE HOLY SPIRIT”. In 52 he continued on “Was there EVER a prophet you did not persecute?”

How do we, reject the Holy Spirit? I think we’re stiff necked too. I think we reject the work of the Holy Spirit way too often.
That’s scary and sad at the same time. God wants to move, but we ‘will not’.
Jesus himself said:

Matt 23:29-39:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (NIV)

I think MOST of this if not all of it, was directed towards those that were NOT believers, and who He knew never would be, but even for the believers, the question is:

How do we kill the prophets (people in our lives who are prophetically used by God to help us ) and stone those that are sent to us (God’s still, small voice speaking to our hearts through His Holy Spirit)? We often kill God’s move in our lives with our disobedience. We kill the words he speaks to our hearts. The ‘Divine appointments’ John Pettus spoke of, we often dismiss. The word God gives us, we often drop and just continue on as if He never spoke. The mission God gave us, we sometimes live as if He never gave a single command. The house he left us in charge of, is not in the shape it should be because we far too often refuse to follow Him.

Of course, I’m not saying we don’t ever do anything right, but I hope we will each examine our own ways and consider them more closely. God is gracious and full of mercy, but my goodness we sure are mule-headed people. It’s amazing He puts up with us. We have to start living as if God himself really does care about every single thing we are doing in this life. Everything we do is either building up or tearing down. We need to embrace the move of God and remember He is trying to help us grow, direct us and perform something mighty in our lives.

Now I think of this Table Waiter Stephen who was performing miracles in Jesus’ power and who was full of the Holy Spirit and love, speaking to these people in the boldness of God himself and in HIS awesome authority and even as he lay dying from the hands of the crowd asked God to NOT hold this sin against them.

If you’re living for Jesus, you live a dangerous life. You probably aren’t going to have very many friends and you’re probably going to ruffle a lot of feathers. Not because you’re trying to, but because the Kingdom of God suffers violence and violent men take it by force.

Maybe we need more Table Waiters at church! The great truth is: Let’s embrace the move of God and be sure NOT to reject what He’s trying to do through us and in us.