Baptism at Singles Retreat - 147 Baptized!!!

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas...Is seeing “believing?” Maybe for the eyes, but not the heart!


We have considered the unwilling heart and the seeking heart. Let’s look at the believing heart.

A huge crowd was watching the famous tightrope walker, Blondin, cross Niagara Falls one day in 1860. He crossed it numerous times—a 1,000 foot trip, 160 feet above the raging waters. He asked the crowd if they believed he could take one person across. All said yes. Then he approached one man and asked him to get on his back and go with him. The man refused! Mental or even verbal agreement is not real "belief". [1]

It’s easy to say you believe…doing it is another matter. What does it mean to believe?

Believe: To remain steadfast; to be persuaded; to adhere to, rely on

Matthew 1:18–25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”  And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

There is a lot of talk about believing BUT not so much talk about obeying! That is the test when it comes to belief. Do I trust, adhere or rely on what God states enough to obey Him? When I do…then I know the belief has moved from my head only, to now include my heart and my will.

When we move from seeking to “believing”, one key element will be highlighted.

Our response will not be based on WHAT we know, but WHO we know!

Joseph could not comprehend what God was going to do…but he could understand what God wanted him to do.

Remember, real belief, does not require full comprehension…if that were the case no one could believe in God except God!

We have good examples of those who believed without all the facts.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Romans 4:19–21 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
                 
Abraham obeyed based on God not himself or the facts.

Some might take issue with me – however, we have a primary example of how unimportant having the facts are when the heart is unwilling to obey. Consider:

Judas…he walked, talked, lived with Jesus – he witnessed everything Jesus did, yet refused to follow.

You can have ALL the facts…the issue will never be anything else but YOU!        

Not what you feel or what the circumstances are, or what is popular. It is and will remain what is in your heart. 

This Christmas…What is God calling you to obey Him in? Will you say you believe and not move…or will you seek His help to obey His desire for your life this coming year?


[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas...when you seek...it is never a question of “if”...but “when”.


When I was a very young Christian I had a job I hated – my boss had a Hitler complex! I was tired of ministering at the prison and I had decided to quit both. I shared with all my friends that I was “seeking” God’s direction...but the truth was my heart had already decided what I was going to do. What happened to me has never happened to me again, nor do I believe we should count on God’s grace to save us from our hard heart. I have never forgotten this lesson and have done my best to never play games my Lord again. Two people entered the restaurant I was the head cook at. My boss greeted them and after a short discussion called me over to the table. He said “Nate, these folks are Christians like you”. My boss thought Christians were aliens! We fellowshipped for a while, and the interesting thing is all I did was tell them what I was doing...not what I was planning to do! I said I went to University of Hawaii, worked as a cook here and went three times a week to Oahu Prison in ministry. That’s it! When they left they asked for me to come out from the kitchen, they thanked me for the meal and then...one of them said “this is our first time here, but God told us to tell you that you have two jobs...here and at the prison!” After that I don’t remember much...I was just shaking because I knew God had just shown me grace...guided me in spite of me having an unwilling heart.

Let me encourage you...NEVER play that game! The majority of the time God will say to you “thy will be done!” Then you will have to reap the consequences of your stubborn heart. Contrary...what excitement can be in your heart when you know you are seeking the Truth and direction of God.  We see from the Magi the confidence you can have.

The seeking heart - will receive guidance

Matthew 2:9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

The seeking heart - will find

Matthew 2:11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

1 Chronicles 28:9 “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.

Matthew 7:7  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

The reason we do not find, is not because God is hiding it - it is because we are not seeking. I have found several reasons that my heart deceives itself. Here they are:

·   We say we are seeking, but that is appearance for others.
·     We are seeking in the wrong places
·     We are seeking with our minds already made up.
·     We are seeking without already being committed to following:

A good example is found in:

Matthew 19:16–23 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

Tragic – He sought for Truth...but when it was given...his agenda refused to yield!

What happens when we do yield, we seek and we find?

Matthew 2:11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

If you are truly seeking, when you find, you will have a desire to thank the One Who is responsible – the outcome will be worship!

Take time to ask your Maker to guide you as we begin 2013. He will honor your desire and you will enjoy showing your appreciation by entering inot deeper intimacy with Him through worship. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas...the season just happens...but to find the meaning, one must seek!


There was a rich American visiting a small English town, that was in the depth of poverty. The American lost his dog. He asked to have a notice printed in the local evening paper offering £1000 for its return. Evening came, but no paper appeared. The American waited for some time. Then he went to the newspaper office. There he found no one but the night watchman. “Isn’t the newspaper coming out?” he asked. “I doubt it, sir,” the watchman said.  “The whole staff’s out hunting for a lost dog.” [1]

When the reward seems worth it our heart will seek for the prize! We have considered what happens when our heart is unwilling to accept the truth. Our heart will fear, manipulate, deceive and over react.

However, there were others that night that were open to the Truth. When confronted with it, their heart began to seek for that Truth.

Matthew 2:1–12 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

There are two Key Characteristics of a Seeking Heart:

The Seeking Heart - understands priorities.

If we are not careful we can allow life to just happen, and before we know it things just get balled up. Too much to consider and too much to process. We either ignore or try to control what we do not even understand. However, when you are actively seeking answers about life, you will have a priority list.

Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem [2] and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

David was said in the scriptures to be a man after God’s heart. Notice how that impacted his heart.

2 Samuel 7:1–3 Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the Lord had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.”

We know that God had David collect the materials for the Temple, which his son built. Still, notice his heart...he had his house, his kingdom and peace from all enemies...but David’s heart kept seeking what was important in life. Because of that hunger, he realized that God should be honored.

Jesus made the same point in Luke 15 with three different stories. The lost sheep, the coins and the sons; in each case individuals refused to just “move on” with life. They stopped and evaluated what was important and then took the action needed. Notice the woman that lost one of ten coins. She could have said “well I still have nine, I will find the other another time.” She did not!

Luke 15:8  “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?


The Seeking Heart - initiates action

Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem [2] and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

This includes taking action even when it is difficult or uncomfortable. Remember these Magi were talking to King Herod in his kingdom about “the one Who is King of the Jews”!  However, circumstances do not control the seeking heart...a hunger for Truth does.

This Christmas, what drives your heart?  What questions are you asking yourself about your life, your eternity? Questions about how you handle time, money or what kind of child, parent or spouse you are? Are you seeking answers that will lead to a result or just hoping everything works out in the                                     end?

Next we will look at the confidence of the 
seeking heart and the result!


[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas...when you try to kill it…you really kill yourself.


Legislation proposed in England in the 1700’s: “All women of whatever age, rank, profession, or degree, whether virgin, maid or widow, that shall impose upon, seduce and betray into matrimony any of His Majesty’s subjects, by scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes or bolstered hips shall incur the penalty of the law now in force against witchcraft and the like misdemeanors and that marriage, upon conviction, shall stand null and void.” [1]

This piece of history is comical, yet provides a point concerning deception. The men in this day did not want women to look one way when they were courting…and a different way AFTER the vows had been spoken! This kind of deception is silly because if your getting married based solely on what your eyes see…you deserve what you get. However, the principle is the thing I want you to get…appearing to be one thing…but in reality you are really something completely different.

When our heart is unwilling to accept Truth and we begin to manipulate…two more desperate steps will take place.

First – Deceitful Heart

Matthew 2:8–13 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

Unwilling to deal with reality, King Herod uses deception to try to achieve his agenda. We must be honest with ourselves and make sure we are not playing the same game. True, we will not be planning such an evil thing as what Herod does…but if we are not vigilant to test the motives of our own heart we can fall into deceit. Just consider religiosity: 

Matthew 15:8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.

Appearing to be something can be far different than what the reality is! Remember what Christ warned:

Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

When we have manipulated the Truth, and deceived ourselves into thinking we can control it, the last and most tragic step is that our heart over reacts to maintain control.

 Second - Over reacting Heart

Matthew 2:16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
           
It is amazing and shocking to witness what the human heart is capable of when it is unwilling to accept the Truth and demands to try and remain in control. The carnage that took place here is unthinkable. Today the world is still stunned by the senseless killings of children at a school in the USA…words cannot convey the sorrow for those that lost their loved ones. On this night 2000 years ago, an entire generation was wiped out…because one man had an unwilling heart and refused to humble himself to the reality of God.

The unwilling heart will always lead you to actions that will never make sense, because it is driven by appetite…not Truth. Years after this tragedy, men that were unwilling to recognize Who Christ was, were still behaving in the same manner. When confronted with the Truth of the empty tomb…they became friends with their enemy just to perpetuate a lie. 

Matthew 28:11–15 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

Let’s do a heart check this Christmas. Our issues may not be as major as these…but anytime we are unwilling to face the Truth…the path will lead to trouble. It could be as important as our destination for eternity, our investment for eternity…or it can be as simple as a habit that is breaking our fellowship with God. Ask the Holy Spirit, during this time when we rethink our life as a new year approaches, to open your heart to embrace Truth…all of it.  

Next we will consider the Seeking Heart. 



[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas...you can accept it...you can reject it...manipulating it won’t change the Truth!


I once read an article by a Jewish Scholar that said he believed in the resurrection of Jesus for the Gentile religion. That is a great example of what an unwilling heart will do. There is plenty of evidence for the resurrection and this historian sees that, yet, because it would mean that he would have to accept the “whole” truth, he manipulates the facts and custom fits his argument to make it satisfactory for himself. Understand what he is saying in reality, Jesus was a good man and even a miracle worker, but He also was a LIAR! Jesus claimed to be God, not one of the gods, or a god for a particular people.

When we are unwilling to face and deal with “Truth” we will begin to manipulate it. That is exactly what King Herod did.

Matthew 2:4–7 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

Manipulation...the Truth may take away my crown...I must stay in control...so I’ll...

We all know where this leads and will examine that in following days, but consider why this takes place. Whenever the Truth is going to cost you something you do not want it to, and you are unwilling to yield...you will become manipulative.

The Pharisees did:

John 11:45–48 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Mark 3:6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

The tragic fact is that if our heart has decided to refuse Truth, no amount of it will change our mind. We will amass a lot of information, yet we still miss the point.
Matthew 22:15-46 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?" Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead--have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. [34] Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" "The son of David," they replied. He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says," 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." ' If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?" No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

 This is a terrible game we play and in the end we lose. We decide what the “truth” is and then make the facts line up to match our “truth”.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Proverbs 21:2 All a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Over 2000 years later it still happens: Today in New York City a group that deny God exists are so desperate that they have gone so far as to deny historical truth. They have a sign on Times Square with Santa Clause and the statement "Keep the Merry!" Underneath is a picture of Christ being Crucified and the statement "Dump the Myth!" Pathetic! If you want to deny Christ is God...I understand your argument, even though I disagree, but to call Jesus a myth exposes either the highest form of arrogance or a total ignorance of history. No historian worth anything, no matter his or her faith or lack thereof, would deny that a historical person named Jesus lived, died and even had claims that he arose from the dead, though they would say his body was stolen. There is more evidence for Jesus walking the earth than there is of Caesar. Maybe the folks believe in Santa and that’s why they cannot accept history as true!
 
Seriously though, I am sad for those folks. They have every right to deny God, their Creator gave them that right. But to be so obsessed with making sure everyone agree with them they even deny what history has testified to as far as Jesus walking the earth. To believe He is God, history will not do that...that requires faith. 
AHHH you say...you believe in something you cannot prove...YES...prove to me your stand... “Big Bang?” “Monkey Man?” “Cosmic Gas?” If you refuse to manipulate you will have to admit that it takes faith...Even to NOT believe in someone you cannot prove, takes faith!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas – The Heart of the matter


The human heart is a very complicated and multifaceted part of our life And of course I'm not speaking of the organ that beats in our chest, though it is amazing. I'm talking about that part of us that combines our emotions, our intellect and our will. Our mind seeks to know God, we take that knowledge, mix it with the love in our heart, and that fuels our will to obey the Lord.

Christmas is when God came to man – There are many reactions to that. It opens the question: How do I react when God tries to enter into an area of my life?

It will be good to contemplate that as we enter the Christmas season.

There was a professor at Oxford that chose to ignore the fact that, because of the war, female students at the university far outnumber the males. He began all lectures to mixed classes, “Gentlemen.” Even when there were forty girls and ten men, he stubbornly addressed them as “Gentlemen.” One spring he found that his class consisted of forty-six girls and one lone man. He gritted his teeth, sighed, and began his lecture, “Sir.”[1]

Sometimes, no matter what the facts are our heart is still unwilling to face the truth.

400 years of silence from God was shattered, as Jesus burst through that silence…nothing would ever be the same again.

Looking at some of the reactions to Christmas can help us reflect on our own heart attitude toward the Lord.

Sometimes we are unwilling to accept what the Lord desires. Why? There are several reasons, we will examine one today.

Fear can cause us to not want to move or accept what God has brought about. Consider the reaction of Herod.

Matthew 2:1–3 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

One time a bird got inside our house. It was autumn and I had a fire burning in the fireplace. The bird, gripped by fear flew up into the fireplace. No matter what I did it would not come down. Fortunately the fire was small and I was able to force the bird to come out. We singed feathers it was still able to be set free. But many times the fear that possesses us will paralyze us.

Fear can be a good warning, not only about danger, but also a warning of a problem with our heart. Consider:

Fear Because of: The Truth

Mark 4:35–41 On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.  Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. 40 And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?

Notice, the disciples were afraid because of the storm, but then they became very much afraid, why? Because they understood the truth; it is a scary thing to be in a boat during the storm, it is a much scarier thing to be in a boat with the living God! This is a good fear, however as we know the story of Herod, he shows an unhealthy fear.

Fear Of: The Truth

In Acts 7, we find Stephen giving testimony about Jesus Christ. The Jewish leaders were very frustrated, having gotten rid of Jesus…they thought… They now had to put up with the great miracles that his disciples were doing in his name. Stephen confronted them with the truth and because they feared the truth their heart was unwilling to receive it. When Peter earlier confronted many Jewish people about missing the coming of their Messiah, many choose to receive it, repent and began a relationship with their God. Here the reaction based on an unwillingness to receive the truth is a tragic one:

Acts 7:54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.

The Scripture goes on to point out that they dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him. King Herod was fearful of the truth, that's why he was troubled. What happens when our heart is gripped by fear and makes us unwilling receive the truth? In the days to follow we will examine what King Herod does.

For us today perhaps it would be good to take a pause and as the Holy Spirit to examine our to see if we have any unhealthy fear of the truth. Our heart needs to be willing to receive whatever God desires.


[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Golden egg is quite breakable if you don’t know how to handle it.


Probing Proverbs 8: 10-11 Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.

This is quite a provocative statement when you think about it. I realize that most of us, if we read this in front of others, outwardly we would agree and say “Amen!” That's because it seems like the right thing to say and if I may, the “Christian” thing to say. But how many of us in our heart do not view advice concerning knowledge as more valuable than wealth? In fact, the very last claim is the most provocative. “Nothing you desire can compare with it”. Nothing… NOTHING? That really covers a lot doesn't it? Think of all the things, righteous and sinful that you might desire. I know my list would be quite long, yet I am being challenged to consider that nothing on that list can compare to the instruction that Wisdom would give. As I stated, I know it sounds good to agree with this, but it's more important…No, it's essential that before we agree with it, we truly believe it. So let's consider how this claim might be true. The Scripture makes it clear that wealth and material things are not evil in and of themselves. 

These things become a problem when they possess the portion of our heart and our mind that are reserved only for God. Obviously, when a person decides that they want to worship money and things, there really isn't much anyone can do. Their willful decision has set their path. However, many people do not intentionally set out to love money or things. So what happens, what brings a person that thought one way, prior to wealth or materialism, to move in a direction that would cause the very things that they thought would bring them pleasure, comfort or even peace, to now being the very things that are destroying their soul? We've all heard how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. That is true. 

It is also true that having a lot of wealth and material property without possessing the understanding of what it is for, how it can be used, what it will bring and what it cannot supply is just as dangerous. Go to any website and do a history check on the winners of the lotto. The vast majority you will find lost their enjoyment of life, their family, their peace of mind and in the end even the wealth that had dropped into their lap. Look at families where the children have inherited incredible wealth, once again the vast majority end up much worse than they were before all this desired wealth was bestowed on them. This is why Wisdom can make this claim. If you have all the wealth but do not know its advantages or its dangers, the chances are you will fall prey to the traps that come with all the beautiful dressing. 

On the other hand, if you have the knowledge of the benefits and pitfalls of wealth and material things, whether you're a billionaire or a person that makes just enough to make it through the month, when you add Wisdom to that knowledge then the little you have or the much, will be used by you for its maximum benefit and you will navigate away from the dangers. To have Wisdom sets you up to handle whatever riches may come your way. To have riches without Wisdom... well, history has shown that most times in that situation, it will be the riches that have you!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cutting off the head may look good, but digging out the root is what’s needed.


Scripture Read: Judges 8:10-12 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen. 11 Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting. 12 When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.

Application: It would be reasonable to ask why whould Gideon feel the need to continue to pursue his enemies when he had already taken an Army of 300 against an army of over 120,000 and now there was only 15,000 left. Surely logic would dictate that the enemy's army having been so thoroughly decimated would seek escape and not engagement. If Gideon's army had already destroyed 105,000 troops why would it fear a mere 15,000 more? Is Gideon bloodthirsty and a warmonger? The principle that is communicated in this passage is so important for all of us. 
We are in the race of life with a desire of final victory for our Lord. The very approach that Gideon is exhibiting is what we need. It is also this exact failure of Israel when she took the Promised Land. Israel was told that God was using her to judge the nations that were in the land, because they have become filled with idolatry, horrendous abominations so much so that even their children were sacrificed to their false gods. The societies had become a cancer on the human anatomy and God had decided that they must be cut out. However, Israel failed to follow through until completion. This is the insight that Gideon is showing, whether it was something he learned by observing the failure in the history of his own nation, or wisdom given to him by the Holy Spirit, Gideon knew that a real victory would only be accomplished when the entire enemy had been destroyed. Again, I realize this seems harsh but history has demonstrated that unless evil is completely rooted out, what is left will grow again and come back to haunt you. Consider the examples shown here in Joshua and Judges:

Joshua 13:13 But the sons of Israel did not dispossess the Geshurites or the Maacathites; for Geshur and Maacath live among Israel until this day.

Judges 1:27–36 But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land....Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer...Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites lived among them...So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out. 33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh

All these societies that continue to exist and live among the Israelites grew in strength and brought back their idolatry and evil practices that finally infiltrated and infected Israel's society to the point that by the time of Isaiah, Israel was a mere shadow of the nation of God it had been in the Exodus.

We do not wrestle with flesh and blood, so war and shedding blood is not in our agenda. Yet, the principle of fighting Evil the way Gideon did is still applicable for us. When we stop short and choose to leave any remnant of the evil we've been battling in our lives, we place ourselves in the same jeopardy that Israel did. That evil will remain under the surface of our conscious thought, but in time will grow in strength and at some point will attempt to resurface and control our flesh. Gideon's approach was Zero tolerance for the enemy, we must adopt the same philosophy if we hope to see victories one at a time take place in our life. The saddest of all statements is: “He started well, but finished bad.” God wants us to finish great, and will provide a way for us if we will just follow.

Meditation Questions: How thorough are you in your life? Do you have a hard time completing things? How important is that discipline to you? If you struggle finishing things, Why? Have you taken time to evaluate why that happens? If you do well finishing things, does that include your spiritual life? If not, Why? Would you want to drink water with just a “little” poison in it? How is sin different? Are there evils in your life that you tolerate? Are there sins that you rename with words like “mistake”, “slip”, “being human” “failure” and “weakness” ... just to name a few? Do you do that to lessen the idea of SIN? None of those terms are wrong, unless you refuse to see that ALL of them mean – SIN  - and separate your fellowship and intimacy with our Lord. What areas are you struggling with right now? Will you face them and call them sin?
Then God can show you how to deal with them!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

We have to deal with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly…BUT it is better if we see them as they are!


Prov 8:6-9 Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you. Everything I say is right, for I speak the truth and detest every kind of deception. My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge.

Once I was golfing with a friend. I knew the golf course, he did not. He had hit into a valley, so he asked me to stand at the top of the hill in line with the green so he could aim. I smiled and said ok. He hit a tremendous shot. As he walked up the hill his eyes began to open wide as he saw that between me and the green was a large pond. I told him his ball landed about half way out in the middle. My ball was over to the left on the fairway. He had thought I had hooked my shot. He looked at me and said "why didn't you tell me there was a pond between me and the green?" I smiled and said "You didn't ask!" This is the difference between the message between Wisdom and the world. Wisdom has no ulterior motives, no hidden agenda.

Notice the words used to describe the difference: Everything I say is right; I speak the truth; wholesome; plain; clear. Wisdom is what you see, it is objective, not relative...it is what it is. You either listen and follow or ignore and reject.  

Wisdom compares itself to the world's message: I detest every kind of deception; Devious; Crooked. The world's message is tailored to lead each person to an end that appears good, but there is a hidden agenda that is built on deception.

Based on those facts, it justifies Wisdom's claim that what it has to share is important. Why? Whatever is not based on Truth, leads to a life outside the realm of reality. A life that functions in a false reality will never experience the quality life that God intended and is going to experience a rude awakening in the end when each person will be confronted with the Truth by our Maker. Wisdom's goal and desire is to keep our feet firmly planted in reality so we can walk with our Lord through the good, the bad and the ugly of life. 

Then, and only then can we be empowered by the Spirit of God to enjoy the "good" to its fullest; to learn the maximum through the "bad" and to see the beauty even when the view from our eyes seems "ugly". God's redeeming abilities can teach us how to see deeper than just the surface. As Wisdom matures us and refines our spiritual eyes, the wonders and beauty of this world and life will become our reality. Open your heart to His wisdom, in turn His wisdom will open your eyes to the real world!

Oh...I did let my friend drop another ball and hit again. He had a better score on that hole than I did.