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, September 6, 2013

Part “A” + Part “B” = Nitroglycerin = BOOM – What did you expect?

"John Jones was in New York City. He wanted to go to Boston, so he went to the airport and bought a ticket. Having a few minutes to spare, he walked over to some scales, stepped on them, inserted a coin and down came his fortune:  Your name is John Jones, you weigh 188 pounds and you are going to catch the 2:20 to Boston.'

He was astounded because all of the information was correct. He figured this must be a trick, so he stepped back on the scales, inserted another coin and down came his fortune: `Your name is still John Jones, you still weigh 188 pounds and you are still going to catch the 2:20 to Boston.' 

Now he was more puzzled than ever. Sensing a trick, he decided to `fool'
whoever or whatever was responsible. He went into the men's room and changed clothes.

Once again he stepped on the scales, inserted his coin and down came
his fortune: `Your name is still John Jones, you still weigh 188 pounds -- but you just missed the 2:20 to Boston!'"

Many times our focus is not where it should be. We forget that certain principles remain constant, even if we do not remain conscious! Sowing and reaping is one of those constants, and we need to keep our focus on what we are doing, because we will receive the consequences of what we do…whether we meant to do something or not. The actions we sow our life will reap!

Judges 9:46-57 When the leading citizens who lived in the tower of Shechem heard what had happened, they ran and hid in the temple of Baal-berith. Someone reported to Abimelech that the citizens had gathered in the temple, so he led his forces to Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and chopped some branches from a tree, then put them on his shoulder. “Quick, do as I have done!” he told his men. So each of them cut down some branches, following Abimelech’s example. They piled the branches against the walls of the temple and set them on fire. So all the people who had lived in the tower of Shechem died—about 1,000 men and women. Then Abimelech attacked the town of Thebez and captured it. But there was a strong tower inside the town, and all the men and women—the entire population—fled to it. They barricaded themselves in and climbed up to the roof of the tower. 
Abimelech followed them to attack the tower. But as he prepared to set fire to the entrance, a woman on the roof dropped a millstone that landed on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. He quickly said to his young armor bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me! Don’t let it be said that a woman killed Abimelech!” So the young man ran him through with his sword, and he died. When Abimelech’s men saw that he was dead, they disbanded and returned to their homes. In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done against his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also punished the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled.

As we come to the end of a very disheartening story, there are quite a few lessons we can learn from this tragedy.

First: God truly works with the sow & reap principle, no matter who He is working with. Whether from without – the Midianites, or from within – Abimelech, if you practice that which is evil you will reap the same!  The very destruction the Midianites had dealt out to Israel, God, through Gideon, allowed the Midianites to reap. The same evil Abimelech gave to his own brothers, God gave back through Jotham’s curse and the people of Shechem, who also did their own reaping for the evil they participated in. There is no way of getting around the sow/reap principle that Scripture speaks of. It can be good, when you do what is right, God honors that! If, on the other hand you choose the wrong actions, unless God is merciful…which He is so many times…you will reap the consequences of your actions.

2 Corinthians 9:6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
I have a great concern for the Body of Christ today based on this principle. This same principle expands to every area of life. If the Church goes the way of the world the only real fruit that will be produced is that which the world produces! We have employed many of the world's techniques in our ways of doing things; throwing money at things; entertainment instead of worship; politics instead of prayer; we identify ourselves with the world in music, dress, lifestyles, etc. If you know me, you know I believe in bridging to where the world is, that is essential. So I believe we need to adapt how we approach the world, I have no problem with that. However, it has also affected our message to the point that we have moved from the Word of God as the standard, to what is popular and convenient. That does not help the world move toward God, instead it assures the world of destruction. You say, “but Nate if we hold to what the Bible calls sin, many in the world will ridicule us and even hate us.” DUH!!! What do you think the world did to Jesus? We cannot have it both ways, either we represent God in love to those that don’t know Him, or we represent ourselves. For example, I don’t care who has sex with who, or marries who or what gender they are. If it were up to me I would let each person do what he or she want and just make sure my life was where I believed God wanted it to be. BUT…is that love??? If I know the bridge ahead is gone and you are driving straight toward it, if I love you, should I not at least offer you information about the path ahead? If you choose to continue, that is your decision, but how can I say I really care if, because I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable, I just remain quiet and smile at you as I say, “Have a nice trip.” That is NOT love! 
Just because you want to get to the other side of the mountain, even though the bridge is gone, should I change the truth that you will die if you continue so I do not make you “feel” uncomfortable? What nonsense! You have every right to say thanks for the info, but not interested. What you do not have a right to do is to demand I change the truth just so you can feel better about yourself. If you want me to “just shut up” too bad, God has produced in me a love for you that even I do not understand. I want you to have the truth so you can at least make the decision for yourself. Many think me a fool for my beliefs, I accept their opinion as their opinion and move on, I am not so insecure that I need their approval. We need to “grow up” people! Stop demanding that everyone think like you. Be mature, stand on what you believe, even share it in love, and then allow others to answer to God for their own convictions. I have heard others share their ideas about love, relationships, marriage and life. Unless it is in line with Scripture, I disagree, but I don’t get in a “hissy” and demand they think like me! If we sow compromise for the sake of “being liked”, or “political correctness” we will reap the reality that we, not only dishonored God and His Truth, but we prove that our love is not genuine. Love is never silent, if that silence leads people toward destruction.

The Body of Christ must, in love, speak the Truth and we will reap what God desires. He will build His church, not us building our church.

The other lesson from this passage is the danger of following someone based on his or her influence instead of God’s conviction on your heart! As soon as Abimelech was dead, his followers left and went home. They were not convicted he was right, if they were they would continued the battle! In this day of “superstar” leaders, in and out of the Church, people seem to easily fall into a “mop” or “gang” mentality. The sad part is God will still hold them responsible for their part in whatever happened. So we should be very meditative, prayerful and deliberate in what causes we join and become a part of. If it is from God we will reap what He plans for us as a reward for being obedient, but if it is based on the charisma of a human leader, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of “right!”

Meditation Questions: What is your understanding of sowing and reaping? How have you seen this in your own life? Is it always negative? Explain. How can you affect the sow and reap principle? If you sin, what is the wise thing to do? Even if you do the wise thing, will that always negate the principle of Sow and Reap? What would be the top three things you would do to impact this principle in your life?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Living "wholly" leads to holiness!

Probing Proverbs 10:1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.

This passage should make us stop and think a bit. Not because it reveals some hidden truth that most do not understand; anyone that is a parent gets this! What makes this truth so provocative is who the author is. Let me deal with the obvious first and then with a more disturbing truth. All “good and decent” parents – let’s face it; there are individuals that are so in love with themselves, they do not have the ability to love others and they make terrible parents, but for the most part, most of us “fallen” humans have the God given grace, that when we see our child, a godly love comes forth, and we have great hopes for each child. 
First and foremost, if we are children of God, we desire our child to bring honor to our Lord, Who gave them life. Second, we want them to experience success in life for their sake, and third…if we are honest, we want them to do well because it reflects on us. This is a balancing act that only the Holy Spirit can keep in check. The minute we get these out of order, damage will occur. Either all we will care about is our child’s “happiness” – which is temporal - no matter the cost eternally…as a Pastor I have dealt with this and I weep for some of the young men and women that have run into destruction with no admonition from dad or mom because they did not want their child to “feel” uncomfortable. A temporal discomfort that leads to repentance can reap eternal benefits! 
If, on the other hand, our “reputation” becomes number one…we will drive our child away from God and ourselves. However, guided by the Spirit we can keep these in order, and this proverb remains very true. A child that has a life based on wisdom will bring parents great joy, because nothing is more important than my kid being close to God. Career, money, fame, etc. – that’s all window dressing and burns! A life close to God is the most valuable possession in the universe! Sadly the reverse is also true, no matter the temporal riches and fame, if my kid is away from God, a part of my life is wounded! People who are honest will not argue with the simplicity of this truth.

What is disturbing is the knowledge of who is making this statement. Solomon was a young man of incredible wisdom and heart, which at first chased after God. However, we know from history that changed. His wisdom remained, but he did not follow his own counsel. This should be a wake up call to all of us! Starting out right does not guarantee how we will finish! Growing older in the Lord can be a double-edged sword. Yes, we may handle trials better and have consistent disciplines, yet if we are not careful we can become complacent about less obvious sins and our zeal for God Himself can lose it’s edge. I know for myself, I have seen this begin to surface in the last ten years. The only way I have caught it is to remain open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and face my sinful nature as the reality it is. NOTHING is more dangerous than an attitude of “spirituality” – that will lead us straight to spiritual pride! 

Being dependant wholly on Him is the only way to continue to grow in holiness! This keeps that edge in your life.

Ask yourself: How well do I listen to the counsel of the Word? How can you measure that? Would obedience be the key? How well do you quiet yourself and listen to the voice of the Lord? What does that sound like? If you don’t know what does that say?    

Sunday, September 1, 2013

SSSSS – serpent, satan, sift!

When I was younger, I use to go for rides with my grandmother. As she grew older that experience became more dangerous. Her eyesight was going and she could not see well even in the daylight, but she insisted on continuing to drive. I tried to persuade her to stop driving but to no avail. Finally one day I was in her car with her older sister – my great aunt Mary. We all three got into the car, I offered to drive, but grandma with have none of it. She started the car, sat for a while, started beeping her horn and then said, when is this guy in front of me going to move?!!! Then my great aunt said “Sister, you are behind a parked car!!” That rude awakening worked and she stopped driving, which was better for everyone including her. 

Sometimes is takes a rude awakening to get our attention.

Judges 9:39-45 So Gaal led the leading citizens of Shechem into battle against Abimelech. But Abimelech chased him, and many of Shechem’s men were wounded and fell along the road as they retreated to the city gate. Abimelech returned to Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem. The next day the people of Shechem went out into the fields to battle. When Abimelech heard about it, he divided his men into three groups and set an ambush in the fields. When Abimelech saw the people coming out of the city, he and his men jumped up from their hiding places and attacked them. Abimelech and his group stormed the city gate to keep the men of Shechem from getting back in, while Abimelech’s other two groups cut them down in the fields. The battle went on all day before Abimelech finally captured the city. He killed the people, leveled the city, and scattered salt all over the ground.

As we continue to witness this historical record of a terrible time in Israel there are many lessons we can gain from this. First, let’s just see what the text states. Remember that Gaal had talked pretty big against Abimelech, and now was paying the price. Abimelech shows us his patience and ability to think strategically. Remember even evil men can have many good qualities! Abimelech chased the men of Shechem, killing many, back to their city. Zebul now drives Gaal out of Shechem. Perhaps he thought that would end things, but Abimelech is not content with that, for the leaders of Shechem had turned on him. So he waits and then ambushes them. So fierce was his anger that not only did he kill all the people and level the city, but also scattered salt over all the ground, making it unusable for anyone in the near future!

A very important lesson we can learn is that the enemy will not be content with a shallow victory, he, like Abimelech will desire complete destruction. We must heed what the Scriptures state about this battle.

Ephesians 6:10–13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Jesus had to wake Peter up about how much the enemy desired to destroy him.

Luke 22:31  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;

The word “sift” is interesting.

Sift - σινιάζω siniázō;{sin-ee-ad'-zo} to sift, to shake as grain in a sieve. By inward agitation to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow

Jesus knew Peter needed the heads up so when he fell into the trap – he would remember what was REALLY going on. We can see from Peter’s reaction, unlike Judas’s, that he came to his senses. That is why instead of feeling sorry for himself, he wept, confessed, repented and returned to being a leader of the men.

When dealing with this reality – we need to keep three things at the front of our mind.

First – we must believe that our enemy is serious about this. If we don’t…he has already won.

Then we need to make sure God is illuminating us to the warfare going on, because what we don not see can hurt us!

Reminds me of a newspaper story I read - about a burglar who stalked the neighborhood watching for homes left unguarded by people leaving for vacation. He watched as a family loaded their suitcases into their car and departed. He waited until dark and approached the front door and rang the bell. There was no answer. The burglar neatly picked the lock and let himself in. He called into the darkness, `Is anybody home?'  He was stunned when he heard a voice in reply, `I see you, and Jesus sees you.'  Terrified, the burglar called out, `Who's there?'  Again the voice came back, `I see you and Jesus sees you.' The burglar switched on his flashlight and aimed it in the direction of the voice.  He was instantly relieved when his light revealed a caged parrot reciting the refrain, `I see you, and Jesus see you.'  The burglar laughed out loud and switched on the lights.  Then he saw it.  Beneath the parrot's cage was a huge Doberman pinscher.  Then the parrot said, `Attack, Jesus, attack?'"

We need to have God turn the light on so we can see who our real foe is. The next two steps keep the enemy on the run from God’s power!

·      Humble ourselves

James 4:7–10 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

·      Stand on what you know

1 Peter 5:8–9 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

When we humbly remember that only God can fight this battle and we live our life on what the Word of God declares, not what we feel, the enemy will find it hard to succeed in his plans for us!

Meditation Questions: Do you believe you have a “personal” enemy? When you have problems, do you only see them, or do you see behind the scenes? Do you proactively ask God to make you aware of this war? When you under attack, what do you do? Why? Are we to fear the enemy? Explain. How should we view the enemy?