“Pursuing Jesus for a Reward?”

Standard

Crowns at Jesus Feet

Is it okay to pursue Jesus for a reward? Some would dismiss this question out of hand. “No,” they would say, “it would be selfish and narcissistic.” I suppose some may have this very self-absorbed intent. The same could be said for someone who is courting or pursuing a mate: “You fulfill me; you complete me…” etc. Me, me, me….

But, is it possible to pursue someone with the innocent desire of deepening the relationship and thereby win the “Prize”? Perhaps a Both/And experience?

In our main text, the Apostle Paul is writing his final words to his dear son-in-the-faith, Timothy. His purpose is to encourage and spur his young padawan on to persevere in Jesus. In his encouragement, Paul observes that a crown is waiting for him. But did he fight the good fight, run the race and keep the faith for this crown? Or for knowing the Lord Jesus more intimately (see Phil. 3:10ff)? Could this be a Both/And and not an Either/Or situation?

What spurs the soldier on to win the fight? Love for his general or self-preservation? What propels the runner to the finish line? Does he run to please his coach or win the laurel wreath? What reinforced Paul’s loyalty to his Master? Love for his Master or merely for the garner of praise?

Even our Lord Jesus endured the cross and scorned it shame for the joy set before Him (see Heb. 12:2f), and He was clearly not selfish….

Not sure how to resolve this, except to say, it must be a Both/And, but the pursuit of the crown is not the primary focus. Rather, we focus on Jesus and in Him we have this crown.

Intriguingly, Spurgeon’s devotion for today speaks to this:

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith. Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Looking further yet, the believer’s enlightened eye can see death’s river passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which standeth the celestial city; he seeth himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on His throne.  (Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.)

So, what are your thoughts on receiving a crown from the very hand of Jesus? Is it a Both/And or merely an Either/Or exercise—vacillating between the extremes of selfishness and selfishness?

Main Text— 2 Timothy 4:6–8 (NIV84) 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.— 1 Corinthians 9:24–25 (NIV84)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”Mt 5:11–12 (NIV84)

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.— 1 Peter 5:4 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, as I run toward You, keep my eyes fixed on You . Be my strength as I persevere to the finish line. You are my Crown and my Reward. In Your Name, Amen! 

Pastor Mike

Advertisements

“One Essential Virtue of Nobility”

Standard

As I have pondered nobility and pursued what it looks like in my life, I came upon many virtues that seem to flow from true noble character: humility, fair-mindedness, chivalry, and courtesy quickly came to mind. But of all these virtues, I yet found another virtue essential to nobility: active listening. As we deal with those who attempt to shout us down, I find that being an effective active listener an essential virtue of nobility.

Active Listeningb

Active listening is more than merely giving comfortable eye contact  or being able to repeat back what someone has just said. It is—as one of my former college students defined: “Staying on the other person’s agenda.” I am going to pursue what my friend finds interesting, ask questions to clarify words and their meanings as s/he intended them.I must remind myself: Stay on their agenda. All this has a noble goal: Coming to a deeper understanding of my dear friend—beyond their words. And in order to do such active listening, I must also demonstrate humility, fair-mindedness, and the like, don’t you agree?

Then I applied this to the Bereans (of our main text), and, yes, to my own life, and discovered something rather intriguing: I cannot say I actively listen to the Lord, if I do not actively listen to my fellow sister or brother. Ouch! Would you agree that I demonstrate my Love for Jesus by being an effective active listener with fellow believers?

If I take nobility to this level, do you think it naturally follows that I not only demonstrate noble virtues with my brothers and sisters (as well as those outside the fold—since God still so loves them), but also to the very One Who manifests the noblest of virtues towards me: Gracious Love? (Perhaps, then, I could stay on His agenda, eh?)

As I begin this New Year off on the “right” foot, will you join me in being a better listener to the Lord’s Words—like the Bereans—as well as to those around me—whether they have an active relationship with Jesus or not? Your thoughts….

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

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger— James 1:19 (NASB95)

Then Jesus said, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”— Mark 4:9 (NIV84)

let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— Proverbs 1:5 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as You fill me with Your Holy Spirit, open my ears to hear the wonders of Your Praise. Lord Jesus Christ, continue to transform me into an effective active listener, so that my Life may manifest Your Noble Character. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Can We Be Noble?”

Standard

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

“Restoring the Sacred in Our Culture”

Standard

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

“Best Ceremony Ever”

Standard

Date: 04-15-15

The Big Idea:  Do you feel ceremonies have a place in the Kingdom of God?

My Thoughts: Probably the most breathtaking ceremony I have ever attended (besides my own wedding) was Central High School’s JROTC Rifle Drill Team Ceremony, in which now Capt. Jamie (Daugherty) Johnson performed. The precision and the pageantry were just outstanding; the honor and dignity legendary.

Lifestyle worshiper, have you attended a ceremony that just took your breath away? While we’re talking about ceremonies, do you feel they have a place in the Kingdom of God? 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

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. — 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV84)

   The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.   —Titus 1:5 (NIV)

 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.   — Acts 14:23 (KJV)

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

Coach Mike