RENOVATE: Week 42

The Bible is so real and relevant. It does not seek to “hide” the ugliness of human relationships and coat with a glossy veneer its main characters. Such is the case in today’s reflection taken from the July 16th reading of our devotional Bible.

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”

And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41, NASB77)

These men were actually human and had disagreements to the point of separation! Paul and Barnabas were close friends and a powerful team. God used their companionship in astounding ways. Yet in our text for today, it would seem all would be thrown away; lost on the proverbial trash heap of broken relationships. Paul, the strong and outspoken leader, and Barnabas, the supportive and uplifting encourager, giants of the faith, appear as if they have an irreconcilable conflict. John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, was their point of contention. Paul was focused on the mission at hand and he needed “all hands on deck” so to speak. Time was short and the mission great. Therefore, based on John Mark’s previous behavior of what Paul considered a desertion because of the difficulty of a previous undertaking; Mark had become a liability to the task at hand. In Paul’s mind, John Mark was not fit for what lay ahead.

Barnabas, seeming to place a greater concern on the development of John Mark as a person over the potential success of the mission, desired to bring him along. John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) and it is probable that Barnabas’ affection for him was a major incentive for wanting to include him on the journey. To study scripture’s reflection of Barnabas reveals a man who was a gifted mentor with a drive for people development.

Hence, we are left to wrestle with the question: Who is right? As a good leader, Paul seemed to be correct. The stakes were high and the souls of lost individuals were on the line. In Paul’s mind, there could be no room for the loss of time, energy, and production should John Mark desert them again. Barnabas is focused more on the character progression and maturation of his cousin. As such, Barnabas was not only dedicated to the initial conversion of the lost, but also on the discipleship of a brother in Christ; thus, Barnabas would appear to be justified.

I submit that God is right. Regardless of the side we might be inclined to line up with between the two men, God’s kingdom wins and the gospel is actually furthered in a more significant way. This is because Barnabas takes Mark toward Cyprus and Paul acquires Silas to go through Syria and Cilicia. More individuals were exposed to the gospel as a result!

The message for us centers on the difficulties we may have faced or are facing in our affiliations with others. As difficult as interpersonal relationships might become, a life given toward the goal of God’s Kingdom purposes will always win; God using the bad toward the ultimate good.

By the way, the difference was obviously reconciled, as Paul and Barnabas again became traveling companions (1 Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 2:9). There is also evidence that Paul became reconciled to John Mark (Colossians 4:10, Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:11). How long this separation continued is unknown; but perhaps in his journey with Barnabas, Mark exemplified his courage and zeal, which caused Paul once again to place his confidence in him as a fellow traveler; even more, for Mark to become a profitable co-laborer in the spread of the gospel. In Paul’s own words, “Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.” (2 Timothy 4:11, NASB77)

What an amazing testimony and lesson for us today!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 41

He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4, NASB)

This verse is in reference to King Hezekiah, who was one of the few kings in Judah and Israel of which scripture tells us he did “what was right in the LORD’S sight.” From the July 5th reading in the devotional Bible, I am especially interested in Hezekiah’s boldness to destroy what would have been considered an invaluable religious relic made by Moses himself; the bronze serpent on the pole used to heal those in the time of the wilderness wandering following the exodus from Egypt! As judgment for the unbelieving, self-centered, complaining Israelites; God had sent deadly serpents upon them and the only remedy for the vicious venom was to look upon this curative object.

Interestingly, the most often quoted verse of scripture, John 3:16, is preceded by what seems strange and very seldom mentioned. Jesus declared, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15, NASB)

What did Jesus mean? He became sin, who knew no sin. The very object of destruction for the entire human race; namely sin, Jesus took upon Himself. Those who look to Him as God’s substitute for their own sin will be spiritually healed in the deepest possible way. They trade death for life. As Jesus was lifted up on the cross, so the serpent in the wilderness was a symbolic foreshadowing of this ultimate healing. The key term being “symbolic.”

Somewhere along the way, the people of God had forgotten the principle that they were to worship God and abstain from idols; even if the “idol” was of such great significance. Hezekiah calls the artifact what it actually was, Nehushtan (meaning loosely “a piece of bronze”). What is the lesson for us today?

Every symbol loses its significance and value if it is converted into an idol. The bronze serpent was a material token of God’s mercy, a symbol of His power, and a reminder of His holiness. But when the people began to worship it, its worth departed.

Take, for instance, creeds and confessions of our faith, which are symbolic expressions of devotion from the heart; an attempt to articulate the truth of God in the words of man. Such words are valuable only as they point to that which is more valuable than themselves. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also symbols. Whenever they begin to be idolized and seen as the means of redemption, they lose their significance and value. The Cross is the finest symbol in all history. But it is not intended that we should rest in the outward circumstances of the Crucifixion. The looking to the Cross which brings salvation is a looking through the Cross to that which it reveals.

May we all follow the example set by King Hezekiah, no matter how challenging it may be to break the idol; may we look to and worship God alone in the Person of Jesus Christ!

In Him,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 40

The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33, NASB)

Solomon’s words, taken from the July 2nd reading in our devotional Bible, are unbelievably insightful and are part of an overall thread making up an important truth about reality contained within scripture. We are finite creatures; unable to completely know the future outcome of events based on our choices and that of others. This is a continuous source of anxiety for human kind. Even the most educated decision contains an element of risk. Thus, we go on; stumbling in the dark doing the best we can with the knowledge we’re afforded.

However, for one who belongs to Christ Jesus, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; the verse under examination carries with it much hope! When the child of God makes a resolution, he or she can move forward in confidence knowing whatever the outcome, it is ultimately rooted in the decree of God.

The older I get, the more I appreciate this fact. Usually the concept of casting lots, “rolling the dice” if you will, is equated with chance. As Sinatra might say, “Luck be a lady, tonight.” In reality, lady luck is an illusion. Life is driven by an exponentially greater purpose and every roll of the dice is connected to another roll of the dice comprising an ultimate grand cosmic plan. The plan does not depend on a blind, merciless fate; but a loving, Heavenly Father. I can reflect on my own life and see some pretty bad rolls of life’s dice. Some rolls have been rather good ones. Regardless, God is over all of them and while I cannot put trust in my own ability to roll effectively, I can trust the intention of the Perfect Creator regarding the definitive end of all that He has made.

I don’t need luck when I have the LORD!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 39

…the one who trusts in the LORD will be happy. (Proverbs 16:20, HCSB)

This statement comes from the June 26th reading of Proverbs in our devotional Bible. It is simple, yet completely lost to the majority of people. Due to life’s difficulty, human beings continually strive for some concept of perceived happiness. Everyone falls into this category. Circumstances usually dictate the level to which someone “feels” happy. Why does the entire race “need” to have the demand for happiness met?

With the majority of humanity, when an established object or station in life is acquired; an individual is left wanting because the imagined euphoria is fleeting and does not bring the sense of peace, security, and satisfaction hoped for. I am amazed at how prevalent this need exists even within the church, a people group who should know better; additionally more alarming, for me, how unbridled the objective in my own life!

In the fleshly fallen nature of man is left an insatiable vacuum. An empty void that can never be filled by anything external. The human being is born into the world slavishly reaching for the elusive prize which forever remains just out of reach. Truly, a large part of hell will be the eternal grasping for a personal mirage one imagines will provide ultimate fulfillment that seems so real and attainable but never realized; the insane quest going on forever and ever never to be apprehended.

Consider Eve’s temptation in the garden: Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’”

And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5, NASB)

Humanities’ problem begins with the assumption that fulfillment and contentment come from a source beyond the Creator. He is not enough to complete a person in every way. Furthermore, He is the enemy because He is keeping things hidden that ought to be exposed; knowledge one has a right to manage; specifically, what is considered good and evil for each individual.

True happiness is actually attained internally. It resides first in the understanding that an empty void does exist due to a total separation of man from his Creator because of the aforementioned temptation and subsequent action of Adam and Eve passed down from generation to generation (everyone sins). Then an acknowledgement that God and God alone is the only One Who can define what is good and what is evil for His creatures. And finally, as the only resolution, a perceiving and receiving of Jesus’ (God in the flesh; the substitute and sacrifice for this dreadful depravity) life, death, burial, and resurrection as the only means by which the emptiness of eternal death can be restored with everlasting life. Upon the acquisition of these truths, God, the Holy Spirit, literally indwells the empty void within the individual. He is the ultimate source of life, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. From Him flows “happiness.”

Why must I continually wrestle with this in my own life? Why is my tendency, one who has actually discovered the above certainty, to revert to seeking external happiness through worldly means? I say with the Apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death (Romans 7:24, NASB)?” I suppose it helps to read a bit further, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2, NASB).”

I am no longer chained to the insanity of an endless, fruitless pursuit of happiness rooted in my dead sinful nature inherited at birth. It was borne by Jesus on the cross and left in the tomb of His death. I now walk in the power of His resurrection! Do you? May this be a reminder to both of us.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 38

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” (John 16:8-11, NASB)

These verses, from the New Testament reading on June 14th, are words of Jesus in reference to some of the major responsibilities of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Notice the progression of the three specific elements contained herein and make application to your personal life.

First, in order to come into the rest and peace afforded the believer through the plan of God, one must be keenly aware of personal responsibility in sin. The Bible clearly teaches that all humanity is born with a sinful nature; “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE… (Romans 3:10, NASB).” To convey the seriousness of this plight the Apostle Paul states, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… (Ephesians 2:1, NASB).” Most individuals generally see themselves as good. Yet good is a relative term. “Good” compared to what. There is an ultimate standard of good; God’s “good,” or complete and utter holy perfection. It is to this standard we will all be held accountable and only by the supernatural, sovereign intervention of the Holy Spirit can an individual genuinely comprehend the depth of their sinful nature. This, of course, leaves a person in total helplessness and despair. If you and I are truly dead in our sin, we need resurrection from Someone who has the power of life; which certainly is not us!

The second aspect mentioned by our Lord is righteousness. Yet again, when reflecting upon the inherited sinful nature within every individual, one’s natural bent is to construct a righteousness of their own based on their own ability to be “good” and do “good.” Once more opening up the issue as mentioned previously; good based on what standard. God’s standard of righteousness is absolute perfection in thought, word, and deed. It is here that the unique work of the Holy Spirit is tangibly realized in the Jesus follower as He applies the perfectly righteous life of Christ to all who come to the Father by faith. The believer is perfect because he or she is “in Christ.” This new life and power is actually lived out by faith. As Paul encourages, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you (Romans 8:11, NASB).” Who raised Jesus from the dead? The Holy Spirit!

The last facet from our focal passage is judgment. Take note that Jesus connects to this the assertion “because the ruler of this world has been judged.” Who is the ruler of this world? None other than Lucifer, the fallen archangel himself. While Satan would vehemently try to convince the Christ follower otherwise, he and sin have no power over them. Think about how he works to assure the unbeliever how “good” they are and that they have no need for Jesus and His “religion.” Then he completely changes the approach regarding one who makes a profession of faith in Christ as to how “bad” they are; that they could never achieve the standard expected of them. The perpetual work of the Comforter, the “One Who comes alongside to help” (paraklētos in Greek, a title given to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament), is to remind children of God through God’s Word that the chains of sin are broken. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NASB).” Yet not only remind, but empower them to live in a way that exemplifies that truth. In other words, as individuals called out of darkness into light, we are no longer slaves to our sinful natures. We have been set free toward a new life with the real possibility through the Holy Spirit who resides within us to live from a Godly nature, His nature inside us! Our thoughts, words, and deeds can reflect our Creator; yes even imitate Him! The actuality that we were created in His image becomes more than a statement over our lives; it begins to be revealed in our conduct.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 37

What God has brought into the light cannot be hidden. The Bible makes very clear that the human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). In that desperate state, human beings are capable of anything when attempting to suppress the truth about God in personal unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Hence our scripture for reflection today taken from the New Testament reading on June 7th.

The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11, NASB)

Before I make application to everyday life, just a brief historical note. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is arguably one of the most significant miracles that Jesus performed while on earth. Critics often cite that it is very unusual that only John records it and not Matthew, Mark, and Luke; questioning its validity since it would have been so extremely notable. I believe an answer to this lies in our chosen passage today. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were recorded much earlier than John. They would have omitted the miracle because most probably Lazarus and his two sisters (Mary and Martha) were still living when they wrote. To record the event, based on what John shares here, would have put Lazarus in grave danger following the ascension of Jesus. John writes his gospel at a later date when Lazarus was most likely deceased; or at least the threat had diminished.

I find the disposition of the chief priests astounding. For one thing, how blind were these men not to perceive that He who had raised Lazarus, after he had been dead four days, could do it again though they successfully murder him a thousand times? While it is true that they want rid of Jesus and they have a live man who used to be dead roaming around whose very existence was gathering crowds to Him; yet their behavior insinuates pure insanity. What could motivate such irrational behavior? I submit the impetus underlying such dastardly reasoning is absolute godless self-worship.

This is reflected first in the premise that they were threatened politically. They feared all those gathered around Jesus might start an insurrection and then the Romans would be forced to come and squash it. Consider verse 48 of chapter 11 in John’s gospel; these religious leaders state, “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (NASB)

Yet even beyond the aforementioned incentive, they were really threatened theologically. Many commentators suggest that the majority of the chief priests were Sadducees (notice that the Pharisees are not mentioned in regard to this particular decision and the most wealthy ruling class of Jewish society at the time were Sadducees; which would be individuals who most likely held such influential posts as chief priests). Sadducees had taught that there was no such thing as resurrection; and here they must contend with Lazarus who resurrected. To “save face” their only choice, destroy the evidence; God’s truth suppressed in their own unrighteous desire. What stunning indifference and blind self-ambition! John Calvin, when remarking on this event, stated, “For this wicked consultation is thus described, for the purpose of informing us that the enemies of Christ were led to so great obstinacy, not by mistake or folly, but by furious wickedness, so that they did not even shrink from making war against God; and also for the purpose of informing us that the power of God was not dimly seen in the resurrection of Lazarus, since ungodliness could contrive no other method of banishing it from remembrance than by perpetrating a base and shocking murder on an innocent man.”

What lesson can we take from this? We must seriously examine our aspirations and motivations for life. To assume that personal ambition can diminish Godly truth (we the creatures and He the Creator) is undeniable insanity. A human life lived with any objective other than glorifying the Eternal God revealed in Jesus Christ is a fool’s errand and will lead only to ultimate disillusionment and destruction. Without a clear understanding of who we are and our place in this universe, behavior similar to these chief priests will also characterize our lives. God’s light shines regardless of any effort to suppress it!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 36

On this day, I am compelled to deliver a message to those who have been saved out of death into life, the church. While this is straightforward in its conveyance, it is truly profound in its symbolism. Two verses taken from John’s gospel recorded in the June 6th New Testament reading of our devotional Bible:

And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:43-44, NASB)

In these words, one of the church’s most important responsibilities is addressed. Within the context of these verses, Jesus has given life from the dead to His friend Lazarus; a man who was beginning to decay in a tomb after being placed there four days earlier (this is interesting since the Jewish community believed the spirit of one deceased would linger around the body three days and then depart; consequently making the case of Lazarus one of complete hopelessness). Just prior to the raising of Lazarus, Jesus affirmed to the sister of the one bound lifeless in the tomb that He Himself was the very embodiment of resurrection; He was, is, and will always be Life!

Obviously what is recorded here is an astounding miracle. Next to Jesus as the central figure in the event stands Lazarus, the recipient of the supernatural blessing; however, focus for a moment on those who were standing at the entrance of the tomb as Lazarus emerged. One command is given them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” I see in this an allusion to the church’s responsibility to teach and train those who have immediately been brought from spiritual death into eternal life, baby believers. Such people come out of death “bound” by much of the trappings of this world and the straps of sin and temptation that held them fast. Only the power of Christ can raise someone from death, yet the privilege of Christ’s disciples is to aid in the removal of the bindings that hold the newborn babe.

How? As an instrument for extraction, we use the sharp and precise instrument of the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB)

One last observation. In order to remove those bindings, we must be standing at the edge of the grave. We must be witnesses to the resurrection of the dead. In other words, we must be close to those who are dead in their trespasses and sins so our lives can be a microphone of the voice of Jesus as He cries, “Come forth!”

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 35

God communicates with us in unique and intentional ways. His primary source of conversing with us is His Word, the Bible. This is the main impetus behind the Renovate Movement; so that each of us will develop the regular habit of absorbing the Word in order to hear from the Giver of Life. Beyond this truth, God also speaks through His creation (as in the beauty of a sunrise, the majesty of the heavens, etc.), through life circumstances (as in the trials we face or the blessings we receive), or through the voices of others who enter our lives.

Today’s reflection centers on God’s voice heard through the vehicle of others intervening on His behalf. Based on the scripture I’ve chosen to reflect upon, I will refer to such people as an “Abigail.” Have you ever encountered an Abigail in your life? Have you been used by our Creator to be an Abigail in someone else’s life? You may be wondering what is meant by this. In the story of David, after having been anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel, he was pursued in the wilderness by Saul and his armies out of jealousy because God had rejected Saul as king and chosen David. Saul was seeking to kill David. During this period, David and his men had cared for and protected the shepherds of a wealthy man named Nabal (meaning foolish) while they were with them in the wilderness. Assuming that Nabal would repay the kindness with provisions for he and his men, David sends young men from his group to inquire for the support. Nabal quickly and rudely rejects the request and when the news is returned to David, he becomes furious. He commands his mighty men to strap on their swords and, in true warrior fashion, intends to slaughter Nabal and all of his servants. One of the shepherds who had received David’s protection alerts Abigail, the wife of Nabal; who goes into action without delay. She has provisions prepared and meets David on the way to carry out his plan. The May 27th Old Testament reading from our devotional Bible records the words of Abigail to David:

And she fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, since the LORD has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies, and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. And now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you all your days.”

“And should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And it shall come about when the LORD shall do for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and shall appoint you ruler over Israel, that this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When the LORD shall deal well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.” (1 Samuel 25:24-31, NASB)

Abigail risks much to intervene. Yet notice her confidence that she is speaking for the LORD. She understands the bigger purpose behind her action; namely to stop David, as the anointed king of Israel, from the sin of bloodshed and taking vengeance upon himself instead of leaving it to God. Had David not received the information well, Abigail could have been cut down as was intended for Nabal. Yet, as a “man after God’s own heart,” observe David’s reaction:

Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed, and from avenging myself by my own hand.” (1 Samuel 25:32-33, NASB)

David recognizes the voice of God. He stands convicted by his actions. As the narrative unfolds, Nabal, in essence, has a stroke and dies when he hears what almost befell him. Abigail’s request of David to be a beneficiary of God’s well dealings with him ends in marriage to David after Nabal’s death.

The lesson for us is to be self-less enough to receive Godly correction from another person, an Abigail, when we need it. Furthermore, we must be open and sufficiently brave in faith to give caring and humble admonishment to someone who needs it when they go astray; when they are in danger of spiritual destruction.

Hear the voice of or actually be “an Abigail” when necessary.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 34

Today’s reflection is a succinct but relevant reminder to every Christ follower. All of life is lived by faith, this is true for every human being; yet it is not the faith, but the object of that faith which makes it a “saving” faith or not. As creatures with limited knowledge, power, and virtue; humanity is forced to depend on something beyond itself for continued life. An open assessment of the aforementioned statement will support its validity. To simplify, consider something all human beings face on a daily basis: decision making. How can an individual make an adequate and informed choice about a perceived direction in life when one cannot see into the future? Usually possible outcomes are considered based on previous events faced, the experiences of others who have traveled the same pathways, the amount of effort one direction seemingly will take over another, or the amount of potential pain one course will inflict over another. Regardless of how an ultimate route is determined; in the end, from solely a human perspective, one is forced to “guess.”

However, for one whose object of faith is the all-powerful, all-knowledgeable, ever-present, eternal Creator; there is a different perspective. Consider the scripture reading for today from May 21st in the devotional Bible:

Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6, NASB)

The context of this verse shows that Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and his armor-bearer have gone out on their own to face impossible odds with the potential of a great victory over the pagan Philistines. Notice Jonathan’s foundation for deciding their course of action. He obviously does not know the outcome, yet at the risk of losing his life and that of his armor-bearer, he trusts in the reality that his God is One whose salvation is not based on the many or the few; but on His own mighty Hand and His own perfect character. Jonathan’s language reveals his humanity, “…perhaps the LORD will work for us…” Jonathan is not doubting, he is simply demonstrating that success in the battle does not rely on him. This concept is reflected throughout the whole of scripture. Imperfect human followers of a wholly perfect, immortal, invisible, all-wise God moving into the unknown with only a faith that depends completely on Him for triumph; consequently making the outcome of the immediate event secondary to the sovereign choice of the Creator. Thus, victory is achieved regardless of result for one such as this! Rest is found here!

No wonder the Apostle Paul could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NASB) The follower of Christ cannot, will not, ultimately lose!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 33

And she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21, NASB)

These verses are taken from the May 14th reading in our devotional Bible. They reflect the struggle and pain of living in a world ravaged by sin; which in its final outcome, results in death. In context, we learn Naomi has drastically experienced the effect of sin’s destructive consequence; the deaths of her husband and two sons.

Prior to this, there had been a famine in Bethlehem of Judah, the home of Naomi and her family. Famines, too, are the result of a world steeped in sin; yet Naomi had her husband and her sons, so they would weather the storm together. I’m sure leaving home to traverse to a foreign land was not the desired option for them, but they would survive and even thrive. We learn that when they arrive in Moab, Naomi’s sons end up getting married to Moabite girls. Now the family has grown and the prospect of grandchildren was just around the corner! Certainly Naomi must have reasoned that God had taken a bad situation and brought good from it. That is until the tragic and unforeseen deaths of her husband and sons. With no one left to support her and to carry on her family line, in devastating grief Naomi decides to return home. She begs her daughters-in-law to return to their families and there gods. Somewhat reluctantly, Orpah does. However, Ruth would not. Exemplifying an undying devotion rarely seen, she would stay at her mother-in-law’s side no matter what. In summary of what she expresses to Naomi, Ruth declares, “…your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” After making this commitment, Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem.

That brings us back to the above scriptures. Upon her return, the local women ask in excitement, “Can this be Naomi?” It must be stated at this juncture that the name Naomi actually means ‘pleasant one.’ Names were incredibly important within the culture and were given to communicate a dominant aspect of an individual’s personality or character. Thus, Naomi must have been a joy to be around. We can infer this from the town’s reaction to her return. However, they discover something has changed about her. Life has been cruel to her and she rejects her given name in exchange for a new one; Mara which means ‘bitter one.’ Her perspective on life was that God had somehow punished her and her life had become completely empty. This view was based on circumstances that surrounded her, which actually blinded her to the profound blessing of Ruth; the real reason she had gone to Moab.

Because Naomi was widowed with no immediate sons to care and provide for her, she would need a relative to “redeem” her by marriage; one who would be able to provide children to carry on the family line. The problem was obviously that Naomi was getting on in years and past her child bearing ability. However, Ruth was not. We learn that there was a “kinsman redeemer” in the family named Boaz and through the providential Hand of God, He eventually ends up marrying Ruth. This was no small union because we discover soon after that Ruth will bear a son named Obed, whose name means ‘worshipper;’ aptly named because Naomi no longer saw her fulfillment in the things God provides, but in the God who provides those things. Obed was the grandfather of King David, and David would establish a throne upon which the Messiah, Jesus, would eternally occupy. Through the bitter events of Naomi’s life, God was creating a family line for His Son! While Naomi could not have possibly seen this or known the future, her life becomes the ultimate example of God working all things toward the good. Her influence has astronomically exceeded her life on earth. She was and is in no way “empty” but “full” beyond her wildest imagination!

The application is found in this reality. As children of God, no matter how difficult it may be, we must not allow the circumstances that surround us to blind us to the greater truth rooted in faith. We have the ultimate “Kinsman Redeemer.” His name is Jesus and he has saved us from our sin. In faith, we must understand that what we might consider an immense evil in our life, God intends to “birth” a much greater good. The significance of our lives will far exceed the length of them this side of heaven. Things that seem to make no sense here will one day prove to be momentous in God’s grand cosmic plan. Take heart child of God! You’re a child of the King!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob