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FIRST Thoughts

If a better life were possible, would you be interested in following three important steps each day to experience it? Most would. Many might question whether that kind of life is even possible, and some might carefully consider it if things were coming apart all around them. Have you noticed that kind of response to life appears to be more prominent today than it has ever been? Sometimes, you and I must get to the end of our 'rope' before we are willing to reach out for the lifeline that Christ consistently casts our way to help us each day.

The good news is that His lifeline is available in salvation. However, there is more to life than a moment of prayer and decision to follow Christ. A better life is attainable each day we live on this earth as we learn to lean on the everlasting strength of our Lord and Savior. As disciples of Christ, we don't need to settle for an average way of life because it is deemed difficult. We must embrace the challenges that produce the better life, the blessed life of Christ.

Jesus, in Matthew's gospel, chapter 15 related a story of a woman whose daughter was demon possessed. Though for different reasons, both mother and daughter were considered an outcast of Jewish society. The daughter's problem was that she was under the control of a 'bad' influence that made life extremely difficult for her, her mother and anyone close to them. The mother's biggest problem, at least through the eyes of prejudice, was that she was born a Gentile, not a Jew. In the eyes of some or from the platform of partiality, her circumstance was enough for some to consider her unfit for a better life. Surely, this woman did something to warrant such a horrific circumstance at home. She must have contributed in some way to the condition of her daughter. That wrong assumption made her a suspect of sin instead of a prospect for grace among the more ignorant of God's ways.

As this woman approaches Jesus, she. more than anyone realizes her circumstance and requests help from the Lord. The Bible says, "Then she came and worshipped Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!'" Just a simple straight-forward plea

Jesus' initial response may sound quite fitting for those who demonstrate partiality. However, just the opposite is the case. Listen to Jesus' immediate response. "...It is not good to take the children's (Jews) bread and throw it to the little dogs (Gentiles)." It is important to note that Jesus is not turning her away but rather testing her faith. He does that occasionally to get to the solution needed most.

Unlike Jesus, the disciples appear to have just wanted her to be gone, out of the way and out of the picture (Verse 23). Just go back where you came from. The problem was, there was little if anything left where she came from. There was nothing that was life-altering to go back to. Life was difficult at home. Maybe the same is true for you or someone you know, as well. Every day is a challenge and nothing seems to change.

Before we pick up a rock to throw at these disciples, it might be good to consider our response to those who may not 'fit' into our self-made mold of who is worthy of His time and resources.

The woman responds to Jesus in verse 27, "but even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from the master's table." And Jesus rewards her faith as he reinforces what genuine faith looks like in verse 28; "Jesus said, 'O, woman, great is your faith! Let it be unto you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."

Would you say that because of her faith and resolve, this woman and her daughter experienced a better life? No doubt! But how did it come to be and can something similar happen in our lives daily? The answer is--absolutely! However, it does not come without a desire to release and rely on the One who provides a better life to enjoy.

This woman took three important steps that must be taken and repeated if we hope to experience the kind of life Jesus promises to provide.

First step-- this woman, though battered by life, decided to step out and approach Christ. (You and I will have to do the same to enjoy the better life; the blessed life each day.) This Gentile woman could have stayed at home or in 'the crowd', but she chose not to. She had a good idea of how others perceived her; she no doubt had been reminded often. She might well have been labeled by many as unfit for a blessing of any kind.

While the better life begins initially with salvation that flows from these same steps, the better life continues out of a desire to repeat the same regarding Christ, as Lord, daily. This woman took a bold step and moved toward Jesus. Have you? Are you continuing to do so daily?

Second step--she approached Jesus with humility. She came and worshipped Him. She cried out to Jesus from the well of her soul, empty as it was and the disciples misunderstood. Can't you just hear the whispers from some of the disciples? This woman can't worship Jesus. She doesn't have the proper pedigree. She came from the wrong side of the tracks. She hasn't done this first or she needs to do this before. You've heard it. My prayer is that you have not thought it or said it to anyone or about anyone that doesn't fit 'the mold' of those deemed worthy of His offering of grace. This weary woman hadn't been conditioned by religion to behave a certain way. She had a problem and just wanted a better life. We must take the same step IF we desire a similar outcome of grace being embraced.

This Gentile woman humbled herself and threw herself on the mercy of the Lord. She had nothing to offer. She was living on the crumbs of what most would consider a 'crummy' life.

Third step--She asked for help. That may sound easy but it's not. Pride makes this step the most difficult because few like to admit they need help. The disciples of Jesus weren't asking in the same way as this woman was. This woman was desperate because things in her life were difficult and demanding every day. Most will seldom allow themselves to get to this place. Consequently, many settle into their own surroundings and call it the best 'I' can do. And sadly, for the most part it is!

This woman made choices that most aren't willing to make today and out of her misery, she found mercy at the feet of Jesus.

Are you desperate enough to be determined in leaving the current condition at home? Is there a willingness to step out of 'the crowd' to approach Jesus in humility and ask for help (Matthew 7:7-8)? Are you willing to repeat it often to enjoy the better life? Very little will change in your heart unless you do. Very little will change 'at home' unless we do.

Three steps to a better life. Three steps to the blessed life. We'll examine this subject more on Sunday mornings beginning this coming Sunday. Hope you'll be attentive to God's word on how to experience the better life. The good news is, this is available for everyone!

To the blessed life,

Pstr K

Psalm 27:1