“Common Union”

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Kneeling at the Cross

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

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“Repentance is the Key”

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Allow me to be candid:

Many believe that the LORD is going to judge our nation for its immorality and debauchery. If HE is going to judge our nation, judgment starts with His house (see 1 Peter 4:17 NASB95). But if we judge ourselves, then perhaps the LORD will spare this nation as He did Nineveh those many years ago (1 Corinthians 1:31 & Jonah 3:1-10). To merely judge ourselves is not enough, i.e., “Yeah, we’re doing something wrong. So what?” Once we judge ourselves, we then repent of whatever is displeasing to the LORD. Thus, repentance is the key.

A Solemn Assembly One pattern of repentance is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: (1) humble ourselves; (2) pray & seek the LORD’s face; (3) turn from our wicked ways. The time for finger pointing and blame shifting is over. (If we do point fingers, it is best to stand in the bathroom and point at the mirror, eh?)

One way to act on this pattern of repentance is to join our church with fasting in the month of October. We begin our fast with an observance of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This year it is September 23. We use a ceremony I have had published in the Book, A Solemn Assembly: Gather to Seek the Lord’s Face (A Call to Repentance and Restoration). This book is a collection of scriptural prayers that will assist any follower of Jesus on his/her journey to repentance and restoration, let alone our daily walk. Thus, this book can be used for personal devotion as well as small group or large gatherings.

Though you can repent without any formal plan or ceremony, many have found it helpful to use a more formal tool in their own observance. Further, I note in the 2 Chronicles text that is plural: “If my people.” Truly repentance is a personal and private matter, but also we, as the Body of Christ, can join with our brothers and sisters in corporate repentance as the Israelites did in days of old. I am presenting this book as a tool to all the People of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, as a tool, this book will aid you in answering this call to repentance and restoration. But please note: I am not just trying to sell “my” book. Rather I am presenting it as a means to assist you in your walk with Jesus. This book is available from Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iTunes/iBooks or from me. I am able to get group discounts for printed versions if you order soon.

For group orders I can be reached at michaelr05@msn.com or 970-245-0913.

Whatever means or tools you use, at the very least, join us in prayer and fasting for our nation and the church in the month of October.

Peace to you through our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Coach Mike

“Surround with Integrity”

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My Thoughts:

A friend of mine used to say that many people are an inch deep and a mile wide. They had no depth or integrity. But believers in Jesus can be a mile deep and an inch wide—if we choose to be someone of integrity….

One person defined integrity as you are the same person whether  anyone is watching or not. Another definition is the inside and the outside are the same. How would you define integrity?

Would Joseph, from Cyprus, fit your definition of integrity? Apparently he was so well respected by the early church that they nicknamed him, Barnabas, Son of Encouragement. I find it fascinating that he was identified in our main text, and, at that, in direct opposition to Ananias and Sapphira (from our last blog)—and he is named first….

Luke, the author of Acts, uses Joseph as an example of those who were meeting the needs of the early church as reported in Acts 4:34-35: “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” He was one of those who owned land and sold a parcel. The big deal is Joseph was a man of integrity. He said he was going to give the church all the money from the sale and he did!  (Whereas Ananias & Sapphira did not, remember?)

Is it possible that Luke is suggesting to us that there are two types of people in the church from which we can choose to surround ourselves? Either the Children of Encouragement or the Children of Lies?

I’d like to be chosen by Team Encouragement & Integrity. How about you? Do you feel we have a choice in this matter, and if so, what ramifications does this choice have? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 4:36-37 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  — Philippians  3:17-20 (NIV84)

Always set an example for others by doing good actions. Teach with integrity and dignity.  — Titus 2:7 (ISV)

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  — 2 Timothy 2:22-23 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as I follow in the footsteps of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and as I surround myself with my brothers and sisters who are on this same journey with Jesus, keep me in step with the Spirit in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“We’re All We Got, Baby!”

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Community of the Cross

My Thoughts:

Why is Christian community so important, and why did our Master really stress it during the Last Supper? In short, we’re all we got—so Love one another. He makes this very, very clear in John 15:18-20 that, “…If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. …”(v. 19). The world is going to hate us at some point on our journey with Jesus, and one method will be by luring us with its pleasures and treasures. Jesus warns us of this in Luke, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (8:14). Yes, one of the ways the world will hate us is by offering us our heart’s  desires! This will be a counterfeit, to be sure, but a really good one at that….

In these pleasures and treasures we may find a false sense of self-reliance and self-security—even fellowship.And yet our  fellowship with the saints slowly fades away as we get more and more involved in the pleasures of this world. And, according to Jesus, this, too, is hate….

The gathered body of believers in humble community is the only place where we can be told the truth in Love (Eph. 4:15), air our dirty laundry and be forgiven (James 5:16), and know our backs are covered and not stabbed (Romans 12:9-18). Or is it?

What are your thoughts on this? Are the other places believers can go to have these, and many more, blessings? Or is the church community truly the only place we ought to–or even can–have this?

Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional 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)

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

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

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the profound nature of the community Your Son paid the ultimate price for.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Even the Lone Ranger Had a Friend”

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My Thoughts:

Being so deeply wound by fellow Christians, I went through a phase commonly called, “Anti-Church.” Oh, I would still go to services and studies, but I seriously refused to join any of them. I basically felt they didn’t need me and I didn’t need them.

Because this went on for some time, I became known as a loner, and yet I had “friends,” but I wouldn’t commit or open up to any of them. Slowly the Lord healed my wounded soul, and I realized that even the Lone Ranger had a friend: His dear friend Tonto. (Beyond the overplayed issues of the more recent ‘remake,’ it was clear that they had each other’s back….)

It took me quite a while to overcome these feelings of rejection and isolation, finally coming to a place where I could trust people again. As I did, the Lord showed me that the best way to show my Love for Him was to “Love one another” (John 13:34).

What was harder was realizing that in order to ““Love one another,” I need to be committed to a group of people I could really get to know, (let alone the extreme degree of this Love, “as I have Loved you ….”)

A major wrecking came in my middler year of seminary, but, to a large degree, the wrecking has continued to this day. I often fight isolating myself from the Body with feelings of “I don’t need you,” and “you don’t need me.” As a pastor this is rather curious, no? But in the Lord’s grace and mercy, He is healing my wounded heart in such a way that I am getting a of glimpse of what He said to Peter, “Do you truly Love me more than these…” (John 21:15)? It is a process, to be sure.

As a team player, I have often found this anomaly in my soul rather paradoxic, like maybe I didn’t feel like a part of the team? Because of this, it has been one of my passions to make others feel a part of Jesus’ team, and to be the Tonto in some loner’s life so that they, too, may come to realize, the Community of Christ is far larger than themselves…. I know I’m learning this.

How about you? Have you been on such a journey with Jesus? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  — 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NIV84)

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  — 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 (NIV84)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  — 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me isolating myself from Your People. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name and others by these attitudes. Be that part of my Life, Lord Jesus Christ, that has been in bondage. Free me to Love as You Love.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Lists, Lists, Lists”

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Date: 03-07-15

The Big Idea: Lists confirm status and standing.

My Thoughts: Lists, lists, lists. Clipboards, sign-up sheets, membership drives, waiting lists. There are all sorts of lists. Some are good like the No-Call lists and some are sad like blacklists. But when it comes to the Bible, almost all of us skip these lists, like the one in Nehemiah 7, especially because of the difficult to pronounce names. We feel it is like a required course in school, “Why do I need to take this? I’m not going to be using it in the ‘real world’!”

These lists, however, are very important, especially when they appear in the Bible. Not only do they present a sense of belonging and connectedness, they also confirm status and standing. Much like a waiting list or membership list, these lists establish where our standing is with the larger group (e.g. this family signed up before yours), and who has valid status, as demonstrated later in Chapter 7 of Nehemiah with several families who were not on the list, as it were (see vv. 61-65).

Lifestyle worshiper, do you balk at lists and sign-up sheets and clipboards? I understand. But don’t you think this passage is telling us that membership really does have its privileges? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 7:5-7— 5 So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there: 6 These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, 7 in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah): The list of the men of Israel: …”  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam,— Genesis 25:13 (NIV84)

Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in Your record? —Psalm 56:8 (NIV84)

A widow may be put on the widows’ list if she is at least sixty years old and has been the wife of one husband. She must be well known for her good actions as a woman who has raised children, welcomed strangers, washed the saints’ feet, helped the suffering, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. But do not include younger widows on your list. For whenever their natural desires cause them to lose their devotion to the Messiah, they want to remarry.— 1 Timothy 5:9-11 (ISV)

  Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Amen. —Matthew 6:9b-12 [NKJV emphasis added]

Coach Mike

“This May Be A Reason”

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Date: 8-21-14

Text: Proverbs 21:9, 19 Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. … Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife. [NIV]

The Big Idea: You get to extend the same grace the Lord Jesus extends to His Wife.

My Thoughts:
As we (Our church and I) read through the Book of Proverbs for the third time this summer, I feel the need to address this topic, especially since it is mentioned twice in this chapter. Indeed, though it may not be the reason, it may well be a reason the husband is more in the garage, at the bar, in the bowling alley, or at the….

Lifestyle worshiper husbands, you may be blessed to have a wonderful wife who does not nag or quarrel with you, who truly respects you; or you may be blessed to have one that does nag, etc.…

A blessing? Yes, you get to extend the same grace the Lord Jesus extends to His Wife, the church. And I am most grateful He only spent 40 days in the desert, and this was just once, and He was led by the Spirit for a greater good. No, instead, He patiently, graciously hangs around His Bride until she learns to quit quarreling with Him and nagging Him….

So beyond man caves and garages, how’s it going, men? Ladies? Any thoughts on either a healthy or unhealthy marriage relationship and how the Life of Jesus can be more clearly manifested there? Or on how Jesus’ Bride sometimes nags and quarrels and yet, He does not spend time “on the corner of the roof?

Scriptures to Renew Our Thoughts
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me. — Revelations 3:20 (ESV)

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.. — 1 Peter 3:1-2 (ESV)

In a similar way, you husbands must live with your wives in an understanding manner, as with a most delicate partner. Honor them as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may interfere with your prayers.. — 1 Peter 3:7 (ISV)

A Simple Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, be the husband/wife in my Life my wife/husband needs right now. May I hear Your voice and obey Your promptings as You empower me by Your Holy Spirit. For Your Name’s Sake, Amen.