“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

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“Can We Be Noble?”

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In days of yore nobility was both a demonstration of virtuous character as much as it was a birthright. In our culture, the birthright of nobility has become of thing of the past, but has noble character gone by the wayside as well?

One definition of noble/nobility is: “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.”  Whose “high moral principles and ideals,” especially in an age of hyper-relativism, where there appears to be no accepted common sense—let alone common “high moral principles”? For instance, vulgar language is no longer gender specific, and flows freely in public conversation—even in front of children, who, in many cases, have lost their innocence as well. 

So what does a follower of Jesus do in cases light this? One option appears to be: Give up and isolate from the avalanche of vulgarity of all sorts from behavior to language. Another response: Stand on a soapbox on a street corner and harangue the vulgar with an intense barrage of condemnation. …

Or perhaps a third response: Actually live lives of noble character? As some have suggested, we can become like the Bereans (noted in our main text). In our dealings with each other, we can demonstrate noble character by peacefully and calmly examining the Scriptures to see what the Lord has for us to learn from each other. When dealing with different perspectives, we can be gracious and humble, attentively listening to the other as s/he finishes her/his train of thought before responding.

What are some other ways we can demonstrate noble character? In a culture that promotes vulgar language and behavior and shouts down those who disagree, truly there must be godly alternatives, don’t you think?

Let us start the New Year off on the “right” foot, eh?

Main Text: — Acts 17:11-12 (NIV84)— 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. 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 4:8-9 (NIV84)

Jesus called them together and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”— Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV84)

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.— 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit as I demonstrate a life of Noble Character. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“How Bright is Your Light?”

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Here it is the day before another Christmas, and I’m asking a rather personal question: “How Bright is Your Light.” To some this would seem rather intrusive; to others out of place; but to those who see the seasonal times as a good opportunity to let our light shine, they think it is an honest and necessary question.

Light of the World

As we put lights up on our houses, lights on our trees, and even light a candle at a Christmas Eve Candlelight services, we must ponder the question: How bright is our light, especially in light of our Lord’s words: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Mt. 5:14).

What does it mean to  be “the light of the world”? Surely, one answer that pops to mind is our character. We are to bear the fruit of the Spirit, perhaps is another answer, and as we continue reading in our main text, it is also our “good deeds.”

In a culture that shouts down the opposition, perhaps all we have left is the Light of good deeds, don’t you think? As “they” are shouting to stop Christmas carols and praying at school functions; as they shout to forbid even the whisper of the name of the very person whose birthday Christmas celebrates, what would be the best thing to do? We don’t want to join them in a shouting match. No, this is unwise and ill-advised (see 2 Tim. 2:24-26). But our Light can out shine them, right? As we bend down and help a homeless man get up on his feet; or tend to a widow who needs her faucet fixed; or become a “big ear” to a lost teen, then our light will shine so bright it could possible drowned out their shouting. What do you think?  I don’t like asking myself this question either, but I know I must. How about you? How bright is your light? Bright enough to quiet the shouting?

Join me on our journey with Jesus at this Christmas in letting our light shine so bright—even as a small candle light, that they will glorify our Father in heaven.

…  making this Christmas especially merry, indeed.

Main Text: — Matthew 5:14–16 (NIV84)— 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NIV84)

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.— John 15:8 (NIV84)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.—1 Peter 3:15–16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, let the Light of Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, shine so bright that others are blinded to my foolishness and folly, and yet they clearly see You in and through my feeble good deeds. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Restoring the Sacred in Our Culture”

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Date: 04-21-15

The Big Idea: Keeping anything sacred in our culture requires personal determination and dedication.

My Thoughts: 

Have you notice that our culture is becoming more and more common and, well, quite frankly, vulgar?  F-bombs  have broken the decency barrier. What was once rated X and R is now PG-13, tv14 or tvma  —and it is on prime time TV for anyone to see, let alone young impressionable minds!

What does it mean to hold something sacred? Good question. If I may, I believe keeping anything sacred in our culture requires personal determination and dedication. And this determination and dedication follows at least five guidelines.

Allow me to present at least five guidelines for regarding something sacred: First off, to hold something sacred it to separate it from common use. Secondly,  to hold something sacred is to treat “it” with respect and dignity. Thirdly, that which is sacred is used only for special occasions. Fourthly, to hold something sacred is to limit its use to the “few”. And the last guideline for regarding something sacred I like to consider is to actively guard or protect “it” from being violated or soiled…. (Of course, there are many more guidelines that can be noted, but let us focus on these few.)

As an example, let us apply these five guidelines to a wedding dress. How can we hold this wedding dress sacred? (1) The dress is separated from common use; she did not wear it to her bridal shower or bachelorette party. (2) The dress is treated with respect and dignity; it is hung up in a special place in her room and prior to the wedding. (3) It is used only for the “day”, that special occasion; (see number 1’s comments). (4) This dress is limited to just the bride, and afterwards, if she chooses, she may pass it on to a daughter or granddaughter; and lastly (5) The dress is placed in a protective garment bag and/or a sealed box. This dress is considered sacred by the bride. She most definitely would not let her 4 year old play with it in the sandbox….

Okay, if a wedding dress doesn’t work for you, how about that special fishing rod or that lever action Winchester 32? Are these not used only on special occasions, and then kept in a case protected for that moment when you pass them along to your son or grandson? (or daughter, etc.?) Yes, these items are sacred, too, for the same guidelines that deem something sacred are followed and these are most definitely treated with respect and dignity….

So, lifestyle worshipers, what can we do to restore the sacred in our culture at large, especially when it comes to marriage, sex, and human life? How would you apply these five guidelines to such institutions, events, and people like these? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 13:6b-9 — 6 … Some time later I [Nehemiah] asked his [the king’s] permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8 I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. — 2 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV84)

  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. —1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV84)

   Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.  — Hebrews 13:4a (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for treating common those things which You have deemed holy and sacred. Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to restore the sacred in my life. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Joy & Solemnity Side by Side”

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Date: 04-17-15

The Big Idea: But what if, lifestyle worshiper, both of these can be seen and experience together, in one service, in one ceremony, in one setting?

My Thoughts: Can both joy and solemnity both be found in a ceremony that honors the Lord? Many struggle with striking this balance. Some believe you need to be very, very somber & serious—especially when you attended a ‘worship service’. These are they who require quiet to enter His presence. But there are others who believe these gatherings can be filled with effusive joy. These feel the liberty to jump and rejoice, hug each other and express a variety of emotions. Sadly, often each of these two expressions sits in judgment of the other.

But what if, lifestyle worshiper, both of these can be seen and experience together, in one service, in one ceremony, in one setting? Would not this be the “best” of both worlds?

I believe this is more than possible. Consider this: If joy is an element of the Fruit of the Spirit and if the Holy Spirit dwells in us to both convict us of sin and to seal us in salvation, then is it not possible that He is more than capable of allowing us the awesome privilege of  bowing before the Holy One in reverential fear and perhaps at the very same time rising to explode with Joy and thanksgiving? What do you think? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Nehemiah 12:27 — At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

     Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Hebrews 4:16 (NIV84)

    Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.   —Hebrews 10:19-22 (NKJV)

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.   — Romans 5:1-2 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, give me a proper perspective of the place ceremonies have in Your Kingdom. In Your Name, Amen. 

Coach Mike