Archive for May, 2014

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

RENOVATE: Week 32

Why do we, as followers of Jesus, persevere? How do we maintain saving faith with a perfect God when we ourselves are so far from His holy standard? Does our relationship with Jesus depend on our constant effort to please and obey Him? We are saved by faith; how do we hold on to the new life?

These questions all concern the passage of scripture I am contemplating from the May 7th reading in our devotional Bible taken from Luke’s gospel. The setting is the Lord’s last Passover meal with His disciples. Following a dispute among them as to who would be the greatest in His kingdom, His admonition to them was not to think as the world does reminding them that the least among them would ultimately be greatest. He also knows He would soon be arrested and begin His march toward the cross. It is a reflective and solemn moment when Jesus says to His appointed leader of the group, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32, NASB)

Notice from Jesus’ words that it is not a question of “if” Peter would turn again, but “when.” What was Peter’s roll in all of this? His only involvement in the matter would be to betray his Lord! Even after a sincere and heartfelt response that he would go to prison, even die for Jesus; time would prove Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny three times even knowing Him before the crowing of the rooster. Luke goes on to record that after Peter’s third denial, Jesus looks at him as the cock crowed and Peter understandably goes out to bitterly weep; exemplifying the uncontrollable grief he suffered.

Some key take away points are first, God’s sovereign control over His universe. Note that satan needed permission to affect Peter. Satan’s desire was the destruction of the disciple, while Jesus knew the ordeal would eventually strengthen him in the end. Was Peter responsible for his actions? Could he not use the excuse, “The devil made me do it!”? Of course not. When the protective hedge of God was removed from Peter’s life with regard to the devil’s insidious temptations, Peter acted from what was truly in his heart rooted in fear; a sobering reminder for future reference as to a personal weakness in the apostle’s life.

Secondly, a perfect illustration of the Apostle Paul’s recorded words of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is sufficient for us because His power is perfected in our weakness, the only effort Peter brings to his continued connection with his Lord and Savior is failure. I note this not as an excuse for failure; but as a solid reminder of where real success originates.

Lastly, as history records, Peter returned, did strengthen his brethren, and was absolutely significant in launching the early church. Why? Because Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail! That’s it! The same faith given to him by Jesus to believe was the same faith that kept him in that relationship.

As the hymn writer has noted, “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow!” In this is rest. Cease from your labor to appease a perfect and holy God and rest in the light of the knowledge that we are saved, kept, and will finally be perfected in His grace!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 31

There are only three options to explain reality. One is to believe in God. Another; agnosticism states, “There may be a God but I haven’t found proof.” The last is atheism, which is the total rejection of God’s existence and any supernatural attachment.

Let us contemplate the last option for a moment. In actuality, no one is born an atheist. Observation will reflect that an atheist must learn NOT to believe. Children naturally have a propensity toward the supernatural and an awareness of God in His universe.

Consider one scripture reading of our devotional Bible from May 1st. We are reminded by the psalmist, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,’…” (Psalm 53:1a, NASB). This idea appears throughout scripture; in effect, it is a Biblical definition for foolishness. The word translated into ‘fool’ from the original Hebrew is very intriguing. It is the word ‘nabal’ and is rooted in the notion of serious moral decay. Hence the rest of the verse, “…they are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; there is no one who does good” (Psalm 53:1b, NASB). Thus the atheist, with regard to knowledge, is not unintelligent Biblically speaking; their worldview would be rooted more on a moral accountability basis. In other words, God is aware of the atheist while the atheist chooses not to be aware of God. This is because one would ultimately be morally liable, if God exists, to something higher than oneself. It was Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher; Dostoevsky, who said, “If God is dead, all things are permissible.”

Thus, no matter how strenuously the atheist may try to deny it, atheism is a belief system. It requires just as much faith to embrace that God does not exist as it does to believe He does. For instance, when recognizing the fine tuning and physical constants of the universe, the atheist must assume that personal unique complex living organisms arose from impersonal disorderly chaos. Stated more simply, “Something had to come from nothing.” Atheism assumes that the potential gives rise to the actual. Reality shows that something actualized the potential itself. Scrap iron from a junk yard does not form itself into an airplane or a building without someone that is able to put it into order. Designs have a designer, and the universe reflects incredible design.

Of course the Apostle Paul reminds his readers with regard to God (the ‘His’) and sinful humanity (the ‘they’), “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NASB). This is why he says in a previous verse of the same chapter, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” (Romans 1:18, NASB). The word translated into English from the original Greek ‘suppress’ literally means to willfully hold down; in this case, from a desire to live in an impure, unaccountable to God (ultimate truth) lifestyle.

I maintain that Jesus said it best, “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32, NASB)

In Christ,

Pastor Rob