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, January 25, 2013

Talk “only” is “expensive”!

Scripture Read: Judges 8:18-21 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they said, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.” He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you.” So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them.” But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels’ necks.

Application: Talk is cheap...but it can also be very expensive when it comes to our life. Again, this passage is difficult for many of us, because we are not people of war. As a Christian we are commanded to live a different lifestyle. Once again I must point out though, there are believers that have been called to live as warriors to keep the innocent out of harm’s way. I know many of them and their love for God is great. However, the vast majority of believers do not have vocations that would require weapons and harsh actions, so when we read passages like this we may struggle. This was the way of life for Israel during the period of Judges. War has been a way of life for Israel much of the time. So we need to read all of this in that context. 
Gideon was a man that loved the Lord and was open to being used for the glory of the Lord. The amazing thing in the story of Gideon is the underestimation of Gideon. Individuals continue to wrongly judge Gideon and his commitment to his word. Here it is done again. Instead of seeing that Gideon was trying to give his son the honor of destroying the enemies of Israel and the murderers of his uncles, they think Gideon is a coward. Their mistake is short lived as they dare Gideon to prove he is a man by slaying them himself. He does that quickly. Despite our natural difficulty dealing with the brutality of this era, there is an important theme we would do well to learn. Gideon was a man of his word. He may have hesitated at first, it may have taken some loving patience from the Lord, but once he committed to the task, he stayed true to it. This is vital in the life of all believers. God is very patient, longsuffering and forgiving. He is not a taskmaster, so he understands our weaknesses. 
Yet, when we decide to follow Christ with all our heart we need to stay focused on that commitment. Despite failures and mistakes, when we are committed to following Christ, that very promise to Him, is the strength we need to get back up and continue in the race that we have entered. If our word is not sure, one of the tests or failures that life throws at us will be enough to knock us off course and maybe even out of the race. However, when we remain steadfast to our word, even if we are crawling on the racetrack, God will see and by His grace we will receive the strength needed to arise and begin the race anew! To finish well, we need to be committed to our word to follow Christ!

Meditation Questions: What are the promises you have made to God? How are you doing? Do you need to recommit? What would stop you? How do others view your word? Why? What areas of your integrity could use some readjustment? Are you willing to ask God for help? Do you understand it may cost you something? Do you believe God wants you to finish well? Why? Why Not? Have you invited at least one other person into your life to help you evaluate how you are running the race? If not, would you be willing to? 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A dog chasing its tail never goes anywhere!

Philippians 3:3–14

In my struggle with pornography I learned a very important principle. Yes, it is important to “flee” from evil...but that should not be the focus. If it is I am running away...looking back...which means I can easily trip because I do not see what is before me. Flee, yes, but with my eyes focused in front so I can see what I am running after...which is far more important than what I am running from!

Phil 3:12-14

Paul is going to share with us the KEY secret to seeing victory over sin in our life! If we are willing to yield to its truth...we will experience the freedom that Christ intended!

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul makes it clear that he has “not arrived”! When we think we have, a fall will be right around the corner! The Christian life is one of becoming “perfect”. What does that mean? The original means nothing more than "complete" or "mature." That is what the Christian life is – an ongoing journey toward maturity...not sinlessness. The step from sinner to sinless is not a is a leap called either “death” or “rapture”. Only when we are with Him will we experience sinlessness! That requires a miracle. What is a journey is the moment to moment molding that God does in our lives to make us spiritually mature.

Notice – “I press on.” This is a “never quit” mentality, understanding that it is not a new year or a new is always a new "moment" that brings another opportunity for growth. I call this “conscious living”. Walking around with my spiritual eyes wide open. 

Notice the oneness of goal – to “lay hold”. I am going to get out of life everything that Jesus sees in me. A deep hunger for God!

Psalm 42:1–2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

Now Paul exposes the difference between Religiosity and Relationship. Both involve moving away from evil, but with different focuses. Religiosity is focused on what’s many sins can I say I don’t do any more and I can feel good about that. The difficulty is that the “hunger” of the flesh is mighty and the more you focus on what you know you should not have, the greater the desire of the flesh will be to have it. Like a dog that is focused on its tale...even when it finally catches it, it has accomplished nothing! Also...if you manage to “power” yourself a way from it, usually you replace it with the sin of spiritual pride!

Contrary, instead of running away from something as your focus, in a Relationship you pursue that which you are after. When my focus is Christ and I pursue Him, not only do I move away from evil, but my “new” man is so focused on getting Christ, that I do not hear the hunger pangs of the flesh. The more I pursue Christ, the less I want sin. In fact the victory that is given is that I don’t even think about the sin anymore because my thoughts are filled with the experience and knowledge of Christ! This January it has been 8 years since I have allowed pornography into my life and it has been almost 5 years since I have felt any serious temptation. I have NOT arrived...but I want to be with Jesus so much, pornography does not appeal to me.

Paul states that his pursuit is for “the prize”. What is that? Consider what he encouraged his closest disciple right before he died.

2 Timothy 4:6–8 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

The prize was to be so ready to see Christ, that you love the idea of His appearing. No attachment down here that would compete. No sin that is to enjoyable that you do not want to give up. No regret of life due to worldliness, that you are afraid to meet Him right now. What freedom! Paul knew that when he met Jesus, he would still meet Him as a fallen sinner, saved by grace, still struggling with sin...but NOT in love with it or dominated by it!

Are we ready? Is our life with Christ running away from hell and sin...or running toward heaven and Him! It makes all the difference. One, is a system that leads to guilt, burden and insecurity of eternal life. The other, is a growing, changing relationship, founded on His unconditional love and unending forgiveness. This produces freedom to leave sin behind...and when failure happens, the integrity to face that, confess it and repent...then get back in the Race immediately, knowing that He loves you just as much after failure as before! That’s the freedom a Relationship brings that Religion can never match!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Worm in the Apple!

Philippians 3:3–14

I remember one of my favorite times to be with my mom when I was young, was when she made chocolate chip cookies. She would let me help her and my favorite part was when I would stir in the extract of vanilla. The smell was heavenly, but I knew it was expensive and my mom had told me that it could not taste good. One day, I just could not resist anymore, so after I poured the vanilla in I quickly took a swig from the bottle. My mom turned just in time to see me swallow. She was not mad, and that she laughed for quite a while as she saw my face showing the learning experience of finding out that just because something smells good does not guarantee it tastes good.

I never forgot how bad that tasted, still, it was a great lesson, to really “know” something, you have to know ALL of it!

Sometimes, when we only see a part of something, it may skew our understanding of what the whole is in reality. It may look like a great apple, but if you bite into it and see a worm inside, your view will change! Sadly, many people have chosen to do that as they approach Christ. The health, wealth and prosperity influence on the Church has given many people the wrong understanding of what it means to “know” Christ. That is why so many are quick to pray a prayer, but then fail to follow. In this tremendous passage Paul clarifies that for our understanding.

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

Paul brings forth the total package of what it means to know and follow Christ. Yes, it includes the “power of His resurrection” but along with that is the “fellowship of His sufferings…conforming to His death”. Does this mean that all believers will suffer and die? The answer is yes and no!

Before we go into that, let’s remind ourselves how important it is that we accept all that it means to know Christ. The problem with the health, wealth, prosperity movement that I pointed out is not something new. Due to our fallenesss and because we are very human, no one wants to suffer. As far back as when Jesus Christ was walking with His disciples, the idea of knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection already existed without understanding the path that must be taken. Consider this section of Scripture:

Mark 10:35–40  James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

Matthew 20:21 shows us that it was actually the mother of John and James that came and made the request, Mark was more diplomatic and left that out. It’s amazing when you consider that these 2 men were known as “the Sons of thunder” yet here they asked their mommy to go to Jesus for the request. We should not be too harsh on John and James, because throughout the Gospels all of the disciples are arguing over who is Jesus’ favorite and who’s the greatest. 

It is very important that we consider our Lord’s answer. He states, “You do not know what you’re asking”. He wanted them to understand it is not a hop and skip to heaven. So he challenges them to understand that before His resurrection would be suffering and death. He turned to them and asked them, are you able to drink the cup that I will drink – the cup of suffering; are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I will undergo – the baptism of death? Before glory comes humility! This is a truth we really need to get if we are desirous of knowing Christ and all that He is. We will experience great power due to His resurrection, power to overcome anxiety, hatred and all kinds of sin. However, we will also experience suffering and death. Every believer will experience this in various degrees, some even physically, but all will be conformed to Christ through the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.

What's important here is that we do not become the ones that determine what that suffering or death will be, that is our Lord’s responsibility.

For some, the suffering may be losing your ego and the death may be dying to self. For others the suffering could be material loss, betrayal of friends and even physical suffering. The death may be separation from family and friends, the home you know or even physical death. The foundation of the church, after Christ, is one of many who laid their lives down for the cause of Christ. To know Christ is not to try and suffer, but it is to understand that with the tremendous power and victory in this life and the next of His resurrection, the whole package includes suffering and death.

11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

What does this mean? Obviously it does not mean to earn resurrection from the dead, which would be salvation by works. Paul's point is that as we are conformed to the image of Christ through the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings and death we will arrive at the resurrection from the dead. In other words, becoming made in His image before He returns. When Christ comes back all believers will be transformed into His image, but the Lord expects that process to begin from the moment of salvation. Paul states it well in Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Today, let's take some time to meditate on one question: Do I accept ALL of what it means to be a Christian?