Monday, February 14, 2011

Who we are: 私たちとは:

Who we are:
ICCS seeks to extend the transforming power of Christ through the world by ministering to the international and local community in Japan through worship, prayer, evangelism, lay training, and discipleship resulting in believers who are equipped and encouraged to stand firm in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Faith of an Outsider: the Syrophoenician Woman

 Please read Mark 7:24-30.
OVERVIEW: Jesus went to an area around Tyre … north of Israel to minister to one lady!  That is why He went there.
     He entered a house there which may not have been Jewish—this was not a Jewish custom.
    He tried to be there in secret. He still needs rest and time alone.
   A woman fell at His feet. She rushed to Him AS SOON as she heard about Him. The stories that had been told to her-- she believed them. She had a real need: her daughter was possessed by an evil spirit.
   This woman was from Syrian Phoenicia—and a Greek. She was an outsider!
She begged Jesus to drive out the demon in her girl.
   This area was wild and very non-Jewish. In the past, it was the Canaanite tribes home land --not of the tribe of Israel. They were enemies of Israel. They practiced a decadent, depraved and idolatrous religion.
     Going way back after the Great Flood, Noah became drunk and his youngest son Ham was cursed because of his behavior with his father. Ham’s son, Canaan, was to live a life of servitude to his brothers (Gen 9:20-27).  His brother Shem became the father of Israelites, Moabites, Edomites and the Ammonites. (Gen 19:30 ff) 
     The Bible describes God cautioning the Tribe of Israel against the idolatry of the Canaanites and their fertility cult worship (Lev. 18:27). The Canaanites were driven out by Israel after 400+ years because of their lack of morality. One passage states that they were all to be killed once they were conquered by the Israelites (Deut. 20:16-17). “In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.” .
   When Israel was taken from the Land during the captivity, many of those still in the land were from many other areas of the known world and had intermarried with still other people groups. There was a need for the people to ‘find religion’ as there were many difficulties in the land. See how the area was resettled by the king of Assyria.
     2 Kings 17: 24 The king of Assyria brought people … settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. …

 27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: “Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.” 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.

 29 Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. … burned their children in the fire as sacrifices …  32 They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. 33 They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

 34 To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the LORD nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands that the LORD gave the descendants of Jacob, whom He named Israel. 35 When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, He commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. …  37 You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. 38 Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. 39 Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is He who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

 40 They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 41 Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.
   When the time of Jesus came around, those who lived in that area were considered way off base and outcast … even though they practiced some form of the Jewish faith they also worshiped as they had back when the King of Assyria ruled. They were outsiders.
     And this was this lady’s background.  There was nothing she could have done to change what she was.  And to add to the mix, this woman was a Greek.  She would be considered an unclean person … maybe not even considered a human! She was one of them, but there was a difference and Jesus saw it!
     Jesus’ first response to her is somewhat alarming. Sounds so racial, so harsh.  In effect, he called her a dog.  Not so kind.  At first sight, I was concerned that Jesus was bowing to social pressure and disregarding compassion.  But, look at this again.  He allows her to continue to request help AND He sees in her more than a seed of Faith. 
     Many times in Jesus’ ministry, He would be teaching concerning a certain topic and then, a short time later, would focus His attention on that very issue.  Such was the case here.  Just before this passage, He was doing some major teaching concerning the Jewish traditions of being clean and what was unclean.  He taught that to wash one’s hands was not as important as to have a clean heart.   The society there was ever so concerned about the need to observe many traditions of washing cups, pitchers and kettles. The religious leaders asked why His followers did not wash their hands ‘like they were supposed to.’  See Mark 7:6-8, 13-16.
     The key is in verse 15: Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ( … like being a Gentile … )
     Look again at His response to the woman.  He was addressing her the same way the leaders would—with their world-view covering over the Grace of God.  Black and white.  Our way or the wrong way.  But know this: God looks at the heart.  Jesus saw in her answer a great belief system.  She believed in Him. She believed in what she had heard about Him.  The testimony of His authority had reached her ears and that information gave way to belief.  
     How do people believe?
     Romans 10: 11-13 (The Message)  Scripture reassures us, "No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it." It's exactly the same no matter what a person's religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. "Everyone who calls, 'Help, God!' gets help."
 14-17 But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?

… But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: "Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?" The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to.

What kind of faith did she have, this outsider? 
     -She had heard ‘things’ about Jesus. 
     -She acted upon what she had heard. 
     -Investigate the result with personal contact.
     -Kneels before Jesus.
     -Calls Him Lord.
     -Makes a request. 
    Simple, to the point.  Does not speak of differences in her faith like the woman at the well.  (She too was of this mixed race.) 
    She just said that she was in need of a touch on her girl.
 Conversation between the both sounds harsh, racial, and cruel. 
“children” = Israel.
“Dogs” Gentile/Greek, anyone who is NOT Jewish.
         • Jesus had just taught about clean and unclean.  This was not a matter of Jewish rules or tradition but of the heart. 
   Jesus was speaking as one IN the culture but heard as One from the Culture or Heart of God. God seeks those who seek Him---and who seek Him with a clean heart.
   Jesus spoke that it was not right for Him to spend any time with those who were not Jewish.  “Not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” Was He speaking of the bags of bread left over at the feeding of the 5,000?   Maybe, the 12 did not understand!
   She gave a great answer: Calls Him Lord! “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
   He was impressed with the answer.  Not the first time He said so about a non-Jew.  Said the same to the Centurion in Matt 8:10 When Jesus heard this, He was astonished and said to those following Him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."
   He did not touch the daughter.  It was just His Word that was spoken.   
 Such Authority! 
                                                                                                           “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
   She did not stick around.  She must have believed because she left Jesus and returned home to find her girl well!
     So, that leaves us with a question: How do you approach Jesus?  How much do you really need to know to put your trust in Him? What kind of faith do you have? How much does He require of you to know?  Know this: His ways are not our ways and His needs are not the long list we NEED to know or have.  He is looking for a people who both know Him and want to make Him known! 
     We don’t read about it in this passage but you can well believe this lady did not keep this healing to her self!  She would have told EVERYONE!  And why not?  I once was blind but now I see.  I was in darkness and now I am in the light.  I once was burdened with worry and care but He has set me free.  I have been touched by His healing touch! The Gospel is to be known.
     Our role…our job—is to be gossiping about Jesus.  Telling all about His Grace and mercy in our lives.  If you do not know Him that way now, you can.  How much did the lady know?  Not very much!  But it was enough to feed her faith.  Jesus saw that seed form of faith and rewarded her with the desire of her heart.  Her daughter was set free.

   Do you need to be set free as well?  Turn to Jesus.  Kneel before Him and call Him Lord of your life.  There is no need to clean up first! He will clean you up once you give it all to Him.  His death on the Cross opened the way for everyone--even an outsider--to come in and find His Love and Forgiveness.  You need to do that.  If you do ask for this forgiveness, kindly write to us at the International Community Chapel of Saitama at and let us know about that.  We'd be honored to pray with you and for you.  Hope to hear from you soon!