Baptism at Singles Retreat - 147 Baptized!!!

*******************Baptism at Singles Retreat 147 Baptized!!! ***********************

* Sharing times in the Word and looking for growth. Let's Commune Together!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Getting lost in nonsense

Scripture Read: Galatians 1:11–24 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.
Application: How many times do we humans miss seeing the forest because we are focused on only one tree? In life we miss great opportunities because of limited sight like this. In Theology we really make a mess of this. Instead of seeing all Your magnificence, we focus on issues that are beyond our understanding and try to create a position that should not be attempted. Then when we find someone else has a different position we fight and divide ourselves. This passage says so much about Your love Father!

“Set me apart” ἀφορίζω aphorízō;  - set apart, separate

 How sad that this term provokes so much argument in the Body of Christ – instead of celebration. No one understands how this works – it is God’s and He has chosen not to fully explain how this works, how much Sovereignty vs. how much choice, is the setting apart for salvation, service or both? I also struggle with the thoughts but have chosen to not be dominated by something that belongs to You Lord. Instead let’s celebrate several issues that arise from this. First; the Lord has a plan for us, we don’t understand how that all works but it should excite us that He wants to be involved in the life He has given to us – we are set apart for specific things that He desires to accomplish in our life. We should not waste our time trying to discern how much role we play vs. how much He plays – instead we should throw ourselves into the search of knowing Him more and discovering His call for us. Second – we can just live our life knowing we were made to accomplish things bigger than the world has – because our life plan is from God! Yes, even though we will never understand how all this works we know the One that makes it work and He is fully trustworthy! We will let the others spend their time trying to unweave the mystery of Jer 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

We will spend our time being a Jeremiah! I also find it interesting that Paul chose a word *( ἀφορίζω aphorízō) that was from his past. * The Pharisees, the sect to which Paul belonged before his conversion (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phil. 3:5), got their names from this word, which meant to separate (aphōrisménoi, separated ones). [1]  Think about that! See what we become when we separate ourselves – how tragic No freedom just bondage, pride and legalism! Father, we may not understand this item of theology, but we thank You and ask that You continue to separate us for Your use!

* Meditation Questions: How much time do you spend enjoying God versus trying to figure Him out? Do you believe God has a specific plan for you or just for special individuals? Does God’s plan read like a blueprints, or a map with options? How into your life do you allow God to be.

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

His message not ours

Scripture Read: Galatians 1:11–12 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 
Application: Many believe the Bible is a book written only by man. As usual the lie from the enemy has truth in it. This Book was written by the hand of man, but not only. Just like any other writing when we speak about who wrote it we do not limit it “only” to the physical hand that held the pen, we include anyone that participated in developing the message of the writing. Men did participate in the writing of the Word of God, but it was God’s message. Paul makes it clear that the message he is preaching is not his – it was revealed by God – He did not get it from study, nor tradition – the word declares that this gospel he is preaching is not from him:

 “Revelation  - ἀποκάλυψις apokálupsis -  to reveal. Revelation, uncovering, unveiling, disclosure. Apokálupsis is a grander and more comprehensive word, includes not merely the thing shown and seen but the interpretation, the unveiling of the same. The revelation of the mysteries refers to divine purposes and doctrines which before were unknown and concealed (Rom. 16:25 1 Cor. 14:6, 26). Of revelations from God the Father or Christ (2 Cor. 12:1, 7; Gal. 1:12; 2:2; Eph. 3:3). [1]  
This emphasizes the stewardship of the message we have been entrusted with – it is not ours, it is His! We have no right to amend it, make it more Politically Correct, take away it’s narrowness, make it easier to accept or make it more difficult to attain. Our duty if we are people of integrity is to just present it as it is – no additions or subtractions. Our study can help us appreciate it more and understand more of Who our God is – but we have no right to change the message. The thing that I struggle with is my brothers who sit quietly by when these teachers, many are big names,  change this message. I stand up and declare the sin of it and I am called unloving! Who is unloving?  The one that faces the fact that we all have a disease and there is only one cure and you must receive it only the way the instructions demand?  Or those that try to allow you your way to take the cure and in the end you die of that disease because those who “loved” you did not want to offend you; instead they let you die!  Is that love? Father this really fills me with disgust and I cannot hide it.  We must, we owe it to Jesus, Who paid this tremendous price, give the message as it is. Yes, we can share it in the context that you lead; we can “bridge”; we can be seeker friendly; we can show friendship evangelism – etc., but in the end the message will offend or there will be no conversion – no cure!! Jesus said this gospel will offend. It should not offend due to the way we present it, but when we tell anybody they are never going to be good enough, there works are as dirty rags, and there is ONLY one narrow way to eternal life – many will be offended!  The medicine will hurt – but it will cure!     

* Meditation Questions: Do you believe that without Christ – anybody, that means various religions and relatives – will be separated from God? Are you willing to change your method of sharing the gospel? What does that show you? Are you willing to change the message of the gospel? What does that show you? If you were dying of poison and you needed a shot to save your life - would it hurt? Would you want the pain of the shot? Would you need the shot? Would you take the pain to get the cure?

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Becoming and knowing are different issues

Scripture Read: 3 Jn 11-15 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face. 15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

Application:  Look how John ties good works to those that love God! But salvation is by grace – no works involved! That’s not completely true … When we talk about salvation it is a complex and multifaceted subject. We need to be clear exactly what aspect of salvation we are talking about. Are we discussing “how” or “when”? Are we looking at the eternal perspective or the here and now? Is this a discussion on how God sees salvation or how we experience it? There is a big difference between how we enter the Body of Christ and how we “know” we are in the Body. Even on the topic of “knowing” are we talking about intellectually or experientially? Here again, we see the testimony of works.  At one point in recent Church history the push to stop thoughts of salvation by works became so strong that – as usual – the flawed humans in the church de-emphasized works too much.  That is why many today struggle with the idea that if you don’t have works then you don’t have a right to consider yourself saved. The shocking reality of all this is that we are not arguing with human authors of today – we are debating with the scriptures.  Paul makes it clear, so does Peter, John, James and the writer of Hebrews.  They all have statements like this one here;  if you do what is bad then you appear to not know God! I know that I first wrestled with this until I starting putting these comments into context. All these scriptures are not speaking to HOW a person is saved, but challenging whether a person is truly saved. Obviously each author is speaking in general terms, it is the norm for a person that has come into a relationship with Christ to see good works spring forth from their life. If they do not, they should question whether they truly experienced a conversion. Notice “THEY” – not we. It is not our job to judge who is or is not in the Body, but it is each individuals job to look at his or her own life and make that assessment. 1 Cor. 3 makes it clear that there are those barren of rewards in heaven – but evidence shouts that that is the exception – not the rule – God help us to imitate what is good and validate the saving work You have done in our life!

* Meditation Questions: How much have you changed since you trusted Christ? Do you see good works coming from your life that were not there before? When your deeds are evil what do you do? Would anyone that knows you well be surprised that you claim to be a Christian? What does that say? 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Loving yourself too much

Scripture Read: 3 Jn 9-10  I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

Application: Losing ourselves in You is so important Father. Many of us try to hold on to who we are to the point of doing damage to the Body. But is it wrong to want to still be me after I have united with You Lord? The answer is… simple, yet needs explanation. You desire us to remain individuals, that’s why you made us all different Father. The problem is not our individuality – it is out “love” for ourselves that creates the problem. As we grow in love for You Lord we remain individuals that reflect Your character our individual way, but if we grow in love with ourselves we want to be noticed and honored – individuality has very little to do with it. Pride is the issue. An individual can be very humble and it will show through his individual character. This passage deals with an individual that was full of pride. Two real interesting things surface in this passage – first Diotrephes – this is a name that based on Church history tells us something about this person. Many gentiles were given names to honor false gods and it was standard that after salvation, at their baptism they would take on new names to honor God. This man claimed to be a believer in this church yet his name is interesting – The Greek is διοτρεφης – a compound of Dios Διος of Zeus and trephō τρεφω “to nourish,” and it means, “Zeus-nursed.” At the very least we see he was determined to keep his identity even if it offended some – Then John points out that this guy is

φιλοπρωτεύω philoprōte˙ō - To love to have preeminence [1]  - What is so interesting is that this word is used only here in the entire NT and is also a compound of phileō  φιλεω “to be fond of,” and prōtos πρωτος “first, [2]  = To be fond of being first – Two compounds that spell bad news – Why do we (especially leaders) have this same drive and love for preeminence – all the disciples had it – I have it – Thank God He grants us the grace (usually painful) to learn humility! K. S. Wuest in his work Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament – states “Robertson, in connection with his discussion of this man’s character, says that he wrote an article for a denominational paper on Diotrephes, and the editor told him that twenty-five deacons stopped the paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked” [3] .The truth hurts – Oh Father keep us from loving ourselves the wrong way!

* Meditation Questions: Do you have problems submitting to authority? Are you offended when someone else gets credit for your work or idea? Are you open to ideas from others? What do you feel when others do not see things your way? What does that show?

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
[2] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
[3] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (1 Ti 4:1). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Test by any other name? Context, context, context

Scripture Read: James 1:13–15  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Application: This is one of those passages that force you to face the fact that no scripture is for private interpretation – the reason is all through the Bible God clearly “tests” people yet here it states that He does not – some have tried to say that there is a difference in the word test and tempt – that sounds good and from English dictionary you might conclude that.

Webster’s: Test - a critical examination, observation, or evaluation; a basis for evaluation & Tempt  - to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain, to try presumptuously: Provoke [1]

However the original does not allow for that –

πειράζω peirázō;  experience, trial. To try, to prove in either a good or bad sense, tempt, test by soliciting to sin. [2]

In fact this word is used clearly for the right kind of testing in 2 Cor. 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? This is why you cannot grab one verse and make it stand alone – the KEY is always context – When you look at the whole counsel of God’s Word you will come away with a clear conviction that when God tests people it is always to allow for growth and success in life. The opposite is true when ever the test is from the enemy - Starting from the garden we see this truth – the tree was an opportunity from God for man to freely chose obedience and be confirmed holy expressing his love for God. The false seducer used it to get man to disobey and become a sinner – which man did all on his own – God offered, false seducer used, but man acted and is responsible. So context defines this word

Cannot be tempted (ἀπείραστος ἐστι). Lit., is incapable of being tempted. But some of the best expositors render - is unversed in evil things, as better according both with the usage of the word and with the context, since the question is not of God’s being tempted, but of God’s tempting. & πειράζω peirázō The process of proving one’s worth. When ascribed to God in his dealings with people, it means that God tests his peoples’ faith and moral character. When the word is used in a negative way, it means “to tempt”—that is, to entice, solicit, or provoke to sin..[3]

Father help me to be honest with scripture and to take responsibility for the action I take during a test/temptation!

* Meditation Questions: When you fall into sin do you look for excuses? Is there ever a test in your life that is not a temptation? We should feel bad when we give into temptation – is it wrong to feel good when we pass the test? Is that stealing glory from God?

[1] Merriam-Webster, I. (1996). Merriam-Webster's collegiate thesaurus. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.
[2] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
[3] Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Jas 1:13). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of!

Dreams! In the dictionary it is defined thus: 1) A succession of images or thoughts passing through the mind during sleep. 2) A goal. 3) A wild or vain fancy. 4) Something of unreal beauty or excellence.

         The word “Dream” brings different thoughts to many people. Disneyland for a child; Sleep for the security guard working night shift; Prince Charming for a single woman; No more taxes for the business man, even a helicopter for drivers in heavy rush hour traffic. The list can go on, we all have dreams – the kind in our sleep and the kind that move us and give us direction.

         The story of Joseph has both kinds in it. The dreams mentioned in the Bible that Joseph has while asleep are very special, because God places them there. The most important dream though that God gives Joseph is while he is wide awake. The dream of accomplishing something great for God with his life. This “dream” is what keeps Joseph going through many dark episodes in his life. How much Joseph understood about what God was doing as it happened is not clear, but in the end Joseph shows us clearly how well he understands:

Genesis 50:19-21 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?  [20] "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.  [21] "So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. 

         From a shepherd boy – to a slave – to a convict – to the second most powerful man in the world! What A Dream! Yet more important still is not compromising and taking Potiphar’s wife sexually, even though it cost him his freedom. Not becoming filled with bitterness as the man forgets him in prison he helped free. Not seeking revenge on his brothers for what they had done.  To be the man God desired him to be – that was the greatest dream come true.

         A Dream that becomes a reality is the best reality there is! That is one of the most difficult things about most dreams. When we wake up we find out that everything was not real. Sometimes we even try to go back to sleep so we can try to get back to that dream.

         However, there is one dream that can – if you want it to, just keep getting better. This dream is played out in the realm of reality; it is the same dream that Joseph realized. To become the person God wants you to be. Joseph understood this truth - Mark 8:36   "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”  We have the ability to realize the greatest of all dreams, entering into a relationship with the God who made us, living for Him and with Him for all eternity.

This is a dream that we never have to wake up from and it just keeps getting better. This dream begins with the freeing of your soul from the guilt and curse of sin, removes the fear of death, and leads to the very presence of God. Sounds to good to be true? Oh my friend this is the only real truth that matters. When all is said and done, the most important question of life will be – “Where will I spend all of eternity?” This life is truly a vapor that passes far too fast, the existence that follows is timeless and neverchanging. That question can only be answered before death, after death is too late.

God’s Word states that we all are separated from Him because of sin. (Rom 3:23) That the payment for sin is separation from Him for eternity. (Rom 6:23) God is willing to make the payment of sin for us. (Rom 6:23, Eph 2:8-9 Titus 3:5) But this dream is not forced on us. We have to want it and tell God so. If we ask Christ to forgive us, He makes us God’s children, then we – like Joseph – can realize this dream. (John 1:12, Rom 10:8-12)

What is the stuff that dreams are made of? It’s called Grace! A reality that is beyond our imagination, yet at our very fingertips right now. God offers each of us that dream. It is ours for the taking. We can’t earn it, buy it or make it happen for ourselves. Just as we yield to consciousness and fall asleep, allowing our mind to lead us into dreams, this dream must come from a yielding. Yielding our thoughts of trying to save ourselves and earn heaven, yielding to the truth of God’s way of salvation. Jesus did it all, paid the whole price, we can do nothing but accept or reject that offer. If we reject through silence or pride, we will live a nightmare for eternity, as we remain separated from God. If we yield ourselves to the truth, and place our trust in Christ to forgive us and give us eternal life, the dream of eternal fellowship with God becomes a reality! Grab the dream! It was created for you!