JUNE 14, 2023

Dear Friends,

Some of you have asked about our recent trip to Israel. There were 32 of us who traveled together for seven days seeing amazing sites and thinking together about the events that happened thousands of years ago in the exact spots where we were standing. As I’ve told people many times, visiting Israel changes how you read your Bible. When you’ve been on a boat on the Sea of Galilee and stood along the banks of the Jordan River and climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel and been at the edge of the Mt. of Precipice and actually prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, these places take on new meaning for you.

One of the places we visited on this trip was Caesarea Philippi, 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee at the foot of Mt. Hermon. It is the site where one of the largest springs of water flows, feeding into the Jordan River. At one time, the springs gushed forth from the mouth of a cave in the side of a cliff. The ancient Canaanites believed that Baal lived in the cave, and called the opening “the gates of hell.”

This is what the cave opening looks like today.

But centuries ago, there were temples standing on either side of the cave.

In the time of Alexander the Great, some 300 years before Jesus was born, the Greeks who invaded Israel declared that the area was “Pan’s Place,” becuae of its lush vegetation and flowing streams. They built a temple and set apart the location as a place to worship the pagan god Pan, the god of shepherds, flocks and nature.

Three hundred years later, King Agrippa, one of the sons of Herod the Great, built a second temple on the site. This one was for the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. For a Jewish king to build a temple to a Roman emperor, a man who claimed to be a god, was blasphemous. But Agrippa was a pragmatist. He didn’t let his ancestral religion interfere with his political ambitions. Paying tribute to the emperor was a way to curry favor.

It was here that Jesus had the exchange with his disciples that we find in Matthew 16. With that backdrop, as they looked at the temples built on either side of the hillside cave, temples declaring that Caesar is a god or that Pan is a god, Jesus asked his disciples this question: “Who do men say I am?” They responded with the latest polling data they had. “Some say you are John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

The follow up question was pointed. “Who do you say I am?” he asked. Peter famously declared “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus pointed out the origin of Peter’s insight. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,” He said, “but my Father who is in heaven.”

And then, standing in front of the stream flowing out of the side of the cliff, with pagan temples on either side, Jesus said “Upon this rock (the firm foundation of the confession Peter has just made about the nature of Jesus) I will build my church. And the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

As we stood in that place in Israel, examining the ruins of the pagan temples built more than 2000 years ago, It was clear that what had once been a center of spiritual practice in the ancient world no longer stands.

Meanwhile, we stood there as living stones who have been built up by Christ into a living house, a spiritual temple, anchored on the rock of Christ, God’s anointed Son.

The scenery in that place made the point even clearer for us. Spiritual kingdoms will rise and fall throughout human history. They will all crumble over time. Or they will collapse in an instant on the Day of the Lord when He comes again in judgment.

Caesarea Philippi gives us a vivid picture of that reality. The living temple of God stands tall today in the lives of all who confess, as Peter did, the Lordship of King Jesus. Whatever obstacles the church may face today or in the days to come, it will not buckle as long as the living stones hold true to that glorious confession.

May each of us remain steadfast as living stones in the spiritual house of our God.

If you are a member at Redeemer, we need your help.

The elders have met twice now in recent weeks with Chase Melton to discuss bringing him on as part of our leadership in the role of a deacon. We believe Chase meets the biblical qualifications to serve in this role. He has the desire to serve. And we have observed God confirming this calling in his life.

In accordance with our bylaws, we are intending to install Chase in this role on Sunday morning, June 25. If there is any reason you believe Chase should not be installed as a deacon, we would ask that you address your questions or concerns to him first and then to any of the elders. If there are no concerns, we will move forward with our plans to add him to our deacon board.

We are grateful for Chase (and Kinsey) and for his willingness to serve our church in this way. Please be praying for the Meltons and for God’s hand to continue to be on this nomination process.

As we shared on Sunday, next Wednesday night, June 21, we’ll be hosting an intimate evening with Grammy and Dove Award singer/songwriter Bruce Carroll. Bruce is best known for songs like Who Will Be Jesus, Sometimes Miracles Hide, The Great Exchange, Walk On and many more.
Bruce will be joined by a friend, Nick Twomey from a ministry called Biglife. He’ll be sharing about what Biglife is all about and about their current project where they are rescuing believers in Afghanistan. They have helped hundreds escape the Taliban, but are continuing to work to get hundreds more out of the country.

You can learn more about what Biglife is doing in Afghanistan by watching thisrecent interview with their President, John Heerema.

The concert with Bruce Carroll is free, and while the goal is to share about the work Biglife is doing, there’s no requirement that anyone support the ministry. It will be a great evening of music and fun. We’ll have coffee and desserts for everyone. We’re planning to crowd into the Living Room at church unless we can’t make room everyone who wants to come.

Check out this post on our Facebook page and help us spread the word.

Last call for our Backyard Bible Club. It starts next Monday! You can sign up kids here.

A week from Sunday, some of our students head to Memphis for their Street Reach outreach week. We’re sending them off with a Spaghetti lunch to help raise funds for their work.
Lunch will be on a donation basis. All proceeds will go to help cover some of the costs associated with the Street Reach outreach in Memphis.

Crowder. Magic Springs. July 29.
Our students are making plans to go. If you’d like to tag along, talk to Cole and let him know. Or click here for details and to register now.

Mark your calendar now for the end of July all church pizza and pool party!

In the 1987 movie Wall Street, the character Gordon Gecko (played by Michael Douglas) famously declared “Greed is good.” The Bible begs to differ. ThisSunday, we’ll see what the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and why greed is a deadly sin.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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