Helper 5

Isaiah 57:15

There is a man we know, a friend of a friend, whom we encounter a few times each year at parties. The best way I can describe him is that he is a “blow-hard.” He seems to need to be at the center of attention. He inserts himself into almost every conversation, and comes across as an expert in every subject, even when he is talking to someone who IS an expert in that subject.

There is nothing really wrong with the man. We just find him unpleasant because of his attitude. If he could tone himself down, even a little, become a bit more humble, he would be much easier to be around.

Having a pushy, arrogant, or demanding attitude with people can really put others off. The same is true of God. Isaiah has a message from God for all people. Where does God exist? What will God do?

We have seen the problems of having an arrogant attitude when approaching God in the story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15). Jesus wants us to call on him for help, but we need to be humble.

We have been reminded that we should desire to be in the presence of God (Psalm 42). We need to seek the Lord at all times.

Now we can see what God desires.

God is not only a god of the high and lofty places. He is not only the Almighty, everlasting Lord. He is also the God who desires to be with us, His children. But it is clear that we should be humble in His presence.

God is with those who are broken hearted, those with a broken spirit, those who earnestly seek forgiveness because they are aware they have done wrong. This is the very meaning of contrite.

We are to be contrite before God, humble and penitent. If we come to God for help with an attitude of humility and need God will lift us up. It is His desire to revive us when we are oppressed with problems and troubles. It is His desire to renew our spirits, to re-invigorate our failing hearts when we are confronted by problems.

We need to remember that we should come to the Lord in our times of trouble, but we cannot approach God with arrogance. Nor can we demand His help. Rather, we need to be contrite and trust that the Lord is eager to lift us up out of our troubles and set things right again.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is your attitude when seeking God’s help?

Helper 4

Mark 5:24-34

I hate going to the dentist. Like most people, I am afraid of the possible pain and discomfort that will come with the visit. On top of that is the fact that I have a very low gag threshold and can’t stand to have anything in my mouth that isn’t food. When I was a teenager one of my teeth became abscessed, my gum swelling and turning red, the tooth causing incredible pain. When the pain I was in got bad enough that anything would be an improvement I went to the dentist.

We have seen Luke’s version of this story when we examined pistis – faithfulness – under the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus is moving through a dense crowd when someone comes up behind him. Why does the woman touch the hem of Jesus’ garment? What is her attitude? What do you think she is afraid of (see verse 33)?

Two things seem very clear in this story. The first is that the woman is afraid. What she is afraid of is not clear. It could be that she fears speaking to someone as famous and powerful as Jesus.

Maybe she thought she was not important enough to merit his attention. Maybe she feared she would be rejected as the Canaanite woman was (Matthew 15:21-28). It could be that she didn’t want to bother Jesus with her troubles, knew that she could be healed by touching his cloak, and in so doing – being healed without asking – she was being a type of thief.

It is also possible that she was afraid because she was embarrassed by her condition. To get the healing she needed by speaking to Jesus, she would have to admit a need and, perhaps, go into embarrassing details in front of others.

The second thing that we know is that the woman was so desperate in her suffering that she was willing to risk rebuke, embarrassment or rejection to find healing.

And I wonder how many of us are like the woman, or like me and the dentist. How often do we wait until our problems are so bad that we just can’t stand it any longer before we turn to Christ for help?

I believe Jesus wants us to need him. I believe Jesus wants us to go to him for comfort and help. We shouldn’t wait until we are absolutely desperate before we go to our Lord for help. Nor should we think of ourselves as helpless or vulnerable, ashamed to admit the need.

Jesus welcomes us with open arms. He wants us to turn to him as much as we need. And we should turn to him first, before our troubles push us to desperation.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Do you have a need or worry that you should take before Jesus?

Helper 3

Matthew 15:21-28

When our son told me he wanted an electric guitar I was not quick to agree to it. In fact, I was completely against it. The thought of all the noise that an electric guitar can make (my two college room-mates played electric guitar) was one of my first objections. But the biggest objection was that it would be a waste of money, money that could be spent on other things.

But he persisted in his requests and, most importantly, he demonstrated with the guitar he already had that he was willing to practice and gain skills in playing. He practiced on his acoustic guitar day and night, showing that he was serious about music. That, more than anything else, overcame my objections.

Today’s passage is another of many that can disturb the reader. What is Jesus’ attitude toward the Canaanite woman? Does this surprise you? What seems to change his mind? Did she convince Jesus, or was he just waiting for her to get to a certain point, a place he knew she would eventually arrive at?

When talking about Jesus as a helper, as someone who is merciful and kind, it can be unsettling to read his response to the Canaanite woman. He ignores her at first, even after she tells him of the terrible situation her daughter is in. When he does respond to her his first comment is to refuse to help. Then he makes a comment that is rather insulting.

The question arises, does Jesus truly not care about the woman’s daughter? We know that there was a great division between the Jews, of whom Jesus was a member, and those of other nationalities – Gentiles and Samaritans. But our view of Jesus is that he is caring and loving to all people.

This type of response may at first put some doubt and fear into our own minds. What if I am not good enough for Jesus?

But Jesus has offered healing and mercy to others who were Gentile. He helped Samaritans and often lifted them up as good examples. He even was merciful to Romans.

It is entirely possible that Jesus was not ignoring or rejecting the woman because of who she was, but because of her attitude. We might assume that she was trying to get help from someone she had heard about – some great healer – without truly believing in him as the Son of God.

It is only when she persists and demonstrates that she truly desires mercy, that she truly believes that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus offers healing.

We need Jesus to be merciful to us in our difficulties. We need Jesus to help us in our troubles. But we need to go to him in humility and with complete faith that he can help.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be sure you are approaching Jesus with the right attitude?

Helper 2

Psalm 42:1-2

Years ago we used to visit a web site that had cameras positioned at African watering holes. The camera took photos every thirty seconds or so and then published them to the Internet. You could watch these pictures and in time see a wide variety of animals coming to drink – lions, elephants, hyenas, gazelles, and zebras.

You never knew what you might see. But the same was true of the animals. They never knew what other animal might already be at the watering hole when they arrived. But it didn’t matter. They needed to drink.

This psalm presents a similar image. To what animal does the psalmist compare our souls? Who does the writer’s soul thirst for? What is the question asked?

Water is that life-giving element that all creatures need to survive. The image of a deer in a parched land longing to take a deep drink of fresh water conjures up an image of desperate need and longing.

Like the writer of the psalm, we too should thirst for the presence of God in our lives. We too desperately need to be renewed through the life-giving abilities of God. That sensation of thirst that we can all identify with at one time or another should be similar to the desire of our souls. We should desperately desire to have our own spirits refreshed by God.

But we do not have to wait until we feel desperation or hopelessness. The psalmist asks “When can I go and meet with God?” The answer is that at any time we can turn to the Lord and allow our spirits to be in His refreshing presence. And if we are able to meet with God, spend time in prayer and communion with the living God, then we will always have that source of strength and renewing energy to face our lives.

The spiritual thirst that is described is something we must surely feel every day, and something we should feel every day. Our time with God does not need to be limited to our times of desperation. Instead we should always ask “When can we meet with God?”

And we should know that the answer is “now, always.” We can always stand in the presence of God and feel His refreshing presence.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Take time daily to meet with God.

Helper 1

John 7:37

There is a joke about a woman who enters the public library, goes up to the librarian, and says, “I would like a hamburger, fries and a coke.”

The librarian explains, “Ma’am, this is a library.”

The woman looks around at all the people reading and then turns back to the librarian. This time she whispers, “I would like a hamburger, fries and a coke.”

She knew that she was supposed to be quiet in a library, but she was missing the point that she had gone to the wrong place to get what she needed.

In this passage from John Jesus has attended the Festival of Tabernacles and on the last day, the height of the celebration, the priest pours out water onto the ground as a reminder of God’s benevolence. Jesus took this opportunity to make his own declaration. What is it? Is Jesus talking about people who are physically thirsty? What does he mean?

The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles is a wonderful reminder that God cares for His people. It is a celebration of God protecting His people. But with his declaration Jesus is pointing out an important truth. If any person is spiritually thirsty, if that person desires the soul refreshment that the Almighty can give, that person can turn to Jesus to get that solace.

So often in our lives we need to know that God cares about us. So often we are faced with challenges that push us to the edge of emotional stability. We may feel desperate and alone. We may feel that there is no hope for our situation.

And in times like these we may look for help, comfort and solace from many different sources. Some people may turn to alcohol for relief. Others may rely on drugs to help them get by. Others may take a less extreme approach and seek help from friends or family. Others may look for help from total strangers to relieve their stress.

But these approaches are like looking for food at a library. We are going to the wrong place to find our help. When the challenges of life confront us, when we feel alone and helpless, we need to remember to turn to Jesus for help. Jesus is the one who is able to refresh our thirsting souls. Jesus is able to renew our strength and give us the hope and help we need.

Who is Jesus? He is Savior and teacher. But he is also our helper in times of need. He is the one who can quench the spiritual thirst we have.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you turn to Jesus to be refreshed?