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

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

RENOVATE: Week 26

As you were reading the scriptures this week from the Old Testament Book of Numbers in our devotional Bible on March 21st through March 23rd, you encountered an interesting gentile prophet named Balaam. His story is an incredibly insightful study. At first glance, you may be asking, “What did Balaam do wrong?” We will first consider that question.

He was an unfaithful prophet.  Balaam, by the ability given to him by God, had the opportunity to demonstrate the power of the true God against the deception of false gods and idols. When Balaam pronounced a blessing or a curse, it worked. King Balak said as much when he summoned Balaam to curse the Israelites (Num. 22:6). Balaam could have helped the Moabites and their neighbors to “turn to God from idols, to serve the living God” (1Th 1:9). However, this did not seem to be an interest of Balaam.

He was a false prophet.  Balaam was too easily led away from God’s truth into error, and he in turn led many others astray (Num. 31:8, 16, Rev 2:14). Instead of giving the counsel of God, he taught people to practice idolatry and to commit fornication (Rev 2:14). It was his counsel that caused the children of Israel to sin and to suffer a terrible plague (Num. 25:1-9, Num. 31:14-16).

He loved money more than truth.  For all Balaam’s talk about speaking only what God put into his mouth, he was wishing to curse the children of Israel for the generous fee Balak was willing to provide for his services. Instead of loving righteousness, Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15-16). Balaam knew what pleased the Lord, but what pleased the Lord did not please Balaam.

He presumed to manipulate God.  Yes, Balaam uttered a blessing instead of a curse; but only because God gave him no option. What would be the point in Balaam pronouncing a curse if God was going to give a blessing? Balaam would have looked ignorant and damaged his reputation. However, Balaam kept going along with Balak’s repeated attempts to get a curse from God upon the Israelites. This he did because, like Balak, he hoped that possibly God, by insistence, would change His mind. Nevertheless, God refused to listen and was angry with Balaam for not rejecting Balak’s proposal from the very beginning (Num. 22:12).

At this juncture, let us turn our attention to how God dealt with Balaam.

God told Balaam the truth clearly — “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people; for they are blessed.” (Num. 22:12).

God gave Balaam an unmistakable sign —The incident with the donkey and the Angel of the Lord (a pre-incarnate Jesus) left Balaam without any excuse for continuing to compromise with Balak’s wishes (Num. 22:21-35).

God judged Balaam worthy of death —When he still insisted on going to Balak; but for his donkey, Balaam would have been killed by the Angel of the Lord (Num. 22:33).

God provided a savior for Balaam —Balaam’s donkey was Balaam’s suffering savior (Num. 22:33). As such the donkey may be seen as a type (prophetic symbol) of Christ.

God was longsuffering with Balaam —God was showing patience with Balaam’s pandering to Balak’s three attempts to change God’s word by changing mountaintops. (Num. 24:10-13).

God punished Balaam’s error with death —Consider those who heeded Balaam’s wicked counsel. (Num. 25:1-8, Num. 31:14-18).

God finally killed Balaam — This was accomplished at the hands of the Israelites (Joshua 13:22).

In summary, Balaam was a “prophet for profit!” His story should remind us that the gifts and abilities given to us by God belong to God. They are to be used in His service and not for our own ill-gotten gain. Devastation always awaits those who unrepentantly use their lives to further a selfish agenda with no thought or concern for the Maker of heaven, earth, and all things contained therein; the One who gives life and takes it because all life emanates from Him! May none of us “go the way of Balaam.”

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 25

Considering the Old Testament readings from March 16th and 17th; I want to explore the certainty that risk is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Because we often delude ourselves into thinking we hold sway over the outcome of unfolding events, we wrongly ascribe a false sense of security to our realm of control. What happens when we do not escape from the enchantment of this fallacy? What happens if we live in this mirage of safety?

Less than three years after the people of Israel came out of Egypt by the Hand of God, they found themselves on the border of the Promised Land. In Numbers 13:2 the Lord says to Moses, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel.” Moses sends Joshua, Caleb, and ten other men.

After 40 days they return with a huge cluster of grapes hung on a pole between two men, illustrating the abundance and blessing of the land. In Numbers 13:30 Caleb, after quieting the people, exclaims, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” Yet in verse 31, excluding Joshua, the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”

Caleb was unable to explode the myth of safety within the other spies and those that followed them. The people were gripped by the enchantment of security. They murmured against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 14:2 and longed for the “safety” of Egypt; even death in the wilderness! This of course was nothing more than an imagined fantasy.

Consequently, Joshua joins in the attempt to free the Israelites from their invented refuge, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us– a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)

Yet not even Joshua could explode their myth of safety. The people were misdirected in their fear for an imagined sense of security. This attitude displayed itself in their heinous desire to stone Joshua and Caleb! Such behavior, of course, is wrong.

It is wrong not to take risks for the cause of God. Paul told young Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7). In fact, we have no control over future events, only God does; and true safety is rooted in His righteous promises and power.

Followers of Christ live life in the realm of faith and not in the dominion of perceived circumstances. Regardless of the apparent obstacles in front of them, the preeminent attention of Joshua and Caleb was upon pleasing God and trusting His promises of a land. The Israelites who relied on the assessment of the other 10 spies were deceived by faulty, fleshly judgment rooted in artificial security; which resulted in wandering for 40 years and fulfilling their wish of dying in the wilderness!

I pray this word will be “food for faith.”

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 24

And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”  (Mark 10:23-26, NASB)

This reading is taken from March 10th in our devotional Bible; which actually translates the original Greek in verse 23, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (HCSB, underline mine). The disciples were astonished because it was the more affluent in society who had greater access to training in the scriptures, the ability to contribute more to the temple, and the attention of the leaders within Judaism.

Jesus shifts their normal paradigm of thinking by generalizing His statement even further to entrance for anyone into the kingdom; “…how hard it is to enter.” He then focuses again upon the wealthy, “…easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter…”

This dialogue of Jesus follows His encounter with the rich young ruler; an individual who sincerely comes to Jesus seeking eternal life. Leaving off the first commandment, Jesus reassures the wealthy inquisitor to keep the specific commands directed toward other people; in other words, “…do unto others.” This appeals to the fleshly, religious nature within the young man (indeed, within every person) and he genuinely believes he has kept these directives from his youth. Remarkably, even believing he has maintained what his religion requires of him, he is still empty inside; hence his request of Jesus for eternal life. Aware of his real need, Jesus challenges the aristocrat with one more demand; he must sell all he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him. A careful examination of the appeal will show that Jesus is holding the young ruler to the standard of the first commandment, “…have no other gods before God.”

I do see hope for the young man. For in his disposition, sincerity is revealed. He goes away from Jesus sorrowful, grieving because he had many things. He did not leave offended or indignant; he left with anguish which could haunt him until he might have returned!

In all of this, Jesus is breaking the perceived mold of a human being’s religious nature that one has to “do” something to earn God’s merit. The fallen, sinful individual is naturally bent toward relying upon them self to find peace and rest in life; in essence being their own god. Jesus point here is that this is especially true regarding the wealthy because they view themselves as the owner and earner of the capital they oversee. Consequently, the reason I like the HCSB rendering of verse 23 above, “…those who have wealth;” is because it speaks toward someone who imagines the resources bestowed upon them as their own; from their own hand. “Wealth” can fit many categories that point back to a person’s reliance upon self; an endeavor reflecting Satan’s temptation of Eve in the garden to be like God.

The lesson for you and me is found in our perspective of the universe God has made. Do we “have wealth;” or does the “wealth” under our care come from the Gracious Hand of God? Who, or what, is the real god in our lives? Regarding the question of the disciples, “Who can be saved?” The person who views their life and everything in it as a magnificent gift from the Sovereign Lord will be saved.

Is this hard to hear? Is it too difficult to follow? If you answered yes, I completely agree with you. I only hope you do not go away from this word angry or offended. If you are grieved by the hardness of your heart, then there is truly hope you understand the gravity of your plight. Thank God for the cross and resurrection of Jesus. For we love, and can follow, because He first loved us!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 23

From the March 5th reading of our devotional Bible:

And they had forgotten to take bread; and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”   And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?”   They said to Him, “Twelve.”   “And when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?”   And they said to Him, “Seven.”   And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:14-21, NASB)

This is a very intriguing event in the lives of the disciples. Matthew reveals the topic of understanding in chapter 16 of his gospel, while Mark leaves it to the reader to contemplate an answer to Jesus question. Mark also adds the detail that the disciples had no more than one loaf of bread in the boat, a fact which Matthew leaves out. This knowledge adds an extra dimension to the story, especially if one is left to decipher an explanation as to the meaning behind the words of our Lord.

These men had seen amazing things from the hand of Jesus! He reminds them to reflect on the previous feeding miracles of which they had been a part. He specifically calls attention to the over-abundance of the leftovers after all had eaten and been satisfied. On both occasions, from such meager and humble means, Jesus had wrought great provisions on behalf of massive crowds of people. This causes the reader, especially here in Mark, to reflect on the reality that if Jesus had done so much with so little in the past, could He not have provided abundantly for the disciples from one loaf? The answer, of course, is a resounding, “…without question!” The lesson in all of this was Jesus concern for the spiritual diet of His followers; that they should not be led astray by the harmful ingredients contained in the teaching of men whose religion served only to elevate themselves. The disciples could not see beyond the moment of their own personal self-preservation; be it their pride or hunger, they failed to discern Christ’s deeper lesson. This was unfortunate because when one cannot trust the Master in the small, everyday aspects of life, such as simple needs being met; how could the more weighty matters of existence be comprehended?

“Do you not yet understand?” is a question you and I face every day. David reminded us, “I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25, NASB)  When we are truly about our Father’s business; when we have ears to hear and eyes to see; faith looks beyond circumstance for provision; enabling us, those who are His followers, to remain vigilant and engaged in the mission set before us. This requires losing oneself in Christ for the true discovery of finding oneself in Christ (Matt. 10:39); crucial, lest we sell our inheritance, as did Esau (Gen. 25:31-34), for our own sin-guided self-interest; for our own “in-the-moment” perceived need, casting our pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6).

The words of the old hymn ring true regarding our lesson this day:

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Rob