Archive for October, 2013

RENOVATE: Week 5

The theme verse underlying the purpose of the Renovate movement is Matthew 10: 39, “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” (NASB) These words were spoken by Jesus in reference to Himself and are the very capstone of authentic living. This week I would like to first consider a passage of scripture taken from the October 27th reading found in 1 Timothy 5: 5-6, “Now she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone has fixed her hope on God, and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (NASB) These verses correspond remarkably with the words of Jesus above.  The Apostle Paul is instructing his young apprentice, Timothy that as he leads God’s people, in the context of the church caring for widows; the true widow, one who has learned well by way of suffering in the school of God’s providence; recognizes her only hope rests in God and not in her self-centered desire for personal preservation. Her dependence, her life, is rooted solely in her relationship to her Provider and Sustainer. She is not like the woman bent only on self-indulgence and self enrichment.  The former woman is alive because she has lost herself in her Savior. The latter is dead because she thinks protection and provision lie within her own ability and manipulation; thus, in the groping to find herself, she has already lost herself.

In this instance, the “true widow” is marked by a life rooted in the faith of a Loving Provider; forged in the intense fires of trial. Naturally, most people long to avoid suffering; yet, in a strange and beautiful way, suffering becomes an incredible platform for faith and an astounding catalyst for the joys of heaven. Hardships experienced in this existence, bringing about tears (of which God “stores in a bottle” according to Ps. 56: 8), will ultimately render heaven a place of greater joy for the one who endures them; the one who trusts in the God of purpose exercising sovereignty over them (Rom. 8: 28).

Pushing this theme a bit further, I want to explore the October 28th reading from Psalm 119: 71-72.  The Psalmist states, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes. The law of Thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (NASB) To read and digest scripture is to come to grips with the fact that this universe, in consequence of mankind’s sin, is fallen. Within this present state of affairs, the existence of evil, under the sovereign power of a Holy God, produces trials and suffering of every kind. In the words of Jesus, “… for He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45, NASB)

I must submit that one of the most atrocious, damnable heresies contaminating the modern church is the concept of a “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel. Proponents of such teaching reduce the unimaginable work of Christ, His cross and resurrection, to the futile pleasures of this limited fallen world. They cause men to “seek treasures here, where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break in and steal;” rather than in heaven where things exist incorruptible. Consequently, individuals under such teaching diminish God to a cosmic genie that jumps at the beckon call of those who possess enough “faith.”  I assure you, even a cursory reading of the Bible does not present such a God!  Consider the passages of scripture in focus today. While no one is pretending that suffering is pleasant or completely understandable; within the universe God has placed us it would seem to be purposeful, even necessary.

Don’t fall prey to the liars who would seek to lead you astray for their own ill-gotten gain. Such teachers will focus the hearts of many on the glossy trappings of this world and drive their hearers away from the truth of the gospel directly into the pit of hell at their own destruction.  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Remember that in Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, one of the key snares before the Savior was to wear His crown without going through the cross (Matt. 4: 1-11, Luke 4: 1-13). How sinister the evil one to infiltrate the church with the very same enticement robed in the language of the gospel.

Be diligent to study the scriptures and know the truth.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 4

Webster defines righteousness as “the quality or state of being righteous; holiness; purity; uprightness; rectitude…  Righteousness, as used in Scripture and theology, in which it chiefly occurs, is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law.” This understanding is quite adequate when considering the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “righteousness” found in the passage of scripture I have chosen to reflect upon at present; it truly encompasses the magnitude conveyed. For clarity, consider the last few words of the above definition; “…conformity of life to the divine law.” For the sake of this devotion, I would push that a bit further by adding “absolute conformity of life to the divine law.”

I often wonder if I, together with other followers of Jesus, actually resolve what has been afforded them in the gift of redemption. God is perfect and, without exception, requires the same of His children. This literally means that I must be without error in thought, word, and deed; and would include my past, present, and future!  Um… “Houston we have a problem!”

How is such a thing even possible? From the October 24th reading in our devotional Bible, consider two amazing verses tucked within the Book of Jeremiah; a book predominantly about God’s displeasure with and judgment upon sin and disobedience.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (NASB)
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD (translated Yahweh, or God’s name, in the HCSB) our righteousness.’ (emphasis and underlining mine)

These verses look forward to Jesus and His work of redeeming sinful Judah and Israel; ultimately including all who are children of God’s promise through faith, His church. I turn a microscope to Jeremiah’s reference of the Savior’s name, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’ The indication seems to be that God Himself will become the embodiment of His unreachable standard. Could it be possible? A close examination of Christ’s work of redemption through His life, death, and resurrection will bear this truth out.

The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12b-13, …work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The idea behind the words ‘work out’ is ‘carry to the ultimate conclusion,’ as one would when working out a math problem; one plus one equals… two. Stated differently, with a proper understanding of my wretched, sinful, hopeless self combined with the awe and respect that accompany the unimaginable realization of God’s absolute holiness and power; I am left to turn from any feeble religious attempt, rooted in my own ability, to achieve a standard of such staggering proportions expected by such an inconceivable God, and completely trust His mercy and promise of faith alone. This being done, I then recognize ‘it is God who is at work in (me), both to will and to work for His good pleasure.’

The bottom line is that in His flesh, Jesus did not succumb to the temptations and sins that I do; He lived perfectly as a man; making Him the perfect sacrifice. He died on the cross where God the Father transferred my sin and its punishment to Him. For that sin, He paid the ultimate price, death; and is then buried along with that sin. However, with sin and death properly in the grave, through the victorious resurrection, God the Holy Spirit gave God the Son life from the dead and in the same manner life to me through faith. In this, the righteousness of Christ spoken of above is imparted to me! Thus, in Christ, God the Father sees His perfect standard fulfilled in me!

My sin passed along to Jesus, His righteousness passed along to me; no wonder I can sing Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! Can you sing it as well?

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 3

This week’s devotion gets at one of the fundamental purposes underlying the Renovate movement. Consider a reading from October 13th. “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee.” (Psalms 119:11, NASB) I want to encourage you to keep going and not to lose heart as we examine God’s Word together. I know how the pressures of life and busy schedules can distract you from this endeavor. As far as the evil one is concerned, that is exactly the point. When you engage in reading and contemplating the scripture, you become extremely dangerous to the powers of darkness that are bent on destruction. Sin, and the temptation towards it, is the greatest weapon in the arsenal of Satan. With an open Bible, an open mind, and an open heart you are absorbed into an ever deepening relationship with the God who gave you life. As you preoccupy yourself with hearing from the LORD in His Word, the Holy Spirit of God who gave you life from the dead the moment you believed in faith will be recognized as fighting the enemy on your behalf; freeing you even more to learn about and love the Savior! Conversely, the devil wants nothing more than for you to put down your Bible and attempt to fight your battles in your own power; your own “flesh.” In Romans chapter eight, the Apostle Paul warns that it is the “flesh” that leads to death; he also commends it is the Spirit that leads to life and peace. Therefore, take the advice of the Psalmist today. “Thy word I have treasured in my heart…” Not only hear and read the word, but receive it into the areas of your life that you deem most dear; mix it with faith (believing its admonitions and promises even when it doesn’t make sense); cherish it in your mind and memory for future use, where it might dwell deeply and be of service to you on many occasions. Why? “…That I may not sin against Thee.” The word of God is the most powerful antidote against sin. Not only does the instruction of it forbid sin, but the promises of it influence you toward a pure heart and life. It helps you, through grace and faith, secure a relationship with God in Jesus Christ; and, likewise, successfully deny sin and the lusts of this world. What will your life look like at the end of this journey? This much I know… you will never be the same! In Christ, Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 2

Have you ever written an important name, number, or note on your hand so you would not forget? You thought the information so important; you printed it on your very skin. You temporarily “made it a part of yourself.”

Today I am reflecting on our October 8th reading from the book of Isaiah. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16 NASB)

It is believed that an ancient custom of the Jews was to trace upon the palm of their hand the outline of any object of affection. Specifically in these verses, God is doing the tracing and the object of affection is Zion, the Holy City; obviously an indication of Israel, His beloved children of the promise. Zion is a symbol of the people God loves. Beyond the immediate intention of the verses, the promise extends to all His children, whether Jew or Gentile, children of His faith.

Notice in verse sixteen that the inscription is not only on one hand, but on both. It is the plural in each case, “on the palms of My hands.”

The most significant insight behind these words is the reality that these marks are not simply written or tattooed, marks which potentially might be washed away or obscured; but etched. The engraving tools were a hammer and nails. The canvas was our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; the backdrop an old rugged cross.

Another interesting picture painted into these verses is the allusion to the walls of the Holy City. Throughout history, the city of Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt. Her walls have laid in ruin. The reference in our text is that God sees her walls upright and strong; what they are meant to be. During the time of Nehemiah, Sanballat mocked Jerusalem with regard to the heaps of rubbish that once stood as her walls. But God did not keep those ruins in mind, as they were associated with Israel’s recklessness and sin. Zion’s walls were ever before Him.

The portrait regarding His children becomes clear. What we are meant to be; what we are in Jesus; what we long to be in our best moments; what we will be when grace has perfected its work and we are completed in Heaven; this is how God sees His children!

Do not lose heart child of God! When it seems all have forgotten you, our Lord and Master sees you in the nail prints of His Hands! In Him, He sees you as you are meant to be!

YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 1

As we all begin this journey together, it is fitting we get underway with this specific devotion. Who are you? That is a rather broad question; yet if Jesus is your savior and Lord, the answer to that question becomes very narrow.

I will focus this week on scripture that is found in our Oct. 2nd reading. Paul says in Ephesians 1:22-23, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (NASB)

These verses speak of God the Father in reference to God the Son. Jesus was given and the benefactor of that unfathomable gift is the church. The church, which is spoken of as Christ’s body, reaps all the unsearchable dividends of being related to Jesus.

What I find curious in these verses is the Apostle Paul’s use of the word translated in English “fullness” from its original language. Does it mean, as in an active sense of translating the word, that Christ fills the church and also all things as well? Of course we know He fills the church so this would be a proper understanding.

However, what if we considered the word in a passive manner of translating it? Could it be that in some strange way the church fulfills Christ, who Himself fills all things in every way? And if so, what would that look like? I think a clue can be found in what Luke writes at the beginning of his book known as Acts. He says, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,” (Acts 1:1 NASB). Luke’s “first account” is what we call the Gospel of Luke. Since this is true, what does Luke mean here in Acts when he says all that Jesus “began” to do? Isn’t his gospel a record of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection? I thought Luke did a good job at covering all the bases regarding Jesus.

In order to understand this, we need to realize the Gospel of Luke is about what Jesus does in His Body. The Acts of the Apostles is about what Jesus does in His Body. Do you see the difference?

Let’s get back to the first question I asked. Who are you? Do you realize that you are an eternal being? Your mind (or conscience) and spirit will live forever. Even so, in a physical environment, how do your mind and spirit operate? Thoughts are expressed through a mouth, movements, facial expressions, and so forth. Thoughts are received through sound, sight, taste, touch, feeling. A will is carried out through feet that take your mind and spirit where you wish to go and eyes that light the way. In other words, your soul and spirit cannot function without a body. What is a body? It is the means whereby a spiritual being functions in a physical environment. Jesus functioned in the Gospel of Luke in His human body. Jesus functioned in the Acts of the Apostles in a little group of believers in this city and a little group of believes in that city… His church!

Remember Jesus told His disciples that He had to go away so that God the Holy Spirit could come. Since that is the case, dare we say that He lacks (not a good allusion to use when speaking about God… only for expression of the idea I’m trying to convey) something? And could that which He lacks be the means whereby a Spiritual Being functions in a physical environment? And could that be His body, the church?

No wonder the Apostle Paul often used analogies for the church such as hands, feet, eyes, and ears! Who are you? If Jesus lives in your heart, you ARE the church! Now that is exciting!!

One more thing… With what I have just said, you might be intimidated at the idea of fulfilling such a lofty role. Consider a verse from our Oct. 3rd reading. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10 NASB) I prefer the New American Standard’s rendering of this verse to our devotional Bible. It uses the word workmanship rather than creation. The original word carries the connotation of masterpiece, or work of art! We have been created IN CHRIST JESUS for good works… which He prepared beforehand!! So be the eye, the ear, the mouth, the hand, the feet, whatever you are created to be all for His glory! The pressure is not on you to perform; He has even taken care of what you are supposed to be and do so you are completely free to LOVE Him!!!

YOU ARE THE CHURCH. BE THE CHURCH.

In Christ,
Pastor Rob