In the text, Jesus went to the region of Tyre seeking rest for himself and his disciples. Tyre was a Gentile region where Jews were worried about ceremonial uncleanness and referred to Gentiles as dogs, and perceived women as even lower than dogs. Jesus went into a house hoping to be hidden from the crowds. However, he could not be hidden. When Jesus is in an individual, he cannot be hidden because when God is in you, you cannot help but let your light shine.
An unknown Gentile woman, who heard about his miracles, immediately came and fell at his feet. “She was a Greek and of the Syrophoenician race. She begged Jesus to drive the demons out of her daughter.” (v. 26) Jesus told her, “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (v. 27) She heard him, but she replied, “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (v. 28) When Jesus heard her response, he was moved. God admires people who do not give up but go after what they want. Jesus told her to go home. When she arrived, she saw that the demons had left her daughter.
Jesus attempted to convince the Jews that there were no distinctions among foods or among people in terms of their acceptance by God. Do not stop praying, asking, and going after what you want. Know that God can do anything but fail. All of us are dogs. Who let the dogs out? God did!
In the text, the Pharisees and Jesus were having a difference of opinion. They were fed up with Jesus always going against tradition. They asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” (v. 3) Jesus called them hypocrites because they had “let go of the commands of God and were holding on to human traditions.” (v. 8) He believed that the Pharisees had taken ceremonial tradition to the extreme and become disillusioned and no longer sought hope. The Pharisees needed a soul makeover. They needed to ask God for a clean heart. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (v. 6)
“Give me a clean heart so I can serve Thee Lord fix my heart so that I may be used by Thee For I’m not worthy of all these blessings And I will follow Thee.”
Pastor Davis reminded us that, even today, we see how certain traditions in the various denominations and churches are practiced and protected as strongly as if they were pure biblical doctrine. We talk about sins of the church but not sins of the spirit. When your heart appears to be broken, it needs to be healed because an empty heart leaves room for the enemy. We tend to fill our hearts with anything, including evil thoughts that defile us. It’s not what goes in us that defiles us, but our motives. God demands that we act right because we represent God. What we do matters.
Fill my cup, Lord; I lift it up Lord; Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.
In the text, Joshua, the son of Nun and 110 years old, speaks to the leaders and elders of Israel in a message of farewell in the valley of Shechem. As they enter the Promised Land, he reminds them that all they have and all that they are has come to them from God. He tells them that God led them out of the wilderness, brought them across the Red Sea, and gave them water out of rock when they were thirsty. He wants them to remember and remain loyal as they now make choices and commitments that will shape their future. He challenges them to serve God exclusively and put aside the gods that their fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Joshua gave them three challenges:
- Fear the Lord and have a healthy respect for who God is.
- Put away false gods and do not make worldly things into gods; only worship God.
- Serve the Lord with sincerity. Don’t do things to gain God’s favor; don’t lose the substance of godliness.
Joshua said to the people, “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, choose this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (v. 15)
Pastor Davis reminds us that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Bible is our standard for living. We have to train up young people so that they know God and teach them the things we learn from God.
Joshua wanted the people to serve God with authenticity. The grace we receive is unmerited favor. We do not deserve it and we cannot earn it. The grace of God is freely given. All we have to do is receive it, and trust God.
Every church family has certain characteristics, but what matters most are the core values inside of us. In our scripture, Paul talks about the unity of the church and appeals to Christians to live a life worthy of the calling you receive so that you will experience the unity of the Spirit.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (vv. 1-4)
However, we cannot “keep the unity of the Spirit” if we do not have it. There are four stages of growing in God if we hope to have a relationship with Him: (1) exploring Christ; (2) growing in our understanding of what ‘unity in the spirit’ truly means; (3) pressing toward a deeper relationship with God; and (4) being centered in Christ, obedient to the will of God.
This walk is not easy. There is always something that gets in the way. Examples of some obstructions might include:
- Becoming complacent after experiencing a good moment, believing you have achieved unity with God
- Relying on your religious resume to demonstrate that you are a Christian
- Developing an attitude of superiority and forgetting the importance of humility and obedience
How do we know that we are growing in God and worthy of being called Christians? We know when we:
- Make sacrifices for Christ
- Act Christ-like, be humble, patient, and loving
- Carry God’s Word in our hearts
- Be prayerful every day
Are you growing in God?
Rev. Frank Davis, from the Greater New Jersey Conference, will be our new pastor beginning July 1, 2018. See his biography below.
Frank Davis is previously served as the District Superintendent of the Capital District. He was the pastor of The United Methodist Church at New Brunswick, NJ. He has done extensive work with at-risk youth. He currently counsels many across the country and has served churches in various communities in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.
He was educated in The United Kingdom, Jamaica, Trinidad, Atlanta, North Carolina and New Jersey, and he is a graduate of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He also completed a Master of Divinity degree with Honors from Drew Theological Seminary.
He attends various continuing education seminars and conferences nationally and overseas. He wants to work with congregations and clergy to develop spiritual leaders and grow vital congregations for the transformation of the world. He has a deep passion for social justice and standing up for those who cannot defend themselves.
He is adventurous and loves to travel to exotic places and enjoys sampling the cuisine! He also loves to parasail, bungee jump, skydive, and white-water raft. He is like a kid on roller coasters!. His passion for chocolate borders on obsessive. His favorite teams are the Giants and the Steelers depending on who is playing and on what day! He recently started playing tennis and enjoys playing for hours.
In the text, Jesus teaches Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, what it means to be born again. Like many church folk, who work hard in the church and do many good things to show others that they are true believers, Nicodemus did not truly comprehend what “being born again” was all about.
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:3-7
This faith that Jesus is talking about is God’s grace that makes all the difference in our lives when we are able to see it and experience it. We should ask ourselves, do we see life as a prize to be won or as a gift to be received? Jesus invites us to embrace the lessons of grace. Do not worry about trying to impress God by showing how religious you can be. Real faith occurs when no one is watching because God is concerned about our salvation.
Jesus invited Nicodemus to live from a different perspective. Being born from above means having a faith that carries you rather than a faith that you have to carry. When we see and experience God’s grace, it makes all the difference in our lives. We should allow the spirit of God to change our perspective and pray to God to help us to accept the gift of his grace!
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!