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, November 1, 2012

Does life “just happen”?

Scripture Read: Judges 7:20-25 When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan. 25 They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.

Application: God has been working with Gideon, maturing his faith in order to prepare him for a tremendous task. As we read the climax of this journey that Gideon is on, we need to deal with some important issues that for the most part many of us are uncomfortable about. First, we find it uncomfortable to face the fact that someone other than ourselves can control us. That is exactly Who God is if we are honest. This does not mean that God treats us as pawns on a chessboard. However, it is important for us to remember that because God is God, at any point if He wants to He can make us do whatever His desire is. Gideon and his army have the enemy surrounded, when they blow the trumpets and show their torches the Lord confused the mind of the enemy and they turned on each other. It is too simplistic to just chalk this up as a natural reaction of men of war mistakenly turning on each other. There's no doubt that the strategy the Lord had given Gideon would enhance the idea that God also placed in the minds of the enemy. When they awoke to the noise, surrounded by torches, they would be startled and they might even strike out in error, but it's hard to believe the entire army would do that. These are trained warriors, so even though it is uncomfortable for us, we need to deal with the reality of a sovereign God intervening in a very direct and deliberate way. For ourselves, we need to remember that for the most part, as history in Scripture shows, God allows much freedom in the choices we make. Yet there are times where God will step in personally and make things happen. This should be comforting and frightening at the same time. Comforting, because no matter what the situation is or how big the enemy's army is, if God wants something to happen, it will happen and we need to only believe and rely on him. Frightening, because in our fallen state sometimes we do things that are very dangerous to ourselves and insulting to God, and at some point God may decide to take direct action and not leave what's going to happen up to us. Examples are:

Nadab and Abihu
Leviticus 10:1–3 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’ ” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Ananias and Sapphira
Acts 5:1–10 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. 7 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” 10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

The believers in the church at Corinth that were abusing the Lord's table.

1 Corinthians 11:26–30 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

We also find this passage uncomfortable because of the harshness that is portrayed that is a reality of war. For most, the Christian life is one that moves away from carnal strife, though there are believers that have to deal with this, i.e. police officers, military and such. However, most of us do not work in those vocations and so the only violence that we usually have to deal with is that which comes from wanting to defend our rights or to take vengeance on someone that has hurt us. We know the Scriptures teach us to do otherwise, so in our lifestyle we do not think in ways that men of war must think. Still, there is an important principle in this story. Our enemy may not be an army of men; it may be a habit, or weakness in our life. When God calls us to face the enemy and war against it, like Gideon, we need to pursue that enemy and not fear to engage it in battle. We must ask God to strengthen us to trust Him as we battle the enemies in our life. No matter what we perceive the odds to be, we must keep our eyes focused on our Lord, Who will battle for us, so we then can live in the victory that God had intended.

Meditation Questions: Do you struggle with thoughts of God over ruling your decisions? What do you do about that? When you see a sin in your life what are the steps you take to confront it? Have you ever experienced when God intervened personally into a situation and left you no choice? How did you handle that? What about when God’s sovereign hand allowed something you did not want like a sickness, financial loss or death? Did you see His hand in it? Why? Why not? When things are out of your control, what do you do? Why?      

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why should I not eat when it tastes soooo good?

Probing Proverbs 7:18-20 Come, let’s drink our fill of love until morning. Let’s enjoy each other’s caresses, for my husband is not home. He’s away on a long trip. He has taken a wallet full of money with him and won’t return until                                                            later this month.” ☚ 

I think it's very important that we take a real hard look at this passage and deal with it from a realistic point of view. I have found that too much of the teaching about why we should not sin in the church takes shortcuts that leave the individual with truths that don't add up. We should not fear to be honest about the pleasures of sin. In our effort to encourage believers to stay away from sin we focus on how terrible and destructive it is, which is the reality. However we fail to make it clear it should be understood that the first taste of sin will be very sweet. When you teach people that the whole apple is rotten, and then they take a bite and it tastes like one of the best apples they have ever had, they will doubt your honesty. I'm not advocating that we wallow in the pleasure of sin, for that will lead people to give in and experience it. 
What I am saying is we need to help individuals understand the calculated and measured approach that sin makes on our senses. By doing this we better equip the child of God to comprehend what they are feeling and to better process those feelings through the funnel of reality which must include outcome and consequences of the sin. This passage really describes three of the most appealing aspects that sin presents to us. Let's look at each one: First - “drink our fill of love” - nothing is more attractive to human beings than the idea of being totally wanted and needed. What young man or woman would not want a sense of deep intimacy with an attractive member of the opposite sex? Second - “let's enjoy each other's caresses” - there is not anything stronger than the desire of sexual human touch and the enjoyment and excitement that brings. Third - the fact that her husband is far away and will not be back for long time. All of us, whether we want to admit it or not, desire to not have to deal with any kind of consequences that are negative, so the thought of being able to not worry about them at this time is quite attractive. Right or wrong these three aspects of sin’s approach makes it quite desirable. Once we have a clear understanding of why we are so attracted to the sin that is beckoning to us, we can choose to bring the light of reality on this approach which will expose the empty promises that sin gives. 
First, there is no love that is going to take place between this young man and this woman. Love is a commitment that offers you to give yourself to the other person and bring them intimacy. This woman is offering not love, but lust. There will be no giving, only taking and using each other. This is why no matter how good the sex is; the one-night stands leave the soul and the heart empty. Second, the enjoyment of sexual caressing his truly realized when the conscience is clear and true caring for the other person is present. I'm sure the caressing in this act will be “hot”, yet filled with selfishness, a guilty conscience, and the only one desire is that each individual desires, is to have their desires fulfilled; it is not about their companion, is about them! It is amazing how sexual caressing at the moment can feel so good…to only fade into a feeling of dirtiness, domination, ego feed and of being used. Lastly, even consequences delayed do not remove the reality that they must be paid. At the moment it may seem great to know that you will not answer for what you're doing right then, but when soberness returns, the crushing weight that the fear of judgment brings will begin and stay on you and even grow. Many times the waiting for consequences can be a greater payment than the consequences themselves. 

Slow your life down; don't rush in to sin. Take an honest look at what sin is offering; get beyond the surface excitement and titillation. The Holy Spirit can help you see that sin in reality, and in the perspective of eternity, the fleeting moments of pleasure that sin offers will never equal the consequences that can last a lifetime. On the other hand the fleeting moments of suffering that your flesh feels when you say no to sin will never equal the consequences of inner joy, peace and intimacy that the Lord will bring your way as He honors your obedience. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of!

Dreams! In the dictionary it is defined thus: 1) A succession of images or thoughts passing through the mind during sleep. 2) A goal. 3) A wild or vain fancy. 4) Something of unreal beauty or excellence.

      The word “Dream” brings different thoughts to many people. Disneyland for a child; Sleep for the security guard working night shift; Prince Charming for a single woman; No more taxes for the business man, even a helicopter for drivers in heavy rush hour traffic. The list can go on we all have dreams – the kind in our sleep and the kind that move us and give us direction.

            The story of Joseph has both kinds in it. The dreams mentioned in the Bible that Joseph has while asleep are very special, because God places them there. The most important dream though that God gives Joseph is while he is wide awake. The dream of accomplishing something great for God with his life. This “dream” is what keeps Joseph going through many dark episodes in his life. How much Joseph understood about what God was doing as it happened is not clear, but in the end Joseph shows us clearly how well he understands:

Genesis 50:19-21 But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?  [20] "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.  [21] "So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

           From a shepherd boy – to a slave – to a convict – to the second most powerful man in the world! What A Dream! Yet more important still, is not compromising and taking Potiphar’s wife sexually, even though it cost him his freedom. Not becoming filled with bitterness as the man forgets him in prison he helped free. Not seeking revenge on his brothers for what they had done.  To be the man God desired him to be – that was the greatest dream come true.

            A Dream that becomes a reality is the best reality there is! That is one of the most difficult things about most dreams. When we wake up we find out that everything was not real. Sometimes we even try to go back to sleep so we can try to get back to that dream.

            However, there is one dream that can – if you want it to, just keep getting better. This dream is played out in the realm of reality; it is the same dream that Joseph realized. To become the person God wants you to be. Joseph understood this truth - Mark 8:36   "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”  We have the ability to realize the greatest of all dreams, entering into a relationship with the God who made us, living for Him and with Him for all eternity.

          This is a dream that we never have to wake up from and it can just keep growing more exciting and deeper. This dream begins with the freeing of your soul from the guilt and curse of sin, removes the fear of death, and leads to the very presence of God. Sounds to good to be true? Oh my friend this is the only real truth that matters. When all is said and done, the most important question of life will be – “Where will I spend all of eternity?” This life is truly a vapor that passes far too fast, the existence that follows is timeless and never changing. That question can only be answered before death, after death is too late.

            God’s Word states that we all are separated from Him because of sin. (Rom 3:23) That the payment for sin is separation from Him for eternity. (Rom 6:23) God is willing to make the payment of sin for us. (Rom 6:23, Eph 2:8-9 Titus 3:5) But this dream is not forced on us. We have to want it and tell God so. If we ask Christ to forgive us, He makes us God’s children, and then we – like Joseph – can realize this dream. (John 1:12, Rom 10:8-12)

             What is the stuff that dreams are made of? It’s called Grace! A reality that is beyond our imagination, yet at our very fingertips right now. God offers each of us that dream. It is ours for the taking. We can’t earn it, buy it or make it happen for ourselves. Just as we yield to consciousness and fall asleep, allowing our mind to lead us into dreams, this dream must come from a yielding. Yielding our thoughts of trying to save ourselves and earn heaven, yielding to the truth of God’s way of salvation. Jesus did it all, paid the whole price, we can do nothing but accept or reject that offer. If we reject through silence or pride, we will live a nightmare for eternity, as we remain separated from God. If we yield ourselves to the truth, and place our trust in Christ to forgive us and give us eternal life, the dream of eternal fellowship with God becomes a reality! Grab the dream! It was created for you!