I Remember When I Was Young

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As I am reading through the New Testament this year, it gave me pause when I arrived (catching up as it were) to the main text below. Yes, I remember when I was young. I remember reading this passage over and over again, spurring me on to “set an example.” …

Now that I am not so young and have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I humorously thought: “Now that I’m not young, I don’t need to set an example any more…! I can be a crotchety old man, constantly complaining of the youth of today, etc., etc., etc….”

I pursued that fantasy for just a bit and thought of all the men in my life who had been this very person…. 

Then I thought of the dear men in my life who were truly an example of Jesus “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (v. 12). I thought of these men who continued well into their 80’s and 90’s who committed themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (v. 13). 

It is these men who were pleasant to be around. These men who had the fragrant aroma of a Loving Deliverer. It is these men who (paraphrasing v. 16) “watched their lives and doctrine closely; who persevered in them, … who saves both themselves and their hearers”—and me.

It is these men I desire to be like when I am gray and old and I am well on my way with the latter. Besides, I still feel pretty young from the waste up, hehe.

Main Text— 1 Timothy 4:12–16 (NIV) 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.—2 Corinthians 6:4–10 (NIV84)

  Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.—Hebrews 12:3 (NIV84)

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.—2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to finish strong. Overwhelm me with a sense of Your Love as I sometimes limp to the “finish” line. Strengthen me to run and not grow weary; to walk and not faint; to mount up with renewed strength as the eagle. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

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Dealing with Issues of the Heart

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How do you deal with issues of the heart? What issues? Oh, the ones our Lord Jesus mentions in the Sermon on the Mount: Anger, lust, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, retaliation, and a closed heart. I don’t think He would have mentioned them if they weren’t common to the human condition. We all engage such issues, true. But do we entertain them?

I have found the best way to deal with these issues is to first confess my yearning to sin. “Yes, Lord Jesus Christ, You know I enjoy this _____. But I know it displeases You. Through Your Power I confess I want nothing more to do with _______.” (The blanks are filled with the specific sin.)

Now the next step is crucial. It times past I used to resolve never to do this sin again. I determined in my soul not to entertain the anger, lust, unfaithfulness, etc. And guess what? Oh, you know, too, don’t you? I would fail again. So I soon (like almost 15 years) realized that this simply just doesn’t work. But what does “work” is yielding to the Lord Jesus Christ—something like this:

“Lord Jesus Christ, be that part of my life that has been disobedient to You. I release myself into Your hands.” 

This is no magic formula or some easy peasy 1-2-3, A-B-C, for this prayer is also a matter of the heart. Once the heart (and the will) is (are) yielded to the Lord Jesus Christ, during the temptation a pause presents itself offering us a  moment to choose: Yield to the sin; or yield the Lord Jesus as my Righteousness. 

 For example, when it comes to lust, if my glance turns into a gaze, then I have yielded to sin.  But if my glance turns my eyes away (and my mind), then I have yielded to Righteousness—and all this by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit.

So in dealing with the issues of the heart, I must allow the Heart-Transformer to do His work. I am, indeed, a co-laborer, but my part is much like the farmer’s: I merely prepare the soil; the Lord Jesus produces the increase. Have you found this to be so, too?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22, 27–28 (ESV) 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.Luke 8:15 (NIV84)

  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.—Romans 6:12–14 (ESV)

  You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.— Galatians 5:13 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I yield to Your Holy Presence within me. Please Your Father in me that I may be a pleasing child of His. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“I Think I Can.”

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Many of us grew up with TheLittle Engine that Could” story, and then we’ve passed it on to our children and to their children. It is a great moral: Don’t give up; Give it your all and you can do it. And for much of life I would agree with this….

…but when it comes to living the Moral Kingdom Code presented by our Master in the Sermon on the Mount, I have a different feeling RE  “the little engine that could.”

Perhaps you are morally stronger than I, but I have not been able to keep my heart from burping out, “You fool”—either to the one who just cut me off or to my self for doing something utterly stupid…. Oops, I’m in “liable to the hell of fire” (v. 22 below).

Or how about the rest of the “You have heard that it was said to those of old…, But I say to you’s? I know our Master is giving us the ideal Kingdom Living Code, but I also think He is noting something far more profound right along with it: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20 ESV). I think He is telling us that we cannot achieve this Code on our own, by our own efforts. Wouldn’t you agree?

 Wouldn’t you also agree that St. Paul echoes this very sentiment in his letter to the Galatians, “I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21 ISV)?

I know I need Jesus in the beginning of my salvation and at the end, but I also know I need Him in the middle as well. With each step I take in His steps, I need His strength, His Power, to “perform” His Kingdom Code. How else would I make it? I know of no other way. Do you?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”Jn 14:6–7 (NIV84 emphasis added)

 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.—James 2:10–11 (NIV84)

  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.— Philippians 3:8–11 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, when it comes to Your Kingdom Code, I am shaking like a leaf. I pray You are my Prince of Peace. Fulfill Your Holy Kingdom Code in my Life that I might be a pleasing child of Yours. In Your Holy 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

“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

“A Gift Too Precious”

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Have you ever been given a gift so precious, it was too precious? “Oh, I can’t accept this. It’s too expensive….” you barely audibly whisper overcome with a deep sense of unworthiness. “No, really I insist,” comes the giver’s overruling objection. I have and really to share Holy moments often soils them, but to give the general gist of the moment, I was in a store when the owner sense a need in my life, and offered me one of his wares—very expensive I might add. “Choose any one of these…,” he insisted. I was so overcome with a sense of emotion, I could barely move, let alone choose…. But I did.

Grace of God

Perhaps this is how you felt when you first encountered the Lord Jesus’ grace. “I forgive you all your sins and have seated you in the heavenlies.” “What? Me? Really? No?” we stammered. But it’s true. His Grace overwhelms us. We sense the  reality of our unworthiness, the injustice of this forgiveness, and the surface of the depth of this Grace of our salvation.

But as time has distanced us from this moment, have we lost the sense of the Grace too precious to receive—and yet we still receive it? And with a gift this precious, do we not put it in an equally precious place, guarding it with our very lives?  What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 15:10–11 (NIV84)— 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.— Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV84)

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.— Titus 3:5–7 (NIV84)

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.— 1 Corinthians 6:11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, what words can capture the glory of Your Grace. You have lavishly poured it out upon me. I embrace Your Son, my Lord Jesus. Continue to capture me with Your Love. In His Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

In or For the Lord: Is there a Difference?

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Brother & Sisters: 

As the Life of the Lord Jesus flows in and through us, He empowers us in our ‘labors’. And these ‘labors’ are in the Lord and not for the Lord. 

Stand Firm in Your Labor in the Lord

Do you see a difference? 

I do. My labor for Him can be—and inevitably  is—in my own strength, building my own kingdom. But when I yield to His Life which so powerfully works in me, then I produce abundant fruit—fruit that will endure.

Be encouraged: as you fully give yourselves to the work of the Lord, know this: your labor in Him is not in vain! (see 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.(Colossians 3:23-24 NIV 84)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5 NIV).