Archive for April, 2014

RENOVATE: Week 30

As a young Canaanite prostitute, Rahab was not a very likely candidate for a heroine of faith. Yet she is used as such by the writer of Hebrews and also by James, the brother of Jesus, in his book. Even more amazing, she is included in the genealogy record of Christ by the gospel writer Matthew. It is clear that Rahab was perceptive, intelligent and well informed. Reflecting on the reading in focus from April 20th in the devotional Bible, Rahab identified the spies for what they were, hid them, and had a plausible story ready with which to deceive the king’s agents. Rahab did not deny that she had entertained the men. She says that they left at dusk when it would be difficult for anyone to be certain of clearly seeing anything. The agents did not dare to risk stopping to search Rahab’s house because, if they did, the spies might get away. Finally, the Canaanite prostitute gives the two Israelites excellent advice. She tells them to hide in the hills for three days before attempting to cross the Jordan.

Spiritually, Rahab was not in an ideal circumstance to come to faith in the one true God, the God of Israel. She was a citizen of a wicked city that was under God’s condemnation. Rahab was part of a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture. She had not been taught under the leadership of Moses or Joshua. However, Rahab did have knowledge which was used by God in her assent to faith. She knew the Israelites were to be feared. She heard the stories of their escape from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the wanderings in the wilderness, and their victory over the Amorites. She learned enough to reach the correct, saving conclusion: “…for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11, NASB).It is her faith, along with the actions motivated by faith, which saved her and her family.

Rahab is a wonderful illustration for the truth that while believers are saved by an act of grace through faith, true faith will be accompanied by action (James 2). Rahab had to put the scarlet cord out of the window. Followers of Jesus must receive Him as their Savior and Lord and then go on to live in a manner verifying that faith is real. Her faith in action enabled her to turn away from her culture, her people, and her religion and to the Lord. Her behavior mirrors what the Apostle Paul urges, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2,NASB)

We find in the life of Rahab the inspiring story of all sinners who have been saved by grace. In her story, we learn of the amazing grace of God that can save whomever He chooses and bring them into an abundant life in Christ Jesus.

One last point, parenthetically; whenever the story of Rahab is contemplated, the issue of her lying usually comes to bear. In other words, her lying is not condemned and is actually used to save the spies. The question arises, “Is it ever right to lie?” It is certainly difficult to teach about such dubious cases (Rahab, the Hebrew midwives surrounding Moses birth, etc.). As such, I believe the wisest thing to do is to acknowledge that in the fear of God and in the walk of faith worthy saints have chosen to oppose the effects of evil by concealing the truth from wicked individuals. Consider an instance such as Corrie ten Boom and her hiding of potential holocaust victims. Nevertheless, having recognized that fact and possibility, we do well to shift our attention to the overwhelming Biblical emphasis on the condemnation of lying.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 29

Today I am compelled to bring into focus one verse of scripture taken from the April 11th reading in our devotional Bible. It states the following:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, NASB)

These words were spoken by Jesus and fall into a category one might label as easy to recite, hard to live. How often I’ve heard within Christian circles these words quoted; indeed, how numerous the occasions they have exited my own mouth. Yet, regrettably, how rarely I’ve seen them exemplified from either place!

A. W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God, gets at this very topic by comparing the self-life (self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, etc.) to a veil in our hearts. A veil similar to the one in the temple, separating the Holy of Holies (representing the presence of God) from the rest of the world; the veil that was split from top to bottom following Jesus death on the cross. The self-life blocks out the presence of God from us. With that in mind Tozer surmises, “…when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.” (pg. 47)

Tozer continues, “The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the living God.” (pg. 48)

The Apostle Paul reflected, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NASB)

Paul’s words are immensely instructive. He reminds the reader the “crucified life in the flesh” is accomplished by faith. The same saving faith that brought me into relationship with the Son of God will also keep me in that relationship! Jesus words above remind us that this should be a daily consideration. By faith I must see my flesh, my self-life, as it truly is; dead to the world and alive to Christ. In this is freedom! In this is victory! I pray we all practice the “taking up of our crosses daily” as we lay aside the encumbrances and sins that so easily entangle us (Hebrews 12:1).

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 28

On April 6th, we read of a remarkable occurrence in the life of Jesus at the gate of a city called Nain (meaning pleasant or beautiful). As we approach Easter, this is truly an instructive and poignant reflection.

I will specifically call our attention to one verse in the passage; but before I do, some background information would be helpful. The story is taken from Luke’s gospel and the seventh chapter. We are told a great procession of people are leaving the city with a widow observing the death of her only son. The scene is a devastating example of the misery and suffering sin has left in its wake. The woman in the story has lost both her husband and her only son, meaning there was no one left to support her. Her life would have been completely shattered. The loss of her only son had left her dependent on the charity of more distant relatives and neighbors.

With regard to our lives, more often than not, it seems we stand at the city gate wishing that things were different, imagining what it would be like if only…. If only we could take back words that were spoken in anger or fear; If only we would have spoken the words of love, beauty, and thankfulness that were left unspoken; If only we had made different choices for our life; If only we could redo our marriages and relationships; If only we could go back and reorder our priorities; If only we could have given back to us the people and parts of our lives that have died.

This brings me to the verse in focus: And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”  (Luke 7:14, NASB) Of course, the young man comes to life. Life recognizes the voice of its Creator.

Death is the ultimate result of sin in a fallen world. The Bible says, “…all have sinned” and the evidence of that reality is quite simply everyone dies. Death contaminates the entirety of creation. In fact, from our recent readings in the devotional Bible, as a stark reminder of the seriousness of sin, we are told, “The one who touches the corpse of any person shall be unclean for seven days.” (Numbers 19:11, NASB)

Concerning our text at hand, any devout Israelite in the crowd with the widow that day would have gasped at the action of Jesus. He walked up to the coffin and touched it! This would have made Him unclean! But remember, Jesus IS God. Life emanates from Him! Rather than death contaminating Jesus, Jesus “contaminated” the dead. It was His beloved disciple John who recorded His words, “…I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

On display here is an outstanding demonstration of what happens when death meets Life! Jesus came to die so that death might die; and through His resurrection, His followers might live! Whatever may be the result of death in your life can be turned to ultimate life in His!

Only believe!  “…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6,NASB)

Through faith, we too can live in the city of Nain (beautiful)!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 27

Two readings taken from the devotional Bible recorded on April 1st provide keen insight as to how one should view life and the personal accumulation of goods. The first states, “LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the extent of my days, Let me know how transient I am. Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight, Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah. Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches, and does not know who will gather them.” (Psalm 39:4-6, NASB)

From the pen of Solomon, son of the author of the previous, “Ill-gotten gains do not profit, But righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 10:2, NASB)

Initially, how is it possible, as David requests, for one to “know his or her end?” A surrender of life to the Giver of life through the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is most assuredly and confidently the pathway to a fruitful and fulfilled future. A future that transcends the brevity of this existence in a fatal, flawed, and fallen world; a world in which the trappings offered only detract from the magnitude of eternal life; a future which explodes into unspeakable joy, grace, worship, knowledge, rest, belonging, purpose, and love. Dying to oneself, a complete and total surrender to Christ Jesus as Lord, is truly securing a cognizance of that future.

Once this bridge of truth is crossed, humankind’s present existence takes its proper perspective, as David illustrates, “a mere breath.” This, then, allows an individual to view material goods in a proper light. They are here today and gone tomorrow. As Solomon reminds the reader, selfish gain of wealth profits nothing in the end. As his father reflected, after one vanishes from this world, he does not even know who will end up with his things. That is why Solomon refers to righteousness (which ultimately resides in Jesus and one must be in Jesus to truly possess it) as delivering from death. One who is “righteous” will invest “wealth” in eternal endeavors leading others to life and out of the death rooted in this present self-focused, Godless world system.

Such a mindset results in freedom and contentment in what one has or does not have. It releases one from the insatiable desire to amass possessions with the intent to gratify self. It shifts the paradigm of perceived happiness away from being found in the ruin and destruction of this present reality to inhabiting a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus, and in an insatiable desire to know Him more!

In this is Life!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob