Coming fresh off of winter retreat @ CAIW, I think it’d be nice to write down a few thoughts before the post-retreat excitement settles. This retreat, perhaps more than any other, left me with a sense of it being a very necessary retreat. The theme of the retreat was “Knowing God,” and the theme verse was Hebrews 8:10-11, which says: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” I guess all I really want to do at this point is list a few points that I really enjoyed, and maybe ramble on a bit more after having done so…
- The death we died upon Adam eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a spiritual death; as such, that death that occurred once sin entered man denied us the ability to have fellowship with God, as we would no longer be beings of spirit as He is; however, He provided His Son that our dead spirits would be made alive again. I guess this point was refreshing because I feel like it appropriately clarified the death mentioned in Genesis while creating a new way for me to view the Gospel story, including the aspect of spirit into the narrative.
- Be an Ananias if you can. Ananias was praying, and received direction to go seek out Saul, who was praying on his own. The Lord gave specific instructions to Ananias about where to find Saul and what He was going to do through Saul’s life. However, the important thing is that Ananias was waiting for the Lord in prayer, which led to him getting this charge from the Lord. He was also able to talk to the Lord and voice his concern about following the Lord’s command, which is something that is worth striving for – reaching a point where we can voice our concerns to God, but still be open to His leading.
- Philippians 3:7-8, 10 is an internal response to what happened in Acts 9 to Paul. Paul had many things going his way in regards to his education and his position within society, and yet, at the moment of his conversion, he saw that knowing Christ was worth so much more than knowing about Christ. He no longer persecuted the believers, but endured persecution alongside them; once pride of his position, he called himself less than the least. This was the fruit of knowing the value of Christ.
- With regards to knowing the Holy Spirit, the example in Exodus 16:1-4 shows that Egypt is perhaps how we were before we were saved, and the flesh desire is for captivity while the spirit leads to freedom. Being free is really difficult (they didn’t have water or food, it was hot, etc.), and the wilderness is when the Israelites learned to be free. With Cain and Abel, we see that the desire to serve the Lord may come from the flesh, but the flesh is wrong; nevertheless, we see how the flesh’s first instinct is to kill the Spirit (Cain kills Abel). Learning to live by the spirit is learning to not desire the immediate confirmation of what we’re doing – it involves quieting ourselves and making space for the Lord.
- The central matter of the Lord’s Table is that Christ died for us. Therefore, don’t treat the Lord’s Table lightly – Matthew 26:26-30 gives back up for this practice. The reason for us bringing our own portion to the Lord’s table is that we are all part of one loaf; God has no need for any of our portions, but just as we wouldn’t come empty-handed to a dinner hosted by President Obama, so too should we treat – to an obviously greater degree – the Lord’s Table; it is the idea of the Lord not needing anything from us, but us bringing the gesture of bringing what we have to Him.
- Consecration comes from love. Joshua 24 shows essentially the entire process of consecration; we need to be reminded of what the Lord has saved us from to produce the response of love for the Lord and a desire to be consecrated to Him. Consecration is both a one-time declaration, as in Joshua 24:15 (“…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”), but it is also an ongoing process of making that love-inspired choice to be consecrated to the Lord.
- Pressing on in our faith, as spoke of in Philippians 3:12-14, involves both looking inward, seeing our sin and shame, but also looking upwards at a loving Father; we press on knowing that there’s a goal and that there’s a prize: knowing Him. We want to know Him because He loved us so much, and our pressing on is conforming to God’s design for us – it is not so much an active effort on our part as it is a participation in Christ being the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Really hoping 2016 brings about a fresh urgency in my faith, and a greater expectation of the reality of Christ’s return!