“Slipping Away”

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The other day I was introduced to a friend’s girlfriend. He said her name. I repeated her name as I shook her had. And repeated it again. A good habit I’ve used to remember many a person’s name, but this time it slipped out of my mind almost immediately as I turned to talk to someone else. At first I attempted to blame it on getting older, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I was preoccupied with other thoughts—even though I used my faithful, good habit for remember names….

Have you found this to be the case when reading the Word of God? Sadly, I must admit that sometimes this is so for me. As v. 24 of our main text observes, I look at the Book, but my mind is preoccupied with other concerns, issues, and, dare I say, worries. Oh, I’m reading the words—even saying them out loud sometimes, but alas, they soon slip away….

One thing I have done for years, but have gotten away from as a habit, was journaling the text I was reading. Over time it became another opportunity for ‘sermon seeds’. (Now, on one hand, this is not ‘bad,’ but this would often lead to “how I could present it to others” and not “how can I apply this to my own life.”

I have returned to journaling and pondering and engaging the text, praying to Lord Jesus to apply in my life through His Holy Spirit this particular aspect of Truth which leads to freedom (v. 25). Some times the bites are manageable; while other times they are sizable, requiring more time to process. …

What are some ‘habits’ you use so that the Word doesn’t just slip away after reading it? Your thoughts?

Main Text— James 1:22–25 (NIV84)— 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.John 8:31–32 (NIV84)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”—John 14:6 (NIV84)

 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.— John 17:17 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Belt of Truth. May I be a Truth-bearer and not a tale-teller. Sanctify me by Your Word. Your Word is Truth. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“Are You Full of ‘It’?”

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As I was growing up, one of the common insults I would get is, “You’re full of it.” Not sure what “it” was, but when I would say something rather outlandish, back shot the retort: “You’re full of it, Rossmann.” (Even to this day I’m not quite sure what they meant, except that they didn’t believe what I was saying was true or accurate—humph!)

But as I read this morning’s main text, I would gladly receive the tart retort, “You’re full of it” as a badge of honor and not shame. Here, “it” is the Word of Christ. I would like to be so full of “It” that my teaching, coaching and correcting were indeed full of “all wisdom”! …

And since the Lord Jesus Christ has become my Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30, as I yield to His presence, this wisdom can be overflowing….

How do I get “full of it”? I know one way is not laying my head on the Bible—though some may think this is possible. I have learned that when it comes to the Word, there are two major ways to get “it”: I see it or I hear it. I see it in printed form or modeled in another’s behavior; and I hear it read to me. Personally, I set aside some time in the morning to read the Word beyond my sermon prep. This has been a challenge over the years, but during my convalescence, I have made this a high priority. Sometimes, my reading often overlaps with my sermon prep, but this I expect, since I am preparing a messenger as much as a message. Another way, I “get full of it” is listening to other sermons in podcasts, and, yes, the old fashion way, on CD’s. (I even still have a CD/Cassette player in my car!)

What do you do “to get full of it”? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Colossians 3:16–17 (NIV84) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.1 John 2:14 (NASB95)

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.—John 15:7–8 (NIV84)

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.— Deuteronomy  6:6–9 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, fill me with the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. May my ‘cup’ overflow. Stir in me a hunger for Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Common Union”

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In my research and in my personal experience I have noted that one of the most common accusations against the church her divisions. Sadly, some divisions are rather vicious and cruel. The maturity to agree to disagree agreeably is wanting in many settings. And why? Because “we have God’s approval and I am here to let you know….”

Truly, there will be honest disagreements of how we baptize or celebrate the Lord’s Table, or what songs to sing or not sing. How long to preach, if at all, but I’m sure many of you would agree, especially those who know the Lord Jesus, that we do have a common union in the Lord Jesus. We all agree that He died for our sins in fulfillment of the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the Scriptures (see 1 Cor. 15:3, 4).

And in this common belief we have a common union. From there it seems if we follow Philippians 3:15-16, all will be well: “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things [i.e. have the same mind as our Lord Jesus as explained earlier in chapter 2:5-8]. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” [NIV]. I understand “already attained” to mean “already agreed upon, what we already have in common.”

To me, this common union is seen very clearly in the Lord’s Table, the Last Supper, the fulfillment of Passover. All have sinned and need this Table. All who Love Lord Jesus know this all too well. And we come to the Table humble and yet grateful, knowing the Grace that has been offered to us in the act this Table: “In remembrance of Me”  (Luke 22:19b)

Maybe that’s why we call this Table, “Communion?” To express the Common Union we have in Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 11:19, 23-26 (NIV) No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. … For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.— John 17:11b (NIV)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all … will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.—John 13:34–35 (NIV84)

 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”— 1 Peter 4:7–8 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. May I see all who confess the Name of the Lord Jesus with the same eyes of Grace, Mercy, and Love You see me. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Substantial Love vs. Syrupy love”

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If you’ve ever had a dessert, or a cookie or a drink that is just too sweet, you know what I mean when I talk about syrupy “love”. It is gooey and shallow and often pretentious…, or at least one of these three.

The problem is not the word “love” in and of itself. The problem is the lack of deeper words for Love in the English language. (Many of you know that Greek has four words for love, and in one sense, this helps distinguish the various levels of commitment and emotion…but sadly not English.)

We use “love” for everything from the food we consume to cars we drive; to ideas and, yes, even relationships. And I have observed that to say, “I love you,” is still something rather profound and endearing in any stage of any relationship….

However, often what is meant is, “I’d really like to consume you for my own personal pleasure,” and not “I’m willing to sacrifice my hopes and dreams and, if necessary, even my life for you.” Obviously, syrupy love is the former. It’s the “I really ‘love’ how you make me feel and what you can do for me,” love. Substantial Love, however, is the Love that says, “I want the best for you” Love. “I am willing…”: This goes beyond feelings to a commitment of the will. Yes, as the old vows say, “in sickness and in health; for better, for worse; to death do us part” kind of commitment. Syrupy love evaporates when the hard times come, when it is inconvenient or no longer interesting.

But Substantial Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes,” and “[It] never fails.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:7-8.)

So when someone says, “All we need is love,” ask them to define what they mean by the word “love”. Is it syrupy or substantial.

Oh, and while your at it, join me in asking ourselves, “Do I really Love with a substantial Love…as Jesus did?”

I know that the only way I can do this is to yield to the Lord Jesus in my Life as my Love  so I can truly Love as He did.

How about you? What is your source of strength to Love like this? Your thoughts?

Main Text— John 15:13 (NIV84)Love Substantial Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

No one takes [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.— John 10:18 (NIV84)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all … will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.—John 13:34–35 (NIV84)

   We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.— 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 (NIV)

Husbands, love your wives as the Messiah loved the church and gave Himself for [her], so that He might make [her] holy by cleansing [her], washing [her] with water and the word.— Ephesians 5:25–26 (ISV)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. Continue Your transforming work in my Life by the power of the Holy Spirit as He makes me more like Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Substantial Love”

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Have you ever had a preacher ask you to substitute your name for the word, ‘love’ in the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? He asked this as a self-evaluation of substantial Love? It looks something like this (using my name, of course, wherever the word “love” appears).

Mike is patient, Mike is kind. Mike does not envy, Mike does not boast, Mike is not proud. Mike is not rude, Mike is not self-seeking, Mike is not easily angered, Mike keeps no record of wrongs. Mike does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Mike always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Mike never fails.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we do not score very high. Oh, I may be more patient than most, and I am chivalrous—ahem. I don’t turn too dark a shade of green; my stating facts are considered boasting, especially, when I don’t get my way…. Oh, and records of wrongs? With age I don’t remember many of my sports’ stats like I used to, but I can still remember how many times I had to tell…. You get the point. My score still isn’t that high. How’s yours?

It was a few years back as I was teaching on Jesus is our Life, that I realized He is also our Love. (I knew the Bible taught, “God is Love,” but somehow I kept thinking I had to manufacture this Love in my life, or at the very least—ahem—fake it (Ouch!).) So I did a little exercise in my quiet moments: I substituted Lord Jesus’ Name for “Love” and it looked a lot better….

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus is not rude, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.

So, since Jesus is my Life, He is also my Love. As I daily put Him on as my Belt of Love (from Colossians 3:14), He continues His transforming work in my life making me more like Him. Then it is not “Mike” who is becoming more patient, but the Lord Jesus in me…. The pressure of manufacturing this Love or even having to “fake it” is gone—or at least substantially lessened. Because the same Love He is in and through me is also to me: Jesus is patient with me. He is kind with me. He keeps no records of wrongs! …

… This is substantial Love!

Have you found this to be as mind-blowing an experience as I have? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Psalm 86:15 (NIV84) But you, O LORD, are a compassionate and gracious God.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?— Romans 8:32 (NIV84)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.—1 John 3:1–3 (NIV84)

  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.— Col 3:3–4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. Continue Your transforming work in my Life by the power of the Holy Spirit as He makes me more like Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Really? God Loves Me?”

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Back in the early 70’s when I was in college, I first encountered what was known as the “Four Spiritual Laws,” which started with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” When this was first ‘pitched’ to me, I laughed incredulously. “Yeah, right!” My plan was to be a professional baseball player and a lawyer in the off-season, but I had just been rejected by the University’s baseball coach, even denied a walk-on. My baseball coach knew the then head coach, but my coach never got my tapes and stats to him. So I walked in blind…. “Sorry, son, but I already have my players picked for this year.” He may have said more, and I either didn’t hear it, but I definitely don’t remember it. God Loves me, huh?!?

This was immediately followed by my first love’s rejection—all on the same day! Needless to say, I tumbled quickly into the black vortex I was so familiar with. Despair evacuated hope. Abandonment rifled my community. The darkness was overwhelming…. Sparing the details, suffice it to say, I spiraled my way across campus to a religious meeting. It was towards the end of the meeting and I snuck in and sat way in the back.

The speaker was closing up his talk with a simple question: “Are you living or are you existing? You see living is…, and existing is…” Perhaps you can fill in the rest, but that night I began my journey out of the black vortex and into the Light of the Love that the Lord truly has for me. I committed my life then and there to follow Him as my Lord, but as far as the Love part, well, this came much lately….

Perhaps some of you know how that black vortex numbs your emotions. This is not to say that the Love God has for us is purely emotional, but the spiritual reality bleeds into the emotional receptors, and these were numbed by life’s concussions….

Slowly, I have come to realize that the Lord does Love me. When this reality finally resurrected in my soul, there were no fireworks or light shows, but a quite whisper, gently healing my wounded soul, “Yes, Michael, I truly do Love you.” He knew exactly how and when to communicate this truth to me. Any other way, and it would have closed my sore soul. But as Randy Stonehill sings, “I was lost in a fantasy that blinded me until your Love broke through….”

“Your Love Broke Through” Like to Randy’s song)

His Love broke through to me; how about you? In your journey with Jesus has His Love broke through yet? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 John 3:1-3 (NIV84) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.— 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV84)

As He says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘My people’ who are not My people; and I will call her ‘My loved one’ who is not My loved one.”—Romans 9:25 (NIV84)

 Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?— Romans 8:32 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, continue to open my heart and soul to the Love You have for me in and through Your Son, Christ Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Righteous Judgment?”

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Probably one of the most difficult things about a God, Who is Love, is to reconcile His Wrath and Judgment. It goes something like this: “How can a loving God send people to hell,” or the  like. And before we quickly dismiss this, we truly must engage the challenge. How can a loving God do this?

Obviously, treatises and tomes have been written attempting to resolve this conflict. I cannot pretend to say I have read them all or even a near majority. But what I can offer in this brief blog, is a Both/And response to an Either/Or Dilemma.

God is either severely wrath-filled and vicious or He is completely Loving and forgiving: This is the general framing of the conundrum. But I want to submit that a Holy-Love God can express both wrath against evil and Love toward Good at the same time. The problem comes when we reduce the LORD to a human parent, whose fickle punishment and discipline have scarred many for life.

Our God’s wrath is neither capricious nor reckless. The main verse notes that an essential element of His character is patience: He “is slow to anger.” But He is also “great in power”. His anger/wrath when executed is not out of control, thrashing about like a drowning swimmer. No, rather with pinpoint accuracy the LORD punishes the wicked, who refuse to repent, thus protecting His own, who have been cruelly treated by the wicked. This is true justice; Holy Love….

How slow was He to anger? Well, with the people of Noah’s day, it appears He waited 120 years (not counting the many years before Noah) before He executed judgment. And when He did, His Holy-Love spared Noah’s family. (I hear the book is better than the movie.) Another example of our LORD’s slow to anger is with Assyria. After they repented from their wickedness under Jonah’s reluctant preaching, the LORD spared them, on the low end, 120 years as well, before His Holy-Love destroyed the wicked nation for its sorcery, idolatry and violence, but yet protected His people, Judah….

Beyond the theological conundrum and the personal struggle with a God Who is Holy-Love, at least two questions need to be addressed: (1) How does this change my view of disciplining my children? and (2) Where does the cross fit in here?

When discipling our children, let us never do it in anger or reckless temper tantrums. Have a plan. Have reasons. Clearly explain the expectations and the consequences. The older the child the more involved they are in the discipline process. But remember, they do need discipline…

When considering the cross, I see the welding of God’s Holy-Love with Grace. I’m reminded of a sandwich quarter: Holy and Love are the two precious metals on the outside, but welded in the middle is another precious metal: Grace. Beyond the mystery of God, the trinity, etc., I find this fascinating. It was on the cross where the Love of God was demonstrated (Romans 5:8) and, at the same time, I see God’s Holiness express in the sacrifice, the required payment for sin—all sin. And I see the Grace proffered all people, so they do not have to receive the pinpoint wrath of an unrepentant heart.

What are your thoughts on this rather heavy subject?

Main Text— Nahum 1:3 (NIV84)— 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.— 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV84)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God—John 3:17–18 (NASB95)

Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.— 1Proverbs 13:244 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, fill my heart with Your Holy-Love so I may graciously discipline those under my care. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike