Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Clarity and Sin

Devotion: Jonah 1:1-3

In Matthew 23 Jesus gives a series of woes (statements of warning) to religious leaders of his time. In the last of these statements, Jesus says"
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation." -Matthew 23:29-36 ESV
Jesus was confronting the idea that somehow we are better than those who came before us. The myth of progress - that humanity is getting better over time - is an idea foreign to the Scripture. We can claim the myth of progress for ourselves in a number of ways. Jesus confronted the idea that we are somehow more faithful and reverent than our forefathers. Jesus himself, the Son of the Living God, the Messiah/Christ, the Savior of the World, God's Word made flesh, would die at the instigation of these men he addressed, showing that humanity had made no progress in the area of righteousness. Indeed, as Isaiah said, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6a KJV).
Another fallacy of our wishful thinking regarding our own righteousness is the fallacy of clarity. It can be put like this: "If only God was clear, speaking in a clear voice His will for my life, I would obey him." This can be reduced to simply believing there is a God (the logical fallacy of requiring overwhelming evidence rather than dealing with the evidence that is available, especially divine revelation). Unfortunately the idea that God is now hidden and if only He made himself and His will obvious it would lead to an outpouring of faith. Keep in mind here that God spoke to Israel from the smoke on top of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-25, 20:1-21). The people clearly heard God speak to them and articulate His will for them as His people. Yet, in Exodus 32 we find the people abandoning shortly thereafter the clear revelation of God when they construct an idol. Clarity of revelation (the presence and will of God) does not lead us, necessarily, to faith and righteousness. This idea is precisely where the story of Jonah begins.
"Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.' But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. " -Jonah 1:1-3 ESV
Jonah received a clear word from the Lord to go to Nineveh. Nineveh at the time of Jonah was the capitol city of the dreaded Assyrian Empire. God sends Jonah to Nineveh because of the great evil of the city. He is told to call out against it--to give clear warning that because of their evil deeds that the judgment of the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will befall them. The text does not really explain until chapter 4 why Jonah decides to abandon the clear call of God (sneak preview: Jonah is sure that the Lord would be merciful if the city repents and he wants the city to be destroyed instead). What is clear, however, is that despite the clarity of God's call, Jonah heads in the opposite direction.
Nineveh is a land-locked city and so boarding a ship is a non-starter. Tarshish, according to the majority view of scholars, was located in modern Spain and may have referred either to a region or a specific city. Jonah heads to Tarshish in clear violation of God's call and will for his life. When we do the opposite of God's will we sin, that is, we actively rebel against our Creator in rejecting His will for our lives
No amount of clarity from the Lord or anyone else is enough to overcome the problem of sin. Sin is not the result of an information problem. Sin is not the result of fallacies (progress or clarity or any other). Sin is the result of a heart that is set on the human will in contrast to the will of God. So long as we battle God's will for our lives, sin will be with us. So long as we decide to go our own way, sin will be with us. So long as we deny God's call and head any other direction, sin will be with us.
We may believe that clarity or progress can defeat sin at some point, but the clear truth of Scripture is that only God through the saving work of Jesus Christ can defeat sin in our lives. We come into the victory of Jesus over sin through trust in Him as Lord and Savior, Our King, Our Great High Priest, Our Prophet, the One Mediator between man and God. If we want clarity for God's will for our lives it is to be found in Jesus. For only in Jesus is our sin unmasked and defeated.

News for You:

  • March 11th is potluck Sunday with the theme of green. Last names A-M are asked to bring a salad or a side dish and those beginning N-Z can bring a dessert. For bonus points, make it GREEN.
  • CPC member Marian McClanahan recently published a book about her life, titled “Vignettes of an Ordinary Life.” If you wish to support Marian and her book, you can find it on Amazon!
  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • Sonrise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

God's Story All Along

Devotion: Ruth 4:17-22

There are rare moments in our lives when the curtain seems to be pulled back and we get a glimpse at what God was up to all along. In Scripture these moments are more common and we have one for our passage this week:
"And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David" -Ruth 4:17-22 ESV
The Book of Ruth up to this point has been the story of Elimelech's family, specifically focusing on Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth. We have traveled with them back to Bethlehem and have seen how God miraculously provided for them. The ultimate provision, restated in 4:17, is that God provided a son for a Naomi, an heir for the family of Elimelech who was also the son of Ruth and Boaz. In this way Elimelech's line would not be forgotten, but even more, the man named literally, "My God is King," would see his own line produce King David the Great and, in God's own time, King Jesus the Risen.
In the midst of the story of two women trying to survive in a world that seems to be stacked against them we can lose sight of what God is doing. Even as Boaz and Ruth have both shown typologically to play roles as a redeemer, God is the ultimate redeemer of the story. God orchestrates Ruth's arrival in the field of Boaz when he would notice her. God sends food to Naomi to sustain her. God works through Naomi to send her to Boaz on the threshing floor and God chooses Boaz, not the other unnamed relative, to be the kinsman-redeemer for the line of Elimelech. God has been moving the whole time and bringing matters to the conclusion of the book, the coming of David.
God's movement to bring about King David is not say that God only cares about Ruth and Naomi for the children they would produce, that is, that the women and even Boaz are merely means to an end. God cares deeply for these three, so much so that he includes them in the grand story of redemption that he has been telling all along.
In our own lives we can miss what God is doing. We can be caught up in the details of daily existence with its worries and anxieties. We can be focused on the grind of life. Even our reading of God's Word and prayer can become just another part of the routine. Still I hope that from time-to-time we get a glimpse of the grand story of redemption and how God has included us in that story. We need to see that we belong to the redemption story of Jesus and that our place in that story that is still being told, is not insignificant. Our salvation was won for us on the cross of Jesus Christ. The death of Jesus was a invaluable price for our redemption. God has included us in the story of redemption by paying this price and giving to us the faith we need to enter into the story. He has done this by orchestrating in little and big ways our salvation. Every Christian has a testimony to tell about how God has brought about that salvation and that story is worth telling as it points to the big story of God's salvation of sinners through faith in Jesus Christ by grace.
The Book of Ruth seems to be the story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, but in the end it is the story of God's great salvation.

 Billy Graham died today at the age of 99. He was a true evangelist for Christ. In honor of this man who now rests in the arms of the Savior here are two versions of "Just As I Am." The top is from the Queen of Gospel herself, Mahalia Jackson. The bottom is Aaron Shust and is officially from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Let us give thanks for his life and come to Jesus for comfort and hope.

News for You:

  • You may have noticed that we just finished Ruth. Next up for our devotions will be Jonah.
  • The Maundy Thursday service will be March 29 at 7 p.m. at CPC. This will be a service of the Word, Prayer and Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
  • CPC will be hosting the Community Good Friday service this year on March 30 at 7 p.m. Come worship with sisters and brothers from around our valley.
  • We are still on the hunt for a part-time youth director. If you or someone you know is interested, contact the church office.
  • The Session of CPC will be meeting this Sunday, Feb. 25, at noon.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Son for Naomi

Devotion: Ruth 4:14-16

Levirate Marriage is a fascinating topic. The practice is detailed in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and bears directly on how our passage this week is to be understood. Legally speaking, the child born to Ruth and Boaz is the heir of Mahlon, the eldest son of Elimelech, the deceased husband of Naomi. While this son is also the child of Boaz, his right of inheritance will come first from Elimelech's line. In this way, Naomi sees in this child her redemption.
"Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse." -Ruth 4:14-16 ESV
The women who greeted Naomi when she returned and were told to call her Mara (meaning bitter) now come to the redeemed Naomi and find a very different woman. She takes this child to her lap and becomes his nurse, a second mother or perhaps a grandmother to the boy. Her tears and anguish for her husband and sons are not gone, they are now mingled with the joy of hope.
The women tell Naomi that this boy is her redemption, indeed he is the redeemer. No longer is it Boaz, now the mantle has passed to the son. This son will provide for her needs and care for her until the end of her days. In short, the child will love her and care for her and give all for her.
Ruth is also lifted up as a true daughter-in-law, one who is even of more value than 7 sons (more than triple what Naomi had lost). In this way Ruth is radically included in the people of God, proving that genetic lineage is not all that it is cracked up to be. Rather, it is keeping faith with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who delivered his people from Egypt, from the house of slavery, to the promised land of Canaan that marks one as belonging to the people of God. This very important notion will be picked up by the Apostle Paul in his discussion of Abraham in Romans 4.
In many ways, the coming of the unexpected son mirrors the coming of Boaz's greater offspring, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, adopted into the family of Joseph, the descendant of David. This little child on the lap of Naomi, bringing redemption and joy, is prefiguring of the Christ, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. Obed will bring redemption to the family of Elimelech. The Christ child will bring redemption to the whole world and restore us to the joy of salvation.

Taking a break this week from The Porter's Gate to bring this song from Redeemed called "Spring of Joy." Check out Redeemed and the The Good Christian Music Blog.

News for You:

  • Our Ash Wednesday Service will be tonight at 6:30 p.m. This brief service is open to all ages and is an invitation to a season of repentance, traditionally called Lent, that leads up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday (this year on April 1).
  • A Green Potluck will be held March 11. Check the bulletin for details.
  • Bill and Maria Errico will be leading a presentation and discussion of the ketogenic diet Feb. 25 in the Parlor following coffee fellowship.
  • Maundy Thursday service will be March 29 at 7 p.m. This will be a service of Word, Prayer and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Childcare will be provided.
  • The annual Community Good Friday service will be March 30 at 7 p.m. at CPC Omak. This is a yearly opportunity to come together with sisters and brothers from other congregations to contemplate the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. Childcare will be provided.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Children and Faithfulness

Devotion: Ruth 4:13

The birth of a child, especially a child long desired, is good news. We seem to have lost that idea culturally. Children are often seen as a burden of time and finances. Decisions are made to dispose of children when the child is inconvenient. Yet, we need to remember humanity's mandate in Genesis 1:28 is to be fruitful and multiply to fill the earth and subdue it. God's plan for humanity is to have children and, therefore, children are a blessing from God.
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son." -Ruth 4:13 ESV
In our passage today the son of Ruth and Boaz is not merely the result of their marriage bed, but the will of the Lord. When we begin to regard children in this way it changes our attitude and our actions. If children are from the Lord, ultimately, they are to be seen as gifts and treasures. Indeed, the coming of this son, Obed, was a signal that Elimelech's line would continue and that Naomi and Ruth would fulfill the Genesis mandate.
More broadly, God provides the means for covenant faithfulness. God's own faithfulness to His covenant promises is assured throughout Ruth. God provides Naomi and Ruth (a foreigner, but one who is as faithful to the commands of YHWH as any Israelite) what they need to live and even thrive. God puts Boaz into the life of Ruth and through Ruth, Naomi, as a further means of displaying His own faithfulness to the women. The birth of Obed, then, is a sign of God's faithfulness, but even more a provision for the women and for Boaz to be faithful themselves to God.
In Jesus we see both God's faithfulness to us and God's provision for our own, albeit imperfect, faithfulness to God. Jesus, in his perfect obedience to the will of the Father, displays how a truly faithful human being lives. The Good News is that this faithfulness of Christ is not for his own benefit, but for ours. Jesus, in taking the place of sinners and becoming sin itself (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) removes our unfaithfulness and applies his own to our lives through faith. This is God's amazing faithfulness to us. What's more, in that same faith in Jesus Christ, we desire and seek to be faithful to God, His commands and His promises to us.
The Genesis mandate has not been lifted. Human beings are still called to be fruitful and multiply. Our children are a sign of God's faithfulness to us, but also a call to be faithful to him.

News for You:

  • Sign-ups for our 7-week Small Group study in Galatians will take place this Sunday. If you have not signed up yet, jump in a group!
  • Our annual service of repentance for Ash Wednesday will be February 14 at 6:30 p.m. at CPC Omak. This service is an invitation to enter into a season of repentance leading up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday.