“‘Believer’ or ‘Follower’: Which is It”

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Following Jesus More than Twitter

Have you notice that there appears to be a dichotomy between a “Believer in Jesus” and a “Follower of Jesus?” It seems to some that merely believing in Jesus isn’t enough, so they want to communicate their commitment to Jesus by saying, “I’m a follower of Jesus” (Or Christ, which is the Messiah).

Does it seem like this to you: Some who say they believe in Jesus don’t appear to live like Him? And from this do “the Followers” get the idea that if they call themselves followers of Jesus, it necessarily implies that they are living like He would desire them to live? Is this kind of like the ‘born again’ Christians of the 70’s?

Perhaps you have discovered what I have: To believe in Jesus has an action component. To truly trust in, rely on, and have faith in Jesus necessarily produces a follower. And yet some say they believe but have no action. (I think James refers to this as “deeds” or “works” in his letter, 2:14-26, don’t you?)

Okay, since not all who say,“I believe in Jesus,” appear to have the action component of a follower, does it also follow that those who say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” not necessarily make them a believer? Apparently not. Our Lord clearly addresses this in our main text below, with the key verses being vv. 64-66.…

What I am suggesting here, then, is we have a false dichotomy. This is not an Either/Or, but a Both/And: Our Lord Jesus wants Both Believers who Follow And Followers who Believe. If someone says, “I believe in Jesus,” their life should demonstrate this confession. Likewise, those who say, “I follow Jesus,” their lives and confession should integrate. Agree?

Perhaps then, our being Salt and Light will have a wee bit more impact on the world around us, more so than merely saying we believe or saying we follow.

What do you think? Your thoughts.

Main Text— John 6:60–69 (NIV84) 60 On hearing it, many of His disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. 65 He went on to say, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?Luke 6:46 (NIV84)

 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.—Matthew 7:24 (NIV84)

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.— Hebrews 6:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. May the confession of my mouth be seen in my feet as I follow in Your steps.

Pastor Mike

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“Two Modes of Forgiveness”

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Repenting-before-the-Cross

There are two modes or ways to dispense forgiveness. One mode is what I call “Confrontational Forgiveness.” (Please don’t get lost in the word, “Confrontational”; it starts with a “c.”). Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15-20 present this approach. Either the offender or the “offendee,” respectively, cares enough to confront the other. There is a face to face meeting, confessing, forgiving, and hugging (generally). More often than not, this is the wisest approach. The purpose is to reconcile a relationship: winning the brother (see Matt. 18:15).

The second mode is what I call, “Cross Forgiveness.” This is what our Lord Jesus demonstrated on the Cross. This approach to forgiveness is simple and yet extremely challenging. The simple aspect is this: We climb up on the cross with Jesus, so to speak, and say what He said, ‘Father, forgive ______, for s/he does not know what s/he is doing to me.” Yep, pretty simple, indeed….

But the extremely challenging aspect of this is the “want-to”. Do we want to forgive? Allow me to explain. First of all, only God can forgive sin (see Luke 5:21-26 & 17:3-6). Through confession we enter into the forgiveness spoken and demonstrated on the cross. We cannot forgive. We do not have the power to separate the sin from the sinner. Only the Lord can do this. So, when someone says, “I can’t forgive them,”  “they” are speaking the truth. It is impossible for them to forgive them because, once again, only the Lord can forgive sin….

So what remains it the will: Do we want to forgive them? Once a very dear friend, Jess Kellerman, said to me in regard to forgiving someone, “Michael, you have a broken ‘wanter’!” “A what?” I incredulously asked. “It’s not that you can’t forgive; it’s that you don’t want to forgive.” From this he went on to explain a simple fact: Of course, I cannot forgive them, but do I want to forgive them. If I do not want to forgive, I have a broken “wanter”! He then offered a simple prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, I confess I do not want to forgive _____. Forgive me for this. I ask You to give me the desire to forgive and then forgive ______ through me.”

As we observe Good Friday, and what Jesus did on the cross, let us also observe the “Cross Forgiveness.” Sometimes it is best that we climb up on the cross and humbly ask our Heavenly Father to forgive those who have no idea what they are doing to us. What are your thoughts? [For a brief discussion on forgiveness, see Endnote #12 p. 41 in my book, A Solemn Assembly: Gathering to seek the Lord’s Face.]

Main Text— Luke 23:32–34 (NIV84)— 32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him, along with the criminals—one on His right, the other on His left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.Matthew 18:35 (NIV84)

 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.—Matthew 6:12–15 (NIV84)

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.— Psalm 130:3–4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I forgive _______ for _______. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of his/her actions. Lord Jesus Christ, remove the pain and shame s/he has caused Your Name and me. Be that part of my life that has been damaged by him/her. I release ______ into Your hands. [Rossmann, Michael L. A Solemn Assembly: Gathering to Seek the LORD’s Face. Orlando: Xulon Press, 2015. print p. 30]

Pastor Mike

“Keep Up or Catch Up?”

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Sweeping upRight out of college, after failing to get a teaching position, I turned to day-work and part part-time jobs to get by. One was a janitor at a blood draw facility. I was being trained to hospital specs. There were many tests along the way. One was the quarter behind the door. I had to change it out to two dimes and a nickel. Another was surprise inspections. I learned a lot of sayings, too: Clean what’s seen, and then clean what is unseen; look up, look down, look behind, look around.

But one of my favorite sayings is: It is easier to keep up than catch up. So always do a thorough job each night, that it goes more quickly. Skipping areas and having to catch up expends too much energy and wastes time….

Have you discovered in your spiritual journey with Jesus that it is easier to keep up than catch up? Sometimes in our journey we get tired and take a break, lingering a wee bit too long before some temptation. Or we continue to pick up baggage along the way, slowing our pace as the burdens grows heavier….

Keeping up with Jesus is much easier than catching up; at least this is what I have found to be the case. When I deal with my burdens (aka grudges, regrets, disappointments, resentments, any sins) earlier, they are much easier to discard. But as I nurse them, they seem to take on a life of their own, and feel more at home, than Jesus does. Now I know I am one to fix things way too soon, and confess sins that I may not be quite ready to repent of yet, but I’d rather be too early than, well, too late. I have found that confessing sooner is much more liberating than waiting until I “feel like it.” Oh, there are those times I come later to the place of deep soul repentance, but I have found as my walk draws closer to Jesus, merely being in His presence somehow makes those grudges, resentments, regrets, etc., all the more dirty, unholy and flat out sinful. I am more quickly repulsed by them. …

Anyway, having to run long distances to catch up seems more of a challenge than merely keeping up. What do you think? What are your thoughts?

Main Text— James 5:13–16 (NIV84) 13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.Galatians 5:25–26 (NIV84)

  Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind—Psalm 26:2 (NIV84)

 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.— Psalm 139:23–24 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, keep my heart sensitive to those things that displease You. May I deal quickly with those things that  so easily hinder me and the sins that so easily entangle me. Empower my feet to be swift to keep in Your steps. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Push The Pause Button”

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Anger Pause Button

The cleansing of the Temple is often used as support by many who get angry, and they say, “See, Jesus got angry.” Then they slide over to Ephesians 4:26, and once again, say, “See, see, it’s okay to be angry!” True, it is okay, but we are still not to sin. James puts it rather bluntly, “You must understand this, my dear brothers. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. For human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20 ISV emphasis added).

Allow me to add a subtle nuance to this thinking, especially, the “slow” part of James 1:19. I find that in the two cleansings our Master did, there is something peculiar in each. John 2:12-15 describes the first cleansing. At this cleansing, Jesus pauses to braid a “flagellum,” i.e. a whip, out of cords of rope instead of leather straps. In Marks account of the second cleansing, he clearly notes that Jesus, coming off of His Triumphal Entry, walks into the Temple, looks around, and then leaves for Bethany (see Mark 11:11), apparently to come back the next day for the cleansing. Is it possible, in both these instances, that He was using the “pause button” to His anger—being tempted in every ways as we all are? And is it also possible, He did this to demonstrate true, holy indignation—true anger? And is it also possible that He did this to stand in stark contrast to the ‘justified’ anger we often baptize as ‘holy indignation’?

Do you think we too quickly justify our anger, and fail to push the pause button, quoting some out-of-context verse or passage simply to salve our guilty conscience because we know our anger is being fueled by selfish hurt or unmet expectations, or whatever is not holy?

Of all the times I have gotten angry, and sadly there are too, too many to recall in detail, but in principle, I can clearly observe that 99.9% of those I attempted to justify as “holy indignation” (and it was 99.9% of all the times I was angry), were anything but “holy”. Now, as Jesus has more control of me, I am more often than not, able to push the pause button, and in this pause reflect on what is really fueling my anger. And, let me say in honor of the late Gary Smalley, who taught this: “Anger is the idiot light on the dashboard of our lives and says that I cannot say, ‘you make me angry,’ but rather ‘You show me how plugged into you I am and not into Jesus!’” Double “ouch!” Your thoughts?

Main Text— John 2:13–16 (NIV)— 13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.Proverbs 19:11 (NIV84)

  A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.—Proverbs 29:11 (NIV84)

  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.— Colossians 3:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I yield my ‘temper’ to the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to be in so much control of my emotions, that I am able to push the pause button before ‘flying off the handle.’  Be my Peace, Lord Jesus Christ, that I may not be so easily offended. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Dangerous Grace”

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Amazing Grace copy

Grace is dangerous and risky. It could lead to misuse and license: “Let us sin that grace may abound!” The Apostle Paul new of this danger and wrote extensively on it in several of his letters (e.g. see Romans 6:1-7:25 and Galatians 5:1-15), and we do not have space here to present a major treatise on this amazing subject of Grace (and there are many scholarly works available to peruse). But what I do want to present is the Hope of this dangerous Grace….

The hope? When we do fall, this dangerous Grace is all-sufficient for us to get back up and keep on walking in the Spirit in the steps of my Savior. We do not take this dangerous Grace lightly. We are fully aware of the price paid of the lavished Love flowing from such all-sufficient Grace. Yes, I could take it for granted, and continue wallowing in the muck and mire of my flesh—my sin, but the Love Lord Jesus has lavished on me somehow propels me to step out of the miry clay and have my feet firmly placed on the Rock that is higher than I. His dangerous Grace is faithful to forgive me when I confess my sin and cleanse me from all that muck & mire…. It is all-sufficient.

Charles Spurgeon, the 19th Century Prince of Preachers, shares a very personal moment regarding v. 9 of our main text:

The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly as a lightning flash, the text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way. “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. … It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking  the river dry…. Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine, and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in the lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for  thee.” Oh brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls. [Source: Streams in the Desert, February 26]

So I rest in the hope of this dangerous, all-sufficient Grace. The hope that gets me back up when I fall; the hope that a confessed sin is not only forgiven, but replaced with heaven’s righteousness; the  hope that my feeble steps behind my gracious Master are strengthened by His dangerous Grace. Does this hope spur you to get back up and drink in His never-ending all-sufficient Grace? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NIV) 7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB95)

  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.—1 Timothy 1:13–14 (NIV84)

  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.— Titus 2:11–14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I am humbled by this amazing, dangerous Grace. I know I am not worthy to receive this, but Your Love for me has made me valuable. You Loved me even when I was Your enemy. Lord Jesus, I praise You for Your sacrifice of Love and Grace. No words can truly capture my heart’s gratitude. Baruch Ha Shem Y’shua! Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Baby Doesn’t Stay Down”

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Baby's First Steps

I was there for each of my daughters’ first steps, but I do not remember much after this. However, I am far more present and observant with my grandkids: As they take that first step; struggle to stay on their feet; it’s simply fascinating. Then I observed other young tikes learning to walk: each struggles to keep his/her balance! And when they fall, they don’t stay down. They get right back up….

Whether we are young in the Lord or a seasoned believer, I have found it equally fascinating that many do not struggle to keep their balance, and many do not get right back up on their feet. Instead, they remain on the ground whining—like a little baby…. I quite easily see the “baby” analogy, but clearly, I’ve observed something quite different with “Babes” in Christ. These, on the other hand, struggle to keep their balance, as they walk behind the Master, closely following Him. Oh, and when they fall, they get right back up. …

I had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Am I a “babe” or a “baby” in Christ? Ouch!

Part of my struggle in not quickly getting up is a poor view of His Love and Grace. “I have failed Him, greatly disappointing Him, how could He accept me back?” But as I watch parents with their children, none—I repeat, none!—ever chastise or yell or cajole or even tease their little one as s/he begins their walking journey. How much more does the Grace and Love of our Heavenly Father supersede this? So then, why do I whine and complain and beat myself up when I fall? Because I, and I alone, am greatly disappointed in my self. My expectations are far greater than my Lord’s and my self-apportioned love and grace, are far less than His Love and Grace….

So what do I do? One thing I am working on is simply getting back up when I fall. Dust myself of with a little soul confession of the particular sin; keep on putting one foot in front of the other—baby steps, if need be…; and continue to walk in Love and Grace of the Freedom my Shepherd has afforded me. What do you do? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Romans 8:1 (NKJV)— 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.—1 Peter 2:2–3 (NKJV)

 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.Galatians 5:16–18 (NIV)

  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12–14 (NIV)

Heavenly Father, soften my heart to receive the Love You have for me. Lord Jesus Christ, may I rest in the sufficiency of the Cross, where You confessed, “It is Finished!”In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Power to Live the Life”

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Plugging into Jesus

As we embark on this series developing the third component of our Vision Statement: “Living His Word” (the first two are : Building Families & Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ), it would be very easy to slip into what I have called, “Behavioral Christianity,” that is, attempting to Live the Word in our own strength. This attempt to live the Christian Life in our own strength, on the one hand, produces hypocrites and legalists, who have no integrity, and who foolishly think they can fake living the Life or who foolishly think they can gut out the Word without the Life of Lord Jesus coursing through their spiritual veins, respectively. The Dangler, on the other hand, has integrity, but is caught between the is and the ought: They “ought” to live like the Word, but they “is” not like the Word. So they slip from one teacher to another; one church to another; one Bible study to another until they find the “secret.” But plugging into people, positions, power or possessions just doesn’t cut it….

The “secret,” as Gary Smalley has said, is: “We need to plug into the 220 outlet—the Lord Jesus!” (“220”comes from Galatians 2:20—see below.)

So as we plug into the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, He empowers us by His Holy Spirit to Live the Life the Word presents. For example, the Word teaches, “… Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34b NIV84). Now I can try to Love my brother and sister in Christ in my own strength and to some degree I may have some success. (And some may have even more success because they are more disciplined or stronger or whatever…) But if we are truly honest with ourselves, to Love as Jesus would have me Love is way beyond my ability (see Gal. 2:21). I offer a simple prayer of faith to resolve this conundrum: It goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, be Love in me toward _______.” Or “Lord Jesus Christ, be in me what my _____ needs right now.” And then He will not only prompt you, but empower you to “go do it”—whatever it is.

This is the Life of Faith when Living His Word. At times He will prompt us to do or say something, but at other times He may prompt us to remain quiet, or merely offer a healing, holy touch. Whatever He prompts us to do, I have found that listening to Him is crucial….

What are some ‘habits’ you use to practice listening for His promptings? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Galatians 2:20–21 (NIV84)— 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:9 (NIV84)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.—John 15:5 (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 emphasis added)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Sword Wielder. Empower me to live Your Word as You continue to transform me by Your Holy Spirit. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike