She, Being Dead, Still Speaks

While the language of Hebrews 11:4 was a reference to Abel (not Mabel), I’d like to appropriate and apply that phrase to a unique set of persons we read about in Matthew’s genealogy (Matt 1:1-17).

Matthew’s genealogy, unlike Luke’s, is typical of Jewish genealogies in most respects, as it proceeds from Abraham (no need to go back any further than that for his Jewish readership) to Matthew’s current day. On the other hand, it has at least one distinctive and unexpected characteristic; it includes references to five women. In our day, the reference to these women as important players God’s plan would not be surprising. In Matthew’s day, however, this would have been extraordinary.

These women are not included because of their flawless character. In fact, each of them might have had a bit of a “black eye” in her own day (deserved or not). Despite that, like the men in this genealogy, they are named because God used them to bring the Messiah into the world. Not only that, however, He continues to use them even today to show us something about Himself. What can we learn about God from these women?

Tamar (Gen 38:6-30): God keeps his promises even when others don’t. Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, left childless due to the wickedness of two of Judah’s sons (and Judah’s own breach of promise) resorted to trickery to provide for her future security. Though God would not condone her actions in that case, He does use her to accomplish his plan. Application: God can and will use us too, despite what others may have done (or not done).

Rahab (Josh 2:1-21):  God’s forgiveness opens up possibilities for our future. Rahab is described as a “prostitute” (cf. James 2:25) at the time she hid the spies before the Israelites took possession of the land of Canaan. Yet her faith is commended in that moment and she becomes a part of the lineage of Christ. Application: Regardless of the mistakes of our past, it is never too late to act in faith and be used by God for His glory.

Ruth (Ruth 1-4): God notices faithfulness regardless of background. Like Rahab, Ruth is not an Israelite, though her mother-in-law (Naomi) is. Like the other women we have considered so far, she has not had the best fortune when we meet her. However, her loyalty to Naomi and her discretion even in difficult circumstances are pleasing to God, and Ruth, a widowed Moabite woman, finds a place in the lineage of Jesus as the wife of Boaz, a faithful Israelite. Application: Your ethnicity and socio-economic status do not matter to God. He can use you regardless of where you come from.

Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:1-12:24): God won’t tolerate sin, but He doesn’t hold a grudge. Bathsheba was King David’s partner in adultery (we do not know for sure about her willingness, but it doesn’t look good). She lost the child from that illicit relationship, but after her husband’s death, when she became David’s wife, she bore the heir to the throne, Solomon. Application: There are no “second-class” Christians. When we repent and follow Him the guilt of sin is forgotten.

Mary (Luke 1:26-56): God asks us to do things that don’t make sense to the world. When the angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would soon bear a child, she was unmarried. What God had chosen her to do put her at risk of death if Joseph doesn’t marry her immediately (pregnancy outside marriage looks a lot like fornication, right?) and causes her to accept a life of shame (cf. John 8:41). Yet her submission to God’s will resulted in the accomplishment of God’s mission. Application: God still asks us to do things that don’t make sense from the world’s perspective. When we submit to Him, He can work powerfully in our lives too.

These five women still speak to us—not so much about their own faithfulness but about the faithfulness of God. Will our genealogy say the same?

Photo by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash

The “New Name” of Revelation 3:12?

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12 ESV).

The book of Revelation is filled with terminology and images borrowed from the OT. Isaiah had prophesied that the people of God would be called by “a new name” (Isa. 62:2; 65:15). In the NT the name exalted above all others is that of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:9-11), through whom salvation is granted (Acts 4:12) and the identifying moniker of the new-covenant people of God (Acts 11:26; Jas. 2:7).

In Revelation 3:12, a message to the first-century church in the Asian city of Philadelphia, Christians are being encouraged to persevere and to overcome the challenges they are facing in order to be established in God’s “temple” (= the church, 1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Tim. 3:15), wearing God’s name (1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Tim. 2:19; Rev. 14:1) and the name of God’s city (= the church, Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 21:2-3; 22:14) and “my new name” (Jesus Christ) – a threefold emphasis identifying and confirming to whom the Lord’s faithful ones belong.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

He Really Does Care

Happy New Year!  That’s a nice thought.  Hopefully 2022 will be a happy year.  Most likely it will have its share of good times and hurting times.  Maybe this poem will help when the hurts come.

When a child is hurt, most grownups are too,
It hurts most of us when they are blue.
We seem to have a special place deep down inside
That really goes out to them when they’ve been hurt and cried.
God is our Father through thin and through thick
But sometimes we wonder if he cares when we’re sick.
Sometimes we wonder if he’s even aware
That our life has become burdened with this huge load of care.
We pray and we pray and we believe that he hears
And then we say, “Father, don’t you see all my tears?
Why do I deserve to suffer like this?
Haven’t I been good?  Don’t I deserve bliss?”
Yes, God knows what happens to us every single day,
But beyond knowing he loves us in an unfathomable way.
For us, his children, he wants only good,
But lives don’t always go as he wishes they would.
Life will definitely bring you good times and bad,
When you are hurting your Father is sad.
Don’t look for answers that aren’t there to be found,
Trust God completely, you’ll be safe and be sound.

Photo by Bianca Berndt on Unsplash

On Things Above

According to a July 2021 article in the Orlando Sentinel, the average attention span for a human being is now eight seconds. Interestingly, this total is down from a twelve-second daily attention span in the year 2000. If this calculation is accurate then in the minute-and-a-half that it might take to read this article, our attention will be diverted away a minimum of eleven times! Why is this? I suppose some would blame our current climate: its smartphones, the 24-hour news cycle, social media, or politics. While there are certainly many things that distract us, I believe the number one reason that it is hard to stay focused sometimes is that we are human.

Frequently in Scripture readers are called to focus or pay attention to the things that are most important. God’s Word repeats divine instruction and recalls teachings that have already been delivered because the reality is that people often pull their focus away from the things that matter the most. It is because of this reality, and the fact that since the beginning of the pandemic early in 2020 there has been a lot of things vying for our attention, that the Estes elders have determined that our congregational theme for 2022 will be “On Things Above.” This phrase comes from Colossians 3:1-2 where the apostle Paul by inspiration wrote, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

While “the things on earth” must be noted and dealt with, it is the things above that are to be primary focus of God’s people. In the context of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae, those Christians were dealing with all sorts of distractions, including the ungodly works (Col. 3:5-7) and words (Col. 3:8-9) that defined earthly things. Paul did not encourage these readers to give up on being godly or to completely disengage from their daily engagements, but instead he challenged them to change their focus. Look to the things of God, not worldly things that are just temporary and terrible.

God’s Word is still as relevant now as it has ever been (Heb. 4:12). As we begin a new year, may we strive to focus on things above. May we desire to be a people who do not dwell on the things of earth. May our attitudes and actions reflect eternal perspectives. May we set our attention spans, however short they may be, on spiritual things that always return to the Word of God for a centering in the things that matter the most. May we strive to build up others within the body of Christ, while also sharing the good news of Jesus with as many people as possible. Father, help us to focus on things above.

A message from the Estes Elders

Dear church family,

Over the past month as we have been transitioning back into meeting at the building, we have heard from many of you about concerns related to the use, or lack of use, of face masks or coverings in our worship assembly. Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns to us. We appreciate all the input we have received. The elders have prayerfully considered how we should respond to a situation in which there are many different strong opinions and feelings.

While we recognize that there is still much that we do not know about COVID-19, the elders have looked at mountains of data from medical professionals about things to do to slow or prevent spreading the virus. With cases on the rise again nationally, as well as in West Tennessee, it is especially important to do what we can to limit this viral spread. After careful consideration, we have concluded that we have much to gain, and little to lose, by continuing to abide by “best-practice” guidelines for our assembly together. These practices include maintaining 6-feet social distancing, limiting the size of crowds, using hand sanitizer, washing our hands thoroughly and frequently, avoiding congregating in small areas, and wearing a face mask or other facial covering.

Therefore, in the interest of looking out for each other, the Estes elders are requesting that everyone – if they are physically able – wear masks from the time we enter the building until we are away from the crowd. Of course, masks or face coverings will be removed for a short time while participating in the Lord’s supper, but we also request face coverings be used during singing.

If you are unable to wear a face covering, we do not expect you to be miserable or put yourself in any danger, or feel that you are not welcome. But if you are physically able, we ask you to submit to this decision, whatever your preference might be. We realize some members disagree with this, but we ask that you submit to our decision in this matter. We strongly believe it is in everyone’s best interest, physically and spiritually. We do not think this is too big a request or too hard a thing to do. If we, who are able, all wear masks and follow the other guidelines, we should cut the risk of spreading the virus by a substantial degree.

While the elders are concerned for the physical wellbeing of the body, our greater responsibility is for the spiritual wellbeing of the flock.

Shortly after the quarantine was proclaimed, we moved to an online-only service, which seemed the best short-term option to prevent widespread disease. The problem: this eliminated personal interaction and fellowship. The lessons and sermons that were so ably given helped, but we are a social people, and we need time together. Proverbs 27:17 states that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” and though this can be accomplished to some extent even while we are physically apart, God meant for the church to be together.

However, if a significant percentage of our members is not abiding by these guidelines, this prohibits some in our church family from being able to attend services. Some members are in a more physically vulnerable condition than others. While we understand the wearing of face coverings and maintaining social distancing cannot entirely protect someone from catching the virus, these measures do help; and if our wearing masks and maintaining social distancing can help others to be back at Estes with the church body, we should all do that, if we are able.

In numerous passages in the Bible, our relationship with each other, and our dealings with each other, are addressed as vital parts of Christian fellowship. In Romans 12:4 and following, Paul writes that “as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” We belong to one another. Paul uses very similar language in 1 Corinthians 12, where he writes that “the body does not consist of one member but of many.” Just as in the human body, where the foot needs the hand, and where the eye needs the ear, in order to be complete and to function as it should, so in the church, we need each other to function in the way that God intends for us to live. This means that we give special consideration to others and their needs. This is the example that Jesus set for us. Philippians 2 reminds us how Jesus, in humility, counted others (us – and our needs) more significant than his own needs.  Paul in this chapter urges us to do the same in our treatment of each other: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:4). With these mandates from scripture and the example of the Sacrifice that allows eternal life, our walk as Christians is first of all to be an imitation of Christ’s love for us. We show our love by considering our brothers’ and sisters’ needs in this regard, even if that sometimes impinges upon our own preferences.

Finally, let us avoid resentful judgments of one another (Romans 14:1-13). “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (vv. 7-8).

If you would like to discuss this with any of us, we welcome your calls or emails. It is our prayer that we all will continue, with humility and gentleness, with patience, to bear with one another in love, eagerly maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3).

The Estes Elders

Estes Echo


Estes Echo


Estes Echo


Estes Echo


Estes Echo