Archive for February, 2014

RENOVATE Week 22

For our devotion this week, I want to take soaring glance at the Book of Leviticus, especially regarding the sacrificial offerings. There is no doubt that Leviticus is an extremely bloody book. Consider the sin offering and how much sin is a part of every human being’s daily life! Think about yourself with regard to just this past year. How many goats or lambs would you have had to bring to the place of the burnt offering? Now multiply the notion towards an entire family, community, or people group; the implications are absolutely staggering! I suppose the blood would comprise an ocean!

Without question, this discussion invokes a visceral reaction. We are not accustomed to such guttural concepts concerning our personal lives in a modern westernized mindset. Admittedly, as a pastor, Leviticus is not a part of scripture I have pontificated upon week after week from the pulpit. This is predominantly good as the Apostle Paul explains, “we are not under law, but grace.” However, it is also bad in the sense that we can, all too often, become desensitized to the seriousness of personal sin. Hence this treatise. Please give it an honest assessment as you will decisively, I believe, come away with a greater appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus and the gravity of your own responsibility for that sacrifice.

The sacrificial system was put in place by God as a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus. Faith would enable the true believer to look beyond the sacrifice to the reality that righteousness and forgiveness reside in the substitution of the innocent for the guilty. Stated differently, as the Book of Leviticus reminds its readers, individuals accepted by God are to be holy as He is holy; they are to be perfect in thought, word, and deed. This is undoubtedly an impenetrable barrier for anyone to achieve. Consequently, each time a person brought the sacrifice to the tabernacle, they would place their hand on the head of the innocent and with the other, wielding a knife, slice the very life from the victim’s throat because of their own selfish, evil disposition. An astonishingly gruesome prospect, but a constant reminder of how serious sin actually is and how far away from God humankind remained.

For a moment, put yourself in the place of the old system. Look into the eyes of the lamb as blood courses through its veins, breath enters into its nostrils; then with a single stroke, you are responsible for ending that life; the blood is on your hands. Forgive the graphic picture, but I think you fathom the gravity of the situation. On a grand scale, this is what your sin and mine executed upon the Son of God, the Perfect Lamb. May this be a grave reminder the next time you and I try to rationalize or diminish our sinful behavior.

Yet, even in this despondent topic there is hope. Scripture encourages us that God works everything toward the good of those that love Him. He takes what is evil and turns it in the direction of good. Notice closely that in the old sacrificial system, the animal did not go to waste. Aaron, the high priest, and the other priests were to eat the meat from the sacrificial animals. In essence, through the sin of the people, they were provided for. Similarly, through the most heinous act in history, the death of God’s Son; God accomplished the greatest miracle of all time, resurrection; life for all who would believe! He has provided the ultimate provision for His children in the death and resurrection of His Son! No
wonder Jesus referred to Himself as the “Bread of Life!”

It is my sincere desire that these two points resonate within us as we labor through the Old Testament Book of Leviticus.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 21

From the February 18th reading of our devotional Bible: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matthew 27:46, NASB)

What are we to make of this statement of Jesus on the cross? Does it mean, like so many have taught, that the Father turns His face away from the Son because He cannot look upon the sin Jesus was bearing on behalf of His children? Is it possible for the One God of all eternity to be separated? Can the essence of the Son be divided from the Father? I would think not! Especially as this would do irreparable damage to the fabric of everything!

The key to understanding the message of Christ is contained in our readings that span from February 13th to February 18th within the Book of Psalms. I am referring to the whole of the 22nd Psalm. What Jesus cries out is the first line of the Psalm. The Psalm itself is known as a Messianic Psalm as it provides an uncanny picture of the events that occurred at Calvary. In actuality, David wrote over 1,000 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, a method of execution not even devised at the time of its composition.

To make things even more interesting, if Jesus truly is quoting Psalm 22 and the forsaking of the Son by the Father has to do with the idea that God the Father cannot look upon the sin that Jesus was embodying; what are we to do with Psalm 22:24, “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” (NASB, underline mine)

I submit with great confidence that Jesus is referencing Psalm 22. This conclusion can be ascertained based upon two aspects. First, those who were present at the cross and knowledgeable of scripture would have heard Jesus words and images from the Psalm should have exploded into their consciousness; those who had ‘ears to hear’ anyway, leaving those without excuse who did not put the pieces together. Second, when reflecting upon the whole of the Psalm, Jesus Himself would have drawn great comfort from its words; although He might have ‘felt’ forsaken in the midst of unprecedented pain and anguish, His Father would have never left nor forsaken Him. He was carrying out the grand prophetic plan of redemption and victory was soon to be realized!

If it were true that the Father could not look upon sin, He could not look upon me! He would not have found me in my sin! He would not have lavished upon me His magnificent mercy and grace! I would still be utterly lost and hopeless within my sin! Even if He were seeing me through the ‘lens’ of the Son, the Son would still have borne my sin at Calvary and we’ve already established why the Father would not have forsaken the Son. By the way, you too…

Praise God there is victory! Ultimate victory is contained in the resurrection of Jesus! It is here where God takes what is meant for evil and uses it for our good! Do you have it?

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 20

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it upon His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” (Matthew 26:6-9, NASB)

When was the last time you did something with reckless abandon for our Lord? You sacrificed greatly for Him when it didn’t make sense. You gave with passion even if it didn’t fit into some preconceived notion of a prudent virtuous deed.

The passage of scripture before us today from the February 13th reading of our devotional Bible exemplifies such an action. This woman, Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha according to John’s gospel, in a moment of selfless extravagance dispenses a rare ointment upon the brow of Jesus that would, in just a few short days, don an excruciating crown of thorns. The cost of the ointment was equivalent to the annual earnings of the average worker in that time period. When was the last time you “blew” the sum total of a year’s wages on Christ? When was the last time I did? Ouch!

What are we to make of this? Is there anything wrong with the response of the disciples? Does it not seem sensible to use such a large and perceptively hard earned amount of wealth on a more necessary and noble cause like caring for the poor? After all, Jesus had said in the previous chapter, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

I think a key to understanding this resides in the description given in the text as to the attitude of the disciples. We are told they were indignant; one might say irate, vexed, or offended. These are all ways of describing the term which literally means in its original form ‘to be greatly afflicted.’ Why? Was it their ointment giving them the platform to have an opinion as to its application in the first place? Were they really that concerned about the poor? Or could it be they were more concerned that they were not in possession of similar capital in order to make choices regarding its use. It is easy to judge how someone else’s resources ought to be utilized. Notice the behavior of Judas immediately following this event; he goes to the chief priests to bargain for thirty pieces of silver in betrayal of Jesus. Obviously not all of the disciples went this deep into their envy and anger; but the flesh is “desperately wicked” and jealousy does culminate into resentment.

Jesus defense of Mary is telling. Had they not heard what He previously said? He told them He would be delivered up for crucifixion! Their master, teacher, savior, and friend was going to die. Consider what I referenced earlier as to Jesus words, “…you did it to the least, you did it to Me.” Here He was, in their midst, and with hearts that should have been full of abiding affection and grief for what lay ahead, they had the opportunity to express that devotion directly to Him. “For the poor you have with you always; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume upon My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:11-13, NASB)

I submit that Mary understood something they did not. The ointment was not hers to begin with, it was Christ’s. And like the wise slaves in the parable of the talents He shared in the previous chapter, she made a wise investment with her master’s property; property that had been entrusted to her (not the disciples). Consequently, in a display of sacrificial commitment, one in which we are referencing over two millennia after the fact, she prophetically prepared Jesus for the event that would result in her sin and death being taken into the grave to remain there forever; not to mention the same accomplishment for all the believing disciples! Is that not worth a year’s wage? Can a price even be placed on such an outcome? The moment reveals her heart and exposes theirs.

True service is born out of love. Do you love the Lord? Remember, we love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19, NASB).

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 19

This week we have been reading in the book of Exodus about God’s great deliverance of Israel out of heavy bondage under the hand of the Pharaoh in Egypt. Israel was being oppressed in slave labor and God had heard their cry. His answer was to send Moses and his brother Aaron to Pharaoh on behalf of the children of Israel insisting upon their release. As the drama unfolds, we learn that Pharaoh continues to refuse through deception and arrogance in the face of unprecedented plagues. Even after consenting to their dismissal following the death of every firstborn male in Egypt in a house that did not have blood on its doorposts for Passover because of the flight of the destroyer sent from God; Pharaoh pursued the children of Israel into the wilderness!

This narrative is indeed challenging, expressing in an unmistakable display God’s sovereign power over His creation; especially Pharaoh. In the minds of some, this creates a difficult dilemma; a question even raised and addressed by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament book of Romans where he says in regard to the record, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (Romans 9:19, NASB) I am speaking to the aspect that all throughout the Exodus text we are told that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. How can God hold him accountable if He is causing the behavior? Further still, if God operates in history in a similar fashion, how can He hold any of us accountable for our actions?

These are logical and viable questions. We must first understand what the Bible means by Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. Is this an active work upon the will of the monarch? If so, I suppose we would have cause to grumble. Yet be careful. For in the same New Testament chapter, Paul states, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?” (Romans 9:20-21, NASB) Be that as it may, our sensibilities about the perceived nature of God might become affronted by seeing Him in such a light. Consequently, suppose God’s hardening was passive rather than active. In other words, could it be that God’s action within the life of the leader of Egypt was more about removing barriers of restraint surrounding his will instead of God placing certain motives within his will to act upon? Could it be that God was allowing Pharaoh to be Pharaoh? It seems to me that the behavior of the king was simply within his own arrogant, selfish, power-hungry nature. He was not holding on to the Israelites “kicking and screaming” with a real desire to let them go. In the sinful conduct of Egypt’s king, God is glorified by the great deliverance of Israel; Pharaoh’s will never violated.

God’s sovereign will is an amazing examination. It should give us hope and also cause us to tremble. As creatures of His creation, we are all under its expanse. Nothing and no one operates outside of its boundaries. We are all part of a grand eternal plan. Can you see where you fit within His intention? Do you even care? These too are logical and viable questions.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob