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!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Follow through is not felt, it is decided!

One of the most heart wrenching sections of scripture is here. Our Lord, being omniscient, knows exactly how bad what is going to happen will be, both by man and by His Father. Man's wrath would be motivated by sinful hatred, His Father's wrath would be righteous judgment of sin - no mercy, full payment would be extracted. This was what Jesus had willingly volunteered to do in eternity past; now the time had come. The temptations in the wilderness did not measure up to what the Lord must have been dealing with here. Why should He go through this? He never sinned! Even when it is all over most humans will not receive the forgiveness purchased, so He will pay the debt of sins that go uncollected! Surely there must be another way? Maybe there is a loophole. Jesus does not have to do this, He owes no one, they all owe Him, He is God! Maybe He can at least only pay the debt of the sins of those that will receive the forgiveness, the Father knows who they are, so why the sins of the whole world? But that was not the deal…Father, Son and Holy Spirit agreed before the foundation of the world – all sin will be paid for. Everyone will have the opportunity to receive forgiveness and salvation. Everyone will be accountable for that choice.   

Our Lord was a real man, an honest man. Here He wrestles with His commitment to follow through. How did he do it? Why couldn’t Peter stick to his decision?  

Matthew 26:33-46, 74-75  But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too. Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!…Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter had made a very strong commitment to follow Christ will matter the cost. Jesus had made a commitment to drink the cup his father would serve him. Peter, failed to follow through on his commitment, Jesus, praise be to God, did follow through. Interestingly, a statement made about Christ immediately after He had informed His men “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” Lk 9:44 gives us insight to the Lord’s follow through, here we see the seeds that are planted in our Lord for follow-through of His commitment. Notice the words that are used to describe His frame of mind; I share from several translations:

Luke 9:51

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem (NASB)

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem (ESV)

Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem  (NET)

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem (KJV)

In each version the intensity of purpose is clear. Perhaps this is the difference between Peter and our Lord. We cannot be too critical on Peter, remember it was he that pulled a sword out and tried to protect the Lord. Peter clearly was willing to die in the heat of an emotional moment. After emotion subsided though, when Peter would be forced to count the cost of his commitment – his will failed. Jesus on the other hand had made a commitment not based on emotion, but upon a willful and purposed decision. This is the secret we all need to embrace if we are to follow through on our commitments. In marriage, a couple that tries to stay together based on emotion will find themselves separated. When their bond is based on a committed covenant that they made willfully, they will remain together no matter the emotional terrain at the moment. In the book of Acts this is clearly what happened to Peter after his failure. On the beach in John 21, in a discussion with his Lord about love Peter arrived at a willful commitment to follow Christ, not based on emotion, and this is what makes Peter so bold to those that are threatening to kill him in Acts chapters 4 and 5.

Issues to ponder:
 * When I am emotionally high is that when I follow the Lord easily?
* When I am emotionally low do I find it easier to disobey?
* Do I make commitments based on how I feel only to regret them later?
* How much time do I give in counting the cost of the commitments I make?
* When my commitment is put to the test, do I find myself trying to push my way through, or do I go to the Lord and remind myself of the commitment I made to Him and seek Him for the strength to follow through will?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Caesar’s Image or God’s Image?

As we return to our passage from yesterday we see another truth the Lord shared in this last week of His life before His crucifixion. No one likes to pay taxes, and the enemies of Christ knew this and thought they could entrap Him in a way that would make Him less popular with the people. Just a side note, isn't it sad that when people cannot stand on truth, they deflect the issue and turn it into a popularity contest. It was going on thousands of years ago, with technology and 24/7 TV it has just made it worse.

It is almost comical that man thinks he can outwit his Creator! Pay careful attention to how our Lord deals with this issue, there is much wisdom in what He says.

Mt 22:15–22 “Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away. ”

Jesus refuses to get drawn into an argument that will lead nowhere. Whether someone likes paying taxes or not, really is not up for discussion. The Roman government was going to make sure you paid taxes no matter how you feel about it. Jesus knew this was a moot point, so He went straight to the real issue. All of us need to learn from the Lord the wisdom of keeping our focus when in discussions on sensitive issues. Far too often we get off message, we make it personal or end up spending all of our time and energy debating an issue that really is not what we had planned to discuss. Jesus constantly remained on the offensive, which is what we need to learn to do. Not to offend people, but to remain focused on the real issue and refuse to become defensive and lose our way in the discussion. The Lord knew they were trying to trap Him, by discussing the popularity of taxes. Jesus turned the discussion back on them by asking them whom the coin belonged to. When he pointed out that what was Caesar's is Caesar’s they had nothing to say. There is a real jewel of wisdom for contemplation in this discussion. Yes, Jesus shuts the mouths of his enemies, however He also leaves us with some real meat to chew on.
The coin was made with Caesar's image, and Christ said because of that it belonged to Caesar. When He states render to God what is God's, we need to pause and consider that truth. Whose image are we made in, and what does that mean for our life? The world would like to make us in its image. All form and no substance. The Lord could have just pointed out that the coin belonged to Caesar and stopped there. He did not, instead He challenged us with the second portion of His statement, and we must ask ourselves; are we giving to God what is God's? So many in the world think God wants our money, I'm sad to say some teachers on TV would lead you to think that, however, nothing is further from the truth. God desires only to have what He made in His image – US! 

As we move toward Easter is it not proper for us to consider; am I giving to my Maker what He desires? Do I reflect what my Creator would like me to be? Do I fit God into my life, or is my life about God? Give to God what belongs to Him!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Master of Disaster!

This last week in the life of our Lord covered in Scripture possesses a wealth teaching, and lessons we all can learn from. During this week the enemies of our Lord continued to endeavor to trap Jesus in any way they could. One incident is found in Matthew:

Mt 22:15–22 “Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away. ”

There are two great lessons in this passage that I want to focus on. First, understand the power of hatred. When one is under the influence of this emotion some very strange things can take place. You can find yourself allied with your enemy simply because the emotion of hatred has become a unifying factor. We see this here in Matthew where the Pharisees are now working alongside the Herodians, a group of Jews that had compromised with King Herod. These two groups had a mutual disdain for one another, yet now were in partnership solely due to their hatred of Jesus Christ. Interestingly, we find the same situation in Luke between Herod and Pilate.

 Luke 23:6–13 “When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other

Be careful what you allow to unify you with someone else, if your agenda is evil, you might be surprised whom you end up calling your friend. This is why it is always important to do a heart check when we get involved in an “emotional movement”. We underestimate the power of emotion; we convince ourselves that we can control what we feel; yet before we realize it that feeling is controlling us. So many times that is the case when it comes to “falling in love”. People stop thinking with their mind and their common sense, having come under the influence a strong emotion called infatuation, which they have mistaken for love. No matter what obvious problems there are in the relationship, i.e. the person is married; worships a different god; lives on the other side of the world…You get my point, the person refuses to see the problem or even listen to the counsel of friends because everything they see or hear is filtered through the emotion of infatuation. Only after the dust has settled and the emotion has subsided does common sense now awaken and the individual is wondering why they either dated, had sexual activity or even married this other person. The damage is done and even though it is now recognized the consequences remain. Hatred works exactly like infatuation, and it will drive you to do things and partner with individuals that you would never do if you slowed your life down and thought about what you're doing. The Jewish leaders, which would not go into Pilate’s quarters because he was a Gentile, driven by hate, appealed to Pilate based on his friendship with Caesar and then claimed that they had no King but Caesar, all because they were under the control of hatred!  

Jn 19:12–15 “As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

The commitment of Love drove Christ to sacrifice Himself for us, while the emotion of hatred was the tool the adversary used to kill Him. Let’s make sure what is driving our life this week – commitment to Him, or emotions that can become Masters very quickly.

Questions to Ponder?

* When I feel something, what do I do with those feelings?
* The last time I was very emotional what did I do? Was my mind in control or was the emotion?
* When someone warns me about how I am behaving, do I take time to consider what is said or do I react emotionally? What does my answer show me? 

There is another great truth in this passage that we will consider tomorrow. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

What is the heart of God?

Luke 19:35-44  They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus  on it.  As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: "BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." 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 week approximately 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem as predicted in Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Here He is presenting himself as their Messiah, as He overlooked the city He began to weep knowing that they're rejection would condemn them. What a different picture we see than what much of the world paints. God is mean and intolerant, anxious to judge and quick to strike.

One of the reasons for this of course is because the world does not understand that God and Jesus Christ are one. To them God is some distant cruel deity, that enjoys frightening the beings He created, and loves to play games with them. Jesus on the other hand is a really nice guy, who really understands us and tries to buffer God’s harshness. He is always forgiving, never harsh about sin – except to the religious leaders, is gentle to the point of being effeminate. Accepts everyone and everything they do. This is such a corrupt picture of Who God is. Scripture states that God is one God in three persons. Explain this? I cannot and anyone who thinks they can is a liar. How can anyone with a finite mind explain Someone Who is infinite? God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all God and every attribute they have they share. Both judgment and mercy, righteousness and long suffering, justice and forgiveness are possessed by all three persons of the Godhead.

Let's rethink what Jesus shows us about the heart of God in this passage. The Maker of mankind is looking down on the city that He chose as his own, where the people He chose to represent Him to the world live. He is their Messiah, yet He knows in 5 days they will not only reject Him, but murder Him. The gods of man and myth would lash out in anger and destroy all the souls in that city. However, the true God, the God man does not do so, instead He weeps as He considers what His people are missing out on and the judgment that they will bring upon themselves. Having denied their Messiah and making it clear to God they did not desire His plan, God turns them over to their own ways. In 70 AD General Titus from Rome levels the city of Jerusalem and slaughters most of the inhabitants.

Let us consider what this teaches us about the heart of our God. I have dealt with many children of God who suffer greatly from fear or guilt over their sin. I'm not talking about rebellious children who love their sin and refuse to turn from it; they should fear the chastening hand of a loving Father. All good fathers will protect their children from danger, even if it means having to discipline them. God knows that sin is poison and will destroy His children, so when they refuse to turn from it, as a loving Father He will chasten them. However, I am talking about children of God who struggle with sin, hate sin, want to turn from sin, yet are in bondage to guilt or fear due to a wrong concept of God's attitude towards sin. God does hate sin, but he hates even more how sin destroys those that He loves, this breaks His heart. God's first reaction to our sin is grief and a desire that we flee from it. If we would just understand that, all the fear and the guilt will evaporate. It will be replaced instead by a healthy confession of sin and repentance that will lead us back to an intimate relationship with our God.

On this Holy Week let us consider the heart of our Lord, He doesn't want us to miss the opportunities and plans that He has for us in our life. When we choose the wrong path, before judgment comes a sincere desire for us to turn back to Him. After that comes grief of our Maker's heart, due to the reality  that his children refuse to see or listen, and will instead reap what their sin produces. Only after trying to reach us in His love, if we don't respond, the judgment of His chastisement may fall upon us.

Some questions we can ponder concerning this truth:

Do I see God’s conviction as restrictions to my fun?

Do I resent God's desire to be involved in all of my life?

The last time I fell into sin, did I first think God was mad at me, or that He was hurt and concerned for my well-being?

Am I open for the plans that God has for my life, no matter how He brings them, will I be willing to listen?