“A Precious Treasure”

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Date: 12-24-14

Text: — 2 Corinthians 4:7 — But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.[NIV84]

The Big Idea: This precise Treasure, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, the Hope of Glory, is in our earthen vessel—our jar of clay!

My Thoughts: 

This precious Treasure is Light—not too burdensome, and very, very bright. Some put lampshades over the jar because of its brightness. These do not want to offend anyone. Others shine it full bore forcing others to cover their eyes. However we carry this precious Treasure of Light, I want to remind us of how precious it is….

Lifestyle worshiper: This precise Treasure is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, the Hope of Glory. Born in obscurity and in poverty, He humbled Himself to take on an earthen vessel, a jar of clay—if you will. He grew up in a small village. Lost His father at a young age and had to provide for His family as a carpenter. After a couple of decades, He stepped out of obscurity and into the limelight, preaching the good news: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He went about doing good: Healing the sick, comforting the mourners, giving sight to the blind, feeding the poor, and releasing those held captive.

The crowd’s cheers soon turned to jeers as they escorted Him to the cross. Ah, but you know the rest of the story. The grave could not hold Him! He is Risen and ascended, soon to come in full glory!

And it is He—the Risen, Glorious Savior, this Precious Treasure, the Light of the World—we have in our earthen vessel—our jar of clay!  Yes, those who have committed to follow Jesus, to receive Him into their lives have His very presence in us. Does this overwhelm you as it does me? This Holy Light of which we sing is ‘housed’ in my common, dirty, ‘old’ life. I know what my flesh is. …

But the Holy One puts His Holy Light in me to show that when I am hard pressed and not crushed; when I perplexed and not despairing; when I am persecuted and not abandoned; when I am knocked down and not destroyed: all this is to show that I am not doing it, but His all-surpassing power is! He is preserving me, protecting me, and promoting Him—Jesus, the Light of the World.

When you celebrate a Christmas Eve candlelight service or attend a Christmas Mass,  humbly rejoice in this powerful mystery: “Christ [—the Light of the World—] in you, the Hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27)! Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas. Shalom to you and yours under your care.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 (NIV84)

    We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.   — 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV84)

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” — Luke 2:13-14 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father,  I join the angels in praising You for this miraculous mystery: Immanuel—God with us! I praise You for this truly awesome mystery of Christ in me, the Hope of Glory. I am speechless. Holy Spirit, intercede so that my Praise may truly honor You, and the Father and the Son! Baruch Ha Shem (Blessed be the Name!), Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“Which Star, Which Light?”

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Date: 12-17-14

Text: — Matthew 2:1-2 — 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Take an honest inward look to answer these questions.

My Thoughts: 

There are many lights in the sky. There are many voices in the crowd. But which do we follow? To which do we listen? From local gurus to fellow bloggers, indeed, there are many to choose from. I get overwhelmed trying to follow all the voices out there. But which ones do I follow? How do I filter them? What metric do I use as a filter? These questions follow the former ones….

Lifestyle worshiper: we need to take an honest inward look to answer these questions. Why? Because an honest inventory (it’s that time of year) may reveal our stock is short in one area and long in another.

In my inward look, I have found that sometimes the voices I listen to are from the past—past failures, past guilt, all of which have been confessed and forgiven. Again, as I inventory my stock, I have found that some of the lights I have followed are bright enough to offer some guidance, dimly lighting my way, but when I  joined the magi in following His star (v. 2). I discovered a much brighter light. A light so bright it first blinded me and then revealed the Truth to me. I have discovered that the Light of this Star is faithful, leading me on paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. It leads me to the Voice the calms the sea and forgives the adulteress. “This Voice that is calling you and me.”

And I find this Light and hear this Voice first and foremost in the Written Word: the Holy Bible. I have read other books—some considered Holy and some not, and these seem to offer some light, but I have found not the Light. Their brightness appears to pale in comparison to the True Light. Have you found this to be so, too?

So as I have asked myself, I now ask you: Is your light bright enough? Is it His Star? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

— John 8:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

— John 8:12 (NIV84)

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

— Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

Heavenly Father,  I commit to follow the true Light that has come into the world, Your Son,  the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray I faithfully walk in the Light as He is in the Light. May I hear His voice alone and obey His promptings. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Forgiveness Offers Hope”

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Date: 12-04-14

Text: — Jeremiah 31:34 — 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshipers, I understand that forgiveness is truly and solely a divine act, that is, only God can forgive sins.

My Thoughts: 

Have you heard statements like this: “God may forgive you, but I never will,” “Even God won’t forgive me,” and “God’s punishing me for my sin?” It is statements like these that shout to me there is no hope in a given situation, and often in a given relationship. I hear the oft said, “You’ll never change,” echo in my soul, and wonder: Is there any hope?

When it comes to forgiveness, I know many struggle with the many nuances and inflections of it and how each individual defines it or demonstrates it—or not. But for me, this is a very dear and profound reality. I have pursued it and studied it for some time, and I have discovered that the best place to go is the Word of God. I believe He can give us a more consistent and accurate definition of forgiveness.

Of the many nuances and components of forgiveness, I would like to focus on two in this blog. The first is expressed in the text from Jeremiah noted above: “To forgive is to forget.” To me, if we honestly look at the above passage with fresh eyes, we will see the clear connection between forgiveness and forgetfulness, at least from a divine perspective. For if the Lord forgets our sins when He forgives us, then forgivingness is necessarily connected to forgetfulness. (There are other passages that express this very component of divine forgiveness: Psalm 10311-12; Jeremiah 50:20; Isaiah 43:25, for instance.) Some may say, “I cannot forget what they did to me. It would be wise, let alone dangerous.” I understand, and this naturally leads to the second component that I want to focus on in this blog.

The second component of forgiveness is perhaps a debatable one, though I think the evidence is rather overwhelming: Forgiveness is a divine act. Lifestyle worshipers, as I understand it, forgiveness is truly— dare I say—and solely an act only God can perform. Only He can forgive sins. I believe this because of the standard He set for forgiveness: He will forget our sins. This is clearly beyond our feeble human ability; at least, I know it is well beyond mine.

Bare with me a wee bit longer, please. I am saying that we cannot forgive anyone per se, but we can enter into the forgiveness that the Lord Jesus offers, especially that on the cross….

So, when someone says, “I cannot forgive them,” they speak rightly,  for indeed they cannot forgive ‘them’. They do not have enough will power or chutzpah to do so. But when they say, “I will not forgive them,” we have an entirely different issue. This is a hard, bitter heart, (and I have had one of these all too frequently. A dear friend once put it to me years ago, “Michael, you have a broken wanter.”) In order to forgive someone, anyone, including myself, I must ‘want’ to forgive them. Once I come to the place where Jesus’s Life in me overcomes the hurt and sparks a desire to forgive them, I enter into the power of forgiveness the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated and offered on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV 84).  (Thus, I frame a pray for forgiveness as expressed in the prayer below.)

Again, forgiveness is a very, very big subject, and I am barely scratching the surface here. And in answer to the question I posed in the introduction, “Yes, there is hope!” Forgiveness, to me, offers hope, a hope on all levels: hope of a new life, a fresh start, a new day, a new beginning, a second chance. Does this offer of forgiveness in the New Covenant that Jesus sealed in His Blood do the same for you?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, because this is My blood of the new covenant that is being poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins.”

— Matthew 26:27-28 (ISV)

  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

— Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

— Ephesians 4:32 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I forgive ________ for ________. I ask You Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of their actions. Remove the pain and shame they have caused me. Be that part of my Life that has been damaged by _______. I release ________ into your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike