Judges 3:7-31 | Week 3 | Salvation 3 Ways

 

God, The Master Chef

The television hit “Chopped” pits chefs against each other in a bid to create the most complete dish from identical ingredients. They open their basket, are given 20 minutes, and the race begins. The panel then judges the dishes on taste, texture, finesse, and other categories. At the end of the show, we’re left with one chef who has shown he can create the most beautiful dish from the different ingredients. 
 
As we read through Judges, we’ll often feel like we’re the judges watching God move around and use all these different ingredients: The rebellious Israelites, the wicked nations, and the judges. As we read, God arranges things just right so that he and he alone is credited for the deliverance of his people. Certainly, some of the way God brings salvation will shock us. Some of these stories will offend our modern sensibilities of justice. The picture is clear though, God is the master chef of the book of Judges. He’s always moving, turning up the heat, and at just the right time, bringing justice to the wicked and deliverance to his people.
 
In other words, God saves in unexpected ways.

Othniel the Ordinary

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.”
 
The account of Othniel is ordinary and expected. It’s a generic account; it matches in rhythm and tenor and content to the previous chapter. To understand this passage a little more, let’s dive into the specific add-ons in verses 7-11.
 
First, we know very little about Othniel. He’s mentioned briefly in chapter one as he takes captures the city Kiriath-Sepher and is given Caleb’s daughter to marry. We last hear from him as he settles in Kiriath-Sepher, which is in the far southern reaches of the Promised Land. He is Israel’s first Judge and apparently an accomplished leader and warrior. This is all we know of Othniel, he was a capable warrior, a nephew of Caleb, and the man God would use to save the Israelites.
 
King Cushan of Mesopotamia, came from the fertile crescent and likely stalled somewhere in Northern Israel. We can’t be sure of how far he actually transgressed into Israel to some degree it’s not important. What is important to the writer is that it is God who sold Israel to him and that King Cushan had control of the Israelites during that period. Othniel would likely head north to fight of King Cushan for the nation of Israel.
 
What do we know about Cushan-rishathaim? Not much. His name actually means Cushan-double wickedness. The Hebrew name for Mesopotamia is “Aram of double rivers” when you read the Hebrew it’s a funny play on words and sounds. There’s King Double Evil from Aram Double River. An oppressed people can do little to change their position but they can memorialize their extreme displeasure through a not-so-subtle jab. 
 
The story continues as Israel turns away from God and pursues idols of all kinds. God, because he promised to be faithful to them and because he loved them, refuses to allow his children to become comfortable in their sin.So he sells them into the hands of ole King Double Evil. It’s unlikely they felt like it was fair or fun or right but if it helped them loose their grip on Baal and Ashertoth it might lead toward salvation for them. Being sold into sin wasn’t salvation but it laid the ground work for God to bring salvation to a humbled people. This was their rock bottom.
 
Their salvation came in the form of Othniel. Take a look at verse 10 “The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel.” A couple of things worth noting here, it is the Lord who appointed Othniel and it was the Lord who empowered Othniel for the work for which he was appointed. This is the work of the Lord that accomplishes and saves, Othniel is the means of that salvation. The second is this, we’ll see the phrase “The Spirit of the Lord was upon him” multiple times in Judges and the presence of the Spirit of the Lord does not equate to an endorsing of all that the judge does. In this case, the next verse shows Othniel’s victory was given by the Lord handing over King Double Evil.
 
Othniel’s story lacks flair, it seems expected given the preceding chapter and seems rather tame and forgettable based on what follows. But in what seems ordinary, we see the clearest presence of God. The Lord is mentioned 7 times in 5 verses – he is the main offended party, he was sinned against, his anger was kindled, he sold the Israelites to King Double Evil, he heard their cries, he raised up Othniel, he empowered Othniel, he delivered King Double Evil to Othniel. What this story lacks in flair it more than makes up for in God’s clear presence and acting in salvation

Ehud the Cunning

12 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 13 He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. 14 And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
 
15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. 16 And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. 17 And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence.20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat.21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. 23 Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them.
 
24 When he had gone, the servants came, and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “Surely he is relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” 25 And they waited till they were embarrassed. But when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them, and there lay their lord dead on the floor.
 
26 Ehud escaped while they delayed, and he passed beyond the idols and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim. Then the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he was their leader. 28 And he said to them, “Follow after me, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites and did not allow anyone to pass over. 29 And they killed at that time about 10,000 of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped. 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.” 
 
The story of Ehud is full of suspense and deception. It follows the same basic pattern as laid out in Chapter 2 and then the story of Othniel – the people again did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord and the Lord “strengthened” the king of the Moabites, Eglon who creates a mini-united nations to attack and harass Israel. Eglon takes Jericho, the city of Palms, and rules for 19 years. God hears the cries of his people and he raises up Ehud to deliver the Israelites. He does so by assassinating the King and leading the Israelites to finish off quite a few of the strong men of Moab. The land then has rest.
 

Theological Geography

Moab is to the east of the Dead Sea, Amalek is to the south and west of the Dead Sea, and Ammon is to the east of the Jordan River. Eglon recruits the help of the Ammonites and Amalekites and heads northward to conquer and take Jericho. It’s where he would rule for the next and last 18 years of his life. 
 
Ehud was the son of a Benjaminite which lived alongside the Canannites in Jerusalem. Ehud traveled east from Jerusalem to Jericho, delivers the tribute, then leaves Jericho partially, returns to Jericho, assassinates Eglon then flees west to the mountains to gather the troops, and with the resulting momentum from the assassination, takes the troops the fords of the Jordan river to stop any escape by the Moabites. And it’s a slaughter. The men of Israel kill 10,000 of the strongest mighty men of Moab.
 

An Angry Story About a Fat King 

One of the 1st things to know about this story is that it’s a polemic satire aimed at the Moabites and Canaanite culture. A polemic is a written or verbal attack and it just so happens that this story has humor imbedded in it as well. Imagine yourself as an Israelite. Subjected and abused for 18 years. Forced to pay crushing taxes and compelled to offer “tribute” to this “king.” This whole story is written from the perspective of a disenfranchised people who are angry, oppressed, and, as a result, hate their oppressors.
 
Ehud, is a Benjaminite who was apparently left-handed. There are two prevalent theories on what this means. The Hebrew literally means “restricted as to the right hand.” So it’s possible that he had a deformity on his right hand that made it impossible for him to use. The other possibility is that Ehud was ambidextrous. Judges 20:16 describes 700 Benjaminites as left-handed and able to “sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.” In warfare being left-handed would be hugely advantageous. There seems to be evidence that the Benjaminites trained their warriors to be ambidextrous. In this case, Ehud’s ambidexterity would’ve been critical to getting so close to the king.
 
We know a little about King Eglon from the text. He was strengthened by God and didn’t seem to recognize it. In other words, he was given power and seemed to think it was because of his own leadership and prowess. He was also fat. The word used to describe the king is the word to describe fattened sheep or cows. His name Eglon is actually a form of the Hebrew for word bull or calf.  The author is taking great pains to give us a precursor of what is to come by writing it in such a way that Eglon looks and sounds like a fatted cow ready for the slaughter. Note too, this is the last mention of the king’s name and it’s associated with his excess corpulence. The last time Eglon the oppressor is mentioned he’s mentioned as a calf fattened for the slaughter.
 
Ehud fashions a double-edged sword and straps it under his right thigh. He does this because most swords be stashed on the left side for a right-handed warrior. Eglon’s guards would only check on under the left thigh. One more thing about the sword, it was about 18 inches long and didn’t have a hilt. 
 
Ehud and his band of marry men head up to Jericho to pay the tribute to Eglon. Note in verse eighteen that there were a number of attendants who carried the tribute. No doubt that part of the tribute was financial but the rest of it almost certainly was agriculture related. Normally you don’t carry cows or sheep or goats because they can walk. What kind of agriculture can’t walk itself to the king? Vegetables, Kale, Lettuce. The Israelites bring Fat King Eglon, all their finest kale, fruit, and other assorted rabbit food. It’s the Weight Watchers version of a tribute to a king.
 
They deliver the tribute and then begin to head out of town. As they head out, in the area around Jericho, Ehud sends his guys on home and returns back to say he has a secret message. The king, in all his vanity, just has to know. Normally, an Israelite doesn’t just turn around and get an audience with the king but this Israelite isn’t a threat and he has a message.
 
The king is now on his rooftop chamber, joined by Ehud and they’re all alone. Ehud leans in and whispers to the king, “I have a message from God.” Now the curiosity will literally kill the king. With great effort Eglon stands up and with great skill Ehud grabs the homemade sword and plunges it into the rather large stomach of the king. The sword plunges completely in and Ehud leaves it there covered by the king’s own excess. The inclusion of the dung seems like an unneeded and graphic addition until you read the rest of the story.
 
Ehud leaves dead king, locks the door and leaves. The servants who are clueless, note the locked door and smell the dung and the bile and figure he’s just relieving himself. Eventually, after a while, long enough to make them embarrassed, they unlock the door and find their king dead. All while Ehud hightails it west into the hill country where his people await his return. He sounds the horn to recruit all the nearby fighting men. There wasn’t time to recruit men from the other tribes so he took men from Ephraim who would’ve likely suffered more given their proximity to Jericho and Eglon’s throne. Pay close attention to what Ehud says in verse 28 because it’s important “Follow after me, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” Ehud recognizes the Lord’s work and sovereign control over the outcome. And as a result of their obedience to the Lord around 10,000 of the strong, able bodied men were killed. Apparently enough of their army was destroyed in that moment that all of Moab was then subdued as a result. And finally, the land had rest.
 
The story with all its details give us a sense of the deep animosity towards Moab and the dark humor this story was written with. In spite of all of that verse twenty-eight serves to remind the readers, many of which who would’ve laughed at the kale tribute, cheered at the dispatching of Eglon, and sneered with delight at the buffoonery of the Eglon’s servants needed to be reminded that the focus of this story, the reason it’s written is to show God’s salvation for Israel. God is the one who gets the glory. It is God who uses an assassin who used cunning and deceit to bring salvation to his people. God orchestrated the salvation of Israel one way with Othniel and another way with Ehud but the result was the same God used obedience to give his people rest. 

Shamgar the Unexpected

31 After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel.”
 
There’s not much here about the story or about Shamgar himself. It doesn’t follow the same pattern as Othniel or Ehud. We don’t know what Israel did, we don’t know the surrounding events about Israel’s need for deliverance. We’re just told that Shamgar was pretty adept with a farmer’s tool. Shamgar fought the philistines. We’re not told where but it was likely near one of the cities in the Philistine Pentapolis.
 
Shamgar isn’t a name of Jewish origin. It’s likely Hittite or Hunnite which leads us to one of two conclusions, either he was the product of intermarrying into the Israelites, which was common, or he was a Canaanite with no familial connection to the nation of Israel. Either way, God used an outsider to save Israel from the Philistines.
 
Shamgar is mentioned for his dispatching of 600 philistines with an oxgoad. An oxgoad is an eight to ten foot rod with a sharpened metal tip and a fishhook like metal instrument attached to it that was often serrated. A farmer would use it to poke an ox if he got lazy in the field. A judge would use it to stab and slash his way through 600 philistines.
 
This is the pattern of God. It’s the same God who chose a reluctant prophet to go to Ninevah. It’s the same God who chose tax collectors and fishermen to be the initial heralds of the Gospel. It’s the same God who took a murdering Pharisee and made him chief preacher to the Gentiles. God is and always has been in the business of taking imperfect and broken men and using them for his glory.

Jesus the Only Way

The book of Judges has quite a few judges and they serve to prefigure Christ. They are like fuzzy shadows of what is to come. We’re not sure what to make of them all the time but theologically, they begin to signal the coming of a final and perfect judge who would come from ordinary backgrounds to save his people and to finally give them rest.
 
 “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:1-4
 
Look at the description of Jesus, he wasn’t a man that caught anyone’s eye. Not a man that anyone would expect anything from. We know he was the son of a carpenter. What kind of Savior would that make anyway? The text says Jesus was rejected not accepted, he was spurned and not loved. In many ways, he’s the anti-judge. Where Israel had histories of great leaders, charismatic warriors, God sends Jesus and he is humble in spirit, stature, and appearance. 
 
“5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 5:5
 
It was Jesus who was crushed. Jesus didn’t start his ministry by riding into the temple courts on a white horse slaying all the Pharisees. The streets didn’t run red with the blood of his enemies. Instead Scripture says he was crushed for our sins, it was his blood that ran red for our iniquities. He was crushed by his enemies for his enemies that his enemies might know peace.
 
The biggest failure of the each judge is that each one of died. Othniel died, Ehud died, and the same with Shamgar. Revelation 1:18 Jesus says this, “…I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Where all the judges were unable to secure lasting peace and lasting salvation, Jesus outshines them all. He physically died and physically rose from the dead which means that what he accomplished can’t be taken away. He has the keys of Death and of Hell. The work he does to save you means you’re his forever. He doesn’t relinquish the keys to you or leave your salvation in your hands. This is the good news, our salvation no longer rests in the hands of men or in our own hands it rests in the one who died and rose again and in that we can finally have rest from striving to be more moral, to be good enough, to be acceptable to God and accept the salvation from Jesus the only way, the one who was crushed, and the one who rose again. 

 God has always saved in unexpected ways, first with the Judges and eventually, finally, fully, and perfectly in Jesus Christ.



Judges 2:6-3:6 | Week 2 | Amnesia and Apostasy

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Judges 1-2:5 | Week 1 | Finish the Job

The Lists in our Lives
 

You have a list. Everyone has a list. Maybe it’s a “honey-do” list or a list of assignments from Professor No-Fun or a list of New Year’s Resolutions you’ve just barely started or you’re almost done abandoning. Either way, you have a list.

This list, in some sense, guides your day to day life. You know, too, that if the list isn’t completed in the manner expected, credit won’t be given and you’ll suffer the exasperated sigh and gaze of a disappointed spouse, a lower grade on your assignments, the loss of a job promotion, or any number of other things. 

We know this truth intrinsically:

Incomplete Obedience Has Consequences

 
You Had One Job
 
 
The Israelites had left Egypt. They had wandered in the dessert while an unbelieving generation died off. They stood on the dry river bed of the Jordan River as the Lord held back the rushing torrent. They fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came a tumblin’ down. They continued the conquest of the promised land.
 
Their one job? Destroy the Canaanite presence in the promised land. Down to the last living thing. (Dt. 20:16-28)
 
Under Joshua, they secure a large portion of the promised land but fail to conquer the land and the people completely. Joshua, nearing the end of his life, understanding that finishing the job will fall to the next generation offers this charge to the people of Israel:
 
“14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:14-15
The people reply enthusiastically:
 
“16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Joshua 24:16-18
 
This is good news. In fact, for a man facing his own mortality, wondering what his legacy will be, wondering if the stubborn, stiff-necked people will devote themselves to the Lord — their declaration is great news. It is a promise that can comfort an old man about an unknown future.
 
This is where the book of Judges really begins: with the good news of Chapter 24. Judges is a sequel of sorts to the book of Joshua. As readers, we’re meant to enter the first words of Judges with a cautious optimism.
 
The Book of Judges
 
Date: 1051 b.c. The book covers from 1375-1070 b.c.
 
Author: Samuel. We get this from rabbinic tradition as there is no attributed author within the book itself.
 
Title: The title “Judges” is from the latin translation of the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for “judge” denotes not only a position of legal decision making but also of leading deliverance against foes. A good way to think of the judges of this time, then, might be to think of them more like charismatic MMA fighters than our modern day judges. These men (and Deborah) were leaders of the tribe responsible for far more than just making legal decisions but also for the very leadership and protection of their tribes. 
 
Purpose: To show God as the ultimate judge and the ultimate source of salvation.
 
This book, with all of its intrigue, violence, and troubling descent into madness, is really a story about God. He’s the main character. It’s the Lord who appoints judges. It’s the Lord who empowers judges. It’s the Lord who hands over Israel to the canaanites. It’s the Lord who hears the cries of his people. And it’s the Lord who delivers his people. He is the preeminent character in this book.
 
Message: No matter how extreme the rebellion, God is able to save. 
 
The book of Judges, if you haven’t read it is riveting. It reads like a Hollywood blockbuster. If you got the team that made “God’s Not Dead” and “Fireproof” in a room with Quentin Tarantino and asked them to make a movie about God from this time period — you’d end up with the book of Judges. Things get dark, things get extreme but no matter how dark the cloud, God is always present, always working, always aiming at saving his people. 
 
Incomplete Obedience Has Consequences (Judges 1-2:5)
 
Remember, this book has us starting with a sense of cautious optimism from the Israelites declaration that they’ll serve their Lord. That they’ll finish the job of taking the promised land fully and completely. Chapter 1 is divided into two geographically distinct stories. Verses 1-26 are the accounting of the efforts by Judah and Simeon and others to take the southern portion of the land. Verses 27-36 give the accounting of the efforts of the tribes to take the northern portion of the land. This chapter begins to set the stage and the context for the descent into madness.
 
Judges 1:1-2: “After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” 2 The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.”(emphasis mine)
 
Everything starts off the way it should. The people, now without a leader, turn to the Lord, their God for direction. They’re eager to finish the job and they know the only way it’s happening is by the power of the Lord. This is good. It shows an early understanding of God’s hand, his control, and his power. It shows an early understanding of their own inability, their own lacking, their own shortcomings. This is really good.
 
Judges 1:3: “3 And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him.” (emphasis mine)
 
It seems small but this turning to Simeon to ask for help is the beginning of the fracturing obedience and faithfulness of Israel. This small act communicated to God that his word was not enough. That, in fact, when God told Judah get fighting and God would deliver, Judah didn’t believe it was possible. The Canaanites were big, after all. Their cities had big, thick walls with strong iron gates. Their warriors had strong iron swords, shields, and chariots. Judah needed help. Judah needed back-up. Judah’s appeal for help was Judah correcting God on what it would take to accomplish the goal of taking the land. There would be consequences for this first act of obedience that would filter to the other tribes of Israel.
 
Consequence #1: The Southern Conquest is Stopped Cold (vv. 18-19)
 
Judges 1:19-20: “18 Judah also captured Gaza with its territory, and Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. 19 And the Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.”
 
All of this land is to the west and south of Jerusalem (Check this Map).Judah is heading through the mountains and down into the plains toward the Mediterranean Sea. Verse 19 tells us that the Judah was able to take possession of the hill country but when it came to the cities on the plains (Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gaza) he could not drive them out because of their chariots. 
 
This is exactly why he had brought Simeon along. He knew that’s what would happen. How could God send them on this mission? How could God be so short-sighted? Why would God not allow his children to drive out the wicked Canaanites? If God is so good, so smart, and so wise — wouldn’t he have known they had chariots?
 
Reading verse 2 again reminds us of God’s command to the Israelites and specifically to Judah. Judah alone was to go, Judah alone was to fight, and the land would be delivered, chariots or no chariots, to Judah alone. It was his inheritance. It’s a poignant reminder that what God calls us to do, God equips to do. Our job is to act in faith and take the next step.
 
Consequence #2: Their Compromise Created More Canaanites (vv. 22-26)
Judges 1:22-26 “22 The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the Lord was with them.23 And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) 24 And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.”25 And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. 26 And the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day.
 
The tribe of Joseph is now in focus as they attempt to take their inheritance, the land from the Canaanites. Here arrives a story of intrigue. The forces of the tribe of Joseph arrive at Bethel and devise a way in by using a man from the city to sneak them in. They promise the man, this Canaanite, that if he would betray his city and let them in, he won’t be killed. Weighing his options, the man sneaks them in and the Israelites put the sword to the town. They keep their promise and the man is set free. 
 
On the face of it, this seems like a savvy and smart way to conquer the city of Bethel with minimal loss of life for the Israelites. All it cost them was the lives of one man. Sure their job was to kill every man woman and child in the land but certainly, God would understand if one man was spared. I mean, we TOOK THE CITY. Bethel is now Israelite territory.
 
It’s that last line in verse twenty six, though. This man they spared apparently had a city planning degree and a prolific ability to recruit and reproduce because he started a new city. The Israelites compromise actually created an opportunity for another Canaanite city to grow up. Their compromise of faith created more canaanites. It made the problem harder. 
 
Consequence #3: The Canaanites Remained in the Land (vv. 27-36)
Judges 1:27-36: “
27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28 When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor.

31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, 32 so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.

33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them.

34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. 35 The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. 36 And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.”
 
Seven times the author uses the phrase “did not drive out.” Seven times the author notes the decision of the Israelites to leave the Canaanites in the land. Seven times the author uses the word “did not” instead of “could not.” This is the most damning aspect of this account: that in multiple verses, the Israelites choose to keep the Canaanites as slaves, as subjects, as water fetchers, gardeners, and the like. The text notes the Canaanite presence isn’t because of the Israelites couldn’t push them out but that the tribes made a choice to disobey God’s command and keep the Canaanites around. 
 
And so the Canaanites with all their pagan gods, attractive daughters, and strong sons would now stay in the land and inhabit the land God had given Israel. 
 
Consequence #4: The Lord Leaves the Canaanite’s as a Snare and Trap for Israel (vv. 2:1-5)
Judges 2:1-5 “Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” As soon as the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the Lord.”
 
Israel has forced God’s hand. They renewed their covenant to him at Shechem in Joshua 24. They promised to serve him and him alone. He promised to bless their obedience and curse their disobedience. God’s response is akin to “What have you done? Look at the position you’ve put me in! I have to keep my word.” And in an act of God’s faithfulness he tells them that he won’t remove the Canaanites but instead, because of their rebellion, they’ll live their lives fighting the Canaanites while pursuing the Canaanite idols. Their heads will desire freedom while their hearts long for enslavement. 
 
Finish the Job
 
In a lot of ways, this first chapter should come as a stark warning to us in the modern age with all its distractions, broken morals, and receding values. If we’re not careful and if we’re not diligent, Israel’s lot will be ours today. God did not abandon his children but he let his children have what they wanted. And in turning his children over to sin, they desired more and more. So much more that eventually, Israel ceased to look like Israel and resembled the Canaanites they were tasked to eliminate.
 
So, Christians, finish the job.
 
Do not give quarter to sin in your life. Do not allow attitudes to go unchecked. Do not allow sin to go addressed or unrepented. The Lord’s promise is the same as it always has been your obedience is blessed with more fruits of the spirit and more of the presence of God himself and your disobedience (incomplete or otherwise) will bring about the discipline of God in your life.
 
Obey and be blessed. Sin and be disciplined.


The Glory Of God In His Promise To Us

 


Ezekiel 36:36

Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.

Experience is constantly at war with intellect. Often what we believe to be true doesn’t line up with what we experience to be true. I don’t believe this means our experiences don’t matter or that they are our enemy, rather I believe this tension is meant to push us further into God and his promises.

One such answer can be found in Ezekiel 36:36 where we see the purpose of God in all he does, hopeful promises for our lives and the reason we have for confidence in God.

  • God is devoted to his glory

“Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord…”

God is first and foremost passionately devoted to his own glory. This verse begins with a declaration that whatever God has done, and whatever he is about to do, is going to serve the eternal purpose of validating his name to those watching; it is all about the elevation of our Lord.

To many this makes God out to be an egocentric maniac obsessed with using his power for his own good but nothing could be further from the truth for two reasons.

  1. There is nothing more perfect for God to be devoted to than his own glory.

We are called to seek the glory of God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). In fact if we seek to elevate anything, good, bad, or morally neutral, above the glory and supremacy of God we become idolaters. The same is true for God. For God to worship anything more supremely than he worships his own glory would cause God to break the second commandment.

  1. There is nothing that is better for us than for God to be devoted to his own glory.

This is where the supreme wisdom of God is revealed, because what we know from scripture is that the best possible thing God could do for us is to pursue his own glory. God’s pursuit of glory is never at the expense of doing good for others, in fact the best good God can do for us is to pursue that which is most noble, most worthy, most beautiful, and most holy.

God’s pursuit for his glory and the lifting high of his name overflows into eternal benefit for us. One example would be the cross of Jesus Christ, where God was given great glory (Ephesians 1:6-7) and yet it is also the cross where we find meaning, hope and new life. The cross is a beautiful example of the glory of God colliding violently with what is good for you and I, grace and mercy.

We can take great comfort in knowing that God is doing the most perfect thing he can, pursuing his glory, and this is not at the expense of our good but rather it is the precise thing that fuels what is good for us.

  • God is rebuilding the ruined places in our lives

“I have rebuilt the ruined places…”

Now that we have established God’s purpose in what he is going to do we see in the very next sentence in the verse that God is about rebuilding the ruined places.

A ruined place gives us the picture of something that once was built, something that once held strong and could be seen, yet through years of hardship and trial has been broken and destroyed.

I think of our trust. That once upon a time we perhaps were trusting, then relationship after relationship was damaged, person after person violated and betrayed us, and our trust in others has waned and run out. God promises that he is rebuilding the ruined place of our trust. He is rebuilding our trust by giving us himself, the always faithful, always trustworthy God.

I think of our holiness. Maybe once we were confident in how we pursued God, we were confident in our external actions and our battle against sins but slowly over time we gave into temptation and participated in the very things we used to judge so harshly. Yet now God is promising to rebuild the brokenness of our holiness, by being holy for us, then calling us to follow him in his holiness by the power of the Spirit.

What broken places do you have in your life? Where were you once strong that now you are weak? God is rebuilding the ruined places for the praise of his glory and the good of our souls.

  • God is replanting in the midst of desolation

“And replanted that which was desolate…”

If there are areas of our lives that are merely damaged and broken, they are nothing compared to the areas of our lives that are desolate. To be desolate means to be in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness. To have nothing to give, nothing to celebrate, to feel as though you are woefully wretched and inconsolable.

The picture of replanting is the idea that God is going to cause to grow that which was not there before.

You can’t cause growth in the midst of desolation…unless you are God. No one seeks to produce fruit and life and growth out of desolation, instead you find a new place to plant. But not our God, he walks right into the midst of the desolate areas of our life and proclaims, “I am planting here. I am causing growth here. I am bringing life here!”

The idea of desolation being made new offers us the greatest hope in the midst of our darkest despair.

  • God’s promises prove true because of his character

“I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”

Finally, we have confidence that God will indeed fulfill his promises because of who he is.

The character of God is the anchor for our hope in God accomplishing that which he has promised.

Perhaps you hear about broken places being made new and desolating bringing about life and you are already making excuses as to why this doesn’t apply to you or the brokenness in your life.

God disagrees. He bases his confidence in himself. He reminds us he is the Lord and there is no other (Isaiah 45:5), that when he speaks his creation responds (Psalm 29:9), and that he will do all that he has promised (Deuteronomy 7:9).

We need no further guarantee than the very nature of God, for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13) and seeking his glory and bringing life from desolation are a part of his very nature. God’s promises are always based upon his character.

Who God is, gives us hope about what God will do.

Let us together lean in to the promises of God full of hope that he will be found faithful because of who he is.

 -Mark Resch
Youth Pastor
 
 


CATG Reading List

 

Some of us love to read. Others not so much. I would suggest to you that the key to reading is finding the right book.

We have been receiving a few questions over the last couple months regarding books to read that would be beneficial to the soul. As an avid reader myself this is the kind of question I dream about, there are few things I enjoy as much as making book recommendations. I would also say, there are few things I have done that have been as beneficial to my spiritual growth as reading good books.

So with that said, I wanted to provide anyone interested with a few places to start if you are looking to read. The way this guide will work is very simple: I have divided the book recommendations into levels depending on where you are at or what you want to tackle. Maybe you have a long weekend coming up and you want something small to finish, great! Perhaps you are looking to stretch your brain over the entirety of the summer and want something that will leave a mark…even better.

Throughout the guide I have also bolded the books that have been most influential in my life. This may be a great place to start (or a great place to avoid depending on what you think of my life).
 

Level 1: “I don’t hardly ever read…but I am thinking I want to start.”

The Prodigal God – Timothy Keller

This short and easy to read book by Keller brings to life the Parable of the Prodigal Son. You will be amazed at the depth of the gospel portrayed in the parable, wonderfully brought out and explained by Keller.

Spectacular Sins – John Piper

It might only be 100 pages in length, but it is said that dynamite comes in small packages. The length is a good thing because you will probably end up reading this guy twice in order to fully understand it as John Piper biblically works through the problem of intentional human sin and the sovereignty of God. One of the richest 100 pages ever written.

The Mingling of Souls – Matt Chandler

In both a humorous and modern fashion, Matt Chandler expounds the book of Song of Solomon in this book on relationships. He covers the whole scope of relationships, attraction, dating, marriage, sex, even growing old together, making this book accessible to people in all walks of relationship, from young and single to married for decades.

Tactics – Greg Koukl

Koukl introduces Christians to practical ways to defend and talk about their faith in everyday conversations. This book focuses on the methods of simple apologetics rather than the content. An extremely practical and simple guide to feeling confident about discussing your faith or any topic for the glory of God. A great way to equip yourself to engage in the battle.

Trusting God – Jerry Bridges

In Trusting God, Jerry Bridges accomplishes the impossible: he communicates the depth and beauty of the sovereignty of God over all things while at the same time gently applying it to the hurts of our lives. The single greatest Christian book I have ever read, whether you are in the midst of a trial or simply looking to strengthen your faith, I wish every Believer would read Trusting God.
 

Level 2: “I read regularly but don’t give me something I won’t be able to finish.”

 

Jesus the King – Tim Keller

What does the life and death of Jesus Christ mean for me? This is the question that Tim Keller seeks to answer as he walks us through the book of Mark.  Jesus the King reads more like a television series than a book of theology. Keller shows us how the story of Jesus is all at once cosmic, historical, and personal.

Desiring God – John Piper

John Piper’s most essential work is an in-depth and Biblical look at what it means to pursue joy in Christ. This is the work that introduces the heartbeat of Piper’s ministry, Christian Hedonism. In it, Piper argues from scripture that our pursuit of pleasure as Christians is not optional, it is essential.

Recovering Redemption – Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer

All of us have areas of our life we wish we could change, usually to no avail. In this book Chandler and Snetzer apply the gospel to how we change and more specifically how we grow as Christians. A great starting point for anyone interested in applying to the gospel to sanctification.

The Explicit Gospel – Matt Chandler

The gospel is the most important aspect of our faith and far too many Christians today have no idea what the gospel really is or how it radically changes everything about their life. In the clearest manner possible, Chandler not only unpacks the gospel from various perspectives, but applies it to our lives, and the redemption of all things. The gospel is both personal and cosmic.

The Case for Life – Scott Klusendorf

The issue of abortion is not one that Christians can be silent on. The genocide of our time must be named for what it is and attacked with gospel truth. As one of the leading voices of the pro-life movement Klusendorf combines good theology, scientific research, and strong apologetic arguments to the issue of abortion. A must read for Christians interested in being able to winsomely defend the rights of the unborn.

Counter Culture – David Platt

Poverty. Same-Sex Marriage. Racism. Sex Slavery. Immigration. Persecution. Abortion. Orphans. Pornography. These and more are the current cultural hot button issues that Platt covers in his book. Applying life experience and a biblical worldview to some of the most controversial issues of our day, this book is guaranteed to open your eyes to the brokenness of our world and offer practical suggestions for us as Christians to be counter cultural.

Jesus Outside the Lines – Scott Sauls

Ever frustrated about our current culture constantly taking sides on issues? Ever feel like Christianity is known more for its political stance, moral high ground or specific denomination than Jesus Christ? Scott Sauls unpacks what it means to truly follow Christ and how Jesus doesn’t take sides but rather creates an entirely new way to go about life. In a gentle and biblically faithful manner, Sauls shows us that Jesus may be just a touch more outside the lines than our culture gives him credit.

 

Level 3: “I may not be a NAVY Seal of reading…but I want to be. Whatever it takes, I want to dive in, do your worst.”

 

Reason for God – Timothy Keller

In his groundbreaking work, Keller mines the riches of literary history, philosophy, anthropology as well as biblical theology to make an intellectual and meaningful case for God. Tackling many of the common objections to God and religion today, Keller gives us in depth answers and logical reason for belief during an unparalleled time of skepticism in our world.

Walking with God through Pain & Suffering –Timothy Keller

Why would God allow pain and suffering in this world? Keller takes on this age old question and seeks to show us the meaning and purpose behind pain and suffering, and even argues that it is an essential part of the human experience as well as our Christian growth. Suffering can only truly be understood in the context of who God is and what his purposes are for the world and our lives. The most complete, in depth look at suffering I have ever read.

The Pleasures of God – John Piper

When it comes to understanding the nature of God we are already in over our head. No other book has so shaped my understanding of who God is and what that means for my life than The Pleasures of God
. Piper spends 300 pages unpacking the premise that God’s delight in being God is essential to who he is and how we follow him.

Expository Apologetics – Voddie Bauchaum

For those who feel as though apologetics is a constant circular argument with people who refuse to budge from their preconceived notions, Bauchaum offers us a new and fresh look at the idea of expository apologetics. Instead of seeking to answer philosophical, scientific or historical objections to the faith, Bauchaum shows us the role of God’s perfect Word in engaging with others about beliefs and objections.

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands – Paul Tripp

This book makes the 3rd tier of reading not because it is difficult to read, but by sheer length. Nearly 400 pages in length this book takes time but is worth the effort. Paul Tripp shows us from a biblical counseling perspective what it means to change in our own lives, and also how to walk others through change. An extremely practical book aimed at equipping Christians to minister God’s Word to one another, great for the Christian interested in learning how to meaningfully care for one another.

-Mark Resch

 



Should I care what other people think of me?

One of my favorite songs at the moment is sung by the up and coming music duo Twenty One Pilots

. In their song Stressed Out,

these words ring out.

“I was told when I was older all my fears would shrink.

But now I’m insecure and care what people think.”

I so appreciate the honesty of these lyrics. I firmly believe that it is a common human experience to be fearful of others opinion of us. Which begs the question,

as Christians should we care what other people think of us?

Should a Christian care what other people think of them? No.

First and foremost, for the Christian, our identity is found how Christ sees us. We clearly see this in the New Testament.

Galatians 4:7

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

 

If you follow Christ, you are no longer controlled by who you think you are, or who others think you are, you are set free to live the way Christ sees you, as a precious son or daughter of the One True King.

When looking for the next King of Israel, God reminded the prophet Samuel that “

The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

We see here a juxtaposition between God’s perspective and our own.

Mankind sees one thing, and often passes judgment based upon an outward appearance. But God is looking far deeper, into our hearts. It is what God sees upon looking into our hearts that matters far more than what our friends, co-workers, or even rivals see or think about us.

When we trust the security of our position before God, we are freed from the fear of how others see us.

In a time when there was much controversy swirling around which foods were acceptable to eat and which festivals ought to be honored, the Apostle Paul reminded the Believers at Colossae to

“Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” (Colossians 2:16).

So it seems that even within the house of God there is some freedom among Believers to approach things differently, without fear of judgment.

It is important to note that this passage does not say anything about morally right or wrong choices; it is not addressing sinful decisions, but rather morally neutral decisions.

There should be freedom among God’s people to have a glass of wine with dinner without fear of judgment. There is freedom to watch a movie that is not produced by a Christian company, there is freedom to dress differently and live differently, within the boundaries God has given us in scripture.

So in many ways, as Christians we have been set free from the fear of man, to fully focus on the fear of God, whose opinion of us matters.

This reality must also come with a caution, because as with nearly all things, there is a way to fool ourselves into abusing the way we should live as Christians.

 

Should a Christian care what other people think of them? Yes.

 

We can become so hardened to the opinions of others that we walk around in too much freedom and reject all people’s thoughts of us in a way that God never intended. I think of the tattoo made famous by late rapper Tupac Shakur that reads; “Only God Can Judge Me.”

This statement is perhaps true in some ways, but many of us can be guilty of living a life that never takes into account God’s judgment, and completely rejects anyone who disagrees with something in our life. An “us against the world” mentality was never intended to be a part of the Christian life.

When giving instructions for the qualifications for church leaders, Paul writes this:

“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” – 1 Timothy 3:7

So if one desires to lead other Christians, it seems that what other people think of you matters greatly. This verse specifically is talking about non-Christians. It goes so far as to say that not caring what those outside Christianity think of you is a sure way to fall into a snare of the devil. Others opinions of who we are, matter.

Jesus himself affirms this idea in

Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

It is expected of the Christian life to be lived in such a way that when people watch your life, they see God.

So what then is the balance? Do we care what other people think of us and fall prey to the insecurities and fears that are attached to that? Or do we reject all opinions of what people think of us; live how we want to live, and give no thought to what people think of who we are?

As so often is the answer in life, it lies in the middle.
 

To the extent that our actions affirm or undermine our Christian testimony we should care what others think of us.

 

When we are seeking to live well and consider others opinions of us, there are two simple questions to ask.

    1. Does this undermine my Christian testimony?

Often when approaching a situation, we ought to stop and think about what someone who doesn’t follow Christ but knows we do, would think of our actions. Does going somewhere, watching something, participating in an event, undermine what my life should be about? If someone were to see me live this way, would it bring him or her closer to God? Or push them further away?

If our actions make it more difficult for someone to see God in our lives then wisdom would caution us to avoid that.

  2. Does this place a stumbling block in front of a brother or sister in Christ?

1 Corinthians 8:9

“Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”

Not only should we care what non-Christians think of us in regards to our Christian life, we should be extremely careful not to cause a brother or sister to stumble.

I remember one time when a friend of mine was struggling greatly with drunkenness. He decided to reach out to a pastor for help, the pastor not knowing the extent of the situation took my friend out for a beer to talk.

Now it should not be considered sinful to have a beer…but in this situation it became a major stumbling block in the life of another Christian, and instead of not caring what people thought about his getting a beer, this pastor ought to have been more careful about what impression he was giving with his morally neutral decision.

When it comes to what other people think of us,

God has called us to live in the freedom that identity in him provides, while at the same time carefully considering how our actions and choices affect those around us.

 

Learning to care more about God’s opinion than fearing the opinion of man is a battle all Christians will face throughout their life. In our fight against this fear, let us not overcorrect and forget to care about our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as our non-Christian neighbors who are watching our lives closer than we would ever imagine.
 
-Mark Resch


Suffering & The Existence of God

Suffering & The Existence of God

Suffering of any sort is never a welcome component to our lives. Whether it be somewhat minor (an inopportune parking ticket) or something that feels overwhelming (a medical diagnosis) all suffering has the unique ability to cloud our understanding of both life and God. Few things cause us to question God’s care for us and perhaps even his presence in our lives like suffering does. And yet one of the beautiful sides of suffering is that all suffering reminds us that God exists.

 

Now this at first feels like an odd statement. In fact, many philosophers will argue the exact opposite, that human suffering is proof, or at the very least a convincing argument, for the absence of God. With so much injustice and suffering in our world, surely a loving God cannot exist.

 

Sadly this is often the approach many Christians have to suffering. Although we may not go so far as to renounce the existence of God, we become tempted to believe he is not present in our lives, that he is cold and distant, that he doesn’t care, even that he is uninvolved in the affairs of man.

 

But let us step back for a moment and think about suffering. What causes suffering? Suffering stems from the feeling that things are not how they ought to be. We know the things in our life are not adding up the way we think they should. We know intrinsically that cancer is abnormal. We know within ourselves that divorce and broken families should not be so. We know that the death of loved ones is not how things should be.

 

All suffering, shows us that the things in this world, the things in our lives, are not what they ought to be. Which leads us to the necessary confession thatthere must be a way things ought to be. And indeed there is.

 

Romans 8:20-23

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

 

Creation is groaning. It is not what it ought to be. We ourselves groan inwardly as we strive to live life in this broken, fallen, imperfect world. You see, the world is not how it is supposed to be. It is out of alignment. Which means, that at one time it was perfectly aligned with God.

 

Suffering does not disprove the existence of a loving God, in fact just the opposite. Suffering shows us that there is a God who knows best, who is loving and kind, and knows just the way things ought to be. Suffering reminds us that things are not what they should be. And suffering gives us the hope that one day things will be back to the way they ought to be.

 

Suffering shows us that the world is broken. The world can only be broken if there is a way for the world to also be whole. Atheism cannot provide this. What is suffering according to the atheist but simply back luck? There is no hope in suffering. In fact it seems unfair to call anything suffering if there is no God and no standard for what is good in life.

 

Only if there is a perfect God who sets the standard can there be suffering. Only if there is a way that things are supposed to work can we validate our suffering as wrong.

 

All this leads to hope. The hope is found in that one day all things will again be aligned with God. That one day all the crooked paths will be made straight, the valley’s made high and the mountains made low. Romans tells us there is freedom from this bondage. And one day, we will see a new heavens and a new earth, and the One seated on His throne will proclaim: “Behold I am making all things new.”

 

Suffering in this world is temporarily. And it is a painful, yet beautiful reminder that one day all will be made right and suffering will be swallowed up forever by our God.



“What I learned about marriage from middle schoolers”

Wednesday night is middle school night.

What that means is that Wednesdays at the church I find myself surrounded by 30+ middle school students who are all taking in unhealthy amounts of caffeine, sugar and junk food (I should probably start offering a salad bar instead of pizza, pop and candy). Week to week there is no telling what Wednesday will be like. Some weeks I feel like a zookeeper who accidentally left the displays open and is now trying desperately to chase down the freed animals. But other weeks, I find myself in over my head with the brutal honesty of the students as they share openly about their life.

Last night was the latter.

The topic this week was marriage. Why teach marriage to 12 year olds? Because more and more I am finding out that people are getting married only to realize no one has ever shared with them how God designed it to work. So we start young at 4:12. Middle schoolers and marriage.

Few topics I preach have a stronger impact than relationships, family, and marriage. Nothing cuts deeper to the heart of a middle school student than hearing what a marriage ought to be and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not his or her experience. The pain of hurting marriages is pervasive in our student ministry.

We broke up into small groups last night and I had a group of 6 middle school boys. We have 30 minutes for discussion and we barely got past the first question: “Where have you seen a poor example of marriage?”

I was stunned as one by one, 5 of the 6 boys shared devastating stories of their families, their parents, and what they have gone through. Few things are harder as a youth pastor than telling students that marriages are a gift from God; because they so desperately want to believe it, but their life experiences won’t allow them to.

We finished our time together by praying, I sat back and listened as each boy awkwardly stumbled through his words as these middle school students prayed for their own parents, and the parents of their friends.

Children praying for their parent’s marriages. So beautiful and so broken as the same time.

I see brokenness in the fact that parents ought to be leading the charge, setting the example, and discipling their children.

But I see beauty in how God redeems even the most difficult situations and is willing to use a 12 year old to glorify himself and set a Godly example.

I am not a parent, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on marriage either. In fact it is generally uncomfortable for me to give advice in these areas. But I am on the front lines of the lives of students, especially those students whose lives are being shaped by their parent’s marriage.

While concluding one of the most prominent New Testament passages on marriage, the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Marriage is a gift from God, meant to display the love Christ has for his people. Marriage is about the gospel. Yes it is a mystery, it is difficult, and it is confusing…but marriage should be gospel-centered. 

Your marriage should be teaching your kids the gospel.

Children are meant to see their parent’s marriage and see the love, forgiveness, and commitment that Jesus Christ has for us, his people.

Just as Christ loved, pursued, and cared for us in the midst of our rebellion and imperfection, so marriages ought to be centered on selfless love, continual pursuit, and constant care through trial, tribulation, sin and suffering.

Parents, you need not have a perfect marriage, but you must have a gospel-centered marriage. This is the greatest gift you can give your children.



When Pink Should Be Red

by Mark Resch

 

Proverbs 21:15

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

There is a story about an emperor who wanted a new set of clothes. So he sets out and hires the best tailors he can find in his kingdom. Yet sadly these tailors turn out to be crooks and instead of weaving new clothes they begin to spin a tale. They claim the clothes they have made for the emperor are invisible only to those who are stupid and incompetent. No one can see the clothes, yet no one is courageous enough to stand up and say something for fear they reveal that they are incompetent. The story ends with the emperor walking before his people with no clothing on, his people looking on, afraid to speak up until a small child declares what everyone knows to be true: the emperor is not wearing clothes.

Oh that a child would stand up and proclaim: Planned Parenthood is not wearing clothes.

 Today is Pink Out Day.

 What does that mean? Today Planet Parenthood is trying to “turn the world PINK” with trendy hash tags (#StandwithPP), pink facebook covers, and rallies nationwide. For what purpose? According to their event page, today is a day to “fight back after months of outrageous attacks on women’s health and rights”.

 But it doesn’t stop there, I will allow them to speak for themselves:

“Pink Out Day is our time to say: Listen to over a million Americans who are sick and tired of the relentless attacks on reproductive health care. Listen to the one in five American women who has received care at a Planned Parenthood health center. It will tell the anti-abortion extremists and politicians that we are everywhere and we will not let them use fraud and deception to shut down the health centers so many women rely on for care. It will be women and men nationwide standing together to say: We’re not backing down, not today, not ever.”

So today is their day. And they are calling their supporters to stand with them.

And we simply cannot be silent: because standing with Planned Parenthood is nothing less than standing against God. Truth is greater than political correctness…and the truth is that abortion is the murder of a precious unborn human life, and an abomination to God. Do not be fooled, God takes sides. And he does not stand with Planned Parenthood.

Despite their claims there is no fraud and deception being thrown at Planned Parenthood. They had damned themselves with their own words. This has been shown in graphic detail over the past few months:

http://www.centerformedicalprogress.org/cmp/investigative-footage/

 The Planned Parenthood issue is not about women’s health, they can use as much fraud and deception as they want and it will not be enough to overcome the truth: this is about the singular issue of abortion and PP is the largest abortion provider in America.

 Abortion. Is. Murder.

 PP and its supporters argue that abortion is complex, that it is about a host of other issues; when in fact it is about a single issue: the life of a child.

 This is not about women’s rights. I am pro women’s rights, and I believe women should have a choice in their career, political candidates, marriage, where they want to live…but I don’t believe any human being, male or female, should have the freedom to chose to end a life. The right to the freedom of choice will never be greater than the right to life.

 This is not about unwanted children being brought into the world…this is about unwanted children being taken out of the world. An unborn human being cannot be prevented from coming into the world, because an unborn baby is already in the world. An abortion does not prevent a child from entering the world; it removes a living child from the world.

 This is not about preventing a rape victim from having a child. It is unjust for an innocent child to be murdered for the wrongdoing of another. Rape does not justify murder. It would be unjust to allow the woman the murder the guilty rapist, why then do we advocate for her to murder the innocent child?

 The unborn is not a potential life, unborn babies are living. They have heartbeats, fingernails, and a soul. No one life is greater than another. You cannot argue that the mother’s life is more important than a potential life, simply because the science of embryology has proven that a fetus is not a potential life*, it is a life, a precious unborn human baby.

 Planned Parenthood represents what I believe to be the greatest evil in our country today: the complete acceptance and even celebration of the taking of innocent lives. There is no more innocent and precious life than that of a human baby, and we are celebrating pulling these human beings apart and selling them for profit.

 We cannot remain silent on this issue.

 Planned Parenthood believes they are standing against extremists, they believe they are standing against religious zealous, oppressors of women, republicans and politicians. But the truth of the matter is that Planned Parenthood is standing against God himself.

 Proverbs 24:11

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

God is not neutral on this topic. He cares deeply about innocent life. Each and every baby whose life is ended bears the image of God. The destruction of God’s image is a personal attack on the one true God. As Christ followers we have been called to rescue those being taken away to death.

Let us stand up against Planned Parenthood and their lies.

Let us stand up against the evil of abortion.

Let us pray for the repentance and salvation of our enemies. 

Today should not be about pink. Today should be about red. The color of innocent blood.

The emperor has no clothes.

Revelation 6:10

They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

 

* See Abortion by R.C. Sproul (Specifically chapter 4: When does life begin?) and The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf (Specifically chapter 2: What is the Unborn?) for an in depth study of the science of embryology showing that life begins at conception.