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, April 26, 2013

The Shade of a Bramble and the Fruit of a Thorn? Judges 9: 7-21

I remember the story reported in a magazine in the 1980’s The famous boxer Mohammad Ali was on a plane. The flight attendant saw that Mr. Ali did not have his seat belt on. She asked him, “Mr. Ali, please fasten your seat belt.” Mr. Ali obviously didn't want to feel tied down.  “Superman don't need no seat belt,” he replied. The attendant shot back: “Superman don't need no plane either!”

We cannot deal with reality based on our desires, but on what is real!

Scripture Read: Judges 9: 7-21 Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and called out. Thus he said to them, “Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. “Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ “But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ “Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’ “But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ 
“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’ “But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’ “Finally all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’ “The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’ “Now therefore, if you have dealt in truth and integrity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have dealt with him as he deserved— for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian; but you have risen against my father’s house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative— if then you have dealt in truth and integrity with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. “But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume the men of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from Beth-millo, and consume Abimelech.” Then Jotham escaped and fled, and went to Beer and remained there because of Abimelech his brother.

Application: Abimelech has taken over as king. He murdered all the family of Jerubbaal, except one – Jotham. Jotham decides to “tell it like it is” before he high tails it to escape his brother. Where Jotham chose to speak would work well: From Mount Gerizim and Mt Ebal on the other side with Shechem in the middle, there would be a natural Amphitheater. Jotham speaks with a parable. Using “trees” he makes some important points and we would do well to learn from him also. The trees pick three productive choices to be their King; an Olive tree, a Fig tree and a vine. All three point out that they will not give up the best for something less. There is a great admonition here: Worthy people do not stop doing something that is important to do something that is not needed  - Trees do not need a King - God is there King! This reflects the attitude Gideon had and possibly passed on to his children. We see no record of any scramble from them to claim kingship after their father died. We should take time to evaluate our lives and how we invest our time and gifts. We need to give ourselves to the things that are needed and worthy, not popular yet with no eternal value.  So many times we can become consumed and invest so much time in issues that God places no real value on. I know churches that have spent so much trying to hold on to an old building, meanwhile the Truth that is not being taught and the lives that are ignored seem not to matter in the least. The folks of Shechem did not NEED a king; they needed to get their lives straight with their Maker. What we need should be based on reality, not perceived desires.

Sadly, Jotham’s parable was right on. The trees settled for the worst choice possible – an unproductive, worthless bramble. No fruit, no comfort, and no real use. Here is another issue we need to consider: If all the qualified people won't serve...guess who that leaves to do it.

Fred SOMEBODY, Thomas EVERYBODY, Peter ANYBODY, and Joe NOBODY were neighbors, but they were not like you and me.  They were odd people and most difficult to understand.  The way they lived was a shame.

All four belonged to the same church, but you would not have enjoyed worshiping with them.  EVERYBODY went fishing on Sunday or stayed home to visit with friends.  ANYBODY wanted to worship but was afraid SOMEBODY wouldn't speak to him.  So guess who went to church. NOBODY.

Really, NOBODY was the only decent one of the four.  NOBODY did the visitation.  NOBODY worked on the church building.

Once they needed a Sunday School teacher.  EVERYBODY thought ANYBODY would do it, and ANYBODY thought SOMEBODY would do it.  And you know who did it?  That's exactly right ... NOBODY!

It happened that a fifth neighbor (an unbeliever) moved into the area. EVERYBODY thought SOMEBODY should try to win him for Christ.  ANYBODY could have made an effort.  You probably know who finally won him:  NOBODY!"

Each of us is personally responsible for God's work.  If we leave it for somebody or everybody or anybody, nobody will do it.

The Body of Christ should all volunteer to serve and lead in all aspects of life, not just “churchy” things. Every area of society that believers retreated from, individuals that either did not believe in God or even detest Him, have taken over...just look at the “Arts”!

Lastly this parable does what a parable should do, challenge the person’s integrity. A parable lays the truth out and leaves the next move on that person. Jotham makes them remember what Gideon did and challenges what they have done. He then warns of how people reap what they sow. Again, a lesson for us, deal with truth as it is. If your actions are right God will honor. If your motives are wrong ... may end up enduring a bramble instead of enjoying an olive or fig!

Meditation Questions: Are your actions governed by emotions and agendas, or by Truth and integrity? Do you invest your time in things that God considers important or that is popular in the world? When you see a need, do you step up, or do you wait for somebody to do it? How do you desire to live your life, trying to get away with something, or being content to reap what you sow? How can we be content to reap what we sow? What does this have to do with integrity? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reacting to life leads to existence!

Probing Proverbs 9:1-6 Wisdom has built her house; she has carved its seven columns. She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table. She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come. She calls out from the heights overlooking the city. “Come in with me,” she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, “Come, eat my food, and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live; learn to use good judgment.”

The word for "simple" {פְּתָאִים}  here means: without pause,  folly, a silly person, one easily persuaded and enticed[1] - not an uncomplicated life. God desires us to live a simple life in that sense, however, when we live a “simple” life in the way this is described – folly, silly, easily persuaded; my personal favorite would be “without pause”. This really describes an existence without thought or care. This is not what “living” is! When our existence is based on reactionary responses, we stumble from mess to mess, sometimes getting “lucky” but never experiencing what the Word of God calls “life”. 
Notice the invitation that Wisdom makes to us – not to call in and get someone’s opinion or counsel – someone, by the way, which you do not know nor do they know you. How can some person that does not understand the context of your life really give you good counsel? How can you follow a stranger’s advice when you do not really understand their perspective of life? What if they do not believe in God, or eternal issues? Our “world view” impacts every view we have in life. I remember two doctors that worked with expected mothers. One believed the unborn were “persons of worth” the other believed the unborn were “its” and nothing important until out of the womb. A good friend was in her pregnancy and was bleeding. She was about to fly on a trip. The first doctor would have told her to delay, get bed rest and see what happens – don’t put extra pressure on the baby. The second doctor said go ahead and fly; whatever happens will happen. The second doctor was her doctor; he was also ours. She had a miscarriage, and it was after that that I found out that he did 100 births a year and about 400 abortions. That’s when I found the other doctor. I learned very clearly at this time that how we view things affects all our counsel to others. This is why it is important for us to listen to Wisdom. 
The call is not to hit and miss, but to come and abide with Wisdom. Come to Her house; spend meals with Her. When you abide “in” Wisdom your life becomes proactive. You evaluate life from an eternal perspective and the values of the Word of God. You stop reacting to life and begin “living” it! Even when you seek counsel from others, you will take the time to get to know them so their words have a context you can trust. Reread the invitation Wisdom is making, it is clearly proactively urging us to come, abide and live. What is holding us back?

How much time do you spend in the Word of God? Do you read it, or study it? Each time you spend time in the Word, do you seek clear applications for your life? The people that you allow to speak truth into your life, where do they stand on the Word of God? The last time you encountered a surprising circumstance, did you “react” to it, or did you slow down and think through the situation and plan a response?

[1] Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (697). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.