Friday, August 29, 2014

Rahab

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31(NIV)

Sometimes we call Hebrews Chapter 11 the Hebrews Hall of Faith because it lists a number of Israel’s heroes who were known for their great acts of faith. One surprise in that list is a prostitute who was commended for her faith. As you might expect, this is highly unusual. Why is her name there? Because she was partly responsible for the first victory of God’s people when they entered the Promised Land.

When Joshua sent spies to search out the land God had given them, they landed at the home of Rahab. There they found protection as she hid them on her roof and turned away those looking for them. In return for her favor, she and her family were spared when God’s people conquered her city, Jericho.

Certainly this is an amazing story. Just think: God used a sinner and a foreigner from the “enemy side” to help the Israelites make their first big advance into the Promised Land. It shows that God is not dependent on the greatness or strength of any person to accomplish His will. Even those who appear to be far from God have a place in His plan.

Even more incredible is the fact that Rahab is listed in Mathew’s Gospel as one of the ancestors in the family line of David, and as a result, she is in the family line of Christ! It’s all part of the wonderful story of God’s redemption. He who was not a sinner was born from among sinful people to provide for them what they could not provide for themselves: the payment for their sin.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

For Such a Time

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV)

Esther was an amazing woman. She began her life as a political prisoner — an unknown, powerless person living in a foreign land — and ended up being queen of the most powerful nation on earth. More than all of this, she was used by God to change the course for her people, the Jews, who were living in captivity under Persia.

At a pivotal moment in the story, when Esther was unsure of her role, her Uncle Mordecai uttered this suggestion:  “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” As the story played out, Esther did indeed save her people from an evil plan by one of the king’s officials. And because of her actions, her position of power was secured. Haman, the one who had hatched the evil plan, was executed on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.

If Esther had not acted on behalf of her people, they would have faced certain massacre. I can’t help but think that we are like Esther in some ways. Scripture says God has prepared, in advance, good works for us to do.

God’s ways are higher than ours, so we may not understand all that He is doing or how He plans to use us. However, it’s possible that even this week you will find yourself in a “such a time as this” situation. If you do, will you take the opportunity to serve God?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Friday, August 15, 2014

We are Gomer

Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them. Hosea 1:7 (NIV)

The story of Hosea is one of the craziest stories in the Bible. It begins with God telling his prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman and to have children with her. This is not exactly the best way to begin a marriage and family. You certainly wouldn’t marry someone who is sure to cheat on you. And if you found yourself in a marriage where your spouse had proven to be unfaithful, clear thinking would tell you that adding several children to the mix would be unwise.

It’s hard to understand why God would ask His messenger to do such a thing, yet this isn’t the first time God asked something unusual of one of His messengers. Ezekiel was told to eat a scroll. Jeremiah had to wear an ox yoke every day. And Isaiah was told to walk around naked for three years! Apparently being a prophet of God sometimes came with a bitter pill.

Anyway, back to Hosea. The whole point of the events God put Hosea through was to show His people that they had wandered away from Him. He wanted to give the Israelites a visual for their sin.

Sometimes when I read the story of Hosea, I start to identify with Hosea. Not because my marriage is anything like his, but because he appeals to my sense of respectability and justness. I like Hosea because he is a righteous follower of God even though he has been maligned by the person he loves — Gomer, his unfaithful wife.

But the truth is we are more like Gomer than Hosea.  We are Gomer! We’re the dead weight in the story of our redemption. We bring nothing to the table in regards to our salvation. Sometimes we forget that we are the sinner, and He is the Savior.

Friday, August 8, 2014

“Whats-Her-Name”

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:38 (NIV)

We don’t know her name; she is spoken of only as “the sinful woman.” What a label to live with—to be seen only as the sinful woman—not the woman on Maple Street, not even the wife of Phil or the sister of Nancy, but “the sinful woman.” She is, however, recorded as one who responded openly to the grace of Jesus, as someone who was touched by Christ.

Jesus had been invited to be a dinner guest at the home of Simon the Pharisee, and there we find Him reclining at the table. The uninvited sinful woman just showed up, and in her hand she was holding an expensive jar of perfume. In the dining room we see her standing behind Jesus, at His feet. She is crying so hard that she has soaked His feet with her tears and she begins to wipe them with her hair. Then she kisses his feet and pours out her perfume on them.

I get the sense that Jesus was undisturbed by the presence of this woman. When He did finally address her, He focused not on her sin but on her need for grace. Imagine Simon’s horror at the sight unfolding before his guests. The phrase “elephant in the room” certainly fits the circumstance here.

The sinful woman serves as a contrast to the host of the party, the well-known religious leader named Simon, who apparently only invited Jesus to his party to impress his friends. Jesus rebuked Simon openly, highlighting the fact that this “sinner” had a pure desire to honor Jesus with her actions.

Although this woman remains anonymous in the Gospel account, she is held up as an example as a proper response to the grace we’ve received from Jesus. What is your response to God’s amazing grace?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

False Accusations

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1 (NIV)

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when someone says something about me that isn’t true – especially when it paints a less than favorable picture of my character. This happened to me recently, and it sure made me angry. If you’re like most people, you feel the same way. You don’t want your good name, your character, or your intentions misrepresented.

Unfortunately, we don’t have much control over other people and the things they say. We can, however, do a lot to build up and maintain our good name.  

We teach our children the importance of this when they’re very young. We say things like, “Think for yourself,” and “It doesn’t matter if everyone else is saying that, we don’t talk that way.” When our children are out in public or visiting in the homes of friends, we want them to represent themselves and our family name well.

Today’s Scripture teaches us to tend to our reputation. So this is actually a concept that God wants us to learn…to take care of our “name,” our character.

As I said before, we can’t control other’s words, but we can sure do a lot to build a character that others admire and want to emulate. If you think about it, your reputation and good name is one thing you take with you everywhere you go. Proverbs tells us that our good name is worth a lot – even more valuable than silver or gold.

Think about that for a minute: If you have nothing but a good reputation, you still have something of great worth. However, if you have all the money in the world but have a terrible reputation, what will it matter? God’s Word tells us to value our good name.