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!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It must be somebody else’s because it is never my fault!

Scripture Read: Esther Chapter 2:1-4 After these things when the anger of King Ahasuerus had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king’s attendants, who served him, said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king. 3 “Let the king appoint overseers in all the provinces of his kingdom that they may gather every beautiful young virgin to the citadel of Susa, to the harem, into the custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let their cosmetics be given them. 4 “Then let the young lady who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti.” And the matter pleased the king, and he did accordingly 

Application: I hear today – “young people are so irresponsible, they never take responsibility for their actions” Do you think that is true? It is true, but … the truth is that it has always been true. From the garden until now we humans do not like to take responsibility for our actions when those actions cause us discomfort, loss or pain. I realize that it may be worse at certain times compared to other times. I am sure the “roaring twenties” were filled with far more attitudes that led to a great lack of responsibility compared to the generation that fought in World War 2. Perhaps this generation of credit cards, government assistance and lawyers that will sue God for a rainy day, have become used to getting what they want right now and not having to take responsibility for their own actions. Are they more that way than the previous generation?  I cannot say. I could argue that the previous generation created this generation – that includes me. What I do know is that this character flaw has been in man since Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed God for disobeying Him. In this text, we see one of the ways we do that. Instead of the King paying for his rash decision by being alone, he is given an out with the idea his attendants make. Replace the Queen. Many times instead of paying for our mistake or going without because of what we have done or not done – i.e. not waiting until we have saved enough money to buy a flat screen TV, we convince ourselves that we cannot go without. We whip out the credit card and before you know it, we are at home enjoying our flat screen. We keep doing this until the bills hit – then we declare bankruptcy and blame the credit card or store that sold us the TV. I always ask God for His mercy and grace when my bad actions are reaping what I do not like – but I have also learned that if He chooses not to extend mercy, but chooses the school room – the best thing I can do is take responsibility and learn as much as possible – so I won’t repeat. Let us not be like this King – step up to responsibility and watch how God honors that.  

* Meditation Questions: When you blow it, what do you do? If you have reaped what you sewed, did you ever blame God or consider Him mean? Do you believe that when you have asked for mercy that means there should be no consequence? Are you asking God to teach you how to praise Him even when He has to chastise you out of love?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Slowing down before moving ahead.

Scripture Read: Esther Chapter 1:19-22 If it pleases the king, let a royal edict be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media so that it cannot be repealed, that Vashti may no longer come into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she. 20 “When the king’s edict which he will make is heard throughout all his kingdom, great as it is, then all women will give honor to their husbands, great and small.” 21 This word pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. 22 So he sent letters to all the king’s provinces, to each province according to its script and to every people according to their language, that every man should be the master in his own house and the one who speaks in the language of his own people.

Application: There are two different issues that should strike us here. Notice that God uses even evil circumstances to advance His plans. What these princes were doing was not motivated from righteous thoughts – they were self-serving and making sure they kept firm control over their wives. In spite of that though, God used the situation to prepare the way for Esther. How many times do we get stuck looking at the surface circumstances and fail to see the important truths behind them or even fail to pray to our Lord to use the circumstances the way He deems best? The second issue here is one we all really need to learn – when making an important decision make sure your mind is where it should be. This King was drunk – and angry. That is not the time to make a decision. More people have gotten into great trouble because they have made life decisions when drugs, circumstances or emotions controlled their minds. We will never know what this King would have done if he had slowed down and slept on his decision. Yes, we realize that God was working behind the scenes, still – we can learn from his example – that when we make a decision in the heat of emotion we may regret it later. I find it interesting how many times the enemy sends counselors to individuals when they are not ready to handle making a decision. Slow down, take a breath, spend time with God in His Word and talking to Him. It is good to seek godly counsel.  During that time, yield to the Spirit and allow Him to bring your mind under His control, then you will be ready to make your decision and even if it does not go the way you had hoped, you will know that you gave the Lord time to lead you. Whenever I do that – I do not regret, I throw myself at the Father’s throne and ask for His help because I did all I could think to do, so only He must have the answer. The Lord honors that and knows we are finite beings – but if we rush into decisions – He may have to allow us to reap what we sewed, just to teach us and keep us from repeating the same mistake.   

* Meditation Questions: Do you make decisions when really up or down emotionally? If you have made decisions tat you regret, take time to think back and determine what your mental, emotional and spiritual state was at the time. What does this teach you? What reason would you have to not wait and ponder a decision? Are you giving time to allow your flesh to get out of the way and the new man to hear God’s counsel? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don’t take a stand – rationalize!

Scripture Read: Esther Chapter 1:10-18 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. Then the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him. 13 Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times—for it was the custom of the king so to speak before all who knew law and justice 14 and were close to him: Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media who had access to the king’s presence and sat in the first place in the kingdom 15 “According to law, what is to be done with Queen Vashti, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” 16 In the presence of the king and the princes, Memucan said, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 “For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to his presence, but she did not come.’ 18 “This day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s conduct will speak in the same way to all the king’s princes, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger.  

Application: There are so many things in this passage that can be distasteful to us – and rightly so - The King’s drunken behavior, the King wanting to show off his wife like a trophy and even how he treats her like a slave. Of course we must caution ourselves that this was not only a different time, but a different culture. We do not think like this for the most part today, although there are some very repressive countries in this world even today in their treatment of women and children. One of our challenges when we read passages that really go against what we consider right and wrong, or even civilized behavior, is to not get lost in all of the emotions this produces in us and miss the truths the Word of God and the Holy Spirit desire us to see. When we study the scriptures we can & should take the time to think and wrestle through all of those issues, but when our goal is to commune with the Lord we need to focus on the part of the Word that is speaking directly into our lives. This passage has one clear truth, though it is a comical one. The fear of the men to Vashti’s refusal to submit is real and shows their self-serving ways, however a deeper truth still lies underneath the funny circumstance. Rationalization! Since the Queen did stand up to her husband, now all our wives will! Funny – yes – but buried in the humor is a flaw we all struggle with. Allowing the behavior of someone else to justify what we want to do, so we rationalize our actions. This is a real danger, not funny at all. We must do, what we do, knowing God will hold us responsible for it, not someone else. Adam learned that the hard way!! Father help us to be honest with You.    

* Meditation Questions: Do you look at what others are doing to see if you can do it also? Why? Who will stand before the Lord for any and all actions you have taken? So why would we look to see if others are doing it? When you read the Scriptures, what are you looking for? What does that say? How easily do you lose your thoughts when you read Scripture and get side tracked by issues that are not relevant to your life? What does that say?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Human is what the Body is made of

Scripture Read: Titus 3:12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. 14 Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.

Application: This is a great ending to a powerful epistle from Paul. It can give us some important insight in our communication with each other. We need to see that Paul always adds a personal touch when dealing with the family. We have no idea how task oriented Paul was but have good reason to believe he was very driven. Yet he always makes sure to connect personally in his writings. We need to remember that although our local Churches are in someway “organizations” we must never forget that first and foremost they are “organisms”. Too many times task oriented people get the job done at out meetings, but the carnage left behind is not glorifying to the Lord. We must remember to connect in love with each other as we get tasks done. The other aspect that we need to consider is the practical action Paul invokes on the brethren to show their love – not just talk it. “I love you,” said only as words means very little to the person hearing it. Love is an action word. Paul makes it clear to this shepherd that he needs to encourage his flock to show their love – not just talk it. How about us? Do our actions communicate love for Jesus and others? Or do others hear how we love them, but our actions show we love ourselves? Father, lead us to love like Christ – that will carry with it clear actions that communicate Your love.

* Meditation Questions: When was the last time you showed love to a friend? A stranger? An enemy? In your busyness do you take a moment to connect with the individuals around you? Based on the kind of person you are – do you need to be more disciplined to finish tasks, or do you need to be more relational as you complete tasks? Ask the Lord to bring balance into your life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tough Love, tough on who?

Scripture Read: Titus 3:10 Reject a factious (divisive) man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned

Application: Several things are important here. Most likely, the only way you come to the understanding that a person is divisive arrives after you have tried several times to correct him and he has rejected that. This fact should lead us to make sure that we show patience to those that are young in the Lord. We should not over-react to their mistakes, but wait and see how they handle a gentle rebuke. If they show growth from it, you are going to see them mature. If on the other hand they do not handle the rebuke well, do not jump to judgment, give them time while keeping a watchful eye. If this becomes a pattern then you might have to become firmer in how you challenge them to grow from criticism. 

Remember, none of us like to be shown our failures, I know I don’t. The key is getting past the initial hurt of emotion, remaining in control of those emotions, so we can learn from the counsel we receive. Once this person exposes their heart to be a divisive one you might need to express some tough love. Note, “tough love” is called tough love, not because you beat someone up – emotionally or physically – it is called “tough” because it is tough on you to give it. That is the test of your real affection and compassion for the individual. If you enjoy hurting them – keep your mouth shut. You are not giving “tough love” you are venting your spleen. If you would rather do anything else but have to tell this person something you know will be difficult to receive, you are functioning in scriptural “tough love”. Keep in mind also the Scripture describes this kind of person as perverted. That is because they are twisting the truth. So you might get some surprising reactions. You cannot protect yourself from those; this is where you find out where your faith in Christ is. Do you believe He can and will control the situation? You might be tempted not to confront due to your fear of the reaction. You need to ask yourself if that is the case, do I really love this person? Love will desire to protect the other person from harm, even if it is there own behavior that is doing the harm. If you love them you will take the chance to point out that they are being divisive and allow Christ to defend you. The Word also states that they are condemned in themselves already - so we are not to try and condemn them. We need to only share in tough love that they are not following the Lord and leave them there to deal with God. This is what real love and commitment to each other means and costs.  

* Meditation Questions: Is there someone you know needs to be gently confronted? What have you done about that? What happened the last time someone confronted you about something? What does that show you? Is love something you feel? Is love something you do? Is love a commitment that has feelings that come and go and requires different actions at different times? Describe how you have seen this in your life. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Choosing to be foolish

Scripture Read: Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.   

Application:  Notice the key word here is foolish. We need to really measure what we give our time and energy to. I think the Lord wants us to study all the details of the Truth and even have some healthy discussions about confusing issues. But it amazes me how much time believers spend getting into arguments over things that either don't mean much or over issues that can ONLY be settled in the mind of God Himself. 

First, if we would just consider how much there is in the scriptures that God desires to illuminate us to. If we would devote our time to that, consider the character fruit that would be produced. Second, if we would spend some time investigating difficult issues and challenge each other in ways that would glorify Him - I am sure this would bring pleasure to God’s heart. He desires His children to investigate His Word and help sharpen each other through it. He takes no pleasure in wasting time fighting each other over what is usually a liberty issue or a Biblical doctrine that we are trying to explain fully by placing it into a systematic theology. Let's not break the heart of our Lord by wasting precious time, displaying unChrist-like behavior over His truth or issues that are man made philosophies. The world is watching and we should be examples to them.

* Meditation Questions: How much time do I devote to trying to figure out what God meant on issues that are left unclear in scripture, compared to how much time to I spend doing the things I know God says to do? How much scripture is dedicated to explaining exactly how salvation works versus how much scripture is dedicated to explaining why we need to be saved, to become saved and how to make sure we are saved? What does that say to you?