Children of the Bible, Part 23

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Children of the Bible, Part 23 by Allan McGuirl

We have spent a number of weeks looking at interesting stories of children in the Bible. And we have seen that they have had a great impact on the lives of people around them in various ways. However, today’s child cannot be compared to any of these previous ones. We start with Luke chapter 2 – the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that He came into this world as a child is amazing in itself. Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” The very Son of God humbled Himself to be born as a helpless child.

The one, who in the beginning spoke the Word and the worlds were formed, now lay in a humble manger speechless. The one who upholds all things by the word of His power was now powerless to care for Himself. The one, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was now pursued by a king to be annihilated. By the divine plan of God, He was born in Bethlehem as prophesied hundreds of years earlier. His birth announcement was to humble shepherds on the Judean hillside, and to foreign sages studying the skies He created. The angels of heaven marvelled at His birth and lifted praises to God while most of the world slept. And there He laid in a humble manger – truly God and truly man. I have often wondered what happened to those shepherds who first came to visit the newborn Son of God. Were they able to follow his life in any way? Did they know He had to escape to Egypt and live in exile while wicked King Herod still lived? Were they aware that when He returned from Egypt that He and Mary and Joseph found safety in the quiet village of Nazareth? Did they know it was He who returned to Jerusalem 30 years later to challenge the religious leaders of the day with their hypocrisy? Were they there when He was led up Golgotha’s hill to be crucified? Actually, we are told nothing more of these shepherds except that after they saw Jesus, they were filled with joy and told everybody they met about Him.

And how did Simeon and Anna both recognize this baby to be the promised Messiah when He was brought to the temple at just eight days old? What did people think when this news was shared with them? What was it that alerted them to His true identity?

Then we have the wise men travelling from the east seeking the new King. Jesus was no longer in a manger but in a house when they arrived, so He could have been almost two years old. Did they realize that He was not only a King but the King of Kings? When they worshipped Him and laid their gifts before Him, did they know that He had come to give them the gift of eternal life? What did they say when they returned home about this special child? Again, the Scriptures are silent on this matter.

Of course, there is a lot of speculation about Jesus’ early childhood, but the Bible is silent about this. The only comment comes in Luke 2:40 where it says, “And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” And then when he turned 12, He traveled with Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Mary and Joseph, like many others, stayed in Jerusalem for the full seven days of celebration.

Then they started the long trek back to Nazareth. The trip is about 167 km or about 100 miles, about three full days of travel from dawn till dusk. They traveled all day and made their way down the hills of Jerusalem. That is the most dangerous stretch: a rocky, sandy, parched descent with many twists and turns in the road as it meanders down through the hills toward Jericho and the Jordan River. The area is noted for bandits and robbers who easily lie in wait in the craggy outcroppings looking for unsuspecting travellers. However, by moving in the company of so many friends and relatives who are also returning to the Galilee there is little likelihood of being attacked. As they reached the lower level and started north following the Jordan, they found a place to camp for the night. As this point, Mary and Joseph expected Jesus to join them, assuming He was keeping company with their relatives. But He didn’t show up. They started searching for Him among their kinfolk and friends, but Jesus was nowhere to be found.

When they finally realized that Jesus was not there, they had no choice but to return to Jerusalem to look for Him. But first they had to find a place to stay for the night. I suspect that it was a restless sleep, especially for Mary, not knowing Jesus’ whereabouts. First thing in the morning they retraced their steps in search of their son. The trip was slower because now they were climbing back up toward Jerusalem, and, most likely, they were not able to cover as much ground on the return trip as they had the previous day. No doubt they were scanning every group of travellers they passed, wondering if Jesus had realized He had been left behind and joined a later group to travel back home.   I can visualize them questioning the various groups as they looked for Jesus. As night descended, they were again forced to stop and wait for dawn. Two days had elapsed and they had no idea where Jesus was.

When morning came, they resumed their journey and made their way through Jerusalem’s gate. They found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, and listening and asking questions. Luke 2:47-50 says, “Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished. His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’  ‘Why were you searching for me?’ He asked, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what He was saying to them.” Even Jesus’ parents, although they knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, did not really comprehend all that that meant.

Further, in Luke 2:51,52  it says, “Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Jesus knew He was God the Son, but still He placed himself under the authority of his parents. He was setting the example to all children that the fifth commandment, honouring father and mother, was to be obeyed.

Well, as we said at the beginning, no other child could ever be compared to the Son of God. We are familiar with the rest of His life, but that is a topic for another day.

Children of the Bible, Part 22

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Children of the Bible, Part 22 by Allan McGuirl

We have been looking at children of the Bible the last few months. Timothy is the next child we will discuss, as we draw close to the end of this series. I believe there are some important things we can learn from the life of Timothy, especially as a child, that can encourage our hearts and perhaps help some parents in raising their own children.

Timothy, whose name means “honouring God” or “precious to God,” certainly lived up to his name. Timothy came from a special home setting. You know that at an early age he put his faith in the Lord. The Bible says in Acts 16:1 that Paul had come to Lystra where Timothy lived. His mother was a Jewess and a believer in Jesus, and his father was a Greek. Nothing else is said about his father, but in II Timothy 1:5 the Bible says that Paul longed to see Timothy because he noticed in him the same unwavering faith and the sincere trust in God that was first modelled by his grandmother, Lois, and then by his mother, Eunice. Wow, this is a powerful statement. Three generations of solid believers is a testimony to God’s amazing grace, and it is also a testimony to the way Grandmother Lois and Mother Eunice raised Timothy. Let me ask you grandparents: are you passing on the precious truth of Jesus our Saviour to your children, and in turn, encouraging them to pass it on to their children? You can have a mighty impact on their lives just as Eunice and Lois did with Timothy.

How do we do that? Let’s look at II Timothy 3:14 and 15, where Paul charges Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  Paul goes on to affirm, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Eunice and Lois didn’t wait until Timothy was old enough to even understand to teach him God’s Word. They started when he was an infant. When we sing “Jesus Love Me” or “For God so Loved the World” to a babe in arms do we think they really understand those concepts? Or if we read Bible stories or Bible passages to them do we think they really grasp all that we are saying? Of course not! But we are laying a foundation from the very earliest years that shows a respect for God and His Word. We are placing God’s truths and familiar phrases within their young minds that will take on proper meaning as they mature. We are sowing the seed that will eventually take root in the virgin soil of their hearts and grow to bring forth fruit. The fruit doesn’t appear until a plant is mature. The plant doesn’t begin to mature until the seed germinates in the prepared soil. The seed can never germinate if it is never planted. So, you see, Lois and Eunice sowed the seed of God’s Word early in young Timothy’s heart. They watered it with prayer and tilled the ground to make it receptive for the seed to germinate. Then, as he grew, they continued to sow the seed.

In Timothy’s life this had a huge impact. From an infant he knew God’s Word, by faith he appropriated God’s grace as taught in His Word, becoming a child of God, and then by faith began to live it out. When children are taught early, when they are led to accept Christ as their personal Saviour early in life, when they are taught the truths of Scripture and how to apply them to their lives, and when they understand that God’s Holy Spirit within them lives out the life of Christ through them, there is no more powerful force for the Great Commission than this!

Paul recognized that Timothy was being molded by God from early on. In Acts 16:3, Paul wanted to take him along on a mission trip. What a great choice Paul made in selecting this young man. He was ideal material for mentoring, and Paul was able to pour himself into this young man with little fear that his time and effort would be wasted. Paul also warned Timothy in II Timothy 3:1-4: I can almost see Paul looking him in the eye and warning him that “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God. So, Timothy, this is the world you are living in.” Paul goes on to say, “But you, Timothy, must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…”

Is this not the world we observe today in North America? Paul encouraged Timothy to be on guard and to recognize that God’s word would be his guide through the hazards of life. And then what did Paul do? He prayed for Timothy constantly. Parents, you want your children to experience God’s best for them. Pray for them continually. Encourage them and affirm them when they do what is right. Set the example. But most of all, pray for them. It is so easy to allow our busyness, our tiredness, our distractions, and our carelessness to keep us from this most important task. Pray that God would keep them in His Word, that they will be able to recognize temptation for what it is, that they will see the consequences of wrongdoing before they allow themselves to be sucked in. Pray for God’s protection around them keeping them from the Evil One, and pray that they will have a hunger to know God better and a desire to serve Him.

Children of the Bible, Part 21

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Children of the Bible, Part 21 by Allan McGuirl

Acts 23

Over the past weeks we have been looking at children of the Bible in all kinds of circumstances. Well, this is another special story about a boy whom I am sure you haven’t heard much about; in fact, we don’t even know his name. However, I see him as a real hero at just a young age – probably around 10 years old, I would guess.

The setting is recorded in Acts 23:12-35 and this boy was the son of Paul’s sister. He happened to live in the area of Jerusalem and overheard a group of evil men planning a conspiracy against Paul. I like what the dictionary says about a conspiracy. It is an evil, unlawful, treacherous plan, formulated in secret. The Bible says more than 40 men were involved in this wicked plot.

You see, Paul had been brought before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. This was a group of chosen men from among the religious leaders of the day. Even then, many of the religious leaders disagreed on the main doctrines of Scripture. The Pharisees believed there was a resurrection as the Scriptures teach, but the Sadducees had explained away the resurrection in a figurative manner, and so there was much contention between these two particular groups. Paul, having been a member of the Sanhedrin in time past, knew about this heated contention and so, in his defense, mentioned that he was being tried for his belief in the resurrection. Immediately, the Sanhedrin became polarized, with the Pharisees defending Paul and the Sadducees condemning him.

After the meeting, those who opposed Paul met together and over 40 of them made a solemn oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. Now, medical experts say a person can live up to about 21 days without food but without water, some people would die within 3 days, or at the most 10. But these men meant business. They already had a plan in mind. On the pretense of wanting to judge Paul for blasphemy and for causing havoc throughout the land, they would petition the governor to have Paul brought out of the barracks in the morning and taken before the authorities. They would be well-prepared to ambush Paul on the way there and kill him. Their plan could easily have succeeded if God had not intervened. You see, even the plans of evil men cannot prosper when they attempt to thwart God’s plan.

Here is where God used a young boy to do the unexpected. This boy was probably ignored by the scheming men who sought to harm Paul. They had no idea he was really listening, nor did they know that he was Paul’s nephew. On hearing the plan, the boy made his way to the barracks, gained access to his uncle and told him the whole plan. Paul in turn called one of the centurions. A centurion was a soldier in charge of about 100 other men, so generally he was a man of integrity. Paul did not tell the scheme to the centurion, though; instead, he told the centurion that the boy had an important message for the army commander. The boy was taken immediately to the commander. I can almost see the commander bending down to the young lad, asking, “What is it you want to tell me?” With great courage he uncovered the entire plot of Paul’s enemies. In all likelihood it was not easy for this young boy to stand before the army commander, not knowing whether he would be believed or whether he would be made fun of and run out of the compound. However, the commander listened carefully, and I can just imagine what was going through the commander’s mind when he realized these men were trying to manipulate him for their own purposes. He sternly instructed the boy, “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported to me.” Immediately, the commander called his centurion and ordered him to get a detachment of 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen ready and to take Paul by night to Caesarea. They even provided a mount for Paul so that he could be taken safely to the Governor Felix.

None of this would have happened if a young lad, full of courage, boldness, and concern for his uncle, had not spoken up to save Paul’s life. God can always use willing, obedient children to accomplish His will.

Now, I have often wondered what happened to these 40 plus men when they found out their plans were useless. Religious leaders took oaths very seriously. Did they try to make additional plans to kill Paul? Did they try to hire someone to do the job for them? How long did they keep their oath not to eat or drink until they killed Paul? Of course, we don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but one thing is clear: we need to be very careful about the promises we make.

You see, God had a plan for Paul’s life and He had already told Paul that he would appear before the Roman government. God had much more for Paul to do and nothing was going to interfere with God’s plan. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God has a plan for our lives? We don’t want to miss it.

Another interesting thing, folks, is that when we get to heaven, we are going to meet a lot of great people. I am sure this boy is there now and we will be able to meet this young hero. May we also have the boldness to speak up for what is right.

Children of the Bible, Part 20

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Children of the Bible, Part 20 by Allan McGuirl

Acts 12

Today, we come to the story of a an interesting young lady as we continue with our series, Children of the Bible. She was a servant girl with the beautiful name, Rhoda, which means “rose.” She worked for Mary, the mother of John, in Jerusalem and in Antioch.

Now these were dangerous days for believers in Jesus, the Son of God. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples were sent to take the Gospel everywhere. However, there were many, especially in places of authority, who opposed this new faith. Days earlier, King Herod had beheaded John’s brother, James. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he planned to execute Peter as well. He had Peter arrested and thrown into prison. He was placed in the care of four squads of four soldiers each. Two would stand guard at the entrance of the prison, while two others were chained to him on either side. They were taking no chances on him escaping. After the Passover feast, Herod was planning to bring him to trial. We can be sure that the outcome of this mock trial had already been decided.

The night before Herod planned to bring Peter to trial, something amazing happened. As Peter was sleeping between the two guards, a bright light shone in the prison and an angel of the Lord appeared. The angel rapped Peter on his side and woke him up.  “Quick, get up!” he said, and as he did so, the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. “Put on your clothes and sandals,” the angel instructed. Peter obeyed. “Now, wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” The Bible tells us that Peter followed the angel. They walked past the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, the angel left him. Peter didn’t realize what was actually happening; he thought he was dreaming or walking in a trance. However, when the angel left him and he found himself out on the street, he realized that God had actually sent an angel to deliver him from Herod’s clutches and from the wicked plans of the Jewish prosecutors.

At the same time, something else was happening on Peter’s behalf. In verse 12, it says that many people had gathered at Mary’s house for what we would call a good old-fashioned prayer meeting, because they knew what Peter would be facing the next day. Even Rhoda, the servant girl, was there, and all were praying into the night. When it dawned on Peter that he was actually free, he decided to go to Mary’s house; she was the mother of John Mark, one of the young believers. Peter knocked on the outer entrance of the house and was ready to tell everyone about the angel freeing him from prison. He could hardly wait to share his story. Rhoda heard the knock, went to the locked door, recognized Peter’s voice, and in her shock and excitement, ran back to the prayer meeting to announce that Peter was at the door! The people stopped praying to listen to Rhoda, but they didn’t believe her. They told her she was out of her mind.  When she kept on insisting it was Peter, they thought it must be his angel. Meanwhile, Peter continued to knock at the door. They finally opened the door and, in astonishment, let him in. With all the commotion, Peter motioned for them to be quiet and gave the account of how the angel woke him, had him pass by all the guards without them waking, and went through the gate and into the city streets where the angel left him.

Did you know that angels are mentioned almost 300 times in the Bible? I think of Psalm 91:11, where it says, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” That’s another interesting topic that we may explore in the future.

Getting back to Rhoda, she expressed more faith than the adults at that prayer meeting. She believed right away that it was Peter and kept insisting it was so. I have often wondered how this incident affected Rhoda during the rest of her life. No doubt it strengthened her faith in an amazing way.  I’m sure she never tired of relating the story to anyone who was interested. Perhaps she passed it on to her children, as well. Often we are unaware of the far-reaching results of our faith and testimony and the power of a single incident in our lives. We need to exercise that kind of faith, knowing that whatever we ask of God, believing, He hears and He will answer.

Children of the Bible, Part 19

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Children of the Bible, Part 19

Luke 15:11-32

We have been looking at the stories of children in the Bible and things we can learn from them to apply to our own lives. Perhaps this next story you would not consider as about a child, but a young son reaching adulthood. He was probably in his early twenties, since a Jewish son was considered independent at that time. He had an older brother and a dad. His father was respected in the community, a man of means and integrity. No mention is made of his mother, which is unusual in this situation, so she may already have died. This story, found in Luke 15:11-32, shows the younger son’s understanding that all of his father’s possessions would become the inheritance of he and his brother.  He could hardly wait. In fact, he couldn’t wait at all. Was this the first time he had approached his father about the inheritance? Perhaps his brother was a more diligent landowner than he and he realized that when the time came for the property and money to be divided, his brother would be in a better position than he would be. Or maybe he just wanted to get out on his own, do his own thing, be able to make his own decisions, and not always be ordered around by his father. This young man is known as the Prodigal Son. Many of you can relate to the search for independence by those approaching adulthood.

Two words characterized the son at this point in his life. Maybe you have guessed them. He said, “GIVE ME.” Are you familiar with young people who think the world owes them a living – that is, a privileged living where everything is provided for them and they have no responsibility to work or use their resources wisely? Certainly, in affluent North America we seem to have droves of young people with this mindset: the world owes me an education, a good income, a healthy body, trustworthy friends, a good home with all the amenities, and access to anything the heart could desire. The prodigal son’s “GIVE ME” attitude did not come with any specified plan as to how he would invest the inheritance; there was no specific goal in mind, just “GIVE ME my share of the estate – NOW.”

Now if you were his dad, what would you say? I suspect this son had been pressuring his father for some time and ignored his father’s nudging to just hang in a little longer, to decide what he really wanted to do with his life, and to work out a plan for using his share wisely. The father knew his son was bent on leaving home and going his own way, so, reluctantly, he divided his inheritance between the two sons. He watched heartbroken as his son packed up his belongings and moved to another country, but the son was lighthearted and almost giddy about his newfound freedom.

With lots of money comes lots of friends – the son was too naïve to realize they were only fair-weather friends. He “lived it up” and had the time of his life. The story is as old as time – the money never lasts nearly as long as we anticipate. The friends moved on and in verse 13 it says he “squandered his wealth in wild living.” There was nothing left. To squander means to “spend extravagantly, thoughtlessly or wastefully.” The money was gone, there was nothing left and the son found himself reduced to a lowly servant of a pig farmer. He was so hungry he would have eaten the pig slop and the Bible says, “no one gave him anything.” How sad! Could someone reading this be in the same situation? The passage tells us that as he sat in the pig pen, he came to his senses. He thought of his father’s servants: well-dressed, well-fed, well-housed, content. He thought of himself, the son: destitute, in rags, and starving. He was no longer cocky, demanding and self-assured, but humbled, distressed and a little wiser.

This time he formulated a plan. He would go to his father and ask for his forgiveness. He would request a job as a slave, since he realized he was no longer worthy to be called a son. He had shamed his father and brought disgrace upon the family. His was willing to make amends by becoming a servant. He packed up his few belongings and headed home. There was no spring in his step on the return journey, no giddiness. His head was bowed and his bare feet trod the hardened path as he rehearsed over and over what he would say to his disappointed and angry father. With his head down, he didn’t realize that, while he was still a long way off, his father had spotted him. His father was running down the road to meet him. He finally looked up and then ran toward his father. He hardly had time for his rehearsed speech. His father welcomed him home, clothed him, gave him a family ring and prepared a great feast for him. He had been waiting all this time for his son to return – now they would celebrate.

I think of a close friend of mine whose son did the same sort of thing. No, he didn’t get an inheritance; instead he stole it from the home and pawned it for whatever he could get – jewellery, money, furnishings, etc. For years his parents grieved and prayed for their wayward son, and one day, the son came to his senses. The father’s love reached out to him and received him back and helped him back on his feet. The son turned his life over to the Lord, and the relationship today is one of joy and blessing. How wonderful to know that God is still in the business of rescuing the strays, restoring relationships, and rebuilding lives.

As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” If you are like this prodigal son, God is waiting to welcome you home. You only need to trust in Him. And if you are the waiting father or mother, keep on praying and believing. God is still in control.

Children of the Bible, Part 18

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Children of the Bible, Part 18 by Allan McGuirl

Luke 7:11-17
We have been covering stories about children of the Bible the past several weeks. These are real accounts about precious children and how certain events have happened to them. Today’s story is no exception. If you have your Bible, turn to Luke 7:11-17 for a fascinating story. The setting is in the town of Nain, about 6 miles south east of Nazareth. The world is so bent on big things-important events in large cities that seem to appeal to the entire world. But, folks, we are going to learn about an event that revolutionized a widow’s life, taking it from sorrow to joy, from death to life, separation to reunion – an event that only God could mastermind.

In verse 11, Jesus was approaching the city of Nain with his disciples and a huge crowd of people. Also, the Bible says there was another, smaller crowd of people heading out of the city gate. They were carrying a coffin with a young man in it. The crowd was mourning, and the mother, who had already suffered the loss of her husband, was preparing to bury the body of her only son. She was heartbroken. At that moment, she had many friends and family members, along with professional mourners, accompanying her. But tomorrow and every day after that, she would be alone, on her own, struggling to survive. Some of you reading this know the grief of losing a child. You can feel the pain of this mother as she slowly followed the casket.

Jesus was not only aware of the crowds following Him, He was aware of this mournful procession, and the Bible says, “The Lord saw HER.” He immediately had compassion on her and said to her, “Don’t cry.” Now, that’s something I don’t think I have ever said to someone at a funeral, and I have been to many! But Jesus is the Son of God. He had reason to admonish her to dry her tears, because He already knew what He was about to do. Jesus went up to the coffin and touched it. Those carrying it stood still. By now the two crowds of people were mingling together. What was going through their minds at this moment in time? It’s as if the world was standing still. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, ‘Get up.’” Surely their ears were playing tricks on them! A dead man does not get up. But now their eyes were watching the impossible. The dead son sat up and began to speak. I wonder how long it took for them to lower the coffin to the ground in their state of total shock. The Bible then says that Jesus gave him back to his mother. The funeral procession had turned into a celebration. They were awestruck for a moment and then broke into words of praise, recognizing that this was God’s doing. The mother was filled with thanksgiving to Jesus for restoring her son. The entire crowd was filled with joy and admiration as they praised God and acknowledged that Jesus had been sent to help His people. The news traveled throughout the entire region. No one had heard or seen anything like this before.

You know the Gospels mention in many places that whenever the people heard Jesus was in the vicinity, they brought the sick, diseased, injured, demon-possessed, blind, and deaf, and Jesus healed them all. He is a God of great power, but He is also a God of great compassion. In this instance, no one came to Him asking for help. The widow only had one prospect in mind – accompanying her young son to his final resting place. The pall bearers were not purposely seeking out Jesus, nor were the mourners. And of course, the dead son had no active part in seeking out Jesus. Instead, Jesus saw their plight, He took the initiative, He sought them out, He had compassion, and He turned back the power of death and restored a son to life.

This is so clearly what Jesus did when He purposely came to this earth, sent by the Father, to seek us out. We were dead in our trespasses and sins; we could not help ourselves. But Jesus took the initiative; He saw our plight – lost in sin and separated from a holy God, destined for hell. He is the one who had compassion on us and offered to take our punishment for sin in His own body on the cross. He is the one who has turned back the power of death. As I Corinthians says, “O death, where is your sting; O grave, where is your victory?” By simple faith in His finished work at Calvary, we are brought from death into eternal life. Have you received that eternal life from Him? Have you acknowledged your own helplessness to save yourself from sin and its penalty and accepted Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf? In compassion, He wants to give you eternal life. Many of you know that well-memorized verse from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” If you have not received His forgiveness and promise of life eternal, why not do that today? Even while you are reading this devotional, you can put your faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and begin a new life – an eternal one.

Children of the Bible, Part 17

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Children of the Bible, Part 17 by Allan McGuirl

It has been interesting over these past weeks to see how many references are made in the Bible to children and the situations they find themselves in. This next story is found in Matthew 15:21-28.

Jesus had been travelling and retreated to the region of Tyre, which was an important seaport that had been highly developed even before King Solomon’s day. Much timber and other goods were transported to Jerusalem for the building of the temple from Tyre. It was probably the most important merchant city on the Mediterranean sea coast.

Now Jesus had had an extremely busy schedule as he headed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. These cities were well-fortified Canaanite strongholds and, as we know from Biblical history, the Jews and the Canaanites were not the best of friends. Here we see a Canaanite woman from the area coming to Jesus – yes, a Gentile going to a Jew. Notice how she addressed Him. She called Him, “Lord, Son of David.” She was aware of His credentials, and this account implies that she not only knew His credentials, but also knew how He had healed many sick and demon-possessed people. She cried out, “Have mercy on me. My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly!” What a horrible situation this mother was in. Worse than a disease or disability, demon possession had robbed her daughter of any normal semblance of life. The demon, or demons, had taken control of her and caused much suffering and anguish. Often, without warning, she would begin to act and speak in the most horrific, abnormal and abusive ways. How heartbreaking her daughter’s condition was; she had no way of helping her. She came to the only one she knew could help, but Jesus didn’t seem to be listening to her.  His disciples urged Jesus to send her away; they were tired of her insistent begging. The woman knew she was a Canaanite – sworn enemies of the Jews, but she persisted in her pleading.

Jesus finally answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” His answer did not deter the desperate mother. She cried out again, “Please, help me!” Jesus’ next answer is astounding to our ears. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” I believe that Jesus could already see the depth of faith in this woman’s heart and wanted to bring it to the surface – so he tested her. The Canaanite woman was well aware that her countrymen have long referred to the Jews as dogs, and the Jews likewise had often used that slur against the Canaanites. She was not deterred. She replied, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She implied that the healing of her daughter is but a “crumb” compared to the power of the one she was addressing. What faith! Can you imagine the shock on the disciples faces? They thought Jesus had just delivered a well-deserved “put-down,” but in fact, to their shame, He had brought out the amazing faith of this precious woman. Jesus remarked, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” What a testimony, what joy, what a demonstration of keeping our focus on the one who is able. The account goes on to say, “Her daughter was healed from that very hour.” Praise God for this story.

How often in our travels we have seen amazing faith in the lives of those who do not have all the opportunities we have here in North America: to hear God’s Word preached, to have access to Bibles in various translations, to hear radio broadcasts from godly people on a 24/7 basis, to have Bible-believing churches to attend, and to have all kinds of resources to learn about the amazing Son of God, our Redeemer. Has it made our faith stronger, or have we become like Jesus’ disciples at that moment and become more concerned about our own convenience and less interested in the needs of others? Many believers scattered across the globe exercise tremendous faith on a daily basis, trusting God for food, shelter, safety, healing, and salvation without the benefit of all the things we can easily take for granted. Let us not lose sight of the awesomeness of the one we serve and learn to exercise faith in a greater degree.

Perhaps some of you listening today are facing a critical situation just like this Canaanite woman. God says in His word in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” If you have a prayer request and a desire to call out to Jesus for help, why not do that today? If you would like me to pray along with you, just email me about your situation. You can contact me at