Archive for January, 2014

RENOVATE: Week 18

Life, the ebb and flow of circumstances; decisions and actions undertaken based on the best information at hand. Consequently, the feeling of complete helpless and the inability to manage events can become utterly overwhelming. Furthermore, when reflecting on the subject more deeply; does the ability to control the outcome of experiences even reside within one’s capacity? Often, life feels like a colossal, out of control current; the flow of a mighty rushing river forcing its traveler along wherever it appears to be going. Within the journey, neither rhyme nor reason can seemingly be distinguished by the exhausted wanderer. What is one to do?

While life does seem like a flow of disconnected random currents, scripture paints an entirely different picture.  Inside its pages reside an idea that solidifies the uncertainty. It is true that control, from the human perspective, is an illusion. However, at the base of existence is a guiding Hand that is purposeful. This is not a meaningless “fate” where men and women are left to sing “que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be)!” This is a loving “Father” who is orchestrating history for an ultimate outcome! In a word, this movement of time and space can be described as providence.

Consider the reading from January 27th in our devotional Bible taken from the Gospel of Matthew:

And when they had come to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter, and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” And upon his saying, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Consequently the sons are exempt. “But, lest we give them offense, go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” (Matthew 17:24-27, NASB)

In this passage, Jesus is drawing attention to the fact that He is King; King of kings! Technically he and his disciples would be exempt from the temple tax since the temple is His. However so as not to offend those who were inquiring of Peter, Jesus provides by a rather unusual method of recompense.

Notice first that Jesus knew the question put to Peter before Peter divulged it. This reveals, as Jesus is God, His omniscience. That same knowledge overshadows the events of your life and mine as well. The next issue has to do with the coin itself. Did Jesus simply know it would be located within the fish’s mouth or did He cause it to be so? To ask the question is to answer it. Not only is God omniscient, He is also omnipotent; and the same power, working through presumably ordinary events of life is also working in the affairs that surround you and me. Think of the concepts not recorded. Was there a fisherman casting his net upon the lake with a coin in his pocket who, with great vigor, jarred the coin from its place with the throw? This is a “bad” circumstance for the fisherman. Maybe it wasn’t a fisherman. Perhaps a thief was running from his victim along the water’s edge and in his hast, flung the coin into the water. Regardless, whatever the coin’s origin; what was the speed and direction of the wind that caught the coin in midair to deposit it into the waves? Then consider the distinct course and strength of the current acting on the weight of the coin that plunged it to the exact depth at the perfect time that the right-sized fish with a mouth able to grasp it was swimming along in the direction of the shoreline that Peter would be dropping in a hook at just the right moment to capture the fish. Random events? I think not! God’s Hand working through the ordinary, making it extraordinary!

The next time you are overwhelmed by life, remember the coin!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 17

From the January 17th reading of our devotional Bible, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:27, NASB)

Do you know the Father? Do you know the Son? To do so is the greatest of all gifts; the foremost of all miracles in the life of an individual. From the statement of Jesus above, one can only conclude such knowledge resides outside of a person’s ability to comprehend and does not come from within. Stated differently, in and of myself, I could not ever (nor could you) conjure such awareness.

Jesus must reveal an understanding of Himself, which coincides with knowledge of the Father, to persons possessing it; to those whom He wills to do so. This should make those who receive this realization tremble with awe and respect for the One who gave it; appreciating the inestimable value of such a bestowment.

How does one know they hold such a priceless treasure? I believe a clue to this can be ascertained in the statement Jesus makes immediately following the aforementioned scripture. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB) These words are often thought to refer to the reality that if I believe on Jesus, all of the burdens of life will melt away; that everything I experience subsequent to acceptance of Jesus will culminate into “a bed of roses!” With this promise in mind, many accept Jesus only to be disillusioned when life does not pan out as they had hoped; Jesus then being discarded upon the trash heap of other broken promises and dreams.

To be weary and heavy-laden, as denoted by our Lord and Savior in this verse, has to do with humanity’s ongoing war with God, a war that individually commences from the womb because of inherited sin; and the fallen, fleshly desire to “do” deeds one assumes (even arrogantly insists) will appease that God (Whose standard is in point of fact completely perfect). Consequently, mankind diminishes God to a “manageable” level remaking Him into his image while elevating himself to a plane of existence that Lucifer in pride tried to attain (to no avail)!

The rest spoken of by Jesus is a result of His finished work of redemption. One rests in Christ’s perfect righteousness achieved in the flesh, not his own, which is applied to the believer when Christ is received. Such a person enjoys a newly discovered relationship with the Father, afforded by the work of Jesus, while waving the white flag of surrender over his head with regard to the war he has been engaged in with that same God because of sin; Jesus having paid the ultimate penalty of death as a substitute for the insurmountable debt. Even more, because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; one realizes the struggles, pains, and burdens of life (rather than being avoided because of Christ) are ultimately working toward betterment and a clearer reflection of Him resulting in an even greater hope and promise of eternity!

Do you know the Father? Do you know the Son?

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 16

I am absolutely astounded by the recorded history of the patriarchal family. To read afresh and anew the drama that surrounds their story is to be reminded of the utter depravity of mankind and the sovereign, providential Hand of God using individuals of His choice to accomplish His will despite, even because of, their wrong decisions and behavior. God works through all things, good and bad, to accomplish His purposes. This truth, of course, does not leave mankind innocent in his wrong conduct. Consequently, the reading from this week has reprimanded me as a husband and a father.

The Apostle John reminds us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18, NASB) God is love. Toward humankind, God’s love is most profoundly expressed through faith resulting in His imputed righteousness and forgiveness of sin. One who would endeavor to continuously walk with God would be one who is “walking in the light;” which is living with a clear conscious, with an understanding of who God is, and with an awareness of what true sin encompasses. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). He had the overarching promise of blessing and protection from God and yet, in his humanness, lied twice about Sarah (his wife) being his sister for fear of being killed and having her taken away because of her beauty. This brings upon him undue stress and undesired exploitation upon Sarah. I reiterate, such action was brought about by fear in the life of Abraham.

What is incredibly convicting about this is revealed in our reading from January 13th where we are told, “When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say, “my wife,” thinking, ” the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.” (Genesis 26:7, NASB) This verse describes Isaac, the child of promise, in regard to his wife Rebekah! Obviously, instead of learning from his father’s bad behavior; he emulates it. Both men would have done well to exemplify the words of our Lord Jesus from the January 15th reading of the devotional Bible; “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31, NASB) Regardless of the appearance of circumstances surrounding the child of God, providential care and purpose sustain ultimate existence.

As a husband and a father, I realize my actions more profoundly teach than do my words. I pray that the love of God through faith in Christ and His righteousness credited to me result in behavior that honors Him and witnesses well to a watching world; encouraging those closest to me to imitate Him and not a fearful husband and father!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 15

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17, NASB)

This verse is taken from the January 6th reading of our devotional Bible. It is quite fitting to contemplate in light of the endeavor we have undertaken to read God’s Word within a year. When Jesus was sharing this, those listening would have recognized as God’s Word what we refer to as the Old Testament; the summation of which would be understood as The Law and The Prophets.

Consider what Jesus reflected that Abraham said to the rich man in hell who beseeched Lazarus the beggar be sent back from the dead to warn his brothers not to come to the place of torment:

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ “But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:29-31, NASB, underlining mine)

Stated more succinctly, the flash and enchantment of a miraculous return from the dead of one such as Lazarus is not enough to effect eternal heart and life change; only the Word applied through the Holy Spirit can accomplish that feat. The brothers had the Word; if they did not have ears to hear it, a man rising from the dead would not be able to convince them of eternal truths.

Another interesting Biblical element along these lines is the outward confirmation of our verse of reflection today recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. All three of these gospel writers describe an event identified as the Transfiguration. Jesus takes His inner three disciples Peter, James, and John to a high mountain. While on the mountain, Jesus’ appearance radically changes and the disciples witness two other men standing and conversing with Him; men the disciples recognize as Moses and Elijah. Why those two? Consider that the very central theme of the Bible is Jesus; it is all about Him. This occurrence, then, has Jesus placed in His proper position; at the center of Moses (the representative and giver of the Law) and Elijah (representative and the principal of the prophets). No wonder the Apostle John refers to Jesus as “The Word.” Jesus is the culmination, the fulfillment of God’s Word. To know Him is to know God. To know Him is to know righteousness. All that the Bible predicts; all that it demands is fulfilled and completed in Christ!

To receive Jesus as Savior and Lord is to own this reality by faith. No wonder in our reading from the Sermon on the Mount this week Jesus can admonish us to be holy (perfect) as our Heavenly Father is holy (perfect). It is this standard He has achieved. It is this standard that is conveyed to all who believe by faith!

Take heart my friend! We can overcome the world with the Word!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 14

Incredibly we have been working our way through our devotional Bible for 14 weeks now! This week brings us back to the beginning and the very first statement in the Word of God is extremely fitting as a reminder of our place in the cosmos.

Genesis 1:1a (NASB)
In the beginning God…

All else emanates from here. Truth resides at this point. If we are to properly relate to the universe in which we have been created, we must begin at God.

Does life have meaning and purpose? In the beginning God… Am I in control of my own destiny? In the beginning God… What about things that don’t seem to make sense? In the beginning God… Why all the pain? In the beginning God… Why the joy?  In the beginning God… Why the mystery? In the beginning God… Why am I able to understand the things that I do? In the beginning God…  Keep asking the questions and filling in the blanks…

We just finished reading the Book of Revelation where Jesus, through the pen of John, says that He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Even when things remain unanswered in our lives, hope can be grasped within this assurance.  All things begin in God and ultimately all things will culminate in His sovereign hand. Selwyn Hughes, the devotional author of the “Every Day With Jesus” Bible said it well in his reflection of this theme, “…if God is not our primary focus, then everything else will soon get out of focus.”

Don’t lose heart beloved. Keep reading God’s word. Don’t let anything get in your way!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 13

And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their forehead, and he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.  Revelation 13:16-18 (NASB)

And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. Revelation 14:9-12 (NASB)

One of the most ominous concepts that comes to mind when considering the book of Revelation is the mark of the beast. Throughout history, people have attempted to creatively identify what this means. The number 666 conjures hideous images of evil creatures and ill-fortune in the thoughts of so many.

What does this mean? I shall in no way try to calculate these numbers to mean a specific person or historical figure. I will not attempt to treat the Bible here as some kind of secret code to be deciphered only by those who have discovered its formula for decoding.

A real key in understanding the overall meaning of the mark is identified in what John states about it as “the number of a man.” What is man? He is a fallen, ruined creature; once in the very image of God, now a sin-tainted version of the original creation marked by imperfection.

Ask most people what would be considered the “perfect” number and they would respond with the number 7. This of course is a Biblical notion, even though those you ask may be unaware of that fact. The Bible often symbolizes perfection with the number 7. It would make sense then, that 6, which is slightly less than 7, would represent imperfection; 666 being the epitome of imperfection, as humanity is ruined to its core because of sin.

Following this line of reasoning, one of the most telling attributes of fallen human beings is the unwillingness to trust God, the Ultimate Provider, for our sustenance and to selfishly lean on the world system and ourselves to meet our “perceived” needs. Satan capitalizes on this reality as most human beings become “marked” by the temptation to trust anything other than God alone to supply their true needs. For this reason, the mark is connected to “buying and selling.” The Apostle Paul says,For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.” (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB, underline mine)

This spirit of anti-Christ, which ultimately culminates into the beast of Revelation, leads to eternal destruction; which, needing no further explanation, is reflected in verses 9-11 of Revelation chapter 14. John states in verse 12 that only those with faith in Jesus will persevere and escape such a horrifying demise!

Hence, the question before us all on this day: In what do we trust?

In Christ,

Pastor Rob