From the Pastor

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Following Jesus Together This Week | El Roi

Do you know El Roi, the God who sees? God’s name, El Roi, comes from Hagar’s experience in Genesis 16. If you’ve never read it, I’d encourage you to read through the account.

              Put yourself in Hagar’s shoes. She’s been harmed and sinned against. Abraham and Sarai chose to use their Egyptian slave to get an heir. Listen to the very specific parallels with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:
             

                            And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, Sarai, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant and gave her to Abram as a wife.

                          

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

And to Adam the Lord God said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

Abram and Sarai have chosen their wisdom over God’s wisdom, by taking Hagar, the forbidden fruit. Hagar becomes pregnant. And the result is Sarai being shamed and looked down upon by Hagar.

A good gospel question to ask: what have you longed for so deeply that you were willing to forsake God’s wisdom to take what you want? It’s something you wanted so badly, that you hurt people in the process. The result left you feeling humiliated and full of regret? And to make matters worse, the regret led to unjust anger and irritation with others. Sound human, east of Eden?

Well, Hagar is exiled by Sarai. It’s not too hard to imagine what it is like to be Hagar in the wilderness. She’s been sinned against, suffering a deep injustice. She has also not responded well, having treated Sarai with contempt. This is the aftermath of conflict. Separated parties. Bleeding hearts. Hagar is stuck in the heat of the wilderness, alone and pregnant, trapped by the sin of others. She’s either going to die in the desert or be taken in by some unknown man who may find her at the spring. It is dark place to be.

Rather than an unknown man rescuing her, the angel of the Lord finds Hagar by a spring in the wilderness. This is God’s kindness to an Egyptian servant! What happens next? The angel of the Lord declares that she will have a son, Ishmael. She will have a multitude of offspring. She is given an Eden like blessing!

That is the story of El Roi, the God who sees me. For Hagar says, “Truly, I have seen here, the God who looks after me.”

Take some time this week to meditate on the God who sees and looks after me. For we Christians can say the same thing as Hagar, as those sinned against, as those who have sinned against others, “Truly I have seen here, the God who looks after me.” Where have I seen this God?


Hanging from a tree, crucified in love for you. (See Galatians 3:1) And as Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water,” referring to the Holy Spirit’s presence with you. You are not alone in the wilderness of sin and suffering. He brings the springs of the water of life to you. For God sees you wherever you go! For as the Psalmist prayed, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Your thoughts of me are more than the grains of the sand!” (Psalm 139)

This is a great passage of hope for those who have been sinned against. Who is God calling you to see and pay attention to?

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Following Jesus Together - October 27, 2021

Dear Friends,

What would it look like for you to believe that you are justified by faith in Jesus? How would it change your life to live as if God has fully accepted you as if you had lived the life Jesus lived and died the death Jesus died? As the writer to the Hebrews says, “By a single offering (Jesus’ death on the cross) He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” 

Listen to Hebrews 10:14 again, from the New Living Translation: “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”

Jesus’ death has us declared perfect. We aren’t actually perfect. No Christian is on this side of heaven. But we are being changed. We are being made holy. We are in process of becoming what God has already declared us to be in Christ.

What would it look like to believe that? 

1 – I’m set free to fail – Consider this wisdom from Richard Lovelace (seminary professor and author). See where you find yourself in his description:

“Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many have so light an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin that consciously they see little need for justification, although below the surface of their lives they are deeply guilt-ridden and insecure. Many others have a theological commitment to [the doctrine of justification], but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance, or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few know how to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Martin Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.”

Many of us know what it feels like to rely on our sanctification [our current success at keeping Jesus’ commands] in order to feel justified, like my goodness gets me on God’s good side. Internally, we are set up to live every day on shifting sand. If I do well, I’ve got something to boast about. If I’m not doing well, then I’ve got that fear that God’s going to punish me, like I’m always in trouble. 

 Justification by faith in Christ alone – sets me free to start each day, knowing I am accepted by God in Christ, whether I succeed or fail in the coming hours. We can get off the performance treadmill. Jesus’ performance was perfect for you. 

2 – Start Boasting about Grace
Pay attention to the places you work hard to justify yourself, where you pride yourself. Where do you boast? Every day we are looking for ways to feel that I’m ok. And often that leads to me feeling much more ok than those around me. 

I’m ok and more ok that that other person because I don’t __________________.

Parenting Okness – I’m a good parent because my kid doesn’t play video games, never eats sugar and is not a bully.  This sets me up to get my sense of Okness from how well my children are doing.

Political Okness – A big one these days. I’m ok because I’m accepted by those who agree with me politically. I can boast about who I voted for. Those who voted differently. They are NOT ok. 

I picked only two things, but the options are limitless. Because we are always looking to justify ourselves by what we do. It’s the default mode of every human heart. 

But God, in the only courtroom that matters, you are justified by faith in Christ only. It’s a gift of grace, not of works, so that no one may boast! When we stop boasting in our performance, and stop obsessing about our okness, we are set free to love those who are not ok. Which according to Paul in Romans 3 is every human being. Even me.

Two Prayer Items:
1 – Stan Trestick will be having surgery at the end of the week. Pray for his recovery and peace during the process.

2 – Pat Turner requested prayer for a family friend, Jeff Elison. At only 45, this self-employed husband and father of 3, suffered a heart attack. He’s looking at a long recovery. There’s a lot of turmoil and anxiety about the  future. 

Sunday School – 9:00am – Join us as we meditate on Jesus’s commands to abide in the vine from John 15:1-17.

Worship – 10:15am – Genesis 2:1-3 – “God Rested”

              We are finishing up the first account of creation, looking at the 7th day, when God rested. I know I’ve read Genesis 2:1-3 several times. God rested. My initial response is, “Ok, What’s the big deal?” 

Start here: How is your relationship with your work? Do you know how to stop? To really stop. To turn off your brain. To rest. The stereotype is that we work really hard to get that boat that we never have time to enjoy. 

See the good news of God’s rest yet? Right in the beginning, written to the recently freed slaves of Israel, God is declaring that human beings are more than their work. We live in God’s world, where He provides in such a way that we are set free to rest. And if we are made in His image, we are to rule like He rules. And we ought not to expect others to work 24-7. We can give the cattle, the fields, the computer, the email, the hustle a rest. Because God rested. 

There’s more. So I will see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Nate Thompson
www.hopechurch.us

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