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, 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!