Thoughts from Gary Stubblefield’s Message September 23, 2016

A Story of Faith, Hope, and Love

The story of Rahab the harlot in Joshua 2:1-14 is a story of faith, hope and love. Joshua sent two men as spies into Jericho before Israel entered into the Promised Land… The two spies lodged with Rahab the harlot whose house was on the wall of the city. The King of Jericho heard that spies were in the land and that they had stopped at Rahab’s house. The King sent his own men to Rahab’s house to find the spies. The harlot Rahab secretly hid the men and told their pursuers that the spies had already left. She told them that if they hurried, they might be able to overtake the spies. When they had left, she came up to the roof of the house where she had hid the spies under a pile of flax. Rahab told the spies that the reputation of the Lord whom they served had preceeded them… How God had stopped the waters of the Red Sea so that the children of Israel could pass safely through. Then when the Egyptians tried to pursue them through the sea, the Red Sea came crashing down and drowned the Egyptian host of horsemen and charioteers.

Rahab lived a hard life in Jericho. She was a harlot. In those days, harlotry was not as despised a profession as in the Puritanical setting of Hawthorne’s novel “The Scarlet Letter.” Hester Prynne, according Hawthorne’s novel, wore the scarlet letter “A” to brand her as an adulteress. In the King James Version of the Bible, the moniker “harlot” was not to remind us of Rahab’s sin, but rather to remind us of God’s unconditional grace and mercy…for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

The story of the harlot Rahab is a story of God’s redemption. This story is also an illustration of the three gracious gifts that abide: faith, hope, and love. After the account in the story of the tower of Babylon, God had a plan to redeem mankind. His plan of redemption to was be accomplished through the line of Abraham through his son of promise Isaac. The story continues through Isaac’s son Jacob, and the story of Jacob’s son Joseph who became prime minister of Egypt. Through the revelation that God provided to Joseph, the children of Israel came to Egypt to escape the famine. The twelve tribes of the house of Israel ended up in Egypt and after several generations when everyone forgot the story of Joseph, Israel became slaves of the Egyptians. After four hundred years in Egypt, God called Moses to lead Israel from captivity. When Moses died, God called Joshua to lead the Children of Israel into the promised land. God promised that Israel would defeat the inhabitants beginning with the city of Jericho. Joshua sent two spies to the city to report back to him about the city. The spies went to the harlot Rahab’s house so that they wouldn’t be discovered.

Rahab helped the spies of Israel escape because the reputation of Israel’s God had preceded them. She was acting on the historical record of God’s deliverance of the Children of Israel through the Red Sea forty years earlier. The spies gave Rahab the harlot specific instruction on how to save herself and her family when God would destroy the city of Jericho. In their promise to spare her, the spies offered her three gifts from God: Faith, hope, and love. She needed these gifts from the Lord because she had reached the end of her earthly resources.

First, the gift of faith… Rahab knew that she had to act on the word of Joshua’s spies. Believing faith upon the Word of God is the first step to receiving the promises of God. She walked in faith and took a risk to commit herself to act upon the word. Her action to hide the spies was an act of faith. For by grace are ye saved by faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. This verse is about salvation. What does it take to commit our lives to him for salvation? The ability to take that “leap of faith” is a gift of God. For instance, when you chose your spouse, there was a high degree of faith required. How do we know that Jesus Christ is the means by which we shall obtain eternal life? The only way to know is by making an absolute commitment to know something that we could not know by means of our own earthly minds. God made us with two natures, one with a desire for the things of the flesh, and another nature of the spirit to relinquish control of our own lives. A leap of faith requires that we relinquish control over our own lives and exhibit humility by trusting in his word.

The second gift given to Rahab was hope. She was a marginalized woman in a male dominated culture. She had no status within her society. Racially, socially, physically and culturally she was the lowest of the low without hope. God gives two types of grace: common grace and saving Grace. Common Grace is given to all men. However, you need God’s saving grace in order to have hope. Rahab found hope in the promise of God’s deliverance. She found hope in the God whom the spies served. Hope is the substance of things prayed for, the evidence of things not yet seen.

Rahab’s third gift was the gift of Love. She found her rescue from spiritual darkness because of the Love of God. Our security may vary, but often we do things that make us feel loved. Unless we are loved unconditionally with the love of God, we will never know fulfillment. According to Matthew 1, Salmon, son of Nashon, had a son with Rahab. Their son named Boaz married Ruth, who was in the line of David in the line of the coming Messiah. Rahab, a desperate harlot became a princess in the line of the King of Kings Jesus Christ. She was a woman without status, security, or worldly credentials who sold her body to eke out a meager existence. Even though Rahab was known for reprehensible sin, the grace and mercy of God exalted her to the status of a princess. Morning by morning new mercies we see. We want to be reminded not of our sin nature, but of the promise of the gift of God’s salvation by grace. For he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. And now abideth faith, hope, and love…but the greatest of these is love.

What God did for Rahab, he did for the women in our lives: He saved her by faith, he gave her the hope of the return of Jesus Christ, and he loved her unconditionally with the love of God.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message September 16, 2016

My Father’s Business

What’s the worth of your life? Often men feel that they’re not worth much… For all have sinned and come short of the glory of the Lord. However, when we feel our worst, the value God places on our lives is the worth of the priceless payment made by his son on our behalf. For he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice in our stead that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.

When we can’t see God’s plan, we can still trust his heart. We don’t know the path that he’s prepared for us… but he does. The just shall live by faith. He is our sufficiency. Our father has in store for us greater things than we can know in this life. God reveals his plan for our lives one step at a time. We need to reflect from this point in time to look back and see His hand of blessing over the days and months and years. As David said, “I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High…I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember the wonders of old.”

Luke 2:41-52 recounts the story of Jesus at the temple at Jerusalem when he was twelve years old. Mary and Joseph took their son to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast of the Passover. From Nazareth this would have been a three day journey. The women went before the men in the caravan to Jerusalem. When they were returning home, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not in the caravan. This is like the story of Joshua who watched Moses perform his duties in the tabernacle. When Moses left the tabernacle, Joshua “tarried in the presence of the Lord.” Jesus wanted to spend time in the temple in the presence of God. When Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus wasn’t in their party they went back to look for him. Like many people in today’s culture, many have turned back to look for Jesus. Does the church shape the culture, or does the culture shape the church? When the culture shapes the church, the church will be compromised by the doctrines of the world.

Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus after three days. Jesus was sitting in the presence of the scholars of the temple. He was listening to them and asking questions. All were amazed at the deep questions Jesus asked… He was hungry for a deeper understanding of the scriptures and the things of God. When his parents finally found him, his mother said to him, “why have you treated us like this?”

Asking the right questions reveals the heart of a man. Where will you go after you die? Who is Lord of your life? Have you been born again of the spirit of God? How do you know you’ll go to heaven? Until you know that you know that you know, your life will be based on guilt and shame. There is none good enough in the flesh… No not one. God has given us his word so that we will “know that we have eternal life.” The third beatitude says blessed are the meek. The meek are those who are teachable. The forth beatitude says blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. When God reveals himself, we’re like little children in his presence…all things have become new with the childlike faith of pure believing. Unless you become as a little child, you cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ response to Mary was, “know ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” These were the first words recorded that Jesus spoke. Mary and Joseph understood the carpentry business. However, his earthly parent’s did not understand Jesus’ heavenly Father’s business. God has called each of his children as his sons and daughters to their father’s business. The father’s business is that we would be his epistles written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, known and read of all men. We who are called of God understand his calling one step at a time as we walk in fellowship with him. To understand is to grasp the meaning of something. As we answer his call to follow in the Lord’s footsteps he will open the eyes of our understanding about the function and the purpose for which we were created.

Prior to this passage in Luke, Mary had taken the things about the birth of Jesus and “pondered them in her heart.” Understanding that I must be about my father’s business is both a “flash of insight” and a lifelong revelation as we meditate upon his word, ponder these things in our hearts, and walk with him one step at a time. We must approach our father with a childlike meekness and humility. When confronted with the confusion of the world, what would Jesus do? Like Jesus, we must be about our father’s business. We have been called to exhort one another in love, to comfort those in need, and to build up and edify one another in the household of faith.

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ

Thoughts from Pete’s Message September 9, 2016

Compromised and Distracted

A sower went forth to sow. God has called us to cast seeds. Seeds are the word of God. According to Isaiah 55, So shall my Word be that goeth out of my mouth. It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in that thing whereunto I sent it. Jesus’ disciples asked him, “what will be the signs of your second coming?” According to Matthew 24, it will be like the times of Noah. In those days, there will be laughing and mocking, as when Noah warned the people of the coming flood. The people were so focused on mocking Noah that when the flood came, they didn’t know what hit them. Today, we’re battling against “cultural Christians” who are shaped more by the secular culture than by the Word of God. There is no man so deep in the dark like the man who thinks he’s in the light but he’s really in the dark. When the bar is lowered so far that “surrender to the Lord” is a foreign concept, then then it’s as if Christians have “lost their salt.” According to Matthew 5:13, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

Compromise is to combine the qualities of two different things. “Carnal Christians” have compromised. There is no longer conviction to live according to the standards of Jesus Christ, the word made flesh. Cursed is the man who calls good evil and evil good. God has called his people to holiness: set aside to the purpose intended by the designer. According to Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”
Meditation is the best way to remember the Word of God. Meditation means to chew it over, break it down, and then digest it: as Jeremiah said, “thy words were found and I did eat them and they were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” God has empowered us with his spirit and has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness. He has called us to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. To know the voice of God, we must spend time in his Word. We must walk in close proximity with our Lord.

Distraction is the devil’s ploy. So many Christians are distracted by the political process. Jesus when he was urged by the crowds to lead them as a political messiah, said, “I’ have other priorities… I must do the will of him who sent me.” Jesus prophesied about those who would follow in his footsteps, “the works that I do shall they do also, and greater works shall they do because I go unto my Father.” We are God’s plan to change the culture. God did not call us to judge and criticize unbelievers for sinning. Our calling is not to condemn the sinners, but as Jesus said, “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.” To avoid the distractions of the World, focus on the things of God and the things of the spirit. How’s your soul? How’s your marriage? How can you pray for others? How’s your walk with the Lord? Pray that God will send men into your life to speak into your life. The word of God is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness. Thank God for men who love you enough to rebuke, reprove, and correct you. Correction is to restore to an upright position.

Compromise and distraction turn our hearts away from God and his Word and toward the World. To defeat compromise and distraction, deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully focus on the Word of truth. God did not call us to be influenced by the world but rather to influence the world. Therefore, set your affections on things above, not on the things of the earth. Repentance is to turn away from the things of the world and to return our hearts to the Lord. Therefore, 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.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message September 2, 2016

Renouncing Shame

Everything we do depends on God whether we realize it or not. According to Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. God has already seen everything that has happened and will ever happen. He sees everything from the perspective of eternity. We see things as God reveals them to us one step a time. All things are and will be according to His sovereign will.

When Abraham was called by God, he was called to be God’s ambassador. He had God’s authority and he represented the Kingdom of Heaven when he spoke the Word of God on behalf of God. Likewise, we are called by our sovereign Lord to be his ambassadors. We have been called both to deliver the message and to be the message… Therefore, we pray you in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 says: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

As His ambassadors, our authority is based entirely on who we are in Christ. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new… Through Christ we have been made God’s new creation and He has entrusted us with a new message to reconcile others to himself through Jesus Christ. Our credentials are not in our own accomplishments, rather our credentials are the gift of the spirit: Christ in us the hope of Glory.

The last two weeks we examined two aspects of ambassadors culminating in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21: first, that God is our sufficiency and that we are totally dependent upon him. The second aspect is that we are ministers of the law of the spirit of God in Christ in us. We are ministers not of the Old Testament law of the flesh that results in death, but of the new law of the spirit that results in eternal life.

Because of the spirit of life in Christ, God has enabled us to fulfill the “sh’ma” the Old Testament law according to Deuteronomy 6:5, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Jesus clarified this passage when he quoted it in Mark 12:30: “And though shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and with all thy strength.” Some have said that Jesus quoted the scripture incorrectly when he changed the ending of this verse to “with all thy mind and with all thy strength.” However, Jesus knew the Hebrew text. He also understood the meaning of the text. The word translated “might” in Hebrew means “very” or “superlative.” Jesus clarified this passage to mean, “love God with your “very essence” or as Oswald Chambers said, “My Utmost” for His Highest.

Jesus then quoted Leviticus 19:18 from the Old Testament: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” How do you love your neighbor as yourself? The answer is the third aspect of being an Ambassador. According to the preceding verse in Leviticus, you love your neighbor by reproving him. If we do not reprove our neighbor when he strays from the Word, we ourselves commit sin. Loving your neighbor is to correct him according to the Word, for the Word of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof and correction, which is instruction in righteousness. To correct is to restore your neighbor to an upright position before God.

The third part of Ambassadors in 2 Corinthians 4:2 says, “but we have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty.” The normal response to shame is to hide it. The law of the spirit brings sin into the light of the Word of truth. The devil hides in the darkness. The truth of the Word of God exposes the shamefulness and dishonesty of sin. A little pocket of darkness gives the devil a foothold. According to John 3:18-20: He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and that men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth, cometh to the light that his deeds may be manifest that they are wrought in God. According to 1 John 1:17, If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Holiness means to be set apart for the purpose for which the designer designed us. The purpose for which he designed us is that we should be to the praise of the glory of his grace whereby he has made us acceptable in the beloved. He has designed us to be his ambassadors. When we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have “denounced the hidden things of dishonesty.” For he who new knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice for us that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,