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, March 30, 2012

Week Of Passion: Listen & Grab!

One week that changed not just that year, not just the history of the world, but it changed eternity! What can we learn from this week that will change us?  One lesson is: Listen all the way

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

It is interesting that long before his actual death Jesus told his disciples exactly what would take place. It seems they understood the “going to Jerusalem” and the “suffering the elders and chief priests” would cause Jesus, and even that He would be killed. This is clear by Peter's reaction that follows the statement in Matthew, where he takes Christ aside and rebukes Him about going to Jerusalem. Why the last part of Jesus’ statement does not register with His disciples is not clear to us, but should be a warning to us. We all need to discipline ourselves to listen all the way. If the disciples had digested all that Christ had shared, perhaps their grief would have been different after His death and burial. I'm sure the fear would still have been there; due to the fact that if the Jewish leaders had murdered Jesus they surely would have no problem killing all of His disciples. So His followers may have still gone into hiding, but they would not have been overwhelmed with grief. Surely, watching their Lord and friend suffer and die would break their hearts, yet they would still have the hope of His promise of resurrection, but that statement had not registered. I wonder how often we cause ourselves a problem concerning our understanding of what God is doing, due to our lack of listening all the way. I think of the “health, wealth and prosperity” movement. They have heard and understood that we are joint heirs of the Son of God, with all the blessings and riches that comes with that. They understand that in eternity there will be no disease, no pain and no needs unmet. Yet, they seem to have turned a deaf ear to so many other statements in Scriptures that describes what it means to be a child of God. Consider: “if they hate me, they will hate you”; “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you”. The Scriptures paint a very clear picture that the Christian life will involve suffering and troubles before we go to heaven. Many believers seem to have only listened to the parts that leave out all the trials and tribulations that may occur before we enter our rest with Him. Everyone has troubles in the life, believer and unbeliever. The difference is we can have God walk through our problems with us. As we meditate in the Word and consider what happened this week to our Lord so long ago, let us make sure we are listening completely to what the Lord is teaching us.

Another lesson from this week is: Watch out for lost Opportunity

Luke 19:39–44  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.  “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side,  and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

This is one of the most powerful lessons Scripture teaches. When God sends opportunity our way we need to be careful not to ignore it, or treat it lightly. Israel had waited so long for their Messiah, yet at the time of His arrival they let the opportunity pass by. We cannot live a life that allows these mistakes. Instead of entering into the full joy of God's plan, we will live in regret of missed opportunities. It is true, “you only go around once in this life”, so you must grab every opportunity that comes from God.

A statue called "Kairos" (opportunity, time, chance) carved by Lysippus: has wings on its feet, long lock of hair on its forehead, bald in the back.

At the base of the statue is this dialogue:

Who and whence was the sculptor?  From Sikyon. And his name? Lysippos. And who are you? Time who subdues all things. Why do you stand on tip-toe? I am ever running. And why you have a pair of wings on your feet? I fly with the wind. And why do you hold a razor in your right hand? As a sign to men that I am sharper than any sharp edge. And why does your hair hang over your face? For him who meets me to take me by the forelock. And why, in Heaven's name, is the back of your head bald? Because none whom I have once raced by on my winged feet will now, though he wishes it sore, take hold of me from behind. Why did the artist fashion you? For your sake, stranger.

This week ask yourself, what opportunities has God brought my way right now? What am I doing with them? 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The week of Passion - Death

2000 years ago this Friday was 1 week away from the Author of life being murdered by the very ones He created. Perhaps a week of meditation would be beneficial.

John 12:23-24 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Before Glory - comes Humility - Maybe not in Dictionary but in real life!

Christ gives a perfect picture of what is about to happen and at the same time leaves with us a principle that if we are willing to understand, can save us much grief.

First: If Christ holds onto His life, how many humans will go to heaven?

1 Cor 15:20-23 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

Second: Before the seed can produce "much fruit" it has to die to itself.

So basic and yet we so often miss it. Consider what Jesus taught Nicodemus in John:

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

To be born again means your first existence ended. Remember that is what death is…not cessation… but separation. We must separate ourselves from ourselves! Our dreams, our plans and our works, when we have come to the end of ourselves, we can be born again!  Some love themselves so much they cannot die to self. They hold on to their life so tight they literally hug themselves to death!

Mark 8:35  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Death of any kind is hard to experience. But it can reap plentiful

1 Cor 15:35-38 But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.

Only after we die to our own thoughts of Who God is then, He is able to lead us to Himself. One of the greatest fruits after Salvation is - no fear – the Truth sets you free!

Even when it comes to our vision of what our life will be – until we allow God to kill it, and resurrect it His way, we will never experience what His plan and purpose for our life will be.

Third: Before death comes - Humility

Phil 2:1-11 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Meditation: What about your - dreams, future, idea of success, etc., Are they yours, or His? What are you afraid of separating from? Why? What does that say about how much you trust God? How far out on faith do you walk; far enough to still save yourself or far enough that only God can save you? What are your plans for your life? How committed are you to them? What would you be willing to let them go for? What does your answer show you about yourself?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Being selfish for eternal life?

Scripture Read: 1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses

Application: What does it mean to take hold of eternal life? The original helps us:

ἐπιλαμβάνομαι   epilambanomai   seize, grasp, to grasp something, in the sense of acquire for oneself (1 Tim 6:12, τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς; 6:19, τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς)[1]

It almost has a sense of selfishness, but not for an evil end. God wants us to want this, to go after it and gain it for ourselves. That’s because when it comes to eternal life, no one else can grasp it for you. The reason the idea of “acquiring” it is so appropriate in its concept is because eternal life is not a one-time incident. Consider what acquire means:

To get as one’s own; to come into possession or control of; to come to have as a new or added characteristic, trait, or ability as by sustained effort[2]

Becoming “born again” is when we pass from death to life in a moment. When we come to the end of ourselves and trust in the saving grace of Jesus Christ we have been Born Again, but we have just entered eternal life. Acquiring eternal life is a process, we understand it deeper and deeper as we continue to explore Who our Lord is. It is not a destination solely, although knowing we will spend eternity in heaven is an unbelievable truth. Eternal Life is a relationship with the eternal God and all that He is. We are to grasp this as tightly as a vice grip grasps a piece of wood, while we continue to squeeze more and more understanding and richness from it. This is acquiring eternal life. For this to happen we need to move from “temporal living” to eternal living. When we live only in the “here and now” we get pulled into the mundane – all the temporal concerns and worries. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthian church that we should see things in a different light:

1 Cor. 7:29-31  What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; [30] those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; [31] those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

This does not mean we do not deal with the “now”, we do, but we never lose our focus on how the “now” effects the “forever”! Our vision sees the Big Picture that God has given us:

2 Cor. 4:18  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We learn to keep the “main thing, the main thing” as has been said by so many in many different ways. We do not “sacrifice the ultimate on the alter of the immediate!” From the first time I heard that statement my life changed! When we take hold of eternal life it puts everything in our life in perspective. His perspective!

Meditation Questions: When was the last time you thought about what you spend most of your time thinking about? What does that show you? When was the last time you were not content about a certain scripture – so you dug into it to discover more of what it meant? What does that show you? How much do you allow circumstances in this world; i.e. Political, Financial, Hollywood, etc., dominate your thinking? Affect your life to the point that you change a core belief? When you think about “eternal life” do you think of a place? What does that say? If you have trusted Christ. When you did that was it to escape hell? Is that the main reason even now? How much do you want to be with Him? How much time do you make right now?   

[1] Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-). Vol. 2: Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament (30). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
[2] Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The secret that is not a secret!

Scripture Read: 1 Timothy 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.

Application: We now come to the secret for victory in our war against the flesh. Why do I say secret? Has God hidden it? Obviously the answer is no, because here and through out scripture the principle is plainly stated, the problem is, and it is typical for we humans, we stop short of digesting the entire principle. We have no problem understanding the "fleeing" part, but we stop there and we should not. I believe some of this comes from our learning the story of Joseph with Potiphars wife, where he fled from her. That was the right move, but in that narrative it is left unsaid where he fled to. The other problem we have is what happens to so many of us immediately after salvation. We flee our old life, which is great and freeing. However, if we aren't careful that becomes our testimony; a "don't list"! When we tell everyone what Christ has done for us many times it is nothing more than a long list of what we don't do anymore. That is not the Christian life nor is it going to lead to real victory in our lives. Paul shows us clearly there is a two step approach - flee & pursue.

The word for both these words is διώκω - diōkō; 1 to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away. 2 to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after, to press on.

We need to flee from our weaknesses, but more importantly pursue Christ. First: You must Identify what you are fleeing from - this requires you to take a honest look into your  weaknesses and where the enemy would be most likely to attack. Scripture gives us many descriptions of how the sinful nature manifests itself, here is just one list.

Galatians 5:19-21  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; [20] idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions [21] and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Second: Must see yourself not just moving away from sin, but also driving toward Christ. If all you do is clean out a lot of areas in your life, but do not fill at the same time those new voids with God then either:

A. Something else will fill it but not something that moves you toward God

B. The same thing will fill it, and most times it will be stronger than before.

2 Peter 2:20  If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

How many are struggling with the same old sins and think "if I could just stop this one sin I would be a great Christian". To begin with that is not very honest, because the struggle with sin and the flesh will go on until we go home. Also, that thought shows you are being consumed by your focus on your failures. You need to focus your attention on someone else, notice I said SOMEONE not something! Paul understood this principle, he forgot his past and focused to the future.

Philip. 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Could you imagine Trying to walk down the street with your head turned around looking behind you? Besides being silly looking, it would be dangerous and you would not get very far. Stop spending your Christian life looking back, instead look ahead toward Christ and chase after Him! Flee, yes, but more importantly PURSUE!

Meditation Questions: Are most of your prayers asking for forgiveness and telling God you are sorry? Why? Can you confess a sin and immediately sense that you are right with God? What does your answer show? How much of your life is based on “don’ts” vs. “Dos”? What does that say? Do you know your weaknesses? How much regret do you carry around in you at the conscious level? Can you learn from your mistakes, thank God for forgiveness and focus on where you are with Christ right now? If yes, why not do it? In no, what needs to happen for you to move to your future? When was the last time you thanked God for His forgiveness and walked away from the memory of the sin.