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, October 14, 2011

Does your life have “Jordan Stones"

Esther  9:17-23 This was done on the thirteenth day of the month Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing. 18 But the Jews who were in Susa assembled on the thirteenth and the fourteenth of the same month, and they rested on the fifteenth day and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing. 19 Therefore the Jews of the rural areas, who live in the rural towns, make the fourteenth day of the month Adar a holiday for rejoicing and feasting and sending portions of food to one another. 20 Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21 obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, 22 because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor. 23   

Application: We have short memories Lord! For this purpose You have recorded what You have done in people through out history in Your Word. It is also why all through Your Word You command people to make reminders of what You have done in their lives. I call these “Jordan Stones”. You commanded Joshua and the Israelites to build an alter used by stones drawn from the center of the Jordan river to remember how You caused them cross on dry land when they entered the promised land.  (Joshua 4:1-8) You encouraged them that after they entered the land, when times became tough, they might desire to return to Egypt, forgetting both what it was really like as slaves and forgetting how Your power delivered them completely. By seeing the alter they would remember that You split the Jordan and they walked on dry land! This would be used as a reminder to them of how powerful their God is. You knew that as emotional beings when the difficult times come we have a tendency to only act on what we feel, and our memories are so short. This can cause a variety of problems. When we act based on emotion we can make foolish vows when they are too high or too low. We can respond drunk with emotion, when we sober up we realize that the action we took was neither appropriate nor wise. When we live intentionally by collecting our own “Jordan Stones” from life we equip ourselves with memory markers to be used to temper our emotions by the Holy Spirit. When we feel all is lost, and Your Spirit brings to our memory that You are the God of hope, the God of the impossible, or that You are the God Who is faithful, that knowledge and memory can counter those emotions that cause panic that usually leads to very painful mistakes. Like Joshua, Mordecai is creating memory markers, not allowing the great work that You have done to be forgotten. He knows that more difficult times will come, because such is life in a fallen world, but when the people remember each year Your commitment to them, many will not allow their momentary emotions to effect their entire future. Father we need to remember this truth about Your involvement in our lives more than ever in this sensual age we live in. We must learn to live based on what we know not what we feel. Lead us God to recall the great things You have done in our lives, so that we will have “Jordan Stones” to look at when the day is difficult. Thank You Father for Your faithfulness to us! 

Meditation Questions: Make a list of what God has done in your life. Do you have one? How long is it? What does that say? When was the last time you remembered what God has done in your life before now? What circumstances were you in? What does that say? Do you trust God? How do you know that? How would anyone else know that? Take whatever giant is in your life right now and compare it’s power to the Power you have seen God do in your life. Is your focus on that giant greater than the “Jordan Stones” in your life? In not, what does that say? If so, what are you going to do about that?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Examples are sometimes bloody and necessary

Esther 9:11-16 On that day the number of those who were killed at the citadel in Susa was reported to the king. 12 The king said to Queen Esther, “The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman at the citadel in Susa. What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces! Now what is your petition? It shall even be granted you. And what is your further request? It shall also be done.” 13 Then said Esther, “If it pleases the king, let tomorrow also be granted to the Jews who are in Susa to do according to the edict of today; and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows. 14 So the king commanded that it should be done so; and an edict was issued in Susa, and Haman’s ten sons were hanged. 15 The Jews who were in Susa assembled also on the fourteenth day of the month Adar and killed three hundred men in Susa, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder. 16 Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces assembled, to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies, and kill 75,000 of those who hated them; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
Application: For those of us that have not grown up where violence was a common everyday experience, sections in the Scriptures like this are hard to stomach much less derive some spiritual lesson from. We still need to see once again, the Jews motive is established. They are defending themselves and not secretly after gain. So why ask for  the ten dead sons of Haman to be hung out in public for everyone to see? That seems like overkill, doesn’t it? How can a God of love approve such a thing? Lord, I think if we love You and are following You this is a natural question. I think the answer is one that makes sense, though, we often do not like it, preferring instead to see the world from a more civilized pair of glasses. That is what a world without sin would expect – the problem is we do not live in a world without sin. 

Our world is full of evil and it seems often the only way to discourage that kind of behavior is to publicly give a clear example to everyone else that this behavior has some very harsh consequences. It is important to note this was the cultural norm at that time. It was not a matter of “squeezing” the last drop of blood in revenge – this was to dissuade any others that might come up with another brilliant scheme to destroy the Jews. I see two other items Your Word leads me to compare against what our cultural norm is today. Is evil so rampant today in part because we do not give clear examples in public of the cost of such behavior? I admit I do not desire to see dead bodies hanging from trees, or impaled upon a pole. However, when I think of the murders, rapes, mutilations and other horrendous scenes that are censored everyday, that actually ignore the victim and protect the criminal, I am forced to rethink our idea of “civilized”. How can we be civilized when some in society are intent on being controlled by evil? Maybe we need to be reminded that when you behave like a brute savage, your end will be the same. The other issue is that we need to make this personal no matter what society does. We need to look hard and long at what the outcome of sinful living will bring. We have a plethora of examples throughout our world. We need to look at these examples and ask ourselves if we would choose the same end. If not then we may need to change the way we live. Your Word tells us that even the Old Testament was written to show us the outcome of such evil. 

(1 Corinthians 10:10–11 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.) 

Father let us learn from our life examples so we do not have to live those lessons!
Meditation Questions: When we see horrible scenes of evil people being destroyed, even though our sensibilities are shocked do we still try to learn the lesson of what evil brings? Is it okay to feel bad for an evildoer that is punished, yet be glad that justice is being done? How do we love evil people? When you see the evil person punished and feel pity (which is good) do you also remember the victim? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do motives make a difference?

Scripture Read: Esther 9:5-10 Thus the Jews struck all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying; and they did what they pleased to those who hated them. 6 At the citadel in Susa the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men, 7 and Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, 8 Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, 9 Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha, 10 the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Jews’ enemy; but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.  

Application: Here is the final proof that shows us this scene was not about the vindictiveness of the Jewish people. If it had been about hatred and greed, they would have killed all these folks, taken their families for slaves and taken their property for themselves. It is a bloody mess forsure, but it was “in defense of themselves” and anyone not attacking the Jews was not harmed. The ones that did attack were destroyed but the Jews did not even take their property for their own gain making a strong statement of their motive. Notice the sons of Haman apparently decided to proceed with their dead father’s plans. Lord, when we read history like this if we are not careful we can just pass through and miss all the richness and lessons You intend. There are two very clear lessons that we can see easily. 
First, our actions will reveal our motives, as the Jews left no question about their intention. It was not for gain but for defense. Whenever we do anything, the totality of the action will expose our true intent. If we have to confront someone, but when they become repentant and humble we continue to crush them, that exposes a hard heart that really wants revenge. We must control our flesh and push through with our true motive. Once the action begins, if we do not control it, sin will seize on that moment and that will leave others with a justified question concerning our motive. The second lesson is the danger of “mob mentality”. When a person gets sucked into this way of thinking they become deceived thinking everyone is in agreement with them. Now if no one stands up to that mob they will do their worst and get away with it. However, if people stand up to it, very quickly the mob leaders learn that it was not that everyone agreed with them, instead sin had grabbed hold of their thoughts and since they thought they would gain from this situation, that’s why they were following. Now that resistance and a cost are involved many in the mob come to their senses and pull out. I am sure Haman’s sons thought all Persians would join them in their destruction of the Jews, and they might have if not for what You orchestrated Lord. When they saw the power given to Mordecai by the King, many dropped out of the mob – leaving the leaders to face the wrath of their enemies. We need to be careful that when we are part of a movement, we have taken the time to count the cost and examine the intentions of that movement. Father keep us from falling victim to “mob mentality” whether it be disguised as popularity, fads or political correctness. We must stand for You even if that means standing alone.

Meditation Questions: Do you join movements before you have investigated them for yourself? What does that say? Have you ever been involved in a movement and at a certain point decided to withdrawal?  Why? When you commit yourself to something, do you take time to count the cost involved? What does that say? How do you make sure your motives are pure? What steps do you take? Why is understanding your motive so important? Does God count motive? Do you have scripture to support your answer? 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is God mean? Are we wrong when we desire greatness

Scripture Read: Esther 9:1-4  Now in the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar), on the thirteenth day when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained the mastery over those who hated them. 2 The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm; and no one could stand before them, for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples. 3 Even all the princes of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and those who were doing the king’s business assisted the Jews, because the dread of Mordecai had fallen on them. 4 Indeed, Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame spread throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordecai became greater and greater.

Application: It is difficult Lord to read about the  bloodshed and violence that went on from Your Word. Yet, we lay the blame on You. If we were all in Your home, where no sin exists, there would be no violence. It is so unfair of men to blame You for the evil that our own sin has brought upon us. When You rise up to defend the innocent, because fallen men have such evil intentions and do not listen to reason, or repent of their premeditated evil plots, You use the only method they will listen to – violence. 

Would it be better to allow evil to triumph? No! A peace that is perpetuated by allowing evil men to continue in their evil is no peace at all. It just prolongs the agony and increases the loss of the innocent. Evil must be crushed and made example of so others will refuse to allow that seed of evil into their thoughts and actions. Notice, this does not say the Jews are going to attack anyone that is non-Jewish. It is clear they intend to defend themselves from any that would aggressively attack them. If those people would humble themselves and repent of their planned action, there would be no violence. You will oppose the one with evil intent in his heart Lord, just as You will lift up any that depend upon You. Mordecai, from the beginning, sought You in prayer and even informed Esther that if she did not step in, help would come from another place – because he had total faith in Your deliverance. What a lesson we all need Father! If we desire greatness – depend on You! You will lift up in the time and way You know is best! This scene is not an easy one – but it is real! We can try and live in a make believe world and let our fame or riches insolate us, but that does not change reality. Sin makes this world evil, we must depend on You Lord for deliverance, and accept that some will never listen to an offer of peace. We must continue to reach out in love, but understand that some will demand resolve through violence. This is especially true when it comes to the question of eternity. All can enter into peace through dependence on You and repentance of their sin, but many will choose the violent life of independence and final judgment. Their choice, not Yours Lord. You have given free choice as a stewardship.

Meditation Questions: Do you think is mean or heavy handed without reason? Is God wrong to use violence? What should He do to protect the innocent? What would you do? Is it wrong for us to desire greatness? Why? Why not? Is it possible that the desire is not wrong; maybe it is a different issue? What would that issue be? Does God desire to make people great? If so, what would be important to Him? 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What’s obvious. May not be so obvious.

Scripture Read: Esther 8:11-17 In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil, 12 on one day in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar). 13 A copy of the edict to be issued as law in each and every province was published to all the peoples, so that the Jews would be ready for this day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 The couriers, hastened and impelled by the king’s command, went out, riding on the royal steeds; and the decree was given out at the citadel in Susa. 15 Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. 16 For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor. 17 In each and every province and in each and every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree arrived, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them.
Application: God is always at work in so many directions at the same time. Talk about multitasking. You are the best at it Lord. I am amazed just looking at this story in Esther. Here was a girl with needs. You lifted her up into the position of Queen, which at the same time lifted her family also. Here was Mordecai caring for his dead brother’s daughter – hoping the best for her I am sure. You brought her into the palace, far beyond what Mordecai could have thought of. Your people were in captivity and still in great danger, You worked out a plan to save and protect them while at the same time judging the evil found in the leader Haman. You lift Mordecai up to a position of power that would be used to protect Your people, all of this and I am sure much more that only You can see, while at the same time giving those that were lost in the Persian culture an opportunity to come to salvation. We have no way of knowing how many became Jews, just in name only to protect themselves, that is not the point. There are always tares among the wheat. What is important is that people who would never consider what they believed in were forced into that situation as they witnessed the hand of an Almighty God bringing down Haman, lifting up Mordecai and protecting His people. We will not know until we are in heaven also how many of these gentiles, that worshiped in fear and bondage false gods, that asked them to sacrifice their children, came to salvation through these events. You were there the whole time as You always are, orchestrating and controlling events, while guiding those that seek You. You are God, Lord. No one can understand Your plans or frustrate them. All that come to You will find the One person in all of the universe that truly knows what is best and desires to give that to them. Father, draw us close to You, so we too may stand back in awe at Your works!

Meditation Questions: Do you really believe Rom 8:28 all things will work out for good? Why? What does that show you? What is your definition of the word accident? How is it different than the definition the world gives it? Why? If it is the same, why? Do you believe God makes all things to happen or allows all things to happen? What about your sin? What does your answer say about Gods control and your free will? When was the last time you saw God do something obvious, only to find later there were several other issues He was dealing with at the same time.