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, March 7, 2014

Love…what does it look like?

The first characteristic mentioned in the fruit is love. This is a word that gets a real workout when it comes to what exactly does it communicate. Loving God to loving fresh air! I heard a song once that expressed to me how much this word is used…or abused, depending on your importance of the word. Here are the lyrics:

I love little baby ducks, Old pick-up trucks, Slow movin trains, and rain.
I love little country streams, Sleep without dreams, Sunday school in May, and hay.
And I love you too.

I love leaves in the wind, Pictures of my friends, Birds of the world, and squirrels.
I love coffee in a cup, Little fuzzy pups, Bourbon in a glass, and grass.
And I love you too.

I love honest open smiles, Kisses from a child, Tomatoes on a vine, and onions.
I love winners when they cry, Losers when they try, Music when it's good, and life.
And I love you too.

I don't know how I would feel being a part of that list…I mean I hope the intensity of his love for me is greater than the onions! Now I don’t mean to be overly critical, because I know that we all use this word with many various things…just this morning after grinding some coffee beans, heating the water and letting the grinds soak for about 10 minutes, I came into the kitchen, and as I poured that dark roast into my cup and the aroma hit me, I said to myself… “I love a good cup of coffee.” So I also am guilty of overuse of this word. For our time on this characteristic, let’s limit ourselves to the intensity level of love that God has for us and wants to produce in us.

To start, let’s take a moment to consider three questions:  Write down what you think.

Define love:
         What makes you feel loved?
         What does it mean to fall in love?

As we proceed keep your answers in your mind, so you can evaluate your understanding better.

Whenever we try to understand something there are two important things we need to do. Describe it and discover what its essence is. Let’s begin with describing love.

Here are dictionary definitions of love:
1. A strong affection for or attachment or devotion to a person
2. A strong liking or interest for something
3. A strong usually passionate affection for someone of the opposite sex

The definitions continue even to state: In tennis a score of zero. Pretty diverse!

In the original Greek there are four words for love, the two that matter here are: (ἀγαπάω) agapáō and (φιλέω) philéō – In classical Greek there is no difference. However, in the New Testament there seems to be some difference, though not a black and white set one. Agapao is used most times to convey man’s love toward God, while Phileo is used more for man’s love for each other. Both words are used of God’s love for man, though context brings a greater intensity to Agapao. I would not go as far as to say that one is Human love versus Divine. From the studies I have done over 30+ years I find that Agapao communicates the highest level of love, and that is clearly shown in an incident between Jesus and Peter found in the Gospel of John, which we will look at another time.

Suffice it to say that the level of intensity these two words communicate would not be used for a car, onions or a cup of coffee. Also important to remember – all love…including sexual love, comes from God, for God is love! 

There is no fairy flying around with sparkle dust, or with a bow and arrow.

Now lets give a simple description of love.

Love described:

1. Compassionate

Matthew 12:10-12 And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they questioned Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"-- in order that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, "What man shall there be among you, who shall have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it, and lift it out? "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

Mark 3:5 And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Love always shows compassion! This does not mean it calls “wrong” “right” but it does mean that you suffer with the one that is hurt. Of course these Pharisees were hypocrites, but I use this illustration to point out the lack of love shown. If they had compassion on this man, they might ask the Lord how can we help him without breaking the Sabbath? Jesus would not have been grieved and would have explained their misunderstanding of the Sabbath. However, what he saw was their lack of compassion and hardness of their heart. It angered Him.

·      When was the last time you witnessed someone suffering, even if they brought it on themselves, and felt no pity for them?

2. Sensitive

Matthew 9:1-2 And getting into a boat, He crossed over, and came to His own city. And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven."

Real love senses the real issues! Jesus knew the real need for this man was eternal life! If all He had done was give the man the ability to walk again, this man could run, hop, and skip all the way into an eternity separated from God! Jesus was so sensitive that He sought to meet this man’s real needs, much like He did in John 4 with the woman at the well.

I want to address a very explosive topic at this point. Homosexuality. As a Christian I am called “homophobic” because of my convictions on this issue. The funny thing is…tragically…if you had met me before I was in a relationship with Christ, you would have been right. NEVER did I ever feel like doing violence to someone who was homosexual, that’s not “homophobic,” that’s homicidal! However, I would have made fun of that person, used words like “queer” or “fagot” and I would feel creepy if they touched me. When I was forgiven by Christ of all the gross and disgusting sins that I wrestle with, the Spirit of God filled me with His love for His creation…warts and all. The last man I prayed to receive Christ with before I left the USA in 1994 was a homosexual prostitute with aids. We held hands as he prayed and I felt his tears hitting my arms and hands, my heart did not feel any urge to pull away, but to hug and embrace my new brother in Christ! I have been involved with quite a few homosexuals since then, and I love each of them as I do others, with the love God produces in me. In doing so I must, because God’s Spirit desires to meet their greatest need, help them understand that sin will kill as surely as rat poison will. How can a person claim to love someone and when asked about the truth, tell that person a lie? Should I tell the drug addict, the adulterer, the thief, the false TV preacher that God loves them as they are…(which He does) BUT that they can just keep on doing what they are doing and God will live with it? That is not love! Every sinner Jesus encountered, He communicated two things – “I love you” and “Go and sin no more!” Why? Because sin kills! If you truly love someone you will share with them what God states is deadly…it is still their choice, but for you to remain silent exposes the fact that you do not love enough to be sensitive to what God considers the greatest need. I love a homosexual so much that I will share, when asked, what God’s Word states on this issue. Personally, I don’t care if you have sex with a lamppost! It’s none of my business, but if I love you, I would want you to know that your Creator will hold all of us accountable for what we did with the forgiveness He offered. If you choose to continue to live a certain way I will still be your friend, though I have found, that unless I declare what the Word of God calls “wrong,” “right,” I am not desired as a friend and I am labeled homophobic. Homosexuals have a right to what they believe; God gave them that freedom. I have a right to my beliefs, if I am labeled because of my beliefs, then my conclusion is the person that is judging me is “christaphobic.” Love communicates Truth, even when it is uncomfortable.

·      When was the last time you were willing to deal with an uncomfortable issue with someone, because you knew what God stated in His Word and they did not, but were seeking?

3. Genuine

John 11:32-36 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, "Behold how He loved him!"

Love is not something people have to guess at! They can see it in the way you communicate verbally and non-verbally. Jesus knew He was going to heal Lazarus, yet He still wept! Why? He understood the terrible grief that death brings. We were not created to die… the statement that “death is just a part of life” is a lie! Death is a reality of life due to sin, God intended us to live forever. He still does, but because of sin we must see our bodies die so He can raise a new one. Jesus felt these deep hurts among His friends and He expressed His love for them. I have done many funerals, the saddest experience is burying someone that you are unsure what their relationship to God was. However, the second most tragic funeral is watching someone stand over that coffin with deep regret because they failed in life to communicate their love to the person that is now gone. If we really love people they will know it, which is how we know our love is genuine!

·      When was the last time you expressed your love to those around you in a way that left them no doubt of your commitment to them?  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Are you Dying to Live?

When we hear the word “Die” it can communicate many different things depending on the context. For example: As you sit down and hear a tremendous RIP from the back of your pants! Or you are singing in a Choir and you are in good voice, so you belt out a note, forgetting there was a pause there…you are the only one singing! The girl you are crazy about hears you tell her you love her and she tells you she loves you…like a Brother! In each case your heart drops into your stomach and you just want to get away. That’s key, the idea of separation. On a serious note…someone you love passes on and you have to accept that reality, numbness sets in as you contemplate the separation. To “die” can be funny, tragic, heart breaking and, as we will see essential.

We have seen that our life is to flow internal to external. What is inside matters most! We also looked at the two natures we have; the old, which is powered by the flesh, and the new, which is empowered by the Holy Spirit. However, our new nature needs to develop life patterns so we can overcome the patterns of our flesh. No one has to teach me to sin…my flesh has been training me all my life!

The “fruit” that is produced by the Spirit of God in the child of God is the character of our Lord and will produce the life patterns we need.

How do we get it? It’s a two-fold process.

First is dying: As I said it is essential, because Scripture makes it clear that to “live” we must die.

* Most important and simple, yet the most difficult principle in Scripture!

John 12:24  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Dying is not so much about cessation, but separation. When we die physically our spirit separates from our body. Yet our spirit continues. If we die spiritually, our spirit is separated from God, but we still exist, which is why the question of our eternal destination is the most important question we will ever answer.

So what in the world does Jesus mean in John 12? This is the first part to seeing fruit produced…we must die to ourselves. This does not mean you cease being you, but separate yourself from you! This brings you full circle – Going back to how you think. Scripture admonishes: Where your treasure is, so is your heart!

Dying to self is separating yourself from YOUR: Priorities, Desires, Dreams and ideas of success.

God used my dad as an example. My Pop was a spy for the USA, a very special one. When my mother became terminally ill, we moved to Hawaii, where she had a remission that extended her life by 7 years. She came into a relationship with Christ 3 months before she died. God is so good! In those 7 years my Pop was offered 11 promotions by the government, two, by two different presidents. He turned them down because he knew if we moved out of the environment of Hawaii, my mom would surely die.

My Pop taught me a principle I saw on a tee shirt. It is a race with a bunch of rats, pushing and pulling on each other. On the back it states: If you win the rat race…you are still a rat! The success of this world is nothing compared to the richness of a loving relationship.

Be careful of the “Dangerous Substitute” - Good intentions; I planned to; I should have; I am going to…that path will never get you to “I am!” The more you play with commitment, the more dangerous it becomes. It leads to hardness and callousness of heart.

God’s priorities are always more noble and rewarding than the priorities craved by the flesh. It is difficult for many to understand that God desires a great marriage far above a great career, a humble person over a famous and successful one, a generous person over someone that is rich, a man of God far more that a big building and widely known ministry.

“So if I die to self, I can’t have all that other stuff? God never said that! The issue in dying is whom will you rely on for that other stuff…yourself or God?

Jesus said:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33–34

Jesus is stressing realignment of your priorities, which allow fruit production, which will lead to new life patterns. He is also challenging us to live sensibly…none of us can digest more than one day at a time, so why do we live anxious about the future. Focus on the moment and get the most out of it. God will never move you away from one thing without leading you toward something else. God is reasonable and does things that make sense. Our flesh may not always see it, but by faith we move and then see the wisdom. Believing is seeing, it’s just more difficult because our nature craves temporal sight!

The second part of the process is abiding:

John 15:4-5   "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.

We must be attached to Christ! This is not an incident-to-incident; no it is all the moments that make up a life. “But Nate, what about when I sin?At that moment you have pulled away from the vine, yet if you immediately confess and repent you reattach to the vine. So the question is; once you know that you have pulled away from the vine,  what do you do about it?

Living life this way means; Consciously taking Christ with you everywhere you go. If we do that we will also keep this reality before us; How long can a branch last away from the vine?  We can lose what the Holy Spirit has produced in us, fruit bearing is an ongoing lifestyle.

Jesus warns several places that to imitate being a connected branch will only bring disaster in the end.

John 15:6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Religiosity can produce the appearance of fruit, but there will be no reality to a pattern of changed life.

Let go of your life and latch onto His!